The Five Most Popular Bradford City Players Of All Time

In 5th place…John Hendrie

By Ian Hemmens

Not often does a free signing capture the hearts and minds of fans immediately, but John Hendrie certainly did on his arrival from Coventry.

As part of Trevor Cherry’s superb blend of youth and experience in the team of 1984/85, Hendrie was one of the undoubted stars. A speedy, tricky winger who weighed in with his fair share of goals, he was an integral part of the Third Division Championship winning side.

In over 50 years of following City, I’ve only seen a handful of players who, when they got the ball, you could feel a surging sense of anticipation that something special would happen next. John was one of those. He could also play as a marauding second striker and it was inevitable that eventually, along with the team’s other bright young prospect, Stuart McCall, he would move on to bigger things. In my opinion he should have been given a chance for the Scotland team alongside his great friend Stuart, but it was not to be.

Hendrie will always be remembered at Valley Parade for the sheer thrill of him tearing down the wing, leaving defenders in his wake with his tricky dribbling skills, to produce a cross for Bobby Campbell. Or cutting inside and hitting an unstoppable shot into the back of the net in what was a remarkably injury-free Valley Parade career (especially considering the special ‘treatment’ some defenders gave him).

One of my all time favourite players, the crowd would sing ‘We’ve got Johnny, Johnny Hendrie on our wing’ and he rarely disappointed his loving faithful fans.

In 4th place…Bobby Campbell

Copyright Bradford City FC

By Jason McKeown

Bobby Campbell is a Bradford City legend in every sense. On the field, the highest scorer in the club’s history – 143 goals in 320 league and cup appearances. He was someone who led the line with incredible passion and dedication. And then there are the stories of Bobby off the field. A larger-than-life persona, long celebrated for the tales of his drinking exploits.

To those City fans fortunate enough to have witnessed his two spells in claret and amber, Bobby was one of them. Living the dream, and having a great time doing it.

It didn’t seem promising when he first signed for the Bantams in 1980, after he had been sacked by Halifax Town. A career that began at the brights lights of Aston Villa was in danger of being wasted. Campbell played for Huddersfield (twice), Sheffield United and Vancouver Whitecaps without much success. He’d done little at Halifax and was probably beyond his last chance when George Mulhall brought him to Valley Parade.

Sometimes you just click with your environment, and that’s what happened with Bobby and Bradford City. Over the next four seasons, Campbell netted 76 goals in 148 games. His goal glut included a famous winning goal against the mighty Liverpool in the League Cup; others were pivotal in City’s successful promotion from the Fourth Division in 1982.

Campbell first left in the summer of 1983, as a financial crisis at Valley Parade forced the club into cashing in on his talents. Derby County was the destination but he didn’t flourish at the Baseball Ground, returning to the Bantams less than a year later. His second spell was just as goal-laden, with promotion from the Third Division achieved in 1985. Campbell was also present on the day of the Valley Parade fire. By the time City returned from an 18-month stay at Odsal, Campbell had been sold to Wigan.

Campbell, who tragically died in 2016, has retained a cult hero status at Valley Parade that endures more than 30 years later. He was brave and fearless. A true leader who inspired (and often struck fear into) the players around him.

A great goalscorer. A winner. Bobby has become interwoven into the DNA of the modern day Bradford City.

In 3rd place…Peter Beagrie

By Gareth Walker

What can you say about this guy? He certainly got one of my votes in this poll. My own personal opinion is that there are three true legends at Bradford City – Stuart McCall, Ces Podd and Bobby Campbell. Anyone else is on the next level down, but Peter Sidney Beagrie tests that logic to the limit.

His career was seemingly stalled and on a downwards trajectory when he arrived from Manchester City at the age of 32 in 1997. In the end he went on to be one of City’s best-ever signings. He was also an absolute bargain, being rumoured to have only cost 45k.

During his first season at Valley Parade, with the club seemingly going nowhere in mid table in the old Division One, he was actually sent out on loan to one of his former clubs in the top flight, Everton.

He returned, however, to become another star of the 98/99 dream season. A left winger, he perfectly complemented Jamie Lawrence on the right. Whereas Lawrence was all about pace and power, Beagrie’s game was based on skill and trickery of which he had bucket-loads. A fellow City supporter once said to me that – similarly to how it was with John Hendrie – there was an audible intake of breath around the ground every time Beagrie got the ball, as the crowd were in sheer anticipation of what he was going to do.

Time after time you’d see Beagrie beat a full back not just once, but two or three times just for the sheer hell of it. I’m sure it would have infuriated Lee Mills had Beagrie not being more than capable of doing it successfully and still picking out the big man in the box.

Beags scored 20 league goals in 132 appearances for City including 13 in the promotion season. He also took penalties, only missing on two occasions – one of which set up that nail biting finish at Molineux.

