Remembering Wolves and promotion

I tell the story after a drink or two in the bars of Leeds to colleagues – everyone in Bradford has heard it I guess – or when I want to impress on people the relationship that I have with Stuart McCall.

It goes like this. Wolves, 1999 ten years ago today and the home side have hit the post but that was cleared and the Bantams clad in white come away with the ball – half way into the Wolves half – and Gareth Whalley is dribbling and I’m sure I can see Paul Jewell shouting at him to keep hold and run with the ball but I don’t see how I could have known that cause my eyes are fixed on Whalley and the ball.

In retrospect Wolves had probably considered the draw gone once the free kick came back form the post because Whalley did not seem to be under tight challenges but the skillful Irishman as he dribbles the ball away. Perhaps the Referee is the closest man to the midfielder because I seem to remember seeing both at the same time and I remember seeing the Referee blow his whistle.

Frantically my eyes are searching then – darting around from white shirt to white shirt in something of a panic. Matt Groening says that a good character can be recognised by his silhouette and mine are looking for the short man, the shoulder length hair, the gap between sock tops and shorts being unusually small, the black number four on his back.

Stuart McCall at Wolves

And they pick him out arms aloft at 135 degree angles to his body in a pose that would become famous.

Overwhelmingly that is my memory of the 9th of May 1999 at Wolves when Bradford City were promoted to the Premiership.

The club is now split into the years BC/AD. After that day everything changed at Valley Parade and the current slump ten years on marks a stark contrast to that year of rise to the top flight and retention of top flight status that followed rather than many years when finishing in the top half of the fourth division would have represented a good return.

Perhaps it is a feeling that having achieved on that day ten years ago nothing should be considered out of the club’s reach. On that day City had a Holy trinity of Stuart McCall on the field, Paul Jewell in the dug out and Geoffrey Richmond as chairman. Leadership and character which many would suggest that City lack at the moment. What would McCall the manager have done for a McCall the player on the field in 2008/2009?

Something to be considered some other time. Now Wolves and your memories – if you care to share them in the comments below – on that win at Wolves that happened exactly ten years and three, four, five spasms of the second hand ago.

Back To The Wolves

Wolverhampton Wanderers have taken a semi-magical status in the minds of Bradford City fans. It was here on the 9th of May, 1999 that Stuart McCall held arms aloft and proclaimed that Bradford City were now a Premiership football club and while the pictures of that day never fade the experience of big time football is dim and distant for the League Two Bantams.

City never won another league game in the white shirts we wore that day at Wolves and things that went well went bad and there it was and here we are lining up as massive underdogs against a Wolves team which sits in The Championship and is tipped for a play off place. Mick McCarthy may field a second string and one suspects that as the Bantams did when roles were reversed that could render the home side there for the taking. That said the gap between divisions is not what some would tell you and our eleven could beat any eleven with strong win and good gusto.

Liverpool in 1981 lost 1-0 at Division Four City at Valley Parade and few teams in the history of the game have been better than Liverpool in 1981.

Donovan Ricketts struggles with injury caused by a sprinkler at Valley Parade on Saturday and a few swift kicks from Macclesfield players that followed but Stuart McCall is confident that he will play. The back four of Darren Williams, David Wetherall, Mark Bower and Paul Heckingbottom continue in what is expected to be a near unchanged team. Omar Daley, Paul Evans, Eddie Johnson and Alex Rhodes make a midfield with Barry Conlon and Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu should he be allowed clearance to play by his host club.

Anticipation Has The Habit To Set You Up For Disappointment

There is something wonderful about the sense of anticipation before a big game. In a good two decades plus change of watching City I’ve seen bigger than Saturday’s relegation crunch against Leyton Orient but the stomach churning wait – the mixture of excitement and dread – is the same this Friday as it was the weekend of the 9th of May, 1999.

Remember that weekend at Wolves I recall a sense of foreboding not at the idea that City might not win the game or might not be promoted but at the idea that a resolution was going to come at all. From the Sunday before when Birmingham beat Ipswich 1-0 to put City in the driving seat for promotion to the kick off at Molineux on Sunday we enjoyed a suspended animation of being on the brink. For seven days the mind buzzed with pleasure delaying thoughts which inexorably drew to a close once the first ball was kicked.

The ninety minutes at Wolves was pretty much Hell but everything up to that was a blast.

Which is how the mood for Saturday’s game is. Right now City are in good form going into a crucial game – we are potentially safe, wonderfully poised and waiting for the swing of genius that will make a crucial difference – but come 15:00 reality will set in and two hours later wonderful poise will be either realised or not. City will either be looking at a win or two from two games to stay up or look at League Two.

Not strictly true. A draw delays things. No one seems to have considered the possibility that City might draw the game despite the fact that Orient will most likely come to Valley Parade to get a point and keep City beneath them.

City go into the game minus Moses Ashikodi following his broken leg at Brighton but with Spencer Weir-Daley – SWD – ready to fill the gap. The striking change aside David Wetherall has picked a settled side in marked contrast to Colin Todd’s later tendency to tinker. That Wetherall has nailed down a best team – even if it is not the best team – has started to bring rewards of which the anticipation is one.