Wembley plays host to the Capital One Cup final this weekend when Bradford City and Swansea City bid to make history.
Sunday’s game marks the end of two remarkable cup runs as Bradford and Swansea have both defied expectations and beaten the likes of Aston Villa, Arsenal, Chelsea and holders Liverpool to reach the first final of the domestic season.
League Two Bradford’s achievements have galvanised a club that was in the Premier League just over a decade ago, while Swansea have surged in the opposite direction.
It has been one hell of a season for both sets of supporters and ahead of Sunday’s match, we preview it with Kevin Elphick (a journalist at Vital Swansea City) and Craig Bond (a journalist at Vital Bradford City).
How surreal will it be to see your team walk out at Wembley on Sunday in the League Cup final?
Kevin: Very surreal. It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in the last 10 years or so. We almost went out of business and managed to avoid relegation to the Conference, and from experiencing that to playing in a cup final at Wembley is just incredible.
Craig: It will be surreal – my team in a domestic cup final. The boys deserve it, though, and Phil Parkinson deserves the recognition as a great manager.
Where do you think reaching the League Cup final ranks in teams of the greatest achievements in your club’s history?
Kevin: It has to be up there as one of the greatest achievements in our entire 100-year history. It doesn’t quite beat our recent rise to the top flight, as that took years of hard work, but it certainly comes close. The only cups we used to have in our cabinet were the FAW Premier Cup, and now we could have the League Cup sitting there, as well as a place in the Europa League up for grabs.
Craig: In my lifetime, I rate this as the second best achievement of my 22 years behind the Premier League promotion. I still remember the trip back from Vicarage Road following the late show which saw us turn over probably the best Championship club barring Cardiff.
What has been the most memorable moment of your cup run so far? And which player has been the most important?
Kevin: The 2-0 win away at Chelsea was the most impressive. Michu played his part that night, scoring an excellent opener, but the whole team, and a few of the fringe players have contributed to our successful route to the final. Goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel also deserves a lot of praise as he had to make a number of excellent saves against Chelsea to help us win the tie.
Craig: The performances that stand out are those of Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh, who have been immense when we have had to defend against Premier League games. The home tie with Villa and the performance of those two just sticks in my mind. Nahki Wells has also turned in performances that have seen him become the hottest property in League Two.
Is the ‘E’ word (Europe) in the back of your mind at all? Come on, be honest! Have you checked the expiry date on your passport just in case to make sure you’ll be able to potentially follow your team abroad next season?
Kevin: Definitely! It’s not just about winning our first major competition, but to play football in a European country is just unheard of at Swansea City. I’m sure Swans fans would relish the chance to go overseas to watch their team! It’s not every year that happens!
Craig: Bradford abroad – it does have a certain ring to it, don’t you think?? It’s strange to believe we could have midweek trips to Milan to look forward to instead of to Meadow Lane.
Have you managed to ‘bash the bookies’ during the run with any shrewd punts?
Kevin: I haven’t myself, but I’m sure a number of fans did when we beat the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea away from home. Not many people fancied us to win at Stamford Bridge in particular, but what was also impressive was our two clean sheets against the current European champions.
Craig: I had a nice punt to qualify in running during the away leg in the semi-final.
Turning our attentions to Sunday, who you think will be your player to watch? Who could be a good bet for first goal scorer?
Kevin: Michu (11/4) is always the player to watch out for, and the player worth putting money on to open the scoring. Thankfully he ended his goalless run against QPR and he’ll be looking to get a few goals to help us win the cup. The likes of Pablo Hernandez (9/4 to score at any time) and Wayne Routledge (9/1 to score the last goal) are also worth watching out, they’re likely to occupy the two wings and they play an important role in our attacking game.
Craig: Looking forward to Sunday, I see Wells getting us a goal and will good value for first goal scorer (9/1).
Finally, put your neck on the line and give us a score prediction?
Kevin: It’s a tough one to predict. Bradford City may be a League Two side, but they’re in the final on merit – just the same as us. They’ve beaten three Premier League teams to get there and there’s no reason why they can’t make that four. Having said that, Swansea City will be looking to put things right after the 5-0 thrashing at Liverpool and our extra quality should prove to be the difference. A close game to begin with, but I expect us to go on and score a few in the second half to win it 3-1.
Craig: We all saw the Gerrard shoot-out last season and a Welsh club defeated, well I fancy another shoot-out following a 1-1 draw – and we don’t lose from the spot!
Thanks for your time guys and best of luck to both teams on Sunday. Game on!