Nahki Wells will one day be loved again at Bradford City

Image by Alex Scott

Image by Alex Dodd

By Jason McKeown

A former Bradford City player or manager sat in the crowd is a rare but not unheard of occurrence. At the 2013 play off final victory, Jamie Lawrence was sat on the row behind me at Wembley. Last season, Kyel Reid was amongst visiting supporters for City’s victory at Leyton Orient. At Villa Park in January 2013, Peter Jackson and Archie Christie were somewhere in the City crowd (not sat together, of course).

Wayne Jacobs is present for every home game, Darren Moore has been spotted before, and for a time Paul Jewell was a regular. Joe Brown has a season ticket in the Kop.

For the most part, ex-Bantams in the crowd are either unnoticed or warmly welcomed. Saturday’s visit to Deepdale was different, however, as Nahki Wells took advantage of a blank Championship weekend to watch his former club. Wells rocked up 20 minutes into the game and sat amongst the City fans. He was moved to another area of the stadium just before half time. For those 25 minutes he received what could be most optimistically be described as a mixed reception; one that evidently left him feeling uncomfortable.

The first moment most of us realised he was there came a few minutes after Rory McArdle had put City 1-0 up, and a positive Wells chant was aired. As it included fans pointing in a certain direction, almost everyone stood up to see what was going on. Is that really him sat over there?

Soon after came the abuse. Derogatory chants about the Bermudian and his choice of employer, songs about what he likes to do to dogs. The ‘W’ insult, the money-grabber taunts, the Judas jibes. People were stood up and pointing at him as they chanted unwelcoming things. Eventually a positive chant was aired again, which almost everyone joined in with. Still, it all left a bad taste.

nahki at preston

City fans chant at Nahki Wells (sat on right hand section of seats, half way down) as he watches the game. Picture by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

I don’t know Nahki personally, but I have spoken to people who do and also observed the striker stumble through a supporter Q+A session in Cullingworth. He is a clearly a shy, introverted person, who would not have enjoyed or encouraged such attention. If he really felt he had to move at half time, that is very depressing. Some fans on Twitter and Claret and Banter have bragged about the way they taunted him. It doesn’t sit right with me at all. I don’t understand such nastiness.

Of course, Wells is not the innocent victim in all of this. He chose to move to one of City’s fiercest rivals – a decision which limited the transfer fee the Bantams’ received. There are rumours that something was agreed between Town and Wells behind the scenes, and an allegation that he faked an injury. You cannot escape the fact that Nahki spoiled his own legacy, even though his reasons for moving to Huddersfield – when assessed dispassionately – are understandable.

Yet it still haunts his old club. Just like “Should Colin Todd have been sacked in 2007?” or “Was being in the Premier League worth it?” – Wells’ transfer will be debated for several years. The club made some effort to pin the blame on the player, despite the fact they were clearly desperate to sell him. Attempts to replace Wells have not gone to plan and it is a story repeated up and down the land. As WOAP writer Alex Scott wrote, by selling your best player you are “trading away a pound coin for four twenty pence pieces and some shrapnel. They may be worth the same on the surface, but you win leagues with pounds, not pennies”. See also Tottenham 2013/14 after Gareth Bale, or Liverpool 2014/15 post-Louis Suarez.

There is a pain still raw in how Nahki left Valley Parade, and in truth we miss him. Whenever I see him scoring on the Football League Show, my heart sinks at remembering just what we have lost. Wells should go down as one of the club’s most celebrated modern day players, but that is far from the case. Still, I’d bite his hand off if he ever offered to come back.

But no matter how much controversy will reign over his exit, Wells will ultimately be remembered fondly. Robbie Blake – routinely booed on subsequent returns to Valley Parade after he left in 2001 – is a great example of how wounds do heal. Blake received a great reception on his recent return to Valley Parade for a charity game, and rightly so. When we think of Blake we recall his jinxing runs and stunning goals wearing claret and amber, not the fact he once wore Burnley and Leeds shirts. There is also Peter Jackson who was loved, became public enemy number one and who is now highly though of by many.

Blake and Jackson will never be top tier heroes of the club. They will never have a suite or a stand named after them, nor will either appear on many supporters’ top 5 player lists. But they are still warmly regarded for their contributions to the cause.

And that will ultimately happen with Wells, even if it takes another 20 years. The upset over his exit can’t outlive or eradicate the amazing memories he provided.

Of his thunderbolt goal against Rochdale, of his amazing partnership with James Hanson, of his brilliant hat trick at Northampton to keep us in League Two, of his 26 goals during the History Makers season, of his goals during the League Cup miracle against Burton and Aston Villa, of his vital intervention in the play off semi finals, of his clinching goal in the 2013 play off final, of his blistering start to life in League One, of his superb hat trick against Coventry, of 76 starts for the club (plus 36 sub appearances) and 53 goals.

