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Big match preview: Bantams have done it before...
Cast your mind back to Saturday, February 5 2000 and a scoreline that still jumps out all these years on – Bradford City 2 Arsenal 1.
Goals from the Dean machine – Windass with a quickly-taken free-kick before David Seaman could organise the wall and Saunders coolly finishing off a Gareth Whalley through ball – spiked the Gunners in front of a disbelieving Valley Parade.
Wayne Jacobs was one of those 11 heroes in claret and amber that afternoon. The left back’s goalline clearance to keep out Croatian Davor Suker’s header was as vital as either goal.
But for Jacobs, the abiding memory was the goal that did pierce City’s fierce resistance. Thierry Henry interchanged passes with Ray Parlour before cracking a 25-yarder into the bottom corner.
Jacobs recalled: “The whole back four were just looking at each other and shrugging our shoulders. It was just the measure of a top marksman and we could do nothing about it.
“We defended so well as a team that whole game but there was no way we could have stopped Henry at that moment.
“It was another reminder about the unbelievable quality you were up against in the Premier League.
“You see it on the telly and it doesn’t look a worldy. But technically the way it happened you just thought ‘wow’.
“But that’s what you faced. It was the level of tactical awareness just as much as technical ability.
“As a defender, you had to focus so hard. The first few games that season I would come off the pitch feeling absolutely drained both physically and mentally.
“I’m close to Darren Moore and unfortunately he never played in the Premier League with Bradford. But he did with other clubs and before his first season I warned him that it would take until the middle of September before you felt you could cope with it.
“As a fan you take it for granted but it was so tough. You could not relax because there was no margin for error.
“The word I’d use to best sum it up was ‘ruthless’ – you stand one foot out of position in the Premier League and they would score.”
Jacobs can also remember the size of that Arsenal team – “they were massive, all over six foot and Henry was twice as tall as you imagined” – but City still cut them down to size.
Arsene Wenger remarked afterwards about their home advantage with the hostile crowd and “very small” pitch. He brought Arsenal back the following season and again only managed a draw.
“The fact we beat them still shocks people even today,” smiled Jacobs. “But we had this understanding every game that season that anything we’d get we’d have to earn.
“A lot has been said about how we didn’t change the character of our team too much in the first year in the Premier League. We were so close and prepared to work so hard for each other.
“We had talent there as well but it was that work ethic and way we were prepared to give everything that made the difference.”
CITY: Davison, Halle, Wetherall, O’Brien, Jacobs, Lawrence, McCall, Whalley, Beagrie, Saunders, Windass. Subs: Wright, Blake, Sharpe, Dreyer, Southall.
ARSENAL: Seaman, Dixon, Keown, Malz, Winterburn, Ljungberg, Petit, Grimandi, Parlour, Suker, Henry. Subs: Bergkamp, Luzhny, Hughes, Cole, Manninger.
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