For part two of Width of a Post’s review of 2013, Jason McKeown asked the award-winning Bantams Banter podcast duo, Tom Fletcher and Dom Newton-Collinge, to share their personal highlights of a fantastic year for club and podcast.
The Aston Villa semi final
Dom: The away game against Aston Villa was my favourite ever moment as a Bradford City fan. The home leg was pretty special, but being at that away leg was just something else.
We recorded a podcast of the match and so were based in the Villa Park press box. We felt very fortunate because it gave us a unique vantage point where we were watching all of our fans enjoying the moment. We had the benefit of being able to see their reaction as well as watch the game. So from a broadcaster’s point of view, it was so amazing.
Tom: The first leg was fantastic too. But I think you went away from it thinking that we might have been a bit lucky and that Aston Villa were going to thrash us in the second leg. But the game at Villa Park was not like that in any way, and all we had to do was score a goal to as good as seal our place at Wembley. As soon as it went in from Hanson, to see our fans erupt was amazing.
Dom: When that goal went in, I felt my eyeballs move forwards – and that’s not supposed to happen to your eyeballs! The two of us cuddled. I have never cuddled anyone as tightly as we did then. And you can imagine what he was like cuddling me. It was like being attacked by a bear! I had to remember my best Bear Grylls moves to get out of it!
Tom: When the goal went in, we forgot that we were in a press box. The desks were really tight and we were knocking everyone’s gear over.
Dom: I nearly started a fight with Talksport. They weren’t happy with us!
The build-up to Swansea final
Dom: We set up this show four years ago when Bradford City were in the doldrums, because we wanted to do something that was a bit more positive. Everything was negative back then. The City Gent could be very negative, because it was full of moaning old men. We wanted to do something that – although the form on the pitch wasn’t great – would perk City fans up a bit. And it did work for those first few years. We got a lot of people listening to us, who said that we had been a positive during some really bad seasons.
To then experience success while doing this show was unreal. And in the run up to the Swansea game, we were getting phone calls from all corners of the world. We were asked to present all sorts of things.
Tom: The most surreal moment was pulling up outside Valley Parade in our campervan to do a piece for Football Focus, and just as were about to get out these Norwegian guys came up with cameras and said “Can you do a quick interview with us for Norwegian TV?” They stuck the camera in the window before we had chance to get out! That was surreal.
We also ending up dancing on the Valley Parade pitch to sing our Wembley song ‘Let’s get ready for Wembley’ for Al-Jazeera TV. I’d love to see that footage!
Dom: There were so many amazing moments. One of the best was the Radio 5Live evening at Valley Parade, where we were asked to sing ‘Let’s get ready for Wembley’. When the fans in the room started singing our song back to us, I felt like Billy-Ray Cyrus!
Tom: It made me proud, but I did feel like “oh my god” when they originally asked us. To sing live on national radio was so nerve-wracking. We shouted the chorus and we couldn’t believe it when people sang it back at us.
The cup final experience
Dom: In terms of being a Bradford City fan, Aston Villa was the best moment I’ve ever experienced. I’m not taking anything away from the play offs, but at Villa Park we scaled the top of the mountain and then everything else added to it. The play offs were a situation the club had been in before, but the cup final was completely unexpected. Finding out you are in a cup final was almost better than being in the cup final.
Tom: It was considering what happened in the cup final!
Dom: The cup final was brilliant. I mean forget about the result, because I think most City fans expected us to lose in the cup final. Getting there, being at Wembley and to see 30,000+ City fans singing proudly during the closing stages. Again we got to see that from a broadcast position. It was unreal. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was just spectacular.
Back to Wembley
Dom: For both Wembley trips, we were extraordinarily lucky to be there in the press box recording a podcast. It was a dream come true. The best thing about it was that our listeners paid for it. They paid for the licence we needed to acquire to be allowed to record the podcast. There are absolutely no words that can express what that feels like.
Tom: After getting to Wembley for the first time, we were so grateful and had thanked our listeners so much. Then it happened again with City getting to Wembley for the play off final, and me and Dom had this phone call where we said to each other, “How are we going to get there for a second time?” The thought of asking listeners to donate for the licence felt really cringe-worthy.
But, as it turned out, we didn’t have to ask. People started sending us money before we’d asked. So we thought, “Wow, we don’t really have to beg.” And again, that meant so much to us.
Dom: What other podcast show has a relationship with their fans like that? It was just unreal. That is the highlight of 2013 for the pair of us: the fact that we’ve got this fantastic relationship with our listeners. We were lucky to be able to broadcast from Wembley, and to get to number one on iTunes, because of our listeners.
Tom: Pre-match we were on Wembley Way for BBC Radio Leeds, talking to fans, which was amazing because we got to talk to hundreds of fans on the morning of the game
Dom: We were able to get a real feel of the general atmosphere before we did the podcast, which was really cool because we could pick up on everyone else’s emotions; rather than just our own.
