In Parky We Trust – so now let’s set about keeping him

Phil Parkinson talks to his coaching staff

By Jason McKeown

When Phil Parkinson lines up against Arsene Wenger in the Valley Parade dug outs next month, he might choose to take a moment to reflect on the symbolism of the occasion and how far the City manager’s career has turned around.

For it was only 18 months ago that Parkinson was working as a scout for Wenger, with his managerial stock seemingly having fallen to such a level that he might never get another job. He was, apparently, interviewed for a vacancy at Valley Parade (after Peter Taylor left), but was unsuccessful. Parkinson was hardly a stranger to Valley Parade, occasionally cajoled into summarising action for BBC Radio Leeds by his friend Derm Tanner. But after enjoying success as manager at Colchester, less successful spells at Hull and Charlton (the latter featuring accusations of dour football) left him with something of a tarnished reputation.

At Wigan last week, ‘Parkinson’s Bradford Army’ echoed around the DW Stadium and his popularity in the City hotseat had reached a new peak. We can, with some degree of safety now, describe Parkinson as a successful managerial appointment. With the club worryingly on the slide following the incorrect decision to drive Stuart McCall away, it was a bloody good job too. Taylor and Peter Jackson struggled to keep us away from being sucked into the black hole of non-league. Now we are looking upwards.

It hasn’t always been a smooth ride under Parkinson. But with the Bantams ship having seemingly been turned around, at last it seems to have been worth the short-term pain. What was evidently clear from day one about Parkinson was a driven, single-minded vision on how he wanted to shape the football club and the type of personnel who would deliver it. So the long-term planning that had been instigated the previous summer by Peter Jackson and Archie Christie was in some cases ripped up and in others was evolved. Some good people left Valley Parade without necessarily doing much wrong, because they didn’t fit in with Parkinson’s grand scheme.

It hasn’t always been a smooth ride under Parkinson. Last season relegation was just avoided and a phoney PR war of sorts instigated by Julian Rhodes that pinned the finger of blame solely on Jackson for the difficult campaign. Parkinson had more in the building – and the financial resources – to perform better than the 18th place finish he ultimately delivered. But it has become increasingly clear that he had one eye on this season and making sure his vision was truly up and running.

And the results, so far, speak for themselves. Incredible success in the cup competitions and a strong league positioning that leaves the Bantams in contention for a play off finish – if not better. The squad has been built in a way that fulfils his beliefs on how to be successful at this level. Last season we saw City experiment with different styles of football – the beautiful to the ugly – and this season’s squad, when fit and in form, is a match for anyone in the division. We are direct for sure, but with an energetic central midfield and with craft on the wings – it is hard to pigeon hole the Bantams under any one playing style.

All of which has helped Parkinson build up a high standing amongst supporters. And no one – at this stage of their time in the hotseat – has been as popular since the halcyon days of Paul Jewell. “In Parky We Trust” is the mantra, and complaints about the manager have become few and far between. After so many years where a lot of our time, as supporters, was spent debating the failings of the present manager, it’s almost noteworthy how little we actually speak of Parkinson.

For my part, I feel a level of confidence in the manager which I have not held towards a City boss for some time (Colin Todd if you’re asking, but he of course split opinion). Sure, Parkinson will get it wrong on occasions and he can frustrate you, but I really believe that, overall, he knows what he is doing and has the ability to implement his ideals (the biggest failing of Taylor, who talked a good game but failed to imprint his ideals on the club). On a number of occasions this season, the team has been struggling and Parkinson’s tactical changes have turned that position around.

A year ago, I had the pleasure of five minutes talking to Parkinson on the training ground as part of a day shadowing Christie. He talked about the importance of character and bringing in the right personalities, not just the right abilities. The Bradford City of 2012/13 oozes character. From the backline of Andrew Davies, Luke Oliver (I know, but still), Rory McArdle and James Meredith, to the engine room of Gary Jones, Nathan Doyle, Ricky Ravenhill and Ritchie Jones and a forward line of James Hanson and Nahki Wells, who possess great mental strength. Character and strong levels of determination are evident all over the park – and in reserve.

