Tag Archives: Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club

Mark Lawn speaks

7 Feb

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By Gareth Walker

Earlier this week, Bradford City Joint Chairmen Mark Lawn was guest speaker at the Skipton and Craven Bantams supporters club meeting and answered questions on a variety of topics. Here is a summary of what Lawn had to say.

Q: Do you still enjoy being Chairman?

A: Lawn said that he’d prefer to just be a fan. Last year was a tough year for him personally, but he is proud that he can tell his grandkids that he was club custodian when they went to Wembley twice.

Q: Have contract negotiations started with Stephen Darby yet?

A: No new contract negotiations have started with anyone yet. The decision has been taken to wait until club is safe in this league.

Darby enjoys being at the club. He is happy and Lawn thinks that Darby (and many other current players) would struggle to earn their current wages elsewhere at this level; because when he signed in summer 2012 he was given League One wages and furthermore earned a bonus when promotion was achieved.

Darby and Gary Jones spoke to the Chairmen last year when there was the prospect of the club being sponsored by The Sun newspaper for their trip to Wembley. They said that they didn’t feel comfortable with that as Liverpudlians, because of The Sun’s reporting of the Hillsborough disaster.

Q: What convinced Aaron McLean to sign for City?

A: The size of the club, its level of support and the stadium.

Q: What is the current situation with Matty Dolan?

A: It’s going okay. The loan window isn’t open yet. Lawn didn’t think Middlesbrough were being realistic in their negotiations over a permanent deal.

Q: Who is the one player you are disappointed that City didn’t sign whilst you have been in charge?

A: Leon Clarke. Lawn was upset that we missed out on him last summer – Phil Parkinson didn’t want him due to his reputation. Parkinson’s emphasis is on team spirit. Sometimes he simply refuses to sign who the board want.

Q: What was the reason behind the decision to freeze season ticket prices?

A: Lawn wanted to put prices up by £20, but the club calculated that sales would drop by 10%. It is expected that the monthly payment plan will continue.

Q: Has the fan base increased post Wembley?

A: Sales of Season Tickets including Flexi Cards have risen from approximately 10,000 to approximately 11,000.

Q: The point was raised how all other Yorkshire clubs advertise at Catterick that free entry to games can be gained if a person produces their warrant card when purchasing a ticket, but City is always missing from the list of clubs that do this.

A: Lawn said that City do operate this policy and he will see to it that it is made clear on the club website.

Q: Why do clubs sometimes have undisclosed transfer fees?

A: Usually the buying club want this to make their supporters think that they have paid more than they actually have.

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Q: Were you happy with the Nahki Wells transfer?

A: Lawn had words with Nahki and advisor prior to the move because he was not happy with Wells’ performances in December. Lawn says that he understands the fans’ bitterness. Nahki wanted to play in the Championship.

We get lots of bonuses and add-ons from the deal. Lawn sees it as a win-win. It’s a good deal for City if Wells fails and it’s a good deal for City if he does well.

Q: Do you think that Wells was tapped up?

A: No comment.

Q: Why is the club shop so short of stock?

A: The shop usually sells between 8,000 and 10,000 replica shirts per year, but they had sold 10,500 before the start of this season because of the two Wembley trips. They ordered another 5,000 but it still hasn’t been enough.

Lawn was not happy that the stock design second kit was not available from Nike when they requested it. All manufacturers are the same – Surridge and Nike have proven very similar. He agrees that the shop probably don’t have enough stock. However, the club gets an agreed level of income from the franchising of the shop whereas when they owned it, it always made a loss.

Q: Were there any offers for any players other then Wells during the transfer window?

A: No. Carlisle offered 50k for James Hanson in the 2013 January window.

Q: What are your thoughts on agents?

A: Everyone has an agent. Luke Sharry had an agent despite only earning £120pw.

Q: Does Nahki Wells’ agent represent any other City players?

A: Yes, he is Robbie Threlfall’s brother but he is not the most difficult agent to deal with.

Q: Is there interest in any of our youth players currently?

A: No and the club have decided that they won’t let youth players go to top clubs on trial anymore because too many were having their heads turned and then demanding to leave. If other clubs want our youth players then they have to pay the money upfront.

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Q: How many squad changes do you expect in the summer?

A: Four or five out and four or five in. The club needs to replace some current squad members with proven League One players. The nucleus is there. Parkinson is eyeing players up for next year already. We could look at some Premiership players on loan.

Q: Would you have liked to have kept any of the players that we released last summer?

A: Personally would have liked to have seen Zavon Hines and Blair Turgott stay.

Q: Why don’t we have a second goalkeeper on the books to compete with Jon McLaughlin?

A: The budget doesn’t allow for a second goalkeeper. Premiership clubs will only let you have one of their young keepers on loan if he is going to play regularly.

Q: How much do agents get paid?

A: Agents typically get 5% over the terms of the contact. It is in their interest to unsettle players. They can get sometimes get players to sign for a club for less money. Clubs and players pay their own legal fees. Agents started in the 1980s.

Lawn told the story of how he was influential in Stuart McCall re-signing for Bradford City in 1998. McCall was going to sign for Barnsley, but Lawn was on a night out with him and heard about this. He rang Geoffrey Richmond and told him to get in quick and sign him before he signed for the Tykes on the Monday.

Q: How confident are you on the Mark Stewart case?

A: City would win in a court of law. Falkirk are claiming training costs from eight years old to 21 years old but he was first team player at 19.

Q: Will next year’s playing budget be lower than this year’s?

A: Yes, the budget will be lower next year. We had mid League One budget last year when we got promoted from League Two and we might have had to sell Nahki last January if we hadn’t have drawn Arsenal in the cup.

