Growing up in Bradford in the mid-1990s was always a bit of a challenge in a footballing sense.
With Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leeds all enjoying slices of success in and around the 90s, supporting Bradford City always made you stand out a little bit in the primary school playground.
While most kids my age had Cantona, Beckham, Fowler and Bergkamp to idolise, the seven-year-old me didn’t have any superstars to worship. But in my eyes, that all changed in February 1997 when the Bantams signed the original boy from Brazil.
I do remember being told by my dad that I should grow up cherishing the fact that a player of Chris Waddle’s stature was playing for City in 1996. At the time, I didn’t realise just how great a player Waddle was – and as such, I didn’t really care about him at all. Because I had Edinho, and I just didn’t want to entertain the thought of having anyone else as my first-ever Bradford City favourite.
From the minute he arrived in the final months of the 96/97 campaign, I was starstruck. How had Bradford City, an unfashionable Division One club, managed to sign a Brazilian? He wasn’t Ronaldo or Romario of course, but that didn’t really matter. I was captivated: and I know other City fans of a certain age were too.
He did things no other Bradford City player seemed capable of doing at that time in terms of his skill and the typical flair and flamboyance you came to expect from Brazilian footballers in the 1990s. One such example is pointed out by Dean Fearnley:
There were shortcomings; of course there were – why else would he be playing for City otherwise? But as I grew up falling more and more in love with Bradford City, I saw a player who embraced his time in England, and became more than just my favourite player. In fact, Ian Hemmens’ memory of Edinho is perfect:
Edinho scored three goals in his first five games for City, and I still remember the first at Valley Parade, the consolation in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City. It was a stunning, stunning goal – as Paul recalls:
My dad had been to Oldham away the week previous and seen him score the winner in a 2-1 win and, on the way out of that Man City game, admitted he thought that I would love Edinho and would be telling my mates about him on the playground on Monday morning. He wasn’t wrong.
I have autograph books aplenty with Edinho’s signature. Programmes where the little pen pictures have only one signature: Edinho’s. I didn’t want anyone else’s. The way he dealt with City fans on limited English still makes me think back and smile about how he did what so many players have failed to do: embrace Bradford City. As we all know, if you take to Bradford City and show us some love, we will give plenty back in return. That was the case with Edinho.
In 1997/98, City comfortably consolidated themselves as a mid-table side in Division One – with Edinho the season’s top-scorer with ten. I can remember most of them like they were yesterday, as well as the trademark thumbs up he would give to the crowd every time he netted in claret and amber.
As City built towards a side that would eventually secure promotion to the Premier League, Edinho’s impact and appearances began to peter out. His last appearance – one of only three he would make in 1998/99 – came from the bench against Bury in October. Soon after, he was loaned to Dunfermline and wouldn’t return.
Yet you suspect most City fans of a certain age will never forget the boy from Brazil and the impact he had on us all growing up.
Your memories of Edinho