For the final installment of this season’s The Verdict (part one of two), Width of a Post pundit team members Alex Scott, Andrew Baxter, Gareth Walker, Mahesh Johal and Nick Beanland cast their eye over an eventful 2014/15 Bradford City season.
How do you rate Bradford City’s season as a whole?
Gareth: Tough question. It has certainly exceeded my pre-season expectations. It has given me some of my greatest moments as a City fan. Beating Leeds for the first time in 28 years and then causing the biggest FA cup shock of all time against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge are right up there with Wolves away in 1999 and the 2013 cup run.
The only disappointment for me is that we have missed the play offs. I think we are a far better side than Chesterfield and a sixth place finish would have been about right. Having said that, I’m fairly sure that without the cup run we would have finished sixth, and I wouldn’t swap the cup run for sixth place. I don’t think we would have beaten any of the top five in the play offs and I don’t think that Chesterfield will either.
Parkinson has improved us again year on year and if he is to do that again next season then we could be in for a promotion year. This year is an 8/10 for me.
Alex: For me it has to be seen as an unqualified success, I think. Looking back to see where we were in August, and again in October, a 7th place finish and an FA Cup Quarter Final would have been right at the top of all our projections.
The team has taken huge strides on the field over the year and now look like they have a real plan and structure upon which to build over the summer. Given the uncertainty over who and what this team was of the previous offseason, that’s a real success.
Andrew: I think this season has been one of progression. We’re certainly moving in the right direction, with a squad that has, on their day, the ability to beat anyone in this division.
Whilst some of the performances, especially at home, have been poor, victories over Chelsea and Leeds will live long in the memory. A seventh place finish highlights the progress that has been made under Parkinson this season, and with some reinforcements in key positions such as centre-back, there is no reason why City cannot push for a play off place next season.
Mahesh: It has been a major success. I was involved with the pre season preview and stated that if we equalled or bettered last season 11th place finish that this campaign would have been a successful one. We surpassed that target and then were in the play off hunt until the last few weeks.
The cup victories over Leeds and Chelsea have made a good season become a truly remarkable season.
Nick: A resounding success. I began the season fearing the reduced budget may lead to a struggle, and in early November that scenario looked increasingly likely. What happened since then has been hugely enjoyable. To even be disappointed at missing out on the play offs is indication of the progress made this year.
What did the club get right?
Alex: Although this is admittedly fuelled by previous failings, the commitment of the board to not panic, and back Parkinson as necessary throughout the year does deserve praise. The level heads shown by the owners during the barren run in October as well as in January, releasing the necessary funds for Parkinson to manoeuvre aren’t necessarily characteristic of this ownership’s tenure, but do warrant praise this time around.
Mahesh: Parkinson deserves credit for last summer’s recruitment drive. Some fans lambasted his previous transfer track record, but nearly every player signed in the summer has been critical to the club’s success this season.
On the pitch these players have added a layer of footballing intelligence to Parkinson’s physical and at times direct style of play. The likes of Gary Liddle, Billy Clarke, Billy Knott and Filipe Morais embody everything we love about “Parkinson football”, yet they have added their own panache and quality to proceedings.
Nick: Broadly speaking, the relationship between club and fans feels as strong as ever. The decision to price the Sunderland and Reading games at £15 was brave and deserving of recognition. They could easily have tried to cash in. Top marks for not doing so.
More significant was sticking with PP in November when more foolish sorts would’ve made the mistake of change for change’s sake.
Andrew: The club has been fantastic on social media this season. The claret and amber card idea before the Sunderland game looked magnificent and the “Scarf Parade” before the Reading tie was an incredible sight, and portrayed our club in a good light in front of a national audience.
The club has done well over the last few seasons to maintain good attendances at Valley Parade, and the atmosphere at games such as Preston and Barnsley was outstanding, as it has been all season. The Reading atmosphere, especially pre-game, was one of the best I have ever experienced, and a lot of this is down to the board’s fantastic decision to keep ticket prices low.
Many clubs would have cashed in on the occasion, but £15 for an FA Cup quarter final was a great incentive to entice as many people as possible to the game.
Gareth: The cup slogan vs Millwall and the way that they tried hard to rectify their ticketing errors has to be commended. The club and supporters are still pulling in the same direction which is a joy to behold and has continued to win us many admirers.
On the pitch Phil Parkinson has tried a few new things out and we look a better equipped League One side than we did last year. We look well set up to continue our progress next year touch wood.
What did the club get wrong?
Andrew: The distribution of tickets for the Reading and Chelsea games spring to mind.
Chelsea was a tough one, and those in charge clearly underestimated the sheer volume of people prepared to spend six hours in the cold, queueing for a ticket. As for Reading, the club did not manage that situation well. Allowing season ticket holders an unlimited number of tickets was a poor move.
I can understand that the board were keen to pack out Valley Parade, but the £15 tickets pretty much guaranteed a big crowd. With hindsight, those in charge can use these mistakes to build for the future, and make sure they don’t make the same error should we be lucky enough to experience another big game at Valley Parade next season.
Alex: I’m loathe to really pick holes on the field in the performance this year, as I do think it should be celebrated, but if forced I’d say that perhaps the club hasn’t manipulated the loan market as adeptly as other teams have.
I acknowledge that funds were tight this year, and I should say that the off-season signings taken as a whole were overwhelmingly successful, but throughout the year, with the exception of Stead, the side struggled to find difference makers in the loan market. It’s difficult to believe that looking back in hindsight that the resources spent on Mason Bennett, Francois Zoko, Oliver Burke, and Gary MacKenzie couldn’t have been better redistributed.
But I admit that I’m really nitpicking here, and in all likelihood these wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the overall standings. Oh and the ticketing policy has left something to be desired. Though again I’m instinctively loathe to criticise their naive good intentions.
Gareth: The lack of pace on the playing field and missing a prolific striker has cost us. Off the field, ticketgate was a major disaster.
Mahesh: I’m surprised the pitch hasn’t been mentioned yet. “The decision” to reduce the investment on the playing surface in the off season cost the side valuable points throughout this campaign. As I have mentioned above, we have some really talented footballers. However I can’t help feel that the pitch hindered their ability to fully express themselves.
Nick: The pitch and the ticketing fiasco spring to mind. I am totally convinced the home form would’ve been better had the pitch not been a cow field from January onwards.
The ticketing issues have been well covered by others but my Reading away experience was, game aside, ruined by waiting outside the Madjeski for almost two hours for our tickets to arrive. They finally did so five minutes before kick off. I made it in as the game kicked off but 300+ in the queue behind me weren’t so lucky. The tickets had been sent with a late arriving supporters coach. Unbelievably amateurish.
All of the above pales next to the cringe-worthy sight of our finest manager in a long time being made to publicly apologise for his criticism of two directors over the embarrassing state of the pitch. A disgrace.
In part two, the pundit team reflect on their season highlight and lowlights, plus offer their view on the potential takeover of Gianni Paladini.
Categories: The Verdict