Category Archives: Series: Bantams Cult Heroes

Bantams Cult Heroes: #2 – Nigel Pepper

“He is an absolute steal at £100,000.”

The words of then-Bradford City manager Chris Kamara when, on 28th February 1997, the Bantams shelled out a six-figure transfer fee to bring a midfielder by the name of Colin Nigel Pepper to Valley Parade from Second Division side York City.

Pepper, who was more commonly known simply as Nigel, had become somewhat of a cult hero at York, making almost 300 appearances for the Minstermen. Little did Kamara know just how prophetic that statement about Pepper’s value would prove to be.

As Mike Scott says on Twitter – he was arguably Kamara’s most decisive signing as manager of Bradford City:

Pepper made his City debut two days later on March 1st, earning Heritage Number #878 as the Bantams lost 3-1 at Manchester City, but he quickly established himself as a pivotal part of Kamara’s side that, at that time, were fighting desperately to survive in the First Division. His debut is still remembered well by some City fans!

Signed for his goal-scoring exploits from midfield, it didn’t take Pepper long to open his account: scoring the winner, a thumping free-kick against Wolves in a 2-1 victory on March 22nd, a memory many of you still have vivid memories of:

It wouldn’t be the last time Pepper scored a crucial goal for Bradford City. He played all-but two of the run-in which ultimately led to survival, scoring another winner against Stoke on 31st March before establishing himself as one of City’s modern-day cult heroes in the final week of the season.

Kamara’s men were in deep, deep trouble at the foot of the First Division going into the final two games, both at home to Charlton and QPR. Realistically, only two wins would guarantee survival. City needed a hero; Pepper stepped up.

The goal Pepper will forever be remembered for in a claret and amber shirt was the thunderous (understatement!) free-kick in the 3-0 win against QPR on the final day – but his most crucial contribution arguably came three days earlier.

The night of 1st May, 1997 is perhaps most memorable in the UK for the General Election that resulted in a landslide victory for Labour and Tony Blair. For City fans, it wasn’t so much New Labour; it was New Bradford City, as Pepper scored a magnificent header to secure a 1-0 win over Charlton and keep City’s survival hopes alive.

Pepper wasn’t done. City ultimately stayed up with few nerves on the final day, hammering QPR 3-0 thanks largely to the marauding midfielder, who scored that free-kick that would have almost certainly caused a major incident in The Kop had there not been a net there to prevent it from travelling 100mph into the crowd!

Pepper’s four goals for City were ultimately worth six points for Kamara’s side. City stayed up by only two at the expense of Grimsby. Cult hero? That’s somewhat of an understatement. You could argue that without Pepper, there would have been no promotion campaign of 1998-99, no Premier League years and no special games against the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea (and, of course, no administration, but that’s not Pepper’s fault).

Pepper played 35 times the following season as City finished a much-more respectable 13th in the First Division in 1997-98. By the promotion season of 1998-99, he had fallen down the pecking order under Paul Jewell: but he still signed off with a goal on his final start for City, during a 3-0 win against Swindon. He then left for Aberdeen for £300,000; which is fair profit for a player who delivered so much on the field, too.

Kamara was right. Pepper was an absolute steal – and he’s rightly-regarded as one of our all-time cult heroes. The final word shouldn’t go to us here though.. it should go to the man himself:

Bantams Cult Heroes: #1 – Edinho

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