Q: Were we interested in signing Nouha Dicko and why didn’t it happen?

A: Yes we were interested, but Dicko was adamant that he didn’t want to step into Nahki’s shoes.

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Q: Are you still happy with Phil Parkinson and is Phil Parkinson still happy at City?

A: Yes and yes but the club will always tell Phil if another club wants him and Phil is obviously feeling the pressure at moment due to the bad run of form.

Q: What do you think is causing the current bad run?

A: In Lawn’s opinion the problem is three fold: Davies injury, Nahki’s attitude and performances, refereeing decisions.

Q: Do you think that Kyel Reid will be here next season?

A: Probably not because he has a young family in London. Lawn is a big fan of Reid.

Q: Why has no outside investment into the club been forthcoming?

A: Lawn says that he would love to get someone in with money at City but nobody is interested.  The pressure of the job is affecting his health. He was really struggling a couple of years ago when he thought that as a fan he might end up taking the club out of existence.

He believes that the reason for the lack of interest might be because we aren’t in the Championship and we don’t own our ground. The cost of the ground rent is currently manageable.

Q: Why hasn’t the Jason Kennedy signing worked out so far?

A: He doesn’t know; it could be playing in front of large crowds or the fact that his confidence was low due to not going into team straight away.

Q: What strides do you think that the club has made since your last visit (to Skipton Bantams)?

A: Fitness, nutrition, backroom staff, training ground.

Q: What were you personal highlights from last season?

A: i) Villa away when his daughter’s muscles and joints froze due to the tension and excitement and she needed medical treatment.
ii) Burton away when his son climbed down to see him on the pitch.
iii) Going on the pitch with his wife after victory at Wembley.

Q: When do the changing rooms need to be upgraded by?

A: The changing rooms have to be done by 2014/15 but it would cost £300k for the cheapest option, which is to move them into the corner where the scoreboard is. So the club have asked for five years dispensation. Arsenal changed at a hotel again for the cup game last year

Q: What is your view on safe standing?

A: It would be okay if someone would pay for it. Club can’t afford it currently. He doesn’t think it will happen anyway because he doesn’t think that the law will be overturned.

Q: How long is Adam Reach on loan with us for?

A: Currently one month but it can be extended until the end of the season. There is no chance of making this deal permanent because he is under contract and highly rated at Middlesbrough.

Q: What are your views on Steve Evans?

A: Lawn doesn’t like him. Nobody has a good word for him. Lawn would never employ him. Rotherham’s chairman is a friend and Lawn asked him why he employed Evans, only to be told that he would get results. Lawn replied that he is not that desperate for success.

We might have to change our playing style a little bit now that Nahki has gone, because McLean needs the ball in the box, maybe this might help us beat them!

Q: What is your view on Oli McBurnie?

A: Phil Parkinson says that McBurnie is the best finisher that he’s seen. Left foot, right foot and head.

Q: Why hasn’t Mark Yeates been a success so far?

A: He’s been disappointing but he works really hard in training. Yeates just seems to want to play central when his best position is on the left wing.

Q: If we had a fully fit squad what would be your current starting line up?

A: McLaughlin. Darby, Meredith, McArdle, Davies, Jones, Atkinson, Reach, Bennett, Hanson, McLean.

Q: Would any of last season’s side get into your all time City XI?

Andrew Davies would. Nahki Wells would only just miss out – he would push Robbie Blake very close.

Q: What is your long term plan for the club?

A: Lawn believes that he and Julian Rhodes could get the club into the Championship but outside investment would be needed to take it further from there.

Q: What is the current condition of the pitch in view of Saturday’s game?

A: The pitch is very heavy at the moment. The club are doing all that they can because they have enough Tuesday night games coming up already but the weather forecast is not good.

Wayne Jacobs – a faithful City Gent

15 Dec

By Damien Wilkinson

Look around the current City squad.  See any long serving team members?  Thought not.

Following Lee Bullock’s departure at the end of last season, James Hanson Jon McLauhglin is the club’s longest serving player, joining in 2009, and currently having played over 130 60 games.

Given the rapid turnover of players, including an increasing use of loan players, compounded with the manager merry-go-round seen in recent years, the average length of service of the rest of the current squad is perhaps better measured in months rather than years.

Indeed it’s hard to see the day of the loyal club servant returning any time soon and the likes of Wayne Jacobs and his 11 year playing service, not to mention his stint on the management team, being repeated.

Time then to review Wayne’s career focusing on his time at VP and show some well-deserved respect to an oft unsung City player.

Sheffield born Wayne Jacobs began his career at Sheffield Wednesday in 1985 as a youth player, before making the step up to the first team with 6 appearances in 1987-1988.  A more productive time at Hull City followed with 129 games, and Jakes began to carve a reputation for consistency and was one of Hull’s better players during this period.  Unfortunately, towards the end, he suffered a cruciate ligament injury and was never to return to first team action, Hull boss Terry Dolan dispensing with his services during Christmas 1992, with Hull also in the midst of financial worries.

A solitary season at Rotherham followed and whilst 42 matches dispelled Hull’s concern regarding the injury, he was released at the end of the season.

Rotherham’s decision was to be Bradford City’s gain, as Lennie Lawrence signed Jacobs on a free transfer amongst a flurry of pre-season activity in 1994, which also saw John Taylor, Jon Ford, Shan Murray and Richard Liburd join the club.

After a reasonable first season from an individual perspective, the next season would see the unlikely late season surge to the playoffs, Blackpool and Wembley capping promotion in some style.

