Who Put The Ball In The Mackems’ Net…
Writing about the new connection between the Toon and one of the other teams I follow closely (Lancaster city) last week got me thinking about the intricacies of the sport and how almost any two clubs can be connected in some way.
For my sins I spent two years living with a Bradford city fan at university which led to many conversations in various Lancashire watering holes about football in general and our teams in particular.
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On the face of it we didn’t seem to have much in common, Bradford currently reside in league 2 (although will be visiting Wembley this month for the play-off final) with an average attendance of 10,502. So what connects these two very different teams from different areas in the country, three divisions apart?
Well, the first and perhaps most obvious is derby hero Andy O’Brien who was signed by Bobby Robson from Bradford in 2001 and emulated namesake Liam by putting the ball in the Mackem net. Unfortunately for my housemate this led to numerous loud renditions of said song at the expense of any further civilised conversation and so was actively avoided from a very early stage in the friendship!
Another player to represent both teams is Curtis Good who, despite not dirtying his boots for the Toon yet, has played 9 times on Loan for Bradford this season and picked up a runners-up medal in the league cup final at Wembley in Feb.
A look into the history books reveals Newcastle play an important part in the FA cup history of Bradford City for two very different reasons. We provided the cup final opposition for their only success in the competition as far back as 1911. A 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace was followed up with a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford four days later (surely I can’t be alone in hating that ground for reasons beyond mere jealousy!). We also handed them their heaviest defeat in the competition when we met in 1963. A 6-1 away win for the lads in the 3rd round (these days we can barely score 6 away from home all season!). More recently, we met Bradford on our cup run to Wembley in 1999, madman Ruud Gullit managing us to a 3-0 victory before completely losing the plot a few months later.
In the premiership the two sides have met on four different occasions, my abiding memory of these fixtures is Gary Speed scoring a sweetly hit volley at the Leazes end in December 2000, one of the few good memories of a particularly frustrating season. Perhaps the most dramatic encounter between the sides came in the league cup in the same year. United racing into a 3 goal lead with Shearer in particularly devastating form before allowing the Bantams to inexplicably claw that deficit back only for Steven Caldwell to score the winner on his debut, why can’t anything be simple in and around St James’ Park eh?!
Living outside of the North-East has meant that I now have friends who support many different teams. I’m often found following Birmingham city, Liverpool, Man City, Morecambe, Blackburn, Preston, Stoke, Leeds and even Sunderland….
I’m looking forward to picking their brains about the connections over the years with Newcastle and any memories they may have of matches between the two sides as well as their feeling towards the club as an outsider. Well, any excuse for a pint!
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