Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.
By Jason McKeown
West Ham 5 City 4
12 February, 2000
With 14 games to go the pressures of a Premier League relegation battle were beginning to tell. The thin margins between victory and defeat were triggering volatile emotions, which had increasingly long-term consequences.
The goal-laden defeat at West Ham was the perfect illustration of this. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory, in the most painful of ways. And what would have been a third straight Bradford City victory instead heralded the start of a 10-game winless streak. A run that seemingly doomed the Bantams.
This was undoubtedly the most dramatic game of the season. It began slowly, with no goals in the opening half an hour. Play was disrupted for several minutes after Hammers goalkeeper Shaka Hislop was injured. Teenager Stephen Bywater replaced him for a West Ham debut to forget.
By half time, it was 2-2. City went 1-0 up through a Dean Windass header, fell 2-1 behind, but then equalised from a Peter Beagrie penalty.
In the second half, the drama really began. First City went 3-2 ahead. Gunnar Halle struck a long range effort straight at Bywater; but the rookie spilled the ball and Jamie Lawrence stole in to score. Four minutes later, Lawrence had his second with a stunning dipping shot from distance. 4-2 to City.
It seemed as though West Ham were self-destructing. After Paulo Di Canio was denied a penalty, the Italian maverick pleaded with the bench to take him off. He was sulking. He didn’t want to play anymore. Harry Redknapp said no. Extraordinary stuff.
When Dean Saunders charged through for City, a fifth goal beckoned. But from a tight angle, the Welshman’s shot smacked the post. It was a big let off for West Ham, who made City pay.
Redknapp threw on Paul Kitson, and within minutes he was felled in the box by Andy O’Brien. Amazingly, Di Canio had a raging argument with Frank Lampard over who should take the resultant penalty. Di Canio scored to reduce the deficit. And five minutes later Joe Cole made it 4-4.
Paul Jewell continued to set City up to attack, and with seven minutes to go the visitors pushed forward in numbers. But West Ham counter-attacked, and Di Canio set up Lampard for 5-4.
The blow of losing for City was exacerbated behind the scenes, as Jewell and Geoffrey Richmond had a damaging argument. At 4-2 up, Jewell’s assistant Terry Yorath suggested making changes to shut up shop. Jewell resisted, fearing it would incur Richmond’s anger. Hindsight showed it was the wrong call. And when Richmond found out Jewell had ignored his assistant’s idea, he blasted his manager.
An increasingly fed up Jewell was finding Richmond too difficult to work for. Serious cracks in the chairman-manager relationship were forming.
It was one of the all-time greatest Premier League matches. But that was no consolation for City.
City: Davison, Halle, Wetherall, O’Brien, Jacobs, Lawrence, McCall, Whalley, Beagrie, Saunders, Windass
Categories: Premier League Years