The following season commenced the start of a recurring theme for Jakes, notably that of having to deal with pretenders to his left back berth.  I seem to recall continually thinking at the time his days were surely numbered, but as the likes of Andy Kiwomya, in a wingback role, and Lee Todd were all heralded but seen off by Mr Consistent.

Fast forward to the first Premiership season and the arrival of Andy Myers from Chelsea, who started with the number 3 shirt and as first choice left back. Not for long! Jacobs finished that season with more appearances as Myers struggled to capture consistent form.  More of the same followed the next season with Ian Nolan the latest victim.

The start of the decline then occurred, as City dropped down the divisions and, even more fundamentally, suffered two administrations.  Jacobs remained throughout, seeing off yet more challengers, such as Paul Heckingbottom and Lewis Emanuel who came and went. However, injury during 2004 followed by spells in and out of the team, culminated in an extended time out of the side and 2005, in his testimonial season, saw time called on Wayne Jacobs playing career at City. Fairly typically this was a low key end to 318 matches and 12 goals in the Claret and Amber. He did manage to come on for the last seven minutes of the 4-2 win over Bournemouth at VP, receiving an emotional send off.

Halifax Town and Chris Wilder then beckoned and the job as assistant player manager, with the curtain finally coming down on his playing days after 11 appearances for the Shaymen.  Wayne’s previous management experience being limited to a stint in 2003, being a one match stint, prior to Bryan Robson becoming manager, which also involved dropping a certain Dean Windass from the team!

Following Stuart McCall’s appointment in June 2007, Wayne Jacobs was to many, a surprising choice as assistant manager, but he obviously couldn’t resist the opportunity to return to the club. This level of surprise was to manifest itself during McCall’s reign somewhat unusually, in the form of a frequent questioning of Jacobs’ capabilities by a vocal minority within the fan base. Compare this to the relative and anonymity enjoyed by current number 2, Steve Parkin and I wonder whether this was mainly due to a reluctance to avoid abusing the initially untouchable Stuart!

In a similar manner to his long standing custody of his left back spot, Jakes retained his role following the appointment of Peter Taylor in 2010. Taylor then publicly gave Jacobs strong backing, as if to quell the previous doubters, and Jacobs became an integral part of Taylor’s backroom team. However, the team slipped as the season progressed and with Taylor eventually falling on his sword, the last gasp win against Stockport, incredibly just over a year ago, also marked Jacobs’ last involvement, and he could be seen shedding a tear after the final whistle.  Jacobs was then put on “gardening leave” shortly after – an ignominious end for a loyal City servant.

Understandably, Jakes initially returned to the club in a limited capacity, mainly through associations with his admirable charity work, and “managed” a supporters’ side in a fund raising match at VP last season, but seems to have rekindled his love affair with the club in the current season.

Indeed, this was amply shown at a recent Skipton Bantams meeting, where Jakes was invited to a Q&A session (the night after the Arsenal match so spirits were very high!).

Jakes spoke very passionately about this time at the club, and his strong positivity and belief shone through.  This ranged from helping convince the dejected players in the dressing room after the Blackpool first leg defeat that they could turn things round, to a strong feeling earlier in the 1996-97 season that City would secure First Division safety in the final game.

He talked about the difficulties of having to drop Dean Windass from the side in 2003, given his long association with him and his family. The resulting frostiness took some time to get over, Deano eventually conceding Jakes had done right thing (which clearly meant a lot to Jakes).  Regarding the fall from the Premiership – Jakes lamented that the team spirit was destroyed by the recruitment of highly paid players, who the club incredibly dared not show the training facilities to, prior to them signing.

The various managers throughout his career were discussed – Jakes not really having a bad word to say on any of them.  Of his time as assistant manager, he noted that he would frequently offer strong opinions, but if these were not taken, he would respect that and provide a united front with either Stuart or Peter Taylor.  Interesting he felt Peter Taylor had not quite realised what he would encounter within the club with regard to facilities and infrastructure, and this rankled from the outset.  As for Stuart, Jakes feels that he will one day return to City to complete some “unfinished business”.

The role that his strong faith has played throughout his career came across fervently.  At the current time, Jakes feels he is best served carrying out his role associated with the One In A Million School project, and has no immediate plans to return to football coaching in a full time capacity.

It was also clear that he is following this season with keen interest, and it was interesting to hear his views on Phil Parkinson’s tactical formations and the strong team spirit that has emerged.  This was fondly compared to the City promotion squad of 1998-99 which Jakes felt was probably the best side he had played in – all strong characters in different ways, could play a bit (!) but could also get stuck into battles if required.

Looking back Jakes was around during promotions, relegations, administrations and in particular the Blackpool play off semi-final, Wembley, final day of the season triumphs against Hull, QPR, Wolves and Liverpool tell only a small part of an incredible journey, which unfortunately also included personal tragedy. Wayne Jacobs always conducted himself with the utmost dignity and deserves our respect as a true City Gent. Cheers Jakes and hope your long association with the club continues!

An evening with Jamie Lawrence

3 Dec

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By Jason McKeown

Note: Wayne Jacobs is now appearing instead of Jamie.

Bradford City legend Jamie Lawrence is the star guest of the next Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club meeting. The Jamaican international, who has apparently organised for a small group of ex-City players from the 1997-2001 era to attend the Bradford City vs Arsenal fixture, will be answering supporters questions at a venue still to be confirmed (but likely to be Herriots Hotel) on Wednesday 12 December.

Having being fortunate enough to interview Jamie by phone over the summer, I’m looking forward to meeting him in person. With Jamie’s reputation for enjoying a drink or two enhanced by him socialising with City supporters during the pre-season tour of Ireland, expect it to be a late evening.

