My Bradford City Life Story #1: Gareth Walker

Premiership days 1

Editor Jason’s pre-amble

Today, WOAP is launching a new regular feature where supporters/people connected with the Bantams share their Bradford City Life Story. The questions will remain the same, and each week (for a while at least) someone different will provide answers based on their time following, or being involved with, the club.

The idea originated last summer from a City fan on Twitter – but, embarrassingly, I can’t remember who it was. If you came up with this suggestion, please get in touch with me so I can feature you at some point!

Kicking off for the first few weeks will be WOAP writers; but I am keen to ask a wider spread of people including local media and people who work or worked for the club.

First off, here is Gareth Walker, who has been following Bradford City since the early 90s.

How long have you supported City and how did it happen?

I started following City in the early 1990s. I first became addicted to football during the 1990 World Cup and I had adopted Liverpool as my team, probably because they were the best side in the county at the time and two of my closest friends supported them.

My Dad had been a City supporter since the mid-seventies, having only missed one game during the three eventful seasons of 75/76 (cup run), 76/77 (promotion) and 77/78 (relegation), but he hadn’t been for a good few years whilst me and my sister were growing up.

I think he had been waiting for the right time to get back into going by introducing me to City. The football in the community schemes that the club ran in the school holidays provided the perfect opportunity by offering free admission to kids and discounted adult tickets for anyone who attended. That was how I ended up making my first trip to Valley Parade for a 0-0 draw with Fulham and I’ve followed them ever since. Twenty odd years and counting.

What’s your typical home matchday routine?

Because we currently live in Accrington (we are hoping to finally move back to Yorkshire within the next twelve months), going to City takes up the whole day.

As a family we leave home at 10ish on a Saturday and drive to Skipton where my parents live. We have an early lunch there before me and my dad set off to Bradford at 12ish. My wife and kids stay with my mum in Skipton.

Once in Bradford we meet up with friends either in one of the bars on North Parade or in the Fighting Cock on Preston street. We have a few beers and don’t actually get to Valley Parade until 2:55pm-ish.

At half time we meet up with other friends on the concourse of the Kop.

After the match we head back to Skipton for tea before me and the wife and kids drive home for about 9ish. It’s a hectic day, and I have a very understanding wife!

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Favourite Bradford City players?

There’s been too many to mention down the years. Stuart McCall obviously. The promotion team of 1999 are all heroes of mine. Moore, Dreyer, Lawrence, Beagrie, Blake, Mills. I feel very privileged to have been 15/16 years old and at the perfect age to enjoy that unbelievable season.

Other than that, my early heroes were Super Sean McCarthy – I was gutted when we sold him; Dean Richards who is still the best defender I’ve seen in a City shirt; and Brian Tinnion – what a left foot!

Des Hamilton from the 1996 side mainly because of that goal at Wembley!

From the 2013 team Gary Jones just because of his non-stop attitude which I feel won us points on its own at times, and Nahki Wells and James Hanson who were our best strike partnership since Mills and Blake.

I better stop there or I’ll be here forever!

Favourite non-Bradford City players?

My two all time favourite players along with McCall are Gazza – who is not only the most talented English player that I’ve seen but was the everyday bloke living the dream – and Steven Gerrard, who is the best Premier League midfielder of his era, single-handedly carrying his boyhood club for years.

Out of those playing today I love Luis Suarez. To combine ability with work ethic like he does is very rare.

Favourite grounds?

Valley Parade obviously. Anfield and Villa Park are very traditional and create fantastic atmospheres on their day. Deepdale has a very impressive away end. Bootham Crescent is a traditional ground. Brisbane Road because of the supporters bar.

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Least favourite grounds?

Swindon’s County ground. I hated going there, it was a nightmare to get to, the away end was falling apart and the view wasn’t great. But I also don’t like any of the new soulless ones either, I’m a bit of a traditionalist.

Favourite period supporting the club?

1996-2000. The GR years. As a teenager during that time I think I was just at the right age to enjoy it fully. I was going to games on my own for the first time. What a journey!

Most memorable matches?

Wolves 1999 – the culmination of an amazing season; and we really did it the hard way after the Huddersfield and Oxford results, didn’t we?

Chelsea last season – the biggest cup shock ever.

Villa home and away 2013 – the utter shock and amazement I felt when Carl McHugh scored in the first leg and James Hanson in the second.

Burton play off away leg 2013 – again we did it the hard way.

Wembley 1996 – it was my first trip to Wembley and all you could see was claret and Amber everywhere even at Leicester Forest services on the way down.

Wembley part two 2013 – to return to Wembley three months after the cup final and to be out of sight at half time was a testament to the team that we had and provided a fitting end to a great season.

