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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 13:09 GMT
Bradford pull off great escape
Bradford City
Bradford celebrate Premiership survival
It truly was a 'great escape' when Bradford City somehow avoided relegation from the Premiership on the final day of the 1999/2000 campaign.

Victory at home against Liverpool was enough to condemn Wimbledon to the First Division. Against all the odds, the Bantams survived to fight another day.

While City ran out 1-0 winners over the Merseysiders, relegation rivals Wimbledon slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Southampton. The results combined were enough to save the west Yorkshire club.

The result sparked off emotional scenes at Valley Parade and the win was dedicated to 56 fans who died in the fire at the ground 15 years earlier.

Manager Paul Jewell said: "Last year we dedicated promotion to those people who lost their lives and it's a honour to dedicate Premiership survival to them.

No sympathy

"I have no sympathy for Wimbledon. I don't mean to be nasty but it's about us. It's a great achievement but it's not just about today, it's about all season long. I'm pleased for all the squad, everybody has played their part."

Chairman Geoffrey Richmond was also emotional after referee Dermot Gallagher blew the final whistle and City were staying up.

He said: "You are not going to get a lot of sense from me. Today was not about money. It was about pride and passion and the supporters.


Paul Jewell
Paul Jewell saved Bantams from drop
"Before a ball was kicked we were favourites for relegation, many saying we would be down by Christmas," he recalled.

Bradford went into the first season back in the top-flight for 72 years as an unknown quantity - though they did have a number of experienced players who had played at such a high level.

City won their first ever Premiership game with a goal a minute from time on the opening day of the season at Middlesbrough.

But successive defeats at Watford, Arsenal and West Ham left Bradford 18th in the table and facing up to the stark realities of life among the big boys.

City were still 18th in January but wins over Watford and Arsenal gave them hope before an amazing 5-4 defeat at West Ham. A dreadful run of six straight defeats was halted in April by a 4-4 draw against Derby.

Cliffhanger

Just as City looked certain to fail, wins at Sunderland and crucially at home against Wimbledon gave them renewed hope only for them to lose 2-0 in their penultimate match against Leicester.

That set up the cliff-hanger finish which meant victory over Liverpool was imperative to their slender survival chances. The rest, as they say, is history.

Off the field, and Bradford were also planning for near-term expansion to boost their capacity from the existing 18,276.

A 7.5m redevelopment programme of the Sunwin Stand is underway and when it is completed early in 2001 will increase the stadium capacity to 25,000.

City will hope that despite the shock summer loss of manager Jewell, his former assistant Chris Hutchings will be able to carry on the good work and again prevent relegation out of the Premiership.

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See also:

22 Jun 00 |  FA Carling Premiership
Hutchings appointed new Bantams boss
22 Jun 00 |  Football
Premier League fixtures
14 May 00 |  FA Carling Premiership
Premiership clockwatch
14 May 00 |  FA Carling Premiership
Two into one must go
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