Entry is £2 members and £4 non-members. Final details will be confirmed via the Skipton and Craven Bantams’ own website, so keep an eye out.

Should be good this.

What are you doing on 10 October?

1 Oct

By Jason McKeown

The night after Bradford City’s JPT trip to Hartlepool, you can get your claret and amber kicks on Wednesday 10 October by attending one of two excellent events.

Event one – An Evening with Bobby Campbell

@McCall Suite, Valley Parade, Bradford

Mick Shackleton told Width of a Post:

“The evening will be in the theme of the TV programme ‘This is your Life’ and will feature ex-players telling of their time with Campbell. The list of ex-players expected to attend includes – Les Chapman, Mega Ellis, Greg Abbott, Peter Jackson, Stuart McCall, Dave Evans, John Hawley, John Hendrie, Terry Yorath, Terry Dolan, Ian Ormondroyd and Don Goodman (subject to SKY commitments).

“This is to tie in with the launch of Bobby Campbell’s book – They Don’t Make Them Like Him Anymore; written by Paul Firth, which Bobby will be signing copies of during the night.

“Entrance is free when you purchase the book at £12, otherwise it’s £2 (no pay on the night). A Pie and Peas supper will be available on the night at £3. Bobby Campbell signed merchandise will be offered through a raffle on the night.

“Due to the current demand the event has moved from the Bantams Bar and will be held in the McCall Suite. The event has currently attracted over 240 people.

“Further details and entrance to the event can be obtained through the http://www.friendsofbcfc.co.uk website.”

Event two – Meet James Meredith

@Herriots Hotel, Skipton

The first Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club meeting of the season will begin at 7.15pm. James Meredith, their sponsored player, will be guest for the evening. Entrance on the night will be £2 for members and £4 for non-members. Membership, at a cost of £5 for the 2012/13 season, will be available on the night.

(And if you’re going to event two, you can buy me a birthday pint ;-) )

Stop the press

20 Jun

By Jason McKeown

As news coming out of Valley Parade seemingly grinds to a standstill, two professionals who have spent several years reporting on Bradford City rocked up at the latest Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club meeting, on Wednesday, to instigate a good old chit chat about all things City.

Simon Parker (Telegraph & Argus Bradford City reporter) and Derm Tanner (former head of sport at BBC Radio Leeds) spent a near 90 minutes fielding questions from around 30 supporters; ranging from their favourite and not so favourite memories of covering the club, through to who Phil Parkinson might be signing this summer.

The pair started off firmly in reminiscing mode, asked about the most difficult players and managers they have had to deal with from their time reporting on City. Simon opted for Michael Branch as his player, “He didn’t like me…and when he left for Chester, he made a pop about how at least he was moving onto something better now. Didn’t quite work out that way!”

“There aren’t too many (difficult players), even in the Premier League they were very approachable” said Derm, before opting for Tommy Doherty. “Never ever spoke to me. I was determined to interview him, but he would always keep his head down and never speak to me. The best I could ever get out of him were grunts. The worst interviewee had to be Lewis Emmanuel. I asked him nine questions once, and I only ended up with about 20 seconds I could use.”

Simon added: “The hardest interview for me was Jaunjo. Especially as I had to interview on his mobile which kept breaking up. In the end I had to make it up!”

On managers, Derm again was polite in not criticising anyone, but did opt for Lennie Lawrence as the strangest, “When the microphone was on he was fantastic, and we would be bubbly and you could have a chat and laugh with him. But once the tape finished – because we used tapes in those days – that was your lot. If you tried to have any banter with him before or after, you’d just get one word answers. He wasn’t unpleasant though.”

That led Simon to talk about Taylor. “There wasn’t any manager that was particularly nasty. Peter Taylor could be very awkward, but he gave you great answers. Again there was not much chat before or after, but he was in the zone when you spoke to him. If you asked him a good question, he would give you a proper answer. He would give you some cracking stuff, but you had to ring him at a certain time. If you rang him at 9.05am on a Monday instead of 9am, he would demand to know why you were late!

“If you caught him when he was down in Essex, which was quite a lot, and he was walking his dogs, he would talk to you for 25 minutes and give you cracking answers to five questions. From the Jamaican FA, substitutions the previous week, the referee, Ronnie Moore – and you’d have all your stories for an entire week. He was brilliant, though he always kept you on your toes and was very wary of what you were saying to him.”

Derm added, “I got on really well with Taylor. But the slightly alarming thing was that he would listen to what you had to say on the radio. Normally a manager wouldn’t bother, but he would quiz me about it and say things like ‘I’m not happy about what you had to say last night’. And the colour would drain from my face!”

Derm was also asked who would be replacing him on Radio Leeds as the Bradford City commentator, after it was announced last April that he was leaving the station. David Fletcher was the reply, a newspaper journalist and radio commentator of Halifax Town for many years (he also helped to cover Leeds United games last season). “I was talking to him on Friday night, and he is really excited.”

Matters turned to current affairs and the quest for gossip and transfer news. On Andy Gray, Simon explained, “He’s currently on his second holiday. As I understand it, Bradford are still very hopeful. But the only reason he hasn’t put pen to paper yet is he is waiting to see if any Championship clubs come in. I don’t think that if a League One club came in, he would take that over City. If he comes it will be for the right reasons.”

On the signing of Rory McArdle and future of Luke Oliver, Simon offered the opinion, “I think it means that Luke Oliver will be third choice centre half. I think it will be Davies and McArdle. Parkinson has certainly been after McArdle for a while. Apparently he did a very good job at Aberdeen and did very well at this level at Rochdale. I think Parkinson wants to re-sign Luke Oliver, but McArdle will play ahead of him.”

