BOOTHAM Crescent old boy James Meredith has insisted that dumping Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup quarter-finals is no match for what he achieved with York City last season.
Meredith was a member of the League Two Bradford City side that this week made headlines all over the world, including his native homeland Australia, by overcoming the Gunners following a record NINTH successive penalty shoot-out success.
Despite the international exposure, however, the 24-year-old left-back does not believe the Bantams’ heroics eclipse last season’s Wembley FA Trophy and Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final double with his former club.
“It’s not up there with the two Wembley wins,” Meredith explained.
“Doing that was a really big and fantastic achievement because of the effect it had on the whole city and it was the culmination of a whole season’s work.
“This run has only come over a few games and, although winning against Arsenal is still a good achievement, I think they put themselves under a lot of pressure by playing their strongest team.
“There were a few lads in our dressing room who couldn’t believe it afterwards but I was more happy for the city because it was a big thing for Bradford. It was the club’s biggest crowd since the 1960s and meant a lot.”
Meredith does, nevertheless, believe that Bradford’s victory over the 13-time English champions was made possible due to the same strength of character the Minstermen possessed when they created non-League history at the national stadium in May.
He added: “Arsenal are obviously technically superior to us and that’s why their average wage is £60,000 a week and ours is considerably less. But we know that we are all good players and knew exactly how we wanted to play and what we all had to do.
“We defended when we needed to defend and kicked the ball down the channel for our big man James Hanson when we needed to, but we played a little bit as well and were organised, sticking to our jobs and roles. There’s the same team spirit and determination at Bradford that we had at York last season.”
Meredith did, however, admit Arsenal’s superstar players gave him his biggest test on a football pitch, having met top-flight opposition twice with City.
“Playing Arsenal presents a different sort of challenge,” he pointed out. “You can’t dive in and you have got to be on your toes.
“They’re all that bit sharper and they also rotated a lot so sometimes I was up against Gervinho, (Aaron) Ramsey or (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain and, at other times, I was shoulder to shoulder with Lukas Podolski. It was really good and definitely a step higher than playing against Stoke and Bolton when I was at York.
“I’ve got better as a player too since then and feel more comfortable in those types of environments. I certainly didn’t feel out of place.”
Had it not been for fatigue, Meredith might also have been the man responsible for firing Bradford into next month’s semi-finals.
Two of the Valley Parade outfit’s previous three shoot-outs this season have been decided before nominated fifth man Meredith got his chance to display his talents from 12 yards.
Substitute Ritchie Jones assumed that responsibility, though, on Tuesday having been deemed fresher than the Albury-born defender.
He went on to fluff his big moment but it mattered little as Thomas Vermaelen hit a post to send Bradford’s fans into delirium.
Meredith confessed he was surprised by the qualities of Arsenal’s spot-kicks, with Santi Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh also failing to convert, but claimed he was more optimistic of his team’s chances going into the shoot-out than with the scores deadlocked at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes.
“I was a little less confident at the end of normal time because of Arsenal’s record of hammering teams in extra time but we kept our discipline and we were not afraid when it went to penalties because we’ve won nine shoot-outs on the bounce now,” he said.
“I’m usually number five but Ritchie Jones stepped ahead of me because my legs were tiring and I was down as sixth or seventh. I don’t mind taking penalties though and wouldn’t have crumbled under the pressure.”
After overcoming Arsenal, Meredith fears none of the Bantams’ potential two-legged, semi-final opponents.
Swansea and Aston Villa have confirmed their places in the draw and the three teams will be joined by the winners of next week’s Leeds United v Chelsea clash.
Despite reckoning Bradford can go all the way to reach their first major final since winning the FA Cup in 1911, which would mean a fourth Wembley outing in less than three years for Meredith, the ex-Derby County reserve remains more focused on bringing League success to West Yorkshire, saying: “I believe everybody is beatable although my main concern is still the League. That’s the bread and butter. Cup competitions are a bonus.”
Back in Oz, Meredith’s family watched a re-run of the match, which could also alert the Socceroos’ international selectors to his existence.
“I’ve been getting a fair bit of press for the game back home,” Meredith revealed. “Maybe it will put me on the international radar but Australia’s scouts don’t tend to look too far beyond the Premier League.”
Despite a hostile response from away supporters when his new team drew 1-1 with his old employers at Valley Parade in October, Meredith retains strong feelings for the Minstermen and is backing manager Gary Mills to deliver more success at the club.
He added: “I love York as a club even if the fans did not give me the best reception at Bradford. But I know what the script is because I saw what Richard Brodie used to get so I just had a little giggle to myself inside.
“I know that really if I came back and had a drink with the supporters, we could all have a laugh and shake hands because the club achieved great things last season and I wish everybody at York every success. I would never underestimate any Gary Mills team.
“The side is still a good, ball-playing one. Although they could perhaps be a bit uglier at times especially in months like December and January, if the club don’t push for promotion this time, I think they will do next season.”
Second’s clout struck by Parslow
TWO-TIME The Press Player of the Year winner Dan Parslow has moved up to second in this season’s standings.
Parslow rose to within three points of leader Chris Smith following his man-of-the-match award for the 2-0 defeat at Plymouth.
Parslow also tops the latest Press Player of the Month competition after receiving the two bonus points on offer to the player who received the most man-of-the-match votes from visitors to our website.
To be in with a chance of presenting December’s The Press Player of the Month with their prize – a framed photograph – before a City match at Bootham Crescent, send us your man-of-the-match votes for this afternoon’s clash with Bristol Rovers.
Alternatively, you can tweet your choice to @daveflettpress
The Press Player of the of the Year latest standings (not including Player of the Month bonus points): C Smith 19 points, Parslow 16, Walker 15, Ingham 14, Blair 13, Fyfield 12, Kearns 12, Chambers 11, Coulson 7, Oyebanjo 7, Carlisle 5, J Smith 5, Kerr 4, Doig 3, Potts 3, Reed 3, Blanchett 2, Taylor 2, Challinor 1, Johnson 1, McLaughlin 1.
The Press Player of the Month for December standings: Parslow 7, Ingham 3, Potts 3, Fyfield 2, Kerr 1.
Goals: Chambers 6, Coulson 5, Walker 5, Blair 4, Reed 4, McLaughlin 2, Potts 2, Parslow 1, own goal 1, Rodman 1, C Smith 1.
Assists: Walker 6, J Smith 5, Chambers 4, Kearns 3, Carlisle 2, Coulson 2, Parslow 2, C Smith 2, Blair 1, Challinor 1, Fyfield 1, Kerr 1, McLaughlin 1, Reed 1.
Bad boys: Chambers, C Smith both 4 yellow cards; Kerr 1 red, 2 yellow; Fyfield, Ingham, McLaughlin, Parslow all 2 yellow; Carlisle, Challinor, Coulson, Doig, Johnson, J Smith, Walker all 1 yellow.