In part 13 of the Richmond Years, Chris Hutchings swiftly gets the chop as City struggle to survive second time around.

THE genie had popped well and truly out the bottle in the summer of 2000.

£2.5 million record signing David Hopkin, Dan Petrescu, Ashley Ward, Peter Atherton and Ian Nolan all checked in on Premiership wages. Not to mention the £40,000 a week that went Benito Carbone’s way.

Life at City had suddenly changed forever after Richmond’s self-styled “six weeks of madness”.

Chris Hutchings had the task of fitting undoubtedly talented individuals with sizeable egos into the team ethic that had done the Bantams so proud in defying the odds the previous season.

The early signs were encouraging with a creditable display at Anfield on opening day and then that glorious Valley Parade victory over Gianluca Vialli’s Chelsea.

“The best performance by any Bradford City team in my years at the club,” crowed Richmond. “It was quite possible the finest in the entire 100 years that the club had been around.

“It truly was something else, absolutely sublime.”

With Carbone pulling the strings, City swept Chelsea away with some glorious football. Petrescu was equally magnificent against his old club but it was all an illusion.

Hutchings’ luck was not helped when Hopkin was crocked by an agricultural challenge in a League Cup tie at Darlington. It took the midfielder months to recover and he was never the same player.

Results quickly dipped as reality bit for City and Hutchings. Both suddenly looked out of their depth.

Fingers were being pointed Richmond’s way as the demise began. But he fiercely denied that he was effectively controlling the team from above.

“Mine was a hands-on approach as chairman where I liked to be involved every day,” he said in a later interview. “But it was always the job of the manager to pick and manage the team. My job was to support him.”

Costly defeats against Southampton, Manchester City and Ipswich set the warning bells ringing. City didn’t score a goal against any of them.

The knives were out for Hutchings, who had been in the spotlight since replacing Paul Jewell in June.

After Ipswich won 2-0 at Valley Parade, Richmond sat him down for a two-hour meeting and warned his job was on the line.

But the chairman had one possible “ace up his sleeve” in Stan Collymore, the controversial striker that City had tried to sign before he joined Leicester.

Collymore had fallen out with the Foxes and Richmond was able to swoop in a last-ditch bid to revive his manager's fortunes.

What bigger occasion to unveil their latest star name than a televised derby against Leeds?

The script was written and Collymore obliged with a stunning goal on his debut, firing home an overhead kick from Carbone’s cross.

Collymore being Collymore couldn’t resist the opportunity to taunt the away fans in the Bradford End as he celebrated.

The euphoria was short-lived. Leeds grabbed an equaliser and three days later, in a League Cup defeat at Newcastle, Collymore and Carbone were both benched at half-time.

The ice then collapsed beneath Hutchings’ feet when City were beaten 2-0 at Charlton.

Stuart McCall was sent off as frustration bubbled over. Collymore was not even in the squad after crying off to have his wisdom teeth removed.

Somebody at Liverpool warned Richmond that it was at least the third time he had used that excuse.

City were second from bottom – only Derby had started worse – with just seven points and five goals from the first dozen games.

The departure of Hutchings was inevitable but the decision still left Richmond with a pang of guilt.

Speaking a few years afterwards, he admitted: “One regret I will always have is whether I gave Chris Hutchings sufficient chance.

“The decision to get rid of him so soon still makes me feel uneasy. But the pressure was such – the games were ticking away and the points weren’t adding up.

“There was also a feeling in some of the games that the players weren’t playing for the manager and that is a sure sign of trouble.”

McCall was placed in temporary charge but made it clear that he was not interested in the job for real. He still wanted to focus on playing without any added burden.

McCall oversaw two defeats, the first to his old Rangers mentor Walter Smith as Everton pinched a painful late win at Valley Parade.

The second at Derby was watched in the stands by former Hearts boss Jim Jefferies, who was ready to be named as Hutchings' official successor.