Promotion to the Premier League, 1999


Published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Wimbledon 4th May, 2019


These artefacts are of a world long gone, dating back twenty years ago to 1999 when we contemplated a new adventure in the Premier League. It was the club’s greatest achievement since Glorious 1911 when the FA Cup had been won.

In the current circumstances it seems hard to imagine…


In recent issues of the Parader (LINKS FROM MENU ABOVE) I have featured a number of anniversaries that have fallen due this season. Ninety years ago, the club secured promotion back to Division Two in record-breaking fashion. It was all the more remarkable for the fact that twelve months’ previously a financial crisis had threatened the survival of Bradford City. The next notable anniversary was seventy years ago when the club finished bottom of Division Three (North) and was forced to apply for re-election. Once more the club had been weighed down by financial troubles and it was not until twenty years later that that there was something to celebrate. Fifty years ago, in 1968/69 came promotion from Division Four which was the club’s first success since 1929.

For most of the club’s existence there has been a struggle to remain solvent and, more often than not, there have been recurrent financial difficulties. Relegated from the first division in 1922 it seemed that the glory years were long gone and indeed, when Bradford City won promotion to the second division in 1985 it was the first time in 48 years that it had escaped the lower divisions.

Which brings us to the anniversary of our promotion to the Premier League in 1999, all the more poignant for the fact that we now find ourselves facing relegation from the third division. Our moment in the sun seems such a long time ago. For all our hope that the club’s fortunes would be transformed for the better, we find ourselves once more defined by failure.

38.1 lead image on first page of section

Twenty years ago, on 9th May 1999 it was such an immensely proud moment to witness the 3-2 victory at Wolverhampton that secured automatic promotion to the Premier League. For those who had followed the club in its dark days it was a genuinely satisfying moment and the experience of the Premier League during the next two seasons was indeed truly memorable.

Nevertheless, we have suffered a long hangover since with countless reminders that ours is not a club with a silver spoon in its mouth. The Bantams are neither fashionable nor media luvvies but we are fighters and no strangers to the struggle against adversity.

The club has defined itself through resilience and the fact that we don’t need the Premier League as the reason to support Bradford City is in my mind what distinguishes us. We therefore celebrate the historic achievement of promotion to the Premier League rather than mourn the fact that we could not sustain ourselves at that level. In the meantime we turn our attention to once more rebuilding and revitalising the club.

John Dewhirst

car stickers x_0002.jpg


Highly recommended this photo record of the first season in the Premier League: ‘Football Fans’ by Ian Beesley

The drop down menu above provides links to previous programme articles, archive images, book reviews and features on the history of Bradford sport that I have written. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.

I have written widely about the history of sport in Bradford: Links to my features on the history of Bradford sport

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst

Feedback welcome: You can contact me at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com

Thanks for visiting my blog and a special mention to the growing number of overseas visitors.
Published on PLAYING PASTS in Feb-19: Football clubs and how they fail. (I am presenting a paper on the same theme at the International Football History Conference in Manchester in June, 2019.)


Details here about the bantamspast History Revisited book series and the new book by Rob Grillo which can be ordered online – SUBSCRIBER DEADLINE 5th MAY: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

Late to the Game.jpg