These things I believe

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By Jason McKeown

Over the last 9-12 months, I’ve mellowed considerably in my emotions towards Bradford City. I don’t seem to feel the highs quite as much as I used to, but more importantly I don’t get caught up in the lows too badly either. Walking out of Valley Parade at full time on Saturday certainly carried a depressingly familiar sense of disappointment, but I couldn’t muster the outrage and anger that other people clearly seemed to.

Perhaps it’s due to becoming a dad for the first time and a change of perspective. Maybe it because of a significant health issue related to a family member that troubles the mind. There’s also the lingering sense of satisfaction gained from last season’s heroics that I refuse to let go of. It’s probably a bit of all three, but my old ways of screaming passionately in disgust at a poor referee, sulking all weekend following a defeat or raging at over-critical fellow supporters has faded inside of me.

I’m still deeply engaged by events at Valley Parade, just no longer as emotional.

I’ve no doubt that I’m in the minority on this one, as right now passions are clearly running very high amongst supporters. There is upset, outrage and hurt over recent form and about losing at home to the division’s bottom club. A panic from some that we at the beginnings of some sort of Bradford City apocalypse, one that will inevitably end with the club back in hell: League Two.

We don’t always have to be miserable

A few years ago, I wrote an article for BoyfromBrazil reflecting on where I saw the club in a decade’s time. My cynical answer was that I had no idea where we would be, but that I could guarantee one thing: we’d have something to moan about. As Bradford City sit in 11th position in League One and people are calling for the manager’s head – when on this weekend only two years ago I was watching us lose 1-0 at Dagenham & Redbridge, with City slumped near the bottom of League Two under the same manager – that answer seems so apt.

We will always have something to moan about: whether it be just, unfair or simply stupid. But I’m personally weary of joining in.

The simple truth is I enjoyed Saturday’s game for its entertainment. I wasn’t impressed at all with my team’s performance – we reacted badly to the situation, and the way the back four collapsed in Andrew Davies’ absence was alarming – but I admired the manner in which Stevenage approached what for them was a must-win game. I was impressed by the tactics of manager Graham Westley and the constant positional interchanging of the forward line, something the Bantams just couldn’t get to grips with. It was as though Jack Reynolds and Sam Alladyce had got together and created a new template for Total Football.

Stevenage were a team fighting for their lives and playing out of their skin, whilst we were a side which had arguably relaxed that little bit too much, losing with it some focus. Prior to the match Adam Reach talked on the radio of embarking on a late play off push, but relegation worries had not been fully extinguished by those previous back-to-back victories. We still needed to concentrate on ensuring our League One survival. Our goal prior to kick off should have been the same as Stevenage’s; but on and off the pitch we looked as though we believed ourselves to be above them.

Yet still, Stevenage were bottom for a reason and for all City’s complacency the players could and should have taken something from the game. Three quarters of a season in League One has shown that we belong here and that – if not amongst the best sides – we are not one of the worst. City had the chances to have won a match in which they didn’t play well, but perhaps the biggest lesson to take from the game is that we aren’t yet good enough to win games, at this level, when under-performing.

The mask has slipped, but Parkinson is still the man

The knives have been out for Parkinson since the Carlisle defeat. There are things that he has not got right this season, not least the summer transfer business which has proven to be wholly unsuccessful. The sight of Mark Yeates as a late substitute was a reminder that not one of the players that Parkinson brought in during the close season have impressed, and this has led to the team stagnating over the autumn and winter months. The January shake-up has had some impact, but mid-season is not a time for revolution. Parkinson has to largely make do with what he has, but I do believe there is enough quality in his charges to ensure relegation fears are put to bed before the final few matches. Then, he needs a successful summer in the transfer market – one similar to 2012.

The knives have been out for Parkinson – and the reality is that this is unlikely to change. The manager previously enjoyed widespread popularity, but now the mask has slipped. Too many people have publically made their feelings known. Disgruntlement was never going to be extinguished by back-to-back victories. There will be quietness in good times, but a loud lack of patience during the bad. That is going to be the soundtrack to the coming weeks and months, and it’s a well-versed tale at Valley Parade; one that, sadly, usually has a predictable ending.

