What do I remember most about University? Manchester United's Paul Scholes scoring a stunning goal against Bradford City. I expected that I would drift through education and end up at a respectable red-brick University, and whilst I doubted I would make Oxford, I thought Leeds or Bath would be relatively simple to get into. The reality was of course different and after a couple of years spending more time in smoke filled snooker clubs than at college I failed badly and my only options were Coventry or Bradford. I had 12 terrible hours to decide.
I had never been to either city but remembered a comment made to me many years before, that Lady Godiva rode through the streets of Coventry as “it was a bloody s***-hole, and you might as well”. Furthermore, in my childhood the threat of “being sent to Coventry” was on my punishment tree above “being sent to my room” but just short of “being sent to work on an oil rig”. So Bradford it was and I drove up there with a car full of my belongings to see it for the first time in 1997. In reality Bradford was also a s***-hole, but a good s***-hole, my s***-hole, and I grew quickly to love it there.
As a football fan I lucked out massively and Bradford were promoted into The Premiership in 1999. I got my hands on a season ticket and saw all of the games people remember: The one where Ledley King scored after 7 seconds, the one where David Wetherall scored the winner for Bradford on the last day to beat Liverpool and keep them up, the 2-1 victory over Arsenal and, most incredibly, the Paul Scholes volley from the corner.
David Beckham punched a corner to the edge of the area, very deliberately, and out of nowhere flew (jumped like a fat bloke) a Ginger Ninja to volley the ball through a mass of players and into the top right hand corner. In the days before WTF I leapt off my seat and shouted the unabbreviated version.
Man U took the piss that day and still won easily. It was Saturday 25th March 2000 and as the teams trotted out to “The Theme from The A Team” all the commentators had on their minds was which lame keeper would United play. These were the times post Schmeichel and in the era of Massimo Taibi – you know, the one who was bought as the Number 1, f***** up in his 4th game and never played for United again. That day Sir Alex, or Alex as he was then, picked Mark Bosnich but Bosso didn’t come out to warm up and I can only assume was in the car park picking up some Charlie for after the game. Instead, to my utter amazement, during the warm up Dwight Yorke went in goal and decided that he wouldn’t use his hands.
Instead Scholes and Beckham pinged shots at goal and Yorkie tried to stop them with overhead kicks. It was lunacy and showed what they thought of The Bantams. I was secretly torn between thinking it was brilliant and hoping he broke his wrist as I imagined I would hear the bollocking he would get in the changing room from my seat near the half way line. By the way, the fact that I was sat near the half way line doesn’t in any way mean I was trying to be posh but rather the lady who sold me the season ticket in the summer was due to go on a break when I got to the front of the queue and I agreed to wait whilst she ate her fish butty in exchange for a good seat. What I was supposed to do instead is still beyond me, but it worked and that was all I cared about!
Into the game and United were on cruise control. Peter Beagrie, Dean Saunders and Dean Windass were running around like they were 17, but they weren’t 17, so after 50 minutes they were shagged and had to stop and just walk about. And then, In the 71st minute, I saw the only goal I have ever seen which got a standing ovation from the opposition crowd.
David Beckham punched a corner to the edge of the area, very deliberately, and out of nowhere flew (jumped like a fat bloke) a Ginger Ninja to volley the ball through a mass of players and into the top right hand corner. In the days before WTF I leapt off my seat and shouted the unabbreviated version and turned to see all the Bradford players on their feet clapping the goal. This was, and I imagine will be, the only time I have seen such a moment.
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