Listen to the people who have the club at their heart

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Aaron Bower

There was an interesting discussion in my local pub recently about our favourite footballers of all-time. As it went around the table, the usual set of names invariably came up: Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Paul Scholes. My response was short, sharp and instant: Gary Jones.

My earliest memories of football were noticing my dad left the house at 12pm on a Saturday afternoon and didn’t come back until 6pm, so I eventually asked him to take me along to a Bradford City game for the first time as a six-year-old in 1995. He begrudgingly accepted and, before too long, I was hooked.

It wasn’t glamorous, and it sure as hell wasn’t edge-of-the-seat exciting most of the time, but the thing about Bradford City is that once you’re hooked, it’s very difficult to simply stop caring. The camaraderie you witness among a group of people who are all praying for the same thing. It’s brilliant. The community feel Bradford City has had for years is unbelievable, and of the hundreds of players I’ve seen pull the shirt on over the last 23 years, nobody – or very few – people embodied that spirit quite like Gary Jones.

He was an outsider, a person who had absolutely no affiliation with Bradford City throughout his life before arriving as the most significant piece of Phil Parkinson’s history-making puzzle in 2012. We took to Jones: mostly because Jones understood what it meant to be a Bradford City player and captain.

“I want to give it my best, especially with those supporters,” he once said. They’re just an unbelievable set of fans. They gave you that confidence to express yourself.”

And this where you, Edin Rahic, come into the piece. If you asked 10,000 Bradford City fans to lay down their level of confidence in the current owners on a scale of 1-100, you would almost certainly get a wide range of answers. However, given how the last six months have panned out on and off the field, the average score would be much lower now than it was this time two years ago when yourself and Stefan Rupp assumed control of the club.

It’s important to stress that you’ve spent your own money on purchasing this club, and as such, you have a right to do with it as you please. Attempting to run it as a business is a commendable way of doing things, and no City fan would want to go back to how things were when we came desperately close to losing our club. But unlike any of your previous business interests, most businesses do not have 15,000 stakeholders who want a return on their financial and emotional investment every single Saturday.

While the last six months have been disappointing on the field, off-field matters have been arguably more concerning. Football fans are well-renowned for being a fickle bunch; I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard people come out of Valley Parade on a Saturday afternoon saying they won’t be coming back again only to be there seven days later. But concerns from friends and people who have dedicated most of their adult lives to Bradford City lately underline the problem to me. People allege that the club has lost its identity and direction. I am finding it increasingly hard to disagree, and that is a worry.

My question is simple, Edin: are you listening to your supporters, the people that really, really matter in all of this? Are you aware of the split and disconnect that is developing between club and fanbase? You only have to go back five years or so to find a club that was wholly connected from boardroom to terrace – right now, the situation could not be more different.

Matter of Heart may have looked glossy and glamorous to the outsiders, but when the Telegraph and Argus confirmed that a graphic scene from this club’s darkest day in 1985 had to be taken out, it emphasised that you are not aware of how the supporters feel. If you truly understood Bradford City fans and how they were wired emotionally, you would not have even considered including such distressing footage.

Rumours are exactly that, and are to be taken with a pinch of salt, but the constant talk of you, Edin, being unwilling to heed advice from people who have Bradford City in their DNA, again makes me as a supporter question whether you are listening to the people who care the most about this great football club. When good people like James Mason – who like most of us, was fulfilling a lifelong dream in being involved in the running of the club – feel they have no option but to walk away, you should know something is not quite right.

This is the most crucial season of yours and Stefan’s project. You have got your head coach; and rightly or wrongly, some people believe the appointment of Michael Collins to be a medium for you to get involved with team selection. I have no idea if that is true, but rest assured that City fans will back Michael and his team from minute one at Shrewsbury in August. If it fails, the buck stops with you, Edin. If things go wrong, you should be prepared for an almighty backlash from fans who are already on the brink of rejecting your ownership good and proper.

In May you told the Telegraph and Argus you were “happy with the shortlist we have prepared” in regards to the head coach. It then emerged upon Collins’ appointment that he did not even apply for the job and only became a serious contender days before he was announced. What happened, Edin? It is statements and outcomes like these that leave fans confused, and leave them questioning whether you are the best person to drive this club forward. For want of a better word, some supporters feel like they are being lied to at the moment.

On Thursday night, the news of Colin Doyle’s departure, having in his own words been told the club were going in a “different route”, again left fans unhappy. That, in reality, is a far less significant situation; players come and go in the world of football. But Doyle went above and beyond the call of duty for Bradford City, flying home to play two games in 24 hours. It is that kind of commitment and emotional buy-in supporters crave.

In the video with Bantams Banter last month, you were asked a straightforward question: “Do you acknowledge that mistakes were made this season?” That was the opportunity to say one word: yes.

