Bradford sign Carbone after 4am U-turn

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The Independent Online

When he noticed nine new executive boxes at Valley Parade had been built facing the wrong way, the Bradford chairman, Geoffrey Richmond, joked that the views of the car park would provide more entertainment than those of the pitch. Not any more, not if Benito Carbone has his way.

When he noticed nine new executive boxes at Valley Parade had been built facing the wrong way, the Bradford chairman, Geoffrey Richmond, joked that the views of the car park would provide more entertainment than those of the pitch. Not any more, not if Benito Carbone has his way.

"Last season we were known as boring Bradford," said Richmond. "This year, we will entertain."

The manner of Carbone's arrival had more than a whiff of drama. At 2am yesterday Richmond had been informed that the man he called "the mostexciting signing in the history of the club" was not coming to Bradford. Two hours later, the phone in his hotel room in Milan rang again. Negotiations re-opened at 9am and eight hours later Richmond and Carbone were walking into the Bantams Bar at Valley Parade, into which several hundred fans had squeezed themselves.

A few years ago their idea of an exciting signing was the arrival of Erik Regtop from Heerenveen. The bar was open and at £1.80 a pint, the supporters began paying back some of that hefty signing-on fee. Every word Carbone and Richmond, who worked the crowd like a consummate politician, uttered was cheered to the echo. They even gave his agent, Giovanni Branchini, an ovation. It was like a revivalist meeting.

The details of his contract were not revealed but as Bradford were reputedly prepared to pay Paulo Wanchope £27,000 a week before he chose Manchester City, Carbone would not have come cheap, especially since Coventry, with £15m of unspent transfer fees available, were waiting in the wings.

This, nevertheless, is an unlikely marriage and like Carbone's previous dalliances with the Premiership at Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa, it may end in a messy divorce, especially since the Italian and his new chairman are such strong-willed characters.

"He is going to be a hero here," said Richmond. "There is no such thing as a no-risk signing but we did not have to persuade ourselves to sign Benito, we were desperate to have him. Except when he is in the final year of his contract [he has signed for four years], my only dealings with him will be when I pass him on the stairs to say: 'Hello Benito.' "

But when will it be 'goodbye Benito?' "I will respect this contract," he said to tumultuous cheers. "Money is important but the club is more important. They really wanted me. I had wanted to stay at Aston Villa but they never contacted me or my agent during the summer. The first club to get in touch was Bradford and here I am. It is not my fault I did not sign for Villa."

To questions that he may find this corner of Yorkshire insufficiently big for him, Carbone pointed out that he had stayed long enough at Hillsborough. However, the manner of his departure, which saw reports of some players leaving RIP messages on his dressing-room peg, will be a concern. Three of that Wednesday squad are now at Valley Parade.

"There will not be a problem," insisted the Bradford captain and coach Stuart McCall. "I talked to the three Sheffield Wednesday players [Peter Atherton, Matt Clarke and Ian Nolan] yesterday and they, like me, are excited he is joining."

They will not have long to re-acquaint themselves with Carbone since his first appearance for the club is likely to be tonight against Fiorentina in a pre-season friendly. He said he needed about a fortnight to regain full fitness, which means Carbone is unlikely to be at his sharpest when running out to start the Premiership season at Anfield.

Chris Hutchings, his new manager, says his requirement was "20 goals". Last season, Bradford's top scorer was Dean Windass, who managed 10; away from home they chalked up just a dozen between them.

And yet Carbone is a striker, who, as far as goals go, specialises in quality rather than quantity. He found the net three times for Villa in the Premiership, although but for his hat-trick against Leeds in the fifth round John Gregory would have got nowhere near an FA Cup final. That achievement alone was likely to endear him to the club's supporters even before he agreed to sprinkle a little glamour over the old mill city.

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