Tag Archives: Supporting

Tied up in Knotts

27 Aug

Image by Kieran Wilkinson

Image by Kieran Wilkinson

Bradford City 2

Knott 84, Hanson 86

Leeds United 1

Smith 82

Wednesday 27 August, 2014

By Jason McKeown

What a night to be a Bradford City supporter. A long overdue victory over our biggest rivals; achieved in the most incredible, hedonistic fashion. It will be talked about for years and years to come. A night that no one of a claret and amber persuasion will ever forget.

This might be a Leeds United team in disarray. They might be a shadow of the club they once were. And, of course, the visitors were a man short for over an hour. But it is still a major scalp for City and a hugely commendable achievement – one that the players deserve all the praise in the world for accomplishing. Their names will now go down in history for being the first Bradford City side in 28 years to defeat their nearest neighbours.

And what a way to win the match. When Leeds United’s impressive Matt Smith headed his team into a late, late lead it looked set to be another Bradford City hard luck story in this irregular derby fixture. But then Billy Knott – the game’s man of the match – struck a stunning half volley into the top corner. And then, just four minutes after Leeds had gone in front, James Hanson’s diving header from Gary Liddle’s cross completed the turnaround and sparked unbridled delirium. Scenes of home celebration that will go down in folklore.

The uncomfortably nasty side of some Leeds fans then came to the fore, as chairs were ripped up and scuffles took place in Midland Road’s B block. The sight of a disabled supporter in a wheelchair having to rush onto the pitch for protection should shame every Leeds United supporter who was involved. They were disgraceful scenes, which held up the match by more than five minutes. There would have been no justice had their team equalised in the nine minutes of stoppage time that a small section of Leeds fans had added to.

Leeds fans often parade their indifference over this local rivalry like a badge of honour; they are above loathing us back and all that. But their own scenes of wild celebration, when they took the lead, betrayed any lack of interest. For many reasons beyond the fact it was those noisy Bradford neighbours who inflicted their exit from the competition, this defeat clearly hurt them and it remains to be seen what it will do to manager David Hockaday’s increasingly loose grip on his job.

And Leeds’ brief spell in front was a plot twist that only added to the ecstasy of City’s two late goals. Make no mistake, the Bantams had to earn this victory. A man down, Leeds dug in admirably and there can be no doubting the commitment of the players towards their beleaguered manager. Increasingly as the match wore on, the home side dominated proceedings but by no means did Leeds fold. An early miss by Stephen Warnock following a strong Leeds start aside, City were clearly the better side, but their opponents carried a threat throughout.

It might have been different had Luke Murphy not inexplicably lost his head in the derby atmosphere, deservedly earning his marching orders after collecting two bookings. The former Crewe man probably should have been red-carded on five minutes after a shocking challenge on Liddle. But after escaping with only a booking, it defied belief to see him haul down James Meredith with barely half an hour on the clock.

With the man advantage, City belatedly found their passing rhythm and upped the tempo. Knott revelled in the extra freedom and ran the show, popping up all over the park – he was behind all that was good from the Bantams. What an astute signing he looks to be, and although playing in a different position there is more than a touch of Robbie Blake about his play. It will be very interesting to see how his City career takes shape. He is jewel in Phil Parkinson’s midfield diamond. A player to build your team around.

Billy Clarke too was outstanding, especially in the second half, whilst Liddle and Jason Kennedy both put in heroic shifts. Kennedy had City’s best chance of the first half with a volley from an impossible angle that flew just short of the near post. Just after half time, he missed a gilt-edged chance when a side foot stab at goal from just inside the six-yard box bounced wide. Clarke too was heavily involved in the chances City created, forcing a stunning save from an otherwise hesitant Leeds keeper, Stuart Taylor. His close control and vision are valuable assets for his side, and he can really flourish at Valley Parade playing in the hole behind the strikers.

City had plenty of possession but at times struggled to create much. Meredith’s confidence continues to look low when judged against his performances of a year ago, but he and fellow full back Stephen Darby offered useful attacking support throughout. Aaron Mclean, looking half-fit, toiled hard. He was later replaced with Oli McBurnie, and the teenage striker impressed greatly leading the line and causing havoc.

In the closing stages City were building up a head of steam. Lots of corners and crosses that came to nothing; yet a growing feeling that, through persistence, a big chance was coming. But an injury to Kennedy stopped the game for too long and halted his team’s momentum. Then Liddle switched off, David Norris came forward with the ball and crossed for Smith to seemingly win it.

But as Parkinson observed after the final whistle, his team doesn’t know when it is beaten. The never-say-die culture of the club that the manager so impressively instilled two years ago remains, despite the departures of Gary Jones and co. The crowd kept roaring them on, and within two minutes Knott had equalised in memorable fashion. The former Sunderland man adding to his stunning first goal for the club, against Crawley, eight days earlier. Boring tap-ins are not his thing it seems.

Extra time beckoned, but then Hanson wrote another chapter in his own extraordinary tale with the late winner. Add this stunning personal moment to James’ goals against Aston Villa, Burton Albion and Northampton in 2012/13. He is one goal away from breaking into the club’s top 10 all time goalscorers.

And what more can you say about Hanson? What an incredible piece of business by Stuart McCall, bringing him in from Guiseley, five years ago. What a meteoric rise. What an inspiration. I know that we have had more naturally talented strikers over the years, but none that I have seen have meant more to me than Hanson does. For so many reasons he has become my favourite striker of all time. I feel privileged to have watched his City career.

Where are all those people who doubted him two or three years ago? Who barracked him endlessly? Where are your now with your apologises? How stupid do you feel? I’m proud to have been one of many City supporters who stood by the big man during difficult times. I’m proud to watch him enjoy moments like this.

The cup draw has handed City an unglamorous tie at MK Dons in round three, but who cares? Who can ask for more than nights like this? To be part of such a positive, vocal crowd that backed the players to the hilt. To jump up and down on top of people I am proud to call friends in celebration of Hanson’s winner. To witness a sea of happy faces around a stadium that – too often – has been filled with doom and gloom. To enjoy the players rushing over to the Kop at full time so they can take in the warm glow of pride that they had just instilled into 15,000, forever grateful home fans.

For all the disappointments we endure watching City over the years, it is nights like this that truly make it all worthwhile.

City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, Sheehan, Meredith, Liddle, Kennedy, Knott (Dolan 90), Kennedy, Clarke, Mclean (McBurnie 70), Hanson

Not used: Urwin, Routis, Morais, Yeates, Shariff

Bradford City vs Leeds preview: A rivalry born from school days

27 Aug


By Mahesh Johal

Woodhouse Grove is technically a Bradford-based school. However, when I attended it was a school rife with Leeds fans. In my core group of mates, I was the only Bantam. The rest (albeit a couple of Liverpool fans) all supported the team based in LS11. Living in Leeds, amongst United fans, my personal rivalry with the club is based on much more than the 11.3 miles that separates the two cities. I guess a lot of my dislike towards United has stemmed from my school days, and ironically spending time with my best mates has in turn made me really dislike their team and club.

