Football: Di Canio canes Bradford
Bradford City 0 West Ham United 3 Di Canio 34, Sinclair 44, Wanchope 49 Half-time: 0-2 Attendance: 17,926
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 29 August 1999
The trouble was that when the Hammers - and Paolo Di Canio in particular - were good, they were very good indeed. For 15 minutes midway through this match they were close to irresistible, scoring three goals, all with the unmistakable stamp of quality in their execution. The Londoners also had their untidy periods, but had they kept constant pressure on City, the consequences could have been frightening.
West Ham, fresh from the boost to their morale and finances of Uefa Cup qualification, satisfied themselves about Bradford's toothlessness and gradually homed in on goal. In the 33rd minute, Frank Lampard, a source of energy and invention in midfield, played in the ball for Paulo Wanchope to chest down and Di Canio to strike home cleanly.
The second goal, immediately before half-time, was a testament to Di Canio's peripheral vision. Taking the ball from Wanchope with his back to goal, he sent Trevor Sinclair racing past him into the right side of the area and picked him out with a cleverly angled pass. Sinclair had an acute sight of goal with which to work but rifled his shot in for a memorable goal.
Half-time brought only a temporary respite, because, three minutes into the second period, the Hammers struck again, Di Canio latching on to a weak clearance to steer the ball into the path of Wanchope, who left Gary Walsh as helpless as he had been for the first two goals. Di Canio put a blot on his performance by being booked for diving at Gunnar Halle's tackle, but he had shown enough of the positive side of his football personality to make West Ham happy that he fell out with his previous employers.
West Ham could have had further goals, notably when Walsh made a fine, close-range save from Lampard and when Wanchope placed his shot past the post, but against a side that creates as few chances as Bradford one was always likely to be enough, never mind three.
The only real worry for the visitors - and for England - was the way that Rio Ferdinand limped off late in the second half after a challenge from Neil Redfearn.
"His ankle is very sore at the moment," his manager, Harry Redknapp, said. "He'll meet up with [England] anyway. We want him to be fit, so let's just hope he's going to be OK."
For Bradford, Paul Jewell admitted that it was "a great time to be taking a break", thus allowing the lessons of the first few weeks of Premiership football to soak in. "We've got an awful lot of work to do," Jewell said. "We expected that and haven't been disappointed."
Although he praised the willingness of his players to work a fairly hopeless cause, he is clearly aware of the limitations of his team. "We're not looking like scoring, so we've got to make it difficult for them to score against us," he said.
Yesterday, and especially for that 15 minutes when Di Canio was in command, they never looked like achieving that.
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