Bradford vs Sunderland: ‘Our win at Chelsea saved FA Cup,’ claims Bantams boss Phil Parkinson


8-Parkinson-GettyOn a field in Tockwith, a village near Wetherby, a father was struggling to watch his son’s under-13 game. He was besieged by well-wishers at first and then the television cameras appeared. For the dad at the heart of one of the biggest FA Cup shocks of all time, Sunday, 25 January was not a quiet day.

The afterglow had started on the bus back from Stamford Bridge. Phil Parkinson had naturally tucked into a couple of glasses of wine with his coaching staff. It is not every day you beat the possible next champions on their own patch, and from two divisions below.

Parkinson, however, had taken it easy, to savour the moment. The game has been good to the 47-year-old but it has also shown him its teeth. Twice the promising manager has lost jobs, first at Hull, and then at Charlton. He got texts from  people within the game following his first dismissal, from the KC Stadium, “Welcome to management,” they said.

His star is rising once more, and that morning watching his son Jack play his under-13 game was proof of that. The TV cameras had turned up for starters. That remains a sore point, but more of that later. First came pitch-side interviews as a game in which Parkinson junior was playing went on behind him.

“The next day, it was just incredible,” he says. “The amount of congratulations and messages I got. People were ringing me and coming up to me, even at my son’s game on the Sunday. The Sky cameras came along to Tockwith, you can imagine what they were like. The manager of the team was interviewed.

“Things like that were good for people who had always supported me, going up there on a Sunday and standing on the touchline.

“There was a lot of action directly behind the camera! They were all desperately trying to get on. Initially the camera was away from the pitches and the manager said, ‘could you get them to come a bit closer’.

“They’ve cancelled the game on Sunday afternoon because of a lack of players. The manager appealed to the league. They are all coming to our game.”

So Jack has had the television coverage that has escaped his father and Bradford. It matters. Parkinson was told by Match of the Day after his side’s stunning 4-2 victory against Chelsea that figures had gone up because of their result.

That makes the decision to ignore a side with perhaps one of the greatest ever cup stories, when Bradford host Sunderland today, all the more baffling. In cold terms, it has cost a League Two side almost a quarter of a million pounds.

“There’s an element of us saving the FA Cup,” adds Parkinson. “The last round, when we beat Chelsea and Middlesbrough beat Manchester City, has done wonders for the FA Cup. I really do believe that, as it reignited everyone’s interest in it.

“I went to do the Match of the Day programme on the Sunday and the editor said to me the viewing figures for that show were terrific.

“We shocked them with the way we played and Jose Mourinho said afterwards that he admired the courage in our performance. What he meant by that was that we went there and attacked and had a go at them – I don’t think they’re used to that in the Premier League as there’s maybe that fear factor when you go to the big clubs. But our lads grew as the game went on and went there with nothing to lose.

“I just think about what it’s done for the city and the people of the area and that’s very important. In terms of us as a club. obviously it helps financially and there’s the prestige.

“I really felt we should have been on the telly. We don’t want to give the impression that we are getting carried away but the £247,000 at stake is a lot of money in terms of it as a percentage of our budget. Even if it had been Bradford v Fulham it would still have been an attractive tie and a sell-out. So there was an air of disappointment at board level, but what we could do?”

Piece by piece, Parkinson is breathing life into Bradford. The club was in an hour of need when he arrived. The League Cup run to a final in 2013 was huge. Promotion followed. He stayed loyal to the club and signed a new deal.

“When we came up after the cup run, myself and the rest of the staff were out of contract but I felt that I wanted to stay and keep improving the club,” he says. “The club has been very good to me and I have a good relationship with the board of directors, so we all signed contracts and we’re looking to continue to improve.

“But like all the players, I’m ambitious myself and I’d like to work at the highest level I can, but I’d like to achieve that with Bradford. Every day I come in, I look to improve the coaching, and hopefully I’ll get there.”


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