“I want Luke Oliver to stay,” added Derm. “I think he’s a hell of a player, and if you’d asked me that this time last year I probably wouldn’t have said that. I think we all thought ‘blimey what has happened to this guy, he looks a completely different player’. And he rightly got every award under the sun last season. He was so consistent. I don’t remember him having even close to a bad game. Whether he will want to stay, after seeing McArdle come in, I’m not sure.”

What about Guy Branston? “I think Parkinson doesn’t think he is good enough, but it’s nothing personal,” said Simon. “He did very well at the end of last season”, chipped in Derm. “But now he’s seen another centre half come in. That must be really difficult for him, when you consider that he arrived last summer as Jackson’s marque signing. He was the skipper, and talked eloquently at a fans forum at the start of the season. I thought it was a great choice. But of course it starts horribly wrong, and Jacko goes. And then Parkinson comes in, has a look at Branston and clearly thinks ‘not for me’”.

David Syers, who left the club last week, was also a hot topic. “Phil Parkinson said he rated him, but he had a price,” stated Derm. “I don’t think I’m giving much away when I say that Syers’ original deal was peanuts. And when Parkinson arrived he looked at it and thought ‘that’s a bit vulnerable’. Although when Parkinson arrived Syers was long-term injured, it was Parkinson who tried to sort a deal out and improve his contract considerably. But Syers didn’t have to sign a deal in January, and he chose not to do so at the time. What happened in-between then and the end of the season, I’m not sure.”

“There was a suggestion, and it’s nothing more than that, that Syers was thought to have been promised a more lucrative contract at the start of the season by a certain person no longer at the club,” added Simon. “It didn’t get as far as the Board, but the player himself took it as more of a factual offer than perhaps it was.”

Everyone in the room knew that the certain person was Archie Christie, which led to questions about the former Chief Scout. Simon said, “He was a very charismatic character, larger than life, you could hear him coming from about a mile away. Him and Jacko didn’t get on from minute one, which was obvious to everyone. It was always going to go bang and disappear very quickly.

“The idea of a youth development squad was very good on paper, but when you’re near the bottom of the fourth division you can’t really take as long as you want to bring players through.”

Derm also said, “Archie Christie was an excellent salesman, and he said to the Board that the problem you have at this club is you don’t sell players, and if you can harvest young players you can eventually sell them on for profit. And who in the Board would disagree with that idea? But the problem you have, which is how Parkinson saw it when he came in, was that you had all these players. Who’s looking after them? Who’s coaching them? Who’s being the physio for them? Who’s paying for their accommodation? None of this was factored in. So all that cash that the Development Squad was costing was money that couldn’t be put to the first team. So it wasn’t a case that the Development Squad was a bad idea, just that it wasn’t quite rounded as a circle. That’s why I think Phil wanted to try and put the brakes on it a bit.

“But that’s not to say that Archie didn’t have a great idea, and in two or three years we might have been sat here thinking ‘and that’s another £900k we’ve made from selling a player, and that’s more money we can put in the first team budget’. Nice idea, probably just a bit too early for the club to be able to fund it properly.”

On the Crawley brawl, which clearly presented some challenges for the reporters, Simon revealed, “Claude Davis was mouthing off to Andrew Davies throughout the match, allegedly about Davies’ family and what Davis’ mates were going to do to them. And it got nastier and nastier during the game, and it got to the point where Davies had had enough. Davis apparently has previous for this sort of thing.

“Covering the match, you got the feeling that something would have happened in the dressing room after and that someone would have been sent off. So we waited in the press box, and eventually a City official came scurrying up to tell us ‘there’s been a couple of sendings off’. I asked ‘how many?’ and he replied ‘five’! So I got on the phone to the office and said ‘I need to change a bit of my match report’ and they replied ‘how much?’ and I said ‘most of it!’”

Derm added, “Phil Parkinson didn’t arrive for interviews that night until gone 10.30pm. And he just looked completely bewildered by what he had seen.”

The pair were also asked about the club’s finances, and both admitted they were not fully sure but believe them to be okay. They also talked about the Valley Parade situation, revealing that Jack Tordoff’s talks with Gordon Gibb last year broke down because of Gibb’s high asking price for the ground, while also suggesting Tordoff might have been able to buy the stadium for the club if it had been more reasonably priced. Simon also defended the two chairmen, while drawing parallels with his own club, Portsmouth, and the dodgy owners they’ve gone through. “Anyone who wants to criticise the chairmen should be careful what they wish for.”

Talk turned to wider City matters – Dean Windass, breaking the story of when City went into administration and the challenges of finding stories to write about during the summer. Simon said, “It’s horrible. You ring everyone you know, and some people you don’t know, until you get an answer, because most people are on holiday. It’s a challenge. When you publish something people will say ‘that’s a dull story’, and they’re right it is a dull story. But that’s the most interesting story happening today. Unfortunately, the manager is chasing players and he doesn’t want people to know who those players are, for obvious reasons.”

In no time at all, it seemed, it was time to wrap it up. Simon and Derm were asked to name their favourite City player of all time, with both opting for strikers. Simon picked Peter Thorne, “He was only here for a couple of years, but a record of a goal every two games, he was superb. He was such a great pro too. You saw him behind the scenes; he was brilliant with the young players, doing a lot of coaching, and very popular with everyone.”

Derm opted for Robbie Blake. “I really loved watching him play. He was so clever in the box.”

