Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.
By Jason McKeown
Bradford City 1 Chelsea 1
8 January, 2000
For most of Bradford City’s first season in the Premier League, there was a constant ‘pinch-me’ feeling about the Bantams playing in the top flight. World class players you had only ever seen on TV were suddenly gracing Valley Parade, competing against City right in front of your eyes. At times it was surreal. At others downright terrifying. But either way, it took a long time for the novelty to wear off.
The visit of Chelsea at the start of January was a classic example of the glamour and excitement of the Premier League. And of how much we were enjoying ourselves. Rather wonderfully, City were in the midst of a five-month period where they didn’t lose at Valley Parade. Where for a time, no matter how famous the names on the opposition shirts, they could not topple the gritty Bantams.
Chelsea boasted a rostrum of world class talent. The players who came up against City that day included the great Gianfranco Zola. World Cup winner Didier Deschamps. Premier League champion Chris Sutton. Tore Andre Flo, Roberto Di Matteo, Dennis Wise, Dan Petrescu, Ed De Goey. It was a team full of international talent.
And yet City went toe to toe with their illustrious visitors, even leading for most of the afternoon. Just 59 seconds in, Dean Saunders crossed for Lee Mills to head City in front. “We were all over them for 59 seconds,” Paul Jewell would later quip.
They faced some heavy pressure thereafter, but defended doggedly. It was an impressively organised rear-guard, with Stuart McCall and Neil Redfearn protecting a back four who were once again outstanding. Gunnar Halle produced a terrific goal line clearance. Matt Clarke made a series of brilliant saves.
Not that City just sat back. Jewell selected Mills, Saunders, Dean Windass and Robbie Blake to attack Chelsea. And though Chelsea would ultimately have 35 attempts on goal, City had a commendable 15 of their own.
Petrescu ultimately equalised for Chelsea midway through the second half, on the one occasion City switched off. But just as the final whistle was nearly in sight, for a few glorious seconds it seemed City had won it when Redfearn headed home. Alas, referee Alan Wiley ruled the goal out. Still, a draw was a decent result.
It was just such a watchable game of football. 50 attempts at goal. End to end, high paced and packed full of commitment from both sides. This was everything wonderful about the Premier League. And City were not just sitting back and admiring, they were competing and competing well.
Games like this made you feel so proud of how far the club had come. And they also left you wondering just how much more powerful City could yet become if they could establish themselves in the top flight.
City: Clarke, Halle, Wetherall, O’Brien, Myers, McCall, Windass (Beagrie 62), Redfearn, Mills, Blake, Saunders
Categories: Premier League Years