In Parkinson We Trust. But what next? His contract expires at the end of the season, and this uncertainty casts a shadow that may increasingly block out the light over the coming months. City are vulnerable to losing him, and the real worry should be where this would leave us. Rightly or wrongly, the Board has placed all of its trust into Parkinson and let him go about rebuilding this football club. Without Parkinson, we would have a huge hole to fill.

It’s not unrealistic either to suggest he could leave. Let’s say Blackpool in the Championship were to make an approach for Parkinson, now they need a manager. I’m not saying that this would happen, but the more Parkinson impresses at Valley Parade the more he will appear in the shop window. Imagine if City defeated Arsenal next month, but also imagine some Northern club, fed up with their own manager,  seeing that result and eyeing up Parkinson. Without the security of a longer contract at Valley Parade, he might be tempted to move on.

The question for the Board to ponder is do they award him a contract now, or wait until the end of the season and see what he delivers? In February 2009 McCall, in the same contract position as Parkinson now, signed a new deal – with the club preaching the values of stability and keeping faith. But when McCall didn’t deliver promotion, it led to all manner of problems and less than a year later the manager was, apparently, no longer on speaking terms with Mark Lawn.

On the flip side, in October 1998 – a matter of months after installing him as manager permanently – Geoffrey Richmond offered Jewell a new contract. Richmond quickly recognised the qualities Jewell emanated, plus the promising early season signs that a promotion push was in the offing. So he set about rewarding that promise by providing Jewell with extra job security and removing any personal doubt and worry. We know how well that turned out.

So can the club commit to Parkinson now, or in the next few weeks or months, by offering him a new contract, effectively saying this is not a promotion or bust season? Or do they risk not renewing his contract until, or if, he achieves promotion? It is very easy to do the former and vow to back him next season even if we don’t have a glorious end to this one (many City fans are saying that they would still support him if we don’t go up), but less easy in practice if a failure to win promotion this year and a slow start to the season after would place him under pressure.

In my eyes, Parkinson has done enough for us to back up the mantra “In Parky We Trust” with firm actions. We might not go up this season; but as long as we’ve not overspent and don’t have to make huge cut backs ala McCall, he deserves the chance to continue the club’s upwards trajectory. And even if he doesn’t quite succeed the year after, so long as we are not moving backwards he will still deserve our trust. Stability is so important, and has been lacking in recent years.

Because the fact is Bradford City has spent well over a decade scrambling around to make the right managerial appointment, and quickly losing faith in the latest choice. We have constantly held the view that the answers to today’s problems lie in the next manager. We have struggled to stick with any manager who loses a few matches, pining most if not all of the problems on to their shoulders.

But now, finally, we seem to have the right man. And we should move heaven and earth to keep him in charge and let him continue to build his vision for a stronger, successful football club. Parkinson has proven himself over the past year and a bit, and we can have every confidence in his ability to deliver those belated rewards of success. We don’t want to risk all of his solid work going to waste, and so we should be making sure he continues to be happy in the job as our leader by seriously looking into a new contract offer.

Categories: Opinion

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6 replies

  1. I have to admit when the club announced the newmanager was Phil Parkinson I wasn’t impressed I said to my Cty supporter friends he will be gone by Christmas. The football he was getting the squad to play was dire in my opinion he’d also brought in a better quality of player with him but results weren’t getting better. Full credit to the chairman and the board for backing there man. I had the pleasure of going to a fans forum before the start of season and had a chance to really talk to Mr Parkinson and listen to him for the first time. What I found was a very calm,intelligent man who never dodged any question and spoke from the heart. The question I ask myself is can the club support Mr Parkinson with a wage budget next season should promotion not be achieved? Would Mr Parkinson want to stay with a very low wage budget?

