The Premier League Years #16: Coventry City

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

By Jason McKeown

Coventry 4 City 0
18 March, 2000

Bradford City’s strong home form during their first Premier League season offered them a fighting chance of avoiding relegation. But on the road, it was proving a very different story.

After early season victories at Middlesbrough and Derby, the Bantams were routinely beaten on their travels. As the season headed towards its final lap, a 1-1 draw at Tottenham was the only other point they’d picked up away from Valley Parade. Paul Jewell’s men were habitually caught between trying not to be too cautious, whilst also not being wide open and at risk of heavy defeat. They were rarely thrashed but usually well beaten.

In the middle of March, the players failed to turn up at Coventry, and they were brutally punished. It was a defeat that underlined the high standards of the Premier League. Coventry, in mid table, were no great shakes. Yet the Sky Blues had a team full of ability. And they willfully underlined just why City couldn’t go into any Premier League match giving anything less than 100%.

Coventry took the lead four minutes in when poor defending allowed in Cedric Roussel. By the midway point of the half, it was 2-0 through Noel Whelan. A week on from the Leeds goalkeeping debacle, Aidan Davison had re-signed for City, but he was having a day to forget.

The Bantams showed more spirit in the second half, without looking likely to come back. And late on, goals from John Eustace and Ysrael Zuniga sealed an emphatic 4-0 win. Lee Sharpe, who came on as substitute, was especially poor and gifted Coventry one of their goals.

A bad, bad day at the office. And the pressure grew further on Jewell. The story goes that a frustrated Geoffrey Richmond called Jewell in and accused him of being on TV too much. Jewell felt that was a bit rich, given Richmond’s love of the limelight.

But the disagreements got worse. For after slating his tactics at Coventry, Richmond had a surprise for his manager. With Manchester United next up, the chairman produced four sheets of A4, detailing the tactical approach he felt Jewell should take to beat the Champions. There was also an angry disagreement raging over playing Jorge Cadete, a recent arrival Richmond had initiated which Jewell did not welcome.

For now, Jewell was diplomatic. He threw the sheets of paper in the bin, but pretended to Richmond that he had tried out his tactical ideas in training – only the players couldn’t grasp them.

Richmond was appeased, believing his manager was listening to him. Jewell was deeply unhappy at the interference, but pragmatic. He even started Cadete in the Man United match, mainly to prove to Richmond the forward was not up to it.

What was once such a strong chairman-manager relationship was falling apart.

City: Davison, Halle (Blake 46), Wetherall, O’Brien, Jacobs (Sharpe 75), Lawrence, McCall, Whalley (Cadete 30), Beagrie, Saunders, Windass

Categories: Premier League Years


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