By Jason McKeown
After 10 league games in charge of Bradford City – only two of which were won – some fans began to demand that Phil Parkinson be sacked as manager. They were wrong to do so.
Those calls came after a 1-0 loss at Macclesfield in October 2011 that meant City were just one point above the relegation zone. It wasn’t a quick turnaround, but after pairing up Nahki Wells with James Hanson, Parkinson was able to start guiding City away from the drop zone.
After a horrendous evening against Crawley and follow-up defeat to Plymouth, the club were heavily rumoured to have questioned whether to keep Phil Parkinson on. They were right not to make a change.
City had gained just one point in six games over Spring 2012 and saw their three best players red-carded in the dressing room after the Crawley brawl. But with six games to go, Parkinson and the players kept their nerve and picked up 10 points. They finished a lowly 18th, but we’d all feared it was going to be worse. City had successfully avoided relegation to non-league.
After a dismal run of one win in 21 matches, the pressure was growing on the club’s board to sack Phil Parkinson. Many fans demanded a change. They were wrong to do so.
During this 2013/14 period, City slumped from 4th to 16th and there were some fears of slipping into a relegation battle. Parkinson steadied the ship and the Bantams ended their first season back in League One in 11th place – a decent performance.
After winning only two out of 13 games, some fans questioned whether Phil Parkinson had taken the club as far as he can, and that he should be sacked prior to an FA Cup game with Halifax. They were wrong to do so.
City won on that November 2014 day, albeit in unconvincing fashion. Two months later they were winning at Stamford Bridge. A month after that, they would reach the FA Cup quarter finals for the first time since 1976.
At Bradford City, many of us supporters can be too quick to talk ourselves into a crisis. To allow short-term gloom to override the long-term outlook. This week is proving to be one such moment, as months of mounting frustration has boiled over. Losing 3-1 to Burton Albion last week has caused some people to snap, and with it demand radical changes.
For Phil Parkinson this is nothing new, and his four-and-a-half years at the helm should offer much needed perspective. Those four instances mentioned at the start of the article saw the club in a far worse position than they find themselves in right now. On each of those occasions, a change of manager was demanded by some, but subsequent events proved that this would have been a foolish and incorrect decision.
And that is really important right now. There’s no question that the club is under-performing. That results are not good enough. That there are issues with the squad that are having an adverse effect on the way that the season is shaping up. The style of football has regressed, and such low entertainment will be an interesting test of the Bradford public’s appetite when season tickets go on sale over the next few months.
There are some big problems to solve right now – but I can’t think of a better person to face and answer them than Phil Parkinson.
Since taking charge of the club in September 2011, there has always been two aspects to the Phil Parkinson story. There have been the good times. Wigan, Arsenal, Aston Villa, a Wembley cup final, promotion, Chelsea and Sunderland the headline-grabbers. But there have been really difficult moments too. Lots of them, in fact.
Having a manager who can guide City through these tougher times has proven absolutely vital to recent success. This club has a modern history of going through managers quickly, and often they were sacked or forced to resign after a short-term slump in results becomes a full-blown crisis. Culturally, we seem to embrace doom and gloom too quickly and too readily. The conversation around the club is often much more negative than it needs to be.
That adds up to a lot of pressure on whoever is the Bradford City manager. Others have buckled, or reacted badly to this level of negativity – souring their relationship with supporters. Parkinson has been different, and on many occasions has managed to get the club out of a dark corner by completely turning the situation around.
Why should this time be any different?
Parkinson has faced greater criticism than ever this season. Much of it is justified – he has the tools to mount a stronger promotion push, even accepting some terrible luck with injuries. The lack of cohesion and confidence in the team, going forwards at least, is something he must shoulder responsibility for. For the first time in his reign, we seem to be going backwards.
But he has faced much bigger crisises than this, and come through them. Not always quickly, not always without emerging with a few scars to show for it. His four-and-a-half years in charge have featured plenty of mistakes, but the club has continued to progress thanks to his composure, vision and ability through adversity. It is a hugely commendable quality to have, and it is something Bradford City badly need. There will always be tough times, which is why a sense of balance and assurance is so essential.
