By Luke Lockwood
He is not out of the bottle, I think he is a special one – I’m paraphrasing but I’m confident that Jose will agree after being outthought tactically by our man and as the chants rang out from the Shed End.
‘Parkinson is the chosen one’.
It is hard to disagree. Many have tried and failed to get it right at our club since the widely considered greatest Bradford City manager, Paul ‘Jagger’ Jewell left and it all started to go horribly wrong.
We’ve gone for in house appointments, proven pedigree and club legends but none managed to halt the downward spiral and for a decade every season we finished lower in the league ladder than the previous year.
Then our Phil came and slowly but steadily began to change the club’s fortunes. His first season he steered us clear of relegation and for only the second time since Jagger guided us to that magical day against Liverpool we did not end the season in a lower position than the year before. Not a massive achievement, but keeping our league status was a very important one for the club.
He’s not been without his critics – in fact every season he’s been here questions have been raised about his position. Unbelievably his position was even questioned after reaching the League Cup Final impacted our league form and it looked as though we would miss out on the play offs – but we know how that turned out!
Pressure was never any more intense than last season. Registering just one win in over 21 games, the crowd seemed split right down the middle.
I’m proud to say my faith never wavered and, just under a year ago, I wrote on this website in his defence. In fact please excuse my smugness on behalf of almost all contributors to this site, who can take pride in their staunch defence of the chosen one – despite at times receiving criticism from some sections of our fan base for such belief.
Fortunately – and credit to them – the co-chairmen did not hit the panic button, and how they have been repaid. Not just by Saturday’s miracle – which we will come onto – but the bigger picture overall.
A slashed budget and a team of history makers ripped apart led to most thinking this was the transition season before (hopefully) a promotion push. However, here we are sat just a point outside the play offs – with games in hand – and playing easily the best football since Jagger’s front line consisted of Messrs Beagrie, Blake and Mills.
This season may yet wind down to league consolidation, and we are possibly a side playing above ourselves; but still, the season would only be considered a success when we think back to nights like Leeds, Millwall and, of course, Saturday.
Playing the best team in the country – as if it wasn’t challenge enough – was made more problematic after it was revealed that Parkinson did not know whether one of his key cogs, Andy Halliday, was going to be available. He made the decision to keep this from the player and prepare as if he would be available. The gamble was duly rewarded when Halliday exquisitely finished the third goal.
It’s beginning to become too much a regular occurrence to keep putting these unthinkable results down to luck or simply miracles. Parkinson builds his teams out of a certain mould. Game plans are put together by a ‘genius’ (the so called experts claims, not mine).
No more so than Saturday. Parkinson explained on MOTD2 that he and his staff had second guessed the Chelsea team, and this explains why James Hanson was employed it such a wide role to give the young, inexperienced Christensen a more difficult game than he would experience most weeks in the Premier League. This is just one example of his painstakingly considered preparation for games.
During his time in the Premiership, Jagger was praised for putting his teams to play without fear. Parkinson consistently does the same. Look at the calmness on the ball of Jon Stead, Billy Knott and co from Saturday – against the best team in England, there was no panic. They knew they could play, they had the perfect surface to play, Parkinson instructed them to play and play they did.
41% possession against the best team in the land, matching one of the best in Europe with shots on target, and four goals against one of the best keepers in the world. Compare this to Cambridge’s much lauded 0-0 draw at home to mid table Manchester United, where they had 25% of the possession, or high flying Middlesbrough’s 35% against Man City, and it adds further context.
With the exception of Swansea – on the big occasions his team has delivered. The closing stages of 2011/12 with three key players suspended, the second leg of the Burton play off semi final, the play off final, Arsenal, Villa, Leeds and now Chelsea. Parkinson has consistently proved his worth to this football club. And the only negative of such heroics is the attention it may bring towards the manager from admiring chairman across the country.
In the euphoria that followed Saturday, I made a claim that I thought the 11/12 year old within me would never allow me to say aloud. But even in the aftermath I do so confidently: Parky is number 1 and Jewell is now number 2 (sorry Jagger).
He is not from the bottle, he is not just a special one. Phil Parkinson is the chosen one.