By Luke Lockwood, Tim Roche and Jason McKeown
Isaiah Rankin is clean through on goal, and has a chance to put Bradford City 2-0 up. The packed out crowd standing Kop behind the West Brom goal wait expectedly, yet Rankin can only lift the ball over the onrushing keeper Phil Whitehead and over the bar. The second time in a matter of minutes he has missed a sitter.
And so inadvertently began the Bradford City career of Dean Windass. City won 1-0 that February 1999 day, but injuries caused manager Paul Jewell to bring Rankin on a substitute with limited success. Rankin’s misses didn’t matter this time, but what if he was needed and spurned a more important opportunity during the run-in? Almost £1 million was spent bringing Oxford’s 18-goal striker Windass to Valley Parade instead.
As part two of the Width of a Post’s mini-series celebrating Windass the player (see part one here), we have chosen our top 10 Deano moments from his two spells at the club (which appear in chronological order). Given his 216 appearances and 75 goals in claret and amber, there are a number of great Windass moments which didn’t make our list. So please add a comment at the bottom of the article to add your own further favourite(s).
1) Deano the goalscorer – Bury 0 City 2, Monday 5 April 1999
It was a slow start to life at Valley Parade for Dean Windass, with the then-30 year old failing to score in his five first appearances and struggling to convince that he merited a place ahead of Lee Mills and Robbie Blake. But then on Easter Monday at Bury in the promotion run-in, Windass took his first steps to becoming a Bantams hero.
We City fans took over Gigg Lane that afternoon; given one of the home stands as well as the usual away section at the opposite end, which meant the 8,000 attendance included more away supporters than Bury fans. I was behind the goal that City attacked in the first half, providing a close up view of Windass’ first two goals for City.
Both came from corners, with the opener a strong header after Deano got free of his marker. He nonchalantly stood still, with his arms outstretched in front of us frantically celebrating supporters. People rushed to the front of the stand to get near him. Minutes later his second arrived with another header from a set piece, although TV replays later suggested it was a defender who got the last touch.
The dubious goals committee ultimately took that second goal off Deano but – even if the history books fail to record his full contribution that day – the 2-0 victory his goals delivered pushed us closer to promotion and meant his City career was up and running.
2) Deano the crowd pleaser – Liverpool 3 City 1, Monday 1 November 1999
It wasn’t just the goals or the performances, but how Windass acted up to the crowd to get a reaction that would help keep our spirits up in those difficult games. It was a catalogue of funny moments he left us with. Whether it was when closing a back pass down in front of the Kop, when he’d run both arms outstretched and stick his tongue out; or a stoppage in play where he’d be laying down on the pitch and ‘seductively’ lift his shorts to flash a bit of leg to the crowd. It was Deano’s character that made losing most weeks a little easier for me as a youngster.
In our first Premiership season Bradford went to Anfield not expecting much and left with little other than some more great Windass memories. Early into the game Bradford took a shock lead as Windass scored one of Bradford’s finest goals in the Premier League. He dummied a pass from Stuart McCall, which went to the feet of Robbie Blake. Windass continued his run to pick up the return and curl a fantastic effort with the outside of his boot into the net.
Liverpool later equalised and were then given a correct penalty decision to give them a chance to go 2-1 up. But the ball arrived at the feet of Windass and he took his frustration out by thumping the ball with real conviction into the face of Jeff Winter, knocking him straight to the deck. The result was a 3-1 defeat, but the once again Windass had given us something special to take away.
3) Deano the quick-thinker – City 2 Arsenal 1, Saturday 5 February 2000
This game was one of my personal highlights of our first season in the top flight, despite the fact I missed a moment of magic from Dean Windass which set City on their way to a stunning victory.
In the 10th minute of the game Windass was brought down by Gilles Grimandi on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. Dean got up as David Seaman, then England’s first choice goalkeeper, tried to organise his defensive wall. I turned to my sister who was sat beside me and said confidently: “There’s no way Windass will beat Seaman from there.”
The next thing I knew City fans were on their feet in jubilation. I turned back to face the pitch to see the ball nestling in the back of the goal with Deano and co celebrating wildly. It was unbelievable that we had taken the lead against the mighty Arsenal, but it was tinged with some regret for me that I’d looked away at the wrong moment! Despite a goal of sheer brilliance three minutes later from Thierry Henry, City managed to re-take the lead in the second half through Dean Saunders and hold on for a famous victory.
Watching Match of the Day later that evening was a proud moment as City were heralded as causing one of the shocks of that season. It also gave me the chance to see Windass’ goal for the first time; his quick-thinking, which totally embarrassed one of the best goalkeepers this country has ever produced, was typical of Deano’s footballing brain and was a fitting way for him to celebrate the 100th league goal of his career.
4) Deano the inspiration – City 4 Derby County 4, Friday 21 April 2000
There was an air of nervous tension around Valley Parade in the days leading up to this Good Friday clash, a game which was described as ‘must win’ by just about everybody with an interest in Bradford City. City and Derby were both at the wrong end of the Premier League table and, with the end of the season fast approaching, this represented a good opportunity of gaining a vital three points.