An evening with Simon Parker and Derm Tanner

7 Jun

By Jason McKeown

Over the last decade, the pair have seen it all (well apart from Derm’s infamous efforts to get out of Gillingham away each season!), and the next Skipton and Craven Bantams meeting sees the local Bradford City media take centre stage for a question and answer session.

Held on Wednesday 20 June at the Herriots Hotel in Skipton, the Telegraph & Argus’ Simon Parker and former BBC Radio Leeds head of sport Derm Tanner will be special guests. Simon joined the T&A in September 2000 with City among the Premiership elite (some say he’s the catalyst for the club’s subsequent decline), while Derm was Bradford City commentator since the mid-90s, hanging up the BBC headphones and going freelance following the Swindon Town game a month ago (he has commentated on 722 City matches, including that day at Molineux in 1999).

Over their time covering the Bantams, both have been privy to plenty of drama and had to forge professional relationships with all manner of City chairmen, directors, managers and players. From their position in the press box, they offer an interesting perspective on the recent history of the club. And will no doubt have some fascinating, and hilarious, stories to tell.

The Skipton and Craven Bantams meeting event starts at 7.30pm (and, don’t worry, there are no Euro 2012 matches that day, as it is a blank evening in-between the group stages ending and the quarter finals beginning). Admission is £2 for members and £4 for non-members, and you will have the opportunity to put your questions to Simon and Derm.

If you can’t make it, Width of a Post plans to cover the event and write a piece on what the pair had to say, later that week.

2011/12 review: highlight/lowlight – part two

9 May

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.

concentrateontheleague.tumblr.com

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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

thecitygent.co.uk

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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.

friendsofbcfc.com

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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.

skiptonbantams.tumblr.com

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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.

bcst.co.uk

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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.

theshippers.co.uk

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David Pendleton, Bantamspast

See here for David’s views.

Bantamspast.co.uk

Defeat for City, but we can still be happy with the outcome of Easter weekend

9 Apr

Shrewsbury Town 1

Grandison 16

Bradford City 0

Monday 9 April, 2012

By Luke Lockwood

The Greenhous Meadow Stadium was the destination for Skipton and Craven Bantams first official trip. After a quick bacon sandwich and coffee at ‘Spoons (they don’t serve beer until 9am) we set on our way and – following Friday’s great victory – there seemed to be a quiet optimism within the camp. After a few pints close to the ground this quiet optimism began to grow into a vocal belief that we were the side to end Shrewsbury’s great home run.

A group of fans with such a vast amount of experience following the occasional ups but mostly downs of Bradford City should have known better.

Whilst in the pub news broke that Phil Parkinson had named an unchanged team from Friday and the members of the supporters club agreed that the side had done enough to keep their shirts. We made our way to the ground with our alcohol fuelled optimism that today would be the day we confirmed our safety.

Those hopes were quickly dashed within 16 minutes. Bradford had started the game reasonably brightly and certainly had not been outclassed by their promotion chasing opponents, but neither side had threatened the opposition goal before Jermaine Grandison managed to thrash the ball home following a goalmouth scramble. This appeared to knock a bit of confidence out of City, both in the stands and out on the pitch, as the players looked very nervous for the next five minutes and Matt Duke was called upon to make a very good save to keep the deficit to just one goal.

Bradford soon woke up and re-organised. Craig Fagan had a fantastic chance to level when he met James Hanson’s knock down just a few yards out, but only managed to volley the ball over the bar. Often the words associated with Fagan are “a player of his supposed calibre/pedigree” and I think he is unfortunate to be associated with the ex-Premiership player tag. Because of this we seem to expect a level of performance from him that we do not do of other members in our side. He is ex-Premiership for a reason because, following his injury problems, he is no longer good enough. So perhaps we should give him a break and assess whether he is producing decent League Two performances or not.

After Fagan’s miss the game began to turn into a non event as both defences dominated. Lee Bullock and Guy Branston continued the impressive partnership they began against Southend, while Hanson struggled to get the better of Ian Sharps at the other end. When Shrewsbury came to Valley Parade earlier in the season I wrote about how Hanson had bullied one of the division’s best centre halves. Following that outstanding performance, I had hoped we would see something similar today. But unfortunately Sharps proved why he has established such a fine reputation for himself at this level.

Bradford’s narrow midfield, including three central midfielders and a centre forward, also failed to make an impact. Both sides struggled to hold onto the ball and neither showed any real cutting edge as attack after attack continued to break down in the final third. In fact one member of the Skipton and Craven Bantams close to me fell asleep! That probably gives the most accurate portrayal of the game.

To Parkinson’s credit he attempted to change it and made a double substitution introducing Kyel Reid and Chris Dagnall to replace Michael Flynn and Nahki Wells.

Reid started to make a difference as the Shrews struggled to handle his pace and trickery, but frustratingly they appeared to have some success by adopting a tactic of letting Reid knock it past them before chopping him down - which the referee failed to clamp down on. Even more frustratingly, the referee seemed happy to blow his whistle every time a Shrewsbury player put in their audition to partner Tom Daley at this summer’s Olympics. On one particular occasion a home forward threw himself to the floor in Drogba-esque fashion in the box; fortunately the referee decided against awarding a penalty, but the failure to show the culprit a yellow card for his dive was disappointing.

Shrewsbury are a good football side with some fine players and I have no problem if a player is fouled and they go to the ground to make sure they get a decision. However, the Shrewsbury players hit the deck time and time again without any contact. That is blatant cheating, and a side of their quality do not need to resort to such tactics to win football matches.

