Boy From Brazil Bradford City Hall of Fame

Inductee December 2001

Chris Waddle

It was the week before Christmas, appropriately for the December 2001 inductee to the BfB Bradford City Hall Of Fame, and your erstwhile BfB editor was in a freezing cold house in Grimsby a week after his college term had finished. By rights he should have been at home helping Mom with Christmas preparations, instead there I was, without heat in a rented house, to see Chris Waddle.

Chris Waddle was a spent force in the Autumn of 1997. He had left Sheffield Wednesday, the club he had enjoyed his Indian Summer with, and was idling out his career with Filkirk when he caught the eye of City boss Chris Kamara.

Waddle could catch your eye like that. His abilities pre-City are documented much better elsewhere but enough to say that Waddle was a very special football, uniquely English in his languid almost lackadaisical strides and impossible ball control.

Waddle was perhaps best known a penalty miss that saw England knocked out of the World Cup in 1990, seven years later he took to the field in claret and amber. Nothing Waddle would or could do could erase that sky high shot in Italy, but during his time with the Bantams he would remind those who saw him that there was so much more to the man than his drive off the 18th of a spot kick.

Waddle made his Valley Parade debut against Premiership bound Barnsley. He scored a belter from 30 yard across the box. His legend was secured away at Huddersfield Town in an infamous 3-3 draw. Waddle inspired a City team that night and curled a corner into the Town goal. He also played and scored in the 1-1 draw later that season that saw Kevin Grey break Gordon Watson's leg. "The worst tackle I have ever seen" was Waddle's testimony in court.

Waddle amazed. Even now after two seasons in the Premiership and a Peter Beagrie I have not seen a better trapper and controller of a ball. His passing and vision is still the yardstick to which Benito Carbone and Lee Sharpe are measured against. When Waddle wore a City shirt you felt special because Waddle was special.

Back to the week in Grimsby pre-Christmas and the small gang of locals that followed the Bantams that cold and miserable day all following a single phrase that I had spread around. "Go watch Chris Waddle on Saturday, he will do one thing in the game that will astound you". Chris did not let me down, a 44th minute pass to Lee Duxbury through bitter cold and North Sea wind that looked like so many Tiger Woods chips to the stick, so precise was the pass.

Which was Chris Waddle to a tee. He was not a luxury player by any means, but his greatest asset was the fact that he could pass what other players would not even see. No other English player of his generation could match him with any consistency. If Peter Reid had been able to play the ball to Lineker in the 1986 Cup final in the First Division at Grimsby eleven years in the freezing cold in a game Sid Cowans was booed off never to return then he would match him, but he never could. Waddle was quality with a reasonable flow of quantity.

Waddle's coup de grace in a City shirt came away in the FA Cup at Everton. He ran the second half of the game, set up Rob Steiner with an over the shoulder inch perfect pass from midfield that the Swede based his career on, scored one of the truly unforgettable City goals.

Neville Southall, while he was still good, had come wanting a pass from Anderi Kanchelski's who had been robbed by Steiner just inside the Everton half. The ball broke to Waddle who chipped with power enough to beat the keeper, accuracy enough to dip under the bar and ability enough to stay high until the final second. Waddle scored from five to ten feet inside the Everton half. There have been better goals by Bradford City players, but none have been as technically skilful. If football was filmmaking then Waddle's goal at Everton was Stanley Kubrick's 2001.

City and Waddle were divorced later that year. It ended with a squabble between Geoffrey Richmond and Waddle. He went on to Sunderland, his boyhood club, and scored in the final game at Roker Park but could not prevent relegation and was freed. They say he plays for Worksop in the amateur leagues now, imagine coming up against him on a Saturday afternoon. Even in defeat you would feel honoured.

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