Upon hearing the draw for tonight’s cup tie, memories from my school days came flooding back. On the commute to work the next day, I wrote down a couple of the stories which contributed to my dislike to Leeds. This is by no means a definitive list on why there is animosity from Bradford fans towards Leeds, but more of a personal account which some of you may be able to relate to.

Non Uniform Day, City vs Leeds

For a 10-year-old non uniform day was, and probably still is, one of the biggest events in school calendar. Whilst it was an opportunity for young fashionistas to show off their newest garments, it is was the one acceptable day at school for football fan across the nation to wear your team’s colours!

A running tradition on non uniform day was the annual match between City and Leeds fans. Played over both morning and lunch break (we had slightly disproportionate halves) 12 lads would go hammer and tong to prove their club was the best in the school. The peak of my footballing career, I captained the Bantam VI to a 4-2 victory. We even made a trophy based on the impressive Stanley Cup to mark the occasion; complete with orange and maroon ribbon nicked from the art department.

It was at this point in my life that my first acts of resentment towards the Elland Road club started. After winning the game, the “Leeds captain” refused to shake my hand. I could understand that, he’d just lost in his cup final. But it was his lack of respect during the trophy presentation that annoyed me. Whilst my classmates (still confused to what I was winning a trophy for) clapped politely, I could hear a chorus of boos from the back of the classroom. Orchestrated by Williams, both Josh and Si were violently giving me the V; whilst they started the original chant of “Bradford City are so sh*tty”.

A small incident I know, but the episode highlights one of the reasons why City supporters dislike their Leeds counterparts. Quite simply, they have no respect for us or our achievements. Regardless of what we have done, they’ll never give us credit because they see us as beneath them.

The move to the Grove and the villain

My move to secondary school saw me mingle with more Bradfordians but none of them were big City supporters. I met Tordy; he has ties to the club due to his granddad, and I know he was sat and drenched in the uncovered main stand the last time the two sides met at Valley Parade. There were the two Adams, Matthews and Turner. Bradford lads with a soft spot for City, both were staunch Kopites. Matthews’ had been to a few games with me, but give him a free ticket for any team and he’ll support them for the day. Turner also attended games with me, our last being a friendly at Eccleshill. On a complete side note, Turner had tickets for the 2005 European Cup Final and couldn’t go because we had our GCSE PE exam!

I also met more Leeds fans, Jose being one. Funnily enough I used to see him sometimes at Valley Parade with his uncle during the Premier League years. Still to this day he is a big advocate of Gareth Whalley. However, he is a Leeds man through and through and today his company sponsors both United and the Rhinos. Jose was on one end of the Leeds fan spectrum. He had seen City games and was sympathetic towards me, especially during our hard times. Yes, he would send the occasional text when we lost but all in all Jose was fair fan. He understood the trials and tribulations of being a football fan whether from Bradford or Leeds.

On the other side was Dave. Dave’s the villain of this piece and in my mind is epitomises why I dislike Leeds United. I’d like to as this point just clarify that he is one of my best mates, but there are times when I genuinely dislike him. Nearly 99% of those times involve him and Leeds United.

I think my biggest qualm with Dave and his fellow members of Hockaday’s Army is their brashness and arrogance. I’ll happily admit that Leeds are a huge club with one of the biggest followings in the country. But frankly, Dave was overly loud about it. Marcus was as well. During their Semi Final run in the Champions League, I would constantly hear “We are the champions, champions of Europe” in our locker room.

Then came the 6-1 defeat at their place. Already a wounded individual, Dave raced into the common area with a massive smirk. The look compounded my already fragile state but it was his self righteous and arrogance that made my blood boil. Already a relegated side, City were completely outplayed and outclassed that Sunday evening. However whenever I talked to others about the game, Dave would abruptly but in and shout “MOT”. I’d continue to my analysis of City performance when he would again but in with “LEEDS LEEDS LEEDS”.

This isn’t just classic Dave but also classic Leeds. There is always a sense of self-importance and lack of humility towards City. I always got the feeling that they like the last word on matters – and that last word had to be about Leeds.

Teenage years, falls from grace and the cup games at Elland Road

It was during our teenage years that City and Leeds footballing oblivion started. Both clubs suffered with financial, ownership, stadium and player problems. I thought our mirroring issues would see a change in attitude from Leeds fans around school, but I was wrong. Yes, they missed the big Champions Leagues nights, but now Leeds were the biggest of fish in (some of) the smallest of ponds – and it was something they loved.

To this day, Dave will have a random outburst of “we’re Leeds United, we don’t give a f**k”. The chant again epitomised Leeds fans (in my mind) as those who belittle and lack respect for others. It’s for this very reason that I really dislike it when City chant similar things. In my opinion, it reeks of no class.

Both the JPT and League Cup games against them over recent years were fun. From my point of view, being apart of vocal away crowds is always a good laugh and the near-City victory in the most recent tie added to the occasion. Prior to that game, Dave and I sat in adjacent stands at Elland Road, and in the warm up were able to wave to each other. He said that he could see my jubilation after Michael Flynn’s goal, but I dared not look to his position when Ramon Nunez scored the tie-winning goal. If there was ever a chance to beat Leeds I thought it was then.

And to tonight’s game…

The rivalry between Dave, Jose and the rest of the boys continues. On regular occasions we will send (friendly banter) messages…mainly me trying to wind Dave up in the way he did to me in our youth. The arrival of Ceilino and Hockaday has given me serious ammunition, whilst City’s performances over the last year have deprived him of any. The only thing he has is the League Cup Final result, but in end I had the real laugh. At least it was my team in that final; Dave, who has Club Wembley ticket, had paid to watch one of the coldest and one-sided Finals in recent memory.

Whilst I read on social media the mixed feelings about this rivalry from their side; the speed at which Leeds 3,600 tickets sold out shows that their are some who appreciate this contest as much as we do. It will be a white hot atmosphere and, in Kevin Keegan style, I would love it if we won tonight. Love it.

I’ll see the boys in the aftermath of the game, and look forward to our pint to deconstruct proceedings. No doubt we’ll have a laugh about our time at school and the way our friendly rivalry has built over the years. I just hope this time it is my pint that tastes the sweetest.

Bradford City vs Leeds preview: Confessions of a (former) obsessive Leeds hater

26 Aug
Picture by Claire Epton

Picture by Claire Epton

By Jason McKeown

Many things change when you get older, but other things stay the same. Back in my adolescent years, I hated Leeds United like I’ve never hated anything before or since. I loathed everything about the Elland Road club, often in a manner that – looking back – seems unhealthy. An obsession, perhaps, and one that now seems trivial. There were far more important things in life that I should have been worrying about.

