Book review: Reinventing Bradford City

Premiership days 1

Editor’s pre-amble:

Firstly thank you, valued reader, for sticking with me. Over the last few months I have taken the opportunity to use WOAP to promote my new book, Reinventing Bradford City. With the book released over the next few days, this is already the second article about it this week. We will go back to the usual City coverage this weekend, and I plan to write only one more piece on the book in around a month’s time, telling the story of writing it.

So bear with me, the adverts are nearly over!

Secondly, the review below is one that Nick Beanland has produced for the next edition of the City Gent. Nick very kindly proof-read the book during its final stages, and his keen eye for detail and honesty was a massive help. You can of course apply a pinch of salt to his review below – I would hardly be publishing a negative review of the book would I? – but I hope it helps to provide further background on the publication.

Over to Nick…

Reinventing Bradford City review

By Nick Beanland


Bradford City’s modern day history is one of the more extreme in English football. The highs include an unlikely promotion to the top division after what felt like a lifetime slumming it in the lower leagues and miraculously reaching a major cup final whilst stuck in the bottom tier. At the other end of the scale, City fans endured a swift slump from top division to bottom along with multiple financial crises that hastened the club’s rapid demise.

Jason McKeown has documented many of the last ten years’ developments via his excellent website, Width Of A Post, and now he’s broadened the scope of his writing by producing a modern day history of the club, covering the remarkable last thirty years at Valley Parade.

McKeown picks thirteen games from the period and uses each of them as a starting point to flesh out key moments from the recent past. He begins in the chilly wilderness of Odsal Stadium on the day that City finally beat Leeds United only to see the day ruined by events off the pitch. The book then meanders through the peaks and troughs that have followed since. It sees McKeown recount various moments that will spark vivid memories in City fans of a certain age and as a supporter since 1983 the tales within resonate strongly with me.

Even though the reader knows that the Bantams finally climbed into the Premier League in 1999, the ‘nearly season’ remains a memory which provokes anguish and McKeown captures this beautifully. Texture is added by a fresh interview with Terry Dolan and quotes from Jack Tordoff, both of which shed new light on some of the more controversial aspects of the club’s failure to make the final step of what was then known as Bantam Progressivism.

Another, more painful, era is brought back to life as the ‘we want football’ reign of John Docherty is skilfully recounted. City fans of a certain vintage will remember that team as amongst the least likeable they ever watched and McKeown plunged me back into the desperation of watching the team become what a northern outpost of Millwall reserves. Bearing in mind the author was, luckily for him, some years away from becoming a fan at this point, he does a fine job of recreating how low the club and supporters were at that point.

McKeown then moves on to the key moments of the next City ascent, taking in Bloomfield Road, Molineux and the possibly not brief enough Premier League sojourn. We then move onto the last ten years or so and even though the stories of administrations, flirtations with non-league football and the current golden era under Phil Parkinson feel very recent, they are lent fresh perspective by excellent interviews. Bluntly honest contributions from Julian Rhodes, Stuart McCall, James Hanson and Andrew Davies take the reader deep inside the boardroom and dressing room.

The book is passionately written and each chapter beautifully evokes a period in time as the club punches above it weight, sinks to the canvas (more than once) before landing a knockout blow or two and, hopefully, continues building another age of Bantam Progressivism. McKeown captures the various moods perfectly and this book will be treasured by City fans of all ages.

Categories: Opinion

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3 replies

  1. John Docherty was brought in to cut the budget but could stop us going down from then league 2 to league 1. He gave Peter Jackson a free transfer after his 300k move back to Valley Parade from Newcastle United. Jackson signed for Huddersfield Town and was very bitter about the club for a long time after.

    With the resources I seem to recall Docherty signing Sean McCarthy from Plymouth Argle for 250k (great business). McCarthy scored 1, missed a penalty and was sent off in his debut in 2-1 defeat against Tramere Rovers on the opening day fixture on our return to league 2.

    The 5 Millwall players were Alan Dowson, Morgan, Torpey, Babb & Wes Reid. Phill Babb was successfully moved from full back to centre forward scoring around 8 goals in the final 10 games of the season. He was sold to Coventry City for 500k which was a very big sum of money for club at time.

    Wes Reid was part of the 1992 Alrdrie squad that faced Stuart McCalls Rangers in the Scottish cup final. The less said about the other 3 Ex Lions the better.

    After the nearly season of 1987/8 the style of football from Docherty’s team on offer was the worst I have witnessed as city fan in all my 40 years of supporting city and this era was a real low point in footballing terms for me.

    I always remember the Kop singing we want football and it only took the sight of Docherty appearing from the dug out on match days to send some fans into a frenzied rage hurling a torrent of abuse at the manager. Dark times indeed.

  2. The only time Docherty made me laugh was when he fell out of the dug-out at Preston, can’t remember if he was trying to retrieve his cap, or a cigar(you could smoke just about anywhere then)that he had dropped.

    Not happy days.

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