THE date of May 9, 1999 will always have a special place in Bradford City's history and this week marks 20 years since their promotion to the Premiership.

It is ironic and sad that such a significant anniversary coincides with one of the club's lowest points since then.

Two decades on since City reached the top flight for the first time in 77 years, the Bantams have dropped into the Football League's bottom tier.

To provide some much-needed cheer, in the first of a series of articles to celebrate arguably the club's best achievement of the modern era, here's a look back at 20 memories from that memorable season 20 years ago.


City surprised many pundits by splashing the cash on a host of new arrivals but the most heralded signing cost nothing.

A decade on from going so close to promotion to the top flight with the Bantams, Stuart McCall returned to Valley Parade.

The midfielder won a string of titles with Rangers and was not short of offers from elsewhere.

He had already attained legendary status as captain during his first spell at City but he arrived back as hungry as ever to complete 'unfinished business' as he put it.

At 34, could McCall still cut it? He answered that question emphatically by leading City to glory and winning player of the year.


Paul Jewell had already been an underwhelming appointment as permanent manager in the eyes of many fans, having not exactly pulled up any trees in temporary charge the season before.

And despite a big summer of investment, City did not start the season well.

They only gained their first win on the last day of August but that was followed by a dismal 3-0 defeat at Ipswich.

Discontent among fans was rising as City were outclassed. Already the writing looked on the wall for Jewell but chairman Geoffrey Richmond stood by him.


City couldn't get the win they desperately needed at home to Sheffield United the game after but put in a much-improved performance in a 2-2 draw.

Then in a televised trip to West Brom, the Bantams won 2-0 thanks to two goals from £1million signing Lee Mills.

Eyebrows had been raised at the size of the fee for Mills despite his record of almost a goal every other game for an often struggling Port Vale in the second tier.

But his double took his tally to five by mid-September and his second goal showed he had ability on the ground and not just in the air.


The 2-1 home win over Barnsley on September 26 would rival even the promotion-clinching day at Wolves just over seven months later.

Gordon Watson came off the bench for his first Valley Parade action for more than 18 months since suffering a double leg fracture following a tackle by Kevin Gray.

City were losing 1-0 with seven minutes to go when 'Flash' came on. The crowd went wild when Watson equalised; and then even wilder when he scored again three minutes later.

His winner will surely go down as one of the most memorable in Bantams history.


A Friday night 3-0 win in early October at home to Bury saw Peter Beagrie put in a man of the match display as City continued to climb toward the play-offs.

But another stand-out memory was a goal by Stuart McCall, who surged into the area after a neat one-two with Lee Mills and chipped the keeper with a superb finish.

Scoring goals may never have been his strongest forte but his burst was more reminiscent of the box to box role he excelled in during his first spell at City.


City took the unusual step of taking part in a midweek friendly in the Macedonian capital as part of the country's British Week celebrations.

The Bantams were invited due to Bradford's twinning with Skopje and were told they could expect a capacity crowd of 50,000.

But a paltry 500 turned up to watch a 3-3 draw between City and Vardar Skopje.

Paul Jewell had rammed the message home to his players to avoid any yellow cards yet was sent off himself from the touchline!

The trip was meant to be a chance to recharge the batteries but City turned in a flat performance in losing 2-0 at Grimsby the following Saturday.


City returned to form with a 4-2 victory at Portsmouth as they went 3-0 up after just over half an hour.

They let Pompey back in the game in the second half before a wicked 25-yard screamer from Peter Beagrie settled the contest.

It was one of several cracking long-range goals from the winger over the season, including one at neighbours Halifax in the League Cup and a match-winner at Stockport in the new year.


City continued their momentum into November with a dogged 1-0 win at Tranmere on a Friday night.

The performance itself might not have been memorable but the 50-yard run into the opposition penalty box from Darren Moore certainly was.

The bruising centre half will go down as a City legend for his no-nonsense defending during a season in which he played in all but two of the Bantams league games.

But fans had to do a double take when they saw it was Moore being taken down by the keeper, Peter Beagrie doing the rest from the spot.


The Bantams produced one of their best halves of football of the season at rivals Huddersfield, only for them to somehow contrive to lose the game 2-1.

It was more like a game of attack and defence in the first 45 minutes but City only led 1-0 at the break through Robbie Blake.

Chance after chance went begging as Town keeper Nico Vaesen produced a masterclass which continued into the second half before a Paul Barnes-inspired Terriers delivered the inevitable sucker-punch with two goals in two minutes.

It was a sickener for City fans, who would feel just as sick five months later when Vaesen thwarted them again as Town completed the double in a 3-2 win at Valley Parade, saving a penalty from Dean Windass.


After a poor home defeat against QPR, City began a nine-game unbeaten run with a 1-0 win at Oxford at the start of December.

It was the first time Robbie Blake started in a central role with Lee Mills up front and the pair hit it off big time.

With Mills leading the line as a targetman, Blake provided the perfect foil playing off him with his silky skills. They will surely go down as one of the best partnerships in the club's history.

Mills got the winner before the front pair helped themselves to two each in an emphatic 4-1 win at Swindon the game after.