He was loved, he was lauded, he was a hero during some of the club’s greatest times. For that he will remain in our affections, even though to some he is hate figure right now.

It is very sad that Nahki didn’t have a great afternoon on Saturday, but one day he will be able to sit with City fans and be warmly welcomed for doing so.

The 2033/34 season is just 19 years away…

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Categories: Opinion

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18 replies

  1. Don’t be too sure, there’s a lot of fans who still haven’t forgiven Roy McFarland for the way he exited Valley Parade and that must be nearly 35 years ago. There are old Avenue fans who still haven’t forgiven Bobby Ham for crossing the City and coming to Valley Parade although he was more or less forced into it by the dire financial problems of the ‘Stans’.

    Football is a strange mistress and emotions can & do last a lifetime for some fans.

  2. Top player, did wonders for the club and as much as I want to dislike him for his chosen destination I cant. I would have him back this afternoon. It will be a long time before the club acquire a player with his attributes. (especially with the current managers knack of signing non goal scoring strikers). Lets hope Stead or someone else fills the gap Nahki left behind very soon.

  3. I think it’s sad that some gave him abuse but what was he thinking? Less than a year ago he left the club in fairly controversial circumstances. His motivation and form dipped towards the end of last year and he told the club he would only join our local (hated) rivals so we were forced to sell him for a lower fee.

    He couldn’t have expected to just blend in with the crowd so I think it was pretty silly on his part to sit amongst the City fans.

    He could have left us the right way, as a hero/legend/whatever, but chose to leave the way he did and he has to live with that.

  4. For me I dont dislike him because he went to Huddersfield I dislike him because from October onwards he wanted to leave and stopped putting in the performances, and then chose somewhere that offered a lot less money than anywhere else.

    Saying that I wouldnt chant bad about him and seeing him turn up at the game he surely still loves the club otherwise he wouldnt have been there.

    Personally i’d have him back tomorrow if given the chance

  5. I doubt very much he “loves the club”.

    He couldn’t get a team when he joined us having been released by Carlisle.

    He was great for us (and we were great for him) for 18 months.

    Then he decided it was time to move on so agitated for a move, apparently feigned injury and decided that the “only” place he could possibly move to happened to be our local rivals. By doing so he vastly diminished his own value and meant that City received far less than they had been expecting in transfer funds. The impact of that is being felt in this year’s playing squad.

    I don’t particularly blame him for any of this. It is the way of the modern footballer. But he doesn’t love the club – and I doubt that the club will ever go back to loving him.

    • Huddersfield are going nowhere and they were only ever going to be a stepping stone for Nahki. he’ll move on. Huddersfield will get a good fee. and we’ll get a tasty cut in the sell on…. Nahki does love us after all……

  6. I have to agree with Martin above..

    I’m not exactly the most staunch supporter and even I found the move by Nahki pretty shady from here in Canada. The circumstances of his move don’t sit right with me.

    I’ve seen similar moves by players here in NHL teams and since hockey here is much like football in Europe in how Fans LOVE the game, many fans do NOT forget players who leave like Nahki did.

    Despite everything he’s done, the way he chose to leave and the position he put the club in, will, in the end, take a long time to be forgiven by many, I think.

    • I pretty much agree with the above comments.

      We were good for Nakhi and he was good for us. As is the want of footballers nowadays loyalty is the last thing that is on their minds.

      However, I don’t think he should be abused for sitting with us at Preston. In fact i welcomed the fact that on his ‘weekend off’ he came and watched City when I’m sure he could have been doing a 100 and 1 other things.

      Hi Matthieu C – Whereabouts in Canada are you?

  7. I agree with Matthieu and Martin on this matter. I am normally not one to hate or hold a grudge, but was he taking the p@@s?, sitting with the City fans?!! If he wanted to be there, surely he could have made his way in for free ( probably through his “Agent”) into the Preston end with no fuss at all. He probably wouldn’t have even been recognised.

    Sad really that it has come to this. I would have idolised the guy if he went ANYWHERE ( inc Leeds!), but he made his bed so he needs to lie in it. This particular wound will never heal for me I am afraid….

  8. I don’t dislike Nahki or what happened when he left VP.
    Nahki doesn’t hold any affiliations to BCFC (like we do) or Carlisle his previous club, why should he, he’s a Bermudan in another land plying his trade as a footballer and as such he would be looking to better himself (if a move to Huddersfield is classed as that).
    However much I dislike Huddersfield, Burnley, L666s and BPA the latter two can be classed as hate I don’t dislike a player whose goals got us to the position we are in now.
    We looked to be heading for the Conference but Nahki was part of a revival and it could be said we are now looking at the Championship.
    So he played his part and he’s rewarded by mindless knuckledraggers and the sheep giving abuse, I felt for Nahki and i’m not surprised he moved and after the last few games where we’ve seen fans of our club fighting each other it’s happen as well he did.
    Anyone can voice an opinion but to aim remarks like were being chanted at one individual is bang out of order.

