The surprisingly huge success of Phil Parkinson

Image by Thomas Gadd ( - copyright Bradford City

Image by Thomas Gadd ( – copyright Bradford City

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.

Categories: Opinion

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13 replies

  1. As always you talk sense Jason, I found your recent articles on this topic well balanced and captured the mood of many of us fans. No one denies what PP achieved and the memories we forged in the last 4 years. However, his departure could have been more gracious. Maybe it was always going to be that way but lets move on and give Stuart the support he needs.

    The team is taking shape and hopefully if we can get a decent striker in (our achilles heel last year) then the new season could put to bed any lingering sentiments regarding PPs departure.

  2. Thoroughly agree with your assessment of Parkinson’s reign and achievements at City. I have been supporting City for the thick end of 60 years and I cannot think of a better City manager during that time. There has been one or two ‘boom and bust’ managers and of course Paul Jewel’s success and the Cherry/Yorath era cannot be underestimated. However, I am dismayed at the way PP left the club and took all the back room staff with him. After year on year improvement, one wonders if he actually had the stomach for another campaign, particularly when automatic promotion would have been the perceived target. I believe that the play off defeat against Millwall may have taken a greater toll than any of us realised.

    But onward and upward with Stuart. Let’s all give him the support he deserves and wish him every success.


  3. Im sure once the hurt has died down most sensible fans will be thanking Phil for the good times we had and not be remembered for boring hoofball.

    Obviously that will depend on the success we have or lack of but only time will tell if it was better for us or better for him

    Im not surprised his team went with him as that’s what managers all over the world do, take people they trust.

    Good luck Phil and I hope he does well wherever he goes because the good times we had certainly outweigh the way he departed even if it could have been more graceful

  4. Having read your PP critiques, I’m not sure which side of the fence your coming from now.

    My best Manager would be Paul Jewell and the memories of the 1998-99 season when we played the best football seen post war @ VP, and on away grounds too, and in the Championship!

    • You have to take into account context. Of course the standard of player and football will be better at a higher league level. Where we were going and where we are now makes him my favourite manager. Each to their own though, as the standard of footy when we went up was v enjoyable

  5. I’d welcome observations about the legacy of Mark Lawn’s regime. Did PP succeed in spite of – or because of – the regime he operated under. Should PP or those in control be blamed for the legacy inherited by Stuart McCall (which is in many ways a poisoned chalice).

    • It’s all about timing the legacy left I suggest. Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn had been wanting to sell up I suspect for a few years now. So it should have been no surprise to PP when it happened. His immediate reaction to the new owners was to run off to Bolton, but at the worst possible time for the Club and with the devastating act of taking everyone with him! SM will have to fend for himself and I’m sure he will. Greg Abbott is a good choice in my mind and as for his assistant KB time will tell obviously.

      • It has been mentioned a few times now that for the last few years they were looking for buyers and Phil was in the loop all the way through so he knew what was coming.

        Obviously all the other things that come with the takeover budgets, players, contracts etc he wouldn’t have known until the takeover went through.

        Julian helping behind the scenes for a bit and James Mason still there gives me confidence we are heading in the right direction even though the blip that was the management staff leaving but we are in good hands it seems to me

  6. Good article. Parky is certaily the best manger i’ve seen in my 30 years watching City. I hold no grudge towards him. It’s just a job. He will no doubt leave Bolton one day
    I am dismayed at the amount of comments on social media blasting PP for taking our back room staff. These members of staff are humans too and not pieces of furniture that PP could just pick up and take with him. They CHOSE to go with him. As a manager he had success with those backroom staff so it was predictable he would want to work with them again.

  7. I am slightly surprised that Jason felt it necessary to write this article to redress the balance. Being a regular reader (and admirer) of WOAP, it is obvious that Jason is pro-Parkinson. In the past five seasons, Jason has stuck his neck out and supported Parkinson on this website especially during poor runs of form.
    For what it’s worth, I too, am pro-Parkinson. He and his teams have left us with many wonderful moments to cherish such as the famous night at Villa Park and the memorable victory at Burton Albion in the play-off semi final second leg.
    Naturally, I am disappointed that Parkinson and his back room staff have left Valley Parade, but it was going to happen one day. Based upon the games that I attended last season, I still can’t believe that we ended up in the play-offs. I thought that our football, on the whole, was safety first which led to some non-entertaining games. However, just because we didn’t play open attractive football last season, doesn’t mean that I wanted Parkinson to leave us. Phil had built up ‘credit in the bank’ owing to the wonderful achievements over the previous four seasons. As with other things in life, you get through the difficult periods to appreciate the good times.
    I would have liked us to sign Jamie Proctor again for the coming season, but as we know, he’s followed Phil to Bolton Wanderers. This is understandable and I don’t hold a grudge against the player or manager. Proctor may not be the last Bantam to head over the Pennines.
    Good luck to Phil Parkinson and thank you for the amazing memories.

    • Sounds to me that PP could do no wrong whatever he did! He left us in the lurch Richard and at a difficult time for the Club, i.e. just at the end of the season when plans for 2016-17 were being drawn up..

  8. I agree with most of this and personally will clap parky when he returns. I have seen awful times at city ( I was in the lowest attendence but saw every home game in the premiership) but some great ones.

    What some fans forget s that parky never had a lot of money. He had to sell Nahki wells and made a lot of money from cup runs. I saw us beat Liverpool 1-0 in 1981/2 but will never forget the capital cup run and final.

    He may get criticism for signing loan players but this is par for the course in this league.

  9. I agree with Jason’s comment and will clap Parky when he returns. If he returns that is.

    What I don’t understand about him going is where he went to. There will be enormous pressure at Bolton. They still think of themselves as a Premier League club and will be desperate to get back there.

    With new owners and the need to win back a vey disaffect fan base the club will be wanting success very quickly. Much as we liked him, Phil did not produce exciting football teams in any of his seasons at City, playing football that will bring big crowds back to Bolton.

    It’s not inconceivable that if Bolton are mid table early 2017 that their board will look for another option to get them into the pay-offs.

    As we can see from the stats very few managers, particularly in Leagues 1 and 2, get the long-term support that Phil got from Rhodes and lawn.

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