The Chelsea Verdict part two: Re-writing every single chapter of the history book

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Following part one’s The Chelsea Verdict which covered the views of WOAP pundits present at Stamford Bridge last Saturday, part two features the opinions of those who viewed events from further afar.

Katie Whyatt, Phil Abbott and Andrew Baxter, plus Mahesh Johal and Ian Sheard (who were at the Bridge) share their accounts of a momentous day.

Images by Mike Holdsworth

What were your expectations going into Saturday?

Andrew: I was always hopeful that we could play to our best and ruffle a few feathers, but I was being quite realistic, and almost accepted that this Chelsea side could beat us 3 or 4-0, without really getting past second gear. I believed that if we were going to get a draw, or a win, it would be a “smash and grab”, and we’d need to make the most of set pieces. I also thought that Ben Williams would need to have the game of his life!

Phil: I expected that City would get a bit of a footballing lesson in the first half and maybe settle down a bit in the second half. I remember back to the Villa away leg when we showed far too much respect for the opposition in the first half and was fairly sure a team like Chelsea would put the game right out of our reach in the first half hour. I think they thought that is what they had done too!

Mahesh: Honestly, I couldn’t see anything but a defeat. Out of all the Premier League teams we’ve played over the past few years, Chelsea were the elite of the elite!

Playing at Stamford Bridge added to their aura and difficulty. Had we had played at Valley Parade I would have given us little chance of pulling off an upset. Playing in their backyard, I gave us no chance.

Ian: I didn’t really have high hopes of I’m honest. A couple of people at work were saying we could do them.

I just wanted a performance really. The 25-1 price wasn’t worth me spending a pound. To go and enjoy the day, play well and possibly even score a goal would have made my day. I had absolutely no idea we would win. Especially after going behind! 

What was it like to not be there? Were the nerves accentuated or dampened?

Katie: Accentuated. Completely. I like the reassurances I can give myself when I watch a game, literally seeing whether City are dominating a game or not, but THAT! Every feeling was magnified. Every nerve on was a knife edge, pushed to its limit.

I was making bargains and deals with the Football Gods in my head, trying to present the points dropped at Yeovil as some sort of necessary sacrifice to secure a place in the fifth round. I’m usually quite adept at staying calm while listening to games on the radio, but the importance of Saturday made it utterly impossible to attain any sort of emotional distance.

Even at 3-2, aware of the might Chelsea had on the pitch and hearing sentences peppered with mentions of “Drogba”, “Hazard”, “Fabregas” and “Oscar”, I was sure they’d pull it back. Having since heard the testimonies of those that were there and seen the highlight packages, that assumption was obviously massively wide of the mark and does the Bantams a huge disservice, but it demonstrates how panicked and gobsmacked I was feeling.

The game just meant too much to me.

Phil: I couldn’t make the game as I was at a wedding! I had the unenviable task of keeping in touch with the game through a combination of crumbly radio feeds during the photos and constant Twitter feed updates during the speeches, which were delivered before the meal, where it would have been much easier to shout and squeal with excitement.

Having arranged all the tickets for the rest of my extended family who always attend City games together, it was a bitter pill to swallow, knowing I had missed out on such a memorable day out. Not being able to hear the second half play out was particularly hard. I had to resort to hiding my phone under the table, continuing to laugh and clap in the right places.

I was often glad of the opportunity for the gathered friends and family to guffaw loudly or clap rapturously so I could let off steam with a roar of appreciation for my Bantam heroes in West London.

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How did you feel at key points, such as 2-0 down, 2-1, 3-2, extra-time…

Mahesh: I just wanted to see us score a goal to make the game competitive. To see Jon’s goal go in; everyone of the 6,000 travelling fans were able to celebrate a goal in the hope that a fight back was on. I just don’t think anyone saw the fight back that occurred.

At 3-2, I was dream land. I was on the front row, to the right of Petr Cech’s goal. The image of seeing the lads celebrate at the full time whistle will live with me forever, however its Andy Halliday’s celebration that is my lasting image of the day. To see the move unfold and then to see him run on to the lay off and slot it away was exhilaration I can’t describe.

His celebration, hands on face in uncontrollable joy and disbelief epitomised the feelings in the stands. I get goose-bumps thinking about it now.

Andrew: At 2-0, I was fearful of another whitewash, similar to the League Cup final. I have to admit, at that point I never could have imagined what was to follow in the next hour! When Jon Stead grabbed his goal, I literally jumped out of my chair (scaring my Manchester United supporting flatmate in the process), and felt we were still in the game at 2-1, especially if Chelsea took their foot off the gas.

Morais’ goal sent me wild, and it was at that point when I truly believed that a replay could be on the cards, and when Halliday’s goal went in… WOW! I have to admit that the proceeding minute or so is a bit of a blur, I remember jumping up and down, and hearing the roar from the City faithful there at Stamford Bridge. The remaining 10 minutes or so were spent by me counting down the clock, and praying that the final whistle would hurry up!

Katie: I expected any joy I got to be tempered by the fact I wasn’t there, but wasn’t like that at all. If anything, it was tempered by unprecedented incredulity.

At 2-2, I didn’t even want to think about the replay, scared that contemplating a visit from Chelsea would somehow break the spell. At 3-2, I didn’t dare celebrate Halliday’s goal – with our luck, I expected it to be flagged as offside. With eight minutes of extra time to get through, I didn’t even contemplate the idea of winning; I don’t consider myself superstitious, but I was paralysed by the fear of jinxing the result.

