Chelsea – One Year On

Image by Alex Scott

Image by Alex Scott

By Katie Whyatt Ben Williams, Jason Thornton, Michael Hanson and Nick Allamby

One year ago today, Bradford City sent shockwaves around the world. They defeated Chelsea 4-2 on the Blues’ own turf – after giving the future Premier League champions a 2-0 head start.

12 months on, we think it is important to mark history and revel in the first anniversary of the Chelsea win. 

Thus, WOAP co-editor Katie Whyatt has spoken to four people with unique vantage points of that day at Stamford Bridge – starting with the man who was between the sticks as he and his team mates changed the FA Cup forever.

The Goalkeeper

Ben Williams was in goal throughout the Bantams’ FA Cup run and featured in the side’s win over Chelsea.

Ben Williams 1

Picture credit: Bradford City

When the draw came out, it was just exciting, especially playing away from home at a massive stadium, against a team that were doing really well in the Premier League at the time and who you thought were probably going to go on and win the league. It was a daunting prospect, but you’re just thinking to yourself, I’ve got to go there and try and enjoy it.

For me, I’d just signed my contract extension, just before the Chelsea game, so I could kind of just get on with it from that point – it was the round before, where we’d played Millwall, and it was dependent on us winning for me getting a contract. There was a lot of pressure on that game but it meant I could just go out and enjoy the Chelsea game – that’s a lot easier to say with hindsight, but it’s a big relief when you’ve got security for yourself and your family.

Going to Chelsea, like most players and probably most fans at the time, you’re expecting to go there and get beaten – it’s just a case of how small you can keep the scoreline. The game plan was pretty much to try and keep the scoreline as low as possible and see if we could keep in the game for as long as possible.

I think, after 30-odd minutes, when they went 2-0 up, I suppose us as players were fearing the worst. But we hung in there and scoring just before half time helped massively. The rest is history, but something that for all of us will live long in the memory.

Before the game, the atmosphere in the dressing room was tense. All the players were apprehensive of what to expect from Chelsea, playing at Stamford Bridge. It was fairly quiet – certainly a lot quieter than it was at full time. We said the same things to each other – about going out, enjoying the game, giving a good account of ourselves.  

For the first goal, there were quite a few bodies in front of me – three or four players – and I was expecting it to be cleared, because it was a corner whipped into the near post. The next thing, Cahill runs across, flicks it and puts it right in the top corner, above the lad I’ve got on the line. At first, you’re going mad, thinking, how on earth has he managed to get that in? But you look at it again and realise it’s a quality finish.

At 1-0, I was thinking, right – here we go. It’s started. At 2-0, that was when it really dawned on me – if we’re not careful, this could go on to be quite a big score, because they were playing well and it was early on when they scored the second. You’re thinking, just hoping, you can play well enough that it doesn’t end up at four, five, six nil. But we played really well, managed to keep it down to the two and then impose ourselves on the game.

When Jon Stead scored at first, it just looked like a great finish, from where I was. I could see that it was just about to be half-time – I was thinking, great. If we can hold on until half-time and keep it at 2-1, it gives us a chance, because we were actually playing well in the game leading up to that. When we scored the second, you’re thinking to yourself – right: if we hold on here, we can earn a replay. Then the third one goes in, and then the fourth shortly after, and you think, they haven’t got the time to come back here. We could go on to win this.

You’re just holding onto that thought, that fact that you’ve probably created one of the best FA Cup giant-killings in history – but you’ve still got ten minutes to go!

At half-time, the manager just said to us to keep playing the way that we were doing. Even though it was 2-1, we’d just been given a big chance to be back in the game through Jon Stead. We were playing quite well, we were keeping Chelsea at bay and they weren’t having chance after chance at goal. He just said to keep going – you’re giving a good account of yourselves, and it’s there for the taking. If you’re willing to put a bit of risk in and earn a second, you could get a replay.

