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Magic of the FA Cup is alive and well, says Parkinson

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Once the most famous and most revered cup competition in the world, the FA Cup may have lost a touch of its sheen in recent years.

Often devalued in favour of most clubs’ priorities, league matters, the world’s oldest cup competition is only now regaining its place of prominence in the fabric of modern-day English football.

And try telling Phil Parkinson today’s tie against top-flight Huddersfield Town is little more than a knockabout, free from the pressures of Championship football.

Parkinson enjoyed memorable cup runs with Bradford City, including a visit to Wembley in 2013, and is in no doubt as to the effect such success can have on a club and the region it represents.

Taking a host of higher-ranked teams’ scalps Parkinson engineered the Bantams’ run to the Capital One Cup final in 2013 and returned to Wembley for a League Two play-off final win against Northampton.

He also led them to a quarter-final appearance in the FA Cup in the 2014/15 season.

Such success, gained firmly against the odds, will live long in the memory of the supporters but also had a lasting, positive impact on the club’s bank balance.

“The year we got to the final of the Capital One Cup, the money we generated saw the chairmen [Mark Lawn and Julien Rhodes] put that back into the budget and it enabled us to build in League One.

“Equally, when we had the FA Cup run we were able to strengthen and make sure the squad was strong, so in all my time there the club was self-funding in terms of season tickets and also the money we generated through the cup runs went to the development of Bradford City.

“When people look back at the history of Bradford City people will say the cup runs were so important in stabilising the club financially and enabling it to move forward – it’s now a top-six League One club, when we went in it was a bottom-four League Two club.

“There were players in those two cup runs who had some moments, like Andy Halliday and Jon Stead scoring against Chelsea and playing well in the Capital One Cup, Will Atkinson playing really well for us, Zavon Hines, players who maybe haven’t gone on to play at a higher level since but who will probably be remembered for a long time by the people of Bradford.

“I think what those cup runs did at Bradford was galvanise the whole city, it got behind the team, it really did.

“Some of the sell-outs we had at Valley Parade made a real awareness of the football club in the area and there were 18 to 20,000 season-ticket holders there every week.”

Now steering a club still feeling the effects of near-bankruptcy, Parkinson is well aware how much revenue a cup trail can generate. As such, there will be no dismissing today’s tie from the Wanderers camp.

“Bradford aren’t the only club to benefit from cup runs,” said Parkinson. “But I feel we had two exceptional ones in terms of getting to a final and the Chelsea victory [a 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round of the FA Cup].

“For us now, at Bolton, financially a cup run helps, of course, and as everybody knows you only need one big draw away against Manchester United or Manchester City and that can generate an extraordinary amount of money to help us in this transfer window, it is a factor.

“The team we pick will be the best team we feel for this fixture, bearing in mind what’s gone previously so whoever we were playing, whether it was a non-league team or a top-four Premier League team, we’d be picking the same team.

“The memories I have from those runs personally I understand what it can do for a football club.

“Every manager speaking prior to the FA Cup will say the league is a priority, and it is a nice break from the league.

“But we’d love to get through and we’ll be trying everything we can to achieve that.

“There is still that magic of the FA Cup.”

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