Gus Poyet under pressure as Jon Stead comes back to haunt Sunderland
Bradford pick up where they left off at Chelsea to book FA Cup quarter-final place
Jon Stead scores Bradford’s second goal in their FA Cup fifth-round clash against Sunderland at Valley Parade. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Jon Stead has been there and worn the T-shirt during a career spanning 13 years and 10 clubs. But once things got so bad that his own supporters actually sported a derogatory T-shirt about him, mocking his productivity as a striker. “I saw Jon Stead score a goal,” was its sarcastic slogan.
So there was a sense of karma when supporters of the club in question, Sunderland, greeted his late substitution here with a standing ovation for his part in earning Bradford a first FA Cup quarter-final appearance since 1976 and maintaining his achievement in scoring for five consecutive rounds this season. Stead (31), who has been revitalised by a loan switch from Huddersfield, took 30 games to get off the mark in an 18-month spell on Wearside.
The 4,250-strong travelling support would have been forgiven for the odd double-take on this performance.
As early as the second minute he used his strength to draw a free-kick from Wes Brown. Filipe Morais delivered the ball into the area and Sunderland’s failure to clear resulted in Billy Clarke’s bobbling shot being diverted past Vito Mannone by John O’Shea. Then, just after the hour, he kept his composure to provide the second goal Bradford’s superiority merited when his shot squirmed under Mannone’s body.
“If you look at the calibre of striker that Sunderland had on the pitch then, for people to be speaking about Jon Stead is a great tribute to him,” said the Bradford manager, Phil Parkinson. “His all-round performance for us – not just today, ask the people who watch him every week – has been immense. His hold-up play, his running for the team, his challenging and his finishing.
“A lot of strikers go somewhere, and it doesn’t quite work out. But he has moved on with his career, he hasn’t let it affect him and he’s pushing on again.
“It’s great to see that a player of his age is still ambitious and has the desire to play at the highest level he can.”
While it was Stead who stole the acclaim up front, Rory McArdle was equally heroic at the back. His thunderous aerial challenge on Danny Graham left him with a head bandage for all but seven minutes of the game. “It typified what we were all about,” said Parkinson.
Roared on Bradford – roared on by a crowd
of 24,000, their biggest for more than 50 years – simply began where they left off last month when they became the first team to overturn a two-goal deficit to beat a José Mourinho team at Stamford Bridge. The relationship between the players and fans here makes it an uncomfortable experience for higher-ranked opponents. Just ask Aston Villa and Arsenal, humbled here during Bradford’s run to the League Cup final in 2013.
“It’s like a throwback, with three sides of the ground singing and getting behind the team.
“You can’t win every week but every time we play, we give it everything we’ve got and the supporters, and people of Bradford, have responded to that,” said Parkinson.
The result left Poyet to bat away suggestions that, after more jeers from his own fans following disquiet on Wearside in midweek, this represented a managerial low point. “No, I haven’t been in the bottom three once this year. I was bottom for eight months last year,” he shrugged. Instead, like his fans, he credited Bradford, who are now unbeaten in a dozen home cup ties under Parkinson.
“The good thing about this Bradford City team is that they didn’t win every game here. They won at Stamford Bridge, against the best team in the league right now on a great football pitch. Today they play here and beat us on this football pitch. Give plenty of credit to what they do.” Guardian Service