Premier League Career: Bradford City (1999-2001)
Having made a staggering 763 league appearances in his career, there isn’t much that Stuart McCall hasn’t achieved in his footballing life. He has played in the Premier League, represented Scotland at two major international tournaments and is now back at Bradford City as manager, aiming to guide the Bantams out of League One.
It is the club McCall will always claim to be his home, having made his professional debut with Bradford back in 1982. His first spell with the Yorkshire team ended in 1988, appearing 238 times and being appointed club captain at just the age of 21 during that time. He won promotion to Division Two in 1985 but that was overshadowed by the horrific fire at Valley Parade when the main stand was engulfed by flames on the final day of the season. McCall’s father sustained serious burns in the blaze.
He joined Everton for £850,000 in June 1988 after getting frustrated with a lack of ambition at Bradford. He scored twice in the 1989 FA Cup final against Liverpool FC but Ian Rush’s own double ensured the trophy would return to Anfield after a 3-2 victory. Unfortunately, he had joined Everton at a time where their decline was starting to emerge and that near-miss in the FA Cup final was the closest he would get to winning silverware on Merseyside. In 1991, he moved to Scottish football, joining Rangers and he would spend seven wonderful seasons at Ibrox. This came at a time when Rangers were the dominant force in Scotland. McCall won six successive league titles, three Scottish Cups and two League Cups in a glorious spell where he was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.
Although he had one more year on his deal in Glasgow, new Rangers manager Dick Advocaat allowed McCall to leave on a free transfer in the summer of 1998 and he would ultimately return to Bradford and as club captain too. His inspired performances in the centre of midfield would win him the club’s Player of the Year award and a final day victory at Molineux over Wolverhampton Wanderers would seal a surprise promotion to the Premier League.
McCall’s experience would be essential in 1999-2000 if Bradford were to avoid an immediate relegation. He helped the club claim 26 of their 36 points at Valley Parade, including a late 93rd-minute equaliser at home to Tottenham Hotspur. By now, he was already showing an interest in coaching. After Paul Jewell’s resignation shortly after the season ended, he was appointed assistant manager to Chris Hutchings. When Hutchings was sacked in November 2000, he even had a couple of games in caretaker charge before Jim Jefferies was appointed as Hutchings’ successor. Bradford were relegated with just 26 points and he even had a fight with teammate Andy Myers on the pitch during a 6-1 defeat to Leeds United which went unpunished by the club.
McCall was released by Bradford in May 2002 and he would play another 71 league matches for Sheffield United over the next two seasons. He retired just a few weeks before his 41st birthday in 2005. At international level, he won 40 caps for Scotland and played at Italia 90 and EURO 96, scoring in a group stage victory over Sweden in the former competition. He retired in 1998 after being left out of the squad for the World Cup finals in France.
He stayed with the Blades’ after retirement and became Neil Warnock’s assistant manager, leaving in 2007 after Warnock’s resignation following their crushing relegation from the Premier League. His first managerial post was at Bradford in 2007, and he also spent four years as boss of Motherwell. He returned to Valley Parade for a second managerial spell in 2016 after Phil Parkinson’s departure for Bolton Wanderers. He only narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship in his first season back in May 2017, losing the play-off final to Millwall.
Stuart McCall was a player with plenty of heart and determination to succeed. He also seems to have plenty of commitment as a manager and will be hoping to get Bradford into the Championship at the end of the 2017-2018 campaign.