By Jim Nicholson
Dear disgruntled Bradford City supporters,
I have reached my limit and I need to air my grievances. This is an open letter to anyone who has the remotest interest in the well being of Bradford City AFC.
Since beating Arsenal in December, the mood amongst 99% of us has been positive. We enjoyed the thrills and spills of the League Cup and ignored the bellyaches caused by our stuttering league form. Since the final, however, reality has dawned and the united front is no more, we are now at war with each other.
The issues and reactions change daily, every debate started in the true belief that this is the one thing that is preventing us from getting promotion. We all want the same thing, we’re all trying to pull in the same direction; but as with anything we all interpret things in a very different way. So what are the issues? And what are the answers?
Why does Parkinson rotate so much? Is he a tactically inept buffoon? Why can’t we beat teams at the bottom of the league? What has Alan Connell got to do to start a game? What’s wrong with Nahki? Is Andy Gray a cart horse? Where are the missing 20,000?
Here is my view…
The squad that started the season was small, we all knew that – we needed luck with injuries, we didn’t get it. The unbelievable performance in the cups has meant our players have competed in more games than any other team in the country, apart from Chelsea.
No matter what anyone thinks, playing 60 games in a season will affect the performance of any player at any level, which is why we see such a strict rotation policy. Just because our cup run is over it does not mean that our players are 100% fit – we are still playing twice a week, and will continue to do so until mid April. For me, rotation is imperative until our schedule calms down next month.
I’m not an advocate of Parkinson’s conservative style of football, but it is designed to combat the agricultural nature of League Two football. I understand that, but I still find it painful to watch. I would prefer us to better utilise the players with high technical ability and play a fluid passing game, but I simply don’t think that would help us get out of this division.
There are calls for us to change formation, to play a 4-3-3 or something more fashionable, but in a league that is stuck tactically in the 1970s, this would be a pointless exercise. 4-4-2 (or a diamond variant of that) is as good as it will get. We all may as well get used to it, because it isn’t going to change any time soon.
In this division, all of the teams are capable of beating each other on any given Saturday – it is extremely tight from top to bottom and a change in form can see a side move up or down the table in quite dramatic fashion. To expect us to beat a team based on league standing alone is naïve – there is no discernable difference between the majority of the teams, only their current form.
The difference between success and failure is usually a mistake and very rarely individual brilliance. A missed header, a cruel deflection, a spurned opportunity – these are game changers, and in a league as tough as this, you cannot predict how things will turn out.
I like Alan Connell. He’s probably our most technically gifted player and seems to have the vision and movement to stand out from the everyday League Two footballer. However, he is currently being lauded to such a level that I’m reminded of Ross Hannah’s final days, his reputation seemingly growing by not actually playing.
I actually think Connell is better served as an impact player – his clever play making the most of the space afforded by a tiring defence. I think he would struggle if played from the start, as he doesn’t possess the key attributes that makes players like Wells (pace) or Hanson/Thompson (strength, aerial ability) such key components of a League Two side. I actually think he would be better suited to the pace and style of League One.
I’m torn on this situation – part of me thinks it’s a temporary blip in form, natural for any young striker. The other, more cynical, side thinks that he knows he’s leaving in the summer and has all but given up. In reality it’s probably a mix of the two. The attention and praise he received as part of the cup run was over the top in my opinion, but when you look at his record over the season it is very impressive.
Nahki’s the one in two striker we’ve been pining for, but unfortunately he’s enduring a lean spell at the moment. I’d certainly expect a strong finish from him as soon as that next goal arrives. I’d like to see him stay another season with us as I think he’s still developing as a footballer and he might struggle if he takes the jump to a higher division too soon. That said, I believe he will leave in the summer and if we get offered good money, I would have no problems with us accepting it.
On Andy Gray
Turning us down in the summer seems to have riled a few people. Turning us down in the summer for Leeds is criminal to some people. I actually thought he was another astute Parkinson signing when it was announced in January, but it really hasn’t turned out that way. I don’t think we can discount fitness as a contributing factor to his poor form, but I would have to agree with other writers when they say he is currently our fifth best striker, and starting him ahead of Hanson, Wells and Connell at Plymouth was a mistake.
However, I would hope to see a completely different player if he stays into next season.
On the missing fans
I’m one of them. I live in London so I rarely get to games apart from the odd away fixture, but I’ve supported the club all my life. I won’t be taking a season ticket next year, or the year after that, but I’ll always go when I’m home. I won’t be posting in the comments section of the T&A and have given up on the #bcafc hashtag, but I’m writing here now. Does this mean I’m any less of a fan?
I know a lot of it is ‘banter’, but there will be a sizeable portion of the fans at Wembley who have valid reasons why they don’t go to the bread and butter league games, and to be honest, I don’t blame them. Each season ticket holder had three tickets for Wembley and I’m pretty certain none of those went to waste – so if you are wondering where the missing fans are, first you should call the two people you bought tickets for.
The debate will no doubt continue long into the summer, but the one thing we cannot afford to do is allow our own opinions to cause an atmosphere that is detrimental to the performance of the team. Now is the time to stick together.
By all means vent after the game, because reaction and opinion are part of what makes football so fantastic. We all invest so much (financially and emotionally) that when it doesn’t work out as we want we feel personally aggrieved. We all think we know better than Phil Parkinson, we all think we know better than each other, and that is fine, but for 90 minutes on a Saturday (or a Tuesday) put those opinions to one side and support the team you love.
Yours in hope,
A BradfordCity supporter