It was the late 90s, creeping up to the new millennium. Leeds United had become one of the top teams in the country once more. A member of the Big Four. David O’Leary the monotonous, dreary manager. Peter Risdale the pompous, look-at-me-I’m-a-real-fan chairman. Alan Smith, David Batty, Lee Bowyer, Jonathan Woodgate. Leeds United were media darlings – especially in Yorkshire – and I fretted too much over my longing to see them fail.

Why I hated Leeds United was both complex and depressingly simple. There was my Leeds-supporting brother, and the pair of us couldn’t help but wind each other up on an ongoing basis – football arguments remained very heated long after both of us were old enough to know much better. There was the fact that, at school, most football fans were Leeds supporters – yet many of the most obnoxious ones had never once set foot inside Elland Road. There was the general arrogance of the club led by O’Leary, Risdale and co. There was the abundantly nasty side of many of their supporters, too.

But above all of these reasons was one over-riding desire: to fit in as a Bradford City supporter. It is ingrained within the culture of this football club that we, as a community, are supposed to hate Leeds. When I first started watching the Bantams, there would be endless anti-Leeds chants in every game. Any opposition player with a Leeds connection – no matter how tedious – was booed. In every City supporter I spoke to, and everything supporter-related I read, such as the City Gent, a hatred for Leeds was evident. It was a powerful hatred. A historic dislike that went back decades.

In the 70s, a generation of Bradfordians choose to support the at-the-time all-conquering Whites ahead of the team from their own city. Back then, the Telegraph & Argus used to devote considerably more coverage to Leeds United than it did for City. Leeds were successful, but their ways of doing things was disliked up and down the country – Dirty Leeds and all that – so I guess it is understandable that their next door neighbours would particularly take note of and be offended by all of this.

Then there was the fallout over Leeds issuing City with a winding up petition in 1983 over an unpaid transfer fee, which almost saw the Bantams go out of existence. And then in 1986 – with City playing at Odsal whilst Valley Parade was rebuilt following the disaster a year earlier – a 2-0 Bantams derby victory was overshadowed by hooligan Leeds fans setting fire to a chip van inside the stadium. An appallingly insensitive thing to do. I have spoken to City fans present that day who told me how genuinely scared they were.

These stories and others have formed part of the fabric of Bradford City supporter culture. Our over-bearing, arrogant local rivals. Leeds became L**ds, or L666ds, or Leeds Scum. We all hate Leeds. Tie the bastards to the track. And go get your father’s gun. If you love Bradford City, you hate Leeds United. It was that simple.

Over a two-and-a-half-year period at the turn of the century, City and Leeds met each other five times and the rivalry grew in its relevance. These games were huge occasions on this side of Pudsey at least, and saw some of the most passionate atmospheres I had been part of. The first derby, a League Cup match at Elland Road in October 1998, saw over 5,000 City fans make an almighty racket and our team dominate for half an hour. But then a Harry Kewell shot took a deflection off Gareth Whalley’s backside and flew into the top corner, and Leeds had a one-goal advantage that they saw out with ease. It set the pattern for the next few meetings – City always battled hard, whilst Leeds benefited from outrageous fortune.

Game two – in the Premier League, 13 months on – saw disappointingly negative tactics from Paul Jewell, who set us up to play for a draw at Elland Road. Another deflected goal and a disputed penalty gave Leeds a 2-1 victory. In the reverse fixture the following March, City came in with the confidence boost of a five-month unbeaten home record. Yet the night before the game, keeper Matt Clarke fell down the stairs and City have no option but to field 41-year-old goalkeeping coach Neville Southall between the sticks. Once again, we lost 2-1.

The season after almost saw an overdue victory. The Stan Collymore goal, and his controversial celebration in front of the Leeds fans. We held on until the 80th minute, before Mark Viduka equalised. At least it wasn’t another defeat, but it should have been more. And then, at the end of that 2000/01 season, luck was not needed on the part of the Whites. Leeds United 6 Bradford City 1. Utter nightmare. That evening, my phone did not stop as seemingly every Leeds fan I knew – and many other football fans who knew just what this meant to me – revelled in the pain. I can’t blame them at all. Back then, I’d have done the same.

At the point of the 6-1 humiliation, City had already been relegated from the Premier League whilst Leeds United were in the semi finals of the Champions League. We were poles apart, and the gap was widening further and further. We were going back to the Football League, Leeds were on the road to European glory. My hatred had probably reached its peak.

Yet it all changed. And if, on that May 2001 evening, where I grew so fed up of the abusive text messages that I turned my mobile off, someone from the future had travelled back to tell me just what was going to happen next, I would have thought they were mixing up reality with my darkest fantasies.

That O’Leary would be harshly sacked. That Risdale would be exposed as running up unpayable debts. That he would leave under a cloud and the infamous “We lived the dream” press conference. That all the best players would be sold off one-by-one. That they would be relegated from the Premier League under the management of club legend Eddie Gray. That Alan Smith would be carried off the pitch a hero in his final appearance, only to quickly join their arch-rivals Manchester United. That after much financial upheaval, they would be lumbered with Ken Bates as chairman. That Dennis Wise would take over as manager and get them relegated to League One. That they’d be docked 15 points. That even when they eventually got promoted, they have done little but sit in Championship mid-table year-on-year since. That they’d get lousy owner after lousy owner. That they’d become Norwich City’s feeder club.

If someone had promised me all that back then, I’d have rubbed my hands in glee although in the back of mind would have felt that this was too much, even for me. And here’s the kicker: having watched, from a distance, Leeds endure all of these horrible developments and more, that hatred I once felt had all but seeped away from me. The truth is that, right now, I don’t care for, but most of all don’t care about, Leeds. That’s as far as I go.

I no longer follow their results anymore than I do of other Championship teams. I no longer cheer loudly if I have heard they lost. I no longer hate whoever is their manager. I no longer know anything about their players. I no longer wish bad things would happen to them. When I meet my Leeds-supporting friends I enjoy chatting about football with them, just as I enjoy chatting with Liverpool and Nottingham Forest and Newcastle United and York City and Burnley and Blackburn Rovers supporters. Perhaps it’s a growing older thing.

The simple fact is that the current Leeds United is not the evil, nasty outfit that I hated 15 or so years ago – and they probably never will be. They remain a huge club for sure, and will no doubt climb back into the Premier League eventually. But even when they do, they will not be amongst the top teams in the country. They won’t have ambitions beyond surviving as a Premier League outfit. Even if they finally get a sensible owner, the kind of investment needed to get back to where they were makes its highly improbable they will ever do a Chelsea or Man City. They are a shadow of what they used to be, and as time has gone on have become a different football club.

