Triumph and Tragedy
The title says it all really. A period of increasing success on the field of play including promotions, a Wembley appearance and culminating in a return to the top division of English football. However, the horrific events of May 11th 1985 cast a shadow across the community and around the world.
1 Triumph and Tragedy - 1980 to 1985
Despite the brief highlight of the Liverpool cup-tie, it seemed that the 1980s were destined to follow the same depressing scenario of previous decades. However, at the lowest ebb there came a glimmer of hope.
The visit of Hereford to Valley Parade for the final game of 1980-81 attracted City's lowest ever attendance of 1,249. Among the spartan crowd was Roy McFarland, who was poised to become City's manager. Under his charismatic leadership City romped to promotion from Division Four in 1982. Though McFarland left the following season in highly controversial circumstances, the foundations had been set for a decade of relative success. However, barely had new manager Trevor Cherry settled into the Valley Parade hot seat, than City were facing extinction when the club's finances imploded in the summer of 1983. Thanks to the leadership of Stafford Heginbotham and Jack Tordoff - as well as significant donations from supporters - the club was saved with barely four hours to spare.
It was a heady mix for City fans weaned on decades of failure. Sadly, the return to Division Two, after a 48-year absence, was to be overshadowed by a tragedy that would resound around the globe.
2 Bradford's Bouncing Back! - 1986 to 1990
The circumstances behind the transformation would never be forgotten, but the feeling of a new era was almost tangible. Though Trevor Cherry was controversially sacked soon after the return to Valley Parade, his successor, Bradford-born Terry Dolan, turned the fortunes of the club around and City retained their Second Division status with a dramatic late burst.
The following season City came within one point of promotion to the top flight. It seemed at the time that the momentum built up in the wake of the fire had reached its peak. To recover from the aftermath of the fire disaster, build a virtually new stadium and then come within an ace of the First Division was truly remarkable.
Though City were relegated back into Division Three in 1990, something had changed within the club. A watershed had been overcome and though the fans were downhearted by the tactics employed during and after relegation, they still believed that a brighter future was possible.
The 1980s had brought triumph and tragedy to the club, but the decade had also seen the emergence of a remarkable spirit that was to serve the club well in the following decade.
3 The 1990's
“Blackpool Tower’s a mile down the road, but the Twin Towers are beckoning now!”Chris Cooper, The Pulse commentary at Blackpool, 1996
Apart from the erection of the two-tier stand at the Bradford End in 1991, the first four years of the decade were unremarkable. The arrival of new chairman Geoffrey Richmond in 1994 turned the club on its head. At a supporters' forum Richmond said: 'Let them laugh, but within five years this club will be in the Premier League'. Laugh the fans did.
As the 1995-96 season began to draw to a close, Richmond sacked his second manager in as many years and installed Chris Kamara. It was an inspired move. Kamara's side charged from midtable to grasp the final play-off place on a breathless last day of the season.
In the play-off semi-final City lost the first leg at home to Blackpool 2-0. All the hard work seemed to have been undone with one poor performance, a large support travelled over the Pennines more in hope than expectation. Even the Blackpool programme had Wembley travel details in anticipation of their appearance in the play-off final. Kamara used the programme in his team talk.
The following season was a fight for survival. On election night in May 1997 the nation waited to see whether Tony Blair's Labour party could seize power. In Bradford attention was also on the result from Valley Parade, where City had to win a game in hand to stand any chance of survival. Win they did in a heart-stopping game, but it was by a single goal and the visitors Charlton twice struck the woodwork in the space of a few agonising seconds. The final day brought QPR to Valley Parade, with City knowing a win would secure their First Division status. In the event the Bantams strolled to a relatively easy 3-0 victory and relegation was avoided.
If all this excitement wasn't enough, a few weeks earlier Her Majesty the Queen had officially opened the new Midland Road stand.
Wembley, First Division status, Royal visits - it was an amazing change of fortune for the club. Who could have predicted that even greater feats were to follow!