The Width of a Post asked various Bradford City supporter organisations to share their highlight and lowlight of the season.
Alex Scott, Concentrate on the League
Highlight – Half time of League Cup tie at Leeds. This was an easy selection for me. It’s all been downhill from here. As I walked down the spiralling staircase into the bowels of Elland Road’s South East Corner, you couldn’t escape it. That buzz. The locals had made the (probably correct) decision to not serve alcohol during the intermission, so fans congregated seemingly as one, talking with a irrepressible Sorkinesque velocity of the miracle being witnessed.
After the Aldershot debacle, my expectations were low, as everyone’s were. The country was enveloped in a nihilistic haze that week and the heavy handed police presence allied to the almost symbolic descent down the hill from Beeston bus station toward the cauldron of Elland Road left me fearing the worst. However the performance of the team, the young enthusiastic team I was so excited about, found me beaming. Whilst those euphoric moments initiated by messrs Compton and Flynn were difficult to discount, that feeling inside as I entered the concourse at half time is up there with my favourite moments supporting the club.
That buzz. From the bracing low of the prologue to that moment felt a lifetime away. And we got to savour it. For fifteen minutes, we were on top of the world.
Lowlight – Cheltenham at home in November. This is when the exasperation finally got the better of me. From the departure of Archie Christie, the revamping of the first team squad, the abysmal performances on the field, the vociferous backlash onto the club’s owners, everything was spiralling. Extra security was brought in, police horses abound, fluorescent jackets blinding.
I wrote above about ‘that buzz’ of the Leeds game which left us top of the world. That buzz. This was similar, except there was a pit in my stomach instead of a smile on my face. The game was humiliating. Completely outplayed by a cohesive team in Cheltenham, Bradford represented anything but. The atmosphere was hostile in the beginning and only got worse from there.
Beyond the horrors of the day, and it truly was harrowing, this was the day I, and many others, turned inexorably away from the ownership, and some the club itself. And they brought it all on themselves. My relationship with this iteration of the club changed that day. For good.
Mike Harrison, The City Gent
This season was one that fully proved the saying that the game is full of opinions. The 2011/12 season marginally ousted the previous season for dividing opinions between fans. Players, managers, heads of development and even the fans themselves had vociferous supporters both for and against this season.
As someone whose task it is to comment not only on the games but also the off the field activities, sometimes I wondered if I’d seen the same game as some fans or if I supported the same team? If there was ever a season where the younger generation (and sometimes the older ones too) vented their frustration at City’s position in the lower reaches of League Two, then this was it. They found their voice via Twitter, which suddenly seemed to be the only place to really be able to let off steam and praise under-performing players at the same time.
And like the genie released from the bottle, now there is now no going back. Tweeting for me showed the best and worst of this season, in which I played my part and which, for all its faults, was at times laugh out loud funny, sycophantically near vomit inducing, maddeningly frustrating but enjoyable all the same and always absolutely fascinating.
Highlights – for me there were more than many might imagine from a team that finished 7th from bottom in the entire Football League. For a change, City had cup runs in two out of the three competitions and in the third (or first in order of playing) the performance at Leeds just a few days after the damp squib of an opening day defeat to Aldershot was beyond expectation and gave City fans something to be proud about, even in defeat.
The JPT penalty shoot out wins with unlikely heroes such as Oscar Jansson, Nialle Rodney and Chris Mitchell – and what can one say about Nahki Wells’ thunderbolt to beat Rochdale in the FA Cup 1st round? Surely one of the best goals ever seen scored at Valley Parade in 108 years! If you opted to miss that game, boy was that a mistake. I didn’t and I can say that I was there!
In the league, the poor start was followed by a stutter, as just when the ‘new’ team hastily brought in and cobbled together by Phil Parkinson would one week look like they’ve cracked it and the next would look hopelessly out of touch. Any kind of real momentum didn’t finally appear until late November, just as City closed in on 22nd place and far too close to the two relegation places. The return of Andrew Davies following his suspension sparked the revival, as City’s defence finally looked solid and capable of cutting out the basic mistakes made by the defenders used up to that point.