The nerves felt by the supporters evidently extended to the Bradford City defence as, with only six minutes gone, we found ourselves 2-0 down. A stunned silence enveloped the stadium. Surely now we were going to lose this game and end any realistic hopes of staying up?
Dean Windass had other ideas. He single handedly dragged us back into the game with an amazing first half hat-trick. The standout goal for me was the second of his treble – City’s equaliser. The ball was propelled towards him at pace, from a poor defensive clearance, around 30 yards from the Bradford End goal. Without even looking up, he hit a half-volley so sweetly in rocketed into the bottom left-hand corner, leaving Mart Poom in the Derby goal with no chance of making a save. Valley Parade erupted. Deano ran towards the Midland Road stand, removed his shirt and flexed his biceps in the style of a boxer at a weigh-in. It was a perfect riposte to the unkind chants he had been subjected to by the visiting supporters.
By half time City were 4-3 up, Deano cementing his treble, alongside a Peter Beagrie penalty. And while we couldn’t hold on for a win, the point gained was vital in our Premier league survival. Dean Windass’ first half performance was one of the greatest individual displays I have ever seen from a Bradford City player, and truly announced his arrival as a Premier League standard footballer.
5) Deano the grafter – City 1 Liverpool 0, Sunday 14 May 2000
City fans of the Premier League era will need no reminder as to the significance of this game. The victory over Liverpool, which saved the club from an instant return to Division One, is one of the most memorable and dramatic matches to have ever taken place at Valley Parade.
Although Windass didn’t get on the scoresheet that day, his attitude and desire were crucial in securing an unbelievable win against a side that were challenging for a Champions League berth. He was also close to sealing City survival in typical Deano style.
With the minutes ticking down and City leading 1-0, the tension within the stadium was palpable. High up in Kop, my heart was beating unbelievably fast and the whole afternoon was beginning to feel amazingly surreal. Just a week after a woeful 3-0 defeat at Leicester City, we were on the verge of a real ‘Great Escape’.
With under five minutes to go the Bradford fans had started to spill onto the perimeter of the Valley Parade turf, urging City to keep the ball in the Liverpool half at all costs. Windass picked the ball up inside the City half of the field an began to run forward, space was seemingly opening up all around him. The smart thing to do would have been to run the ball into the corner and hold onto it for dear life.
Deano was never renowned for being sensible. With unbelievable audacity he attempted to lob Sander Westerveld in the Liverpool goal from just over the half way line. Westerveld had to scramble back towards his goal and was visibly relieved to be able to palm the ball over the bar.
For me, that moment sums up Dean Windass perfectly. He wasn’t overawed by the presence of Liverpool and, not for the first time that season, made it clear to everybody that he was perfectly at home amongst the Premier League elite. His bravery and desire, not to mention his goals, were some of the greatest influences in our survival that season. In just over 15 months at the club, Dean Windass had undoubtedly become a true Bradford City legend.
6) Deano the talisman – City 3 Sheffield Wednesday 1, Saturday 23 October 2004
If Deano’s first season back at Valley Parade after re-signing in 2003 was underwhelming – he was booked more often than he scored as the Bantams were relegated to League One – his second was a spectacular success. The 28 goals Windass achieved in 2004/05 was a personal career best and ensured he won the division’s Golden Boot award. Along the way there were numerous outstanding strikes and memorable moments – his braces of goals against Colchester at home and Peterborough away standing out, plus a hat-trick in the final home game against Bournemouth. But my personal favourite was the moment that City’s season peaked.
Four straight wins in October had propelled us from mid-table drudgery to surprise promotion contenders. Sheffield Wednesday, League One’s biggest club, came to town also in the play off hunt and with a huge away following. Yet Michael Symes put City in front just after half time, and minutes later Windass sparked wild celebrations with a moment of magic.
He’s been played through on goal by Nicky Summerbee but had defenders closing him down, and was only on the edge of the penalty area. Spotting Ola Tidman off his line, Windass performed a delicate chip which flew over the Owls keeper’s outstretched hand and dipped under the crossbar. On the back of such a difficult summer that had almost seen the club go out of business, the widespread joy that Windass’ superb goal triggered felt extra special.
City ended up winning the game 3-1 to go 2nd. It was a false dawn as it happened, with the squad not strong enough to deliver a sustained promotion challenge. But the amount of joy Windass provided that year ensured it was a season which won’t be quickly forgotten.
7) Deano the wanted man – Rochdale 0 City 5, Tuesday 23 August 2005
It’s easy to forget how awful City were in cup competitions a few years back. After making the 3rd round of the League Cup in October 2001, we crashed out of the 1st round in every competition for the next four years.
