Some jubilant City fans are still coming to terms with the Premiership - a dream come true - but chairman Geoffrey Richmond long ago began to consider what was necessary to get the club into the Premier League and keep it there. Jim Greenhalf reports.

WHAT DO you say about a man who undertakes the construction of a 4,500-seater stand at a time of indifferent results, believing that the team has got what it takes to win promotion?

Geoffrey Richmond, of course, did just this in the 1996/97 season. He removed the cow shed that was the Midland Road stand and replaced it with the large cantilever construction which the Queen officially opened during the Bradford's Centenary year of 1997. It was a stand fit for a newly-promoted team to Division One.

He did it again after the unpropitious beginning of the season that's just ended so triumphantly. Richmond had made up his mind to give Paul Jewell an extended chance as manager, and to apply for planning permission to transform the Kop into a towering 7,500-seater stand.

He laughed when I discussed this with him a couple of weeks before the end of the season. "It's something called vision," he said, mocking the fact that the concept has become something of a rarity in Bradford.

He said he had decided that Jewell was the right man for the job that June afternoon last year when Crewe beat City 5-0.

Jewell, in a caretaker role at the time, showed his mettle by ordering the players back out on the pitch during half-time.

While others sit and hope for good fortune, Geoffrey Richmond believes in making things happen.

In May 1994, shortly after becoming chairman, he told me during an interview: "I believe Bradford City can become a very big club; I can see Bradford City as a Premier League club. I don't see any reason why this city wouldn't support a Premier League club."

The same year he told me that City were three years away from signing Stuart McCall, at that time a star with Glasgow Rangers and a seasoned Scottish International. He was one year out. McCall - with more than 700 league, cup, European and International matches and 75 goals to his credit - signed on June 1, last year.

Geoffrey Richmond told me again and again that the automatic promotion issue would be decided at Wolves and not before. A few weeks ago he had turned on Teletext in his office to look at local sports results. A banner headline proclaimed: Bradford Beat Wolves and Go Second.

"I thought it was so strange, so weird. I'm not normally a believer in signs, but I've been saying ever since that the season was going to the last game," he said.

In fact the headline was a reference to Bradford Bulls' victory over Warrington Wolves in the Super League. Nevertheless, Richmond took it as an augury and, as we know, for once the gods smiled on Bradford City.

A good deal of the credit for City's place in the sun belongs to an off-the-field signing. Prof David Rhodes, chairman of Shipley-based electronics firm Filtronic plc, and his son Julian have the same share-holding in the club as the Richmond family.

David Rhodes is that rare animal, a self-made multi-millionaire manufacturer and a university academic with a world reputation as a specialist in high-frequency electronics. He's also a passionate City fan.

"Without his tremendous financial acumen and business expertise the key transfers made by Paul Jewell would not have been possible," Geoffrey Richmond said, referring to the £4.5m spent on Lee Mills, Isaiah Rankin, Gareth Whalley, Ashley Westwood, Dean Windass and Lee Todd.

"The financing of those transfers was done in an innovative way through a merchant bank. The cost of the transfers was spread over the length of each player's contract - three to four years. Certain securities were required by the merchant bank, and these were provided by the Rhodes family.

"The great thing for Bradford City and its supporters is that in the event that the club's cash-flow projections turned out to be wrong and we were unable to meet the repayments, those securities would have been sold by the merchant bank to repay the debts.

"Uniquely, the club would not have suffered as many other clubs have by borrowing money against future income."

Why not use the same method to raise money for the Premier League campaign, rather than float the club on the stock market - with all the attendant risks?

"The Premier League is the biggest, probably the best, and the richest in the world. The amount of money that's required, in my view, to give City a reasonable chance of survival is £10m to £15m capital spend on players.

"I think it is unreasonable to expect an individual to put himself on the line for that amount of money. David Rhodes has got the heart of a lion, to have made the commitment that he has made, with the motivation not of making a profit but of supporting the club he loves.

"The stock market route does appear to be the likeliest way of providing the finance, but I do have very serious reservations because there's no such thing as a free lunch," Richmond replied.

After the Wolves match I spent more than four hours outside Valley Parade, watching the scenes of rustic jubilation and listening. I heard one fan declare that he didn't care if City only had one season in the Premier League; all he asked for was an opportunity to experience what life at the top was like.

It's an outlook born out of years of heartbreak and disenchantment; having to make do with second and sometimes third best; living in the shadow of those more blessed with talent, money, success. Apart from a few brief golden years when the late Stafford Heginbotham was in his pomp and Stuart McCall was a young lion, the club's culture encouraged mediocrity.

"I think that culture has changed irrevocably. Although it's the same club that plays in the same colours and has the same supporters, the ethos, the ambition, the drive, bear no relation to that of five years ago," Richmond said.

"Everybody within this club understands totally that mediocrity is not tolerated, and that we simply drive forward and will continue to drive forward. No matter what we achieve there will always be another goal ahead."

The ramifications of the club's success are hard if not impossible to calculate. Morale has improved enormously, people seem a little nicer to one another because there is something to look forward to for a change. In economic terms, however, certainty dissolves into speculation. Nevertheless, Geoffrey Richmond is positive that Premier League football offers the city at large a wonderful opportunity.

"It's a catalyst for regeneration. It starts here and spreads in little circles and goes wider," he said, thinking of the effect on shops, cafes, pubs and other traders of 20 home games against the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leeds, Spurs, and Sunderland, with full houses of 18,000-plus.

More specifically, the prospect of City's season in the national limelight should prompt urgent consideration of the place of professional sport in the Metropolitan District in the 21st Century.

"There's nothing else that can unite people regardless of colour, creed, age or sex, in the same way that sport successfully does," he said, repeating a philosophy which I first heard him expound at a meeting of Bradford Chamber of Commerce five years ago.

"There's a limit to what Bradford City, Bradford Bulls and Keighley Cougars can achieve on their own. Things such as facilities, stadia, car parking, park and ride schemes, are all areas in which the local authority can be legitimately involved.

"To some extent these things are on the agenda; but they need, in each case, to be raised in importance and given the urgent priority they deserve.

"I would be hopeful that in the next three months the professional sporting clubs together with local authority officers and members meet together, and that a strategy can be agreed, a time-table laid down, and positive decisions taken and publicised, so that over the next 12 months we can move along the road of a professional sports strategy fully backed by a committed local authority.

"This would send out a signal that, as we enter the new Millennium with two flagship clubs in the city and outstanding community club at Keighley that does terrific work locally, Bradford had moved away from a mediocre city towards a premier league city."

The interview ended with the chairman and I both looking out of one of his office windows. The hubbub below from people queuing for season tickets had subsided, but at that moment a woman holding a baby boy hurried towards the ticket office. Her son was kitted out in a claret and amber shirt.

"That's the future," Geoffrey Richmond said. "Long after I've gone, long after Stuart McCall has gone."

A future is what every city needs if it is to have any sort of a present.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.