By Jason McKeown
On Monday I published an article about Phil Parkinson’s legacy that has had a big impact. Whilst many strongly agreed, others very much felt the opposite. And so I wanted to readdress the balance and make it clear I’m not ungrateful and I don’t have a short memory.
What Phil Parkinson did at Bradford City was simply outstanding. The way he took the club forwards from the doldrums of fighting relegation to non-league, to knocking on the door to the Championship, will never be forgotten. The astonishing cup run have provided countless wonderful memories that we will talk about until the day we die.
No one should ever diminish his considerable achievements. There is a lot of rumblings on social media now about how great it is we are moving away from Parkinson’s pragmatic football (or, as is often expressed, “boring football”). But it was winning football, and we don’t yet know what we are swapping it for. Stuart McCall’s first reign as manager featured attacking football for sure, but playing an open, expansive style won’t be tolerated for long if it doesn’t lead to regular victories.
Parkinson had every right to depart if he saw his future elsewhere, and I and thousands of other City fans wish him nothing but good luck. It’s just a shame that almost all of the coaching staff had to leave with him, taking a lot of knowledge out of the building. When the new regime are pondering how to get the best out of Stephen Darby and James Meredith, they won’t be able to call upon the past experience of the coaching team who achieved just that.
The template to Parkinson’s success has been lost. It will cause some bumps.
As an example of what we are missing, rewind back to the immediate aftermath of Peter Taylor taking over from McCall in 2010. In game two he went to league leaders Rochdale wondering how to build on a shockingly bad defeat at Accrington on his debut. Taylor retained Wayne Jacobs as assistant, who told him about how midfielder Michael Flynn can play successfully as a targetman. Taylor selected him up front, City surprisingly won the match, and after the game Taylor praised Jacobs’ inside knowledge that was so valuable.
The other element is that last summer’s team strengthening didn’t exactly go to plan. Parkinson signed 10 players, but for various reasons most failed to pull up any trees or remain in the team for long. Parkinson, to his great credit, fixed this by bringing in effective loan signings and developing a winning style of football; but it was a short-term move that has left the squad in a weaker position this summer.
If Parkinson had have stayed, he’d have fixed it. McCall will fix it instead. The team and the club are not in a mess, but they could be in a better position and Parkinson must share some of the blame for that. But not all the blame, and certainly it doesn’t come away near from reducing his amazing accomplishments at Valley Parade.
Parkinson is the best manager I’ve seen at City. He never had a fortune to work with, but he consistently built strong teams and then rebuilt them. His ratio of bad signings was no worse than any other in the club’s history, and as much as I hope and believe McCall will succeed he too will make bad signings.
We will never forget what Parkinson did for us, nor should we ever underestimate the success he delivered.