Two stories this week epitomise there is some justice and sense of romance left in English football.
Whilst the so-called big guns aim for ‘success’ in reaching the top 4 and Champions League – and neglecting the League Cup, the outcomes of this week’s semi-finals gave way to some great little stories
First there was League Two Bradford, holding onto knock out Premier League (for how long?) Aston Villa at Villa Park to reach Wembley and become the first club from the fourth tier of the Football League to reach the final in 50 years.
Like most clubs in the lower divisions (and Championship I should add), The Bantams have been through it in recent years – twice in adminstration since 2002. So their day at Wembley – the first time the club has reached the final of a major competition since winning the FA Cup in 1911, will be huge reward for a great run which has knocked out Arsenal and Wigan.
Let alone the financial rewards that could come from it, estimated to be anything in the region of £1m.
On top of that one of the best stories to come out of the whole cup run fairytale has been keeper Matt Duke (who performed heroics in two penalty shoot outs and also in the two-legged semi-final) who in 2008 recovered from an operation to remove a testicular tumour.
So that is great in itself.
Then last night, we had Swansea 2-0 up from their first leg win at Stamford Bridge, easily holding on to beat Chelsea and secure their place in February’s final, even if the 2nd leg will be remembered more by some for the incident with the ball boy.
Again some great little bits to come from another ‘journey’. Swansea almost dropped out of the Football League a couple of season ago and were riddled with debt, but have climbed up through the divisions in recent seasons (with some astute managerial appointments and at times great football it has to be said), to establish themselves in the Premier League. But the trip to Wembley will be reward for their Chairman Huw Jenkins and player Leon Britton who have stayed with the club through the bad all the way to the good.
What does this show? A bit of loyalty does get rewarded if you stick with something you believe in.
And may be if English football’s so-called ‘elite’ actually took a competition such as the League Cup with an ounce of seriousness – instead of going for the moneytree of 3rd or 4th mediocrity, they too would enjoy the rewards of a great day and final appearance and possibly some silverware on their shelves (how many years is it Arsenal without a domestic trophy?)