|Date: 24 January Coverage: Chelsea v Luton (12:00 GMT) and Manchester United v Liverpool (17:00) reside on BBC One and iPlayer|
“After games it hits me the hardest. Everyone has someone they turn to, to discuss the game with and get things off their chest. Now I’m missing that.”
Luton Town captain Sonny Bradley is ready to face Premier League Chelsea within the FA Cup fourth spherical on Sunday, just a little over a month on from struggling the lack of his father.
Bradley’s “number one fan”, Ray, a well-liked determine amongst Town supporters, died aged 57 in December after contracting Covid-19.
“My dad was a great man, if I could have picked anyone on the planet to be my dad I would have chosen him,” Bradley, 29, informed BBC Radio 5 Live.
“He was my biggest fan and I got a lot from him, especially when it came to football. I have a one-year-old and the best thing he left for me was a blueprint of how to be the perfect dad.”
Originally from Hull, Bradley has performed for the likes of Portsmouth, Crawley Town, Plymouth Argyle and even had a spell in Sweden – but whatever the distance he wanted to journey, his father adopted him in all places.
One reminiscence he holds particularly dearly was within the FA Cup when League Two Plymouth held Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to a goalless draw at Anfield in January 2017. In an impressed defensive show, Argyle centre-back Bradley was named man of the match.
“He never lied to me after a match. After that game, before it was announced I was man of the match, he said ‘I thought you were the best player on the pitch’. Coming from my number one fan it meant a lot and it’s a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” he mentioned.
“Going into Sunday against Chelsea, I know nobody can be there but, if he had the opportunity, he would have been the first one there.
“Everywhere I’ve been he was most likely one of many first to reach [at the ground], mixing with the followers and getting concerned with the spirit of the membership. I respect that massively.”
Bradley was keen to quickly return to action after his father died and missed just two matches for Nathan Jones’ side, who are 13th in the Championship – 25 places below Frank Lampard’s Chelsea in the football pyramid.
His only request was for everyone to treat him as normal. The support of the club during this period of his life, he says, has been “top quality”.
“I used to be straight again in coaching. I spoke to everybody on the membership and I simply mentioned I wished folks to be the identical with me,” added Bradley.
“Deep down, behind the masks, I’m hurting however when I’m at soccer I’m busy and my thoughts is occupied.
“The lads have been brilliant, they all signed a big poster of me and my dad and they’ve let me know they’re there if I need them. The manager has been outstanding as well. I’ve asked for things to be normal and that is benefiting me.
“I’ve a job as captain and I’ll proceed being the chief everybody wants and proper now we’re doing pretty properly. I’ve an unbelievable assist community round me and at my soccer membership. I see the positives in that respect as a result of not everybody is that this fortunate.
“Now we go to Stamford Bridge and it will be tough. Chelsea don’t have weak players but I truly believe that if we stick to our game plan there’s no reason we can’t cause an upset.
“There might be instances within the sport now we have to concede possession and make it ugly, but when that is the way in which of getting a end result that is what now we have to do.”