The article we always hoped we’d never have to write

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By Katie Whyatt

We always knew this day would come, ultimately. That this era, his time here, was finite. That it would end. Everything does. Everything has to. All is ephemeral. Time passes and things change. Flux and reflux, however you want to word it.

You never thought about it at the time, though. I guess that was the fun in all of it. The future, and the limitlessness of this era. You thought it would last forever. Basking in the May sunshine on the final day, drinking in that lap of honour – we were everything we’ve ever wanted to be, and more. We must have been the happiest fans in the country, bar, maybe, Leicester. We were the happiest fans on earth for four years. No one had what we had. No one has ever loved a team, a manager, as much as we loved them. We were what everyone else wanted to be.

And you thought we were just getting started.

I spent so much of the past four years telling myself to savour every second. I knew he wouldn’t be here forever. I’m 18; he’s 48. I’d be worried if you told me I wouldn’t outlive him. But I always thought I’d knew how it would end. A huge winless run and he goes. A relegation and he goes. A Championship club comes in with an offer he can’t refuse and we wave goodbye with one eye on where he’ll subsequently be.

Not like this. Never like this.

*

I’m at a residential for my university scholarship group when I hear the news. Coming back from a break, I reach for my phone and tap into Facebook, habitually. The first thing I see is a paragraph from WOAP writer Andrew Baxter, above a picture of Parkinson’s face. I read only the first four words: Can’t believe this news. I assume it’s more Bolton speculation. I mentally shrug it off. It wouldn’t happen. He wouldn’t go. We get this every year. The club shut the talk down on Monday. But why a whole paragraph? I know something can’t be right. I keep scrolling. I see Simon Parker’s message below the same link, and that’s when it hits me before I even have time to think.

It is happening,” he writes.

The WOAP group chat pings into life. Heads are spinning. Expletives are dropped.

I don’t get it I hate it I just can’t deal with it I didn’t see it coming and he was the best thing I’ve ever known about City.

I type furiously, phone hidden beneath the table as though I’m back at school.

Back when I thought Phil Parkinson would be ours forever and I wouldn’t have to sit down and write an article like this.

*

You always wonder if footballers actually understand the power they wield, emotionally. We’ve all had a Saturday night made or ruined, obviously – but this is about more. If you haven’t read Paul Hayward’s piece on illness and Lionel Messi, read it now. Thankfully, I don’t have his story to tell – I’ve never had cancer – but his sentiment of football, of sport, being able to provide the only light in the darkness is something we’ve surely all been able to relate to at some point in our lives. Everyone faces challenges – school, work, home, health, money. For so many of us, Bradford City – Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City – have helped us through some of our most testing times. Given us a smile when we felt like there was nothing else to smile about. Shown us that anything is possible. That odds mean nothing. I always felt like I could bank on them to make everything feel better when something or someone was getting me down.

This wasn’t even about football, really, looking back. This was about us, about belonging. About feeling like we meant and stood for something and that we were all in it together. Not many people, many things, have made me feel like that. Quite often, football is the only thing that will make 18,000 people smile in the way we’ve smiled at times.

And that was because of him.

Picture by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Picture by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Phil Parkinson was the best thing I’ve ever had as a football fan, without a shadow of a doubt. And now, everything is going to change – all of it. There will be no more Phil Parkinson, or Steve Parkin, or Nick Allamby. It’s not too hard to imagine McArdle, Darby and Meredith all following suit, Bolton’s financial woes permitting. Not a single one of our boys, our heroes, my heroes from the past two years, is safe. The team that line up on the opening day of next season might look nothing like what we have now.

People can say all they want that the fans will be here longer, that we support a club and not one man, that Bradford City is bigger than this. But the Bradford City I fell in love with was Phil Parkinson’s. Not Uwe Rosler’s. Not Nigel Adkins’. Not Steve Evans’. It was Phil Parkinson’s. I liked the way he did things. I liked the players he brought in.

I’m 18. I’m too young to have had my heart properly broken. I’d only ever seen season upon season of demise before he came in. Looking back, I don’t know how I don’t have more football-related trust issues. Parkinson taught me what I love and value and treasure in a football team, in football players. I see too many teams who are just indifferent, who just don’t get it. His squads meant more to me than he will ever be able to understand. And it’s over. It’s over prematurely. It’s over before we ever saw it coming and before we could even brace for impact.

