“History Makers” Bradford City’s League Cup Finalists – Where Are They Now?

“McCardle goes near post, Hanson coming IIIINNN” are seven words that will ring in the ears of Bradford City fans until their dying breath. It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since League Two Bradford went on one of the most famous giant killing sprees in football history, but here we are. In another “Where Are They Now” write-up, we’ll be looking at those who made that squad as special as it was, as we look into the 2012/13 League Cup Finalists, Bradford City.

Goalkeeper – Matt Duke – Retired

If there was a member of this squad who earned the nickname “Big Game Player” it was Matt Duke. Arguably Man Of The Match in the Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa games, Matt Duke proved almost impossible to break down. Matt Duke left Bradford in the summer of 2013 and signed for losing Playoff finalists Northampton Town on a two-year deal, playing 76 times for The Cobblers under current Watford Manager Chris Wilder. Spells at Alfreton Town and Chesterfield followed before Duke hung up his gloves at the age of 39. You’ll rarely find a player who played 21 times in the Premier League and 27 times in The Championship, who would find their career defined by 1 season at  League Two level, but that shows just how much of an achievement that cup run was.

Defender – Stephen Darby – Retired

I’ve followed Bradford for almost my entire life, and one thing that has always been in the back of my mind is how little appreciation defenders get. Every striker, winger or attacking midfielder will at some stage have a chant made for them by fans. I think I can count on one hand the number of defenders in my life I’ve seen Bradford City fans take to so much that they feel the need to chant for them. David Wetherall was graced with one, I heard one person away at Salford sing about Yann Songo’o, and Rory McArdle had his name sung countless times, but I think chants for defenders are few and far between. Stephen Darby however not only had a chant, but it’s one that Bradford fans still belt out at the mere mention of his name.

Stephen Darby moved on from Bradford in 2017, following manager Phil Parkinson to Bolton Wanderers who left 1 year prior. Appearances were limited for the former Liverpool man and on September 18th 2018, at the age of 29, Darby announced his retirement from professional football after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Darby went on to set up the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation to fund support for families affected by motor neurone disease, and research a cure. Fundraising is ongoing and a link to donate can be found HERE. In July 2019 both Bradford City and Liverpool met in a fundraising match, which saw Liverpool walk away with a 3-1 victory, before going on to lift the Premier League Title that season (I’m not saying these two things are connected but Bradford are the reason this happened. You’re welcome, Jürgen.)

Defender – Carl McHugh – ATK Mohun Bagan

A young lad from Lettermacaward, Ireland joined The Bantams in the summer of 2012, McHugh was one of the 3 goal scorers for Bradford City in the 1st leg against Aston Villa, cementing his name in club history. McHugh spoke out in November 2013 about his lack of first team football, and in the summer of 2014 he signed a 2 year contract with Plymouth Argyle, going on to play 81 times over that 2 year period. Another successful spell at Motherwell saw McHugh notch another 82 appearances before moving onto the Indian Super League in 2019 where he now lines up for ATK Mohum Bagan, who have just finished 3rd in the League behind Champions Mumbai City and Hyderabad FC.

Defender – Rory McArdle – Harrogate Town

The definition of a Lower League, no nonsense defender, Rory McArdle played 183 times for The Bantams and was one of the other defenders mentioned above that the fans felt deserved a chant. McCardle scored in the 3-1 home leg vs Aston Villa alongside his centre back partner Carl McHugh, and some would say that probably wasn’t the most important goal of the season for Rory. Rory went on to score in the playoff final against Northampton Town to make the game 2-0 and settle the nerves of every Bradford fan in the stadium. McArdle stepped up to League One with ease and went on to be named the clubs Player Of The Year on 2014/15. Moving on in 2017, McArdle signed for fellow League One club Scunthorpe United on a 3 year deal, making 100 appearances for the club before joining Exeter City and then signing for his current club and Bradford City neighbour Harrogate Town where he continues to remind Bradford fans of what they once had every time they meet.

