The Michael Wood Column

Wednesday 13 February, 2002

Back to the land of dreams

With Leeds that way and Huddersfield the other it should have been hard to pick out a fixture when the lists came in.

Away at Wolves though, that was the first one I looked for.

Back to the miracle of 99. That day, the place, that City won promotion. It was so much the heights of following City. Even should we do it again, and one has to hope we do, then it will never be the same as that day.

Unexpected, even to the last minute, that was City's promotion. The season twisted like the game at Wolverhampton that day. Started badly, we took over, close at the end. That free kick, curled into the inside of Gary Walsh's goal and away by Jon Dreyer, will be the City supporting moment that I will take to my grave. Never before or since have I seen anything in football that seemed so fated.

So what of City some two and a half years on? What of Wolves?

Well Wolves seem to have got things right. They are Premiership bound in my humble opinion. Finally getting the right mix of manager and players. Finally spending Jack Hayward's money in the right places. Like City in 1999 one suspects that your average Wolf could not really put his figure on why 2001-2002 and Dave Jones works so much better than Colin Lee, Graham Taylor etc, but they do. As with City and Paul Jewell's Premiership boys one wishes one could write down a blue print to success, make a copy, but you never can.

If Wolves go up I for one wish the all the best. They can stay up if they continue on the blue print. If they stray to far they will struggle.

City are still seeking to replicate the blue print of 1999. Nicky Law is seen as a Paul Jewell style manager, although with his testing at Chesterfield there is a sense of increased confidence in his ability. Certainly Geoffrey Richmond has confidence. As with Jewell's side, the decks are being cleared with players leaving and being loaned, in readiness for summer spending and a fresh approach to next term.

Of the team that played at Wolves on City's glory day only six remain. Gary Walsh is rumoured to be on the verge of quitting the game with injury, Henri Sillanpaa being lined up as a replacement. Stuart McCall, City's inspiration, could share his holding midfield role with Gary Locke or even Jean Philippe Javary if he even gets a contract. Wayne Jacobs faces his stiffest completion yet from Lewis Emanuel. The other three: Jamie Lawrence, Lee Sharpe and Gareth Whalley, are first teamers in theory alone and any or all of them could be gone next term.

What we have is a whole new City. In two and a half years we have seen a rebuilding of a team that you wanted to set in stone for all time. There are a catalogue or reasons why this occurred. Reasons why the likes of Darren Moore and Gordon Watson never played for City again but still perform well. Curiously for a team that proved it was worth a place in the Premiership only a single player is at that level now, namely Dean Windass who was a sub that day.

Nevertheless all logical reasons aside when the teams trot out on Saturday our collective mind will drift back to that day. The Asda car park come pub. The darkness under the stands, the openness of the ground. I remember the smile when I heard the team, that Jewell had reverted to the men who had got us to the brink, Windass and Sharpe being left on the bench after playing in the games up to that.

I remember a burst of pride at the final whistle, scanning for Stuart McCall to see how he would mark this moment. I remember thinking that nine months ago no one had given City much of a chance of finishing above mid-table and how fickle football can be. I remember thinking that that day represented the finest things in the game we call beautiful but often fails to be, represented achievement through effort.

Perhaps it is time we renewed our effort at City. Refreshed it. Like a couple taking second vows we need to once again state our causes and focus on what can be.

Wolverhampton, May the 11th, 1999 was a pinnacle, but in many ways it has been an end, an end to an attitude at City that we must try to make this team, this club better. Too often in the past two and a half years have we sat back and demanded, "Entertain me". "Ask not what can my country do for me..."

I do not agree with those chiding Geoffrey Richmond over dividend payments, but I long for their attitude to be multiplied over every Bantams, to see their effort harnessed in a thousand ways all making Bradford City a better football club.

When we went to Wolves in 1999 we saw what could be achieved when effort is focused. I think now would be a good time to revisit that dream and renew our spirit.

The man once said "Keep the faith". I say "Renew the faith".

Index of column & Biography | Mail