As Bradford City’s footballers took their lap of honour, one chant kept pounding through the evening air: “Are you watching, BBC?”
Since reacquiring the rights to the competition, the BBC has banged on interminably about the magic of the FA Cup, usually accompanied by black-and-white footage of an urchin twirling a rattle above his head. That the corporation then ignored the one fifth-round match that had every element of this seems almost as worthy of condemnation as its failure to hold on to live coverage of the Open. The BBC turned its back on the FA Cup tie of its dreams.
Anger that Bradford’s 4-2 victory over Chelsea, which has as good a claim as any to be the biggest shock in the history of the competition, was not followed up by live television coverage of what proved a thrilling dismissal of Sunderland ran deep. The £247,000 fee would have written off half the deficit with which Bradford began the season and it would have given greater currency to the miracle of Stamford Bridge.
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker insisted on Twitter last night that the BBC would have screened the game had Bradford’s opponents been known before the fourth-round replays.
The BBC can only show 2 ties in each round and select them pre replays. If they could've waited Bradford would obviously have been chosen.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 15, 2015
In beating Sunderland, Bradford would have to take their payment in something more lasting than money. The current FA Cup was made in Bradford in 1911 and few teams have embellished it like this.
When Colchester United overturned Don Revie’s Leeds in 1971, they were thrashed 5-0 by Everton in the next round. Wrexham followed up their defeat of Arsenal in 1992 by being knocked out by West Ham after a replay. The astonishing aspect of Bradford’s story is that they have kept on killing their giants.
Their manager, Phil Parkinson, has now beaten five Premier League teams in the League and FA Cups. This was one of the easier victories.
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.
It was a tie that had mud, blood (Rory McArdle and Danny Graham played most of the match with bandaged, bloodsoaked heads) and glory. As a contest, it crackled long before kick-off.
Except for one end, where the T L Dallas Stand looks like something they might have built in J R Ewing’s home town had oil never been discovered in Texas, Valley Parade has the appearance, if not of a Premier League ground then a good Championship one. Nevertheless, it is run by a skeleton staff and volunteers had been out at 8.0am yesterday laying down the placards that before kick-off would transform Bradford’s steepling Kop into a wall of claret and amber.
It would take three minutes for the background noise to explode. If the stadium he plays in is not a standard League One venue, then the crosses sent in by Filipe Morais, who was brought to Chelsea under Jose Mourinho and scored the equaliser at Stamford Bridge, were also from a rather higher plane.
The Portuguese winger’s first free-kick was brought under control by Billy Clarke, who had played Under-21 football for Ireland. His shot struck another Irishman, John O’Shea, and left Vito Mannone stranded on his churned-up goal-line.Sunderland initially seemed unable to come to terms with the tie. James Hanson almost turned in a header from Jon Stead, Clarke skipped into the area and had his shot well saved by Mannone.
With Bradford having scored four at Chelsea, and having eliminated Arsenal and Aston Villa in their astonishing run to the League Cup final two years ago, you wondered how much of a shadow these giants from Wearside really cast in their eyes. Their main enemy until Stead scored the decisive second was their own growing exhaustion.
There was, however, one moment in the first half when Sunderland might have regained control of the game. Sebastian Larsson scuffed his shot from the edge of the area but the ball came straight to the boots of Steven Fletcher, who dithered for an age over his shot before being tackled by McArdle.
Sunderland were convinced it was a penalty but what Gus Poyet ought to have wondered is why Fletcher, a Scotland international employed at vast expense as a Premier League centre-forward, appeared so surprised that he might have to shoot.
For Poyet, this defeat might be something of a watershed in his time as Sunderland manager. As the game drained away and Sunderland became ever less competitive, the travelling fans began chanting out the first serious show of dissent he has faced since inheriting the chaos left behind by Paolo Di Canio in 2013.
The Sunderland fans did, however, applaud Bradford as they conducted their lap of honour and they applauded Stead when the striker was substituted. He had played for Sunderland under Mick McCarthy and was not alone in failing to make an impact in that time. He had tried, however, and on Wearside effort goes a long way.
His goal came from nowhere. As the hour mark approached, Bradford looked spent with every throw-in fervently cheered by a crowd who would be making ever more frequent glances towards the elderly electronic clock.
However, the home side kept harrying and, under pressure from James Meredith in his own area, Adam Johnson made a hash of his clearance. Hanson headed the ball down to Stead, whose shot squirmed under Mannone’s body.
His goal meant he had scored in every round of this season’s FA Cup. He could not have imagined where the first, at Halifax, would take him.