One that has too many similarities with ourselves. Laughing at the demise of Leeds United Football Club can only be undertaken by avoiding a mirror. All those miserable developments that have upset Leeds’ followers have more or less happened to Bradford City too, only we have sunk lower. For however bad things have been at Elland Road, we were always worse off. Their two relegation seasons occurred in the sames seasons that we dropped a division too. In April 2007, both clubs were even relegated on the same day. So yeah, let’s all laugh at Leeds United. But only for a brief second. To laugh anymore would be to lose all self-awareness.

The uncomfortable truth is that the two clubs have too much in common. No one knows better how the other feels, because we’ve both endured such similar things.

And the hatred has clearly faded around Valley Parade. Not completely of course, there remains a dislike for Leeds United amongst City supporters for sure; but up until this cup draw was made it had become a rarity to hear an anti-Leeds chant during a match, especially at home. The person in charge of the scoreboard rarely puts the Leeds result up for us to laugh about. Last season, we sung about how we don’t care about Huddersfield and Leeds. It might be stretching the truth a little, but it really is a sign of progress. Hate Leeds? Maybe a little. But the obsession with hating Leeds had gone. When I was a young teenager first discovering Bradford City, the overwhelming sense of needing to hate Leeds consumed me and every City supporter of my age. I seriously doubt that teenage supporters today will have had sufficient cause to take on board such anti-Leeds feelings to the same level. If anything, they will hate Huddersfield Town and Rotherham United more.

But then we stop and pause.

Valley Parade this Wednesday night, at around 7.40pm. The place is packed out, and two sets of fans are singing loudly back and forth prior to the first Valley Parade hosting of this derby since Collymore’s headline-grabbing Bradford City debut, 14 years ago. It will be an intoxicating experience, and hatred will undoubtedly return for one evening. Rationality and objectivity will go out of the window. How can it not?

Many things change when you get older, but other things stay the same. When I was 15-years-old, a life ambition was to see Bradford City defeat Leeds United. 17 years on, that ambition remains unfulfilled and though it doesn’t consume me, it would still be fantastic to finally tick it off the list. I don’t hate Leeds United – I’m now in my 30s, I’ve a wife and kid, I’ve a career, I don’t have time for such immaturity – but boy do I want City to beat them on Wednesday evening. I really do.

That Odsal victory – 28 years ago – was the last time that Bradford City defeated Leeds United. In fact, it has only ever happened on one other occasion – 28 March 1932. We can therefore assume that only a very small percentage of Wednesday’s home crowd have ever seen the Bantams triumph over the Whites. The majority of the rest will be like me in having a long-held ambition of witnessing a City victory, and be equally hoping to see it finally fulfilled.

This tie has captured the imagination of the Bradford City public, just at the point where Leeds-hating is the lowest I have seen it. And long-term, it remains to be seen how it will effect the culture and the fabric of supporting Bradford City. Perhaps this game will rekindle that passionate hatred in younger supporters at least, or perhaps it will cause it to fade away from the rest of us some more. If we were to finally win, we will lovingly treasure the evening for many years to come. But what else? Perhaps, for supporters like me who grew up hating Leeds a little too passionately, and who can no longer muster such negative enthusiasm, a long overdue victory would provide some closure. Perhaps, yet another Leeds victory would hurt much less than all the previous ones.

Ultimately, this is going to be a brilliant occasion and to see a full Valley Parade making an almighty racket is what we live for. That there is an edge to the game and bragging rights at stake guarantees a lively evening. It is exciting to play Leeds, that much is undeniable. And when I go through those turnstiles and take my seat in the Kop, I know that much of my adult sensibilities will wait patiently outside and allow the 15-year-old inside me to run riot for a couple of hours.

We all hate Leeds for one, unifying evening at least. Many things change when you get older, but other things stay the same.

Bradford City vs Leeds preview: Peacocks in the Bantams’ coop – A Leeds perspective on the fury

25 Aug


By Graham Smeaton

I know what it is like to feel the fire and fury of rivalry. My father was a Manchester United fan, I didn’t hate him for that. On the Council estate I grew up on and scrabbled around in the mud and dust on, almost every street had some sort of rivalry going on; it was usually over ‘mibs’.

“Hey you’re not laikin’ right!” was often the herald to an argument over rules, a fall-out over superiority and then much stomping and huffing about whose Dad’s, mate’s, uncle’s friend who was in the Army was the biggest; then you went in for your banana sandwiches and sat down to watch $6 Million Man or Supergran. Then, it was never about football.

Now it is all about football.

I can’t help it, I’m a Leeds fan. You can have many girlfriends, many loves but, when it comes to football, your first love is your only love; no matter who you’ve watched first live. I actually used to go to Valley Parade to watch Bradford, happily trailing along behind my father in the rain to watch a Bantams’ side containing Ces Podd. I even went to Elland Road to watch one of the three games Braford played there after the tragic events of the 1985 fire at Valley Parade.

By then though, my love affair and eventual marriage to Leeds had set in and set in deep. Like a first sip of cider in the park – an older boy was to blame. However, unlike the cider my taste for Leeds United stuck with me.

Wednesday August 27th and one of the fiercest local rivalries fires up one more time – Leeds bring their circus to Valley Parade (even in my eyes it’ll never be T’Coral Windows Stadium) in a direct repeat of the game from August 9th 2011. Bradford will be hoping to continue their surging start to the 2014/15 League One campaign whilst Leeds, on the other hand, will be hoping that they play more like Roy of the Rovers and less like Roy Cropper from Coronation Street.

History, unfortunately my friends from the BD postcodes, isn’t on the side of the Bantams. There have been 23 competitive games between the two sides stretching back to 23rd September 1922 with Leeds winning 14, Bradford winning 2 and with 7 draws. In this time Leeds have scored 35 goals (1.52 per game) with Bradford scoring just 20 goals (0.87 per game). Put another way, Leeds have emerged victorious 61% OF THE TIME with Bradford claiming only 8.7% of the victories – the Leeds victories containing both League Cup games in the 1998/99 and 2011/12 seasons.

It’s an often-used cliché that playing at ‘home’ is like having a 12th man on the field; at Elland Road we would crawl through minefields of broken glass for that luxury at the moment! But a closer look at the games played in Bradford, where Leeds will be aiming for their 5th and Bradford their 3rd victories come Wednesday throws up one interesting nugget of a statistic. In the 10 games that have been played between the two teams there, both have scored 9 goals each (0.9 goals per game). This suggests the potential for a tight game, where chances are at a premium and composure in front of goal is key. That depends on which Leeds United team turns up and how Coach Whackaday (there are worse names bandied around) has prepared them.

