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Feb 22, 2013

Atkinson: Fans will awaken 'sleeping giant'

Midfielder Will Atkinson says that the 'sleeping giant' of Bradford City should be awoken when the side run out to 35,000 fans at Wembley to content the Capital One Cup final on Sunday.

Bradford beat Arsenal and Aston Villa on their way to the final and have come from League Two strugglers to cup finalists in the space of a few years. Atkinson admits the players have been a bit shocked by their rapid progress, but that they have been driven on by the sound of their passionate fans.

"I've tried to picture what it will be like. But even in your imagination you can't get to grips with what it's going to be like when you walk out and hear the roar," Atkinson told the Telegraph and Argus. "It was loud enough when we went away to Wigan with 5,000 there. Having around 35,000 is going to be incredible.

"To call this club a sleeping giant is probably an understatement. Look at the home ties against Arsenal and Villa with full houses. The fans have been unbelievable in both the league and cup and we owe it to them being in the final as much as ourselves."

Atkinson has been on the receiving end of the Bradford faithful after a tough loan spell last season, but he is amazed at the transformation since then.

"It's part and parcel of football," he said. "But you can't be a shrinking violet. When times get rough, that's when you need to be at your best. You've got to keep believing in yourself that you will come out strong.

"Being honest, it wasn't a great place to be around at the end of last season. We were losing games, weren't playing well and the expectations are a lot higher here. You still have to pinch yourself that we're talking about going to a final now. The turn-around has been massive - but things can change that quick in football.

"We've got a few new players who have freshened up the squad a bit and confidence is high. Look where we are now to where we were and you wouldn't believe it. For me personally it's been thoroughly enjoyable and hopefully we can get more success. Hopefully this cup run will be the snowball effect for Bradford City and we can go on and on.

"You think it can't get any better but then it seems to. You just enjoy every moment," he added. "We'll go into this game with the same feeling. That's what we've done in previous rounds and there's no reason why it can't work in our favour again."

Sunday will be Swansea's first appearance in a major final in their 100-year history and Atkinson, who has started all seven cup ties as one of five ever-presents in the side, is not daunted by the prospect of facing the high-flying Swans.

Atkinson said: "It might help because it's a massive day for them as well. They've not been to Wembley in a cup final so it's a big achievement for them to get there.

"The fact that it's a massive deal for a Premier League team puts into perspective what a great job we've done. It does even it out a little bit but they are still in the top flight and are going well. We all know it's going to be a tough game but we'll enjoy the day and see where it takes us."

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