Bradford City’s trip to Chelsea this Saturday is all the more special for its rarity. Over the previous 25 years, the Bantams have reached the FA Cup fourth round stage on just three occasions.
The last of these – in 2000 – saw an embarrassing 3-1 exit to Gillingham (City were in the Premier League at the time, whilst Peter Taylor’s Gills were two divisions below). However, the other two fourth round games – in 1997 and 1999 – were more memorable affairs, as the club enjoyed a day out at a big Premier League club.
Width of a Post writers Damien Wilkinson and Ian Sheard share their memories of attending fourth round clashes at Everton and Newcastle United.
Everton 2 (O’Brien og 54, Speed 91) Bradford City 3 (Dreyer 49, Waddle 51, Steiner 59)
Saturday 26 January, 1997
By Damien Wilkinson
This match may now be approaching its adulthood, being eighteen years ago, but ask any City fan who was there and this must surely rank in any top five matches in recent times. An absolutely classic match garnished with a truly wonderful goal.
City approached the tie on somewhat of a mini upturn after enduring a wretched start to life in the Division One (now the Championship), particularly after the euphoria of the previous season’s Wembley play off triumph and walking in Chris Kamara’s wonderland.
Pre-season recruitment had taken on a slightly unusual and cut price form in parts, with City casting the net overseas with the likes of Rob Steiner, Marco Sas, Mark Schwarzer, Ole-Bjorn Sundgot, and Erik Rektop pitching up on the Valley Parade payroll. Whilst the surprise recruitment of veteran Chris Waddle in October had caused much fervour with his ability to still turn full backs inside out, this hadn’t necessarily translated into results, and the Bantams approached the FA Cup fourth round tie against Everton sat in a lowly twenty-second place in the league, albeit rubbing shoulders with Manchester City.
Everton themselves went into the match positioned in eighth in the Premier League, in a season that would see them finish in the relatively lowly position of fifteenth, with a squad that still contained players of the calibre of Neville Southall, Gary Speed, Andrei Kanchelskis (who made an £8m departure to Fiorentina a week or so after the game) and big Duncan Ferguson, to name but a few.
Without having to contend with the phenomenon of online ticket sales and making do with a good old fashioned first-come-first-served queue to acquire tickets, we travelled over to the match, with overall feelings very similar to how I am viewing the forthcoming Chelsea match. Namely with hope that the team give a decent account of themselves and we can enjoy ourselves against higher league opposition, at a famous ground.
City started the match reasonably well and despite pressure from the Toffeemen, held their own as the match unfolded. Having got to half time on even terms this suddenly got even better when the Bantams took the lead on 49 minutes, John Dryer hooking in a clever left footed volley to open the scoring. Cue wild celebrations from the 6,000 travelling City fans, albeit with thoughts that there was still a very long time to hang on to what might be a slender lead.
However, things were about to take a dramatic upturn and what was about to happen would enter City folklore. Step up 36-year-old Mr Chris Waddle. With Everton still clearly reeling from Dreyer’s strike, a loose pass from Andrei Kanchelskis was seized upon by Waddle, just inside the Everton half. With a seemingly large dollop of nonchalance, Waddle latched onto the ball and despite seemingly running more on a trajectory towards the touchline, wrapped his boot around the ball.
The ball then arced upwards and rightwards towards the Everton goal, sailing over an off his line Neville Southall who, despite desperately back pedalling towards the goal, could not prevent the ball ending up in the back of the net. This time complete and utter pandemonium in the City enclosure and on the bench, with the normally restrained(!) Chris Kamara running and diving headlong onto the pitch.
At the best of times, scoring two goals in quick succession is pretty special – but make no mistake this was something else. Waddle in particular, not usually one for wasting unnecessary energy on goal celebrations or playing for the matter, was seemingly possessed and proceeded to perform an arms waving up and down, flappy bird routine down the entire left touchline in front of the away contingent – which, being lucky enough to be right at the front of, remains an abiding memory, together with the ensuing “Waddle for England” chanting.
Andy O’Brien’s own goal a few minutes later initially threatened to throw City into a wobble, but an incredible 10-minute period was blown into the stratosphere when Rob Steiner latched on Waddle’s through ball and, with astonishing coolness, placed the ball beyond Southall to restore the two-goal advantage.
