PARKY’S BLAST GOT CITY BACK ON SONG
BRADFORD star James Meredith has revealed that the Bantams had to make the League Two play-off final – or face the prospect of training until June!
Having captured the nation’s hearts with a fairytale run to the League Cup final, a post-Wembley slump saw Bradford slide down the table.
By mid-March they had fallen ten points adrift of the top seven and the play-offs looked a forlorn hope.
That was until manager Phil Parkinson called his squad together and warned them it was promotion or else.
Now – after a stunning run of one defeat in their last ten – the Yorkshire outfit are preparing to face Northampton at Wembley after beating Burton 5-4 on aggregate in the play-off semifinals.
“We lost 4-1 to Exeter with about ten games remaining and the gaffer called us all in for a pretty serious meeting,” recalls Meredith.
“He basically said ‘There’s enough quality here to get automatic promotion and definitely enough to make the play-off final.
“Anything else is an underachievement so we’ll be training up to the end of the play-offs whether you make it or not’.
“That was pretty much the rocket everyone needed. We knew we were underachieving.
“We were letting down the fans who had cheered us to Wembley, and everyone at the club. We felt an obligation to get to the play-off final and that kicked us on.
“A lot of people thought we were just going to see out the season and let it run away from us. But we managed to get ourselves back in the mix and prove everyone wrong.”
Though Meredith missed the League Cup final with glandular fever, the play-off final will mark a remarkable fourth Wembley appearance in as many years for the Aussie left-back.
He lost the Conference play-off final with York in 2010, but stayed with the Minstermen to complete an FA Trophy and promotion double in 2011-12.
Yet it might never have been after the young Meredith was turned away by EVERY club in the Football League.
“I got released from Derby in 2007 after a season of not playing,” says the 25-year-old.
“I called every club in the Football League to see if they’d take me on trial, and I didn’t get a single response, not one.
“After three months without a club, I did think about going home to Australia. I thought ‘I’m not really moving forward, I’m stagnant – what am I gaining by being here?’
“But then AFC Telford called to say they’d give me a go. I went, got to the Conference North play-off final, then it was on to York for three years before Bradford. It’s been the school of hard knocks really.
“Not every player gets to make it the pretty way. I was scraping by financially and it was very difficult at times. There’ve been no fancy restaurants or fast cars, put it that way.
“But it’s just the way I’m built. You don’t always get things handed to you. You have to work for them and I think that’s the best way because you appreciate it more.”
So with all his big-match experience, does Meredith have advice to his team-mates on handling the pressure?
“I always say the same two things,” he says. “One is don’t let the occasion overwhelm you. Play your normal game.
“The other is don’t get complacent. Don’t get wrapped up in the media stuff and don’t think you’re something special just because you’re at Wembley. You still have to work hard.”
WEMBLEY REGULAR: Bradford left-back James Meredith is back under the Arch for a fourth time. Inset: Bantams boss Phil Parkinson