Obviously, we weren’t expecting to win the game. But you have to give everything. You come off the pitch shattered. It just takes every ounce of energy you’ve got, because a team like Chelsea, at the drop of a hat, could have scored, could have got back into the game, could have turned it around. You’re just trying to keep them at bay, trying play the best you can, trying to defend, trying to organise, to take it one minute at a time.

Jose came in… To be honest, we were all celebrating around the dressing room – it’s quite a big dressing room – and I didn’t notice him at first walk in. But then I noticed him stood in the middle, and everyone went quiet, looked round, and I could see him. He just said, “Well done – you deserved to win. As a team, you’ve got a big personality. Go on and do well in the cup.” That was a really nice touch, especially for a lot of us who will probably never come across a manager like Jose Mourinho in our football careers.

To be involved in something like this – it’s huge. It’s the defining moment in a lot of people’s careers – it’s up there with the major highlights that most players in that squad will get. And I suppose it hits home more when you’re watching Match of the Day and watching people talk about it in the media, and their response is that it’s probably one of the biggest FA Cup giant killings of modern times – and you’re involved in that. It’s an immensely proud feeling.

It took a good couple of days to even settle in. You’re in a sense of shock – everybody was, all around the country – all the media and broadcasting people. Doing interviews on radio and in the papers – the journalists were the same. But for a player, going through that rollercoaster of excitement, the disappointment of being 2-0 down and the whole reversal, and the elation of winning in front of thousands of fans that have travelled down and the fantastic support – it’s just a massive celebratory, party atmosphere, and something that will always live in your memory.

I was lucky enough to get Petr Cech’s shirt after the game, which turned out to be his last FA Cup shirt for Chelsea – I was very proud to get that.

The Commentator

Jason Thornton is the commentator for Pulse 1 Sport and succeeded his brother, Tim Thornton. He was in the press box at Stamford Bridge alongside co-commentator Ian ‘Big Sticks’ Ormondroyd.

Jason Thornton Chelsea

Picture credit: Jason Thornton

I knew I’d be commentating on this and covering the match, so it was one of those where I was seeing where we were going. It could have been anywhere. For the draw, I was at home. I’d just gotten in and was just sat watching it, like everybody else. I saw it going across the screen and just thought, wow – that’s going to be a bit special. I told my wife about it – she likes football but she doesn’t quite get it, so she was a bit, ‘Oh, right – is that good, then?’ So it was a case of ringing around friends, texting a few people, because all of the people we know are Bradford fans.

When we got there, we were thinking, are we even going to score? At 2-0 down, we were thinking, oh, God – this could be a bit of a mauling here. It was just a case of game over by now. I don’t think we expected us to come back from 2-0 down – 2-0 and they’re out of sight. But as soon as Jon Stead scored, it kind of lifted everyone. We still didn’t think we’d go and beat them – we just thought, at least we’ve scored. Hopefully, we won’t get hammered now.

Someone said to me, actually – I think it was Ray Parlour, who was in the press box at half time, “What a shame you’ve gone and scored – they might have taken it easy on you in the second half, but now they’re probably going to come out and try and thrash you.” It was one of those where we were thinking it still wasn’t going to happen. Everyone thought Chelsea would come out and kick on from that.

You’re always in control when you’re commentating, usually, even though I’m a massive Bradford fan – you try and keep your emotions in check a little bit. But as soon as they equalised, you’re just like, ‘Wow – this is ridiculous! They’ve got an equaliser, at Stamford Bridge!’ But even then, you can’t really take it in. You’re thinking, 2-2, God, we’d settle for that straight away. I couldn’t take the 2-2 in at the time – even though I’d commentated on loads of games, I still couldn’t get my head around it.

There’s always an air of professionalism and you try and maintain a level. Although you do to some extent, when they scored, you’re just saying, as a fan, what everyone else is thinking. I think in my commentary, I’m just going, ‘Wow! Wow! Incredible! What is going on?’ I’m screaming at the top of my voice. It’s almost like it’s a one-off, where the goals go in and you just lose it for a split second. Then there’s loads of people tweeting afterwards, going, ‘Oh, my God! I can’t believe it! I’ve just fallen off the sofa.’ It’s people’s reactions all over the place, so you realise how big it is.