Indulge me whilst I talk about Leeds for a moment. There is a degree of mixed feelings up in LS11 what with Cellino’s insistence on recruiting his very own legiona stranieri (Foreign Legion) to the club. His thinking behind this is one that will resonate with all football fans – irrespective of club allegiance. Quite simply, English footballers are a.) too greedy or b.) too expensive or c.) both. Take Kieran Agard, who had a stellar season at Rotherham last year scoring 26 goals across all competitions including two in an FA Cup tie. Leeds had a bid accepted but Agard’s agent marched in with a list of demands; after four minutes he was told to leave and that he wasn’t wanted. Now he has dropped back down into League One with Bristol City. Bearing that in mind, who will Leeds United roll up with come Wednesday 27th and how are they likely to play?

Looking at recent games, Bradford can only hope that Leeds play badly – something that I am sure we can easily accommodate. With the signing of Giuseppe Bellusci (from Catania), Leeds are buying in a player with five seasons (7,459 minutes) worth of Serie A experience to shore up what has been a decidedly suspect and cumbersome central defender pairing. Liam Cooper was signed from Chesterfield and he deposed Scott Wooton (ex-Manchester United) to play alongside club captain Jason Pearce. Harshly put, either Pearce or Cooper will be axed.

Midfield-wise, that’s where Leeds’ weakness lays; a unit that has carried over the ‘mediocre and mid-table’ tag from last season’s campaign. As it stands, the Leeds midfield isn’t very creative, has no real pace and no natural wide players; ‘wide’ as in wingers – not as in Neville Southall. Or Paddy Kenny for that matter. Rodolph Austin and Michael Tonge are the pick of the central four with Austin being ranked 15th midfield player for average passes per game (60 – 83% accurate – source: WhoScored.com) and who was the top-ranked defensive midfield player on the books at Leeds. Tommaso Bianchi (signed from Serie B Sassuolo) is a ball-playing central midfielder being played out of position on the right side of midfield by Coach Whackaday in his much-derided ‘4-4-2 Diamond’.

With this system, Whackaday has achieved at least one first; it apparently is possible to polish a diamond and get a turd! Leeds’ weak link, in a midfield that often resembles scene from Rorke’s Drift in the film ‘Zulu’, is Luke Murphy – a former £1 million signing from Crewe Alexandra. Over 260 minutes of 2014/15 Championship football Murphy has shown very little: 22 successful passes per game, less than one shot per game (0.67) but he does create chances for others (1.67 per game). There is also a distinct possibility that Coach Whackaday might give young Lewis Cook a run out in midfield and use recent AC Milan youngster Jen Benedicic at some point in the game.

Up front it is more straight-forward; Billy Sharp and recent signing Mirko Antenucci (19 goals – Serie B Ternera) are likely to pose the striking threat.

Rivalry-wise Leeds United are still entrenched in the ‘Everybody hates us, we don’t care’ attitude carried over from the 1970s to the present day. As a rational-thinking Leeds fan, well I like to think I am presented that way, I actually hate that dated ‘terrace mentality’; something that I find as a club we need to move away from. There are still chants about “Man Utd” and songs about “Chelsea hatred” sung on the terraces of Elland Road which, in all honesty, make us look like the pond-dwelling lowlife we are often accused of.

Terrace-wise, as a club, we need to climb out of the dinosaur era and embrace the modern world of a banter-led approach. There were encouraging signs of this in a 4-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester City when Leeds’ fans responded to the 4th Man City goal with a rousing chant of “shoes off, if you hate Man Utd” – and the removal of many shoes that were waved in the air. No doubt though there will be chants about Bradford being a “town full of taxis” and the Neanderthal element of the Leeds’ support will show more nasty tendencies.

So, how does it feel as a Leeds fan, writing on a Bradford website, about a cup fixture upcoming in a City only 6 miles from where I live? It’s strange – weirdly strange. Chances-wise, I’d like to fall back on the clichéd phrases of “it’ll be a long hard game”, “Leeds will have too much class for Bradford” and “the difference in a division apart means Leeds’ superior class will tell in the end”…but I can’t. This game is a hard one to call; Bradford are confident and flying high in League One, whilst Leeds are scrabbling around looking for crumbs in the Championship. I suppose I will have to end by putting my neck on the line and come up with some kind of prediction and game synopsis.

I’m predicting a tight, close game with Leeds coming out 2-1 to the good; it would, for Leeds fans, be good to shut up the ‘noisy neighbours from down the M62’. Then again I am not that confident about that but, like the beggar I once encountered on the Madrid underground, one can only begin with ‘esperanza’ (hope) and eventually get off at ‘prosperidad’ (wealth). Whatever the result, I really do hope that we will be meeting each other in two guaranteed games next season, with Bradford making the step up to the Championship.

Good luck Ciddy fans on the 2014/15 League 1 campaign.

Graham Smeaton is an English teacher by trade and a self-confessed chic stats geek by nature. Graham has interests in many sports including, NFL and NCAA American Football, but he writes mainly about the trial and tribulations of his favourite football club, Leeds United, including for Bloomberg Sports.

2014/15 previewed: Bradford City must be able to continue relying on their fans

9 Aug
Picture by Claire Epton

Picture by Claire Epton

By Jason McKeown

When the chips were down and everyone needed to pull together, last season the Bradford public did not let its football club down. Time and time again, the response to adversity and pressure was positivity. Players and management in need of a pick-me-up were lifted by strong vocal support. It truly was the season of needing – and being able to rely upon – the 12th man.

Recall Tuesday 18 February and, after a dreadful run of just one win 21 games, Port Vale came to Valley Parade with the season hanging on a knife edge. For all the growing criticism of the players and management, mixed in with rising fears over relegation, a united front of defiance was presented over the 90 minutes. As the players battled gamely, there was unrelenting backing from supporters. The Kop leading the battle cry, but all three home stands playing their part.

Carl McHugh’s last-minute winner halted the dreadful run. A triumph for the players’ application and workrate, and kudos to Gary Jones for swinging over the corner that the Irish centre half headed into the net. But the assist deserved to go to the crowd. As the cliché goes, they sucked the ball into the net. A team effort in the truest possible sense.

Fast forward a couple of months and another evening game. It’s Good Friday, and with relegation worries still not put to bed, Peterborough are in town for a must-not-lose game. The players are up for the big occasion, taking a first half lead through Adam Reach’s stunning free kick. Yet they have to dig deep during the second half to hold out for a precious victory against promotion-chasing opponents. Once again, the volume is cranked up and the supporters back their team to the hilt. There is barely a pause for breath, and certainly no awkward silences. Eventually the final whistle sounds and cheering breaks out. Survival is all but guaranteed, and once again the supporters deserve a huge pat on the back.