City fully deserved their first away win of the season at Southend on December 16th and it was a pleasure to be at Roots Hall for a change. The Christmas wins over Crewe and Shrewsbury showed City fans what Parkinson could do when his best players were all available to him. In the second half of the season the highlights were the successive away wins at Torquay and Barnet and the magnificent hat trick for Wells at Northampton which confirmed that City would be safe, though I for one never really doubted it.
Talk of relegation was talked up by the doom mongers with little regard for the merits of both City’s playing staff and management, as opposed to the paucity of the squads at the disposal of the bottom three teams.
Lowlights – Well going to Accrington and getting beaten again wasn’t pleasant (again!) and the shock news that Peter Jackson, for whatever reason, just upped and left once again had the club in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
A couple of months later and Archie Christie, who had earlier being hailed as almost a man with magical powers also left in mysterious circumstances which set a chain of events that would see the much loved Boy from Brazil disappear from the ‘net, which then caused Jason to set up Width of a Post which led to The City Gent losing one of its best regular columnists.
Lowlights in the 2nd half of season seemed to mainly comprise of the team losing key players to injury and/or suspension (Reid, Oliver, Ramsden, Syers, Hanson and Flynn), conceding last minute equalisers and erratic referees. The lowlight of them all, the way that Crawley came to Valley Parade with their spoiling, time wasting tactics, and who ended the good home run City had been on; but the brawl after the game threatened to plunge the team into chaos with the loss of key players who got caught up in a moment of madness which once again got the club into the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Perhaps if the snow hadn’t fallen and the temperature plummeted at the beginning of February the outcome of the Crawley as well as the AFC Wimbledon games would have been very different. The game at Wimbledon (Kingston) was another lowlight not only for Craig Fagan’s stupid antics which saw him red carded, but for the way I came away from the game feeling completely cheated by the referee. March was a real slog going to 5 away games, almost a quarter of the season played in just one month. Total madness, but that’s the Football League rules for you!
In conclusion, it’s been a strange season both on and off the field and now it’s over I can look back on it as being one of the most interesting seasons we’ve had for a while. It’s been a season of narrow margins, as City’s goal difference can attest. There’s been probably more pros than cons, but one thing I know for sure, there will be plenty of City fans on Twitter who’ll disagree with that statement, but hopefully just one or two will agree.
Roll on next season because, as we know, it’s never dull being a City fan and just about anything can happen between now and the start of the 2012/13 season, and for me #inparkywetrust*
*just as long as enough City fans buy their season tickets, or 50/50 Flexicards and the Board has a sufficient budget that allows Parkinson to keep the players he wants and attract the ones he needs to add to the core team #justsaying
Mick Shackleton, Friends of Bradford City FC
From a Friends of Bradford City perspective this, our first season, has been a very positive one off the field – with better results on the field, we expect next season to be even better.
The main aim of our group is to contribute to ‘our’ club. This is in any way we can – whether it be from raising funds to purchase something that we believe will benefit the club, to even helping with the maintenance within the ground. Our group numbers, through Claret and Amber memberships, have steadily grown throughout the campaign - something we’ll be looking to re-launch for next season very soon.
As a supporters group we ran an online Man of the Match voting system after every home game. This was supported by Shipley Bantams who used the return journey from every away game to collate the votes from their travelling group. We’d like to think the overall result is a fair representation of supporters’ opinion…
The return of the recently held Player of the Year awards (hosted by FoBCFC) saw 300 people packed into the McCall suite – let’s hope that come the end of next season with City flying high we can fill both McCall and Hendrie’s!
Regarding the PoTYA’s, Luke Oliver (98pts) topped our voting charts closely followed by Kyel Reid (97) with Andrew Davies (72) in third and Nahki Wells (49) in fourth.
For me this season, I’ve seen some good displays in the league away at Northampton along with Southend and Torquay at home and some great performances in the cup, especially against our two local rivals. So we know we are more than capable – with that I look optimistically to next season and the countdown to fixture release.
