Four-time League Cup winner Alan Kennedy gives his thoughts on the semi-finals, and looks ahead to the final
Bradford City against Swansea City may be an unlikely Capital One Cup Final, but you’ll struggle to find a more popular one with the neutrals.
If football always went with logic, the Bantams wouldn’t have made it as far as the showpiece. They really shouldn’t be there. Yet, they fully warrant their place in the final thanks to some unbelievably spirited and stubborn performances in the competition.
The npower League 2 side have been incredibly strong. At the back they’ve been ultra solid, Phil Parkinson has had them very well organised, and up front the pace of Nahki Wells and the strength of James Hanson has been a sight to behold. The boy Hanson must be shattered after his two performances against Aston Villa. I hope he’s kept some energy in reserve for the final!
To beat a Premier League team over two legs is no fluke. Bradford City played some great football, held their nerve, and deliberately exposed Villa’s weaknesses from set pieces. By the end it was Paul Lambert’s men who were ragged and running out of ideas.
What faces the Bradford City players now is the unknown, and that’s the only concern I have for them. They will be subjected to all sorts of coverage and attention from the press, expectations around the town will be huge, and everywhere they go people will want to talk about the big game. They’ll also have a major headache in trying to get hold of as many tickets as they can for family and friends too, and I’m not joking when I say that can be stressful!
And then there’s the Wembley factor, too. You just don’t know how any team or individual is going to handle playing on that kind of stage until it happens. In fairness to them, they’ve handled everything in their stride so far, so there’s no reason to fear that they will freeze.
On a personal note, I’m delighted for right-back Stephen Darby. I watched his development with interest at Liverpool and I know people regarded him highly there, so I’m chuffed to bits that he’s made it to his first major cup final.
Swansea City stand in their way now, and the Welshmen must be floating on air after beating the European champions without conceding a goal in 180 minutes or so. That’s a phenomenal effort.
I watched them knock Liverpool out of the competition and they’ve maintained the same level of excellence they showed that evening, all the way to the final. In my eye’s Swansea have been head and shoulders the most impressive team in this season’s Capital One Cup.
This might sound far-fetched to some but I believe Swansea can become a top-six side. Under Michael Laudrup they’re improving all the time, and because of the work rate and controlled football they produce, I view them as one of the hardest teams to beat that I’ve seen in recent years.
I can’t actually praise them enough. I’m not saying they could beat Barcelona but I’d like to see how they got on against the Spanish giants, because they don’t look to be as far behind as most people would assume. This cup run will give them the belief to kick on and become and even more powerful club next year.
It’s a pity that Eden Hazard’s kick-out at a ball boy grabbed the headlines. You can be 100 per cent sure, though, that the incident had zero effect on the result. There’s no way Swansea were going to be beaten in that second leg.
So what of the final itself? Both sides will probably be feeling how we did with Liverpool in 1981 and 1982. Reaching the Final lifts you incredibly, and the two sets of players will be sensing that the Capital One Cup is their competition. You get an untouchable feeling sometimes.
Clearly Swansea will be favourites but I would not rule out the prospect of a Bradford City fairytale. They’ve proven they’re good enough to mix it with the best, and as you’ll gather by now I really do think that Swansea are in that category.
I’ll be at Wembley to savour the day, and it will be something very, very special.
The public at large won’t mind who wins because these are two of football’s most likeable clubs, and I don’t see it being one-sided at all. If Bradford get their corners and free-kicks right, it could get especially interesting.
Roll on February 24th - it can’t come quickly enough.