Once at Wembley there was Gundi Asparoukhov, a tall and powerful figure who sped irresistibly up the left flank while, in the press box, a Scottish journalist cried, “Go on, big fellow, go on!” Go on indeed Asparoukhov did, leaving the England defenders in his wake, before crashing his left footed shot into the goal. Alas, not long afterwards this heroic player would be killed in a car crash.
His eventual successor would be Hristo Stoichkov, he too a big, strong man if not quite the size of Asparoukhov, but possessed of just as dynamic a left foot. With which in the 1994 World Cup in the USA at Giants Stadium, New York, against the Germans, brought down by Buchwald, his ferocious free kick gave Bulgaria the equaliser, and they went on to a victory which, in the words of their manager, Dimitar Penev, was “the finest day in the history of Bulgarian football.”
Stoichkov’s formidable partner up front was Emile Kostadinov, who had run half the length of the Parc des Princes field to score and knock out France against all odds.
And now the very different Berbatov, all skills technique and subtlety, endlessly aware of all around him, subtle with his flicks and passes, now with his third English club, Spurs and Manchester United being the first and second. Sometimes he might flit in and out of the game, but the elegant threat is always there.
Recently Bradford City and the local council commemorated the horrific fire of May 11 1985 on the last league Saturday of the season at match between City and Lincoln City. Before which Bradford had been presented with the Third Division Championship trophy. When the seventy seven year old wooden stand went up in flames, no fewer than fifty-six people were burned to death and another two hundred went to hospital.
It transpired that some old fool had dropped a lighted cigarette down a crack in the stand floor, thus igniting the fire. The disaster was exacerbated by the fact that doors through which fans should have been able to escape had been kept inexplicably locked.
What one has not read in reports of the commemorative ceremony is any account of the appalling culpability of both club and council though of course, no possible blame attached to the club and council of today.
It transpired at the time that it was well known to both entities that large amounts of rubbish had been allowed to accumulate under the floorboards of the stand. The council, knowing this, had told the club to deal with it. The club did nothing. The council did not trouble to enforce its edict. So fifty-six people died; and neither club nor council was held to account. Not a single head rolled.