After the Burton game some people have called for him to be sacked. Some have gone much worse and by the wonderful world of Twitter labelled him clueless, out of his depth and – more than once – a wanker. After everything that Parkinson has done for Bradford City, it is hugely saddening to see such nasty abuse.
Phil Parkinson’s sacking isn’t on the agenda. His contract has more than two years to run. It would cost the club a six-figure sum to dismiss him – do we really have that kind of money? Will people accept a lower playing budget next summer to fund his dismissal? Or pay more for a season ticket to cover the costs of sacking the most successful Bradford City manager since Paul Jewell?
And it goes deeper than that, the structure of the club would be badly impacted by sacking the leader. When Lee Johnson moved from Barnsley to Bristol City last weekend, the Barnsley board stated that it was a shame but not the end of the world, as their set-up does not hinge on who is the manager. At Bradford City this is not the case. As a club we have invested a lot of time and faith in Parkinson to build the squad in the way he wants, and revamped the off-the-field set up approach. To lose that knowledge and leadership would be a major gamble.
And for what? Is this really, as some have claimed this week, as bad as it has ever been at Valley Parade? Have we forgotten what sort of state the club was in when Parkinson took over? The difficulties that Peter Jackson, Peter Taylor and Stuart McCall experienced when they were in charge? We have come a long way in a short space of time under Parkinson, and we shouldn’t willingly risk throwing away that progress simply because of a recent dip.
More than anything Parkinson deserves respect. If you think his time as manager has peaked, that he has indeed taken the club as far as he can, then let’s debate that in constructive terms. Let’s not call him clueless or tactically inept or a wanker. He doesn’t deserve such disparaging treatment, and it completely undermines any credibility to the argument that change is needed.
As they say on Game of Thrones: ‘Winter is coming’. Unless something dramatic happens, City are set for a mid-table League One finish and the debate about the manager will intensify. If we must have this argument, let’s do it in a sensible way. You can want him to go if you must, but that doesn’t mean insulting him or attempting to deride his obvious past achievements is the right and fair way to go about it.
The bottom line is that – for the first time under Phil Parkinson – City might be about to finish lower in the table than they had the year before. But in four seasons before this, he took us 37 places up the football ladder, and in the 12 seasons before that City had fallen 69 places. A bump in the road is understandable, but needn’t be the end of the world. Personally I’m backing Parkinson to rectify the current issues and for City to come back even stronger.
After all, that’s what he has done so often since 2011.
There’s nothing to be gained from a change of manager at this time.
PP accepts that both he and the team have underperformed recently so let’s give him the chance to remedy the situation. It’s the very least that his record deserves
A really good thoughtful article. Surely fans must have learnt something with our history? A succession of managers for one season or two or even less sometimes. Where did that get us? That we have stabilty now may worry some fans -perhaps they want to support a club like a roller coaster where we chop and change often just for the sake of it. My support is with P.P. to see us through. The same fans who are complaining now will be up in arms if he was poached by another club!!
We must support PP at this time he deserves respect not abuse.Fans have high expectations because of what we have achieved under his leadership with a smaller budget than many clubs in League 1. Get behind the manager and the players in good and not so good times the results will come
It’s dangerous to bring budgets into a discussion of this sort.
Who does he have a smaller budget than?
We were told at the start of the season that we had a top six budget.
I would hazard a guess that Gillinghqm, Walsall and Burton have smaller budgets than us.
What more can be said thats not in the above post. Great post once again Jason. As a city fan Parkinson has my complete backing.
Spot on.. Anyone who has followed City knows that it is sometimes good and sometimes bad..! That is the journey we have chosen. Parkinson as an individual is one of the bet managers this club has had and like many individuals, you have good days and bad days at the office.. The good days, cup runs, Chelsea, Villa etc, life memories that as a supporter you will talk about till your dying days.. Bad times.. Get real, the journey maybe rocky, but be realistic.. Stick with this guy, he will reproduce once again. He is quality of the best at this level.. Up the City.
There’s obviously a problem with the team’s management when you have to publish an article like this.
My only reason for wanting a change of Manager/Assistant is the style of play @ VP.
I don’t think the article is suggesting you shouldn’t have an opinion, but when you read some of the stuff on social media it is not a healthy discussion, it is abuse and crazy comments. I assume that is what what Jason is addressing, more so than somebody who may like to sit and discuss tactics and opinions in a sensible and constructive light, completely ignoring the past glory PP has lead us too.
