Bradford looking to complete fairytale cup journey
LONDON (AP) — Having dispatched three Premier League teams on a fairytale march to Wembley, Bradford must beat another on Sunday if the fourth-tier side is to win the League Cup and complete one of English football's most remarkable feats.
Bradford has achieved notoriety for all the wrong reasons in its recent past, with a fire at its stadium killing 56 fans in 1985 and the club twice entering administration — a form of bankruptcy protection — following relegation from the Premier League in 2001.
However, the unheralded side nicknamed "The Bantams" has gripped a nation by eliminating Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa to become the first fourth-division club in 51 years to reach the League Cup final.
Only Swansea, managed by Denmark great Michael Laudrup, now stands in the way of Bradford and a place in Europe next season — an achievement beyond the players' wildest dreams.
"I was watching the Europa League the other night — Liverpool were playing (Zenit St. Petersburg) in Russia, and I sat there thinking, 'That could be us next season!'" Bradford captain Gary Jones said. "Just imagine playing Inter Milan on the Thursday and Dagenham on the Sunday . It's too unbelievable for words but that shows you what we have achieved."
It'll be a huge day for Swansea, too.
While Bradford has a major trophy in its cabinet after winning the FA Cup in 1911, the Welsh team has never appeared in the final of a top competition in its 100-year history. Swansea has also experienced financial strife as recently as 10 years ago when the club almost fell out of the Football League.
They are now at home in the top flight, playing some of the most eye-catching brands of football in Britain, but it wasn't always the case.
"For some of the lads, the boot was on the other foot," said midfielder Leon Britton, who has risen through the leagues with Swansea. "We were the team trying to beat the higher-division teams."
The final will overshadow another important weekend of Premier League action, topped by Chelsea's trip to Manchester City and the visit of leader Manchester United to bottom side Queens Park Rangers.
United holds a 12-point advantage over City in a title race that could well be over by the end of April, given the supreme form shown by Alex Ferguson's side, which is unbeaten in 14 league games. Chelsea is four points further back in third and could yet reel in City for second place.
"We have to treat these games as we would Real Madrid or anyone else," Ferguson said Thursday of the game against QPR. "It has to be won. We want to win.
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