Ian Lockwood, Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club
Highlight– In a season of relatively few highs and a lot of lows asking for the best and worst moments proved far trickier than it seems at first sight. When I asked a few Skipton Bantams for suggestions, there was a mixture of furrowed brows, vacant stares and long pauses. Talk forever on the failings of Gary Locke (a frequent topic of conversation among the Skipton Bantams), but pick a special highlight and answer came there none. From the list of low points there was too much to choose from (unless one goes down the obvious route of that minute of madness after the Crawley game).
Quite a few Skipton Bantams take consolation in the early season cup run, including a win at Huddersfield. But for me the JPT is always a pointless exercise – unless you get to Wembley. Who after all can remember this year’s winners, never mind last year’s? Penalty shootouts, victories over bigger sides are all very well, but the JPT is one more game where a key player might get injured in front of a sparse crowd on a wet night in Oldham. I cannot look back on the JPT run as a fond memory – more an entertaining diversion from the real business of promotion/relegation.
No, my highlight of the season is just one game: Southend, home. This was the game which banished the depression; this was the game where City’s survival in the division was, in my mind, guaranteed. True, there remained work to be done, but after a long run of spirited performances but few points, it seemed that the tide had turned.
The air of relief among the fans as they trudged up the hill towards Manningham Lane at the end was, if not euphoric, then one of intense relief. It was like taking off a pair of ill-fitting shoes after a long march – the blisters were there but things could only get better. It wasn’t just the result but the manner of it. On the back of the losing run, the doom-mongers were in full voice and even the optimists were beginning to lose faith. Goals from Hanson and Fagan, a sparkling cameo from Mr Wells and a referee who for once seemed on our side were not the full story. It was as comprehensive a victory for City as any this season.
In a season of few highlights, this was as good as it got.
Lowlight - Plenty of low points season but one that is becoming increasingly annoying is the negativity of the message boards. Within minutes of a match finishing, the vitriol comes pouring down from people who clearly have not been at the match but whose Playstation experience tells them that Parky has got the wrong tactics. Every development at the club is a sinister or incompetent move, every possible sighting of a player shopping in Rotherham/Rochdale is proof that he’s about to go there; every friend of a friend of a friend who was in Wetherspoons at 2am is a club “insider”.
Chief targets of abuse are the manager (as always) and one of the co-chairman (the one who can be bothered to talk to the fans). This low point shows no signs of going away. Like little children seeking attention at nursery (but often with lower grammar and spelling skills) they have to be heard, their assessment has to be shared, their abuse has to be broadcast as wide as possible. Debate about a player or team is part and parcel of football, but the abusive nature of the negative boards means that I rarely look at them now after the reasoned reports of Mr Parker and Mr Widthofthepost.
If I can trace it back to one particular point which stopped me reading message boards it was Andrew Davies’ second sending off which sparked a torrent of abuse about him being a liability, an example of Parkinson having poor judgement by sticking by him, he should be sent straight back to Stoke etc.
Alan Carling, Bradford City Supporters Trust
Highlight - The high point occurred for me very early on, one-up at half-time on August 9 2011 at Elland Road in the Carling Cup (no relation), after a scintillating first-half performance that deserved a bigger lead. The spirit of the side was typified by one of David Syers’ surging runs into the box after the interval. He just failed to beat the keeper to the ball, and took a knock that – again, typically – he tried to run off before it became clear that he could not carry on.
It did not seem possible at the time that this injury would keep him out of the side for most of the rest of the season. But there was an air of inevitability as Leeds got into their stride in the second half, and pegged back a magnificent City effort in the closing twenty minutes.
Lowlight – My lowest point of the season came on Terrible Tuesday, March 27th 2012, or to be more precise, about twenty-four hours later. Tuesday began with the news that the Bradford Bulls were in deep financial trouble, launching an emergency appeal to fans for half a million within a month to keep the club afloat. My heart went out to my opposite number in the Bulls’ Trust, Bullbuilder’s Chris Hardstaff. This is the kind of situation that is always at the back of your mind as the Chair of a Trust: that some disaster will befall your club – or be revealed in any event – that requires emergency action at a moment’s notice to stave off the unthinkable. And then in the evening came Crawley Town.
