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Saturday Spotlight: Bradford City’s Phil Parkinson

As Bradford City prepare for today's League Two play-off final, Vincent Ralph turns the spotlight on their manager Phil Parkinson.

If there is one man I want to end the season with a smile on his face, it is Phil Parkinson. I have no affinity towards him or any of the teams he has ever managed. But his feats at Bradford City point to a man who deserves a happy ending.

If anyone wasn’t paying attention to what was happening at Valley Parade, that all changed during the Bantams’ phenomenal run in the Capital One Cup, which saw wins over Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa en route to the final.

Not only were Bradford the first fourth tier side to reach the League Cup final in 50 years, they had done it with fairy-tale football.

While their 0-0 draw away to Wigan may not have got the pulse racing, the resultant penalty shoot-out certainly did, as Parkinson’s side won 4-2 on spot kicks. It was on that same night that Arsenal defeated Reading 7-5 after extra time.

With a headline like that, the Bantams’ achievement was pushed from most neutral’s consciousness.

So how fitting that the two clubs would draw each other in the next round – where another shoot-out would be needed following a 1-1 draw – and that Parkinson’s side would triumph once more.

One giant-killing is not beyond most sides, two in one season is rare, but when Parkinson inspired a 5-4 aggregate win over Aston Villa in the semi-final, you knew this wasn’t your average football story.

That they ultimately lost the final against Swansea somehow doesn’t matter. As their fans sang out with pride at Wembley back in February, with the game already beyond them, you knew that they knew: Some moments are priceless, no matter the result.

Parkinson would go on to be presented with the Outstanding Managerial Achievement prize at the Football League Awards. And yet those achievements could still get even better.

This afternoon, he will lead Bradford out in the League Two play-off final against Northampton Town.

At the end of his first season in charge, with Bradford finishing 18th in League Two, Parkinson said his next campaign would see a promotion push rather than a relegation battle.

In some ways, he has exceeded his own promise.

But there is still a match to be won, against a Northampton side that finished four points above Bradford at the end of the regular season.

In his second visit to Wembley this year, I will be rooting for Parkinson. I have a feeling I won’t be the only one.

How good has Parkinson been this season?  And will he get his happy ending this afternoon?


image: © stephoto27

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