You get amazing moments that happen in sport…for instance, when we won the Americas Cup was one…but Aston Villa soccer team made to look like a bunch of muppets…by a League Two striker who played with a broken toe.
James Hanson had not trained for 10 days but he was still too good for Paul Lambert’s Premier League millionaires as Bradford City pulled off one of English football’s greatest upsets.
The Yorkshire minnows became the first club from the fourth tier to reach a big Wembley final — thanks to former shelf-stacker Hanson’s 55th-minute header.
Bantams boss Phil Parkinson said: “James had a crack in the bone in his toe. He trained yesterday for the first time in 10 days and had an injection five or 10 minutes before kick-off.
“He’s a very unselfish player and I’m so pleased for him that he will get the headlines. It shows what can be done.”
Hanson, 25, is the only current player the club have paid a fee for after dishing out $11,000 to Guiseley for his services.
He roared: “I can’t believe it. We dug in during the first half and it looked like being a tough night. But in the second half I thought we were comfortable.”
Bradford led 3-1 from the first leg of this amazing Capital One Cup semi-final but Christian Benteke gave Villa hope last night with a superb 24th-minute finish.
But centre-forward Hanson headed powerfully home and Parkinson’s heroes were heading for Wembley — despite Andreas Weimann’s late strike for Villa. Hanson added: “For the goal I just tried to get contact on it. I’ve never been to Wembley before but it’s been an amazing three years for me at the club.”
Bradford were 2,000-1 to win the competition back in August and have twice gone into administration since being relegated from the Premier League more than a decade ago.
They will face Swansea or Chelsea in the February 24 final and Parky joked: “It might be a bit far to say we can go on now and win it but going to Wembley is great for us.
“This has been the highlight of my career. It’s got to be, to take the club to a Wembley final.
“A lot of players and a lot of managers never get this opportunity to be in a semi-final. To take a team from League Two to Wembley is a dream and we are going to savour every minute.
“We said we had a chance to make history and we’ve done it. The supporters came out in their numbers and when we go to Wembley I think we could fill the whole stadium.”
Bradford keeper Matt Duke, who was superb in both legs, said: “I’m speechless, the lads were fantastic again. It’s a dream.
“As a kid you play football and dream of Wembley and now we’re a League Two team going to Wembley and we’ll take a massive following.
“Why can’t we go on and win it? Let us dream. I am not convinced this will ever sink in.”
Last night’s defeat cranked up the pressure on under-fire Villa boss Lambert and former defender Shaun Teale tweeted: “I’m embarrassed that these players will walk off the pitch and go home while the fans will be distraught. Too many players not good enough.”
Lambert said: “I am absolutely gutted, disappointed, hurt, everything.
“Everyone is hurt. You will never have a better chance to get to a cup final throughout your whole career, even the young lads.
“It may take them 10 or 12 years to get even close to one again. That’s the hurt.
“I am every bit as hurt as what the fans are. It’s my responsibility. I know exactly what it’s like and I know exactly what they’re feeling because I am feeling the exact same.”
Bradford fans chanted ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ but Lambert is adamant he remains the right man for the job of rebuilding Villa.
He said: “Am I still the man for Villa? Yes, absolutely. There are two ways to go.
“You either lie down and take it or you come out fighting. I am certainly not going to lie down.
“We’ve lost four goals from set-pieces over two games which is not good enough. I am embarrassed.
“In the first half we played very well and got a good goal, but if we can’t defend corners then that is not good enough. We are losing too many goals from set plays.
“You have to be able to defend a corner and that is the bottom line.
“We are going to be hurting but we have to pick ourselves up. We have to get going again. That is football for you.
“We got the second goal but it was too little too late. It is no good doing that after the horse has bolted.
“What I said to the players will remain private. No manager would let you know what goes on in the dressing room.
“Good luck to Bradford and congratulations for going through. It is a great achievement and anything can happen in the final.”
Rochdale were in the lowest tier of English football when they reached the League Cup final in 1962 — but they did not play at Wembley as that was a two-legged encounter.
by Terence Johns