1. ITV Report

The first of our Bradford City blogs

Wembley Stadium Photo: Mike Newton

Even the ‘oldies’ feel like a kid at Christmas when it comes to Wembley fever.

It’s 5-15am on Friday morning and there are just two sleeps to go for one restless near 60-year-old in-particular for what will be the best ever footballing occasion and it really does feel like being a child looking forward to Santa Claus coming down the chimney.

After two more sleeps its Bradford City versus Swansea City in the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley! It’s hard to take in really and purely on a personal note the mind harks back to so many events over the last 50 years or so.

There will be many City fans out there that recall the Bantams being a side struggling on gates of 2,000 and nearly always being near the foot of the Fourth Division – that for too long has been typical and in 2013 we’re still in the Fourth Division equivalent but with a trip to Wembley to look forward to and as one former City man would say, in the shape of Chris Kamara – unbelievable!

The highs have been a play-off final back in 1996 at the old Wembley when City beat Notts County 2-0 to gain promotion to the Second Division after coming from nowhere to be in a play-off spot. Earlier Kamara’s team had beaten Blackpool 3-2 on aggregate after losing 2-0 at home in the first-leg semi-final.

The second leg at Bloomfield Road we were expected to capitulate and the Seasiders manager Sam Allardyce had been quoted as saying that they’d been measured for their Wembley suits. How wrong he was and City went on to a famous 3-0 win – unbelievable!!

There was a brief flirtation in the Premiership under Paul Jewell, which was largely due to that much-maligned Chairman Geoffrey Richmond who bullied everyone to brief success but he got carried away and eventually paid the likes of Beni Carbone ‘silly’ money that led to our downfall but it was good while it lasted.

But to the ‘oldies’ the memories of a 1-0 FA Cup quarter Final defeat at home to Southampton in 1976 when Jim McCalliog’s 20-yard free-kick broke the hearts of those who were at Valley Parade that day and the likes of Bobby Campbell drilling home a goal in a 1-0 first leg home win against Liverpool in the League Cup in the 1980s – will stay in the memory forever.

The memories come thick and fast but the biggest memory and certainly the saddest is the Bradford City fire back in 1985 on May 11th. Yours truly was there and it will always but always be a grey blip in the head.

Evacuated fans on the pitch take the injured to safety as the Main Stand at Valley Parade is engulfed by flames in May 1985. Credit: PA

One week previous I’d taken my sons to the penultimate game at Bolton when City won 2-0 but the celebration match at home to Lincoln City I was fortunately, without the boys, which makes me so relieved.

That day was over in a breadth but it seemed like a life time as to my left in the far corner of the stand there was a hint of a fire. In a matter of seconds I realised the seriousness of the matter and by instinct went to the back of the stand.

At the top of the stairs and looking to the right the smoke rolled towards everyone and made a ‘whooshing’ sound and in just a matter of seconds hundreds were engulfed in smoke as the wind acted like a set of bellows.

Someone up there was on my side as I moved to my left no more than 20 yards anda guy had kicked a door down and through the narrow gap fled a great many confused but very relieved fans, myself included.

Outside there was the likes of City players Peter Jackson and Eric McManus,confused and distressed worried about their families.

My best pal Dave Worrall, who will be at Wembley on Sunday sat alongside me, wasn’t there but his son Dean was and we’d lost him for more than 45 minutesbut he eventually found us, upset and with traces of tar in his hair but he was safe as were my boys at home thankfully.

Never ever let anyone forget that dreadful days when 56 poor people lost their lives and Sunday as much as anything has to be a tribute to their memory.

No-one wants to feel sad looking ahead to such a marvellous occasion but it would be disrespectful to forget those that died.

On Sunday though the excitement will be there for all to see and even the thought of the hundreds of cars and coaches travelling down the M1 with claret and amber everywhere is mind boggling.

The colours themselves lend atmosphere to the occasion, which with a bit of luck will see City lift the Cup have a route in to Europe and show the world, yes the world what Bradford City has to offer.

Come on City.

Bradford City fan Kevin Mitchell will be blogging for ITV Calendar over the weekend.

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