Goalscorer: David Wetherall 12
Bradford City: Matt Clarke, John Dreyer, Gunnar Halle, Andy O’Brien, David Wetherall, Jamie Lawrence, Stuart McCall, Lee Sharpe, Peter Beagrie (Wayne Jacobs 81), Dean Saunders (Isaiah Rankin 78), Dean Windass
Liverpool FC: Sander Westerveld, Jamie Carragher, Stephane Henchoz, Sami Hyypia, Dominic Matteo (Erik Meijer 82), Dietmar Hamann, Jamie Redknapp, Steven Gerrard (Vladimir Smicer 61), Patrik Berger (Titi Camara 61), Emile Heskey, Michael Owen
Referee: Dermot Gallagher, Attendance: 18,276
Tipped by many to go straight back down after promotion to the Premier League, Bradford City went into the final day of the 1999-2000 season still with a fighting chance of survival. However, they had to win against Liverpool FC who were chasing a UEFA Champions League qualification spot. Even a win might not be enough if Wimbledon got all three points in a simultaneous kick-off at The Dell against Southampton.
Before kick-off, both teams paid their respects to the 56 victims of the fire at Valley Parade 15 years earlier. From the outset, the Bantams put Liverpool under early pressure and they grabbed a vital lead in the 12th minute. From a free-kick on the left-hand side, David Wetherall escaped some pretty slack marking from Liverpool defenders and planted a powerful header into the back of the visitors’ net.
Gerard Houllier’s side had failed to score in their last four matches and were playing in the first half like a side that had lost any confidence in shooting, let alone scoring. Nevertheless, they nearly equalised when Michael Owen raced clear of the defenders from Emile Heskey’s flick-on and rounded goalkeeper Matt Clarke. However, his effort was cleared off the goal-line by Gunnar Halle, who had played a key part in Oldham’s dramatic final day escape seven years earlier.
The Valley Parade crowd was in party mood which increased further when Wayne Bridge scored a free-kick on the south coast to put Southampton ahead against Wimbledon. Having been the more attacking side in the first half, the Yorkshire side had to focus on heroic defending efforts in the second half. Owen clipped an effort just wide of the post as news came through Southampton had doubled their lead through Marian Pahars. With the Saints doing their bit, the main question now was whether Bradford could hold on. Dean Windass, whose goals recently had given Bradford a fighting chance of beating the drop, nearly caught Sander Westerveld out with a long-range lob from distance. The goalkeeper just recovered in-time to tip his effort over the crossbar.
There was a minor pitch invasion when fans mistakenly thought the full-time whistle had been blown early by referee Dermot Gallagher but moments later, he did blow and the fans could race onto the field to celebrate their unlikely but deserved survival. Champagne corks starting popping in the home dressing room as Bradford players celebrated their remarkable achievement. Manager Paul Jewell sadly left the club a few weeks’ later after disagreements with the owner and took the vacancy at relegated Sheffield Wednesday.
Relegation did follow in 2001 but this was a momentous day in the history of Bradford City Football Club. Liverpool’s defeat meant they finished fourth and were pipped to Champions League qualification by Leeds United.