At 3-2, the rest of the press box were all sort of looking at each other. It’s like the third goal goes in, I’m screaming because I’m the Bradford representative there, so a few people are looking at me and Sticks, but everyone’s looking around, going, “Is this really happening?” Then the fourth goal goes in, and everyone realises that this is a massive story, a huge story. There’s just a massive buzz about the place that something like that’s happened – that you’re witnessing history.

As a Bradford fan, I was doing the commentary and thinking, Wow – this is just ridiculous! Absolutely ridiculous – but fantastic.

The interviews afterwards – it was a bit surreal. Even Phil Parkinson – he’s normally quite level-headed, thinks his answers through, but you could just see in his face he was as astonished as everyone else. He just seemed to be… I don’t know. He was on such a high. We normally speak to only one or two players, but they were all there – I think everybody just wanted to get involved and have their say because they’d realised they’d been part of something a little bit special.

I spoke to Stephen Darby, and he was the first one to come up to us – he was just absolutely buzzing. He couldn’t get his head around it. There was just an excitement, everyone trying to comprehend it all, put it into perspective that they’d actually gone and won at Stamford Bridge. Because I don’t think anybody expected it. And I think the players said that themselves – it would have been a dream to get a draw, but to come back from that and win it is just ridiculous.

I do wind Tim [Thornton] up about the fact he missed this one – a little bit! He’d been doing it for nearly ten years – I’d done a few bits of commentary when he’d not been around, then he got the Capital One Cup final and I think he thought no one would ever beat that. Then we go to Chelsea and beat them – he didn’t go on the day, either, because he was working!

It’s special, being there and recording this. I’ve been a Bradford fan since my first game when I was four, and all my family are Bradford City fans, so it is a bit of a dream job. You travel all over the place, commentating – Tuesday nights down in Colchester are no fun, but you’ve got to take the lows with the highs as well. We’ve just been really lucky with some of the results and the massive games we’ve had recently. It’s been incredible.

When you watch your team doing something special like that and you’re in a position to talk about it and bring it to other people – it’s the best job in the world.

The Dad

Michael Hanson is James Hanson’s dad, and was watching from the stands as his son lined up to face Chelsea.

Picture by

Picture credit: Bradford City

When James first signed for Bradford City – I’ve been on cloud nine ever since. It was unbelievable.

I had to talk him into signing – he was going to take a wage cut, and I said, “In ten, fifteen years’ time, you’ll regret it. You’ve got to jump in with it.” Then I told him a little white lie – I said that I’d make his wages up every month, even though I couldn’t afford it. But I just knew he’d come good – I had the faith. He’d impressed Stuart, and the rest is history. It’s every dad’s dream for their son to do something like that in sport.

When the draw was made, I was sat at home, watching it on the TV. When it came out, the first thing I thought to myself was, James Hanson VS John Terry. And that was the first thing that came into my head. It could have been something like Colchester away, Exeter, but to draw Chelsea – whoa. Unbelievable.

I just said to James what I do before every game – just try your best. It doesn’t matter who the opposition are – it can be Accrington Stanley, Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Arsenal – just play your own game. We had chats about it, and James was excited. But for me, it was just James against John Terry. I was really disappointed that John Terry didn’t play.

He’s really calm, is James – laid back. Every game is the same to him. If it was me, I’d be really nervous – my stomach would be churning, which it does before games – and I’m not playing! But James is like his mother – my wife is laid back. He just takes everything in his stride.

But I remember, that season when Peter Taylor was in charge – I think they were playing Aldershot at Valley Parade, and they had to win to have a chance at staying up. And I was so, so nervous. James came to our house before the game, before he had to meet at the club, and that was the only time I’ve seen James really, really nervous – because he didn’t want to be part of the team that took Bradford City out of the league, and I didn’t want him to be. It was a horrendous day, that – when they won 2-1, I was so relieved, and so was James. Because if they’d lost that game, it would have been hard. He wasn’t nervous against Villa, Arsenal.

