Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.
By Jason McKeown
Liverpool 3 City 1
1 November, 1999
Paul Jewell successfully carved out a career as a respectable lower league striker with Wigan and Bradford City. But there was a ‘what-if’ moment that he later admitted fuelled his drive.
For Jewell’s playing career had started out at the bright lights of Liverpool, where he emerged through the Anfield youth ranks to the brink of first team glory. He even sat on the bench for a European Cup Final. Alas, it was the days when substitutes were rarely used. Ultimately, Jewell was released without ever making his debut. “I could have done more” he later confessed.
So after Jewell the manager guided Bradford City to the Premier League, the trip to Anfield was one of the first fixtures he’d have looked up. His Liverpool back story proved fascinating to the media and Sky opted to screen the fixture live on its Monday Night Football slot.
The evening was initially about Jewell. But ultimately the national spotlight would make stars out of two of his players, for the way they performed.
First was Dean Windass. Having signed for £1 million at the end of the promotion season, Windass struggled to impress and almost went on loan to Wolves. In Jewell’s 4-3-3 that had been deployed a week earlier in the Leicester win, Windass began to flourish. Just 12 minutes into this game, he latched onto a Lee Mills flick on and scored with a stunning dipping shot at the Anfield Kop end. It was a shock City lead, and it should have been 2-0 when Neil Redfearn missed a sitter moments later.
Windass wasn’t done making an impact. After Liverpool equalised through Titi Camara, Patrick Berger won a penalty. Windass, in frustration, booted a loose ball hard – and, amazingly, it hit referee Jeff Winter on the head, knocking him to the floor. Fortunately for Windass, Winter didn’t see what happened. But TV replays showed Windass’ incredible fluke blast. He didn’t mean it, did he?
Liverpool’s Jamie Redknapp scored the penalty, and late on they added a third through Vegard Heggem. But City gave a good account of themselves, with their new-found attacking approach winning admirers.
The second City star on the night was goalkeeper Matt Clarke. Signed from Sheffield Wednesday during the summer, no one expected much from the back-up. But after the outstanding Gary Walsh was injured, Clarke made his debut and produced a series of stunning saves at Anfield. He would soon become City’s number one.
Whilst defeat was disappointing, no one expected City to get anything. There was genuine consolation over the manner of the performance. “Bradford will fight to the death and that will probably keep them up,” declared an impressed Gérard Houllier. At the end of the season, the Liverpool manager would be left to rue just how right he was in his Bradford City assessment.
City: Clarke, Halle (Lawrence 67), Wetherall, O’Brien, Sharpe, McCall, Redfearn (Rankin 76), Windass, Saunders, Mills, Blake
Categories: Premier League Years