Adrenaline is a funny thing. When all hell broke loose in the away end at Stamford Bridge at around 4.48pm on Saturday 24 January 2015, nobody associated with Bradford City wanted to stop and draw breath. Mark Yeates had just completed perhaps the greatest FA Cup upset in modern-day history and talk was already turning to the almighty party that would be happening in West Yorkshire when the 6,000-strong away support returned up the M1.
The list of pubs and clubs we were planning to descend upon that evening was endless. Bradford would have never seen a party like it. But as we sat down for our first pint at around 10pm, the adrenaline had escaped us. The journey had taken its toll, and all we could do was think of bed. Physically and emotionally exhausted, but still in a sense of complete disbelief at what had happened that afternoon.
My dad was never one for optimism. He warned upon taking me to my first game on Boxing Day 1995 – a bleak 1-1 draw with Sheffield United – that supporting Bradford would be a miserable experience. After half an hour at Stamford Bridge I couldn’t help but think he was right. Gary Cahill and Ramires had put Chelsea 2-0 ahead and our big day out in the capital was turning into a nightmare. Suddenly, though, right on half-time, a goal from Jon Stead gave us something.
Not something to build on – I mean, nobody predicted what would happen next – just something to take home with us. A moment to remember. I battled in the concourse to try to get a phone signal to call home. “Not going well, is it … 2-1 down,” my dad said. “Are you kidding? We’ve scored at Stamford Bridge,” I replied. “Who cares what happens now?” I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. I did care.
It’s easy to turn up your nose when people say the greatest moments in their lives are a blur. Looking back I understand why all that emotion and adrenaline may leave some hazy, but I remember every moment of the second half like it was yesterday. That feeling of optimism when we pushed the Premier League’s best side on to the back foot from the off was incredible.
Somehow we equalised 15 minutes from time when Filipe Morais prodded home from close-range. I remember hugging people I’d never even met before, and over the next quarter of an hour we embraced again. “Imagine getting this lot back to Valley Parade,” I heard someone cry amid the mayhem of Morais’s equaliser.
José Mourinho had clearly contemplated that prospect and, just before Morais made it 2-2, he sent on Cesc Fàbregas, Willian and Eden Hazard to kill the tie and silence the deafening noise in the away end. It didn’t work. With eight minutes left, Andy Halliday put Bradford ahead with a curling effort that Petr Cech in his prime, let alone the version who was between the sticks that day, would not have saved.
It was 3-2. Grown men – myself included – were now in tears. Little old Bradford were about to do the unthinkable. And it became a reality in injury time when Yeates made it 4-2. Pandemonium doesn’t come close to describing the chaos among the supporters who had travelled south that Saturday morning in hope rather than expectation.
Post-match I remember our tube carriage being full of supporters with claret and amber scarves trying to work out if they were dreaming. One or two Chelsea fans actually wished us luck for the next round – they probably couldn’t believe it either.
The party back home never actually happened for us, but the memories made it worth the early night. And getting home early meant being able to watch Match of the Day. We were first on. I can’t imagine that will happen again for a while.