1980-2000: The bottom of the Fourth to the Premiership

After years struggling with an underfunded and underachieving club, reelection being sought on five separate occasions, Bradford City’s rise to the comparative heights of Premiership promotion contenders is one of the more extraordinary stories of modern football.

The club achieved promotion from the Fourth Division in 1981 under the management of former England international Roy McFarland, who was to walk away from the club six months later to take up a post at Derby County leaving City in increasing dismay, indeed the situation at Valley Parade had deteriorated to such an extent that the club was unable to play evening games after footlight problems.

McFarland was replaced by another former England player, Trevor Cherry, signed from Leeds United but with City being unable to forward payments for Cherry, and being under substantial pressure from the banks, Bradford City were forced into receivership, indeed despicably it was the prosperous Leeds United that issued winding up proceedings against their neighbours. As it looking increasing like Bradford would lose it’s second professional club in under fifteen years two local business men, Stafford Heginbotham and Jack Tordoff, stepped in and funded the revival of Bradford City.

Receivership circumnavigated the club when on to achieve promotion to the Second Division in 1985 under the management of Cherry, but Bradford City, and the City of Bradford, were shattered as fire engulfed the main stand with tragic loss of life.

The club pressed forward and found itself on the bring of a return to the top flight for the first time in 66 years, an aim missed by the slenderest of margins. The drive forward dissipated and a slide back down the league was begun. Languishing but stable in the lower half of the Second Division the club’s fortunes were transformed by the intervention of Geoffrey Richmond, a successful businessman in search of a new challenge. Ambitiously Richmond put in force a five year plan to take the club to the Premiership.

After allowing manager Frank Stapleton to spend a little of the funds he injected, Richmond decided he would prefer Lennie Lawrence as boss. Lawrence failed to make an impact despite financial resources and so was sacked, his assistant Chris Kamara, who took City from the mid-table of Division three to promotion at Wembley.

Controversially Kamara was replaced as manager by his assistant Paul Jewell who was allowed a budget of £4m to spend in getting the team to the Premiership, a goal achieved on the Ninth of May, 1999 when City beat Wolves 3-2 to claim a place in the top flight for the first time in 77 year completing a remarkable score of years in the history of any football club. What began as a time when the club flirted with going out of existence through bankruptcy, saw a major tragedy that had a huge impact on all football and then the club rebuilt into a success, only to see hopes fade ends with the club entertaining the very best teams in the world.

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