Beagrie’s influence diminished very little in the Premier League and he remained a potent attacking force in the top fight (who can forget his screamer against Leeds?) until he left the club firstly on loan to reunite with Paul Jewell at Wigan and then to drop down the leagues with Scunthorpe in 2001. He actually continued to play professionally up to the age of 41.

I struggle to think of another City player who was as much of a joy to watch. And for that single reason, let alone his contribution to the team, Beagrie deserves his place at number three in this poll.

In 2nd place…Gary Jones

Image by Alex Dodd

Image by Alex Dodd

By Jason McKeown

Wow. We all know that Gary Jones is popular, but to poll as highly as this feels like a huge shock. When Jones departed in 2014 there was a debate over whether he could be considered a true City legend. But the Bantams public has spoken, and the result was a very clear second place finish for Jones.

And why not, eh? When Gary Jones signed for Bradford City in the summer of 2012, not much was expected. He was 35. Rochdale, the club where he most definitely had become a club legend, were happy to let him go. After years of dismal summer signings by the Bantams, many of us groaned when Jones rocked up. We’d been here before. It usually ended badly.

But what an impact. Right from the first kick of the season, Jones led from the front in a way where his words and fist pumps were backed up by action. He walked the talk. He made a mockery of his advancing years, looking like one of the fittest players. He covered every blade of grass, helping to win the ball from deep and driving the team forward with his exemplary passing. You’ll never get past Gary Jones.

That season, 2012/13, was arguably the greatest in the club’s history. Against a backdrop of years of decline and mounting frustration, City thrillingly pushed hard for promotion and became the first-ever fourth tier side to reach a major Wembley final. It was a true team effort, of course, but Jones was the glue. The driving force that everyone fed off. The crowd had an incredibly strong relationship with Jones from the get-go, and it became genuine hero worship.

Jones wasn’t a big goalscorer but he was behind so many big moments that season, setting up the goal in the quarter final win over Arsenal, and three of the four City netted in the semi final aggregate victory over Aston Villa. He led the team out at Wembley twice, having played a pivotal role in the late season play off surge that included the amazing semi final comeback win over Burton. Jones never gave up, so neither did anyone else. Promotion was sealed at Wembley, with player of the season Jones lifting the trophy alongside club captain Ricky Ravenhill.

The year after Jones wasn’t always as effective, but provided plenty of big moments. The comeback draw at Sheffield United, where he single-handedly dragged him team back from 2-0 down in what is affectionately known as ‘The Gary Jones Game’. There was also a 3-3 draw with Crewe where City recovered from being 2-0 and 3-2 down, with Jones scoring two belting goals to earn a point. City steadied the ship in League One, finishing mid-table. Jones proved his worth, and it was genuinely heart-breaking that Phil Parkinson opted to release him that summer.

But in the 84 appearances Jones made for the Bantams, he made a colossal impact. A true warrior, who would never accept defeat. And as the character of the current Bantams squad has drastically eroded over the past 18 months, we all pine for the days when Jones was the heartbeat of our team, driving the standards in everyone.

Gary Jones was truly magic. And the huge impression he made in those two years makes him deeply loved by City supporters.

 

In 1st place…Stuart McCall

Image by Charles Hague (copyright Charles Hague)

By Jason McKeown

Of course. It was always going to be Stuart who won the vote. Yet still, the margin of victory is truly staggering. Using the points system of ranking the value of every first to fifth vote, McCall ended up with more than double the amount of points of everyone else. He was in virtually every voter’s top three. McCall absolutely cleaned up.

And why wouldn’t he? This is a man that is close to being Mr Bradford City are you’re ever going to find. Nearly 40 years’ association with the Bantams, including two phenomenally successful playing spells. 395 appearances for City, where he almost always represented the club with great character, unwavering commitment and inspirational leadership. McCall was a great player too. A tremendous passer of the ball with superb vision. A wonderful reader of the game, with a courageous tackling ability. McCall was simply magnificent.

The story of his time at Valley Parade is well documented but is still worth flying through. Spotted playing at Farsley and before earning his stripes as an apprentice, McCall made his debut at 18 years old on the opening day of the 1982/83 season, deputising at right back for the injured Ces Podd. When Trevor Cherry took over as manager from Roy McFarland, he put the raw McCall in the centre of midfield and the youngster quickly grew from the fringes to star player.

McCall was outstanding over the 1984/85 season, as the Bantams won the Third Division title to return to the top two leagues for the first time since the thirties. That achievement was of course overshadowed by the dreadful events of 11 May 1985, when City were supposed to be celebrating the championship only for fire to break out. McCall’s own father was amongst the hundreds injured, and he and his team mates were deeply involved in helping the club and community deal with the tragedy of 56 people losing their lives.

