“Berserk limbs convulse. It is drunken nightclub dancing but on tightly-tiered rows. Hands are not raised for musical notes, but fists are held to the sky in salute of whichever God gave us goals.” Daniel Gray, Saturday 3pm
By Jason McKeown
There’s nothing like it. The spontaneous burst of joy that comes with a goal. The leap out of your seat. The uninhibited jumping up and down. The loud cheering. The warm feeling you get inside.
Goals are what make football – and supporting Bradford City – so special. What makes it the greatest sport in the world. Watch other team sports like rugby, cricket and basketball, and you’ll see plenty of scoring. But the greater frequency of tries, runs and baskets limits their drama.
Goals have a rarity value and you never know when the next one will be. And that helps to make each goal your team scores more meaningful. It’s the hope, anticipation and longing for your team to score that helps to unleash so much happiness when they do.
It’s just so special being inside Valley Parade when City score. The communal outpouring of jubilation. The release of elation, as for a few precious moments you lose control of your body and your mind. Overwhelmed with euphoria. Celebrating some goals can be an out of body experience. And when you come to, you realise you’ve been hugging friends and strangers, or leapt a few rows forward from where you were sitting.
One of the many great things about celebrating a goal is how closely aligned you are with the emotions of Bradford City players. When a goal goes into the net, the lines blur. You’re not a member of the audience, you feel right in the middle of the action. You didn’t physically score the goal, but you share the glory. And in those wonderful seconds of celebration, a community of supporters, players and staff are all experiencing the same emotions.
We are all together.
Goals come in all shapes and sizes, but there are very few that don’t invoke giddy feelings of glee. And whilst there’s nothing like watching a Bradford City player net a wonder goal, a scruffy two-yard tap-in can mean just as much.
I don’t think any fan will forget celebrating their first Bradford City goal. In the first two games I went to, the Bantams didn’t score. So it was in game three, a Rob Steiner goal against Norwich in November 1997, where I first got to cheer one. And in the second half, Steiner scored again in front of the Kop. Andy Marshall had come rushing off his line and Steiner poked it past him. The ball rolled slowly into the unguarded net. Fans around me started jumping up and down cheering. But I found I couldn’t dare start joining in until it had definitely crossed the line. The last City goal I saw, before lockdown, was that beauty Dylan Connolly scored against Plymouth.
The feeling never gets old.
The goals you celebrate the most are the ones that have more build up. Where there’s been a growing edge to the atmosphere, and a desperation to see the ball cross the line. The crowd had been getting louder and louder in urging on the players. The pressure had been building on the opposition. Shots blocked. Corners cleared. Attack, attack, attack. And then, there it is. Goal! There’s a greater sense of reward to these moments.
Goals mean more if City have gone behind. You’ve spent part of your day facing the prospect of going through the pain of defeat. You’ve began to sample a taste of the misery that you know will consume you for days. You’re fearful that hope is fading. But then suddenly City go forward, and the ball flies into the back of the net. There is relief that you’ve pulled back from going down a dark path. Now let’s go on and win this.
My absolute favourite goals to celebrate are when City score two (or even three) in quick succession to overturn a losing position. The September 1998 2-1 victory over Barnsley – when Gordon Watson netted in the 87th and 89th minute – prompted scenes of delirium that you’ll never forget. The August 2014 2-1 win over Leeds – when Billy Knott and James Hanson scored within two minutes of each other – was also incredible. Other notable, limbs-lost celebrations of turnaround goals include the October 2008 3-2 triumph at Accrington and March 2017 2-1 success over Swindon (the Charlie Wyke game).
Games with plenty of City goals are always great. It’s fun to experience those all-to-rare moments when City thrash an opponent. Rattling in the goals. Beating Bristol City 5-0 in October 1998, Gillingham 5-1 in September 2001, Aldershot 5-0 in March 2009, Wimbledon 5-1 in August 2012 were all really enjoyable. Each goal celebrated as rapturously as the last. You don’t get bored of it.
There’s late goals in any context. A last minute equaliser or winner. I also love goals in games where City are 1-0 up, come under heavy pressure, but break away in the closing stages and make it 2-0. There’s a real sense of satisfaction from knowing you’ve just wrapped up three points. One of my favourite goals of 2019/20 was Zeli Ismail’s stoppage time strike that sealed a 3-1 win over Carlisle. It allowed you to go home with an extra spring in your step.
Goals can be a thing of real beauty, and we all have our personal favourites. Moments where the players have produced something spectacular. I think Knott’s volley against Leeds is my all-time favourite City wonder goal – I never get bored of watching it.
I love Chris Waddle’s volley from a wide position against Barnsley in October 1996. Robbie Blake’s dipping effort against Crewe in January 1999. Benito Carbone’s chip against Charlton in April 2001. Omar Daley’s volley against Bury in January 2011. Nahki Wells’ breakthrough strike against Rochdale in November 2011. Kyel Reid’s thunderbolt at Walsall in October 2013.
As a fan in the ground, naturally the goals scored right in front of you are celebrated that bit more. You always prefer City to score in front of the Kop than the Bradford End, where more of us have a better view. If there was one tiny negative to the Bantams’ play off final victory over Northampton in May 2013, it’s that the three goals were scored at the Cobblers end of Wembley. Rory McArdle’s league cup semi final goal against Aston Villa in January 2013 was one the wildest I’ve celebrated. A large part of the extra pleasure of that goal came from the fact McArdle had scored in front of the Kop.
It’s the same at away games, especially as the view from visiting sections can be more limited. On some occasions, when City are attacking the opposite end, they score but you don’t realise for a few seconds. It definitely takes the edge off the celebrations.
But when the team score right in front of a packed City away end, boy is it special. Michael Flynn’s brilliant goal at Elland Road in August 2011 was something else. James Hanson’s famous goal at Villa Park. Ditto Andy Halliday and Mark Yeates at Stamford Bridge. Hanson and Wells’ goals in the 2013 play off win at Burton. Watch them back, and just look at the fans behind the goal.
Goals are just such an amazing experience. The ‘go-on’ roar as a City player charges forward. The pause for breath as the shot is struck. The split-second gasp between the ball crossing the line and you realising it’s a goal. And then the ecstasy.
It’s dramatic. It’s intoxicating. It’s a mood transformer. It’s a feeling that cannot be bottled.
You can’t beat it.