The Width of a Post writing team provide their personal highlights and lowlights of this season.
Highlight – There haven’t been many high points throughout the course of the season but the few memorable moments came in the Johnstones Paint Trophy. I’d have to say the highlight was beating Sheffield United, a great night at Bramall Lane. Jonny Mac proved to be the hero with an excellent stop from Billy Clarke with the last kick of the game, before becoming the penalty saving king again. It looked like the run was coming to an end when Matty Phillips scored a superb first half goal for the Blades. However, just like at Leeds earlier in the season, Michael Flynn scored a stunner from outside the area which sent the away end barmy! In the second half both sides had decent chances before penalties decided it….McLaughlin saved three spot kicks in the shoot out, before Chris Mitchell calmly slotted home to send the Bantams into the next round.
Lowlight – It’s not a game, but more a situation that developed and became a problem – which stemmed from the departure of Jack Compton. I wasn’t personally a big fan of Compton, but he gave us good balance with him on one flank and Reid on the other. Following his departure he was never adequately replaced. Young Charlie Taylor from Leeds wasn’t up to much, neither were the likes of Deane Smalley and Will Atkinson – whilst Fagan was playing out of position. With all that in mind the pressure on Reid to create was too much. Teams got wise to our only threat and would nullify him. Hopefully the penny has dropped with Parkinson that we do need two out and out wingers, something which has been missing for a long time at Valley Parade.
Highlight – the Huddersfield Town cup win. In all my visits to the Galpharm Stadium I have never seen us win, but all that changed with the dramatic penalty shoot out victory in the Johnstones Paint Trophy this season. After twice experiencing the heartbreak of a Town equaliser, a City side, which had been labelled the worst in League Two by our joint chairman, knocked out one of the finest sides from the division above! Liam Moore, Robbie Threlfall, Luke O’Brien, Chris Mitchell, Jack Compton, Mark Stewart, Nialle Rodney and even Guy Branston, Matt Duke and Ross Hannah wouldn’t feature much more over the course of the season, but they provided one memorable night for the travelling 2,500 Bantams. Thank you Rodney and co.!
Lowlight – the David Syers injury. Another memorable evening – Leeds away – which was 20 minutes away from being my personal high of the year. But then Syers was left in a heap by the touchline just yards away from me and would not play again until Boxing Day. The 2010/11 player of the season had put in his finest performance to date and in front of the Sky Cameras; how would we keep the vultures at bay now? But his night ended prematurely and with it so did City’s fight. I had dragged along a friend of mine who was a Huddersfield Town fan and a number of my other friends were in the opposite end supporting the Dark Forces. For the rest of the evening they would debate among themselves whether it would be Leeds or Huddersfield signing our superstar in January. Ten months on we are now playing hard ball over his contract – how fickle football can be.
Highlight – My highlight of this season takes me back to a fixture that I look forward to every year – Morecambe away. The fact that it was Parkinson’s first match in charge added a little bit extra to a fixture that was already bubbling nicely. When thinking back to the game, I don’t think that I have celebrated a goal like that of Ross Hannah’s for quite some time. I was grasped round the neck by the complete stranger stood next to me, while jumping up and down with my hands in the air. It was one of the mad celebratory moments that we all hope for when we attend a football match.
It is easy to remember why. City had bossed the second half, yet had still fallen behind to a 57th minute Morecambe goal. Jamie Devitt had come on to make his debut alongside Kyel Reid and Matt Duke and looked a real threat. Morecambe had brought everybody back as they desperately tried to keep City at bay and hold onto the three points. However, despite the avalanche of pressure, it just didn’t seem like it was going to be our day. The referee gave a goal kick in the 92nd minute when the whole ground knew it should have been a corner, and it seemed like City’s chance had passed.
As I slumped over the crash barrier in front of me, aghast at the referee failing to give the aforementioned corner, I just couldn’t help thinking that we were leaving the Globe Arena empty handed. That all changed in the blink of an eye as desperation turned to joy. We were stood right behind the goal and suddenly I looked up to see the ball being crossed in and falling at Hannah’s feet. He swivelled and he scored. Unbelievable! The feeling as we walked away from the ground in the pouring rain just moments later was definitely my season highlight.
