By Tony Leighton
Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson hailed his players after an npower League 2 Play-Off Final victory that was effectively wrapped up with three goals inside the opening half-hour against shell-shocked Northampton Town.
"To be 3-0 up so quickly was beyond your wildest dreams," said Parkinson as he reflected on the goals by James Hanson, Rory McArdle and Nahki Wells that killed off opponents whose manager Aidy Boothroyd reckoned had stage fright.
Stage fright was never going to be an issue for Parkinson's side, whose Wembley experience in February's Capital One Cup Final - which they lost 5-0 to Premier League Swansea City - was vital background to their Play-Off triumph.
"We had that experience of being here before," said the Bantams' boss, "and it wasn't just about the game but also the build-up - the press attention, the new suits, the demands of how family are going to get down, the wife's new outfit.
"That can drain a lot of energy out of you and we took all that away from the lads this time. We said that we're coming back to Wembley to do a job and finish our season off in style, and that's exactly what we did."
Finishing the season off in style was the culmination of Parkinson's 21 months in charge of Bradford, who - just 10 years after being in the Premier League - were at their lowest ebb when he took over.
The former Colchester United, Hull City and Charlton Athletic boss has worked much higher than League 2 but nevertheless reckons that the campaign just ended has been his best - though not only due to his own efforts.
He said: "To get to a major cup final and then to bounce back from that was really tough for us. If you take everything into account - the size of this club, the job of turning it around, I take a great deal of pride in that.
"But more so, it's the team behind the team. I've got great backroom staff and a chairman and board of directors who have given me great support. The club has been through some tough times, but now it's in a great position to move forward.
"We're going up into a really tough division, but we've got a great core of players who will give their all. And we've got great fans - an average gate of 10,000 is extraordinary in League 2. They deserve this day, and I'm glad we delivered."
While the Bantams will aim to deliver in League 1 next season, which will be their first in that division since relegation six years ago, the Cobblers must prepare for a fifth successive League 2 campaign after a bad day at Wembley.
Boothroyd said: "We had a bit of stage fright. We looked like rabbits in headlights for 30 minutes. A few of my lads were unrecognisable from the lads who had got us this far. It was a case of a very good season going badly wrong at the end.
"You do get days like this, but you don't want them in a final. I'm disappointed for the supporters and everybody at the club, but what you can't do is sulk. We have to take it on the chin and bounce back - and that's what we'll do."
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