DCSIMG

Bantams still have it all to do to realise their Wembley dream

GETTING AWAY WITH IT - Liverpool's Luis Suarez

GETTING AWAY WITH IT - Liverpool's Luis Suarez

What a fantastic night for Bradford City on Tuesday as they beat Premier League side Aston Villa 3-1 in the first-leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final at a rocking Valley Parade.

The npower League Two side fully deserved their victory, and now have genuine hope of reaching the final to take on either European champions Chelsea or Swansea.

But winning that first-leg was a game-changer for the Bantams when it comes to the second encounter at Villa Park, because they will now have pressure on them.

There will be expectation from the supporters for one.

And secondly, the mantra for the west Yorkshire club as they approached matches in the previous rounds against Wigan and Arsenal, and then Villa on Tuesday, was that they ‘had nothing to lose’.

Well they do now.

They have a place in a Wembley final in front of 90,000 fans to lose, and it will be interesting to see how Bradford handle that change in emphasis.

I hope they do it, because it would be great for league two football (and I also have family that are Bradford City fanatics!!), but I have a feeling the really hard work is still to be done.

Suarez handball reaction way over the top

I couldn’t believe the amount of fuss made over Luis Suarez’s handball goal for Liverpool in their FA Cup third-round win over Blue Square Premier side Mansfield Town on Sunday.

The Uruguayan was slaughtered in the papers, on the television and on the radio airwaves, being branded a cheat by many, but I don’t think he did anything wrong.

It was handball, no doubt about that,but I don’t think it was deliberate, and you could tell from his reaction that Suarez was expecting the whistle to blow.

That the referee Andre Mariner didn’t give the free-kick is not the player’s fault.

Some even suggested Suarez should have told the referee it was handball, but that is a nonsense.

No footballer gives free-kicks against themselves anywhere else on the pitch no matter what they do, and aren’t expected to, so why should Suarez penalise himself just because it happened in the opposition’s six-yard box and led to a goal?

I played football (well, I sloped around a pitch, occasionally kicking a ball and other people) for many years, and there were occasions when I handballed but it wasn’t given.

Did I stop the game and tell the referee what I had done? Nope. And if I had, my team-mates would have tore several strips off me, before making me take the nets down on my own after the game while they got changed and went to the pub...

No, getting away with a handball or a little pull on somebody’s shirt in the midfield is just part of the game. It’s down to the referee to spot these things and make the decision.

If players started to police themselves and own up the every offence they commit on the football pitch then the game would stop every 10 seconds!

It seems that Suarez is paying the price for his various unsavoury antics over the past 18 months that have led to him making plenty of headlines for the wrong reasons, and to him not being flavour of the month in plenty of quarters.

But on this occasion, the abuse dished out wasn’t warranted.

Ronaldo would have been my world player of the year

It was no great surprise to see Lionel Messi claim the Ballon’ D’Or and be crowned the best footballer in the world for the fourth year on the spin this week, but I’m not sure he deserves it.

Yes, the Barcelona man is a brilliant player, one of the best the world has seen, but surely this was a year where – despite Messi breaking the record for goals scored over the 12 months of 2012 - Cristiano Ronaldo would have been a more deserving winner. The former Manchester United man was simply sensational in a Real Madrid side that did beat Messi’s Barca to the La Liga title in 2012, despite being as not pleasing on the eye as their rivals.

Ronaldo is a phenomenal player, a remarkable athlete, but I’ve a feeling he may be destined to always walk in Messi’s shadow. And that is harsh on an amazing talent.

Saints have to show some consistency

It was good to see Saints get their Aviva Premiership play-off bid back on some sort of track with last weekend’s 30-19 win at Exeter Chiefs. But now it is up to Jim Mallinder and his players to prove that victories like the one achieved in Devon and a few weeks ago in Ulster can be the norm, rather than the exception.

This has been a difficult season for Saints. Despite their flying start to the campaign they have failed to really get any sort of momentum going, often taking one step forward (beating Ulster) and then two steps back (losing to Harlequins and Saracens).

They have struggled against their main rivals in the league, and too often been unimpressive against the lesser lights.

But we have now reached the point in the season when Saints have to find consistency if they are going to be in the Premiership shake-up come May.

The only thing they are consistent at at the moment is being inconsistent... By all account the Saints players were riled by criticism - particularly from some high-profile Sky Sports pundits - ahead of the Exeter game, and after the win were quick to set the record straight and make their point.

But if Saints are to ultimately be proved right and the critics to be proved wrong, they have to maintain the performance levels shown at Exeter on a weekly basis between now and the end of the season, starting with tomorrow night against Castres at Franklin’s Gardens.

 

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