Erm, not sure if you read the article? Did you just read the headline? I was addressing the point that people shouldn’t be abusive towards PP after everything he has done. You might want him to go (and clearly you personally do) but there is no need for people to express such opinions in an abusive way. I’m not saying you are doing that, but other people are.
Fully agree with the overriding sentiment of the article.
The time has not come yet IMO to be looking to sack the manager.
It leads on to an interesting discussion though. When would people consider things to have gone too far for PP to turn it around?
I suppose that everyone would have a different answer to this. Everyone has a different breaking point.
Well said Jason. I feel that a large majority of fans agree with you.
We are having a nondescript season but it would be impossible for every season to be like the last 3. In fact if we go down (we won’t, it’s nonsense to say we will as the Keyboard Warriors on Twatter do) I’d still want to see that man in charge.
Excellent Article Jason. I can’t understand the clamour for PP to be sacked. This season has been a strange one (in my opinion) as it hasn’t really got going – what with injuries to a number of players and almost two months without a home game. Football is all about momentum and consistency and we’ve had neither this season for various reasons. Some fans have very short memories and forget the 10 years of truly dreadful football that we’ve had to endure without any hope of a turn around in fortunes until PP became manager. Expectations are set by us (the fans) and a top six finish seemed to be taken for granted even before we kicked a ball in August. It hasn’t worked out this season but patience is the order of the day – I believe. We have come so far in the last four years and it would be a shame to throw away the foundations that Phil and the club have built because things have got a little bit tougher.
My thoughts exactly, I also think the cheap season tickets have brought in lots of new fans with high expectations. Although it’s good in the long run, it needs those of us who have watched the painful recent years to keep a level of sense. As far as I am concerned, unless we are looking at relegation and need some drastic action, we should stick with PP.
Undoubtedly this season (so far) has not lived up to expectation. Football is about results, however it is also about entertainment. From a footballing perspective, This translates into excitement and ultimately goals. Sadly neither have been in abundance, this season. However I support Phil Parkinson. He is an experienced manager, who is able to reflect upon the current situation and has the ability to alter things given time. City has no ‘God given right’ to always improve, sometimes things do not go the way you would wish, however I believe that Phil has the capacity to put the team back on track, if not for this season, then certainly in the next one. Loyalty is often at the heart of a successful partnership, just because things are not always working out, does not mean that you abandon people who you have a good relationship with.
Anyone who Tweets is a w**ker in my eyes
A very good and honest assessment of the current situation . I support and back Parkinson. He knows our short comings and has tried to address them with the loan market etc.
Some of the drivel on social media is very shortsighted with fans not thinking about the effect of changing manager, the cost,upheaval and potentially lesser skilled/experienced manager.
Let’s back Phil and the team on Tuesday night v Southend – I hope we get a result at Peterborough to shut up the doom merchants.
Good article. I knew Parky was being questioned but to call him a wan&er shows no class, no respect and low intelligence.
For me I am very frustrated we have been terrible. We have played one good 45 mins and that was against Sheff Utd at home. I believe we have a very good squad with completion all over the park. The problem is that we are so rigid. We look to attack through crosses or by the diagonal long ball. The formation is rigid always 442 (sometimes a 442 diamond) we do not have full backs that over lap. We don’t play football and either run at teams or pass the ball through the Middle of the park. The predictability that has been evident throughout Parkys tenure has in my mind gone as far as it can go. This is were the frustration lies I like parky I appreciate his achievements he along with the chairmen have reignited the bfd city family the feel good factor came back, what an achievement. I want to support him 100% (I feel like I am cheating on a partner by having these doubts it is not a nice place to be) but with this style of play I believe we have come as far as we can. I feel some of our positive results have masked very Poor standards of football and we should not be anywhere near the play offs. Taking all this into account my ideal outcome would be to see Parky’s tactics evolve and modernise. And if this takes 12 months in order for us to progress under parky (as long as we can see that the style is changing) I will be 100% behind him. If we continue to play routis 2 defensive centre mids and diagonal long balls I think we may need to go our separate ways.