But when Yeates tucked away that final goal, I couldn’t stop myself. I let out a roar, fired a Gary Jones fist-pump and let my mind, momentarily, flick to what was really going on: we are about to knock Chelsea out of the FA Cup. We have knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup.

What did Saturday mean to you personally? Where does it rank in your all-time top moments?

Ian: It meant so much. I made an effort to ring every football fan I knew (sorry) to tell them what they already knew. We’d beaten chelsea. I couldn’t care less. This is my boyhood team and we’ve thrashed the top of the league at home! 

My dad doesn’t like football but he text saying. ‘Bradford’s back.’ In more ways than one. 

All the kids at school were buzzing such a brilliant day for the fans, the club and the city!

Katie: For ten minutes, I just sat. Silent. Numb. Flabbergasted. In awe. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend, fathom, understand what had just happened.

There are two words that surmise Saturday for me: Phil Parkinson. Everything about that performance was vintage Phil Parkinson. Two goals down, at Stamford Bridge, against THE BEST team in the country, against a field of World Cup finalists and Champions League winners, against Jose Mourinho, in the fourth round of the FA Cup – there would have been absolutely no shame in rolling over.

To surmount that deficit and deliver the greatest cup upset of all time just signifies the amount of spirit, character and self-believe Parkinson has injected into this squad. Liverpool couldn’t come back from one goal on Tuesday night, never mind us!

I feel so lucky that we have him. You really cannot undersell the changes he has engineered since his arrival, and he just delivers more again and again and again and again. Things like this don’t happen to teams like us. They happen to other clubs – to your Barnsleys, your Histons, your Sheffield Uniteds. Two years ago, that was what defined our cup run for me: that it was us. That Bradford City were achieving things like that.

Things like this do happen to us now. And we’re achieving things that all the romantic giant killers I wistfully admired as a ten year old never did. Aston Villa, Arsenal, Leeds – those nights weren’t flukes. We are re-writing every single chapter of the history books.

And there are three reasons why: arise, Sir Phil Parkinson, Sir Steve Parkin and Sir Nick Allamby.

Phil: Whilst I am passionate about Bradford City and devote a lot of time following and volunteering, I’m not one of these football fans who put their club and their love for football before everything – I think there are far more important things in life personally – but there is no doubt, the fortunes of your team have some impact on your day to day life.

Ever find yourself whistling or grinning from cheek to cheek the day after a great win? This cup fever that strikes our club under the ‘Parkinson Revolution’ is something very, very special. We’ve experienced some very low points in our recent history and our recent success only amplifies our ecstatic joy for what is happening currently.

Mahesh: It was the best moment I’ve ever had watching City. To beat the Jose’s boys away from home, with their big guns finishing the match; it’s so unreal.

Andrew: I was too young to really remember the Premiership days, so for me this is right up there with the wins over Arsenal and Villa. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the Chelsea result ranks higher than the Arsenal victory, as the pitch at Stamford Bridge was in perfect condition, Chelsea’s home record was impeccable, and the Blues were a side on form.

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What was your highlight of the day?

Mahesh: Seeing City play Chelsea was surreal. It felt like something out of a computer game seeing our boys play against the Premier League stars of my generation; Drogba, Chec, Fabreagas, Hazard, Oscar…

The highlight though has to be the third and fourth goal. As described above Andy Halliday’s goal was an amazing moment; but then to seal it in the fashion we did brought tears to my eyes. It was truly remarkable.

Phil: My over-riding memory of the day was to see the look on my son’s face when I gestured to him that the final whistle had gone and City had done something quite unbelievable! For a 6 year old, he really knows his stuff and his stunned, yet elated face showed me that my Essex born-Nottinghamshire inhabiting first born was a City fan for life. Remarkable!

Andrew: Probably watching the City goals, on repeat. It still hasn’t fully sunk in that we’ve managed to go to Stamford Bridge and beat Chelsea (with four high quality goals, too), but watching those goals over and over again fills me with delight, and pride for this magnificent group of players, and for Phil Parkinson, who has rightly received lots of praise.

Katie: It’s not strictly on the day, but the BBC Look North clip on Monday night featuring children from Thackley Primary School. With every child clad in claret and amber, it was a stark reminder of the influence Bradford City can carry over its community and the inspiration footballers can be to a whole city.

There are four, maybe five, City fans in my year at school (my brother and me included), but seeing the club attracting young supporters in droves is really heartwarming – because it shows that the true legacy of this team is going to be.

When the dust settles, the press move on to their latest story and these players leave for pastures new, what’s going to be left? An enamoured ten year old with a glint in their eye, singing ‘Everywhere We Go’ in a room decked in City posters, and dreaming of Chelsea, of Wembley, and of Phil Parkinson.

Oh, and this.

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Categories: The Verdict

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2 replies

  1. I predicted 3-2 to City on Claret and Banter and said that no John Terry opened the door ajar for us, pity I didn’t back myself as a few people down here backed City based on my thoughts and made a mint! The key moment for me was Jon Stead’s goal, even though Chelsea were 2 up it was a false lead for me and I thought the next goal would be crucial. We were right in line with his shot and we watched the ball bend in the air from just outside the post to just inside and I thought there was no way Petr was going to save it but he made a reet old effort to!

  2. Brought tears to my eyes all over again

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