Robbie Blake had shown glimpses of his potential during his first full season after Chris Kamara signed him for £350,000 from Darlington in March 1997.

But the striker proved a revelation in the promotion campaign - none more so than in a 2-1 home win over Wolves just before Christmas.

Blake scored one and set the other up for partner Lee Mills as he ran rings round Wanderers with his expert dribbling, the ball seemingly stuck to his feet as former Bantams defender Dean Richards was given a torrid afternoon.

And he produced many more standout moments, including a cracker in at home to Crewe and two solo efforts in a televised draw at Sheffield United.


With 16 goals by mid-January, Lee Mills was already well on the way to justifying his seven-figure price tag.

And it only got better for the striker who notched his first league hat-trick in a 4-1 home hammering of Crewe on a boggy Valley Parade pitch.

Ironically, it was the first triple from a City player since boss Paul Jewell had netted one back in September 1995 and again highlighted Mills' all-round ability.


There was TV heartache for City when they lost 2-1 at Birmingham City despite a fantastic display.

An inspired Jamie Lawrence gave them an early lead thanks to a great run out wide by Robbie Blake.

The Bantams should have been further in front when Paul Furlong equalised in first-half stoppage time and there was worse to come.

City again had the better of things as Peter Beagrie hit the bar but a rare mistake from Darren Moore led to a 93rd-minute penalty and Furlong converted his second.

Blues boss Trevor Francis admitted the win was undeserved.


City's only ever-present in the league was goalkeeper Gary Walsh, who proved a model of consistency throughout.

One of his best games was in 0-0 draw at home to promotion rivals Ipswich Town in February, which included a crucial save to deny David Johnson in stoppage time.

City went on to finish one point above the Tractor Boys, which underlined just how important Walsh's effort was.

With Darren Moore, Stuart McCall and Lee Mills, Walsh was part of the spine which bore the hallmarks of a promotion-winning side.


Key to City's attacking prowess was the form of their two main wide men Peter Beagrie and Jamie Lawrence, who provided the perfect blend.

Beagrie would tie defenders in knots with his twisting and turning before delivering a killer ball, while Lawrence was all power and pace who gave the impression he would run through a brick wall for City.

Lawrence didn't score as many as his fellow wingman but did produce one of the goals of the season in a 4-1 home win against Norwich in mid-March.

He ran half the length of the field, leaving numerous Canaries defenders in his wake before slotting in as the Bantams bounced back from a defeat to leaders Sunderland.


A 3-2 win at Bristol City was notable for goals scored by two of City most consistent players who often went under the radar.

Wayne Jacobs did not even start as first-choice left back following the signing of Lee Todd yet went on to make over 40 league appearances that season.

He also weighed in with a few vital goals, including a superb lob from outside the box which put City 2-0 up at Ashton Gate.

The Bantams then let the Robins back into the game and it needed a late winner from Gareth Whalley to clinch the points.

The cultured midfielder, signed from Crewe for £650,000, hardly ever gave the ball away and was the ideal partner for the more combative Stuart McCall.


City's 3-2 defeat at home to Huddersfield meant their fate was out of their own hands with three games to go.

Ipswich led by three points in the race for second and were at home to bottom club Crewe while the Bantams faced a much tougher test at QPR.

Yet against the odds, City won 3-1 at Loftus Road - including a rare goal from Ashley Westwood following a well-rehearsed free-kick - while their Suffolk rivals surprisingly lost 2-1.

City regained the upper hand but the momentum would shift back and forth again.


An expectant Valley Parade knew a win could see them take a huge stride towards the Premiership dream at home to struggling Oxford.

But perhaps the occasion got to City as they failed to produce their best form and needed a good display from Gary Walsh to keep the visitors out.

Yet captain Stuart McCall had the chance to win it in stoppage time only for his close-range header from a Dean Windass cross to go agonisingly over the bar.

Their fate again out of their hands, City fans feared the chance was blown, only for Birmingham to do them a huge favour by beating Ipswich 1-0 the day after.


The Bantams knew a win at Wolves would send them to the promised land of the Premiership and, despite going a goal down early on, roared back to lead 3-1.

It was fitting that Peter Beagrie, Lee Mills and Robbie Blake - the three leading scorers with 12, 24 and 16 respectively in the league - got the goals as the Bantams looked to be cruising.

But City being City ensured it was anything but an easy ride. Beagrie missed a penalty to make it 4-1 before Wolves pulled a goal back.

Then at 3-2 Paul Simpson struck the inside of the post from a free-kick. The ball could have gone anywhere but thankfully bounced to safety. City were up!


The final whistle was cue for unbridled joy for City fans - among the 3,000 lucky enough to get tickets for Molineux and, of course, back in Bradford.

The Bantams had made it to the top flight for the first time in 77 years and one almighty party was just about to start.

Pictures of the returning Stuart McCall being given a hero's welcome back to the club had preceded the season.

Now it would end with the captain fantastic leading the celebrations on the pitch, arms aloft and missing his shorts, as City's achievement hit the national headlines.

Those celebrations certainly continued on the journey back as evidenced by McCall's fall off a car roof when the players received a rapturous reception back at Valley Parade.

It was comedy gold to end a golden season for City.