  2. I heard Dave Baldwin say on “The Pulse” last night that we have overspent by £600, 000 this season from break even point. We are relying on clauses in youngsters contracts ( and further negotiations from their current clubs to possible reach a deal ‘in advance’ to buy the contract(s)) , or a good cup run.
    Parkinson’s budget for this season is around £2m if reports are true. To be honest, where we are now in the League really should be perhaps the least of our expectations, as we have not had a budget like it since Stuart’s second season, where we were in the Top 3 at Christmas before drifting away.
    However, I do believe in Parkinson. He is the right man for the job and should get at least a further year on his contract as a reward to the very capable squad he has assembled.
    But lets be honest – anything less than a playoff place this season will be underachieving for sure given the large, indulgent budget. I would expect any manager with any sort of a track record to deliver that with £2m to spend and the constant backing of the board to bring in players – one thing we cannot criticise the board or the owners for at all. They have delivered throughout every managers reign in League Two with regards allowing them to have the players or other staff at their disposal that they require

  3. It’s difficult for City as they are walking a tightrope between achieving their season goals (Division 1 next season) whilst not creating future financial havoc. Parky has gained my trust and I believe he and his inner circle should be rewarded with further security but with a view to my point re finance, City also need to be careful as to how this is structured.

    I also heard the interview with Dave Baldwin and it appears that we have prudently planned on several fronts to ensure that we can back Parky as strongly as possible.
    Parky must be aware of these plans as he has brought in some very good signings for this level.

    One concern lies beyond this season with the ‘what if’ we don’t achieve our goals. I’m only being pragmatic and the fans need to also understand we don’t have exhaustive coffers and several of the key players seem to be on one year deals. However I want to leave this at the back of my mind and concentrate on ALL of the positives that the two P’s have brought City.

    Last year we were scrambling for our lives and the management get us over the line. Often it wasnt pretty but they got us there. This year some of the football has been fabulous at times ( Burton comeback Reiddddyyyy! etc) and the players are obviously behind the boss. Their commitment and the tempo they set is hard to match for opposition teams as we’ve seen several times already. Bear in mind that we have (had) several key injuries already and we are still well placed to consolidate our position as these guys gradually return.

    It shows that Parkys hard work last season and his planning and delivery so far in this indicate further good times lie ahead. We have a Championship level base and with momentum who knows where Parky could take us! Believe!!!

    • Another thought provoking article on this excellent website, thank you.
      When the also excellent “Boy From Brazil” website was in operation (we miss you Michael) I often stated how our club needed some medium to long term stability and I still believe that. Despite the alleged player budget that Parkinson has for this season, before a ball was kicked I would have been happy with a middle table finish following last season. With the recent injuries to Reid, Oliver, Davies, Hanson and Gary Jones when he was injured, I for one am impressed that we are still in the top 7.
      I say give Parkinson an extended contract now. What about Steve Parkin too? What role has he played so far this season?

      On a point in the article, one of my best friends has been supporting Charlton Athletic for over 25 years so he knows a thing or two about Parkinson. He was quite impressed with him and some supporters forget that Parkinson was one result away from getting Charlton promoted to Division 2 (the Championship). However saying that, I work with several Hull City supporters and obviously from Phil’s short reign at the KC, they don’t hold in high regard.

      Come on everyone, let’s get behind Phil and his team like we did against Chesterfield even if it wasn’t our greatest performance this season.

  4. The article comments, ‘…character and bringing in the right personalities, not just the right abilities’ . In the next sentence a number of players are named with the following, catching my eye, ‘… Luke Oliver (I know, but still)’. Not sure what is alluded to with the insert in brackets. This could be taken as a negative comment about personalties when compared to colleagues. Clarification please.

    • Hi Rod

      I was praising the characters in the team and mentioned Luke, but obviously he is now out for the season so it’s almost irrelevant now. Hence the brackets. Nothing negative at all about Luke from me, I think he is fantastic and I’m so gutted for him.

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