Phil Parkinson, who has turned Bradford City into one of the greatest giant-killers in the history of English domestic cup competitions, has declared his team can beat any side left in the FA Cup.
The Bradford manager extended his already remarkable record with a 2-0 defeat of Sunderland on Sunday that was as comfortable as any of the victories that took Bradford to the League Cup final two years ago. This result and the 4-2 humbling of Chelsea have now carried Bradford to their first FA Cup sixth round since 1976, when they lost to the eventual winners, Southampton.
Like many in this corner of Yorkshire, Parkinson was angered that the refusal of the BBC or BT to televise this fifth-round tie had cost the club nearly £250,000. Bradford’s response (below) was tweeted by the club’s official Twitter account, showing their disapproval of the decision. Next month’s tie, however, is guaranteed to be broadcast and, if they are drawn at home, Parkinson is confident Bradford could be a match for anyone.
“I keep saying we want to play Manchester United,” he said. “And I know the chairman would like to be drawn away against a big Premier League side. I’d like to be at home because I’d like the crowd to experience what they did against Sunderland. If we get our approach right, we have a chance against anyone.
“Progressing further will be all about keeping the honesty in our performance,” Parkinson added. “It is not about stepovers or switching play with 60-yard passes. What I will say to our supporters is that whoever we draw we will give it everything and, if we are not successful, we will walk off the pitch with our heads held high.”
Given that they reached both the League Cup final and the League Two play-off final in 2013, Bradford have arguably more experience of Wembley than most of the teams left in the FA Cup, with the exception of Arsenal. On Sunday, they were backed by the largest crowd Bradford have known at Valley Parade since the 1960s.
Bradford's recent list of scalps
Bradford's recent list of scalps
1/5 Capital One Cup fourth round - Wigan 0 Bradford 0 (Bradford win 4-2 on penalties), October 2012
The Bantams' challenge started to gather speed when they shocked Premier League opponents Wigan at the DW Stadium. The Latics created a host of opportunities but could not make a breakthrough during the 90 minutes or in extra-time. Shaun Maloney then blazed his penalty over and Jordi Gomez saw his saved as the visitors advanced to the last eight.
2/5 Capital One Cup quarter-final - Bradford 1 Arsenal 1 (Bradford win 3-2 on penalties), December 2012
Bradford made everyone sit up and take notice after humbling Arsenal at Valley Parade. While they were grateful once more for penalties, Phil Parkinson's side outplayed the Gunners for much of the encounter to reach a first ever semi-final. The spot-kick specialists won their ninth successive penalty shoot-out after Thomas Vermaelen struck the post. The Arsenal skipper had earlier appeared to rescue his side with a header three minutes from normal time to equalise Garry Thompson's first-half volley.
3/5 Capital One Cup semi-final, first leg - Bradford 3 Aston Villa 1, January 2013
Bradford were firm underdogs again but claimed a hat-trick of wins against Premier League opposition. Nahki Wells opened the scoring in the 19th minute and defender Rory McArdle headed home Gary Jones' cross in the 77th minute. Villa, who spurned a hatful of chances in either half, grabbed a crucial late lifeline through Andreas Weimann before Carl McHugh restored the home side's two-goal advantage with another header two minutes from the end. Although Parkinson's men lost the second leg 2-1, they won 4-3 on aggregate to book a Wembley final against Swansea, which they lost 5-0.
4/5 FA Cup fourth round - Chelsea 2 Bradford 4, January 2015
Bradford brilliantly responded from two goals down to win 4-2 at Chelsea and dump the Barclays Premier League leaders out of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge. League One City, who were 2-0 down to goals from Gary Cahill and Ramires after 38 minutes, claimed the biggest scalp of their recent giant-killing exploits with goals from Chelsea reject Filipe Morais, Jon Stead, Andy Halliday and substitute Mark Yeates to inflict the Blues' first home loss this season and spark jubilant celebrations from Parkinson's visitors.
5/5 FA Cup fifth round - Bradford 2 Sunderland 0, February 2015
The Bantams' reward for their victory in west London was a home tie against Sunderland and they were right to have fancied their chances against Gus Poyet's inconsistent Black Cats. They got off to a perfect start as John O'Shea deflected Billy Clarke's third-minute effort into his own goal and a cool 61st-minute finish from Jon Stead sent City into the quarter-finals for the first time in 39 years.
“That’s why I would like a home draw for the people of Bradford,” said Parkinson. “That is what makes football – when you get three sides of the ground singing about the performances of the players down on the pitch. We were disappointed this game was not televised because a quarter of a million would have meant a lot to us but other people have done our talking for us.”
Some of the talking done by the Sunderland manager, Gus Poyet, was positively bizarre. Poyet, who lost Jermain Defoe to injury before kick-off, correctly summed up the afternoon as a game of “cuts, bruises and a bad decision by the referee” – Sunderland might have had a penalty when Steven Fletcher was brought down.
However, he blamed the media for the way his team were perceived, saying there should be a “Wall of China” around Sunderland to prevent the fans – many of whom jeered him at Bradford – being unduly influenced by the press. “This is not my worst afternoon as manager of Sunderland,” he added. “Last season I spent eight months in the relegation zone.”
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