Boy From Brazil Bradford City Hall of Fame

Inductee February 2001

Dean Richards

It would be a lie to say that as soon as you saw Dean Richards you knew he was going on to better things.

Not a lie exactly, but a half truth. Every young player who puts on a City shirt and plays at Valley Parade is always the new Gary Linker, the next Stuart McCall, however at some point clarity comes. Think of the promise Jeremy Howe showed, the abilities of a young Kevin Megson, and think of what happened to them, think of the moment you realised that you were not watching the great white hope, just another bog standard player.

That moment never really came for Dean Richards.

He stood out in a City team that struggled for talent in a division that was poor. His speedy was his greatest asset at first, he used to pass strikers like GR1 on the motorway past the coaches, but one noticed he was getting better because after a while he did not need to do that. Positioning came to his game, so did tackling, by the time he left City he would rob the ball in stand up tackles far more than he would slide.

Some players never find their position until they are older. Dean Richard must have come out of the womb as a centre back. In retrospect his composure, which could have been, mistook for arrogance, was confidence. At the age of 20 Manchester United and Liverpool were watching Dean Richards, people from outside of Bradford would know him, ask how good he was, noting his name for the future.

Injury blighted the young Richards career, injury not helped when he struggled through the first 25 minutes of a game with Cardiff, clearly not fit enough to play, only to go off and not be seen again for months. When he came back he still had it, another indication that he was no flash in the pan young player. For me I can remember the precise moment that I realised the Dean Richards was a great player, not just a great Bradford City player. It was away at Chester in a 4-1 win, Richards gave the home striker a six yard head start on a ball but still caught him, nothing unusual for a player with his speed, but it was the confident way he collected the ball and distributed that sparked a light in my head. This guy is special.

So in the week of deadline day 1995 I made a mental note to keep an eye on Richards because at that level, a quality player can be gone the next time you see the team. He was, for £2.15m to Wolves.

Wolves was a curious time for Dean Richards. He garnered rave reviews on the field with people talking about when and not if he would play for England. Off the field Dean played the young footballer a little too much perhaps, or so it is said. He ended up getting injured in an automobile accident on the way down to Wolves training from Bradford. He missed months of his career.

However once again Dean Richard returned well. He was every inch the quality defender that had left City when he stood in the way of the Bantams on the path to the Premiership. Dean Richards played for Wolves on the glorious ninth of May, 1999. He gave away a penalty that City should have used ot make the game sure as Jamie Lawrence got around him, perhaps he had a smile at the outcome of the game as City went past him. It was his last game for Wolves.

He joined Southampton under the Bosman ruling, it is a mystery as to why City did not try sign him back. Still now one imagines partnerships of Dean Richards and David Wetherall or Dean Richards and Andy O'Brien. A more bankable signature City could not have hoped for, Dean hinted that he would love to come back, but it was not to be.

After a few years impressing for Southampton Dean followed Glenn Hoddle to Spurs for £8m, the main question being why it taken so long for Dean Richards to reach the top. He started well with a goal for Spurs against Manchester United as they roared to a 3-0 half time lead in his debut. The 5-3 scoreless perhaps suggests the problems Dean will have at Spurs and leaves the question as to what would have become of Dean if he had joined Old Trafford or Anfield.

Nevertheless with the World Cup four months away the former City defender has been recommended to Sven Goran Erikkson. A late spurt of form could take him into the squad over team-mate Ledley King. After that who knows.. World Cups make players. Could Dean Richard, the fast kid from Rhodesway, go to South Korea and Japan. If he did, and it is a long shot, could he come back a winner?

We always though he was good, but ten years ago at Valley Parade could we have been watching the new Jack Charlton or Bobby Moore?

We shall see.

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