The most heartbreaking thing about all of this is that the Parkinson era has willingly inflected itself into the past tense. Phil Parkinson was Bradford City’s manager. This is over, definitively and categorically. He won’t be taking us into the Championship. He won’t be taking us on another cup run. We’re nobody’s second favourite well run little club anymore. No more saving the national newspapers after a cup game. No more Parkinson is the special one. No more Parkinson’s Bradford Army. This is not like Nahki leaving, or Jones going, or Knott or Liddle or Doyle or Duke or McLaughlin or anyone or anything we’ve watched just walk away since Parkinson’s been here. This is it. This is the end.

And we never got to say goodbye.

I’ll be open minded. I know, deep down, I was here before they were, before all of this. The past four years were a dream. We all have to wake up sometime. I will back whoever comes in to the hilt. Rosler seems like a good guy, truthfully. We could probably do a lot worse. On his Wikipedia page, one of his former Brentford players says, “We were a bang average League One side, but Uwe changed the mentality. Everything he did was all Premier League standard.” I always thought he seemed balanced when he spoke at Leeds, the calm amidst the Cellino maelstrom.

But the point is I’m waving goodbye to something I’ve never, ever, ever wanted to let go of. Right now, this hurts more than any other article I’ve ever had to write. It still doesn’t feel real. It can’t sink in. All I can do is laugh when people tell me. I can’t take the situation seriously. I’m expecting Bolton Wanderers to unveil Nigel Adkins tomorrow, 100%. Anyone but Sir Phil Parkinson.

Our worst nightmare has just been realised, right out the blue. This was the worst case scenario. This was nuclear Armageddon. What was left behind in the bunker is us, our club and two owners who now have to do everything in their power to keep Bradford City on the up. Everything is changing, everything is spinning, and our one dead cert and constant has packed himself off to Bolton.

He made an art form of overturning such odds. He did it time and again. If he passes on one lesson, let’s hope it’s that one. The game board is changing, beyond all recognition. But there will always be one piece missing.

Read: Parkinson prepares to leave Bradford City, raising some huge issues by Tim Penfold

 

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Categories: Opinion

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18 replies

  1. Yes. Gutted. Your article made me cry. Our wonderful Phil Parkinson will be much missed. Loved Paul Jewel but Parky was even more special. Wish you well sir and hope the BW fans and players love and respect you as much as we did.

  2. Great read and so true in so many ways. It is most definitely a new era – one where I hope we continue to challenge at the top of the table and perhaps, just perhaps have a little more in the locker than a 1-0 result or lock down after we score in the 12th minute. The King is dead, long live the King is the phrase I keep thinking of. One thing is certain, the club need us, the supporters right now and some open dialogue about the future plans from our new owners!

  3. This isn’t about Bolton, it’s about the new chairman having a coaching qualification & telling Parky that he will be hands on with transfers & team selection. Not only has Parky gone but we are about to embark on a very unsettled period with managers changing several times a season because they can’t stand working with the new regime.

    Thankfully it’s looks like the football league will extend to five divisions, so non league football is not quite imminent…

  4. I prefer it this way. Parkinson goes at a time when he will be remembered as being ‘special’. As you say Katie: ‘We always knew this day would come’ but I would have hated for him to have gone after ‘A huge winless run’. I feel the same about Lawn and Rhodes.The three of them will/should now be remembered with affection, by the vast majority of Bradford City supporters, because of the timing and circumstances of their leaving. And because of that, I feel much more relaxed about the new era that will begin to unfold as we move on with new Owners and a new Manager. It will be great to give Phil a very heartfelt reception when he turns up at Valley Parade with his new Team.

  5. I’m off to Bolton next season so there is a ticket available in the Kop if anyone wants it.
    I’m not watching our club die under some German manager and his cousins.
    If ever there was a reason to vote LEAVE, this is it!

    • If you’ve already renewed please post details and I’ll take it off you, if you haven’t renewed, just go away and leave your seat (if it exists) to be taken up after 4th July.

  6. So many memories under Parksinson’s watch.
    Saving us from relegation to oblivion after the Crawley game.
    Epic cup run with penalty shoot out victories over wigan and Arsenal. First and only major final for the club since 1911.
    First promotion since 1999.
    First victory over Leeds in 29 years.
    Quarter finalist in the FA cup with first club to win at stamford bridge in over 2 years.
    24 clean sheets in his last season,
    Play off place secured and highest points total since 1998/9

    A club reborn after 12 dark years with 18k season ticket holders, a community club with a fantastic fan base home and away.