The positive for Parkinson is that he clearly enjoys the backing of the majority of supporters. That much was obvious when he took to the dugout ahead of the Port Vale game and received a rapturous reception from the home crowd. He will need to count upon these fans to continue to rally behind him in order to succeed. I felt proud of the way that most supporters rationally reacted to the ‘one win in 21’. Parkinson’s considerable past achievements had afforded him – and continue to afford him – a level of patience and understanding.

I find myself dismayed by the reactions of those who want Parkinson to go; so much so I struggle to find the motivation to read or listen to their views. I’d love to hear constructive and thought-provoking arguments for why a change of manager is the answer, but I just don’t see any put forward. On Saturday night I logged onto Claret & Banter and the first comment I read was that Parkinson should “f**k off back down South” (erm, he was born in Chorley) and it was easier just to log off than read any further and become enraged. When I read Tweets like this (warning: bad language features) I utterly despair at the shocking lack of respect.

If Parkinson is chased out of the club with pitchforks then I might seriously consider joining him. Not because I’d be upset not to get my way, but because of the nature of the abuse that one of the club’s greatest managers is receiving leaves me feeling embarrassed.

He deserves better.

Greater perspective is needed

The back-to-back victories over Port Vale and MK Dons were vital. Just contemplate what the League One table would look like now without them: City would be 18th, but only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. Those two results really mattered, and two-and-a-half years of Parkinson at the helm have seen him repeatedly triumph in those must-win contests; grinding out victories when the chips are down. Not since Chris Kamara have City employed a manager who is so successful at achieving wins when they really, really matter.

For this reason and many others, I firmly back the manager. I’m proud to be pro-Parkinson (or #IPWT, if you will) and instances like a failure to deal with #StevenageTotalFootball don’t change my view. I believe he is capable of keeping us in League One, and – despite an unsuccessful record in the transfer market of late – am confident he can rebuild this team to take the club to the next level: challenging for the League One play off places.

Beyond the football, I also believe in what the club is trying to achieve. I have every faith that Julian Rhodes understands what it takes to run a successful football club, and that thanks to David Baldwin there has been considerable off-the-field progress which can be continued.

Before Saturday’s match, City’s Chief Executive spoke on local radio about the season ticket initiative and the continued development of the training facilities (City have moved forwards on the pitch considerably since those lingering training ground issues were finally addressed). Baldwin talked about the cheap season ticket prices as a ‘club ethos’ and an eighth consecutive season of low prices can indeed be certainly considered a long-term, established strategy.

We should be proud of that season ticket ethos, but in many ways it is now taken for granted and – inevitably – criticised by some. When (or if) you renew, please feel a sense of pride in what the club is trying to do. The increased crowds and wonderful atmosphere at most home games this season demonstrate the positive effects of people before profit.

We will be okay

I think that the club’s overall progression – if not reflected in the short-term form guide – is evident enough to avoid any temptation to rip things up right now. Sacking Parkinson, less than a year into his three-year contract, would cost a considerable sum of money and risk jeopardising the forwards momentum. As Rhodes told the T&A on Friday when reflecting on the patience most fans have afforded the manager, “Phil has earned that right for what he has done in the last two years. We always talk about honest, hard-working players. That’s exactly what he is as a manager and we all appreciate that….With a manager like that, people give him time and all the support he needs.”

It’s hard to determine if this season is going to be looked back upon as enjoyable or labourous, but I know one thing at least – 2013/14 sure beats the 12 years that preceded 2012/13’s heroics. Perhaps more accurately, this has become a season of transition (with all the good and bad things that come with that).

My own, mellow outlook is that the short-term noise of defeats like Saturday are something not to get too caught up about, and that the ups and downs of a football season need to be measured against the bigger picture. The issues of the day are just that – for the day. The long-term outlook is hugely promising. Accuse me of my head in the sand, of wearing rose-tinted spectacles or whatever; but I’m personally very happy with the way the club is operating, and believe that we will ultimately get to where we want to be.

And in the meantime, I’m going to try and enjoy the ride – and enjoy the fact it no longer seems to ruin my weekends.

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19 replies

  1. Good article Jase. Although not as pro-Parkinson as you, I can definitely identify with the overall sentiments that you convey.

  2. Well balanced piece. What would be achieved by hounding Phil out? Let’s build on this season, regroup in the summer and kick on. Changing manager would be futile. As for the boo boys – short memories!

