Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.
By Jason McKeown
City 4 Derby 4
21 April, 2000
There had been serious doubts about whether Dean Windass was a Premier League player. He began Bradford City’s 1999/00 campaign very slowly. Fans were on his back, desperate for a Lee Mills-Robbie Blake attack. It was a real test of Windass’ character.
Yet as the season went along, Windass became the Bantams’ talisman. He showed true personality on the pitch, playing with real bravery and a sense of humour. As Blake struggled to get going after a contract dispute, and Mills was loaned out to Man City after a fallout with Paul Jewell, Windass’ importance grew even further.
Good Friday, at home to relegation rivals Derby County, would prove his finest hour. Within six minutes of a pivotal contest, Derby were 2-0 ahead and all hope looked lost. Despondency hung over Valley Parade, as relegation began to feel inevitable. Windass wasn’t having a bit of it. He gestured to the crowd to get behind the team. And by the 18th minute had struck an impressive double to make it 2-2.
It was some game, and one that tipped into City’s favour. A well-worked Stuart McCall free kick was expertly finished by Blake. But referee Alan Wiley cut short celebrations by disallowing the goal, sending off Rory Delap for tugging Blake’s shirt, and awarding a home penalty. Peter Beagrie tucked it away, and City were 3-2 up against 10 men.
The crazy half wasn’t finished there. Craig Burley converted a penalty for Derby. Back came Windass, who ran through and finished well to seal a hat trick. A truly astonishing 45 minutes.
Alas, City could not hold on. Early into the second half, Derby won another spot kick converted by Burley. City just weren’t defending well. Ashley Westwood had come in for a first league start of the season and had a torrid time.
And why was Westwood playing at centre half? Well, because Jewell had opted to deploy David Wetherall as Windass’ strike partner. Since Mills had been sent packing, Jewell had lacked a targetman. So in desperation, he pushed his best defender up front. Wetherall did his best, but lacked the guile of Mills. And in the defender’s absence at the back, chaos reigned. The post match criticisms of Jewell came from both supporters and an increasingly impatient chairman.
Still, it could have been worse. Late on Derby won yet another penalty. Burley tried to match Windass’ hat trick, but saw his spot kick saved by Matt Clarke. Deep in stoppage time, City sub Dean Saunders missed a sitter.
With just four games left, this 4-4 draw appeared too little too late. And yet, in a hopeless position early on in the game, City – and Windass especially – had refused to give up. And that never-say-die attitude was about to be hugely rewarded.
City: Clarke, Halle, Westwood (Saunders 71),O’Brien, Jacobs (Rankin 77), Blake, Dreyer, McCall, Beagrie, Wetherall, Windass
Categories: Premier League Years