To be honest, I was like every other person – I thought we’d get beaten four, five nil. Chelsea don’t tend to score that many at home – they seem to get a couple and then shut up shop, or they did under Mourinho. It was a day out for the family. I said to James – the last thing I said to James before the game was, “At least you’re going to get one of the Chelsea shirts.” As it happened, he got Drogba’s. I told him to try and get John Terry’s, but obviously he didn’t play.

But the game itself was very bittersweet for me. The reason it was bittersweet was because James didn’t score. I know he was part of the team and he did a job for the team. It’s just – I wish he’d got a goal, that’s all. Because he had a header saved by Petr Cech – I was right behind the goal, and I thought, it’s going in – but obviously Cech saved it. I enjoyed the goals and I was pleased for the lads and the manager – I know managers get flack and stick. I enjoyed it all, but the icing on the cake for me would have been the James goal. I would have really, really relished it. It’s all the goalscorers that go on the t-shirts and get all the glory. If he’d have scored a goal, it would have been the perfect day.

But I set my standards high, because James normally comes up with a goal in the big games – Aston Villa, Leeds United – but he is part of history. In twenty, thirty years’ time, it’s still in the history books that James played in that game. He was one of the eleven in that team.

It was unbelievable, how they came back – just a brilliant performance. I don’t know if Chelsea took their foot off the pedal or what, but midway through the second half, Mourinho brought Hazard and Fabregas on. Fabregas must have been swearing in Spanish at James – I think James must have gone up for a header with him or something, or he might have caught him, so Fabregas gave him a right dirty look and said something in Spanish. I said, “What did he say to you?” And James went, “I don’t know!”

I think Phil Parkinson got it absolutely spot on, putting James on the left against their full back Christensen. James absolutely murdered him. I can understand why Parkinson played him in that role down at Chelsea – I could understand it straight away, and from the first minute, it worked. And when James was at Guiseley, he used to play on the left hand side anyway – he was never a target man until he joined Bradford City and Stuart put him as a target man in his third or fourth game.

Since then, he’s never been out of the team unless he’s been injured. I think he’s had five, six managers down there, and every one of them has picked him. He was doing a job for the team, and as long as he’s playing professional football, and he’s in that first XI – he could play centre half for me, and in a few years, I think he probably will, because he can defend.

I didn’t see James afterwards – we went on the tube and went straight home. I texted him and said, “Wow.” He just texted me back and said, “Wow,” with eyes wide open. I don’t think any of them could believe it – then when he told me Mourinho came in the dressing room and shook hands with every player, said well done… Even better, he told me he went up to the players’ bar, and John Terry said to him, “I knew you were good in the air, but I didn’t realise you were that good on the ground as well.” For an England centre half to say that to him – I thought that was brilliant.

I don’t think James reflects. It’s me who does all the reflecting. I’ve got all the games recorded on my Tivo box and every time the grandkids come, and James’ daughter comes, we play back his goals – I’ve got everything. I used to have a scrapbook when he was at Guiseley, but fast broadband speeds means I just get things on the Internet now. I’m forever looking at YouTube.

The first thing I do when I wake up on a morning is think, my son’s a professional footballer. And my family all think I’m a bit sad, but I always said, I always knew he could do something. I know he gets a lot of stick off the fans, but it’s water off a duck’s back to him now, and to me.

I tell him all the time, “Enjoy the highs, but don’t let the lows get you too down. When it’s the next game, move on. And at the end of your career, you can look back and go, ‘We got to the 2013 League Cup final. We beat Leeds United. I did that.’” In his career now, he’s got two medals – a runner’s up medal, and a winner’s medal for his play-off. And I said, “There are some footballers who can go all their career – they don’t play at Wembley. They don’t get any medals. And you’ve got two. You’ve walked up the Wembley steps twice.”

That Villa game – I didn’t sleep all night. I got up at four O’clock that morning, and as soon as the newsagents opened at five, I bought all the papers – every single one, and I took them to work with me. I’ve still got them, in my garage. That was unbelievable, but I’m always looking. Ten minutes later, he had another chance, and it just skimmed off the top of his head. I’m thinking, James! If they go through now, you’re going to get blamed for that! That Villa goal is iconic now.

