No transfers were made either in or out, Paul Jewell was still the manager, the ownership remained the same, only thing that was different was the big bastard stadium that Bradford City would now compete in. The promised £500m investment was half gone. The pre-qualifier against Trabzonspor was navigated and Feyenoord, Auxerre and Borussia Dortmund awaited in the first group stage. A last matchday loss at home to Dortmund saw Bradford stutter to second place after topping the group on every previous matchday.
City’s faltering 2-2 draw at newly-promoted Grimsby Town left them in third place whilst the second group stage of the Champions League awaited. 1860 Munich, Valencia and Manchester United. Bradford won their first FA Cup game as a Premier League side, a 4-1 win at Halifax Town but Everton would eventually knock Bradford out. The other cup competition – the big one, the Champions League – would boil down to two legs against Manchester United after they had progressed ahead of them in the second group stage. Juventus were humiliated 6-2 on aggregate in the quarter finals.
Much was said ahead of the semi-final two-legged affair about Bradford and Man Utd’s previous two-legged semi just four months after United’s 4-3 aggregate win in the League Cup semi-final. United scored four goals in the Champions League semi but this time without reply. They were on their way to a third successive European final whilst Bradford had just the league to fight for.
City went undefeated from New Year’s Day in the league until April Fools’ Day, both at home, to Everton and to Manchester United. By the end of April, just four points were in it between three teams. Arsenal led United by one and Bradford by four. A 1-0 win v Wimbledon took Bradford to within three points due to Arsenal’s loss at home to Manchester United. Unfortunately, a draw at Portman Road to Ipswich Town was sandwiched in between the all-important European semi-finals, Bradford were out of the title race. Third place was consolidated but the gap was closed to the top teams in the land.
2-0 Manchester City Ronaldo 2 PL [A]
3-1 Trabzonspor Beckham, Denilson, Ronaldo CL [A]
2-1 Middlesbrough Owen, Ronaldo PL [H]
3-0 Watford Owen 2, Ronaldo PL [A]
1-2 Arsenal Ronaldo PL [A] 6th
4-2 Trabzonspor Beckham, Denilson, Ronaldo 2 CL [H]
2-2 West Ham United Ronaldo, Giggs PL [H]
1-1 Tottenham Hotspur Owen PL [H]
3-0 Feyenoord Kewell, Beckham, Owen CL [H]
2-2 Aston Villa Owen, Ronaldo PL [A]
2-1 Auxerre Ronaldo, Owen CL [H]
1-0 Derby County Ronaldo PL [A] 7th
0-1 Borussia Dortmund CL [A]
3-0 Norwich City Ronaldo, Owen 2 PL [H]
4-2 Sheffield Wednesday Ronaldo 2, Owen, Denilson LC [A]
2-2 Wimbledon Ronaldo, Owen PL [A]
3-2 Feyenoord Ronaldo 2, Beckham CL [A]
2-1 Ipswich Town Denilson, Owen PL [H] 5th
2-1 Auxerre Ronaldo, Owen CL [A]
3-2 Leeds United Owen 2, Ronaldo PL [A]
1-2 Borussia Dortmund Ronaldo CL [H]
2-1 Coventry City Owen, Ronaldo PL [H]
2-2 Grimsby Town Giggs, Ronaldo PL [A] 3rd
3-1 1860 Munich Owen 3 CL [A]
2-2 Chelsea Owen, Denilson PL [A]
3-0 Manchester City Owen 2, Heskey LC [A]
2-1 Manchester City Owen, Denilson PL [H]
2-3 Valencia Ronaldo, Heskey CL [A]
4-1 Halifax Town Owen 2, Ronaldo 2 FA [A]
2-1 Charlton Athletic Owen 2 LC [H]
1-1 Manchester United Ronaldo PL [H]
2-0 Liverpool Owen, Ronaldo PL [A] 3rd
0-2 Everton PL [H]
3-3 Newcastle United Ronaldo 2, Heskey PL [A]
1-3 Everton Owen FA [H]
2-2 Manchester United Ronaldo, Denilson LC [A]
2-1 Middlesbrough Ronaldo, Denilson PL [A]
2-1 Watford Ronaldo 2 PL [H] 3rd
1-2 Manchester United Owen LC [H]
2-2 Chelsea Ronaldo 2 PL [H]
1-1 Arsenal Owen PL [H]
3-0 West Ham United Beckham, Denilson, Ronaldo PL [A] 3rd
3-0 Aston Villa Ronaldo 2, Beckham PL [H]
1-1 Manchester United Denilson CL [H]
3-2 Tottenham Hotspur Beckham, Owen, Heskey PL [A]
2-0 1860 Munich Owen, Ronaldo CL [H]
3-1 Grimsby Town Ronaldo 2, Owen PL [H]
2-1 Valencia Denilson, Ronaldo CL [H]
3-1 Coventry City Beckham, Ronaldo, Heskey PL [A]
2-0 Manchester United Ronaldo, Scholes CL [A]
1-1 Liverpool Ronaldo PL [H] 3rd
0-2 Manchester United PL [A]
4-1 Juventus Owen 3, Ronaldo CL [A]
2-1 Newcastle United Heskey 2 PL [H]
1-2 Everton Ronaldo PL [A]
2-1 Juventus Ronaldo 2 CL [H]
4-1 Derby County Ronaldo 2, Denilson 2 PL [H]
2-1 Norwich City Denilson 2 PL [A]
1-0 Wimbledon Owen PL [H]
0-2 Manchester United CL [A]
2-2 Ipswich Town Beckham, Owen PL [A]
0-2 Manchester United CL [H]
3-1 Leeds United Owen 3 PL [H]
The transfer tactic had changed. Nine players came in, four from Arsenal and five from Manchester United. Bradford were now poaching from their rivals. Eight names left the club, recuperating a fair amount of money due to big sales of Nicolas Anelka and Harry Kewell. Again, an early season league loss to Arsenal stunted Bradford a little but the pre-qualifier against Olympiakos saw them into a first stage group with Arsenal, Real Madrid and Feyenoord.