The Crawley side played the most obnoxious game of football I have ever witnessed in my life. Their players were full of sneaky fouls and cynical ploys, and fell when touched as if pole-axed. It speaks volumes for their tactics that they collected six yellow cards – a majority of the team, including one for the goalkeeper for time-wasting – but no reds. Manager Evans’ order of the day was obviously for players to take it in turns to commit crimes and misdemeanours just short of a sending off.
The referee did not handle the game well, but you had to have sympathy for the problems he faced in controlling a match in which one side was mostly disinterested and disengaged. The fact that Crawley Town have been promoted means at least that we will not have to play them next season, though we will still face a Steve Evans side, after he showed his loyalty to Crawley by leaving soon after our match to join Rotherham. I notice from the web that he has just ‘culled’ the squad he inherited, presumably to dispense with the services of those who wish to play football.
The most serious consequence of the Crawley game only became clear a day later, however, with the news that Andrew Davies, Luke Oliver and Jon McLaughlin had been dismissed in the dressing room for fighting Crawley players on the pitch just after the final whistle. The core of our defence had been taken out at a critical moment of the season. I will not condone their actions, but I could understand why they lost their heads under Crawley’s shameless provocation.
And this is why my worst moment of the season came on Wednesday March 28th. Relegation suddenly seemed a possibility that could not be wished away, especially as an FA points deduction was not out of the question. I knew that if we were relegated, the survival of the club would be at stake. The first priority would be to keep the club alive, and if possible still playing at Valley Parade. But if the latter option proved impossible, there would be one obvious escape route – for City to play at Odsal. Yet it also seemed that Odsal might now be closed for business within weeks, leaving a relegated City with nowhere viable to play. I contemplated this future with real dread.
Luckily, events have not turned out that way. The Bulls’ Quest for Survival appeal has reached its initial targets, although the Bulls’ longer term future must remain in doubt. And City rallied after Crawley, with three vital wins in six games. Players like Lee Bullock and Guy Branston deserve great credit for stepping in to save the day on the pitch. Yet no-one wants to repeat the experience of not being safe from relegation until a couple of games before the end of the season. And this is by now a long-standing problem. City has averaged fourteenth place in its five years in the Fourth Division, and the trend is downwards if anything, not upwards.
It is true to say, of course, that this is not good enough for a club of our size. But it is more helpful to think how fans can work together with everyone at the club to make a difference in the longer term. I hope that the Supporters’ Trust will be able to announce a fans’ investment plan before the start of next season that will strengthen the club, and help take City in a new direction – onwards and upwards.
Phil Woodward, Shipley Bantams
Highlight - Winning at Huddersfield away. The JPT isn’t a cup I really have much interest in, yet this season it provided us with our best wins, some great performances and some fine displays of penalty taking and penalty saving.
I was too young to witness the hatred and rivalry between City and Leeds, so for me the rivalry when I started watching City was with Huddersfield. There has often been quite a nasty atmosphere when we play the “Terriers” and plenty of crowd trouble. I’ve not witnessed many wins over Town, so this JPT victory was great to see. A good performance, great atmosphere and lots of banter – woof woof!
Lowlight – The negativity around the club. Threads on the message board as early as October calling for Parkinson Out. Over the top criticism of Hanson, Fagan and others. Hanson is a local lad done well out of non league football; the fairytale of kid from the Co-op making it as a professional footballer, yet so many seem either jealous, envious or just angry to see him do well. You can almost sense the disappointment from some when he scores, the slamming shut of the laptops as his critics wait in anticipation to have another go at him.
The PR from Mark Lawn does nothing for the club either, he’d be better off not speaking to the media and the claim that we have been successful by staying up is fooling no one. The Archie Christie saga was embarrassing for all involved and the way people were quick to stick the knife into Jacko was a disgrace.
Expectations for next season: Play offs
I don’t think we are a million miles away from being a good side. We are not getting hammered every week but we struggle to grind out 1-0 wins. A couple of additions and a decent pre season could see us fly out of the blocks if the fixtures are kind to us. I’m more optimistic now than I was last season with a squad lacking quality.
David Pendleton, Bantamspast
See here for David’s views.