  3. As usual Jason you hit the proverbial nail sqarely on the head from my perspective.

    During my 500 mile round trip to the game on Saturday I had plenty of time to reflect and whilst the performance was pretty bad I don’t feel anything like as concerned as I had in previous seasons.

    I think that’s because:

    a) In previous years we were SO bad that I genuinely felt we might go out of the league and almost inevitably out of business. Standing at Aldershot (local game!) in the freezing cold watching Peter Taylor’s side struggle to muster a shot the whole game was a particular nadir for me. We all have our own low point. And I can relax in the belief that however bad Saturday was it wasn’t as bad as that, and it won’t mean that the club is heading into oblivion.

    b) The highs of last year were obviously never going to be matched again. And to an extent that is OK – because this year was so obviosuly going to be a let-down compared to that I’ve resigned myself to an average year being perfcetly acceptable.

    c) I’ve seen these players play better. I know they can. Hopefully it will be at Brentford (another local game for me!). When I was at the Aldershot debacle I honestly felt that was the best those 11 could manage and it was never ever going to get any better. Now I think it might just be better on Saturday !

    Sadly Bradfordians have a habit of seeing things as a quarter-empty rather than three-quarter full – I suspect that will not change anytime soon…

  4. One of the worst things about modern football is how there is no incentive for managers to develop and improve professionally. They are almost uniformly brought in under the expectation that they will do the thing they normally do (attacking/defending/discipline/long ball/short ball/motivation/tactics/big name to attract players…). This thing works for a while and then stops working, so the club sacks the manager and gets in another one with a different party piece. The result is that the manager’s employability is dependent on bringing a known style of management that can deliver a short term boost.

    “You know what you’re getting with FNAME LNAME, attacking/defending/discipline/long ball/short ball/motivation/tactics/big name to attract players…”. You could mail merge it. The result is that managers make mistakes, get sacked and then forced to make the same mistakes over again at a new club. Their previous club gets in a new manager with their own set of mistakes to make.

    The point is, Phil Parkinson is the best person to learn from any mistakes he has made and implement the lessons, and become a better all round manager (and I don’t mean he isn’t a decent manager already). Trying to recruit a manager who, for example, can give City a greater cutting edge would probably work but another area of the team will suffer as a result. So I hope that even those who have criticised (and I admit to being one) should see the sense in carrying on with the best manager we’ve had in years.

  5. Good article Jason – the mellowness kicks after your first 15 years of following City !

    After our last two promotions, we only stayed up on the last day of the season, compared to that we are in a good position at 11th place.

    The frustration is that none of the signings (contract not loan) since August 2012 have won a shirt or looked better than their equivalent than the team who finished 7th in League 2.

    I rarely do glass half empty but I reckon the average wage on the bench, once McClean has had his weekly substitution, is higher than on the pitch.

    Possibly the story of this season is how last season’s team (minus the leading goalscorer) went on to survive in a higher league and how James Hanson developed from provider to main goalscorer.

    • John’s last paragraph is absolutely spot on. The fact is this team earned promotion last year on the back of the lowest points total in a decade. Despite this the team, largely unchanged and despite losing star players, have continued to develop and are competing at this higher level. This, and the emergence of a more rounded James Hanson, cutting the mustard in league 1, is a reason to celebrate and back the judgment of Phil and the rest of the back room staff.

      We need a ‘Plan B’, We need to rebuild in the summer and we may need to use the loan market a little more like other clubs in the division do. But one thing is for sure. The best person to do this rebuilding is Phil Parkinson. To even consider anything else is simply ludicrous.

      I get depressed when I listen to the endless phone ins and read the message boards. Maybe its my age. We need less football fans in the world and more fans of football. That’s the only way things will change. I’m sick to death of listening to people ringing radio stations complaining that Arsenal / Liverpool / Man City / Man United are ‘only’ 3/4/5 in the premiership! A year ago Swansea City were held up as the model football club and now even they have sacked their manager for being 12th in the top league!!!

      I really hope that we see sense and give PP the time he deserves. Not because he’s perfect, or because he doesn’t make mistakes, or because we believe his tactics are correct or that the players are good enough, but because he’s capable of learning and developing his skills, that of his back room staff and of the players. I would choose Burton away in the playoffs following a chastening experience in the first leg and our second Wembley appearance following a thrashing in in the cup final as examples of PP learning and changing his approach to games.

      He’s more than capable of doing that again to push us up league 1 – given the opportunity.