The most entertaining moment of the game - and the moment that will be remembered from our first supporter’s club trip - surfaced perhaps from a little frustration about the constant diving. Branston hopped over Duke as he followed a ball back to the keeper and, as he landed, fell over - appearing to be in some pain as he clutched his leg. The Shrews fans in the corner made their thoughts clear.

As the game carried on upfield and the officials were out of sight, Branston leapt to his feet, now seemingly fine, and turned to the home fans before cheekily raising his middle finger - much to the delight of the City following. A chant of ‘Let’s all do the Branston’ with accompanying gesture to the Shrews fans followed, and it appeared Branston had – for a while at least – managed to lift the gloom.

There was nothing between the two sides as the stats show. There was an equal share of possession and both sides had five shots each, finding the target with only twice. Therefore, Bradford could say they were unfortunate not to come away with a point. On the other hand, after going behind they failed to create any meaningful chances to equalise and Shrewsbury did what they needed.

Parkinson said after the match that he was wrong to leave the side unchanged and that he felt some players were a little fatigued after their superb effort on Friday. This could be the case, but he can’t be blamed for sticking with a side that impressed against a strong Southend team. However, with no midweek games now until the end of the season there will be no opportunity for excuses such as this, and we will need to put in improved displays to put further distance between ourselves and the bottom sides.

Following the final whistle, we waited nervously listening for the results of those around us, especially Hereford and Macclesfield; both were defeated to keep the gap at seven points. With our superior goal difference, one of those two sides will effectively need to get eight points from four games to finish above us.

As Macclesfield have failed to win this year and Hereford have only won 1 in their last 16 this is highly unlikely. Furthermore, had anyone offered us the opportunity to be seven points clear of our rivals at the beginning of Easter weekend – following games against high flying Southend and Shrewsbury – we would have all gratefully accepted it.

The Skipton and Craven Bantams trudged back to the bus. But with a lack of talking points – other than Branston’s antics – to discuss from the game on the journey home we were forced to reminisce about days gone by with City. Chris Waddle’s magic, the wrong Bruno Rodriguez and, most importantly, was Gary Locke really that bad?

Despite tasting defeat in our first official away day trip, it was made more bearable by sharing our pain amongst one another. Hopefully there will be many more to come and we will see some improved performances and results.

City: Duke, Ramsden, Branston, Bullock, Kozluk, Fagan, Ravenhill, Jones (Syers 75), Flynn (Reid 45), Hanson, Wells (Dagnall 45)

Unused Subs: Annerson, Fry

An evening with Mark Lawn

22 Feb

By Luke Lockwood

On Tuesday 21st February, at Herriots Hotel, Skipton around 50 members of Skipton and Craven Bantams waited in anticipation for Joint Chairman Mark Lawn to take his place in front of them and face whatever question they were to pose him. Although it is fair to say Lawn does conflict opinion amongst Bradford City fans, I feel that I can speak on behalf of all attendees at the meeting in saying that he was open, honest and interesting in all his answers and came across as a friendly, witty City Gent.

The pitch

The Supporters’ Club chairman opened the evening with a question of his own. The poor state of the pitch was certainly evident at our recent home fixture with Port Vale and having spent a good deal of money trying to improve the surface was there an explanation for the demise?

Lawn referenced the other pitches at this level and explained that you would struggle to find a decent surface. Taylor had requested for the improvements to be made and they had spent money trying to do this but, due to typical British weather, it is very difficult to keep the playing surface up to that standard.

He was then asked about his thoughts on artificial surfaces that have recently been approved by the Football League and, although he believes they are a great idea for a variety of reasons, he does not believe we will be seeing one at Valley Parade for quite some time. Other sides may test the water and Bradford will assess how successful it is elsewhere before installing one themselves.

Season tickets and attendances

As most fans know a committee of supporters has been working towards the best solution and most suitable offer for season tickets. However, this will be announced on 3rd March and the Chairman believes that these once again offer value for money.

He did, however, explain that the playing budget for next season will rely on ticket sales and went onto discuss how much potential he felt there was to attract high attendances. He believes a Bradford City side playing well and competing at the top of League 2 could attract 14-15,000, attendances, around 18,000 if we were competing for promotion in League 1 and hopefully around 20,000 in the Championship.

The Development Squad

Lawn said that although this has not been binned it has changed format and they are still looking to develop players, but possibly in a different format to the way this was previously being done. There are some players from the development squad still with the club such as Scott Brown. He has a 2 year contract but unfortunately has not progressed as quickly as hoped and he is quite far away from the first team. Lawn believes that should he get his head down and work hard he still has the potential to make it in the side.

The Development Squad began running up costs that impacted on the first team budget and instead the development is more likely to come from projects like RIASA – where Nakhi Wells was produced from. Nakhi’s brother, Rico, was also discussed and is showing a lot of potential but he will continue his development within the project and be looked at in the future.

The managers

Lawn has overseen a number of appointments in his time with the club and was questioned on the various managers who have attempted to get us out of League 2. As supporters, the majority of us thought Peter Taylor was a fantastic appointment. However, Lawn did point out that one member of the audience made his negative opinions of the ex-manager clear to the Chairman on the day he arrived.

Lawn felt that the reason Taylor may not have lived up to our expectations was because he was an old fashioned manager and his man management techniques had not moved with the times. As an example he referenced Luke Oliver, explaining that Oliver had not become a different player he was just being managed differently.

He was complimentary of both Stuart McCall and Peter Jackson saying if anything the reason things didn’t work out was because they loved the club too much. He didn’t want Stuart to leave and felt that when he did go elsewhere where he wasn’t so emotionally attached to the club he would be successful, as he is now proving at Motherwell.

