And tomorrow night, and maybe the night after that.
Funny thing the Capital Carling One Coca-Cola Worthington Littlewoods Cup—despite the constant media asides that it’s a meaningless drag on the clubs engaged in fighting for 7th in the ever-important money-making Premier League, it’s still the best damn knockout competition in Blighty. Perhaps Europe (nah, c’est la Coupe de France, merci beacoup).
And it’s not just because last night fourth tier Bradford City Football Club withstood a victory against Premier League For Now Aston Villa to make it through to the final in the ungainly but still symbolically important Wembley. Because despite Villa’s utter, dreadful ineptitude at times, it was as close as you could get to the kind of football match you’d want to watch when you’re in the mood to watch a football match.
This was no Chelsea parking the bus at the Camp Nou. While Villa managed 23 shots and at times looked to run away with the game in the first half, Bradford fought back to earn 11, with 2 on target, including James Hanson’s vital tying goal in the 55th minute. Their performance was a homage to the Football League, and not just the one incidentally located in England. It’s a an old hoary cliche—football is a game decided in 90 minutes on a pitch—but it sure feels novel when it happens, and a minor miracle that it still happens, even if in fifty-year gaps.
But that the circumstances exist in which a League Two side can meet a Premier League side and defeat them in a knockout competition is a testament to the league system first proposed by an Aston Villa chairman, of all people. It’s why Bradford’s mayor can rejoice that the prospect of a Wembley final might give an economically ravaged city a needed morale boost, why a club all-but-ignored for the last decade can enjoy some time in the national sports news limelight, and why a grumpy Aston Villa supporter can wake up and feel something approaching respect for Bradford City and its sudden group of hangers-on in the millions. It’s why people who love football love it a lot.
If that’s the only reason to keep the lowly little Milk Cup alive for ever and ever, so be it.
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