    Whatever the reasons for Phil Parkinson’s exit a new chapter beckons for the club and its supporters with an opportunity for the next man in charge to move the club forward on a solid foundation and take us to the next level.

    Thanks for memories Phil.

  7. Love the article Katie. Your words remind me of how I felt when my first girlfriend ditched me! I couldn’t believe the boy in the next street with his Beatles albums and long hair had more to offer than me….but 45 years on I have only happy memories. Its just the same with Bradford City. We have seen some incredible highs and terrible lows and the club will continue on its topsy turvy never boring way without Parky at the helm. City till I die.

  8. Mr Rahic and Mr Rupp appear to be following the Mike Ashley handbook on football club ownership.

    • So you have some hard information about what has happened do you? Please share it with us all.
      Oh sorry, you don’t. My mistake.

      • Rahic has openly stated in the T&A that he has a coaching badge & wants to be hands on with transfers & team selection. He even said he was looking forward to ‘sparring’ with PP on the issues. The chairman runs the club, the manager runs the team. Otherwise they all fall out, we have 5-6 different managers throughout the season & get relegated. If he messes this up I’ll follow Park Ave instead!

  9. Like the vast majority of City fans – saddened by the news but underwhelmed by our new owners’ first two weeks of control.
    Of course, a new manager needs our support. I cant help thinking that PP was lucky rather than “special”. How he got Burke, Evans & Cullen to perform the way they did not only saved our season but also made us over-perform. However PP will be much missed but it gives us an opportunity to appoint some-one who might have a more progressive attacking outlook and bring in those quality players to put us in the top 2 – provided the Germans back him with cash.
    A sad day for us all but hopefully some positive action quickly can turn this bad situation around.

  10. We don’t know what went on, we don’t know Parky’s thinking. The time to judge the new owners will be early August, then mid-season and finally May 2017. Certainly not now by refusing to buy a season ticket.
    As for Parky, half of me hopes he does really well. Part of me hopes Bolton do a Blackpool and he thinks “Why oh why did I do that”

  11. Ian L makes a good point. Nobody knows Parky’s thinking, or motivation for the move to Bolton. The same can be said for the new owners.

    Only last week, Parky was not retaining some players, whilst offering new contracts to others. This would seem to indicate that up to last week at least, he had started planning for next season. Perhaps Bolton just offered a package much better than his current one. That would beg the question as to why did the new owners not offer to match, or improve, on Bolton’s offer.

    Hopefully everything will ‘come out in the wash’ but we, the fans, really need a positive statement of intent from the new owners, sooner rather than later. It will also be interesting to see how long it takes to appoint a new manager.

    • Maybe the new owners didn’t match Bolton’s offer because it was silly money. I thought we were applauding their commitment to continuing sound financial management of our club.

  12. It is very rare that a management team is able to leave a club on a high and I can think of no more deserving managerial team than ours. They gave us their all, they improved us year on year and they gave us memories that will be cherished throughout our history to come. I can do nothing but wish them all of the best for their future.
    In Bolton Wanderers they have moved to a simialr situation to what they came to with us 4/5 years ago, but in a division higher – Now they have the oppertunity to make the same improvements there and for them be hopefuly knocking on the door of the Premier League in 4 seasons time. Makes sense and seems like a good challenge to take on in that sense.
    Though understanding that doesn’t stop the hurt – or the bitterness of it.
    Our new owners are coming in for a lot of stick, but we don’t know what/how/why this has all happened, or just how much they knew about it. There is a lot of guess work going on by some fans already choosing to hit the panic button. Some city fans love the drama a bit too much it seems…
    It is now more about how our club reacts to this and moves forwards rather than the what/how and whys.
    An interesting few weeks lay ahead for us… and we thought we’d have an easy summer of Euro 2016 and new signings…
    Bantam progressivism continues.

  13. Parky was my 2nd greatest City manager just behind Paul Jewell so don’t feel the pain as bad but if I had the choice I would prefer him to stay.

    The next question then is who will be the new gaffer. I really hope its not Adkins or Cotterill really hope its not but I would take Rosler.

    Not sure who else is available but I hope its not one of the regular managers who go through the lower leagues merry go round

  14. Van Gaal?

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