THE official record states that there were just 12 City supporters who watched the club’s only appearance in Russia 20 years ago.

But that does not include the St Petersburg resident witnessing his team on “home” soil against Zenit.

That Intertoto Cup outing in August 2000 was the first time that Dmitry Nechiporenko had clapped eyes on the English club he had taken a shine to after seeing Stuart McCall net a late equaliser against Tottenham on Russian TV 11 months earlier.

“I did not know then that Stuart was such a big player for Bradford,” he said. “I searched him before and saw he was in the Scotland national side.

“But it was only after that I learned he had such a big influence on the club and how important he was for the city. He was the captain and would then become the manager pretty regularly!”

Nechiporenko remembered the Intertoto draw and realising that if City got past Dutch side RKC Waalwijk, they would be heading for his Russian doorstep. His dream had come true.

His relationship with the club quickly developed as he met the travelling fans and directors. It was difficult for him to work out who was who – apart from the imposing figure of chairman Geoffrey Richmond.

“I know he made mistakes but I could tell at that moment 20 years ago that he really had a passion for the club.

“What happened with him was not like some investors who maybe just focused on the money. For Geoffrey, I think his mistakes were down to being too ambitious

“He maybe tried to do things too fast but I don’t blame him for that.”

Bitten by the Bantams bug, Nechiporenko made his first journey to Bradford two years later. McCall was in the Sheffield United side that he watched score five on his maiden visit to Valley Parade.

But the warmth of the welcome stuck with the Russian, who got to three games at the time.

He would be back a decade on for City’s historic Wembley date in the Capital One Cup final – an appearance that earned Nechiporenko some notoriety as local media clamoured to interview a fan with club connections.

He also took in three more matches post-Swansea against the less high-profile opposition Dagenham, York and Port Vale.

“I think Stephen Darby played on the left side for the Dagenham one but maybe I’m wrong,” he recalled.

“But the strangest thing for me was going to York less than a week after Wembley. It was very different.

“But I thought the atmosphere at York was better. They were not a big rival but neighbours nevertheless and to hear the noise at this small stadium and feel it was very good.

“When City got to the League Cup final, the Russian media wanted to know a lot about them. It was building up after we had beaten Arsenal.

“I know how it works but I would prefer they had done the same when we got to the (play-off) final against Northampton some months later. But they weren’t interested then!”

A former sports journalist himself, Nechiporenko moved into an agent role and then started working directly for clubs.

He could not come back over for City’s return to Wembley in 2017 because he was busy as a scout for Krasnodar and is currently employed in a scouting role with FK RFS, the cup holders in Latvia.

Knowing more how football operates, Nechiporenko thought the arrival of Edin Rahic would be a good thing for City. He admits he got it wrong.

“I felt it was a good idea. Many investors come in and don’t care about the club and community but I thought that German people are different.

“I think that Stefan Rupp is okay but he couldn’t control everything from Germany. He left too many things for Edin and he didn’t have any control.

“Now they are trying to get things back to normal after Edin which isn’t easy. But at least he didn’t kill the club.”

With McCall back at the helm for a third time, Nechiporenko has faith in his first City hero leading the rebuild once the coronavirus pandemic subsides sufficiently for some sense of normality to return.

“Stuart is the best man to have in charge now,” he said. “I know he also made some mistakes before but I feel he is special for the club.

“He is someone who gives 100 per cent every day in everything he does, whether it is on the training pitch working with the players or during the game.

“But he needs to have the full support of the owner and the fans. We know that he can build a good side.

“Very often in football, there is big pressure on managers and they need to think too much about their job. I hope he will have the support to make a good team for some years."