  6. Hi Jason, can I just ask your opinion on why you think PP has proven to be, as you say, ‘wholly unsuccessful’ in last summers transfer business. I am totally behind him and hope he will be with us into next season, but I think it is fair to further question this aspect. To be classed as the right man to take us forward, one key attribute is to be able to spot the right players to improve on the existing team and sadly not one of his signings fits this category (at least at this stage).

    Could it be these players came into a very motivated and tightly knit group and they just haven’t been able to match the overall intensity and desire of last seasons team (accepting we have not shown this in every game, both this season and last). Most comments do not seem to think it is a lack of talent that is the problem, so have Parky and his team been unable to spot the right type of characters to take us forward?

    Assuming we safely finish around lower mid table (which should rightly be classed as a success for our first season back in League 1), even the most ardent PP fans must agree we have to be looking for a more successful recruitment campaign this summer, as without our great start to this season which was built on the momentum of last seasons success, we would be in a lot of bother right now.

    • Hi Simon

      My views on the summer recruitment is I would dearly love to have a look at the balance sheet for what they cost. I get the feeling (and it is educated guess work) that the vast majority of the playing budget went on keeping hold of the players who got the club promoted. We saw most out-of-contract players retained, but I’m sure most (if not all) rightfully agreed better terms.

      Which might have left a limited amount of money left for other signings, and a thinking from PP – right from the start – that he was going to largely rely on the players from last season. Mark Yeates is the exception as he has a good pedigree and clearly will have cost a few bits, but frankly when you look at some of the other recruits (Kennedy and De Vita spring to mind) they were evidently on the cheap and largely set to be squad players.

      For two seasons in a row, Parkinson has tried a quality not quantity approach. Last season it worked fantastically, this season less so. We have lacked cover at times when injuries occur, and there hasn’t been sufficient competition for places when players have endured a dip in form.

      Nevertheless, I think that PP went into this season expecting to rely on his established charges continuing to deliver (and, going back to 2012 when he signed most of them, I dare say he did do not only with a view to building a promotion-winning team but having players who would be good enough for League One should City go up). I don’t think there has ever been a plan that the new signings would be relied upon too heavily to take the club forward.

      Nevertheless, the lack of impact from new faces must be a big disappointment to Parkinson. Jason Kennedy was a huge let down, Mark Yeates is a huge let down. Others haven’t had too many opportunities, but not impressed when they have figured (De Vita and Taylor).

      I think that a summer shake up is inevitable, and this time we will see more promotion heroes leave. The quality over quantity approach will probably be continued, but this time a larger portion of the manager’s budget will go on bringing in new faces.

  7. A good article Jason. You seem to suggest that this season has not been too enjoyable. To me it has, and my son, an 11 year old in his first year as a season ticket holder has also enjoyed it – to date!! We could do with a couple more wins but I think on the whole the home performances have been ok and with a bit of luck could have had a couple more wins. I think he needs to recruit sensibly in the summer (goalkeeper, centre half, LB & midfield). Onwards & hopefully upwards, but perhaps L1 is where we belong with our current finances as it seems Championship footie is expensive (L”””ds as an example). Roll on the next game for the next saga in BCFC.

    • We’ve hit the highs of last season & now it’s time for calm & to be balanced.
      Jason is spot on in term’s of summer transfers Yeates played 40 games for Watford in championship before he arrived at valley parade & yet in a few flashes we’ve seen his quality. Andy Gray unfortunately hasn’t worked out & other’s. My opinion is they’ve let Mr Phil Parkinson down.
      There’s not loads wrong we just lack that central midfielder with that bit more quality on the ball plus injuries to Reid, Meredith, Davies, etc haven’t helped Mr Parkinson.
      I was envious watching Freeman (no15) how he controlled there tempo & had that extra quality on the ball in our final 3rd (sign him up).
      It’s not been a bad season just the start we had made most supporters feel another promotion push was on the card’s.
      I’ve every confidence Mr Parkinson will get it right & lead this club bk into the championship. It won’t happen over night & could possibly be 3 year’s before we gain promotion again. We’ve certainly progressed as a club with Mr Parkinson at the helm. & will do so again but patience is the key

  8. Jason. You are not alone. My own feeling towards to Club and the City are unchanged. PP has earned respect. It is a minority that dont show it but what I do know is that the few morons at City are the minority. These are the sort of people who would have demanded that Dario Gradi never got a second season at Crewe…you do right to ignore them

  9. Here’s what I believe looking at it a bit black and white…,

    I believe we had 3 star players as we lined up our squad for battle in August. These were Andrew Davies, Kyel Reid & Nahki Wells.

