I’m in the middle of a perfect moment that seems to have got a little bit out of hand.
It’s not the only perfect moment I’ve known in my life, and I hope it won’t be the last but when I take my seat at Wembley this afternoon I’ll know that it’s a notch on the timeline of history to savour.
It’s not the only perfect moment in Bradford City’s history. Jimmy Speirs’ winner in the 1911 FA Cup final might have been the first; in 1999 Stuart McCall got so lost in our promotion to the Premiership that he fell off a car; David Wetherall’s header against Liverpool; the saving of the club in the years that followed. Moments of joy.
But that joy is set against the pain of perfect moments turned to nightmare. May 11 1985 changed our club and our community for ever but it started with the delight at our league title. Those men, women and children will be remembered today.
A decade later we had a great day out at Wembley. I wasn’t there to see Des Hamilton and Mark Stallard secure play-off victory against Notts County (who, strangely enough, were our victims in this remarkable cup run). I bet that was a special afternoon.
I’ve never been to Wembley old or new but today I’m there. And I’m there in all seriousness. It’s not a joke. It’s not for the Paint Pot. It’s not for a playoff. It’s for a proper bit of silverware – this year even Arsene took it seriously.
Today shouldn’t be happening. It defies all logic. It’s common nonsense. It’s absolutely ridiculous. And I get to be there.
I’ll confess to being something of a glory supporter when it comes to this competition – I’m hardly the first person not to take it seriously. But I didn’t go to a game until the 4th round. I chose to listen to the Notts County game at home on the radio; I was on a train from Scotland when we turned 1-0 into 1-2 in the 84th and 94th minutes at Watford; I don’t remember anything about the Burton game so maybe even forgot about it and I sat tensely on my bed watching text updates and Twitter for the Wigan penalties. Perfectly good moments.
Noone thought it could get better than that but then we had that freezing night in December when we humbled the Arsenal first team. Being able to put tongue in cheek and sing to one of the greatest managers of the Premier league era that he’d be getting sacked in the morning was pretty special. Leading for 70 minutes was amazing. And then the penalties. What a fairy tale, what a famous night in BD8, what a perfect moment.
But thoughts of going one better were madness. Even when the draw was made and we got my preferred opposition few of us went into the first leg of our semi-final expecting to wake up today with Wembley tickets in our pockets.
Except then came January and putting Aston Villa to the sword. A new perfect moment? Not for me – this time it was different, I wasn’t as giddy as I was on the morning of December 12th as my train passed the Emirates, the chapter was only half complete – now we had something to lose.
We gave ourself a good chance but a Premier league side should comfortably beat a League Two side 2-0 at home so Benteke’s early goal was just what they needed. Game surely soon to be over. This perfect moment would come gracefully to a close.
But actually nothing had changed – we’d always needed to find a goal, and then the snow started to fall and as if it were his cue James Hanson, the world’s most famous Co-Op alumni, gave Vlaar the run around to bury that header. At the whistle, I stood as one of thousands who’d dared to dream, scarves aloft and singing the cup finalist’s anthem. We’re the famous Bradford City and we’re going to Wembley.
A new, more perfect moment. But not the last.
As Duke, Darby, McArdle, McHugh, Good, Jones, Doyle, Reid, Hines, Atkinson, Thompson, Wells, Hanson and the rest of a squad assembled for £7,500 go through their pre-match preparations they do so 90 minutes away from European competition.
It’s the biggest game of their careers and they have nothing to lose. Their glory is already assured. Even before they step onto the hallowed turf we know them to be legends. Irrespective of the result they, and we, will remember this competition and their performances with a warm glow for the rest of time.
But the perfectly perfect moment is at 1559.
Mark and cherish that minute. Consider how lucky we are to be there and remember those Bantams who aren’t. Mark and cherish this once in a lifetime flash that is more myth than reality. In that minute we’re witness to the legend of the 2012/13 League Cup with everything that has gone before, with the atmosphere generated by 90,000 people and pure possibility still in the air.
Notts County, Watford, Burton, Wigan, Arsenal and Villa were outdone by skill, passion and outrageous fortune. We could add a seventh scalp to that list but the likelihood is that we’ll be crowned runners up. If so then that means thousands of Jacks get to celebrate an incredible chapter in their brilliant narrative. It certainly doesn’t mean we’ll find it a bitter pill to swallow or see our dreams crushed.
Sunday February 24th 2013 will forever be etched into sporting folklore. A day for the underdogs. A day invoked for seasons to come. A great day. A day that I’ll always remember for the most perfect of moments: the beautiful possibility laden moment immediately before a ball was kicked when we dared to dream.
And now, deep breath, calm down, there’s only a few hours til kick off. Savour it, enjoy.