The city honoured the club again last night. Thousands thronged the streets to cheer the players who clinched promotion to the Premiership by winning at Wolves on Sunday as they made their way in an open-top bus to the official celebration in Centenary Square. As in 1911, there is no doubting the team's grit, Yorkshire or otherwise. And once again, the architects of their success are adopted sons of Bradford.
Paul Jewell, 34, is a Merseysider barely a year into his first managerial post. His captain, Stuart McCall, was born and bred in Leeds of Scottish parents and returned to Bradford only last summer after a decade away. The chairman, 58-year-old Geoffrey Richmond, is also from Leeds and made his fortune by buying and selling the Ronson lighter business.
Curious as it seems now, with Bradford revelling in the reclamation of status surrendered in 1922, each of the triumvirate faced a struggle to prove his worth. The years of re-election pleas, and the fears, as recently as 1983, that City might follow Bradford Park Avenue into extinction had taught Valley Parade loyalists to be sceptical.
By his own admission, Jewell was not a popular choice as manager when Richmond controversially sacked Chris Kamara 18 months ago. Ian Rush, Jan Molby and Bryan Hamilton were all considered before the board opted to promote Kamara's assistant. Even then, he had to serve a "probationary" period of five months before his appointment was confirmed.
Jewell, who describes himself as the son of an old-style socialist, had forgivably failed to dislodge Rush or Kenny Dalglish from the all-conquering Liverpool line-up. However, he is remembered at Anfield for arguing with some of the lavishly paid superstars for the right of trades unionists to strike, a sign that he was his own man even as a teenager.
He was no mean striker himself, scoring 92 goals for Wigan, Grimsby and Bradford before fate, in the form of Kamara, intervened. "I made Paul my reserve-team coach but if we'd lost the Second Division play-off final in '96, I'd have had to free him on cost-cutting grounds," the BSkyB pundit revealed yesterday. "We won, and later I made him my No 2. He had excellent knowledge of the players and was a good link between me and the team. I still speak to several of them and they say he keeps training simple, five-and-sides and so on, like they did at Liverpool."
While six of Kamara's budget-priced buys were played at Molineux, Jewell has been given resources his predecessor could only dream of. He spent pounds 3.6m last summer, splashing the first seven-figure sums in Bradford's history on Lee Mills and Isaiah Rankin, and took his outlay to pounds 4.5m with the mid-term signing of Dean Windass.
Richmond has intimated that a share flotation might raise Jewell's close- season kitty to pounds 20m. "If that's true, they've got a decent chance of staying up," Kamara said. "Money doesn't guarantee anything - look at Blackburn - but the experience of Swindon, Barnsley, Forest and Sunderland last time they came up suggests you have to spend."
That said, Bradford's most influential performer cost only a signing- on fee. McCall, released by Rangers with a veritable hoard of medals and caps, turned down more lucrative offers to come home to his first love. As a member of the team on the afternoon of the fire tragedy 14 years ago today, which cost the lives of 56 spectators and saw many more, including his father, seriously burned, he felt he had "unfinished business".
McCall was concerned on the eve of the season that supporters would expect him to be the perpetual-motion man of his first spell. He soon proved that he had more than an emotional attachment to offer Bradford.
Kamara is convinced he could still be a key player, even at 35. "Against the really powerful midfielders like Vieira, Petit and Keane he may find it hard. But if you go a little way down the Premiership, he's the type of player they're all looking for - someone who can sit in front of the defence, win tackles and use the ball intelligently."
Jewell is not too proud to listen to ideas from McCall and another senior player, Peter Beagrie. The 14-goal winger, a pounds 50,000 steal from Manchester City, has a proven Premiership pedigree. Others who should bridge the gap include Gareth Whalley, a pounds 600,000 midfielder schooled at Crewe; Darren Moore, a muscular centre-back signed from Doncaster for pounds 175,000; Jamie Lawrence, another pounds 50,000 winger, from Leicester; and Robbie Blake, a Beardsley-esque foil to the towering Mills, bought from Darlington for pounds 300,000.
Kamara, who signed them all except Whalley, recalls Richmond explaining on appointing him in 1995 that he planned to be in the Premier League in five years. Bradfordians were initially dubious about such claims. Not only was the chairman from that unmentionable neighbouring city, but he had previously owned Scarborough and his main aim appeared to be saving money. To that end he dismissed the chief scout and ticket staff, and even cancelled City's copy of the local paper.
Gradually, crucially, Richmond found the requisite funds to keep Bradford moving forward. Moreover, he kept faith with Jewell when the first seven matches this season produced a deflating five points. Now he is overseeing the redevelopment of Valley Parade, which will have a capacity of 18,300 come August, and examining ways of financing the survival which Kamara argues is within their capabilities.
"There are three leagues within the Premiership: the one Manchester United or Arsenal are going to win, the one Leeds have won and the one Southampton look likely to win. The best Bradford can hope for is half-way up the second league, like Wimbledon or Leicester. They'd probably settle for fourth off bottom, though nobody's thinking too much about that right now. They're just enjoying promotion."Reuse content