    Come the end of the season we’ll have had these 3 missing for a very significant amount of games. As a result then, we’ll win far fewer matches than we might have had our core of classier players played all season.

    Losing the contribution of Nahki Wells in particular has taken on barely a muted acknowledgement, possibly because people don’t like him now, but you can’t get away from the fact or the stats…

    I don’t remember the exact record but he scored something like 20 in 25 combining the end of last season and the start of this. That is almost unheard of and so replacing a “25 goal a season man” in January, given we didn’t have squad player who could scratch the surface of that kind of ratio and especially when looking to instead to bring in a replacement player for no fee….pause…..was going to need to be a stroke of supreme fortune, and left un-remedied would break the back of what we were achieving in games.

    The record shows that Nahki Wells’ 1 in 2 scoring ratio (and he’d started to become more on recent form) ended on the 14th of December. We’ve played 13 times since then, meaning we may have scored at least 6 more during that time – had we retained the services of a heavy goalscorer. In that sequence we’ve drawn 5 and lost by a one goal margin in another 5. If you plug those 1 in 2 striker goals back in, we’d have 16 more points than we currently have.

    Our clean sheet record with Davies in the side offers additional support to these ways of thinking.

    That’s my own mellow take on it, and all things considered I can’t blame Parkinson for the way things have turned out with injuries and want-away strikers.

  10. City were in serious danger of relegation to the Conference. Parkinson came in and saved us from that.
    Then he took us to the impossible Wembley final, and to promotion.
    This season, he has lost some of his very best players—to injury, to transfer. But still we are 11th in the league.
    We win 2 in a row, then lose in the last 5 minutes.
    Answer for a few—sack Parkinson.
    Answer for the rest of us—-good progress , keep it up.

    Thanks for being sensible; Jason.

  11. Very well said Jason! I’m afraid there have always been, and will continue to be, numpties who follow City who believe themselves to be knowledgeable on all football matters when the reality is exactly the opposite. I cannot believe some of the inane comments I constantly hear in the Main Stand at every home game. I’ve grown up following City since the late 1950s and it’s always been the same but the difference now is, with social media, these numpties have greater ability to air their ignorant, and often distasteful, views.

  12. I love the balanced reporting and responses that appear on this website, as opposed to the ‘get back down south’ comments that crop up now and again on Claret & Banter. It was even worse on the Club Message Board. The vile stuff that used to appear on there certainly made me question whether or not I wanted to be grouped with those people.
    .
    The general consensus on here seems to be that Parky did not get it right with his Summer signings and I would not disagree with that, with the exception of Yeates, who I believe can do the business with a run in the side along with full fitness. As for a change of manager forget it !! That only happens when things continue to slide to the extent that poor performances become the norm and points are lost. Don’t forget there were times, a few, last season when performances were bad, but masked by the cup run.

  13. I think Parkie is doing a decent enough job but would like to see us improve on two fronts.

    Firstly, I would like to see a change in the style of football we play. Too much predictable direct football for me. I would like to see more short passing and technically gifted players in the team. I’m not saying its easy to bring these types of players in but the existing style is starting to look some way behind other teams even in our own division.

    Secondly, I have no idea what our transfer policy is any more. How many players are we going to sign and not play? Dolan Atkinson and Bennett all signed on loan and yet three of the midfield against Stevenage was Jones Doyle and Tommo. So, are these lads not good enough or do they not suit our style of play? Either way why are they here and why dont we just bring players in who are better than what we have. In addition Nelson, Gray, De Vita, Kennedy, Folan, Yeates and Taylor have all been signed since Jan 13 on permanent deals and almost completely overlooked. Again, why sign them if your not going to play them. In most cases its obvious they werent/arent good enough to improve the team.

    I think Parkie has done a terrific job so far and im not panicking at all but I think his actions in the transfer market do leave a lot to be desired. I think we need to stick together but Parkie in my opinion has to do much much better with his summer recruitments.

