Who Are These Jobbers?
The idea of a John Dreyer goal preventing Sunderland from qualifying for Europe feels very much a flight of fantasy. It is one of those Twilight Zone episodes where nothing is quite what it seems and Bradford City manage to quell a rampaging Sunderland’s venture on foreign soil. However, in the spring of 2000 this is exactly what happened.
Dreyer’s bundled finish meant The Lads missed out on European qualification on goal difference - it also helped to ensure The Bantams would stay in the Premiership (look it up, kids) for another season. For many of us, football stopped after the 1999/2000 season. We were all happy. Unfortunately, the rest of the world insisted that football had to continue.
This was not only bad news for Sunderland - who would be back in the second tier within three years - but also for our Bradfordian counterparts. After their brief stint in the Intertoto Cup - beating Lithuania’s FK Atlantas and Dutch side RKC Waalwijk before being dumped out by Zenit St Petersburg - they... wait, a minute.
Bradford City played Zenit St Petersburg in a European fixture? The Zenit St Petersburg?! Huh, turns out they did and here is the grainy footage from what appears to be recorded on a Soviet-era microfilm.
After that jaunt to Eastern Europe, they were unceremoniously relegated to oblivion, surfacing in League Two just seven years later. It wasn’t until the 2012/13 season when they clambered out of the fourth tier, combining it with an incredible League Cup run. Dispatching of Watford, Arsenal and Aston Villa en route to the final where they were rightfully bodied 5-0 by Swansea City.
The Bantams are just the latest opponent in this godforsaken league to tell us tales of boom and bust. They are now under the stewardship of David Hopkin after Sunderland managerial legend Simon Grayson bottled it and left in the summer. They lost all but one of their pre-season friendlies including a 7-2 bodying by Harrogate Town and have continued this form into the new season.
So, as long as that pesky John Dreyer doesn’t want to ruin this one for us we should be alright.
What’s The Ground Like?
While yer da has been busy extolling the virtues of why League One presents us with opportunity of visiting some “proper football grounds”, it has thus far been a collection of glorified playing fields - an addition to a retail park and whatever the hell the Ricoh Arena was. Bradford’s Valley Parade, however, presents us with a traditional stadium with none of the detractors that come from our third-tier away trips.
The Bantams’ home since 1903 affords a sizeable away allocation, is within walking distance from the city centre, and contains a well-established passionate group of supporters. The legacy of Bradford’s stint in the Premier League is visible in the enormous Main and Kop Stand while the Midland Road and TL Dallas Stands are a nod to a simpler footballing time.
Valley Parade has tended to conjure pleasant memories for Sunderland supporters, from Niall Quinn keeping a clean sheet in the pouring rain, Elvis bowing before Kevin Phillips in the winter of 2000, to Julio Arca running the entire length of the pitch before rattling in another for Mick McCarthy’s gorgeous boys.
There was, of course, that time Jon Stead knocked us out of the FA Cup while playing on a ploughed field and Gus Poyet seemed to think it was somehow the supporters’ fault. But hey, that wasn’t Valley Parade’s fault.
Sunderland supporters are housed in both the TL Dallas Stand behind the goal and a section of the Midland Road Stand along the side of the pitch.
How Do I Get There?
How refreshing it is to have a game where we don’t have to rise in the cover of darkness. There’s no need to rush - take your time, make yourself a hearty breakfast, maybe even have a walk down the seafront as Bradford is only a two-and-a-bit-hour’s drive away.
The journey to Valley Parade is relatively straightforward. Take the A19 and subsequent A168 to junction 49 exiting for the A1 (M). Leave at junction 47 onto the A59 which will then merge in the A658 and follow this past Leeds-Bradford Airport heading towards Bradford. Take a right at the Victoria Hotel onto Norman Lane before reaching King’s Road, take a right onto Queen’s Road then a left on Manningham Lane and the ground is on your left hand side.
There is street parking available around the ground and, as always, if you get lost type BD8 7DY into your sat nav.
For those Massive Lads Fans travelling by train, Bradford is served by both Bradford Interchange and Bradford Forster Square stations. The pair are accessible from Leeds but be aware that for the 745th consecutive Saturday there is a Northern Rail strike affecting routes across Yorkshire.
As such, the last train between Bradford and Leeds is 6.30pm.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 10am with return fares priced at £25. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Stop it. I know what you’re thinking and as tempting as it is, resist the urge to spend your pre-match in the bourgeois city in Leeds. If this is our state of mind then are we any better than those visiting supporters that prefer to drink in Newcastle rather than travelling through to Sunderland? Come on, we’re better than that.
Besides, Bradford has a pretty decent selection of pubs to enjoy some light refreshment before this piping hot League One clash. Like a mirage shimmering off the water of the Mirror Pool in Centenary Square - a short walk from Bradford Interchange - is The Turls Green, Bradford’s premier Wetherspoons outlet.
However, if you consider yourself a cultural connoisseur then there is plenty of places for you to get your ale snob hat on. A relatively new addition to Bradford’s bar scene is Sunbridge Wells, a former air raid shelter converted into a bar and restaurant emporium including Wallers Brewery, a gin bar and Sunbridge Sports Bar if you like your pre-match with a slice of elegance.
West Yorkshire is never going to let you down when it comes to real ale and The Sparrow on North Parade, the Corn Dolly on Bolton Road and Jacobs Ale House on Kent Street can satisfy all your malty needs. Closer to the ground, The Bradford Arms on Manningham Lane is a welcoming venue for away supporters.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
There may come a point in your Saturday afternoon when you momentarily forget about the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport’s dispute with Northern Rail. This point may be around 6.30pm when you’re stood outside Bradford Interchange, looking on with a state of bemusement as the last train pulls away into the distance.
You’ve done it. You’ve got yourself stuck in Bradford. Never fear as there is plenty to do in the first UNESCO City of Film to keep you entertained.
*furiously checks through notes*
Okay, it seems like there isn’t much happening events-wise in Bradford on Saturday evening. Instead, why not indulge in the one thing this city does better than anywhere else in the UK - curry. Bradford has a huge amount of stellar curry houses serving delicious dishes, but which one is the best?
Among the contenders is Bharat on Great Horton Road which was bestowed with a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2014 and has an absolutely banging Kurchi lamb. There is also Kipling’s on Harrogate Road which has appeared at the Best of Britain Awards thanks to its much-lauded Persian-influenced specials such as tandoori king prawns and chicken shashlik. However, if you prefer Pakistani dishes then MyLahore, also on Great Horton Road, is the way to go.
If you’re taking the kids then the National Science and Media Museum and Bradford Industrial Museum are pretty decent if you want to have that educational Sunday afternoon out.