My Bradford City Life Story #4: Kieran Wilkinson

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Our regular series continues with Kieran Wilkinson, a City supporter of almost 30 years and WOAP match reporter.

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

My first match was as a seven year old, 19th September 1987 versus Blackburn Rovers. It probably sounds over-romanticised to say that I can remember walking up the centre steps of the Midland Road shed and emerging into the ground for the first time, but I genuinely can. The excitement was probably increased by getting Brian Mitchell and Greg Abbott to sign my programme (whether or not I had any idea who they were at the time).

The match itself I can’t say that I have any real memory of – the record books say it finished 2-1 to City, with goals from the aforementioned programme-signing Mitchell and John Hendrie.

As for how it happened, I suppose that the combination of there being a “buzz” around the club at the time along with me being the “right age” to properly enjoy it led to my Dad taking me. This was the City’s first full season back at Valley Parade after the fire and was the “Bradford’s Bouncing Back” era across the City.

A McCall and Hendrie inspired City had made a decent start to the season and whilst this was the eight match of the season, I suspect that the previous two home Saturday matches were not considered “suitable” for a first game, given that they were visits from Millwall and that lot from east of Pudsey. My Dad wasn’t a football-goer before this so it was the start of an adventure for the both of us.

What’s your typical home matchday routine?

A fairly simple one! Park up near Haigys at around 1.00pm. A few drinks in Haigys before a stroll to the ground at around 2.40. No real superstitions save it’s always worth changing turnstiles if we’re on a bad run.

Favourite Bradford City players?

Peter Beagrie – a genius on the field, a joy to watch and a massive part of the promotion to the Premiership and subsequently staying up. What a shame we never got to say a proper goodbye to him on the field when he was shunted out of the door with little ceremony by Jambo Jim.

Stuart McCall – I surely don’t have to give any explanation here, right?

Lee Duxbury – one of the more successful “born in the Bradford postcode” players of my time watching City (along with Dean Richards). Always thought that he put in 100% effort. Disappointed when he left for Town and disappointed again when he left for Oldham.

Paul Tomlinson – a near constant during my first seven or eight years following City. The likes of Ian Bowling and Chris Pearce tried to displace him but back he came. Another one who sadly left without any fanfare.

Chris Waddle – a privilege to have seen him play in a City shirt and a privilege to be there for “that” goal.

Favourite non-Bradford City players?

Any flair players, I guess – Zola, Di Canio, Le Tissier, Cantona, Henry. Tough question as I think that I invest too much emotion in City to consider any other team’s players as “favourites”.

Favourite grounds?

St. James’s Park, Newcastle – when buzzing a great atmosphere and its location in the city centre is spot on (and some good pubs on the way up there).

Anfield – partly for its history but mainly down to the fans.

As far as our division goes, I think Preston is a cracking ground and we’ve put in some decent performances there in the past couple of seasons.

Least favourite grounds?

Hereford United – a dump and I always associate it with a dire performance at the start of the Parkinson era. Little did we know…

Favourite period supporting the club?

The promotion to the Premiership and recent seasons go without saying. I enjoy supporting City now as much as I ever have.

However, as bizarre as it sounds, I’m going give a special mention to the early 1990s as that’s when I probably got properly fanatical about City. The football was, as we know, dire but this was the period of me going to my first away matches (first one being Bury away with my brother; a certain Phil Parkinson lining up for Bury that day), getting as much club merchandise as I could and generally trying to take in as much about the club as I could.

Looking at my autograph book from that time, I must have been constantly badgering players for autographs – that can be the only logical explanation for me having Kevin Megson’s autograph three times and Lee Duxbury’s autograph four times in the same book.

I suppose to some extent if you managed to stomach the Docherty era, anything else was a breeze (and despite us being at the same level now, we are really a very different, bigger club).

Image by Alex Scott

Image by Alex Scott

Most memorable matches?

It’s probably already hackneyed to say it but I really can’t see the Chelsea game ever being surpassed (but then again, I couldn’t see the Wolves game or the Arsenal and Villa games being surpassed. I guess the good thing about football is its potential to surprise you). The Chelsea game was perhaps made even more special by the fact that it would have been my Dad’s birthday that day; just to add to the emotion.

The usual suspects come into play too – the play off finals, Burton away, Everton away in the Cup, Spurs at home in the Cup, Chelsea at home second season in the Premiership etc.

Honourable, obscure mention to an early 1990s League (Rumbelows?) Cup tie at Valley Parade against Luton, the first time that I ever saw a penalty shoot-out in the flesh (Ian Dowie missing the vital penalty for Luton).

Match you most regret missing?

The Gordon Watson v Barnsley game. It was my first week at university so I couldn’t justify coming home. Not as much internet in those days and no texting so having to phone my Dad for the result after the game. I think that was only one of three home games that I missed that season, despite being away at University.

Match you wish you had missed?

Huddersfield Town away in 2007 when David Wetherall was caretaker manager. A truly terrible performance and you knew at that stage that we were going to be relegated. It was bad enough to put me off going to away matches for a little while.

I could have lived without the Reading away match this season too!

What don’t you like about football?

As far as following City goes, I don’t like the undesirable element that seems to be attracted to local away games in the past few years. An away game where the atmosphere is bouncing is unbeatable but there have been plenty of occasions where things have turned a little sour.

Speaking generally, I dislike the media perception that the Premiership is the be all and end all. Give me a League One match over Stoke v Sunderland any day.

Image by Thomas Gadd

Image by Thomas Gadd

How would you improve Bradford City?

I think the club are going the right way with things – cheaper tickets, trying to improve communication etc. I’d like to see the fans have a say in the choice of home strip though. It’s the sort of thing that probably doesn’t matter to the players or the powers that be but matters absolutely to us fans.

Favourite manager?

Narrowly edging Phil Parkinson out, it has to be Paul Jewell. He achieved the impossible – surely we were never meant to go up to the Premier League?

Least favourite manager?

The Doc. Next question?

All time City XI?

  1. Paul Tomlinson
  2. Gunnar Halle
  3. Wayne Jacobs
  4. Stuart McCall
  5. David Wetherall
  6. Dean Richards
  7. Chris Waddle
  8. Lee Duxbury
  9. Lee Mills
  10. Sean McCarthy
  11. Peter Beagrie
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Categories: My Bradford City Life Story

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2 replies

  1. Love Keirans superstition comment about turnstiles!!! I always tend to use the same one until we lose!!

  2. “Bradford’s Bouncing Back” image of a the bear inside Valley overlooking Brian Mitchell’s winner against Spurs in the FA Cup
    A trip down memory lane of a read Keiran, impressive stuff.

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