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.