In a season of such rapid change, there’s been no higher-profile player victim of circumstances than club captain Guy Branston. Brought in during the summer by Peter Jackson to become the lynchpin of an understated play off push – the story goes that the then-City manager was at Old Trafford for Torquay and Branston’s play off final defeat and approached Guy about signing for City, straight after the final whistle – the 33-year-old centre back has become something of a forgotten man.
Phil Parkinson replaced Jackson as manager early on, and signed other defenders who took Branston’s place in the team. Soon after Guy was loaned to Rotherham for three months, before injury curtailed his stay and left him out of action for two months.
Now, however, he’s back in contention at City; and kindly spoke to Width of a Post editor Jason McKeown before the Hereford game about how he still hopes to have a future at the club.
WOAP: Are you fully recovered from your injury now?
GB: Yes, totally yeah. I’ve been back for around four weeks now. It took longer than I thought it would. It was an eight-week injury and I had to go back and see a specialist at one point, which the club was good enough to pay for.
WOAP: How did your loan spell at Rotherham go?
GB: Yeah it was good. Rotherham’s one of the clubs that I always look out for. I had five good years there as a player, I lived in Rotherham for five years and enjoyed it. So going back to get some games was great. But unfortunately I got a bad injury and I had to cancel the loan early.
WOAP: What happened with the injury, did you pick it up during a match?
GB: No, I picked it up in training. It was during my first week of training actually, but it got worse and worse. And I had to take an injection in order to still be able to play; something I’ve done at other clubs past, and which the manager thanked me for.
But, well it wasn’t so much the wrong sort of injection, but it didn’t work out. I took an injection and it aggravated it even more. And I went up for a header and it actually ended up rupturing the tendon in my foot. Which made it very uncomfortable just to walk on and I was on crutches for a couple of days. Obviously I can now walk on it, but I’ve had pains for nine weeks.
WOAP: Do you have any targets for the rest of this season, for example get back into the team?
GB: Yes, of course. I didn’t come back here not to get in the first team. It’s very important that I keep working hard and get back in the squad, and then hopefully challenge for a place. I’m still working really hard and doing extra training and fitness work, and I think that I’m fit enough to play in the first team.
But you know, up to now, the lads at the back have done really well. Which is great, and I’ve thanked them to keep pushing me, because when they’re doing well it makes you start playing well. It should have that affect on your career. When the top players are playing well in a team, you want to be better than them.
WOAP: Have you had conversations with Phil Parkinson in terms of your chances of getting back into the team? Does he see you as part of his plans?
GB: I’ve had conversations with him. I don’t think we see eye-to-eye in the sense that I obviously want to play in the team. But I said to him I will be here for Bradford as much as Bradford needs me. And if that’s not going to work out this season, well I’ve got next season as well. So no problems.
WOAP: Going back to last summer, when you arrived there was this great story about you driving towards Valley Parade, getting out of your car when it came on the horizon and being amazed at how big it was. So far moving to City doesn’t seem to have worked out for you as hoped…
GB: No, definitely not. It’s been a nightmare for me and it’s not gone how I expected. The club itself is what I expected. It’s a massive club and it’s a pleasure to play for them. I’ve got nothing but respect for the place, and that’s why I turn up every week and do my work, and why I want to play for the club still.
I’ve left clubs quickly before, when things haven’t worked out; but I don’t want to leave this football club and I’m not looking to leave this football club – because I can see the benefits of staying. Some clubs I have been at and thought, well the manager’s told me to my face that I’ve not got a future. But this club is immaculate, and I’ve got nothing but respect for it.
When I signed at the start of the season, I obviously had a lot of confidence in myself anyway, and I think everyone knows that. I envisioned that I’d be leading this club to the top of the table, but things went on out of the control of us players. And then it was our fault with the results that we got, and we held our hands up. And then a new manager comes in and takes over. And sometimes, unfortunately, your face doesn’t fit. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to stay here. I’m desperate to stay here.
