STEADY ON CITY

Brad­ford striker Jon Stead looks back on a dream day in the Cup at Chelsea

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

ONE goal, two as­sists, a man of the match per­for­mance and lauded by Phil Parkin­son af­ter the FA Cup shock of the cen­tury – Jon Stead has had worse days at work.

Now, af­ter inspiring Brad­ford to that in­cred­i­ble 4-2 win over Chelsea at Stam­ford Bridge, the 31-year-old is hop­ing for one last perk – a bit of en­thu­si­asm from four-year-old daugh­ter Is­abelle.

“She’s been to games be­fore but never shown much in­ter­est,” says the striker, whose goal sparked a re­mark­able come­back from 2-0 down against the Pre­mier League lead­ers. “But I think Chelsea took it to a new level.

“She was sat right in the mid­dle of our fans, right be­hind the goal. She was a bit con­cerned by the noise and she had to deal with a bit of choice lan­guage but she ab­so­lutely loved it.

“I took her on the pitch at the end of the game and she got a lit­tle ap­pear­ance on Match of the

Day. She was the talk of the school when she went in on Mon­day so she was very happy. Hope­fully she’ll be a bit keener to come and watch me from now on!”

One group who need no per­suad­ing are Brad­ford City’s sup­port­ers. Since his ar­rival on loan from Hud­der­s­field in March, Stead has scored ten goals, be­com­ing the pivot and de facto leader of League One’s sur­prise play-off con­tenders.

Ma­tu­rity

His spec­tac­u­lar first-half strike against Chelsea was fol­lowed by two deft lay-offs and a per­for­mance that oozed ma­tu­rity and self-as­sur­ance. In one sense, that is no sur­prise. Stead, af­ter all, played 86 times in the Pre­mier League for Black­burn, Sun­der­land and Sh­effield United.

Yet for all that ex­pe­ri­ence, he is largely re­mem­bered as a man who never pos­sessed the tools to forge a ca­reer at the high­est level fol­low­ing a shock £1m move from Hud­der­s­field to Black­burn at the age of 20. Though too old and too wise to be bit­ter, it is an as­sess­ment Stead refutes.

“I def­i­nitely feel I was good enough,” says the striker, who has since played for Bris­tol City and Ip­swich. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have scored the goals I did at Black­burn and Sh­effield United.

“Partly, it was that I never played in a re­ally good team. Right across the board, not many strik­ers can score reg­u­larly if the side is strug­gling for re­sults.

“And while I didn’t get car­ried away, I maybe took my foot off the pedal a lit­tle bit when I got to the top level. If you do that, you find your­self stand­ing still.

“Af­ter the good spell I had at Black­burn, then the move to Sun­der­land, ev­ery­thing went quiet. The goals dried up. Sub­con­sciously, I’d maybe thought to my­self ‘Right, you’re here now, you’re a Pre­mier League foot­baller and this is how it’s al­ways go­ing to be’. And be­fore I knew it, I was back out of the frame again.

“That prob­a­bly cost me a cou­ple more years in the Pre­mier League. But I got my­self back or track with Sh­effield United and was go­ing great un­til the Car­los Tevez af­fair That’s what re­ally killed me.”

The ‘Tevez af­fair’ re­mains one of the game’s great in­jus­tices.

Hav­ing bro­ken Pre­mier League reg­u­la­tions by sign­ing the Ar­gen­tine from a third party in Au­gust 2006, the Ham­mers were fined £5.5m by an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion.

Yet no points were docked and – most con­tro­ver­sially – Tevez was per­mit­ted to play for the fi­nal ten games of the sea­son de­spite be­ing on a con­tract that was in breach of Pre­mier League rules.

Tevez sub­se­quently scored seven times, in­clud­ing a fi­nal-day win­ner against Manch­ester United that kept West Ham up at the ex­pense of Stead’s United.

United sued, and a hear­ing at the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport found in their favour, order­ing the Ham­mers to pay £30m to the Blades in lost earn­ings.

“The whole thing was an ab­so­lute dis­grace,” says Stead. “Yes they paid com­pen­sa­tion to the club, but that didn’t help the play­ers – like me – who’d had their Pre­mier League sta­tus stripped away.We didn’t get com­pen­sated.

“That was a mas­sive mo­ment in my ca­reer. I’d scored five goals in 12 games to­wards the end of the sea­son. I’d have been start­ing the next one as the first-choice striker. I was play­ing for Neil Warnock who was re­ally get­ting the best out of me.

Proud

“But be­cause of what hap­pened, Neil walked away from the club. I was out of the Pre­mier League. Then the new manager (Bryan Rob­son) came in and sud­denly I was fourth choice.

“I do look back and think ‘What if?’ But on the whole I’m still very proud of the ca­reer I’ve had.

“And it’s why now I tell the young lads to seize ev­ery mo­ment. When I was 21-22, I re­mem­ber peo­ple say­ing to me ‘It’ll be gone be­fore you know it’. “They were right of course – it goes very quickly.”

That’s why last week­end was so spe­cial.

“I thought all the high­lights of my ca­reer were be­hind me,” he ad­mits. “But then you get a mag­i­cal day like that and it shoots straight to the front. It has to. Some­thing like that won’t hap­pen again for a long, long time. It could pos­si­bly be the big­gest shock in the his­tory of the FA Cup and when you sit down and think about what that means… it’s mind-blow­ing.

“To be in that team and play a big part in the re­sult is mas­sive. Be­cause I know it’ll be talked about for years to come and prob­a­bly re­mem­bered long af­ter I’m dead and gone.”

Not least by Is­abelle. “I hope so,” laughs Stead. “But she’s prob­a­bly in for a shock when she re­alises ev­ery match doesn’t end with a tri­umphant walk round the pitch and get­ting cheered by your sup­port­ers!”

BELLE OF THE BALL: Jon Stead with his daugh­ter Is­abelle and, right, Brad­ford

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

TAKE THAT: Jon Stead thumps home Brad­ford’s first in their as­ton­ish­ing 4-2 win at Chelsea and then cel­e­brates with Gary Lid­dle PRAISE: Chelsea boss Jose Mour­inho con­grat­u­lated the Brad­ford play­ers on their shock win and told them they had ‘big balls’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.