An appreciation of Phil Parkinson

Image by Alex Dodd

Image by Alex Dodd

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.

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Categories: Opinion

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14 replies

  1. Sorry to sound pedantic but how are Jewell & PP greater than Peter O’Rourke? The man has 2 promotions and a FA Cup win on his CV, surely that trumps anything they’ve done. Yes it was a long time ago but in relative terms his achievements are greater. We all to easily fall into the trap of thinking only in modern terms but without our FULL history we are nothing. Please consider the full picture before coming out with such statements. Being a history buff its just a gripe i have. Apologies but its the facts.

    • I have to disagree with you there Ian. Football is about opinions and who Bradford City’s greatest manager is is an opinion and this is an opinion piece. As are what you class as greater achievements.

      The facts are that Jewell will be in many people’s opinion the greatest Bradford City manager for getting us into the Premier League and keeping us there.

      The facts are also that Peter O’Rourke’s achievements were over a longer period (obviously not including the period during the war) when the gulf between the best and the rest was not what it is today. Parkinson has already led us to 1 promotion, a cup runner up finish while being in the bottom division which also included an additional round and a two leg semi final in comparison to the 1911 cup win. He has also led us to the 4th round for the first time in almost 20 years (despite us starting in the 3rd round for many years). And this is all in a short 4 year period so I personally do not feel it is such a grand claim to hail Parkinson as our greatest ever. Sorry if you disagree but I do believe those achievements are greater when considering the full picture.

      I respect your opinion that O’Rourke is our greatest manager please allow me mine. Football is after all nothing without opinions.

      • Obviously i respect your opinion Luke and i certain points i agree with and i won’t ever talk down PP’s achievements, i’ve long championed him when many were wanting him out at various times. The FA Cup win at the time was the pinnacle of World football, even more so than a League Title so i think that would merit along with 2 promotions a bit more acknowledgement. I don’t agree it was any easier then but as i say i want to celebrate all our successes over the years, lets be fair we haven’t had loads to crow about.

  2. To the fans he is approachable and personable; to the team he is calming and inspiring. You only have to consider the self belief that the squad had last Saturday. Unfortunately someone will come knocking with the right offer. I hope ‘his’ ‘project’ is about taking us into The Championship….

  3. I agree with you 95%!! He’s proven his worth at revving the team up and preparing for big games. However, there is still a tendency for the team to under-perform against teams that they should really be taking apart, especially at VP.
    He needs to get that big-game mentality to come through in the “little” games too.

  4. Width of a Troll at it again.
    Couple of cup runs and promotion from League Two and he’s the new messiah.

    • What would you deem as successful Big J? FA Cup winners. couple of Premiership medals and Champions League final?
      Placed in the context of financial restraints, 10 years plus of decline, fan base and the team he inherited I’d say Parky has worked and continues to work miracles. He’s the special one of Bradford

    • Respect to you big John. I totally disagree with your assessment but at some point within the next year we are going to go through a bad spell. People, who are strangely silent now, will come out and will criticise. Their posts will contain phrases like ‘I’ve always thought’ or ‘I’ve never agreed with….’. At least by posting now your critisms your later claims to have never been a Parky fan will have some credibility.

      My advice to you is to put all that to one side and just get swept up in the euphoria of it all. Crikey we’ve earnt it. Put your your sceptism to one side for a week or two and enjoy being a Bantam!

  5. Your right, he is the messiah.

  6. I think we were shouting that Parkinson is the special one. Everyone knows what happens to chosen ones!

  7. He has done only what really good managers do – dismantle and rebuild a successful side.

  8. Maybe PP is the best ever, maybe not…

    No one can dispute, however, that he’s been magnificent for this club.

    Look at the position we’re in now and look where we were when he took over. Look at the players we have, the performances. Look at the amazing dreamland nights we’ve had beating some of the best teams in the country. For gods sake… my collection of newspaper clippings of us on the front page of the national press over the last few years is busting out of its shoe box.

    I can’t think of a set of supporters who can have had more fun than us over the last three years. Prior to PP lets not forget the decade of not much fun at all.

    Of course… its a progression thats going to have localised ups and downs but thats life.

    I can honestly say that I’m proud PP is our manager. There are other teams of course that have had a few good years, look at Rotherham. But do you think that Rotherham fans are proud that Steve Evans is their chief? Two of my best mates are Rotherham fans – they love the club and are pleased with recent successes but not proud of their manager.

    Did any of you see the Sky pundits hailing PP a genius on Sunday morning – as much as I enjoyed hearing their positive opinions of our club and our manager I didn’t enjoy their other comments as they started to speculate about a champ or lower prem club coming in for him. And so the spectre that ML and JR need to address – the contract extension.

    This needs to be resolved – as quickly as possible.

  9. PP is clearly grounded and a guy with immense honesty and integrity. You suspect he also has learnt from his ill fated move to Hull that the grass is not necessarily greener if you move on. If anyone is going to see the job through it is him

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