Defender – Curtis Good – Melbourne City 

Joining on loan from Newcastle United in November 2012, Good’s appearances were limited to the subs bench more often than not, but that didn’t stop Phil Parkinson giving Good the nod over Andrew Davies in the final against Swansea. Good retuned to Newcastle in the summer and joined Dundee United on loan before making 1 appearance for the Newcastle first team against Oxford United in the F.A. Cup in 2017. Good moved on in the summer of 2018 and signed for current club Melbourne City where he is currently enjoying his best run of games having made 102 appearances for the club.

Midfielder – Will Atkinson – Boston United

Will Atkinson has covered not just ever blade of grass on a football field for Bradford, but the entire country when it comes to clubs, having made 15 moves in 16 years. The key thing to look at here however is that out of the 6 clubs who loaned him from Hull, 3 went on to sign the man permanently in his career, 1 club loaned him twice and 1 club signed him on a full time deal on 2 separate occasions. People don’t tend to look too fondly on players who move from club to club but Will Atkinson clearly offered something that most journeymen don’t, reliability – never there to just make up the numbers. You could throw him in the deep end and just leave him too it, he’d get the job done.

Atkinson left Bradford at the end of the 2013 season, going on to spend 4 years at Southend, reuniting with former Hull City boss Phil Brown. He came back to haunt The Bantams in 2016, scoring 2 goals in a 3-0 win over City at Roots Hall. Moves to Mansfield Town, Port Vale, Alfreton Town and Southend United (again!) followed before the summer of 2022 seeing Atkinson sign for National League North side Boston United.

Midfielder – Gary Jones – Captain – Under 16s Assistant – Bradford City

I don’t think we need to really dive too deep into this one, as there isn’t a Bradford fan alive who doesn’t know where Gary Jones is at all hours of the day. To this day we hear in the stands, read on social media, and hear in radio phone ins these famous 5 words… “We need another Gary Jones”. A player who played the majority of his career for Rochdale, it could be argued that his 84 appearances for Bradford outweigh his 468 for The Dale. Remarkable when you see it written down but true. A man who signed for Bradford at the age of 35 would not have turned many heads for the good, but within his first 90 minutes the fans knew this was something special. Captaining the club to a League Cup final is something very few can claim, and at the age Jones was, I think I speak with confidence when I say that when that contract was signed, a Wembley appearance in a major cup final wasn’t ever a thought.

Jones moved on in 2014 to Notts County, then signing for Southport and a short loan spell at Altrincham. Jones hung his boots up at the end of the 2017 season, although there was never any official announcement of that. Gary continued to be seen around the club, making regular appearances on BBC Radio Leeds as a commentator, before joining the club as a coach of the under 16s in August 2022.

“He’s magic…. you know”

Midfielder – Nathan Doyle – Retired

Doyle signed twice for Bradford City, once on loan in 2006, and then returning in 2012 as a permanent member of the team. Fans are always apprehensive when former loan players return years later, have they still got what they had back then? Will they ruin the memories we have of their last run? Doyle lived up to the hype. The fans saw Doyle slot in perfectly next to Gary Jones and there was zero disappointment in the stands as he continued to deliver to the standard that endeared Bradford fans to him in his first spell. Doyle played on after his time at the club, signing for Luton Town before spells at Bridlington Town and finally East Hull where he reunited with former Bradford and Hull City team mate, Dean Windass.

Midfielder – Garry Thompson – Retired

The man who scored the goal that took the wind out of Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal, Thompson would be a key player in the 2012/13 season, scoring crucial goals and providing 2 assists in the Playoff final, there weren’t many players like Garry Thompson around and to this day, they’re still very hard to find. Thompson followed captain Gary Jones to Notts County in 2014 before a 2 year stint at Wycombe Wanderers, and finally a season with Morecambe in League Two, Thompson did sign for a few none league clubs before finally calling it a day in December 2019.

