The Premier League Years #12: Watford

Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.

By Jason McKeown

City 3 Watford 2

22 January, 2000

Bradford City’s January 2000 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday sent shockwaves through the club. It was far from the first set back of the season, as City battled against considerable odds. But it was the first time the players had truly underperformed, cranking up the pressure on everyone.

In public at least, Geoffrey Richmond was right behind manager Paul Jewell. The City chairman announced the club would strengthen the squad in the wake of defeat at Hillsborough, prompting a week of transfer speculation. Nothing much happened, but then on the morning of the next game – at home to Watford – national newspaper reports revealed the Bantams were in talks to sign Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore on loan.

Behind the scenes, Richmond was orchestrating the Collymore move. Jewell wasn’t keen, worried Collymore’s troublesome reputation could prove a threat to the strong team spirit he had built. It wasn’t as if Collymore’s recent form suggested he was the answer anyway. He’d struggled badly at Villa, where he was well out of the picture.

In the meantime, City had another six pointer to contend with, as Watford were just below the Bantams in the table. “This was a real pressure game for us,” admitted Jewell, who shook up the team by bringing in Gareth Whalley, Dean Windass and Wayne Jacobs.

In front of the Match of the Day cameras, the performance was much improved. City took the game to Watford, getting in front after Windass was fouled in the box. Peter Beagrie stroked home the resultant penalty.

Watford’s Micah Hyde equalised against the run of play, but eight minutes before half time City went back in front. Whalley ran forward with the ball, before firing a low shot from distance that bounced into the bottom corner.

As City attacked the Kop in the second half, Andy O’Brien headed home a corner to make it 3-1. From there City were dominant, as a vocal Valley Parade got right behind their team.

Though City would win the game, it wasn’t without its costs. Goalkeeper Matt Clarke was injured by a Watford challenge, and had to be stretched off. He would not return for two months.

With Gary Walsh out too, third choice Aidan Davison came on with 16 minutes left. He couldn’t keep a clean sheet, as Heider Helguson pulled a goal back with two minutes to play. But City held on for three huge points.

Despite neither player scoring, the Deans Windass and Saunders had impressed, suggesting they could be the pairing to fire City to safety. Their significance was amplified further once the Collymore talks proved fruitless, as the former England forward opted to sign for Leicester City instead.

Still, City were back in buoyant mood. With the victory over Watford particularly vital given a tough run of fixtures ahead.

City: Clarke (Davison 74), Halle, Wetherall, O’Brien, Jacobs, Lawrence, McCall, Whalley (Redfearn 78), Beagrie, Saunders (Westwood 90), Windass

Categories: Premier League Years


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