Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.
By Jason McKeown
City 2 Newcastle United 0
18 December, 1999
One of the great ironies of earning promotion to the Premier League is you go from watching your team conquer all before them to winning only rarely. By 18 December of City’s 1998/99 promotion campaign, the Bantams had already won 11 league matches. Yet as they welcomed Newcastle United to Valley Parade just before Christmas, City had managed just three Premier League victories. And only one of those was on home soil.
The trade-off? When Premier League victories did arrive, they meant so much more. And boy was that true about this City triumph. Newcastle were a team in transition when they came to Valley Parade. But with Sir Bobby Robson having taken the reins of his hometown club at the end of August, the Toon Army was remerging as a force once again. They arrived unbeaten in six league games, with a team packed full of big-name talent. Not least the forward line of Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Paul Jewell deployed a 4-3-3 line up that required wide strikers Lee Mills and Dean Windass to drop back into midfield when City didn’t have the ball, and the team was set up perfectly to frustrate Newcastle whilst hitting them on the counter attack.
Newcastle shaded the first half, with Matt Clarke making several fine saves and Ferguson hitting the bar. But City bided their time, and – attacking the Kop in the second half – delivered two knock out blows.
First, a long ball sent Lee Mills scampering away in a wide position. He cut inside, before rolling the ball into the path of the onrushing Dean Saunders. The veteran striker struck a first time shot that flew into the roof of the net. 1-0 to Bradford City, and tremendous celebrations around Valley Parade.
Newcastle pushed for an equaliser and Noberto Solano was denied a penalty when it appeared Andy Myers clipped his heels. When City won a free kick just inside the Newcastle half, Robson sent on Kieron Dyer to bolster his attack. But the substitute could only look on as Lee Sharpe floated over a delightful cross that David Wetherall rose highest to head home. Once again, Valley Parade was rocking.
This was the biggest scalp of the season so far. A true team performance brimming with quality. Wetherall and Andy O’Brien were outstanding at the back – Robson was so impressed with O’Brien, he would buy him for £2 million 18 months later – and in midfield Stuart McCall, Jamie Lawrence and Sharpe battled brilliantly.
It was afternoons like this – with a full Valley Parade cheering every pass, tackle and shot – that summed up how great it was to be part of the elite. Days like this didn’t come around too often – so when they did, they had to be savoured.
City: Clarke, Halle, Wetherall, O’Brien, Myers, Sharpe (Beagrie 78), Lawrence, McCall, Windass, Mills, Saunders
Categories: Premier League Years