By Mark Scully
Phil Parkinson has probably never had it so good during his managerial career. On a personal level, his stock is the highest it has ever been and, in all honesty, he could probably have his pick of most available Football League management jobs at the moment. For the first time perhaps since his spell at Layer Road with Colchester United, Parkinson The Manager is firmly on the map.
Parkinson previously took unfashionable Colchester United into the Championship on a small budget in 2006; and that didn’t go unnoticed, as Hull City came calling for his signature. He resigned from Colchester at the start of June 2006, only to turn up at The KC Stadium later that month – which led to Hull having to pay Colchester the relevant compensation.
This was Parkinson’s first big managerial move and, sadly it didn’t work out. He succeeded Peter Taylor, who amazingly – in view of the suspect skills he showed during his time at Valley Parade – was a raving success on Humberside. Parkinson though only lasted a few months before leaving in December by ‘mutual consent’; clearly things hadn’t worked out as hoped.
Parkinson then had to wait until 2008 before getting back into the management, this time at Charlton Athletic. He had been assistant to Alan Pardew at The Valley, before taking over as No.1 following the current Newcastle boss’ departure. Sadly though, at the end of the campaign, The Addicks had been relegated into the third tier of English football.
Charlton stuck by Parkinson, giving him the opportunity to guide Charlton back up in his first full season in charge. At the first attempt he led Charlton into the League One play offs, only to be beaten on penalties by Danny Wilson’s Swindon Town. The following season Parkinson lasted until early January 2011 before being sacked and replaced by club legend Chris Powell.
This left Phil at a cross roads in his managerial career. He enjoyed early success at Colchester and subsequently went on to manage two much bigger clubs in comparison, but it simply didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. Fast forward to September 2011 and Parkinson followed Peter Jackson into the manager’s office at Valley Parade. In all honesty the 2011/12 season was a fire fighting mission for Parkinson – at his disposal was a relatively poor squad across the majority of the departments. That has been highlighted further by results this season.
Despite having slim pickings to choose from, Parkinson managed to bring in some of his own players such as Andrew Davies, Kyel Reid, Craig Fagan – and he unearthed the gem that is Nahki Wells. With these calibre players, I expected Parkinson to actually do better than he did. Results last season, in the majority, were poor, and we narrowly avoided relegation out of the Football League. However, given the summer to get his own team together, Bradford City Football Club has massively felt the rewards.
Parkinson, along with his assistant Steve Parkin – who I believe has been instrumental in the success which we have achieved – put together a superb squad over the course of last summer. The permanent signing of Davies was pivotal. Putting him alongside fellow new recruits Stephen Darby, James Meredith and Rory McArdle has given Bradford a very strong back four.
In midfield, skipper Gary Jones arrived, the closest thing to Stuart McCall we’ve ever had – a real leader of men. Alongside him Nathan Doyle returned to the club with additions on the wings with the likes of Zavon Hines and Garry Thompson – Bradford, over the course of the off season, had developed themselves from relegation League Two candidates to serious promotion contenders.
Fitness coach Nick Allamby, who along with Steve Parkin forms the third part of the managerial trio, has also been pivotal. Allamby began to build the players’ fitness throughout the summer, and his continuous hard work with those same players throughout the course of the season has been really impressive. The club has played 64 games in all competitions, and Allamby has largely kept the players fit.
Apart from the likes of Davies and Luke Oliver, no player has been out long term injured. James Meredith missed a chunk of the season, but that was down to illness rather than injury.
I personally expected a promotion challenge with the squad assembled, but I doubt anyone could have predicted the amazing season we have had. Parkinson has masterminded arguably the best ever campaign in Bradford City’s history – by far my best season following the Bantams, and I’ve witnessed promotion from the old Second Division, promotion to the Premier League and staying there. The class of 2012/13 have in my opinion surpassed them – ‘History Makers’.
The league form understandably suffered at the hands of the cup run. Looking back now, it’s difficult to imagine how the league form couldn’t have suffered. When you beat the likes of Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa, then to have to play Accrington, Dagenham, Rochdale etc, you are going from massive highs in front of sold out stadiums to half empty grounds against inferior opposition. As a player it must have been difficult to adjust back to the bread and butter of the league.
This is where Parkinson really earned his wage. He kept the players grounded and, whilst results were indifferent between January and March, we never fell away to a point where we couldn’t come back and mount a play off charge.
The late run we went on was hugely impressive. For a period of time, Parkinson kept rotating his squad with the likes of Doyle, Hines, Thompson and Wells all having periods out of the side – largely down to the vast number of games that they had played. This annoyed fans at the time, but Parkinson knew what he was doing and the squad had really bought into what he and the management staff wanted to achieve this season.
Parkinson had put together a small tight knit squad that was hungry for success. We achieved the play offs thanks in part to Exeter City bottling it and going on a shocking run, but we had to be in a position to jump on Exeter – and we were.
Once in the play offs, I always thought we’d go up. In the pub before Burton at home I fully expected to go to The Pirelli with a three-goal lead. I was so confident I told fellow WOAP writers Jason McKeown and Gareth Walker my thoughts. However, at half time at Valley Parade, I thought it was all over. Despite Garry Thompson’s strike, I still believed it would be too much to ask to overturn the deficit away from home.
The work Parkinson and his staff must have done on the training ground and pre-match worked a treat. The display at Burton in the second leg was one of the best of the season.
And at Wembley, we produced the performance of the season when it really mattered. That is full credit to Parkinson. He got the players in the exact frame of mind required to go out and do the job. We had learnt from the League Cup Final experience of being there and losing so heavily. In the long run, that hiding worked out to be the best thing for us. Thankfully we had that winning feeling against Northampton to cap off a sensational season for the club, for Parkinson, for the management staff and for the fans.
The club’s commitment to Parkinson in awarding him a three year contract shows how highly we as a football club think of the man. We firmly believe he can lead us back up the leagues, and in return he has bought firmly into Bradford City. You can see it in his passion after games. Between him and the fans is a strong bond. Parkinson had opportunities to leave, but he always wanted to stay at Valley Parade. He can see the potential and he wants to turn that potential into reality.
Time will tell if he does; but he has the 100% backing of the board and fans. As a collective unit, we are willing Phil Parkinson to succeed.
Categories: 2012/13 season review