They were just two of many highlights from last season. The greater moments on the pitch were played out to a soundtrack of thunderous support. In 2013/14, the atmosphere at Valley Parade was its best in years. Forget the minor fall-out over the club’s decision to hand away supporters the Bradford End, the back of the Kop became the heartbeat of the entire stadium. The source of so much good. Even during terrible days at the office, such as Walsall and Oldham during the run-in, the chanting was kept up. It wasn’t blind loyalty and there were still moments where boos rang out, but no one who played for Bradford City last season can have any complaints about the way supporters backed them.

If there a particularly glorious period it coincided with the best part of the season – early doors. August and September victories over Carlisle, Sheffield United, Brentford and Shrewsbury were as memorable for the atmosphere within the ground as the powerful football on display. Valley Parade was bouncing, with the range of songs easily accessible to everyone. If you were a young kid coming to watch Bradford City for the first time, you would have been instantly hooked. In my near 20 years following the club, I can only recall the atmosphere during the first Premier League season as comparably good, over a sustained period.

There were many contributing factors to this outbreak of positivity. The jubilation of promotion the season before was an obvious one, and indeed it was as though the celebrations had continued all summer with no one wanting to bring an end to the party. That after six years of frustration in League Two – where home games were so often played out in near-silence, or to grumbles and boos – there was a collective outlook of making the most of finally escaping. The 2012/13 History Makers had yet to look fallible, and opposition teams were being turned over with ease.

After the Carlisle home game, joint-Chairman Julian Rhodes told me, “I couldn’t believe how we’ve kept it going and how good the atmosphere was for the Carlisle game. I always felt that there were a number of things that, if we got back to League One, would be completely different to last time, because we are going back in the right direction. And for me, the atmosphere against Carlisle reaffirmed that. It was fantastic support.”

Yet as glorious as those late summer days felt, the novelty of being in League One was only ever going to last for a short period. This is not our ultimate destination; a division we are happy to call our home; our natural position in football’s pecking order. This is a stop-off point on the way to something bigger and better. Put our feet up, enjoy and take in the moment. But we don’t want to hang around here for too long, we’ve got somewhere else to be.

The novelty will soon wear off, if he hasn’t already. This year’s fixture list includes games with Sheffield United, Bristol City, Coventry City, Barnsley, Preston North End and Doncaster – games to whet the appetite, when memories of trips to Accrington, Dagenham and co still remain so vivid. But whilst you can argue the toss over a couple of those big names, in our mind all of these clubs are our equals. Clubs of similar size and stature, attracting comparable crowds. And if they are sat grumpily in League One, justifiably believing they belong in the division above, why shouldn’t we harbour similar ambitions?

The fact is that Bradford City should be a Championship club. Our wonderful stadium, our strong fanbase, our improving off-the-field structure. 12 years of falling down the leagues, with barely a penny to our name painfully told us that should is a meaningless word, but we continue to stand tall. Our dreams remain intact. Get into the Championship, and we will be back to where we were before our reckless Premier League overspending caught up with us, leading to our downfall. Back to where we were, only this time without the £36 million debt.

We are so close to it, and yet so far. Getting out of League Two proved to be such a vast and difficult step, that you still worry that the next leap will prove beyond us. We are not a big fish in a small pond anymore. There are many clubs ahead of us in that League One promotion queue that mean we would have to seriously punch above our weight to get ahead of them this season. But we have time on our side, and another year of progress in this division would only leave us stronger.

Whatever the challenges we face over the next 10 months, and however different things look on the field with our new-look team, one thing must remain completely unchanged – our role in making this work. We supporters need to raise the volume back to 11, set a tone of positivity that rings around the stadium, and be the inspiration for a new group of heroes.

This might not be the year we get into the Championship, but so what? We are Bradford City supporters, and we are brave and strong enough to cope with disappointment. What we need to see this season is progress that offers greater hope that the next promotion is within reach. That the highly commendable achievements of the last few years are going to be built upon rather than wasted away. It won’t be easy, it won’t be smooth. But as long as we supporters keep giving our all, there will be no excuse for anyone else connected with the club contributing anything less.

Let’s make some noise, and party like it’s 2013.

Picture by Claire Epton

Picture by Claire Epton

The Bradford City Supporter of the Year – raise a glass to Steve!

25 Jul
Steve Gorringe presenting Gary Jones with the Shipley Bantams Player of the Year Award 2012/13. Photo courtesy of Shipley Bantams.

Steve Gorringe presenting Gary Jones with the Shipley Bantams Player of the Year Award 2012/13. Photo courtesy of Shipley Bantams.

By Phil Abbott

Congratulations to Steve Gorringe, announced today as BCAFC Supporters Board ‘Supporter of the Year 2013-14’. For many, Steve will need little introduction, given the nature of his support of Bradford City. For others, they will soon put a name to a regular face in the City crowd. For some, they will simply be content to read of his magnificent contribution to the life of Bradford City over a number of years.

Following their search for the winner of the reinstated competition, the Supporters Board were particularly impressed with one nomination from Phil Woodward, a friend of Steve. In that nomination, Phil wanted to share the terrific work Steve does for the Shipley Bantams in running coaches to away games for a huge number of individuals over the year.

“Steve has run coaches to every away game this season, including cup games. He has taken time off work to attend games, specifically long Tuesday night trips. He takes calls at all hours for people booking on the coaches. He has also arranged a bucket collection for McMillan Cancer charity on Boxing Day and helped to arrange a race night that made £600 for Prostate Cancer UK and also attended hospital to hand out gifts for sick children at Christmas.  

“He arranged all the members’ away priority cards for this season too. He plans pub stops in advance, puts together info on the pubs and the grounds for the travelling City fans and puts the money made back into the club. He also records a Bradford City broadcast on BCB radio, again giving up his own time for this. He is unselfish in his devotion to Bradford City and the work he does behind the scenes should be recognised, applauded and commended. He has taken over 250 supporters to away games this season, arranged the coaches, looked after our supporters young and old and arranged 3 tables for our supporters for the Player of the Year awards, discounted for our members.

“Steve does lots of work that benefits other supporters rather than doing things just for him. He is a loyal supporter that puts others first and spends lots of his own time doing things to benefit Bradford City. He is well organised and makes away trips an enjoyable experience despite the result and that along with his history of fundraising for charities, including the Burns Unit stands out for me. The criteria sums up Steve’s passion, enthusiasm and commitment for this club and it would be perfectly fitting for him to be recognised as Supporter of the Year.”

I know of Steve, and I have seen him on the away terraces many times, but I’ve never spoken to him. Recently, all that changed as I wanted to delve deeper into what appeared to be such a rousing and heartfelt nomination. I gave Steve a call for a ‘quick chat’. There are many times you put the phone down after an hour (particularly when you’ve not done much of the talking yourself) and you think ‘I’m never gonna get that part of my life back’, but far from it being so with Steve; I was both entertained and inspired.

