Liverpool and Bradford City salute Valley Parade hero Stephen Darby

Stephen Darby is pictured with his wife England captain Steph Houghton at Valley Parade.
Stephen Darby is pictured with his wife England captain Steph Houghton at Valley Parade.
Have your say

THINK Liverpool at Valley Parade and two Bradford City legends from different eras spring most readily to mind.

Bobby Campbell and David Wetherall both netted famous winners against the Reds 21 years apart, the latter in 2000 coming with the added bonus of keeping the Bantams in the Premier League.

Stephen Darby now sits alongside that illustrious duo, after the former City captain yesterday made an emotional return for this meeting of his two old clubs.

Forced to retire last September after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, the 30-year-old set up a charity foundation with close pal, Chris Rimmer, to raise funds to fight the condition.

All yesterday’s gate receipts went to the Darby-Rimmer MND Foundation, who also benefited from a £30,000 cheque handed over by James Milner’s Foundation during half-time as Liverpool triumphed 3-1. The former Leeds United midfielder’s charity also donated £10,000 to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Darby was introduced to the sell-out 24,343 crowd before kick-off along with Rimmer, a British Forces veteran diagnosed with MND five years ago and now confined to a wheelchair.

There was barely a dry eye in the house as the former defender thanked all those who had made the day possible.

“In my five years here, I am pretty sure the two words ‘Darby’ and ‘attack’ were mentioned too often,” Darby said to rapturous applause. “But attacking this disease is exactly what we are going to do.”

This impossibly splendid Sunday of sport already had a cricket world cup final, the British Grand Prix and the men’s final at Wimbledon to its name.

Couch potatoes across the country are unlikely to have strayed far from the remote control for the best part of eight hours, flicking between Lord’s, Silverstone and SW19.

The city of Bradford, however, had other ideas. Those who opted to forsake the sofa to ensure Valley Parade hosted its biggest crowd since being rebuilt in the wake of the 1985 fire disaster were treated to a decent contest.

Liverpool fielded 22 players, nine of whom had either started or been on the bench in June when Jurgen Klopp’s men beat Tottenham Hotspur to lift the Champions League.

By a strange quirk of fate, the opening goal on 14 minutes involved the two youngest goalscorers in Premier League history.

Milner had the initial shot from just outside the area but it was a deflection off James Vaughan, who usurped the one-time Leeds United midfielder’s crown by scoring for Everton in 2005 at the age of 16 years and 270 days, that left Richard O’Donnell helpless in the City goal.

Liverpool doubled their lead within 60 seconds. Milner this time found the net without anyone’s help by sending O’Donnell the wrong way from the penalty after Ben Richards-Everton had fouled Ryan Kent.

Rhian Brewster added a third shortly before half-time, squeezing in a shot from a tight angle after Jackson Longridge had initially blocked Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s effort from 15 yards.

City were understandably second best but the League Two club still had their moments.

Vaughan struck a post with a header, while Richards-Everton got the ball in the net only for his celebrations to be cut short by an offside flag.

Gary Bowyer made 11 changes at the interval. Three trialists got their chance – including the delightfully named Nortei Nortey, whose name surely cannot be mentioned without thinking of Nineties band, The Shamen – and the hosts did well to keep out a Reds side featuring Divock Origi, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Fabinho.

Bradford also had the satisfaction of netting the final goal, Eoin Doyle converting a penalty after Clayton Donaldson had been tripped by Adam Lewis.

The afternoon, however, belonged to Darby as his name once again boomed out across Valley Parade as the players took part in a lap of honour at the final whistle.