Lowlight – Defeat away at AFC Wimbledon in March. When City began to fall foul of the winter weather, as well as having had a run to the 3rd round of the FA Cup, it became apparent that March was looking like a “make or break month” due to the backlog of rearranged fixtures. One of these postponed games was away at AFC Wimbledon. It was a match that many City fans, myself included, had been looking forward to for most of the season due to the links between the two clubs from the year 2000 and of course the romantic tale of Wimbledon’s climb back up the non-league. Having bought our tickets well in advance of the original fixture, my friends and I decided to attend the rearranged game.
We booked to stay over down in London and made a long day of it. When we got to the game, it seemed that we weren’t the only ones who had done the same thing and the turn out for a long Tuesday night trip from the City faithful was quite impressive. Throughout the early exchanges, City were well in the contest and it was only an extremely dubious penalty, given by Referee Mr Darren Deadman, that saw us fall behind. We all know what happened next. Craig Fagan who was captain on the evening kicked the ball into the crowd for a second booking and saw red, not long after we had equalised.
His actions on that night at Wimbledon were inexcusable and they cost us dear. It wasn’t entirely his fault, as we all know that the performance of Deadman was extremely questionable, not least in giving Wimbledon a second controversial penalty. The comments made by Parkinson afterwards showed that it wasn’t just the supporters who questioned the referee’s performance in what was ultimately a 3-1 defeat. Unfortunately, this did little to help lift my spirits that night as we walked back to our Travelodge. City were edging towards a relegation battle and it felt like we had lost not only to AFC Wimbledon, but also to Mr Craig Fagan and Mr Darren Deadman.
Highlight – Toss up between Huddersfield Town away or Southend away and home. In fact the Christmas period was excellent and I would have all those if I could. However, I will go for Southend at home on Good Friday.
Lowlight – Away to Wimbledon: horrendous ref again, Mr Deadman. And then away to Plymouth, when relegation was a definite fear!
Highlight – The back-to-back home wins vs Crewe and Shrewsbury over the Christmas period. Thanks to a shock win away at Southend, City entered the final stretch of 2011 brimming with confidence. The Boxing Day 3-0 drubbing of Crewe Alexandra was swiftly followed up on New Year’s Eve by a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Shrewsbury Town, which was especially memorable for a fine goal from Nahki Wells. Two of the finest Bradford City performances in many years were tinged with frustration that such excellent football hadn’t been displayed earlier in the campaign. ‘Normal’ service was resumed two days later as City crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Rotherham.
Lowlight – Hearing that Andrew Davies, Jon McLaughlin and Luke Oliver had all been red-carded for their part in the ‘Battle of Valley Parade’. To witness those scenes was shocking enough, however confirmation of the inevitable punishment left me seriously believing we were heading for non-league football. The antics of Crawley Town were disgusting that night; however, I was so disappointed and angry that our players had allowed themselves to be dragged down to their level at such a crucial time in the season. I honestly believed that losing our centre back pairing and goalkeeper for at least three games would be the final nail in our coffin. Thankfully the performances of their replacements, particularly Guy Branston, were generally fantastic and played a huge role in ensuring our survival.
Highlight – The away win at Northampton. It secured our League status and listening to it on the radio made clearing out the garage bearable.
Lowlight – The brawl against Crawley; I always stay to the very end of games, but wish I hadn’t seen this.
Highlight – City 1 Torquay 0. For my money this was one of the best matches of the season. It had controversy with a straight red card in the first half for Andrew Davies for an alleged two-footed challenge, Craig Fagan’s first City goal, and a heroic and dogged determination from all of the City players, especially substitute Guy Branston, who showed immense leadership and the form that tempted City to acquire his services pre-season. City were simply not going to surrender the lead, and the atmosphere within the ground was electric. The crowd also fired up by the abject performance of referee Carl Boyeson, who made many questionable decisions throughout. So Parkinson’s first league win for City at the 7th time of asking led to genuine belief, at the time, that we could go on and climb the league.
