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Bradford and Swansea. Football’s good guys

After this week’s semi- final matches I think it’s fair to say we’ve pretty much seen it all. The good, the bad, the ugly and as a result a lot of positives are going to be lost in the murky mire of ‘that ball boy incident.’ The problem with this is that there are actually some inspirational things to take from this week, things that the media spotlight hovered upon before seeking out the ugly, unsavoury moments that tend to take up the column inches, moments that act as an anchor for the already floundering reputation of the beautiful game.

People talk about overpaid superstars, the primadonnas and the thugs, where they should be talking about the heroes of Swansea and Bradford that overcame odds, clambered over the stacked wallets of football’s elite and reached a summit on the brink of something monumental for either of the clubs. I’m not suggesting, by the way, that Swansea is a poor team by any stretch of the imagination. The premier league status of the club can guarantee a number of riches, but in comparison to Chelsea, they are very much a step below in terms of bank balance. Instead they were able to rely upon the more valued of commodities in our game, strength of character, belief and a respect for both the competition and their opposition, something that appeared to be lacking in Chelsea’s performance.  Defensive performances such as that of Williams at the heart of Swansea’s defence are to be revered, the collective effort of the team and the determination to bring Swansea their first major cup final show qualities that can transcend football and these should take the headlines in the papers. Yes we have some awful role models in the game and footballers may not be able to hold their own in a Rugby Union game but does that mean that the sport itself is as poisoned as some would suggest? Incidents involving top level players both on and off the pitch may grab all the headlines, but in reality this is minuscule proportion of players in one of the most highly participated sports in the world. As you move through the leagues and out of the football league you see some incredible role models and it’s about time we shone the spotlight on these. For a brief moment we did…

The heroes of West Yorkshire, Bradford City, so long in the shadow of Leeds rose to the occasion on Tuesday night. With a first eleven that cost £7000 to compile they overcame an ever present in the Premier League. This is after overcoming both Wigan and Arsenal prior to this and still maintaining a high level of football performance and credibility, rather than ‘kicking them off the park’ as some people may have predicted.  Particularly in the first leg at Valley Parade, there were examples of free flowing, attacking football from Bradford and coupled with the dogged determination showed at Villa park it shows a team that can perform at both ends of the field. Let’s forget Eden Hazard this week and talk about Hanson. An old fashioned number nine, playing in a lonely role up front winning every header and making me wonder why we don’t see more of this type of player. He took a major pay cut of £250 a week to continue playing for Bradford instead of his job outside of football, showing it’s a love for the sport that keeps him going and not the money. He got a reward greater to him, I imagine, than any financial gain in heading that goal to seal it.

So forget the ballboy, forget Hazard and what it might mean to Benitez. Forget Aston Villa and any problems this might cause, it’s unfair to highlight these mistakes. Let’s focus on the Williams’ and the Hansons of this world and show everybody that the game is not as tarnished as they like to think.

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