It would have appeased supporters, Edin, and let them see that you are honest and transparent enough to admit to your mistakes. Instead, you gave a contrived answer about Shrewsbury and Huddersfield showing what is possible with everyone pulling in the same direction. You must now understand that until you are honest and open with your supporters, Edin, you will never be able to get everyone pulling in the same direction. The situation is not irretrievable, but it is becoming more and more so by the day.

One thing I have no doubt about is that you and Stefan want Bradford City to succeed. We all do – and that is the most important part of all of this. Listen to your supporters. Listen to the people who have the club at their heart. It’s understandable that you will make mistakes along the way, because you have to be big enough to accept you are making them. And without a willingness to take advice from the people who bleed claret and amber, you’re doomed to fail in the eyes of many, I’m afraid.

Bradford City will be around long after you, and all of us, are gone. Without its fans, Bradford City is nothing. At the player of the year awards earlier this year, Stefan said: “This year was not as successful as we originally planned. But ultimately, it’s our responsibility and therefore please take the apologies of Edin and me.“ It’s time to now prove that you’ve learned some lessons and are willing to listen to the people who care the most because, together, we are stronger.

Categories: Opinion

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28 replies

  1. As usual a lot of common sense and saying what needs to be said but unfortunately I think our owners will not listen

  2. James Mason had no chance but to walk away, where is that from? Or is it another made up story to make the story seem worse than it is. Wish people would stop posting negative stuff and just get behind the club.

  3. Well as Edin said in the Bantams Banter interview “I have to convince everybody this is the right way, but if you don’t like it, there’s the door…you can go & do something else”

    Those are the words of a control freak, an egomaniac, someone who doesn’t care about what anybody else thinks.

    • In addition to what Christian says, what about the change in City’s traditional colours to match the German national flag colours. What exactly is the message that Rahic is sending us?
      Rahic is an egomaniac, with no respect for both the people that work with him and City fans.

      • They don’t match the German colours at all

      • This [colours matching the german flag] sounds like cobblers to me, a rumour from “someone who knows” again.

      • I’m not a fan of Rahic but the idea that he has changed the club colours to mirror the German flag could arguably be the most ludicrous thing i’ve ever read online. Some people need to give their head a shake.

  4. When you send text message from whoever at the club to Colin Doyle to say no thanks …. without at least proper phone call or meeting to acknowledge Doyle in the correct manner.. says it all to me …. this club is no longer the once big family it was .. .
    Nothing so far suggests to me I made the wrong decision in not renewing my season tkts

    • But not renewing doesn’t help does it?.A self fulfilling prophecy of decline due to lower revenues.

      • The club looks like it may well end up like Avenue did under Herbert Metcalfe, anyway. Why renew if you despise the owners and everything they stand for?

      • Dave think about what you are saying.
        Buying season tkts gives Mr Rahic the finance to keep the club running and not having to care what the supporter thinks.
        If we all made stand on not going it will get the club in financial difficulties yes but so will Mr Rahic investment.
        When gone the club can be rebuilt .

  5. I eagerly await each WOAP article from its excellent team of writers. It puts Simon Parker’s politically correct columns well and truly in the shade. That’s not a personal criticism of Simon because he is constrained by the need to maintain a working relationship with the club ( Rahic!).

    As far as I am aware there has been no recent update on season ticket sales, in complete contrast to previous years where regular sales figures were released. There are unsubstantiated estimates of a 5,000 shortfall compared to last season. I’m not sure I’d even believe the figure if it ever gets released. What is clear that, in “cash” terms it must be sizeable given the low cost, and novice, nature of the coaching staff and youngsters (Josh Wright excluded) the club has signed.

    Reading other forums there is already talk about protests and I fear that, if the club make a bad start, the whole thing will get nasty.

    I never thought I’d talk about “the club” rather than “we”. And all that’s down to Rahic. The bad news is that the guy appears to be getting worse.

  6. Watched city since 1945 but no more here comes the conference there is no way does the owner have any interest other than to may money so he thought

    Will save me travelling from reading for home matches


  7. Good well structured critism and questioning of the regime….strikes me they are not listening and learning as every time they try to apologise for one thing they end up doing yet another own goal time after time….first the coach saga, then the new kit, then the situation with Doyle….one thing after another – one step forward, 2 backwards every time.

    Edin it is now time to REALLY start listening you are in LAST CHANCE SALOON!

  8. Good article setting out what many of us feel about the club we love. The club is nothing without the supporters. This week has been another bad week – Mason going, Head Coach farce, German shirt and Colin Doyle. I fail to see how even the happiest of clappers cannot be concerned about the current state of affairs?

  9. Great article Aaron. Well done.

    I am worried and concerned about next season.