Three years later, McCall so nearly helped the Bantams reach the top flight, but they fell agonisingly short of automatic promotion and lost in the play offs. With his reputation soaring, McCall bid an emotional farewell by signing for top flight Everton for £850,000. He would score twice in an FA Cup Final for the Toffees, play for Scotland in World Cups and European Championships, and sign for Glasgow Rangers where he became one of the heroes of the famous nine-in-a-row side.

There was always that ‘what if’ of how his time at Valley Parade ended, and so in 1998 – and at 34-years-old – McCall returned claiming unfinished business. He captained the Bantams to automatic promotion to the Premier League, laying to rest the ghosts of 1988. McCall was crowned player of the season. The best of a wonderful Bantams crop. And throughout the Bantams’ two-year stay in the top flight, McCall remained at his brilliant best. A true leader, who visibly lifted everyone around him.

Beyond the superb displays, the never-give-up mantra and the occasional memorable goal, it is McCall the person that City fans have taken to their hearts. He genuinely loves the club. He understands our affection. He embodies how we supporters feel, and has always acted as a true statesman. He has seen tragedy and triumph, and the club is deep-rooted within him. That has been seen more recently with two managerial spells that sadly did not end happily. Though each time McCall bowed out with real dignity.

It also speaks volumes for McCall that fans of other clubs he has played for also remember him with great affection. For sure, Everton, Rangers and Sheffield United have had better players over the years than McCall, but his commitment, passion and tenacity is widely respected and valued.

At Valley Parade, McCall is a legend. Plain and simple. He is the template of what Bradford City supporters want in players. And his long association with the club means that his popularity transcends generations.

Stuart McCall is the Most Popular Bradford City Player Of All Time. He had some incredibly strong competition, but fully deserves his place as the greatest of the great.

Please leave a reader comment to share your best memories of any of these players, or simply to provide a personal appreciation of what they mean to you.



Categories: 100 Most Popular Bradford City Players

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13 replies

  1. Let me be the first to reply. This has been a super series. I think few will be surprised at the top five, and the memory of them makes me happy. I’m glad Beagrie is in because he was a great entertainer.
    Thanks WOAP.

  2. No surprise at number 1 , Legend Stuart McCall.

  3. A wonderful trip down memory lane, particularly for those of us who have been watching City for 60+ years.
    A few ‘honourable mentions’ for some players not on the list – Tom Hallett, Barry Swallow, Tony Leighton, Ronnie Brown, Rodney Green, Alan Gilliver, Trevor Cherry, Terry Dolan to name just a few.
    Let’s hope that some of our new signings establish themselves as City legends.

  4. I really enjoyed the countdown. Thanks to all. As a fan from the 80s era my 1 and 2 was always going to be Bobby and Stuart. Totally agree that Beagrie should be in the top 5 though, one of the best and most entertaining players to play for City. This has re-energised me for the coming season.

  5. My abiding memory of Bobby Campbell was against Wimbledon, with John Hawley on a hat-trick, The ball got slung in and Bobby “nudged” Dave Bessant out of the way and John scored, I think most people had seen it bar the Ref, Bessant incensed chased after him and got booked, to cap it all at half time they were going off and a gravy filled pie came sailing in thrown by someone who will remain nameless and got stuck in Mr Bessant’s curly locks, Always remembered Bobby, never forgotten.

  6. Great to see all the players mentioned. But the top five are definitely my most favourite and especially McCall has always been my top favourite and always will be .

  7. Beautifully said, legend bandied about so much these days but SC so truely deserving of that description.
    Thank you all for putting this together, brought back many memories and learned new depth.
    Andrew

  8. Good selection there I would have fitted Peter Downsborough in as he was a great keeper

  9. Bobby, a truly great man . A great memory of mine is that I was sat in B block in the old main stand with my two young sons and Bobby arrived to sit behind us…I think he was suspended at the time.
    The kids thought it was fantastic that Bobby was so close to them. He was constantly talking to them (I’m not sure that they fully understood his Irish brogue and of course his gravelly voice) and at half time he went off for some “hospitality”.
    He arrived back after half time armed with sweets, crisps and pop for the kids and gave them a programme each which he signed for them.
    A great great player for City and a hard man with a soft centre. Lovely to see him in the top five.
    Bobby a City great. RIP big fella.

  10. Was always going to be Stuart! Great series to read!

  11. Honourable mention to Bobby Webb. Fifteenth highest goal scorer with 59.

  12. Thank you to everyone involved for putting this together.

    Plenty has been written about the top two. As for Peter Beagrie at number 3, in my humble opinion I was slightly surprised. I remember waiting for the players to appear outside Molineux in May 1999 and when they did come out, I mentioned the penalty miss to Peter Beagrie to which his reply was along the lines of he’d still scored a dozen or so goals that season with a quirky sense of humour.

  13. Compulsory reading for all new signings.
    A great series,bringing back so many memories of wonderful Bradford City players for the fans

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