The need to retain Phil Parkinson

2013-03-02 14.54.47

Port Vale vs Bradford City preview

@Vale Park on Tuesday 5 March, 2013

By Jason McKeown

As York City manager Gary Mills was ordered to pack up his desk less than an hour after seeing his side lose 2-0 to Bradford City on Saturday, the lack of sentimentality in football was once again brutally exposed.

Mills’ achievements in taking York back into the Football League after nearly a decade of non-league wilderness – with two Wembley appearances last season – might provide the jolt needed to end a run of 11 winless games, but what then? York had a formula for progression that had worked. And though it might have run its course with Mills, the abruptness of the sacking suggests a lack of a long-term plan.

All of which has some relevance to the Bantams, as Phil Parkinson’s contract runs towards its conclusion with a new one yet to be agreed. Width of a Post understands that Parkinson is keen to sign another contract, but the noises from the club suggest their desire to retain the current manager is limited by how much he is willing to be paid.

And though no one should be suggesting Parkinson receive a lucrative contract the club cannot afford, the fact he is reputedly one of the lowest paid managers in the Football League would suggest there should be some room for negotiation (Width of a Post has been told his contract, but it would be wrong to talk about it publically; suffice to say it is nowhere near what John Still is said to have agreed to manage Luton). Parkinson joined in August 2011 with the Bantams at something of a low ebb, and the salary on offer reflected that. But having transformed the financial fortunes of the club over the last few months, Parkinson is surely entitled to feel justified in asking for greater reward.

I feel strongly that City should be doing as much as they can to retain Parkinson. I’ve read and listened to criticisms about league results dropping off and the argument that the remarkable cup run has covered his deficiencies. I have been accused by a few people of being too easily pleased and accepting of mediocrity. Fine, no one is suggesting we should be happy to sit 12th in the league. But the bigger picture should be there for all to see, and I don’t believe we should underestimate how vital Parkinson has become to the club over the last 18 months.

Recent history emphatically demonstrates why. Since Paul Jewell took the Bantams from mid-table in the second tier to a member of the elite, the list of managers is long. Chris Hutchings, Jim Jefferies, Nicky Law, Bryan Robson, Colin Todd, David Weatherall, Stuart McCall, Peter Taylor and Peter Jackson.

All of these managers either departed with the club in a worse state than when they had joined, or failed to achieve anything greater than keep it where it was. And though there were mitigating circumstances, in some of these cases, for failing to progress the club, the fact remains City have hired and fired whilst continuing to decline.

Parkinson is the first manager since Jewell to genuinely improve the club. That is not something that should be dismissed lightly. You can argue that Parkinson has been well backed financially and therefore improvement was inevitable, but then how do you explain Peter Taylor? You can claim that the improvement has not been considerable enough, judged against the league table, but it is improvement nonetheless. No one has progressed the club in over a decade. Dare we risk throwing that away?

Because if Parkinson is allowed to leave the club, by the Board and by a section of supporters, well they’d better hope that the replacement bucks the recent trend and delivers improvement too. Should Parkinson leave and we take another backwards step, there would have to be serious, serious questions asked of the judgement of those who make the decisions.

We are, in all likelihood, not going to achieve our target of promotion this season. But the benefits of the cup run – the cup run that provided the obvious distraction from this objective – should far outweigh this disappointment. Just remember the financial state of play in the summer. The club set a playing budget of around £1.7 million despite only being able to afford £1.1 million. The £600k overspend was a gamble, and that money had to be somehow retrieved over the season.

Speaking to Width of a Post in November, David Baldwin talked of four variants the club could use to claw back the deficit. The first option – and the one that ultimately more than covered the deficit – was a good cup run. Had City lost on penalties to Wigan in October, or lost on penalties to Arsenal in December, the other variants would have had to be acted upon.

These included selling the club office block to become a school (finally sorted after a wobble); selling first team players; and approaching the clubs that former youth players had been sold to, in order to see if they would be willing to buy out the contracts now, rather than wait to pay the Bantams the full add ons we would be entitled to if these players progressed. The latter two would have had worrying connotations over the short and long-term respectively. And in all likelihood we would have faced a summer of cut backs and reduced budgets, had we failed to go up.

The great thing about the cup run Parkinson and his players produced was it not only covered the deficit, but means the club can repeat the same approach next season with that deficit already sorted. Meanwhile the contracts of Tom Cleverley, Andre Wisdom and George Green can run their course, with City set up to receive the full benefits along the way. And Nahki Wells wasn’t sold in January. And the club should be in its best financial position – relatively speaking – since the Premier League years.

None of this would be possible without the job Parkinson has done. And though it might have eroded the Plan A of promotion somewhat, for what he has done financially (and, for us supporters, emotionally) there is no question in my mind that Parkinson deserves to stay on as manager. Yes, don’t break the bank; but make sure he is encouraged and feels wanted to continue the excellent strides forward that have been taken. The gripes about team selections and tactics will only be transferred to the next appointment. No manager is ever going to be perfect to us supporters.