    I am disillusioned with what’s happening at our football club.

    May I just highlight that if things went from bad to worse, the football club might not be here long after we’re gone. I still remember the summer of 2004 and still don’t take my club for granted.

  10. I’m not sure what advice they are supposed to take supporters or people who love Bradford City? Edin, Greg, Drury and Collins need to get the squad sorted and then the players and the coaches need to get it right on the pitch. Everything else is secondary to me, if we’re winning I’m happy if not I won’t be. Every single decision is being jumped on ever since Stuart went. Unfortunately you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

  11. “some people believe………. I have no idea if that is true” -social media and the current situation summed up there in that sentence.

  12. We are going too far now. I do not believe that Doyle and his agent did not ask for too much. He is okay but easily replaceable. Rahic has in my opinion made 3 mistakes. He is German. He bought City. He sacked McCall. So James Mason left. So what. Please stop moaning. Look at the positives. The new pitch. New coaching team. New players. Get behind them.

    • Correct John.

      Its summer, speculation and conspiracy is rife. Whilst I in no way agree with of what Ed has done recently the noise surrounding him is getting out of hand.

      Once we get football to watch we get something to actually talk about. If we get 20 points from the first 10 games next season all this, from German colours to Colin Doyle, will be forgotten. I worry that should we not get off to that sort of flying start the young players will come under massive pressure. As a father of two young lads I’d hate to think of them being abused by an angry VP crowd and it will be a tough test for them so early on in their footballing careers. I hope we give these guys a chance to develop and direct any frustration at the leadership rather than these young guys.

      You also have to give credit to Ed for fixing the pitch. For too long its been an embarrassment and hopefully it will be fixed for once and all this time. I didn’t agree with sacking McCall, but people forget there were plenty who did want him gone. Its sad to see Colin Doyle go and if he did learn his fate by text that is troubling but again, there there’s many a player who’s left City in similar circumstances and plenty of supporters who were calling for him to be dropped earlier in the season.

      Football fans are a fickle bunch and there’s not a lot which cant be fixed by a good run of wins. The stakes are incredibly high though. A poor start and I really fear the worse.

      Its going to be one hell of a ride. Typical bantams fare – hold onto your hats….

  13. Here we go again – “we are heading for the Conference”. Yet the players we have signed look – well intriguing.
    But as someone rightly points out, every decision made now is jumped on and criticised. In the past managements have been derieded for making signings late in the close season. We now have made 5 or 6 since the season ended but they are being written off as “not good enough” or “too young”.
    Doyle was offered a new contract at the end of the season. 7 weeks on he had not signed it {presumably because he felt he deserved more} and so the club has decided it is time to make other arrangements. Personally I wish he was staying but we got over losing Matt Clark, Jonny Mac etc
    Rahic has made mistakes but let’s not twist every single move he makes down to a plot. Just because a fan does not agree with a decision or a signing does not mean that Rahic is not listening to the fans. If he is a businessman, he will be listening to his customers.

  14. I personally am getting tired of the constant criticism, yes I/ we as supporters don’t like what we are seeing because it is alien to the way the club has been run before, maybe this will bring us the success we all crave. I think we should give it time, lets face it we can’t do any other. If we are scrapping in the bottom four at christmas then we should make our voices heard.How do you think the new players feel when they see that they are deemed as too young or not good enough, before a ball is kicked?. It will do wonders for their confidence,” if I misplace a pass or don’t play the right ball i’m going to get pilloried by the keyboard critics”. Lets try and be positive.
    I am not happy about a lot of things that are happening at our club but can do nothing about it, so I will be down at Valley Parade supporting my team, for better or worse. I also think the Colin Doyle situation shows a lack of respect to a guy who has done well for us in his time at the club. Good luck Colin hope you get fixed up soon and thanks

  15. I think the owners hear us but don’t listen to us. So to me that means we are irrelevant to the owners but they know at least 15000 will be back, so why should they listen.

    The only way they will listen is if numbers drop really significantly under the 10000 mark. Unfortunately that would be bad for the club and team so we are stuck in a vicious circle

  16. Edins last job was Finance/HR and then MD at Hawes Hydrualics. He was there 2009-12.

    In just over 2 years he made an impact. In the full financial year that they got rid of him (2012), year on year profits collapsed by 77.4%. His replacement immediately changed their fortunes.

    Since 2012 Edin has not had a job until City.,+Aschheim/Amtsgericht+M%C3%BCnchen+HRB+185733

    • How good is your German? Whilst a good FD is a must he is not going to materially effect a businesses bottom line in such a short time in a decent sized manufacturing company where all sorts of other iindividuals and variables are in play. Unless you can come up with some specific references which i cannot find in your link i suggest this is filed under mischevious at best!

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