James Lawton: Outclassed, but Bradford still have good cause to hold their heads high

At the last hurdle, their hopes weren’t so much denied as confiscated

Not many football wounds sustained at Wembley Stadium will heal as quickly as those of Bradford City – at least not in any grown-up version of the folklore to which they contributed with such brilliant heart and character in their astonishing run to the League Cup final.

Of course, their fate on the big day was always set at extremely prohibitive odds but if they were outclassed by Swansea City, Bradford's immaculately suited and just a little world-weary manager Phil Parkinson had no earthly reason to bend his head when the fifth goal of his gallant team's oppressors was swept home in added time.

It was quite the opposite, indeed, when you considered that clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal had this season been among the victims – and on their own grounds – of the superior football which the former great player Michael Laudrup has coaxed from his fluent, talented charges.

All the Bradford manager needed to do was point to the flag-waving mass of the team's support, which grew even more fervent after the disaster of goalkeeper Matt Duke's red card. What were they celebrating as Swansea unsentimentally opened up a huge fissure of class? It was the understanding of people who have lived through hard times that, in the end, all you can do is your best. If you couldn't go all the way, if you couldn't go on beating vastly more expensive teams like Arsenal and Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic, you could stay honest and decent and remember that, if the price of your remarkable achievement was a final ordeal, a frequently merciless demonstration of a game which might have been bred on a different planet, you had nothing to lose but your own fighting nature.

That was not on offer as such as Michu, Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman produced passages of play which suggested infinitely better-heeled opposition might also have been left in some serious difficulties.

For Laudrup such perspectives seem to come as naturally as the insights which made him such an outstanding player for Barcelona, with whom he won four straight La Liga titles, and which are currently building his credibility as a front-rank manager so dramatically.

He defined the nature of yesterday's progressively unbalanced duel quite acutely on the night his team outwitted Chelsea in the wake of Bradford's defeat of Aston Villa. He said that Swansea's first cup final triumph in 100 years would represent a small fairy tale and that the progress of League Two Bradford to Wembley was one of massive proportions.

That reality was imposed quickly enough on Wembley's wide acres and when it was over, when he had laughed off the spat between De Guzman and his team-mate Nathan Dyer over the penalty which would have given the latter a historic hat-trick, he coolly assessed the nature of the triumph. Swansea, he said, had many advantages to inflict and he was just pleased that they had been imposed quite so serenely.

His team needed to move the ball quickly and, of course, an early goal would make Bradford's task pretty much hopeless. So it was and so the people of Yorkshire, who for days had marvelled proudly at the long, tough journey through the bleakest of days, through the monstrous tragedy of the burning stadium and a whole series of threats to the club's existence, were obliged to accept another reality.

It was that they just happened to be pitted against a team filled with brilliant certainties about the way they played, and the abilities which they brought to the task.

When Laudrup inherited the team from Brendan Rodgers, some feared that he would fall to second-season syndrome in the Premier League. His response has been impressive enough, not only in a series of remarkable transfers based on his deep knowledge of the Spanish game in which he was already beginning to thrive, but also a sure understanding of what he could reasonably ask of his team.

It is a style of football that carries the classic values of swift movement and an unswerving attention to the need for possession of the ball on which to base a fine range of attacking options. Yesterday that combination of discipline and high levels of individual skill produced, as you had to expect, an almost instant mismatch.

Bradford simply had to endure the debilitating effects of a thousand knife wounds, an unremitting statement about the limits of the game plan with which they overwhelmed opponents less sure than Swansea about what they had to do. At the last hurdle, their hopes of hustling a result, creating a little hard pressure at set pieces, were not so much denied as confiscated.

Laudrup said he was proud of a historic achievement, pleased that his new club had at last made an imprint on the records of the game. It was, he said, a great moment in his career.

The beaten Parkinson might not share such elation – at least for some time. But then he can tell himself that he too achieved something that will not be easily forgotten. He put on the national stage the embattled belief that sometimes you make a very good job of fighting the most impossible odds.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing