By Jason McKeown
On Thursday night this week, we’re hosting a special night at Valley Parade to celebrate the club’s return home 30 years ago, following a prolonged period of exile at Odsal stadium. A panel of guests including James Mason, Terry Dolan, Ian Ormondroyd, Simon Parker and John Dewhirst will reflect on the remarkable modern history of Bradford City, and why Valley Parade is so special to us supporters.
Tickets for the event are a bargain £5 (or £10 if you want pie and peas) and can be ordered from the Friends of BCFC website here.
BBC Radio Leeds will be broadcasting live before the event starts, so get there for 6pm if you can. Gareth Jones will be presenting the evening alongside Tom and Dom from Bantams Banter. We’re also hoping to confirm another couple of extra-special guests, so watch this space…
What’s your favourite Valley Parade moment?
Ahead of the night, I would genuinely love to know what you, valued reader of WOAP, consider to be your absolute favourite moment at Valley Parade. It could be a brilliant victory, a memorable performance, or a jaw-dropping goal. It might be special for your own unique reasons, such as the first time you took your kid to a match. Whatever moment stands out as your own favourite, I’d love to hear it.
Either leave a reader comment below, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @thewidthofapost, using the hashtag #bestVPmoment
To get started here’s my own personal favourite…
Everyone stood up in preparation for the corner being swung over. We were ready to do our bit, trying to suck the ball into the net. At the opposite end of the field, the Valley Parade scoreboard told us there were just 13 minutes to go.
Gary Jones holds up his left arm in the air to give the signal, and fires over the corner. It reaches James Hanson in the middle of the penalty box, but he can only succeed in flicking the ball back in the direction it came. But Nahki Wells isn’t giving up on it, and races over to beat the defender to the ball, keeping the attack alive. We’re all still stood up.
To my left is my wife. She’s been coming to watch City with me for many years now – and has only really seen the bad times. We didn’t know each other in the Premier League years. Instead, she has had City forced on her through me, and has had to endure relegations, Peter Taylor football and home defeats to Accrington Stanley. She certainly hasn’t experienced many nights as good as this.
Wells plays the ball back to Jones. He takes a touch to trap the ball, looks up at the options in the box, and sends over a wicked cross.
To my right is Steve. He was stood next to me for my first ever City game, nearly two decades earlier, when the Kop was a terrace and where out teenage innocence helped us to instantly fall in love with Bradford City, upon first sight of entering Valley Parade. Since then we’d cheered City onto reaching the Premier League where they enjoyed plenty of heady moments like this. And then we’d stuck with the club through thin and thinner. The painful fall down the leagues, and all the crap that came with it. Others who used to go with us have long since given up, and we’d resigned ourselves into believing that moments like this would never happen again.
Jones’ cross is on the money. And the lime green shirts have failed to pick up Rory McArdle. He’s unmarked, level with the near post, and from his forehead the ball flies into the back of the net.
Cue ecstatic scenes.
“Valley Parade erupts, and the celebrations are manic everywhere you look. I’m hugging the wife. I’m hugging my friends. I’m hugging strangers. It is absolute bedlam. Unconfined joy. I was at Wolves in ’99, and here for Liverpool in ’00, but it feels like this moment – this goal – tops the lot of them as the best moment I’ve ever experienced supporting City.”
I wrote those words later that evening, after getting from an incredible match. Bradford City defeated Aston Villa 3-1 at Valley Parade, in the League Cup semi finals no less. It is a huge advantage to take into the second leg, and as the history books show the Bantams would complete the job.
And though Hanson’s goal at Villa Park in the second leg eclipsed everything, this goal by McArdle was my favourite moment I’ve ever experienced at Valley Parade. For the wonderful way the Northern Ireland international got free to head home, for the pace he gets on the header that gives Shay Given no chance, for the incredible scenes of celebration around a packed out Valley Parade, and for the fact the dream of City reaching a major cup final suddenly felt like a real possibility.
Gordon Watson’s epic 1998 stoppage time double against Barnsley was an unbelievable occasion, but for having gone through years of tough times for City and for getting to experience such a special moment with my wife and long-time friend, Rory McArdle’s goal against Aston Villa is my favourite-ever Valley Parade moment.
Please share yours below…