Bradford City achieved promotion by handing out a lesson, and not just to Northampton Town. This emphatic victory rewarded an accomplished performance and the ascent to League One repaid the exemplary way that the club have been run in recent years.
Looking around Wembley, which was awash with proud Bradford fans for the second time in three months following February's Capital One Cup final, it was clear that the club are harvesting the fruit that was planted after relegation from the third tier in 2007.
Back then the joint chairmen, Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes, introduced a scheme to offer supporters the cheapest season tickets in the Football League and even for this triumphant campaign, six years on, season tickets were available for less than £200. Prices were set following consultation between club management and the 21-member supporters' board, the first of its kind in England, and go a long way towards explaining why Bradford have attracted average home attendances of around 10,000 – not just this season but also last term, when they were struggling against relegation from the Football League. Phil Parkinson's success as a manager since he arrived in August 2011 has been to produce a team that have contributed to the synergy with the bumper home crowd.
"I think the season-ticket deal that the chairmen have done for the supporters is fantastic," said the manager. "If you're a supporter and you've got value for money, you tend to be more forgiving if the players make mistakes. Whereas if you've paid over the odds, you've got a bit of anger inside you. So when I came in we knew that if we can give the crowd something to respond to, they would get right behind us. We've got a mantra in the team that if we can out-work and out-tackle everybody, then the supporters can really identify with the players, and the support we've had has been incredible."
Parkinson's entire squad cost just £7,500, having paid a fee for no one other than the striker James Hanson, who opened the scoring against Northampton with a looping header from Garry Thompson's cross. Rory McArdle scored a virtually identical goal four minutes later and then, in the 28th minute, Nahki Wells volleyed a third past the Northampton goalkeeper Lee Nicholls, who made several saves after that to prevent heavier damage.
Northampton's manager, Aidy Boothroyd, has also presided over an upturn in his club's fortunes since succeeding Gary Johnson midway through last season, when the Cobblers were in the League Two relegation zone, but the progress that has been made since then offered no consolation for the way his team froze at Wembley.
"It's great to have got here but when you get to a final like this, you want to be a winner, nothing else," said Boothroyd, who also insisted that defeat was not made any easier by the fact that it was against Bradford, the club that he has supported as a child. Boothroyd was at Valley Parade with his father 28 years ago when 56 people lost their lives in the Bradford fire disaster.
Parkinson attended a memorial service for those victims on the anniversary of the tragedy, 11 May. "I felt since I've been here that there is a close bond between the city and the football club and obviously that [tragedy] is a major factor to it," he added. "The supporters have a special connection with the club. I felt the bond was probably lost a little before but we've got that back this year."
Man of the match Gary Jones(Bradford City)