Despite a win in the Bernabeu, two late winners home and away from Arsenal’s Dennis Bergkamp left City five points adrift with two games to play as well as Arsenal and Real to play at Highbury. A second half turnaround at home secured a double over Real Madrid. Then it was Feyenoord at the same time the qualified Arsenal travelled to the Bernabeu. City needed an Arsenal win or a draw and a thrashing of their own in the Netherlands. City racked up the goals, 2 from Ronaldo, 1 from Owen. Whispers of rumoured results from Spain, anything but a Real Madrid win. Arsenal rolled over 4-1 – it was to be a return to the UEFA Cup. Galling, as the points tally would’ve seen us through in two other groups.
We were now staring at Rosenborg in the UEFA Cup and due to our European exploits, we had fallen eight points behind runaway leaders Coventry City. A hangover after the European exit at Highfield Road wasn’t there – a Ronaldo winner. 5 points behind the leaders with 13 played. A surge for the title was being felt in Yorkshire. Not so much in Leeds or Sheffield Wednesday but it was palpable in Bradford. We were done at the first stage of the League Cup by Fulham but got to the quarter finals of UEFA Cup, beaten by Juventus and then in the FA Cup semi-final by Manchester United.
So there we sat with one possibly trophy to go for in the middle of April. We were nine points, sitting back in fourth behind Arsenal with six games to go. Newcastle, Man Utd, Liverpool, Coventry and Leeds all fruitlessly attempted to battle for the title, with their eyes mainly on Champions League football. Unfortunately, Arsenal kept on winning, as Bradford did, but it made the nine-point deficit unattainable. Champions League football for 2003/04 was confirmed on the final day with a point at Elland Road. City would end up five points adrift and the lowest number of losses as Newcastle stole the Premier League title on the last day.
Thierry Henry, Marc Overmars, Nwankwo Kanu, Patrick Vieira (£78.4m combined – Arsenal), Roy Keane, Ole Solskjaer, Phil Neville, Jaap Stam, Ronny Johnsen (£47.8m combined – Man Utd)
Nicolas Anelka (£14.7m – Lazio), Damien Duff (£2.5m – Barnsley), Xavi, William Gallas (£11m combined – Southampton), Igor Tudor (£7.6m – Deportivo), Alessandro Nesta (£5.9m – Tottenham), Dejan Stankovic (£6.9m – Newcastle) Harry Kewell (£15.6m – Liverpool)
It has become a vendetta. It has become about winning trophies. Paul Jewell was out. Jose Mourinho was in. He took City through the group phases of the Champions League with ease and they didn’t falter in the league until the first trophy was sewn up. The League Cup was won with two late, late goals from Michael Owen in a 3-2 win at Wembley over Everton. First trophy in the pocket and with a quarter final in the Champions League against Porto and a semi-final in the FA Cup against Charlton still to come.
The first league defeat was at home, to the team they beat in the League Cup final, Everton, on March 17th. With this loss Bradford still sat nine points clear. Bradford would go onto record two more losses (two immediately after the Everton loss) on the way to the Premier League trophy.
The FA Cup wasn’t on its way, however, as Charlton Athletic sunk Bradford 2-1 in the semi-finals. The pain of that particular loss was soothed three days later with a 6-3 aggregate win over Porto in the Champions League quarter final, a hat-trick from Emile Heskey. The poor league form after the Everton loss however, left Bradford level on 74 points with Blackburn with two games remaining. Sandwiched in between crucial league matches was a Champions League semi-final against Arsenal. After a 1-1 at Highbury, Dennis Bergkamp put Arsenal 3-1 up on aggregate at Valley Parade. A 90th minute winner from Ronaldo sent Arsenal out and sent Bradford into a final with Schalke. Ronaldo netted the winner there as well. Mourinho had completed a Treble in his first season as Bradford manager.
Premier League: Winners (80 pts)
Champions League: Winners (2-1 v Schalke)
FA Cup: Semi-Final (1-2 v Charlton Athletic)
League Cup: Winners (3-2 v Everton)