He’s matured a lot, as a person and a player. The lads ask him things in training now. He’s one of the most experienced players there now – and it always seems funny for me to hear that, because I just imagine him as a 20, 21 year old kid. He’s like all the lads – they’re all fed up at the minute because they’re not scoring goals, but they’re working on it and it will come. I just tell James to keep his head up. I do tell him to shoot more, because he’s unselfish – he’d lay it off for someone else to score. A lot of players wouldn’t do that.

But I know Mr. Parkinson – I know that he loves James and he rates him, and there was no way he was going to let him go last summer.

The Fitness Coach

Nick Allamby is City’s Head of Sports Performance and discusses the preparation behind facing a Premier League team.

Nick Allamby 1

The main difference between League One and the Premier League is that their technical abilities are probably a little bit higher. Some of them will have slightly better physical talents, but it’s not that big a gap. Their technical ability – their ability to make decisions under pressure, and their actual ability to control and pass the ball – that’s not too far apart, but it’s doing everything at speed.

They see things that are going on around them in the game and they do everything that little bit quicker.

For that specific game, you’re looking at the lads being disciplined. Don’t forget – Chelsea hadn’t been beaten and they were the best team in the Premier League by a distance. For you to have any chance at all, you’ve got to hope that every single one of your players – motivation’s not a problem, obviously, because you’re playing at Stamford Bridge and it’s a once in a lifetime for some of them – is a nine out of ten. Then, you have a game plan that’s disciplined, stops Chelsea playing a little bit. And then you need quite a lot of luck.

We didn’t have the best of starts but we had been playing well, even though we went 2-0 down, so we just kept doing what we were doing. Physically, we thought we’d be okay – and I think that was what gave us a little bit of the edge.

The Manager played James Hanson in a slightly different position, on the left hand side. They had two less experienced defenders on that side, so he thought Hanson would be able to cause them problems up and down there, which he did. It also helped that when Chelsea were attacking, it would give us another man in midfield. If Chelsea had the ball at the back, they could keep it there. When they attacked and came into the more advanced areas, the middle third – that’s when we looked to put them under a lot of pressure, went and pressed them,  stopped them trying to play.

For our league, these games are just like a bonus, a one-off thing – the cup is a lottery. The aim for a club like us, when you’re in the FA Cup, is to see if we can get to the third round, and then you’re just hoping that you get that glamour tie. We didn’t get it – we got a good tie in Millwall and then we got Chelsea the next round, and then you get the financial rewards that come that way for the club.

So you never prepare your team to meet those sorts of demands – you’re preparing your team for the demands of League One, which is a very physical league. We look at what is the most demanding game plan for League One, and I try and help the manager prepare the players to cope with that. That then gives us a chance, physically, of coping against players from a higher league. The way it might be during that week between me and the manager would be sometimes towards selection – it might be, ‘Who’s played so many games?’ so that he’s got the freshest players on the pitch. My job will be helping him plan and prepare his week so the players are as fresh and possible when they go into that game.

Pre-match, it was very exciting. Everyone’s just excited – the players and the staff. I’m lucky in my career that I’ve worked in all four leagues, and there’s not many grounds I haven’t been to – but they are brilliant grounds to go to: fantastic dressing rooms, fantastic pitches, full houses – you’ve got 40,000 fans in there, so quite a lot of excitement, quite a lot of nerves. It’s interesting to watch how each individual player in our team, when you know them so well, responds to it on the day. Luckily, not just the lads we started with, but the subs who came on – they were all fantastic and they all made an impact, handling the occasion really well.

The manager was just very calm. It was just a case of, “This is the game plan, this is what you need to do and this is what we’re hoping to achieve from it.” Then one of the main things he said was to go out and enjoy the day – just for each and every one of them to enjoy it, because these sorts of big games don’t come along very often.