The club has lacked stability for a number of years now, and it hasn’t helped our fortunes. We now have the opportunity to build the club upon more solid foundations, to reflect what’s been happening off the field with greater success on it. The squad built by Parkinson this season might have weaknesses and gaps, but they can be addressed over the summer. Some players out of contract may choose to leave, but the club now has the opportunity to become stronger than its best individuals and to survive losing them. Not least, because it can continue to afford replacements of equal ability.

I am very excited by what Bradford City have achieved this season. After the previous two years of dismalness, you began to wonder whether a fall into non-league was inevitable – the continuation of that slide – and the short-term punt last summer looked like one desperate final act by two chairmen who increasingly gave the appearance of not knowing how to take us forwards. Now we are moving forwards. At long, long last. That is thanks to many people, but no one more so than Parkinson. It’s time to settle the uncertainty and for the club to nail its colours firmly to the mast.

In Parky we have firmly trusted. I see no reason to change that.

Categories: Opinion, Previews

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13 replies

  1. Totally agree.

    The delay in the staff signing new contracts is starting to effect performances and could scupper our slim playoff chances.

    Mark Lawn is already making excuses about excessive wage demands so its not hard to guess what’s going to happen.

  2. As much as i dont like some of hid negative tactics at times i think we would be stupid to let him go.. For once we do not look like being relegated.

    • Jason puts forward a very strong case to keep Phil Parkinson !.
      And I can’t disagree with this article.
      As I was led to believe it’s not just Mr Parkinson’s contract that needs topping up but the backroom staff under Mr Parkinson as well?
      There’s no doubt in my mind the total cost could be just to much for the board to consider?
      Chairman lawn is a business man and it would be foolish to think there’s been no plan b

  3. We need to keep Parky. Simple as.

    Just on his current contract, I believe I read in a national newspaper that he’s on £52k a year with a £1k bonus for each point over 52 points.

    Wouldn’t have a clue what anyone else was on in the division though.

  4. This is a really good article Mate and you make a really strong case. I honestly believe that this is a really tricky situation for City.

    Wouldn’t the ideal solution be (assuming that we don’t make the Playoffs this season) to offer PP a one year contract for next season with a guaranteed second year for the year after if we finish in the top 7?

    Surely if he is worth the money that he is reportedly asking for and if he is as good as many people think he is then he should have no problem in achieving this and it is therefore of minimal risk to either party?

  5. Good common sense. Fair and reasonable comment. I cannot disagree with anything you say. I just hope that we can find a bit more cash to give Parkie a fair salary for what he does for the club. He sounds to be underpaid by quite a bit. I think he feels a genuine loyalty to the club, and believes he can take it further, probably next season now. That’s probably the reason he is giving Lawn a bit longer. I have sympathy for Mark Lawn’s position too. He has to balance the books, and has put in a considerable amount of his own personal money, don’t forget. If PP stays, I think next season will be the one we have all been waiting for for over 10 years. With a bit of luck, and a bit of patience.

  6. I dont know about any of the monetary issues but for me its simple. If we can get PP to agree on a contract the club can afford and is sustainable over the next few years we should ensure he stays. However we should not risk the long term future of the club by paying money we cant afford over the period of his contract.

  7. Not much of a match preview.

  8. A deal should be agreed allowing for what league we are in next season> and if we don’t go up it should be heavily Incentive based.
    I like Parky and hope he stays but there has to be a limit or people will be crying mismanagement again in a few months

    • Also if theres an agent involved that could spell trouble for negotiating

      • I would suggest that if Managers need agents, they shouldn’t be in the job in the first place. Negotiating is part of their job description so they should be well versed as i’m sure PP is.
        I echo everybody’s sentiments. Get Parky and his team signed on a 3 year contract. Fat man Lawn annoys me. He is constantly pleading poverty to the media and yet he would take the team to Las Vegas in preference to doing what he is supposed to be doing and that is keeping a man that will steer Bradford City in the right direction. Lawn would be more suited to the Wheel Tappers and Shunters Club than Las Vegas anyway.

  9. Jason, Please consider sending this article and thread to the Club in some way.

    To my mind, the case to keep Parkinson is beyond question. Transformation on the field has happened, we are much better than last year, and talk of ‘falling short’ smacks of impatience once again amongst supporters and the board. The cup run aside (ridiculous to have to do this, given the enormous achievement), Parkinson has changed the culture of the club, the mentality, the professionalism, and crucially the fitness of the players.

    It has taken years and all the managers you list above to achieve next to nothing, so why we would even contemplate a change of direction (especially with a little extra in the kitty) is utterly baffling.

    Give Parkinson and his entire staff a 3 year contract and let’s, at long, long last, enjoy some stability and incremental progress.

    In Parky We Fully Trust.

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