The Bantams continued to hold on and – despite following the script of great City cup shocks, with an injury time howitzer from Speed causing understandable panic late on – Kamara’s men held on for a famous victory and euphoric celebrations at the end.
City’s reward was a fifth round tie at home to Sheffield Wednesday, pitting Waddle against his old team, but sadly the cup run was extinguished in a 1-0 defeat. Furthermore Waddle’s Bradford City candle soon burned out leaving us to anoint a legend from his short tenure and games like this.
What a day, what a match and what a goal. The claret and amber half and half kit remains synonymous to me with this game, the images of Rob Steiner wheeling away after scoring the third, iconic. As the season headed to a last gasp dramatic escape from relegation, perhaps the events of the Everton victory can’t be underestimated in the part they played on what was ultimately a memorable season in many ways.
Newcastle United 3 (Hamann 33, Shearer 52, Ketsbaia 86) Bradford City 0
Saturday 23 January, 1999
By Ian Sheard
I got a book for Christmas titled ‘Football’s strangest matches’, in which there is a story about a bet that took place between Newcastle United fans and Bradford City prior to a FA Cup fixture. Apparently the two sets of supporters had a match before the game itself, and the game is now repeated every year around Manningham fields every year. Personally I have never heard of this but, if it is true, I wonder what the fans made of the encounter in 1999.
I had started regularly attending City games in 1996 after the first Wembley promotion, as I was now in a position to pay for my own ST through hard earned paper deliveries. The previous seasons under Chris Kamara had brought some success, but chairman Geoffrey Richmond clearly felt that a new man was needed to not only cement the team’s place in what is now the Championship, but also push onto the Premier League. Bring in Paul Jewell, the return of Stuart McCall and the recruitment of Lee Mills plus one of my favourite-ever City players, Gareth Whalley.
We were having a good 1998/99 season in the league (similar to that of now), and in the FA Cup were drawn at home to Grimsby which we won 2-1. Next out of the hat was a trip to Premier League Newcastle for the fourth round.
Having been to Goodison Park a couple of years earlier to see us beat Everton and witness the best goal I’ve ever seen, I was excited to visit another Premier League ground. I seem to remember handing the money to the gentleman I used to go with (who was in his 60’s at this point), and him queuing for a number of hours to get the tickets. Some things do not change!
The trip up was a little different to that of Everton as we had a certain expectation. Not only because we had beaten Everton in previous years, but because City were in contention for a place in the Premier League, and this would be the sort of regular test facing Jewell’s men if we got promoted.
I remember being high up in one corner of the ground, facing the dugouts and the other half of the City fans in the other corner. I was impressed at the size of the stadium and also with the amount of noise the City fans were making. The match, to be honest, was a bit of a blur. I remember wanting to see Des Hamilton come on at some point – he never did – and also being amazed at Alan Shearer, especially when he bullied Darren Moore all game and caused him to get booked. I also remember Gary Speed not getting not getting as much stick as he did at Goodison.
I don’t think City played all that badly, but we failed to create chances. Didier Hamann showed his class in midfield against Whalley and McCall. We tried hard, but once Newcastle scored towards the end of the first half, City never looked like getting into it. We got the odd corner and Blake was his typical Jekyll and Hyde sulk and skilful self. Stephen Wright, whom I always admired, was substituted in the game for the £1.3 million striker Isiah Rankin.
We lost the match 3-0, but it was a brilliant day out and gave us a flavour of what the Premiership would be like. A lot of the same players would feature the next time City faced Newcastle, at Valley Parade during the Premier League the following season. A game the Bantams won.
One thing I will never forget from the game is a Newcastle fan of about the same age as I am now (31), grabbing my arm at the end of the game and saying, “I hope you go up – your fans deserve it”. Funny how it’s these small acknowledgements from your opponents that stick with you. He’ll have forgotten he said it me as soon as he left the game.
I can see similarities between the Newcastle tie of 1999, and City’s visit to Chelsea this Saturday – unfortunately the scoreline maybe the same as well. I would like to think that, at the end of the game, the Chelsea fan comments about us City fans who are lucky enough to go will echo what I heard as 16-year-old lad at St. James Park.