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York City v Bradford: Charging into the Valley at full pelt
RICHARD Cresswell believes York City’s players should thrive at Bradford City’s impressive Valley Parade ground tomorrow just as he did more than 16 years ago.
The Bridlington-born striker, now 35 and a player-coach at Sheffield United, scored his first senior goal during the Minstermen’s last trip to the former Premier League arena in March 1996.
He was only an 18-year-old substitute at the time and Cresswell reckons that a City team, many of whom will be running out at the 25,000-capacity stadium for the first time, will rise to the challenge rather than being intimidated by the surroundings and a five-figure crowd.
“Personally, I always wanted to play at stadiums like that,” Cresswell recalled of his first trip to Bradford, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
“When you are young and raw like I was, it can be a bit nervy getting on to the pitch but I loved it once I was out there and that goal set me off on my career.
“I was only talking about it with some of the young lads at Sheffield United the other day and I remember it vividly. It came from a good cross and I put it right into the bottom corner.
“For a young lad to score at a massive stadium like that was a good feeling and I will always be eternally grateful to York City for giving me that chance in the game.
Cresswell would later move to Sheffield Wednesday in a £950,000 deal and is still plying his trade at League One level following spells with Leicester, Preston, Leeds and Stoke, before moving to Bramall Lane three years ago.
He has commanded more than £3 million in transfer fees during a distinguished career that also included England under-21 honours while still a Minsterman.
Surprisingly, however, he went another 40 games and 18 months before getting on the scoresheet again for City.
It led to criticism in some sections of the home crowd, still mourning the loss of striking favourite Paul Barnes, who was playing his last match for City at Valley Parade on the same day Cresswell opened his account for the club in the old Second Division fixture.
Barnes moved to Birmingham but Cresswell confessed that the prolific striker was a strong early influence on his career, adding: “Paul Barnes was the big hitter at that time.
“He was sticking all the goals in and I looked up to him. He did his stuff on the pitch and was a great player for York – an out-and-out goalscorer.”
Looking forward to tomorrow’s meeting between the Bantams and his old club, Cresswell feels another draw could be the most likely result.
He said: “It will be a pretty tough game for both teams. I like what both managers are doing at their clubs and know (Bradford boss) Phil Parkinson well.
“I think they will have a better season under him this time around and it should be an enjoyable encounter.”
Had City been successful after inquiring about Cresswell’s services earlier this season, the 6ft forward could have even been leading the line for the visitors at Valley Parade again tomorrow.
Cresswell, though, confessed he was never made aware of the interest.
“I heard the rumours but it went no further than that,” he revealed. “You never know what might happen in the future but I’ve signed a two-year deal with Sheffield United now and I am happy.
“They’ve also given me the opportunity to help coach the under-21 team and that’s a learning curve for me.
“My main priority, even though I’m 35, is to keep playing for as long as I can though because I still have that hunger.”
How it was back then
City team (v Bradford on Saturday, March 2, 1996): Kiely, McMillan, Atkinson, Pepper, Barras, Atkin, Murty, Bushell (Jordan), Barnes, Naylor (Cresswell), Himsworth.
Number one UK selling single at the time: Don’t Look Back in Anger (Oasis)
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