Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.
By Jason McKeown
City 2 Arsenal 1
5 February, 2000
If there was slight disappointment about Bradford City’s first Premier League season as they went into February, it was that they were lacking a truly famous, iconic victory.
So far, their biggest scalp was defeating a Newcastle United side who were going through transition anyway. When it came to the truly big guns, they’d lost every game apart from a heroic point against Chelsea.
In early February, that changed as the Bantams produced one of the shock results of the entire Premier League season. Arsenal were battling with Manchester United for the title. They’d only lost one of the last 15 matches, drawing away at United the last time out.
But the basic, cramped conditions of Valley Parade were an unknown force to a team like Arsenal, who were used to modern luxury. The story goes the Arsenal players got changed at the team hotel rather than at the ground, having heard discouraging things about the Valley Parade visitors’ dressing room. It was not a sign that they were up for the fight.
Just 10 minutes into a tussle everyone expected Arsenal to comfortably win, City won a free kick on the edge of the opposition box. As Arsenal were organising their wall, they were less than the 10 yards back they needed to be. However, a quick-thinking Dean Windass asked the referee Andy D’Urso if he could take the free kick anyway, and he lifted the ball into the top corner with David Seamen not ready.
Despite being in front, City’s joy was very short-lived as Thierry Henry levelled within three minutes. It was a thunderbolt effort from some 30 yards out, demonstrating what a huge talent the World Cup winner was.
Henry’s overall performance that day was probably the best opposition player performance of the season. City really struggled to live with him, as Arsenal piled on the pressure.
But amazingly, the Bantams dug in deep and retook the lead 12 minutes after half time. City counter attacked after winning possession on the edge of their box, and Gareth Whalley threaded an inch perfect through ball into the path of a sprinting Dean Saunders.
Seamen rushed off his line to close the angle, only for Saunders to fire a low shot through the England goalkeeper’s legs, and into the net. Cue manic celebrations from three sides of Valley Parade, as an improbable victory was on.
Arsene Wenger threw on Dennis Bergkamp in an effort to come back. But backed by a vociferous home crowd, City held out. Victory was a huge pick-me-up for the Bantams. A massive shot in the arm to their survival hopes.
“Our performance was outstanding, as was the players’ work-rate,” purred Paul Jewell.
Valley Parade was becoming a fortress, where even the mightiest teams in the Premier League were struggling to get a result.
City: Davison, Halle, Wetherall, O’Brien, Jacobs, Lawrence, McCall, Whalley, Beagrie, Saunders, Windass
Categories: Premier League Years