During my hour with Steve, I wanted to probe a little more into what makes him such a great and worthy winner of the award.

How do you feel to have won the award?

“I’m shocked,” confirmed Steve. “I found myself asking why I had been chosen as there are, in my mind, many people who do good things around the club”.

Here were the first tones of a humble yet gratified gentleman.

“I feel a personal pride and satisfaction for achieving something”, he continued.

The undertones of lots of what Steve has to say are very much set around the auspice of it being all in a day’s work.

What motivates you to do what you do with the Shipley Bantams?

“I know I’ve done a good job when someone jumps off the bus at the end and says thanks. I know I’ve let them down if there are 10 of them having a moan!” says Steve. “But a lot of what I do is lived out in the memory of my close friend Stuart Hardy”.

With great affection, ascribing him as one of his closest friends, Steve went on to tell me about how Stuart, who sadly died in 2009, and himself seized the Shippers reins eight years ago when the diminishing committee had dropped to just two members. Incredibly, finding time to fundraise for a wealth of causes, the notion of a travel club was developed around the time that the football club was in administration and unable to provide official transport to away games.

What sort of challenges do you face in making the Shipley Bantams happen?

“I like to plan trips down to the minute”, said Steve, “And that has its challenges. If I’ve promised a particular stop-off or a particular arrival time, then I always make it happen.”

There’s no accounting for breakdowns, late cancellations of games or traffic jams, but Steve appears to leave very few stones unturned in his bid to ensure his military precision is rewarded each and every away game.

“I have boxes and boxes of stuff in my office”, he recalls. “Ground guides, notes on stopping points, pubs, things to remember for next time we visit a specific ground.”

But Steve knows first-hand that the QE2 Bridge over to Gillingham or a busy M62 can be the spanner in any well planned, well-oiled works.

Which is your most memorable game for which you have arranged a trip?

Steve sighed. There had been so many. But, some of the most recent voyages were right up there.

“The two trips to Wembley take some beating. We took 10 coaches!” recalled Steve. “But for pure drama, the Villa semi-final probably takes it. How on earth was it possible that we had won? How could Bradford City have made the cup final? We had a camera crew with us on the day too, and the emotion was something else.”

But memorable games for Steve are not just surrounding the great days out. He recalled an unfortunate midweek trip to Aldershot.

“During the week, a few people had pulled out, and then even more did at the last minute. We were down to 8 people, so I decided to hire a people carrier rather than let people down. It seemed a good idea at the time! As it happens, we broke down in Hemel Hempstead on the way and ended up shelling out £90 for a taxi to get to the game on time. It was great though as, having heard of our plight, Mark Lawn and the Aldershot chairman had left some complimentary tickets for us on the gate when we arrived.”

Have there been any games where you wished you hadn’t been there?

Steve sighed again, but this time, I could feel the pain that I’d just rekindled.

“Most of the bad games from years gone by have been forgotten through the troughs and peaks of following City, but two in particular come to mind,” recalled an uncomfortable Steve.

“The most recent was the 5-0 JPT defeat at Hartlepool. There was nothing to see on the pitch and very little to laugh about at all. It was dire.”

Even though this was a bad memory, Steve and his passengers always have something to laugh about on the bus and this tends to temper the emotions a little. He went on to describe the latter part of the Peter Taylor years, where poor away performance tested his resolve.

“We were at Cheltenham, post-Christmas, and the players’ body language was terrible. It suggested they were not interested and had accepted defeat. We’d taken time off work. I had a real blast at the players on the night, even on the old message board too. I went on about their lack of professionalism and what a privileged existence they had as professional footballers. It wasn’t a good time.”

Where are your favourite/least favourite grounds?

Steve was keen to make the distinction between ‘stadiums’ and ‘grounds’ as in his experience, there is a subtle difference.

“As far as stadiums go, it’s Wembley. But there are other stadiums that are soulless. My least favourite of these stadiums is MK Dons, for exactly that reason. It’s a beautiful stadium, just soulless.”

But there have been some dire ‘grounds’ in Steve’s experience too.

“Tuesday nights in Aldershot aren’t great! The access for away fans is miles around the back, up a park path. After the game there are no street lights and it feels like walking down ‘Ambush Alley’,” laughed Steve. “And then there’s Kenilworth Road. The place just stinks of pee and rust!”

But there is a place in Steve’s heart for many of the older grounds, each with many stories to tell. His favourite? Spotland.

“I love Spotland. Whenever we play Rochdale, we take a massive following. We’re all close together and the great acoustics in the stand mean that there is a great atmosphere.”

You mentioned others who you would say were worthy of the Supporter of the Year Award?

“There are lots of people who do a great deal for the club. In particular there are some great established or developing Supporters Groups where people do similar things. There’s Shelf, White Abbey, East Bierley and Skipton to mention a few and some great people doing amazing things for the Supporters Trust, Friends of Bradford City and Bradford Disability Team. I’m a particular fan of the likes of Mick Shackleton and Mark Neale, for example.”

(Editorial point – To maintain transparency, the Supporters Board agreed that they would not be able to nominate anyone or be nominated themselves for the award. Both these men serve currently on the board)

Finally, how do you see this season going?

“I’m looking for at least a top half finish,” fired Steve, “But I’d like to think we had a chance of the play offs. I think we’ve spent the lower budget better to ensure there is more quality throughout the squad. I think we have a bit more depth than before. It seems to me that Phil Parkinson is building a team who will work hard for each other. They might not be as skilful, but the sum total of their efforts might be better than before.”

Let’s face it, Steve has seen more than enough over his time as a City Supporter, so his views hold some credibility. Only time will tell just how much, but however you feel about the coming season, let’s take one more moment to look back at last year and raise a glass to a remarkable man – the one and only Mr Steve Gorringe, Supporter of the Year.

The privileged

20 Jul


the warm up

Shelbourne 0 

Bradford City 4

Sheehan 21 (pen), Clarke 29 + 55, De Vita 78

Saturday 19 July, 2014

Images and words by David Lawrence

What a great privilege it is to be a Bradford City fan, particularly on trips like this. To be part of a band formed of all types of humanity sharing in a joint passion on foreign soil. What a treat.

Of course it didn’t seem that way as my friend and I wandered past some young kids having football instruction by an over zealous coach on some spare land outside a very old looking Tolka park. But it was early, and we were on our way to meet some Irish bantams for pre match drinks and the craic.

