July 2000: ZENIT ST PETERSBURG 1 (Tarasov 16) CITY 0

ACTOR Michael Forrest is the face of City’s “Take Me Home” video campaign.

The montage that launched this year’s season-ticket campaign has rightly earned accolades with Forrest taking the leading role of the long-term supporter who cannot wait to get back to Valley Parade.

His joy sums up the feeling of thousands of fans desperate to taste the atmosphere again after a season stuck in front of the telly.

But 21 years ago, there were just 12 of them – a small band who witnessed the Bantams play their first and only game in Russia.

At the start of another European tournament, we take a nostalgic look at City’s brief flirtation with football on the continent in the Intertoto Cup.

The much-derided competition – for all you youngsters, think EFL Trophy but played overseas – was seen by Geoffrey Richmond as the club’s passport to the European big time.

For the fans, it was a glorified booze cruise to far flung places that few had heard off.

FK Atlantas, RKC Waalwijk and – the big one – Zenit St Petersburg.

The home leg of the final qualifier, a chastening 3-0 loss in a Valley Parade deluge, is best remembered for a senior debut from the bench of Andrey Arshavin.

But it was the first game in Russia that remains a collector’s item for the dozen fortunate enough to have made the journey.

The draw had only taken place in the week before, leading to a mad scramble for visas from players and officials.

Supporter Mark Westmoreland knew Richmond and chief executive Shaun Harvey well and managed to get himself and good friend Forrest among the travelling City party.

“When we arrived in St Petersburg, the security and police was off the scale,” recalled Westmoreland.

“I think they were expecting Barcelona or Real Madrid not Bradford City!

“It was like they were expecting the prime minister on the journey from the airport to the hotel. Police car and bikes were jumping red lights.”

Westmoreland’s biggest memory of the hotel was switching on the TV news and watching footage of Concord crashing in Paris. The night out, including an interview with Sky Sports, remains distinctly more blurry.

Another liquid lunch followed on the day of the game at Richmond’s invitation before the well-oiled fans saw City put up a good show at the Petrovsky Stadium in front of a crowd of just 1,900 but go down 1-0 to Yevgeny Tarasov’s early goal.

Afterwards it was straight back to the airport and home, completing a whirlwind 36 hours of what proved to be the club’s final European tour.

Three second-half goals in a one-sided return fixture in West Yorkshire meant the passports were put back in the drawer for good.

In hindsight, entering a competition which involved bringing the players back for pre-season a month before everyone else was a questionable call – and one driven entirely by their chairman.

City ran out of steam a couple of months into their second Premier League season and hope of emulating the great escape of the previous year quickly drifted away.

But there will always be an element of “I was there” for the supporters who had followed the team to Lithuania, Holland and, for the fortunate few, to the north-west corner of Russia.

Isaiah Rankin can claim the trivia honour of being City’s first scorer in European competition with the opener in the 3-1 win over Atlantas in a concrete stadium in Klaipeda that resembled a throwback to the Cold War.

His goal also helped to silence the shameful racist abuse from some locals that tarnished the occasion. Dean Windass and Robbie Blake also netted after the break to make the home leg a formality – which City won 4-1 as Lee Mills (2), Gareth Grant and another Blake penalty sealed their comfortable progress.

Waalwijk, a week later, promised to be slightly more challenging in the next qualifying stage.

But a Windass double earned victory at Valley Parade before Mills netted a late goal to reward the travelling army in the Mandemakers Stadion in Holland.

Then Zenit came knocking, a step-up in quality that would see Chris Hutchings suffer the first defeats of what would be a brief hot-seat tenure.

Aston Villa, the Premiership’s other representative, fell at the same stage to Celta Vigo – who then edged past Zenit to clinch a place in the actual UEFA Cup.

It was a convoluted process that cluttered pre-season and did City few favours in the long run.

But try telling that to the elite few who lived it up as kings for the day in St Petersburg.

ZENIT: Malafeev, Zvetkov, Katulsky, Nedorezov, Osipov, Horshkov (Gorovo 76i), Igonin, Spivak, Kobelev (Ugarov 67), Popovich, Tarasov.

CITY: Davison, Nolan, O’Brien, Atherton, Myers, Sharpe, Hopkin (Whalley 86), McCall, Windass, Saunders, Mills.