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Bradford City legend Stuart McCall recalls Blades anguish
Sheffield United’s return to Valley Parade on Saturday rekindles memories of the least-celebrated winning goal against City.
It will be the first visit from the Blades since September 2003, when they came from behind to beat Nicky Law’s side 2-1 in the Championship.
Dean Windass began the game with City’s goal and ended it prematurely with a red card for booting Michael Brown.
But that afternoon will be best remembered by the source of the low drive into the bottom corner that settled the outcome. It was Stuart McCall’s first goal as a Blade – and at Valley Parade of all places.
There was typically no reaction from the man himself. Any elation at breaking his duck was buried deep within as he trotted back to the halfway line.
McCall recalled that game yesterday but more for the level of his own performance than the winning strike.
He laughed: “In all the 998 competitive games I played, that was probably my worst one! People watching would have thought that I wasn’t trying a leg because it was my old club.
“I was diabolical; absolutely shocking. And then I went and scored a goal.
“I only scored two in 80-odd games for Sheffield United – once was the winner against Bradford and the other at home to Preston. People said I only got that to get back at Craig Brown for not taking me to the World Cup in ’98...”
That was McCall’s second visit to Valley Parade under Neil Warnock. The previous November he had been involved in a 5-0 mismatch and that was far harder to stomach for someone so closely tied to the Bantams.
He admitted: “It was really difficult. I’d spoken to Jakes (Wayne Jacobs) in the lead-up to the game and knew the position that Bradford were in with lads out injured and young kids playing.
“They had just come out of administration and were finding it very tough.
“We obviously wanted to win the game but I didn’t want it to be like that. When it got to 3-0, I was feeling not only for the fans but the players as well because you could tell how much they were suffering.
“We had a good side that year and went all the way to the play-offs as well as the semi-finals in the FA Cup and League Cup. But I would have been much happier to have just won 1-0.
“Deano was celebrating madly after he scored but that’s him. It was not enjoyable at all for me.
“We had a free-kick with 15 minutes to go and they were assembling a wall. There were a couple of young lads in there who looked so down and I was telling them ‘keep going, keep your chins up’ – it wasn’t nice to be involved.
“We played Bradford again at the end of that season and beat them 3-0 at Bramall Lane. I remember we got a late penalty and all the lads tried to get me to take it but I was having none of it.”
Sheffield United are unbeaten in their last eight trips to City. The home side have not prevailed since November 1987, when McCall was in claret and amber colours as they won 2-0 with goals from Brian Mitchell and Ron Futcher.
A crowd of up to 17,000 is expected this weekend, with the visitors given just short of 3,000 tickets.
The Blades are again tipped to be among the frontrunners but their former number two believes this is a time of transition under rookie boss David Weir.
McCall said: “It’s not going to be easy for David and I think they are looking at it as more of a long-term strategy.
“But when you are getting 17-18,000 supporters turning up week in, week out at home and so many travelling away, they aren’t going to accept rebuilding.
“That’s the job he has got there now. Everyone knows the budget has been slashed and they’ve had to let players go. There might still be more in the next couple of weeks before the window shuts.
“But Sheffield United are still expected to be up there this season – and I’d love to see both clubs manage to get in the play-offs.
“It’s been a while since they have been in the same division and it’s a great game to look forward to. They are both big clubs with good support and it wouldn’t look out of place in the Championship, even now.”
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