WOAP: Peter Jackson was obviously a big reason why you signed here, because you were friends with him…
GB: I wasn’t technically friends with him. It’s hard to be friends with a football manager. It is a very tricky situation to have a friendship with a manager because things can change so quickly and things can blow up. To a manager you’re blue-eyed boy one minute, and then you’re dog dirt on the bottom of his shoe the next!
I had a relationship with Peter Jackson because I played so well against him in the past, so he’s always thought that I was a good player. Unfortunately I signed for Jackson and you know it didn’t work out for him at City and he ended up walking out anyway. I was disappointed myself and thought he should have stayed until Christmas at least, but that’s the way it goes.
WOAP: Do you have any regrets about signing for City and leaving Torquay?
GB: No I’ve got no regrets. I stick my chest out, and I’ve got no problems being shot at. I enjoy being in football and I like being part of this football club.
Hindsight’s a great thing. You can look back on things and think ‘oh I should have done this, I should have done that’. But I wanted to go to the biggest club available to me during the summer, and Bradford was the biggest club available. I was buzzing at that. I never look back and think this move has not worked out. It has worked out for me, because it’s got me to a big club – which is where I want to be.
This is a massive club and I’m so proud to be associated with Bradford City. And now I will always be associated with Bradford City. That’s a good feeling.
WOAP: As supporters watching on it can feel frustrating to see a club like Torquay, last season and this, achieve impressive things and being high up the league, while it seems Bradford City has a bigger budget but haven’t been able to come close to the play offs for three seasons. In your experience of both clubs, what do you think the difference is between Torquay last season and City?
GB: I think Bradford overall has got a big budget, but I don’t think the playing budget is that big. It’s probably up there with a group of big teams in this division, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a Swindon budget.
I don’t even know the budget, but I can’t imagine the players that we’ve got at this football club are as expensive as the Swindon players; otherwise we’d go and get [Paul] Benson ourselves wouldn’t we?
I think the Chairmen are doing an absolutely amazing job to keep this club ticking over, and they need to be applauded for it. They come in and put their money where their mouths are, and behind the scenes for us players it’s all very organised and the lads are looked after.
In football it’s hard with the budgets. It’s something that the manager and the directors’ deal with; as players we just get told to turn up, try and play our best. But sometimes other teams are going to turn up to this wonderful stadium and try their best as well. And that’s where it’s unfortunate, because it’s sometimes more of a challenge playing at this stadium. Opposition players turn up and say ‘oh wow here we go; this is going to be a great game today’.
Talking of today, because of the crowd, it will probably be a full house today. £1 a ticket, it’s going to be a tremendous day. And I think you’ve got to applaud the club itself for doing that for the fans. It shows solidarity in the city, because this place [Bradford] is on the up and you can see it in the town centre with the water fountain and the excitement around the place. If we can get this club buzzing like I wanted to – and still want to – then it can be a big hit in Yorkshire again.
WOAP: The club began this season making a lot of noises about long-term building and Jackson brought in players for the future. However, this changed quickly and now there’s very much a short-term focus. As players does this sort of stuff affect you?
GB: I liked the idea, but you know I was promised all sorts of things when I signed. I was hearing Clayton Donaldson, Gary Jones, all these kind of players and I thought ‘wow they’d be great to play with’. They are big hitters in League Two and League One. And I was really excited by that.
But it didn’t materialise. And the players that we got in were young lads who weren’t ready for League Two. And that’s nice for the development of the football club in five or six years time, but for me personally my career is going to run out and I wanted us to sign players who maybe we can win the league with. It didn’t happen, although I don’t think the gaffer [Jackson] signed a lot of the players; behind the scenes I think Archie [Christie] did, and the Chairmen, to sort the future of the club out. This was obviously understandable, because this club has got to go somewhere and it’s got to have saleable assets as well. It can’t just have 35, 36-year-old guys who want to come and play at a great stadium, like myself.
To me, I think it’s hard to want a certain thing and then for it to materialise. I was very pleased with myself obviously signing here, and the lads who joined here like your [Mark] Stewarts and [Chris] Mitchells I was impressed with. And the new gaffer has brought in some excellent players since. We’ve got a good squad now. It’s one where it’s very hard to get in, and that’s how it is.
