Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.
By Jason McKeown
City 1 Tottenham 1
12 September, 1999
Bradford City’s first season in the Premier League heralded an unprecedented level of media coverage. In the Football League, coverage of City’s goals had been restricted to the Yorkshire TV regional highlights show ‘Goals on Sunday’. To watch all the division’s goals you had to set your video to record ITV’s ‘Nationwide League Extra’, which was shown in the dead of night on Mondays. Sky Sports did cover some of City’s Football League games live, but in less high profile slots that attracted little attention outside of Bradford.
In the Premier League, however, City were a regular fixture on ‘Match of the Day’. And they would appear live on Sky Sports five times over the season, mainly in the ‘Super Sunday’ 4pm slot that has become a modern football institution. Sky only used to show two live games a weekend (Sunday afternoon and Monday evening), so to be on TV was a much bigger deal then compared to today’s over-saturation coverage of the Premier League.
City’s debut top flight live match came at home to Tottenham Hotspur in September – and the occasion was everything you wanted life in the Premier League to be like. Valley Parade was packed out, with a superb atmosphere that saw City fans loudly back their team, providing a raucous background to what proved to be a tremendous game.
Spurs had the prodigious talents of Frenchman David Ginola, who had infamously complained there was nowhere in the Valley Parade away dressing room to plug in his hairdryer. He shook off his bad hair day by producing the game’s best moment of skill, running past two City defenders and unleashing a terrific curling effort that Gary Walsh somehow got a hand to, preventing a goal. “Wonderful football from both sides” was the verdict of Sky Sports co-commentator Andy Gray.
City really needed to get something from the game. They’d lost their last three matches without scoring, leading to the loan signing of Bruno Rodriguez. The PSG striker was introduced for his debut in the second half, but struggled to make any impact (he would ultimately return to France after starting just once for the club).
Despite a promising City display, it looked like a fourth defeat on the spin when Spurs defender Chris Perry headed home a corner with 14 minutes to play. But the Bantams kept fighting. Deep in stoppage time a Peter Beagrie corner was flicked on by David Wetherall, and there was Stuart McCall to head home the equaliser from close range. Cue deafening Valley Parade celebrations, as despair turned to joy.
It was a great day for the club on the national stage. Valley Parade was shown to be a cauldron of noise, and the never-day die spirit of the team was in full evidence. That togetherness would prove crucial in the battles ahead.
City: Walsh, Halle, Wetherall, O’Brien, Jacobs (Myers 66), Beagrie, Whalley, McCall, Mills, Windass, Saunders (Rodriguez 78)
Categories: Premier League Years