GEOFFREY Richmond was arguably the most colourful and controversial character in Bradford City's history.

Twenty years on from when the Bantams were playing in the Premier League, we look back on the club's rise and fall during his eventful time as chairman.

Here is the first instalment of the Richmond years.

BRADFORD City v Hartlepool, Saturday February 5, 1994 was where it all began.

With stunned silence at first and then mocking laughter.

The new chairman’s first public utterance had been greeted with cynicism.

Geoffrey Richmond had taken to the centre circle to address the Valley Parade crowd.

“There is no reason why this club cannot be playing Premier League football in the next five years,” he boomed on the microphone with a conviction that City fans would quickly grow to recognise.

But that particular afternoon, the underwhelming reaction said it all. This was a club that had not been in the top flight of English football since 1922.

Richmond, a boyhood Leeds fans who had grown up marvelling at the ‘gentle giant’ John Charles from the paddock at Elland Road, saw it differently.

His chance to get a foot in the door of the sport he loved passionately had come six years earlier at Scarborough.

Memorable cup shocks against Chelsea, Southampton and Coventry would follow but Richmond soon grew frustrated at the apathy of the east coast audience. Gates would average barely over 1,200 – lower even than Halifax.

A full house saw Arsenal given a scare in the League Cup but the ambitious Richmond wanted more. Then he heard on the grapevine that Bradford City were in financial trouble.

Armed with a £10 million pay cheque for selling Ronson Lighters, he went to see City chairman David Simpson.

Stricter football legislation, brought in after the controversy of Robert Maxwell owning both Oxford and Derby, blocked anyone from being involved in more than one club.

So Richmond, having been initially offered a 60 per cent stake in City for £300,000, came up with a swap deal. He sold Scarborough to Simpson for a pound.

It was the first sign of the sharp-witted business practice that would become his trademark over the next eight years.

Richmond remembered opening drawers full of writs, lists of bank debts and overdue creditors. His first day in charge was spent transferring a £2.3 million loan to pay off everything City owed.

His approach would be very different to Simpson as boss Frank Stapleton quickly discovered.

The former Republic of Ireland international had enjoyed a relaxed relationship with his chairman for his previous two years in charge. But Richmond was much more hands on.

He allowed youngsters into home games for free, bumping up an attendance that hovered around 4,500 to 7,907 for his Hartlepool bow. The new man was eager to push the club forward.

Richmond sensed City were “happy to bob along” in the comfort of mid-table obscurity. He soon grew tired of hearing about the “nearly season” of 1987-1988 when they lost to Middlesbrough in the second division play-offs.

He felt the place needed a real shake up to broaden their ambitions.

Stapleton and assistant Stuart Pearson were fired just before the end of the season. It had been heading that way since Richmond first walked in the door.

His first managerial appointment was former Charlton boss Lennie Lawrence, who earned the job with a brilliant interview. But Richmond soon had misgivings because he felt the new man was just “too nice”.

Lawrence quickly made a significant addition with the signing of combative midfielder Chris Kamara on a free transfer from Sheffield United. The life and soul of the dressing room, Richmond recognised in him someone else who matched his drive.

The following season began with a bang, centre forward Paul Jewell scoring two hat-tricks in the first three games.

But as the early promise faded, Richmond sensed that Lawrence and the team needed a gee-up. Kamara was promoted as Lawrence’s number two.

Results remained poor as City lost six of the final seven games and failed to score in the last five of them.

Kamara was regularly in Richmond’s ear in that summer. The chairman knew he was pitching for the job.

Richmond had liked to appoint from within at Scarborough and was about to start the same “boot-room” philosophy with the Bantams.

The stakes were raised for 1995-1996; the minimum target for Lawrence was the play-offs.

By the end of October, City were 16th and the writing was on the wall.

Richmond called a fans’ forum – something of a ritual during his reign – and announced the change. Lawrence was there and even told supporters why the decision had been taken.

Kamara stood up and confidently declared that City would be promoted. The reaction of the audience mirrored that from 20 months earlier when Richmond had made his brash prediction.

Things were about to get interesting.