Lowlight – Rotherham 3 City 0. The season’s lowest point for me is probably the away fixture at the Don Valley stadium. A truly wretched venue, freezing cold conditions and City managed to undo all the momentum from a season-best three match winning run established over the festive fixtures. Somehow it all felt too predictable for the large City following that made the trip, in a season marked by all too familiar disappointments. Jon McLaughlin particularly had an afternoon to forget, but no one came away with any credit, and despite some improvements in performances afterwards, including the subsequent FA Cup tie at Watford, it wasn’t until 18 February when City finally managed to win again, with an unexpected away win at Torquay. Perhaps this Millers defeat was the start of the spell that set the tone for the fruitless second half of the season, and our almost magnetic attraction to 18th place in the table.
Highlight – Progress. There has been a general feeling for me this season that we have started to move in the right direction. Sure, if you look at the table we haven’t done marvellously this season and the turnover of players and managers is nowhere near desirable, but it has been a step forward from recent years.
We have looked better all over the park and have had players which have sparked more joy than they have frustration, which is a first for many seasons. That feeling of looking forward to the game and knowing we are a capable team, instead of watching through my fingers, is definitely the highlight of my season, and I can’t wait for the next. The spine of the team is there, they have the best part of a season under their belts and a full summer of stability and regeneration ahead before the next season. Fingers crossed we can continue to progress.
Lowlight – I could have chosen the high turnover of players and the changing of management. But in all honesty this is something we have become used to in recent years at City. I could have chosen our own fans flippancy and ability to jump from the feeling of joy about being “play off contenders” to instantly being doomed for relegation after a few bad results, but again we all know and feel frustrated by this.
The lowest point of my season came away from the pitch and I have to say that, although I am chuffed to bits that Jason has started TWoaP since, and long may it continue, losing Boy from Brazil was a terrible moment. The BfB website kept us fans in touch with the real going on at the club with honesty and integrity. We can all read the BBC and the T&A websites knowing what is going to be said before we have even clicked the link. It is a standardised format. BfB was an amazing website that served City fans worldwide with a real football fans passion and opinion of what was actually happening at our club from 60, 100, 1,000, or 10,000 miles away.
I was gutted the day it went down and would like to personally thank both Michael Wood and Jason McKeown for all of their hard work and dedication over BfB’s 12 year history, for keeping me and the many BfB followers closer to our club than the club itself could.
The low point of the season for me came not on the field, but on the internet; though watching City lose again at Hereford came close.
As a City exile, the web is vital for feeding my enthusiasm for my hometown club. This was dealt a real blow when Boy from Brazil had a disagreement with the club and thought it best to close down. All parties lost out. In the void that was left following the closure of the widely read website I was staring at the very real possibility of having to rely on either the party-line website or several injudicious forums. To paraphrase JFK, too often those sites enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. However, there was a resurrection of thoughtful opinion out of the ashes of the Boys from Brazil in the form of the WoTP. This has been my high point. Thank you to all that have contributed, especially Jason for his efforts.
Highlight – A sunny afternoon in September, where myself and former writing partner Michael Wood were fortunate to be invited to spend a day behind the scenes at Bradford City by Archie Christie. Getting to experience first hand what happens on the training ground and in meetings was something I will never forget, as was getting to meet and chat openly to several players, Parkinson, chief scout Nigel Brown, Peter Horne and of course the larger-than-life Archie. As a writer, being able to produce articles on what we experienced – which were very well received by City fans, other football fans and even national newspaper football journalists – was a dream come true. We helped to change people’s minds on what the club was trying to do, and that felt good.
Lowlight – I saw 40 of City’s 54 matches this season, but only one of the four away league wins (Northampton, probably my highlight on the pitch this season). So I endured a lot of fruitless away trips, where occasionally you questioned your sanity in making such an effort. The nadir of this was the midweek defeat at Crewe in March, where an accident on the M6 lead to a very stressful journey down to Gresty Road and missing kick off; only to witness a tame display from City that was hindered by Parkinson picking an unbalanced midfield. A night where patience was in very short supply.