Forward – Nahki Wells – Bristol City

Every single Bradford fan will have their own memories of Wells, for myself there are 3 key ones from his time at Bradford. Firstly, a Soccer AM appearance before the Cup Final where Wells predicted a hattrick for himself. Secondly, how he burst into the team with his F.A. Cup goal vs Rochdale. And thirdly, which does sour my memory, is how it ended. Wells sat down on the floor 28 minutes into a home game Vs Swindon town for seemingly no reason, Mark Yeates replaced the clubs star man and that was the last time he was seen in a Bradford City Shirt. The club sold Nahki Wells 12 days later to local rivals Huddersfield Town. Fans really didn’t take this news well, and to many his legacy will always be tarnished by those last 12 days. No one could blame Wells for wanting to step up to the Championship, he was clearly too good for Bradford, but there is a way to do things and for a club that took a risk on a player that came with a reported “attitude problem” most fans felt that Bradford deserved better.

Wells is still playing in the Championship to this day, after a move to Burnley provided Nahki with 9 Premier League appearances, he joined Queens Park Rangers on loan twice before signing for Bristol City in 2019. Wells currently sits as top scorer for The Robins, scoring 11 goals in 39 appearances to date.

Forward – James Hanson – Worksop Town

“He used to work at the Co-op, work at the Cooooo-op” – a chant that no other club had been able to lay claim to. Bradford signed the 6ft4in striker in 2009 from Guiseley. At the time Jim was working in the local Co-op in Idle, Bradford ,and after signing his first permanent deal, had to work a notice period with the supermarket chain in between training sessions, leading to fans joking that he’d been signed on a permanent from the Co-op. Now I’m going to be perhaps a little controversial here but hear me out – Hanson scored 15 goals in 2012/13 and Wells scored 26 – but, James Hanson was more important to Bradford City than Nahki Wells ever was. His hold up play and layoffs would have provided any striker given a run along side him the chances to score, but if you took James Hanson out of that team then Nahki Wells became a 10-15 goal a season man.

Hanson left Bradford in 2016 for Sheffield United who were at the time top of League One. Things had soured between sections of the Bradford fans and James and his own dad had stopped going to games as he couldn’t stand listening to the abuse. A polarizing figure to say the least. James went on to Bury, AFC Wimbledon, Grimsby Town, Farsley Celtic and Boston before joining current club Worksop Town. He never really found a home like he had at Valley Parade and looking back, it became a case of “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. Hanson won the league with Sheffield that season, Bradford lost in the Playoff final and were relegated 2 years later back to League Two where they remain until now.

Manager – Phil Parkinson – Wrexham

Another controversial opinion here, Phil Parkinson is Bradford’s best ever manager. On achievements alone, Parkinson took a League Two side on a lower League Two budget to a major cup final (something never done before and until now, never repeated – Good luck, Grimsby), he then regrouped, got the players focussed and went on to win the Playoffs that same season. Bradford played 63 times that season, 63! Jürgen Klopp would be joining a picket line if he knew. Some fans will agree, some won’t, that’s the beauty of football.

Parkinson continued Bradford’s cup heroics in 2014/15 when the club went to the F.A. Cup quarter finals, but the standout from that run would be the 4th round when League One Bradford went to Stamford Bridge to play José Mourinho’s eventual Premier League Champions, Chelsea. Bradford became the first team to not only come back from 2-0 down vs a José Mourinho side, but to do it by putting 4 past them – a team that included the likes of Petr Čech, Gary Cahill, Mo Salah, Eden Hazard and Didier Drogba. Mourinho was asked at full time “What happened?” To which he simply answered “Football happened, and it’s beautiful”.

Parkinson left Bradford in the summer of 2016 after the club were taken over by Stefan Rupp and Edin “I know football” Rahic. Parkinson was slated for leaving for Bolton but evidently, Phil saw the writing on the wall very early and knew that he wouldn’t be allowed to manage the team with Rahic at the helm (Maybe we should dive into Edin Rahic at a later date… he still lives local, afterall)

Spells and Bolton and Sunderland followed his time at Bradford before signing for current club Wrexham… they’ve not done anything worth talking about lately though, right?

The Final Itself

Swansea won 5-0. Hence why we talk about the run to the final more than the game. It’s fine though, in 50 years when there are football pub quizzes about the 2012/13 Capital One Cup Final, the questions will be all about Bradford. No one will really remember the Swansea of it.

You can watch the whole game here and relive it if you like;

 

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