The League Cup quarter final draw has encouraged Bradford City supporters to reminisce about our two-year spell in the Premier League at the turn of the millennium. Ian Sheard looks back on the halcyon days when Arsenal feared to tread the Valley Parade turf.
A chipped tooth, broken glass and a trip to Valley Parade via the old Fountain in the City Centre were my memories of the Wolves game that sent us into the Premier League. The ethos of the squad that got us promoted reminds me a lot of the team that we have now.
My first ‘taste’ of City in the Premier League was the game versus Tuesday’s North London rivals Spurs which saw Captain Marvel McCall steal a 94th minute equaliser to secure our second draw at home for the season, and also only the third goal from six games. We had all ready played Arsenal on a Wednesday night and lost 2-0 to goals from Viera and Kanu. After opposition such as Middleborough, Sheffield Wednesday and Watford, Arsenal would prove that the season was going to be focused on staying up rather than pushing for Europe.
A combination of 1-0 victories and 4-0 thrashings demonstrated City’s need for consistency, and we fans often wondered which team were going to show up. It would seem that the determination and fight from the previous season had been replaced my nervousness and the lack of being clinical in front of goal.
City began to settle down and a 1-0 lead against Liverpool, with Windass also knocking out the referee (or at least try to) proved that perhaps we could make it in this league. We lost 3-1 eventually, but I remember thinking that this was a good performance against a very good club and perhaps that instead of sitting back against these teams we should maybe push on and attack. Although we lost the next few games we seemed to playing better football. The only team that really showed us how to play football was Manchester United. A 4-0 defeat from the best team in Europe made us look good. I tried to get a ticket for this game but ended up watching it on the concourse in the Kop on a very cold Boxing Day!
Skip on a few months and we still seemed inconsistent grabbing a point from Chelsea but losing 2-0 away to Wednesday. Which team would show up against Arsenal at Valley Parade in February? As part of my English A-Level, I decided to write the transcript for the game. It’s probably for this reason that the audacious free-kick from Dean Windass and the winner from Dean Saunders, after Thierry Henry equalised, sticks in my memory so much. But it proved to the players and fans that City could play attacking football and didn’t need to fear anyone. The game that followed was voted in the top 20 Premiership games of all time. I didn’t make the trip to Upton Park but Jamie Lawrence considers the 4-5 defeat as one of the best he’s played in.
A couple of respectable draws and a loss to ‘them down the road’ lined up Man U at home, I think the goal from Scholes in the 4-0 defeat is one I will never forget. We suddenly lost all confidence and didn’t get a point again until the nervy home game against fellow strugglers, Derby, a very close 4-4 draw meant we were safe but needed good results in the next few games. They didn’t come. Another nervy watch of the screen on the concourse for the Leicester game meant it went to the last game of the season. One word: Wetherall!
The second season for me was not as memorable. I still went to every home game but for some reason it seemed a lot harder. The victory against Chelsea during the first week of the campaign, the new signings and the fact we’d beaten all the odds set us up to avoid relegation more comfortably, but it never happened.
The big name signings never turned up. Hopkin, Petrescu, Locke, McKinley, and ‘I’ll hold it up’ Ward, only seemed interested in their pay packet. Carbone ran and ran but we couldn’t afford his wages. A class player in a struggling squad is never going to work. Collymore would be added to the list if it wasn’t for his goal against ‘them’ and his subsequent celebration. Jess tried hard, Molenaar was solid at the back and had a good season, but we lacked the team spirit we had the previous season. The fact that McCall and Myers had a punch up at Elland Road summed the season up for me really and showed that perhaps it was a team full of individuals.
I have purposely omitted as much detail for this season as I don’t think it was a good season for the club, and gives the wrong build-up for this Tuesday’s game. I can see a lot of similarities between the current City side and the promotion and ‘staying up’ teams of ’99 and 2000. I think this was especially true on Saturday against Torquay where we played attacking, passing football and we always knew that the goal was coming. Although I don’t think we can play this way against Arsenal, we can learn a lot from the Premiership years. I apologise if they seem a little cliché:
- Respect them but don’t allow them to play. Get stuck into tackles and show them that we are at home.
- Respond to the crowd. I’ve noticed Gary Jones ‘gee’s’ the Kop up at times and I think it helps.
- Never give up, even if we go behind, Arsenal are there for the taking, we have nothing to lose.
- If we get a free-kick, take it early!
Regardless of the result on Tuesday I hope we give a good account of ourselves and give the crowd something to cheer about. After all, ‘It’s only the cup, who gives a f..’