Paul Lambert, the Aston Villa manager, last night said that the Bradford City stadium announcer who told fans they could "book hotel rooms for London" after the 3-1 win they carry into tonight's Capital One Cup semi-final second leg had been "disrespectful" to his own team – and that the League Two side may have become carried away with their own success.
Phil Parkinson's Bradford team will attempt to become the first from the fourth tier to reach the final of the League Cup since Rochdale in 1962 when they take on Lambert's struggling side, who have striker Andreas Weimann fit again. But Lambert, who has only ever been to Wembley to watch a game, drew on the comments of the distinctive Valley Parade announcer to give motivation to his team.
"If he said that, then maybe it's a bit disrespectful," Lambert said. "You don't [count your chickens] because football's got a great habit of kicking you somewhere. It's disrespectful to do that. We'll see what happens after the game. It was their home game. But it's disrespectful to do that to other teams."
The stadium announcer has a reputation for his humour. When Arsenal walked out at Valley Parade for the quarter-final which they went on to lose on penalties, he declared: "Now the Arsenal team. You won't be familiar with these names. Probably never heard of most of them." But Lambert needed to take what motivation he could ahead of a game which threatens to deliver a major psychological blow to a group of young players who have not won in the Premier League since their 3-1 victory at Liverpool on 15 December and who were well beaten in west Yorkshire in the first leg.
Lambert said he was confident that his side could turn around the deficit and earn the right to face Swansea City or Chelsea in the final on 24 Februuary. "The whole thing changes now," he said. "They've got the lead. But I've got a feeling with the way the stadium will be and the way we're going at the moment, that it'll be a different game. We're playing at our home ground. We have to use that advantage."
He admitted that attempting to overcome this kind of deficit against a lower-league side was not within his football experience – the only comparable one being his Wycombe Wanderers side's League Cup semi-final against Chelsea five years ago. They drew 1-1 at Adams Park but lost 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in the second leg.
The defeat at Bradford was among the worst of his life, said Lambert, who hopes to have Fabian Delph and Shay Given fit. "I've had many!" he said. "Many disappointments! It was certainly up there that's for sure but we've also got a chance to rectify it. I won't need to do [or say] much [to them]. They know already. Yes [I wanted to disappear after the first game.] It's not a headline for anyone and if you get beat it becomes a big thing. I don't think you can use the word 'revenge' for tonight. They know they're hurt by it and they know they've got the chance to rectify it and get through. It could be a fantastic night."
Lambert, for whom defender Nathan Baker is a major doubt, believes that a Wembley final could be the making of his young Villa players. "The thing is you might never get there again, in football you just don't know what's round the corner," he said. "You have to grab this chance because you just don't know when this could happen again. The best players make sure that they grab it. In football you can't have any regrets because you'll look back over your career and say 'I should have' and 'if only'. The ones who actually succeed are the ones who do it."
Bradford have won so many successive penalty shootouts – seven – that there is a commemorative T-shirt on sale in their club shop. But Lambert has not been making special preparations.
"It's not something I've thought about," he said. “With penalties it's what happens on that given night. You can go out there and practise and hit the target all day long, but on the night, when there's the crowd behind the goal, it's a little bit different. I just hope it doesn't go that far. We have to get it finished.”