Tom: For the promotion celebrations at Centenary Square a few days later, the Pulse (who organised proceedings) asked us to talk about our Wembley experience in front of the crowd. We were a bit daunted by it to say the least!
Dom: It has an honour of course, but standing in front of a big crowd of Bradford City fans, with probably 50% not knowing who you are, was scary.
Tom: We were on the balcony behind the players when they brought the trophy up. It was like being a witness to history, a behind the scenes viewpoint. Just surreal. I can still hardly believe our luck that we were up there.
Dom: It was really emotional for us and a real privilege.
BB award number one – BBC Radio 5Live Fans of the Year
Tom: This award was voted for by 5Live listeners. I feel like we won it because we were seen as representatives of Bradford City fans and how Bradford City fans had been perceived in the media.
Dom: For the first Wembley trip, the nation took City fans to their hearts because we showed the true football fan spirit. Even when we were losing so badly to Swansea, there was no real anger. We appreciated the fact that we were there and made the absolute most it.
I think that we Bradford City fans represented themselves so well last season; especially from the Arsenal game, where tickets sold really well and the ground was packed out. It really came to the media spotlight in terms of “look how loyally supported they are, look at how much they are enjoying this spectacular situation that a club in League Two shouldn’t find themselves in”. I think that me and Tom were put out there to win the award as a potential representative of supporters, and we won it because of what all Bradford City fans had done.
Tom: It was an absolute honour to be thought of as representatives like that, because Dom and I are less than a scratch on the surface of what Bradford City was and is, as far as fans are concerned.
Life in League One
Dom: It’s nice to cover some new teams on the podcast! We’ve gone through a few years of featuring the same opposition sides, and it can be a little bit repetitive. Especially as player turnover is not that high.
Tom: In terms of League One, I think the standard of football is slightly better, although the referees seem to be worse! And I wouldn’t have believed it possible!
Dom: As a fan, I’ve seen Bradford City fall out of League One. And when we were in League One, I remember thinking “This is a low, it can’t possibly get any worse”. But then it did. And we were stuck in the basement of league football for a long time.
Tom: I know that current form isn’t amazing, but I’m quite happy with where we are at the moment. Me and Dom chatted in pre-season about how, as long as we don’t get relegated and build on it next season, we will be pleased with this season. Because that’s progress. We’re no longer stuck in League Two. We have gone up and we have managed to hold a decent position.
Dom: Recent results haven’t been amazing, but we’ve seen a lot worse and I’m just appreciating the fact we are having a good season. I think the only Bradford City fans that will be disappointed with how things are going this season will be those who perhaps stopped going to watch us a few years ago, but have been tempted back after last season.
Tom: We’re both happy to be patient with Phil Parkinson. He has brought a lot of good things to this club. He’s changed the attitudes of many supporters. We shouldn’t be willing to let go of that just because we’ve not won many games of late.
BB award number two – Football Blogging Awards Podcast of the Year
Tom: For ourselves and Width of a Post, as representatives of Bradford City fans, to both win at the Football Blogging Awards was the cherry on the cake of what was a fantastic year. To beat Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City podcasts, in our category, was an amazing feeling. It’s a massive honour for us.
Dom: We were shortlisted in a category that – like Width of a Post’s – was heavily voted for. So we did canvas people for votes.
Tom: I think you annoyed a few people asking so much!
Dom: I did, but we received amazing backing anyway. I think Bradford City fans are generally loyal towards fan-based media. If there is something Bradford City related, they get behind it. Look at all the fundraising for the Burns Unit, for example.
Last week we sold some badges for the Bradford City Disability Squad because they wanted to raise funds to buy a mini bus, to travel to away games. And these badges sold out in one match. Which I think that shows that Bradford City fans like to get behind things. I’ve got every confidence that that is why we won the award. Same as it was for Width of a Post. Bradford City fans are appreciative of what is on offer for them, such as blogs and podcasts.
“Tis the season, of the mighty Bantams”
Dom: The club got in touch with us and said they like the idea of us doing a Christmas song. They said that if they can put it on their YouTube channel, we could have access to the players.
Tom: So we went down to film the video, and the players were really into it. They were dancing and singing along. We never thought something like that would happen. That professional footballers would be happy for two idiots to tell them when to click their fingers and start singing. They’ve got an image to maintain!
Dom: Getting the players involved with something we have done was bizarre but we felt really proud. It was a fantastic way for us to end 2013.
It’s been a great year for Bradford City – I would argue the best – and it has been a great feeling to know that we have played a part in people’s enjoyment of it.
On behalf of everyone at Width of a Post (and Tom and Dom) – Merry Christmas!