In the summer, if we’d given more power to Peter Jackson, I think we’d be in a different situation – that’s my opinion. I think that if he’d been given the budget that sometimes I was hearing, it might have worked out for him. But I don’t think he was; we wanted to go down a different route and the chairman’s held his hands up and got rid of it, because it didn’t work. Which again, I applaud him. The chairman’s a man who sticks his heart on his sleeve and he’s a passionate football fan of Bradford. So he wants Bradford to do well, like we all do.
WOAP: Do you get on okay with Phil Parkinson? I know you said earlier you don’t always see eye-to-eye with him…
GB: Well the thing that we don’t see eye-to-eye on is simple, I want to be in the team and he doesn’t want me in the team (laughs). But I can understand why he doesn’t want me in the team, because the lads in it are doing well. That’s where I mean eye-to-eye, but he’s my manager and I’ve got to respect his decisions. I try and do everything that he asks of me. Whatever that might be, such as turning up today or going running on my own tomorrow or training with the youth team, or training the kids. Whatever he wants me to do, I will do.
I get on fine with him. I think that you’ve got to respect your gaffer and respect the chairmen and the chief exec – and, if you don’t do that, you’re a fool.
WOAP: How do you see your future beyond the end of this season? Obviously Andrew Davies will probably not be at City next season, do you think at that point you can get back in the team or even before that?
GB: I don’t see why I can’t get in with Andrew Davies. I can’t see why I can’t knock him off his pedestal, which I’ve said before. He’s a very, very good player but he’s also a Premiership player and I don’t understand why we didn’t sign him before if we can afford him.
These are the things that I question myself. I got told at the start of the season that we’d be signing blah, blah, blah and in the end that didn’t materialise, but I’m not blaming that on anyone.
In terms of Davies he has come in and done a great job, and he deserves a pat on the back for that. But we need that push all the time, and it’s very all well saying that one person is a good player, it’s a team game – it’s not just individuals.
Personally, what’s gone on will be put behind me, like it always is, and I will move on from that. If the club needs me in the summer I will be here 100%. If the club doesn’t need me they will have to come to me and tell me that. But I can’t see that.
WOAP: It appears you’ve had a very interesting career – I’m sure if you wrote an autobiography it would be a fantastic read. What have been the highlights of your career?
GB: Promotions, and meeting as many players as possible. I’ve been surprised by how many players I’ve come across, I never envisioned that my career would go this way. I started at Leicester City, which is my home club and I had five or six great years there, but it just didn’t work out and Martin O’Neill came in and said I wasn’t good enough for the Premiership. I’m happy with that (laughs), because we got on really well and he was a nice bloke. I’ve kept in contact with a lot of the staff from most clubs I’ve been at.
But definitely the highlights for me have been the five promotions that I’ve had, the big games I’ve played in – the play offs last year was amazing – and the big stadiums I’ve played in.
There’s also the normal stuff that you want to be involved in football for; signing for clubs like Bradford City, and being an important figure in people’s lives as a footballer. I love football fans. I think they respect the fact that I’m always willing to talk and have a chat with whoever wants a chat.
I’ve really enjoyed my career, and I’m still really enjoying my career – and that’s why I’m not giving it up. When my legs go and when someone has to put me down as a donkey, I will take it. But not yet, I’m not ready yet.
WOAP: Finally, what do you envisage doing when you do finally hang up your boots?
GB: I’d love to be a manager, I’ve got my B [coaching qualification] and I’m doing my A in the summer. It’s a big thing in my mind. I’ve have enough experience, I’ve spoke with enough players, I’ve dealt with enough players, I’ve had situations myself where managers have to deal with me and I’ve dealt with them.
I’ve seen so many different coaching styles, from your O’Neills, your Phil Parkinsons, your Paul Buckles, your John Gormans and even Tony Adams. There’s so many managers that I’ve worked with, and I think I would suit being a manager well.
I can spot a player, I know I can. I have ideas of good players and watch enough football to identify a player. I’ve been in the game for 20 years, starting at 14 in terms of being competitive, getting my apprenticeship and kicking on from there. I’ve been a pro ever since, so I can’t be doing that bad!