Gordon Watson vs Barnsley 1998 – for years and years this was my favourite game at Valley Parade. For Flash to come on and win us the game after what he had been through was tremendous; but it was also the point when we started to realise that there was something special about that team. I still watch the goals from that game fairly regularly. The crowd surge after the second goal resulted in me moving half way across the Kop.

Tranmere 5-4 2004 –my wife’s favourite game. Typical City to throw away the lead like they did only to win it at the death. Some great goals scored too.

Michael Proctor vs Burnley 2002 – after being cheated by the referee and a diving Greek striker, the satisfaction of that late equaliser was very sweet.

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Match you most regret missing?

Blackpool away in the play offs 1996. Gutted. We listened on the radio in the kitchen at home.

Match you wish you had missed?

I’ll got for three: the Huddersfield, Rotherham and Chesterfield away games when David Weatherall was in charge at the end of the 2006/07 season. We were absolutely abject in all three. Possibly the worst performances I’ve seen from City teams.

What don’t you like about football?

The way that money has taken over. Prices. Sky TV. Adrian Chiles. Andy Townsend. The “sod the rest” attitude that the Premier League seem to have adopted. Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini, corruption (which I believe isn’t limited to FIFA and foreign countries), rubbish referees, Leeds, Huddersfield, Man Utd. The ineptitude of the FA at times.

How would you improve Bradford City?

The team isn’t far away in my opinion. A pacy goalscorer would make a huge difference.

It’s hard to see how we could be improved really without a huge injection of cash. I’d love for Geoffrey Richmond’s plan for the ground to be completed one day.

Favourite manager?

Kammy – the journey to the top started under him. What a character and where did he get all of those random signings from?

Jagger – gave me my favourite moment watching City and probably managed the best side that we’ve had.

Parky – the turnaround under him has been phenomenal, not to mention the cup runs.

Least favourite manager?

Jefferies – he was never the right man. Part of me thinks that we could have stayed up that season with someone else in charge but another part of me wonders if anyone could have worked with Richmond and his ego at that time.

Taylor – expectations were so high but what a disaster he was. I wonder if we’d still have a club to support if we hadn’t undeservedly beaten the nine men of Stockport in his last game.

All time City XI?

Schwarzer, Halle, Jacobs, Richards, Wetherall, McCall, Whalley, Waddle, Beagrie, Blake, Mills.

Subs: Walsh, Moore, Dreyer, Tinnion, Carbone, Lawrence, McCarthy, Pepper. (I know that I’ve picked one too many subs!)

Gareth (second right at Villa Park in 2013)

Gareth (second right at Villa Park in 2013)

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11 replies

  1. I’m interested to know what “Geoffrey Richmond’s plan for the ground” was? I know most things about City over the 25 years but this one must have bypassed me. Can you elaborate Gareth?

  2. http://m.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/8058187.print/ Bantam rjv it was to make the main stand go all the way across and would mean closing /redeveloping the road that runs down by the current club shop and behind the Bradford end

    • I also remember that he wanted to build a second tier to the Midland Road stand.

    • Thanks for that…just looked on the Council website and found this http://www.planning4bradford.com/online-applications/files/446B3D0A704D47E93504A5FB3CE0DD26/pdf/00_00487_FUL–394023.pdf

      Also found an application from the same time for a video scoreboard.

      All very interesting!

      • Sorry just seen this.
        I see that Jason and Karl have filled you in on what GRs plans were.

        Those links are really interesting!

      • Wow – Thanks for that BantamRJV – So interesting looking through the planning requests. But Gosh what a shame that extension didn’t get completed! I think it would be great. Let’s hope one day in the not too distant future that it can go ahead (i doubt it though. I mean 15 yrs have already passed!! – I reckon it would take at least another five or six years for us to even think about making that kind of investment in the stand…)

      • I remember GR mentioning the video scoreboard at a fans forum. Someone followed up with him and he said that it was company that would install it free of charge (presumably with them receiving a cut of the advertising revenue). I guess the deal fell through

  3. ‘and Steven Gerrard, who is the best Premier League midfielder of his era’ not even the greatest English midfielder of his premier league era! Football and opinions I suppose!

  4. Gareth,

    How do we contribute to his great idea? I mean when do we know when it,s “our turn” as it were? I,ve been going to City since 1950,when I was 10yrs old,75yrs old now, so one or two tales,as it were. Thanks, Mr B Defurey ( Bilty 40 on the Claret and Banter)

  5. Have I imagined this or did we have a large colour scoreboard in the PL era? I think it was leased so we only had it a year or so. Did this actually happen?!

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