By Philip Jackson
This is where we used to stand to meet my Gran off the train
It was a spot near here where I first caught sight of the huge black plumes of smoke coming from the North.
I have no idea of how I’d count the number of times I’d walked up and down this hill, although it’s been an age since the last time, I don’t have to think twice, so familiar, up we go northwards.
The streets feel subdued, looked down upon by beautiful Yorkshire stone buildings and their sad, grey empty windows waiting for more stories to be made.
The road levels out and life seems to return. People still want to be here, the Latvian, Chinese and Polish supermarkets, the happy, noisy crowds around pubs spilling onto the street, stories in production, lives being exchanged, invented and re-invented. Each will have their own memories of these surroundings, walls, roads and buildings that in their own way have shaped who we are.
The city is brought to life and defined by those who are there.
The rays of light are starting to hit the old walls of the city, brightness and warmth, mirroring the excitement and life multiplying as Valley Parade comes into focus and away from a subdued city centre.
The sunlight bathes the stand opposite, the bright claret, amber and old gold accentuating the beauty of the scene.
The scoreboard reads “WWFC”. In recent years heralding the visit of Wycombe, this time however, it does not. No-one can deny we haven’t stood toe to toe against bigger opposition this past year, ah yes, the romance of the cup, the plucky underdog, “go out there and enjoy yourselves, the pressure’s off, it’s your cup final” but now the game is changing.
The story developing here needs to be replicated across this fine city.
Joy has returned to the City experience over the year, the familiarity with League Two and fear of losing has been shaken off, 86th in the league has been replaced by forward movement and 50th, the gap between where we are and where we ‘should be’ has closed. This experience has brought greater synergy between the players and fans, each spurring the other on.
Bring this mood into the whole city, break out of the mould, defy the expectations and perceptions given to you by others.
City’s momentum has brought it onto a plane with teams that reflect our own level of support and size, not the ‘little 4th tier team’ forgotten about for the last few years. Sitting in my seat, I’m hoping we can cope, that we can show that there is still scope for progression, that we haven’t reached our ceiling yet. Wolves are a big club, rich, much richer than us. A sound beating may point to the limit of our ambitions being achieved, I don’t want that, after years of suffering I would feel cheated if our train was starting to pull into a station.
The mood is electric, the noise fabulous and the ground (almost) full (we may need the 2nd tier of this stand, after all!) Even the Wolves supporters must appreciate this, after two years (only two years!) of failure, loss and cynicism. The thought of playing in dingy smaller grounds with small crowds is hurting, so a bright, breezy afternoon in a big and bouncing ground will be a tonic even for them. They state the usual nationwide opinion that this city is not a particularly nice place, everywhere has its problems though and without people to care for a place, it has no chance.
The warmth and friendliness of those in the stands here is vital, the sense of pride, community and friendship, the exchange of stories and news, jokes and opinion fly about. We are here to do our bit for our team and city. Many experiences have come and gone, empty stands, misery, loss, humiliation, rain, relief, joy and laughter. It has formed and made us to what we are now, but we are still here and they have given a richness to our lives unseen by the outside world.
The match itself is everything a football match should be. Played cleanly and fairly, City working well together, they look lither, less bulky than their opposition, De Vita seems to be able to dance around his markers and score as the ball comes back to him in the box. The match has started like this, City are going forward and Wolves backward, but the game swings from one end to the other, excitement, nervousness and frustration rotate as City fall behind.
Wolves responded to us and now City again respond to them, after the errors and panic that the Wolves pressure brought, a calm and assuredness returns to the City defence. City never stop pushing, fighting and playing, the crowd mirror this attitude, this pride that has enveloped the club can be seen and felt. Wolves looked tired during that second half onslaught, hanging on may be too strong a word, but happy to defend, keeping hold of what they have.
This is how far we have come and our train has still not reached the end of the line; here we are with a team two years removed from the top flight, sitting back and defending against us, shunning adventure else it might cost them. I come to the conclusion that they see us as equals, meeting another big club, not just another stop on their trip to the little lower leagues, but a match against a serious contender.
We lose, never quite able to break down the door, but the mood goes beyond this one game, the Wolves fans and team ecstatic with getting a win, here, against Bradford (City)! Any time in the last few years that emotion would be closer to, job done, move on.
We are still developing and adapting to life at this level, the management team know we need to still go further, we will, and days like today will only help. No-one in this league will see City as a soft touch, yet we are still a work in progress, but progress is the key word.
I have not lived in this city for a long time now, but it still holds within it many happy memories for me, around every corner are triggers letting me relive and remember, this will be the case for the majority of us, far dearer to our hearts than elected representatives asleep at the wheel for so long, or developers only concerned with profit, the soul of this city has passed them by, but not me, it has never let me go.
Yes, it does need help, the beauty of its architecture and landscape is there to be seen and the passion, histories, past and future stories of those within the city are the ones that can change and renew it. This city is unique, it is not Leeds, Manchester or anywhere else, we need to find the strands of our own stories and history and work out the solutions together to make the city thrive once again, the answer is here within us.
The noise, passion and pride Bradfordians have for the city is seen at Valley Parade, it is authentic and genuine, and it needs bringing out into the streets of the city to be more than just a collection of identikit shops as seen everywhere else.
I may be an idealist, but The City of Bradford made me an idealist, what did it make you and what are you going to make of it? Are new rays of light starting to hit the old walls of the city?
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