  9. The trouble is that the players are professionals, seeking the best value for their talent in a short career. I can’t talk for everyone but I seek the best pay for the work with mortgages to pay, bills etc. How are footballers any different until you reach the top two divisions where the TV money makes a big difference? The problem is that fans LOVE the club and our view is polarised. You can’t start to look at the situation logically until / if ever the red mist clears.

    How many players up and down the country haven’t moved over the years for better football and/or financial benefit? Nahki isn’t the first and already wasn’t the last. Their affiliation is to their employer for the duration of their contract. Surely (bar the youth team) our current crop of players played elsewhere previously? Let me be clear, I’m not saying they don’t love the club and represent it in the best way possible, but to me it’s not the same.

    I’m not condoning Nahki’s move to the small town 8 miles away but his situation is magnified because of the size of the deal, who he moved to and how it was conducted (at least how it came across in what we read). Does Nahki LOVE Huddersfield or was it his best option to jump a division and live locally? Only he knows.
    For me I prefer to remember what he did for the club during his time. Fantastic memories of THAT season in particular. If his last memory of City is some fans giving him abuse when he came to watch us at Preston, its a sad day. It doesn’t do anyone any favours.

  10. 6 August 2011.

    We lose the opening game 1-2 at home to Aldershot.

    After 74 mins a disappointing Mark Stewart is replaced by a recent triallist from Carlisle. He’s not very good.

    The Angel of History taps you on the shoulder and says…

    “If you’d like, this young Bermudan can spend 18 months scoring the goals that will get you out of this wretched league and, via two appearances at Wembley, secured in L1.

    But my payment is that he will then leave for Huddersfield in dubious circumstances.

    What say you?”

    As bitterly upsetting as any break-up can be, better to find the positives from your time together. I’d have taken the Angel’s offer without hesitation, and I’m pretty sure in the summer of 2011 everyone else would too.

    • Of course everyone would take that deal. Anyone who says “no” is either lieing or has a very short memory about how bad Mark Stewart actually was…

      The point isn’t whether Nakhi was good for Bradford City – he quite clearly was – but whether he will ever be loved by Bradford City fans…

  11. I am surprised this much of the animosity towards Nahki Wells. He was with us for a few seasons and the goals he scored during this period were ultimately important in helping us get out of the bottom tier of pro football after so long there. He didn’t do it by himself but he was an important member of the ‘double Wembley’ squad for which he will always have a place in my thoughts. Yes, he wanted to play at a higher level but I’d expect that of any player with skills and ambition. Yes, he joined Huddersfield but it was for his own personal situation and it’s not for we supporters to dictate where he plies his trade. And accusations that he somehow engineered his own move is hardly new in football. But let’s be honest, the club had plenty of time to identify and recruit a replacement. When interviewed recently by the T&A, Mark Lawn confirmed that in setting last season’s budget, they had increased it in anticipation of Wells leaving. That was several months before the rumours of his leaving first surfaced and hardly suggests that he had needed to engineer the move since the club were already planning in the pre-season to use the money gained from his departure for reinforcing the playing budget. The fact that they subsequently replaced him with a player who has failed to deliver is no reflection on Wells and tells us more about the inability of the club to identify and recruit an adequate replacement best suited to our particular style of football.

  12. I’m disgusted but not surprised our fans abuse one of the best strikers City have ever had.
    I remember a player who was exciting, unpredictable, but above all reliable.
    Losing one-nil, one minute left, and we are awarded a penalty, or a free-kick on the edge of the box. Remember the usual hope over doubt? But with Nahki stepping up, you knew the penalty WOULD go in! And that there was a good chance of the free-kick going in. He did it for us LOADS of times.
    He fashioned chances and goals out of nothing, lots of times. I can’t believe we have such short memories.
    It will be a long time before we see his like for City.

  13. My take on this is that the club were going to sell him despite the fabled we have offered him a new contract story. He lives in the area and probably didn’t want to move from the area. Who would it is Gods Own Country after all.

    I’ll also throw this out there we would not be in League 1 now without his goals or gone to Wembley, so I really do think thanks any abuse aimed at him is ill judged and certainly not to be proud of. Players come players go but the class of 2013 should always be applauded for what they have achieved for this club regardless of the circumstances that they left us in. We will probably never enjoy a season like that ever in our lifetimes. Personally I will always be truly thankful to all the players for such an amazing season.

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