If you’re a Bradford fan, think of how many you’ve had. We’ve been spoiled over the last few years in that we’ve had some really big games – Aston Villa, Arsenal, the cup final, the play-off final – but it’s great for the players to play at these stadiums because they might never get another chance to do that. He said seize the moment and enjoy the day.

I think a lot of the mental resilience is in-built, to do with recruitment when looking at the type of player to bring in – they look for a certain type of character, so that’s the starting point. Then the manager and Steve Parkin have an ethos of what they demand – not just in games, but in training every day – and that runs throughout the club. It’s a very disciplined club – there are a lot of rules that have to be adhered to. We still have a lot of fun, but it’s a job, a place of work – so I think that helps with the resilience as well.

The way that we train every day, the way we conduct ourselves every day – that definitely adds to it and there’s a work ethic we demand from the players that spreads through the squad. In terms of the physical resilience, that’s a part of it; the work that we do day in, day out, right from pre-season, and then the way that we plan and structure so we maintain a certain level of fitness throughout the season.

My main job is to make sure that he’s got a squad to pick from every week. You can’t legislate for certain things, like tackles that lead to broken legs, but in terms of making sure that each player is as fresh as possible for each game, we manage to do that. So it’s a careful balance of work and rest, and we’ve done that quite well over the last few years.

We did look over at Jose Mourinho during the game. We had a really good moment when he was at 2-1, when we came out for the second half, and he put his subs on – he put Fabregas and Willian on at 2-1. And we were doing really well. I think he could tell – or we certainly thought – we had a real foothold in the game. We were just hoping we that we’d keep going, because we knew that if it stayed at 2-1, we hadn’t disgraced ourselves – and if we could nick a replay, that would be fantastic.

At 2-1, there was a moment where he suddenly stood up, went to the touchline and stayed there – and we thought, ooft – he’s not too happy here. He’d gone from very cool and calm and collected, like he is, to a little bit more concerned. And then at 2-2, he put Hazard on and then from there, it was just unbelievable. Those sort of things don’t happen. They hadn’t lost a game at home, they were the best team in the league by a mile, and all of a sudden we were 3-2 up, then 4-2 up. It was almost like, “This isn’t happening! This doesn’t happen!”

I can remember exactly what he said when he came in the dressing room – I’m not sure that it’s printable, to be honest! It was very good, what he did – again, for the players and all the staff, but especially the players. Because he’s an iconic figure in football, isn’t he? He’s done so much – he’s won championships all over the world, he’s one of the most famous football managers, and for him to take the time to come in, shake everybody’s hand and say well done, the whole way round the dressing room, was a fantastic gesture.

We were all jumping about, celebrating – it was just raucous. Then it went deathly silent – just totally silent. And he’d come in, and he just went round everybody. And the one statement that sticks with me – he said, “You’ve got big balls. You lads showed big balls.”

We had a fantastic trip home – it was just non-stop on the bus, as you can imagine. Singing, just a party atmosphere. We watched the goals again, because you get the video of it and we’ve got the facilities to do that on the bus, and then we had a bit of a celebration. Then you watch Match of the Day and it was just magical. I think we’ve still got it on the Sky Planner, to be honest – we saved it, it was that good, because you don’t get many days like that in football. It was a special day. It wasn’t until the Monday, planning for the next game, that it sort of sunk in. We had to come back down to earth and go, “Wow – do you really believe we’ve just done that?”

WOAP would like to say a huge thank you to Ben Williams, Jason Thornton, Michael Hanson and Nick Allamby, and to Mark Harrison at Bradford City for his help in arranging the Ben Williams interview.

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Categories: Interviews

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6 replies

  1. Great memories. James Hanson’s dad nearly had me in tears…

    • No tears from me but the most interesting thing in the whole piece is that Hanson senior believes his son will eventually become a centre half. I couldn’t agree more. Providing he is able to read the game when the action is in front of him I think he has the tools to make a much better defender than a centre forward.

  2. You can’t help but smile when you read Hanson senior’s contribution. The pride he has in his lad jumps off the page and smacks you between the eyes. Lovely stuff.

  3. An excellent day and one I will never forget

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