  14. What’s the old saying about empty vessels making the most noise!!! This seems to be the case with some BCFC ‘fans’ when City play any team that is bottom of the league. I new what was coming, I fancy Julian Rhodes did as well, as he was quite rightly singing the praises of the BCFC fans for their immense backing given to the team in the previous two home games in the T&A prior to the Stevenage game, knowing deep down like we all did that the numpties would be out in force for this particular game. I can’t put my finger on why, the mindset of some must be totally different when playing bottom clubs, personally I want to win whoever we play and back every player just as I would if BCFC were playing Wolves.

  15. A few weeks ago Jason highlighted some issues PP had to deal with.

    I would look back further and ask whether he has actually addressed issues that were also very obvious last season.

    1) The lack of goals in midfield – despite a plethora of signings, changes etc etc the output from midfield is unacceptable.

    2) our first half performances have been poor. Who is responsible for getting the team motivated and “up at them” from the off? Whilst Nick Allamby seems to have done great endurance work has this been at the detriment of an initial impact?

    3) The 4-4-2 system cannot cope with five midfielders against it – it is easy for opponents to work that out. James Hanson has improved so much maybe he can be a modern lone striker?

    I find the support for PP on this website a bit illogical. Indeed when people talk of progress – I would love to understand their definition. Yes we got promoted and are playing in a higher league and progress should be marked by performances. As I see it we had a great game against Vale and two subsequent sketchy performances, the performances against Notts County, Sheffield United, Wolves, Carlisle had “poor” written all over them – dig back into December and there were few decent performances.

    Football is a results game – BC allowed PP to have one of the top 10 budgets in League One and apart from our scintillating start we have consistently and worryingly underperformed. There was a comparison with Gradi – I would have no issue with our current position if we were blooding youngsters and trying to introduce a new playing system. We are not – it’s old legs and a system that just doesn’t work. I laugh at suggestions McLean has to gel with Hanson – surely you get a player who will play off JH’s strengths? I was scolded for writing of McLean after a couple of games – how many scoreless games do you need?

    Guys you have to get real – Laudrup was the saviour and next best thing – 12 months ago – he’s gone. I would dearly have loved PP to have worked out – who wouldn’t – but if I was doing the job he has done with resources he was given – surely we should be in better shape? Probably that’s a good yardstick – what shape is BCFC in today? And who is best to improve it?

    • Hi Andrew

      Here is my personal take on the questions and points you make.

      “I would look back further and ask whether he has actually addressed issues that were also very obvious last season.”

      Last season we were promoted from League Two and reached the League Cup Final, so I’m not sure how you can say there were obvious issues last season. I would suggest that Phil Parkinson sees them differently from you, otherwise he would have taken steps to address these ‘issues’.

      “1) The lack of goals in midfield – despite a plethora of signings, changes etc etc the output from midfield is unacceptable.”

      Who did Phil Parkinson sign in the summer that looked likely to increase the midfield goal tally? I think that three years of watching his teams would tell us that Phil does not favour attacking midfielders who break into the box, and prefers deep-lying midfielders with an emphasis on one wideman to play as an out-and-out winger and set up the strikers. This approach worked spectacularly last season and has been continued (less successfully) this season. That is Phil Parkinson’s preference, it is not a problem he can’t fix because he doesn’t view it as the problem.

      If Parkinson wanted an attack-minded, burst-into-the-box midfielder he would have signed one. He would never have let David Syers go for one thing. Perhaps his thinking will change in the summer (I suspect it will to get more out of Mclean), but it is deliberate to this point. I appreciate you don’t agree with this approach, but that doesn’t mean it is an issue that Parkinson cannot address.

      “2) our first half performances have been poor. Who is responsible for getting the team motivated and “up at them” from the off? Whilst Nick Allamby seems to have done great endurance work has this been at the detriment of an initial impact?”

      Nick Allamby was praised to the high heavens last season, so it seems churlish to now criticise him. I think you are right that our first half performances have not been as good as our second, but again that has been the case ever since Phil joined. It is clearly deliberate to increase the pressure as the game goes on, and to end strongly. We haven’t seen that work as well over recent months (below-par first half performances and a failure to push home the pressure in the second half). That is simply poor performances, rather than an issue Phil cannot address. Again, as with point one, it is the manager’s preference.

      “3) The 4-4-2 system cannot cope with five midfielders against it – it is easy for opponents to work that out. James Hanson has improved so much maybe he can be a modern lone striker?”