The hoodoo finally ended in a 2005 League Cup tie at Rochdale in spectacular style – a 5-0 thrashing of opponents from a division below and a hat-trick for Windass. His first was a brilliant volley from Richard Edghill’s pass. Early in the second half Windass got himself free at the near post to place a diving header past the keeper. Owen Morrison supplied the assist that enabled Windass to powerfully head home his third. A marvellous performance of deadly striking prowess.
There was a special admirer in the stands at Spotland that evening. Paul Jewell, the man who signed him for City in 1999 and the man in charge of Premiership newboys Wigan, would a couple of days later make a shock £500k bid to sign Deano. Julian Rhodes didn’t feel he could stand in Windass’ way and accepted the offer, and we all felt very sad at the prospect of losing our star player.
Yet to everyone’s surprise Windass turned down what, at 36 years old, looked to be his final chance to play in the Premiership – thereby becoming even bigger hero among City supporters. He went onto net 20 goals that season and a year later Jewell tried once more to sign Windass. He again said no, but famously did return to the Premiership at 40.
8) Deano the Birthday boy – City 4 Scunthorpe United 2, Saturday 1 April 2006
Deano was a journalist’s dream and most of the time he wrote his own stories. In 2006, the player not renowned for his discipline – after once managing to be sent off three times in the same match while at Aberdeen – received an unusual suspension. Following an exciting 3-3 draw with Brentford he bumped into the referee Darren Drysdale in the car park and traded what he described as ‘harmless banter’. However, Drysdale took exception to this and Windass received a hefty five game suspension.
Following the incident, Windass received a lot of criticism from City fans who labelled him a liability and, to be fair, at the time we really needed our talisman on the field. Those five games without our top scorer could have cost the team badly; it wasn’t one of his finer moments but his return certainly was.
He returned on April Fool’s Day, his birthday; it wouldn’t have been right for Windass to be born on any other day. It was also the return of another hero from the Premiership era as Beagrie was playing for visiting Scunthorpe.
It took less than 10 minutes for Windass to mark his return with a goal as he dispatched an early freekick. However, Beagrie was determined to remind the Valley Parade faithful what an asset he was equalising with a penalty and then creating a second goal to put Scunthorpe 2-1 up. At half time Bradford needed a something special and Windass provided it. In an explosive spell at the beginning of the second half Bradford scored three times and Windass twice to complete his birthday hat-trick and present City with three points.
That day he proved to his critics, fans and team mates how valuable he was. And it was reported that, after the game, Danny Cadamateri gave Windass no chance of getting himself suspended again by blocking his car in with traffic barriers!
9) Deano the footballing brain – City 4 Gillingham 2, Saturday 12 August 2006
Eric Cantona, Teddy Sheringham and Dennis Bergkamp are three of the Premier League’s greatest ever strikers, but none of them ever possessed superb athletic ability. None had Henry’s pace or the strength of Alan Shearer, but all three seemed to see things happen before everyone else.
Dean Windass may not be Clarke Carlisle or Tom Adeyemi away from the football pitch, but his brain when he crosses the white line appears to work faster than Carlisle could solve even the simplest Countdown Conundrum. Windass would see things happen in his head that would surprise the most gifted defenders and so, when he stepped down with Bradford to League One, the calibre of defenders had no chance.
My favourite memory of this was against Gillingham in 2006. A game in which Windass scored another brace and a goal that had the managers of both teams praising Deano’s brilliance. As one cross was delivered into the box Windass realised he had no chance of winning a header against the Gills towering centre half. Instead he chose to step back to the edge of the box predicting perfectly where the defenders clearing header would land and swiftly lashed the ball straight back past the keeper and into the net.
10) Deano the cool head – City 2 Swansea City 2, Saturday 13 January 2007
“Why won’t Todd drop him? He’s past it!” was the argument my friend made as we talked about Deano on the way to watching City play Swansea. A reckless sending off in a crucial game against Bournemouth weeks earlier had seen Windass’ popularity among fans plummet badly, and he along with manager Colin Todd were the chief targets of increasing frustration over indifferent results.
“No one else can score goals like he can,” I argued back passionately; a point emphatically demonstrated on the pitch that day when Windass put City in front with a well taken half volley from the edge of the box. “Where else will the goals come from?”
Unbeknown to us all, this was to be Windass’ last game in claret and amber as he was loaned to Hull City for the rest of the season, in return for much-needed revenue to help balance the books. But the loss of Windass and star player Jermaine Johnson would prove too much to cope with, and – as Deano played a hero’s role saving his hometown club from relegation – his parent club slid dismally into League Two.
Perhaps fittingly for a man who had generated so many talking points during his two spells at the club, the final minute of his final City match was all about Dean Windass. Swansea were 2-1 up and looked to have successfully defended a late Bantams’ corner, charging up the field on the counter attack and putting the ball in the net for 3-1. But the referee disallowed the goal and raced back towards the Kop, where Windass lay flat out in the penalty area. No goal for Swansea – instead it was a penalty to City!
Swansea complained long and hard, but after a huge delay Windass kept his cool and slammed the penalty powerfully into the back of the net. His 75th and final goal for Bradford City.
Controversial, but successful to the end.