Another ex-City hero, Dean Windass, has shown interest in the Bradford managers job in the past but Lawn said he would not employ the club’s 3rd highest ever goal scorer currently. He thinks Deano needs to cut his teeth elsewhere and prove he has what it takes.

Phil Parkinson appears to be winning over most supporters now and the Chairman also appears to be a big fan. He believes that Parkinson has vastly improved the squad and due to that both performances and results are improving also. He seems to consider Parkinson a very astute and clever manager who the players respond to.

The players

As a passionate supporter Lawn offered his opinions on some of the players that have come and gone over his years as Chairman. He mentioned that the most disappointing was Tommy Doherty and believes that we didn’t get the best out of Paul McLaren. It seemed he felt that – while Doherty’s own attitude was his downfall – Mclaren didn’t work out for a different reason. Whether that was because he didn’t fit the playing style or he was not managed correctly it was difficult to say.

He went onto say that two of the least impressive players that have appeared in the Claret and Amber over this period were Kyle Nix and Chris Brandon.

His favourite players have been Omar Daley for the excitement he offered on the ball, and Peter Thorne for his finishing. However, he also described Kyel Reid as outstanding and the best winger we have had. Reid, he believes, offers a spark to the side and this is something he believes we should be looking for on the other flank.

He said that one player who could have offered us something on the right had he chosen to stay was Joe Colbeck. His opinion was that although Colbeck was one dimensional, he was also willing to run at defenders and this scared opposition sides. Lawn felt that when Colbeck and Daley were on opposite sides the side was really flying and this is something we have possibly lacked since. Apparently we did offer Colbeck a very good deal but he chose – with the help of his agent – to go elsewhere.

Lawn feels agents – who can often be a player’s father – don’t do their players any favours. Either they think a player is better than what he is or convince him he can get better money elsewhere, but often they end up having to settle for worse packages when they realise they aren’t worth quite as much as they thought.

He was full of praise about our current back four and reserved special recognition for Andrew Davies. Lawn considers Davies to be the ultimate professional and an ‘old fashioned’ one who is brave enough to stick his head where others would only stick their feet. Unfortunately he also thinks our chances of signing Davies were very slim due to the wage the player currently earns and what clubs even in the Championship will be prepared to offer him. The Davies deal was achieved by Phil Parkinson using his contacts and, had the players contract with Stoke gone on to next season, we would have a better chance of signing him on a further season long loan but sadly this is not the case.

He was, on the other hand, confident that 90% of the players that Parkinson would like to keep next season would stay and explained how important it was that the squad did not have such an overhaul as it has in recent years, so we could have some continuity going into next season.

The finances

With the recent events at Rangers and also Portsmouth, Lawn was asked if he believed that there were many clubs within the Football League who could face similar problems. Lawn thinks that many clubs struggle for money and wouldn’t be surprised if other clubs suffered a similar fate.

Mark explained that our own finances were tight, but that the club will always do their upmost to maximise the budget that was available for the manager’s squad. However, as stated earlier that budget will now rely heavily on us as fans to fill the ground. He also mentioned that if Parkinson was to come to the board with the name of a player he felt could give us 20+ goals a season then we would have to try and find the money from somewhere, even if it meant cutting back on other areas of the squad.

On this point he mentioned that we were chasing 3 strikers in January but eventually got outbid for them. He also added that we decided not to go for Paul Benson after seeking advice from one of the best knee surgeons in the country who explained that the length of the contract he wanted was ridiculous due to concerns over his knee. Although he added that – when he sees Benson scoring regularly now – he feels a little regret, it was still the right decision to take that advice.

We have gone over budget this year to support Parkinson and improve the squad to ensure we do not get relegated. If we were to be relegated Lawn thinks that it would be impossible to stay at Valley Parade considering the current costs; but he thinks if we were to move away we could survive – he would at least do anything he could to ensure that was the case.

He once again reiterated his stance that, were someone interested in the club that were in a better position to take the club forward, than he and Julian Rhodes they would happily step aside. Steve Parkin’s offer – he thought – was ludicrous and Parkin would not offer certain guarantees to help take Bradford forward. Since Steve Parkin there have been no other interested parties.

Finally…

Mark was asked to pick his favourite Bradford City XI since becoming a fan:

Downsborough

Ramsden           Wetherall       Tommy Hallet       Halle

Ellis                  Whalley                      McCall                  Beagrie

Hendrie                     Blake

Manager: McFarland

Mark Lawn was very forthcoming on any topics discussed and more so than anything his love for Bradford City shone through. He is – like the rest of us – a City fan. On behalf of the members of Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club, I would like to thank Mark Lawn for his time and also the fantastic work and service he continues to provide to the club.

Submit your question to Mark Lawn

18 Feb

As part of the Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club meeting which is taking place next Tuesday (21 February), all Bradford City supporters are invited to submit questions to the guest speaker – Joint-Chairman Mark Lawn. These will be asked to Lawn on the evening, and both Width of a Post and the Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club will report back on the answers later in the week.

Email your question to Widthofapost@gmail.com – including your full name – and it will be passed onto the organisers to be put forward on your behalf. If you’re attending the meeting, which starts at 7.15pm (and you really should go, Herriots, the venue, is excellent and the Skipton Bantams are lovely people) you can submit your question there and then.

Please note: not all questions will necessarily be asked, mainly due to time constraints but also suitability. Deadline for questions via email is 10pm Monday.

Entrance to the meeting will be £2 for members and £4 for non-members. Membership to the Skipton and Craven Bantams Supporters Club, at a cost of £5 per season, will be available on the night.

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