Inside Fagans, near the ground, we were greeted by the always reassuringly pleasant sight of smattering of City fans in various Bantams regalia. Outside on the patio there was an increasingly large crowd that included the Bingley Bantams and the Irish-based lads. The chat was of games gone by and how City might fair in the coming season. Views ranged from ‘nervously optimistic’ to ‘hope he knows what he’s doing’. Maybe folks were reading too much into the UCD game earlier in the week.bingle bantams

Today’s game would be a different affair, with City fielding a stronger team from the off and the opposition putting out a team of youngsters and trialists, due to having a game the day after.

Both these teams were out warming up as we arrived and we, like most of the following, headed for the ground’s tiny bar. Perhaps the team news had filtered through, or the beer had started to have an effect, as the there was a happy throng inside viewing the memorabilia on the walls (Real Madrid once played here; and the Shels also played a 3rd round qualifier for the Champions League here, narrowly missing out on going through), greeting fellow City fans and queuing to get a pint. The first chant of “City til I die”. It was a great atmosphere. Great to be a City fan.

Outside in the near sunlight it was quite a contrast. The game was about to begin and people were just about noticing.

City initially set up in a 4-4-2, with Billy Knott on the left and Mark Yeates on the right wings, and James Hanson and Billy Clarke in the middle. It very quickly became apparent, however, that this was not how they would play, as Clarke played a slightly wider right role and Yeates moved into the hole behind Hanson. The other two midfielders of a solid looking Matty Dolan and a rangy Gary Liddle stayed deeper, broke play up and set up football type play from the back trough the middle to the forwards. Yes that’s right ‘football’. The defence, with the excellent Alan Sheehan, were hardly troubled apart from an early effort from distance that Jon McLaughlin didn’t have to bother with. City didn’t really need a new,  reserve or indeed any keeper today.


The opening period of the game had a very pre-season feel to it, with the tempo fairly steady, but it did feature a noticeable amount of clever passing play, particularly by Liddle, Knott and Dolan. The most noticeable moment being when an over excited Shels player went through on Knott causing one dry Bantam to state “he went down like a sack of sh*t” which brought some humour to the affair.

City were looking good, passing the ball crisply. The now wiry looking Yeates was at the centre of much of this, linking the play up effectively between midfield and attack. When he plays too far up the pitch or to deep in the middle, where he doesn’t get the time to play his game, he can often lose the ball,  much to his and the fans’ chagrin. However,  when he’s playing ‘in the hole’ and given the space and time he’s a very good footballer. Possibly the best in our division at this role.

It was through his clever link up play that City went close around the quarter of an hour mark.  Yeates played a lovely one-two with the lively Knott, then put in a great low cross that Clarke only just missed out on stretching for.

City were getting closer and the goal came soon after. Andrew Davies, showing he’s going to be okay with the new football style, played a fantastic long through ball to the on rushing Sheehan, who’s cross was handled by McDonagh. Sheehan stepped up to place a neat penalty to the left of the keeper. Polite applause and handshaking.the change over

Having broken their duck, City appeared to sense that there was only going to be one way traffic from here on and increasingly threatened the Shels goal.  Yeates again at the centre of things; first playing a neat one-two with Sheehan for him to put a long ball over for Clarke to try to head – he doesn’t look the strongest in the air – then putting in Stephen Darby, who had a good shot from the edge of the box that went wide left. Another goal came soon after, when Yeates played a good pass to Clarke who scored with a great drive low to the left of the keeper. 2-0 it was becoming so easy. Que chorus of “take me home Midland road”.

Lenny the City Gent took the opportunity of the slight pause in play to nip out; which was noticed by his fellow Bantams, who gave him a chant of “you’ve been replaced by a chicken, replaced by a chicken”. It was all good fun.

City’s centre backs and goalie were practically on deckchairs by this point. Strangely though, Hanson was not really in the game and only had one shot from long range.  It will be interesting to see how he adapts his game to suit the new style and what type of season he has.

Davies, clearly bored of having nothing to do, had a long sorte into the opposition’s half and down the wing but then fell over which brought a cheer and a chorus of “she fell over”.

The half drifted to a finish, with Sheehan and Liddle both going close, whilst the tempo dropped a bit. The whistle went and the teams traipsed off. McLean, who had been lounging with a couple of the younger players in the empty stand opposite, put another track on his ipod and was undisturbed. He could have been on a beach in Florida.


The break offered time to wrestle in the small bar for a pint or chat and reflect on the game this far. On this viewing, the team would get torn apart by an organised outfit and it may be a tough August if we come up against such teams. However,  they look like they have the ability to develop into a effective unit who will be great to watch, and would likely beat our recent ‘invincibles’. The future is bright, but it’s more on the horizon than shining down on us right now. Parkinsonism.

Soon enough the second half started with the same players going at the same, if not slower, pace. The game was clearly having the required effect of working on the lads fitness. Nothing of note really transpired, apart from the sound of Parkinson encouraging the players after joining the dugout rather than sitting high in the odd half stand as he did in the first half. Oh and we scored again. Clarke latched onto another good pass from Yeates and wholloped a lovely shot in giving the keeper no chance. He’s got a good shot and the ability to do something different.

By the time everyone had just about got settled back from their half time excesses the mass substitution occurred. This crew looked as young as their opposition, barring the older heads of Jason Kennedy, Matt Taylor and Rafa De Vita.  Joining Rye (Vita) up front was a trialist that had just arrived on the scene to be told he was playing, called Ben Smith. He played quite well, but would likely come in the category of ‘one for the future’ and with Clarkson going so well it would be hard to see him having a role.

De Vita was trying his best to shoot at every opportunity, going close several times and at one point forcing a good save from the keeper. He kept trying and was rewarded with a goal from a good strike from the edge of the area. 4-0.

The assist was by the tidy looking Nick Arnold, who was playing down the right. Earlier, he’d put a good searching ball to the far post that Angelo Balanta had headed home, only to be correctly ruled offside. As for the South American, his name appears more exotic than his game.  He, like some others, may not be around for much longer – particularly if the supposed loans come to fruition.dolan

Having picked up considerably with the substitutions, once again the pace fell off. I think I heard the full time whistle go, but by then the crowd were contentedly chatting amongst themselves and even the players that had come off. Rory McArdle and Knott were particularly friendly and engaging, allowing people to take selfies with them.

What a great bunch of lads. What great fans. What a great trip. Thanks to all involved. We are privileged.

City: McLaughlin (Barker 63), Darby (Arnold 63), McArdle (Taylor 63), Davies (King 63), Sheehan (Heaton 63), Liddle (Kennedy 63), Dolan (Meredith 63), Yeates (Balanta 63), Knott (Wright 63), Hanson (Smith or Brown 63), Clarke (De Vita 63).  

Two Dolans talking

Welcome to Leeds-Bradford Airport. Picture by Bee Calam

Welcome to Leeds-Bradford Airport. Picture by Bee Calam

the teamsheet


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