      I agree with this, and we saw it as long ago as December 2012 when Rochdale defeated City 4-2 at Valley Parade with a 4-5-1. It is an issue that needs to be sorted, and I think that the fact we overcame the MK Dons recently, with the visitors playing that system, was a great sign. Phil went 4-3-3 and the switch won the game. Stevenage played a completely different way on Saturday so we cannot judge it on the same basis. Stevenage basically played 4-2-4 with the four forward players constantly switching over. An incredibly bold approach from a team with nothing to lose.

      As for 4-5-1, I agree I would be very happy to see us do that. I’m a big fan of the system. But I don’t think we have the personnel (that is when you do need midfielders getting into the box), and I also think that a lot of our supporters were completely crucify the manager if he did got 4-5-1. They would not accept playing only one striker at home. As I say, it’s a shame and I would be in favour of 4-5-1. We will see if Phil’s summer signings suggest he would consider it as an approach.

      “I find the support for PP on this website a bit illogical. Indeed when people talk of progress – I would love to understand their definition. Yes we got promoted and are playing in a higher league and progress should be marked by performances. As I see it we had a great game against Vale and two subsequent sketchy performances, the performances against Notts County, Sheffield United, Wolves, Carlisle had “poor” written all over them – dig back into December and there were few decent performances.”

      But Andrew, being in a higher league is progress. Sorry, but you can’t change that or belittle it. We can talk about one win in 21 games, but I completely refuse to judge Bradford City’s fortunes on such a narrow window. It would be the same if he won the next 21 games. The bigger picture matters, and the overall outlook is good. If we finish in mid-table, that is a good season because we would all have taken that a year ago.

      You are right that there have been some poor performances, but there have also been many decent and very good ones too. We have not been thrashed by anyone but Notts County. We are not out of our depth. The improvement needed to turn defeats and draws into more isn’t vast.

      “Football is a results game – BC allowed PP to have one of the top 10 budgets in League One and apart from our scintillating start we have consistently and worryingly underperformed.”

      I don’t know if it is true that we have one of the top 10 budgets in League One, but even if we do to be 12th isn’t bad for a newly promoted club. Every year there will be teams which over-achieve relative to their budget – otherwise why we would bother following football? – and we’ve had so many years of City failing on big budgets that I question why we have to be obsessed by it.

      “I laugh at suggestions McLean has to gel with Hanson – surely you get a player who will play off JH’s strengths? I was scolded for writing of McLean after a couple of games – how many scoreless games do you need?”

      Mclean is taking a fair bit of criticism, including from myself and other writers on this site. But I don’t see the point in writing him off so quickly. He is our player until 2016. So we have to get the best out of him. That is the challenge that Parkinson must fulfil.

      We have been spoiled with Hanson and Wells – how many other good City striker partnerships can you name since Mills and Blake? Hanson and Mclean do need to gel together and I don’t see a problem with both players adapting their games to get the best out of each other. Hanson and Wells both did that. There are recent signs of a better understanding but clearly we are not there yet.

      “Guys you have to get real – Laudrup was the saviour and next best thing – 12 months ago – he’s gone. I would dearly have loved PP to have worked out – who wouldn’t – but if I was doing the job he has done with resources he was given – surely we should be in better shape?”

      What is your expectation exactly? Where do you think City should be with his resources? You say he has a top 10 budget, so is that where you think we should be? Or do you think we should be in the top six? I see a newly promoted club that has lost its top scorer mid-season and has had to do without its best defender for over half of the campaign. I think these factors are very important. I would love us to be in the top six and in October I believed we could be, but last August my main concern was avoiding relegation. We are in a good position and I don’t personally share your doom and gloom. We could be in better shape, but we could also be in much worse shape.

      As for Laudrup, Swansea clearly went backwards since the League Cup win, so you can see why he went.

      “Probably that’s a good yardstick – what shape is BCFC in today? And who is best to improve it?”

      My view is Phil Parkinson is the best person to improve it. He has taken a club from near the bottom of League Two into the next division – with a nice League Cup stop-off – and is on course to establish us in the higher league. In my opinion it would be absolute insanity to throw that away over a few iffy results. I don’t buy the logic. I’m sick of Bradford City fans turning on the present manager and believing his removal will cure all ills. It never happened in the past, and I’m damn sure that now we actually have a proven manager it would stupid to attempt it now.

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