Give us something to believe in

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown

In the 15 years I have been writing about Bradford City, I’ve always tried to preach the values of long-term thinking and patience. Of giving managers, players and owners time. Of not making rash judgements on just a handful of games. But I’m finding it very difficult to apply that logic right now.

It is early days in the season, and the six games so far have seen some glimpses of promise, most notably the opening day victory at Shrewsbury. But with the vision and strategy adopted by the club over the summer already difficult to buy into, it feels as though the four defeats so far are evidence of impending failure.

Yes, of course, in the famous Premier League promotion season of 1998/99, City got off to a woeful start before it came together gloriously. And had the club given into early season panic back then, it would have been the wrong call. But that was 20 years ago now, and it has never been repeated. Instead, bad starts of 2003/04, 2010/11 and 2011/12 have been preludes to dismal seasons. All too often, early impressions are reliable indicators of what lies in store.

So where does this season’s slow start leave Bradford City? First and foremost, it shows the hangover of last season stubbornly lingers on, and with it the mood in and around the club is bleak. It is unfair to write off new signings so quickly, and to turn on the team so readily, but as fans we’ve endured five months of poor football at the back end of last season, and our patience levels are exhausted. This is the legacy of 2017/18 that the new players must deal with.

Sadly, this is no longer the club of Gary Jones and Stephen Darby. The incredible bond between supporters and players, which took the club to such amazing heights between 2012 and 2017, is broken. It is going to take time to build it back. Ability is not everything to us supporters. We will generally always value dedication and bravery. As players hid from the ball against Wycombe Wanderers, they need to learn quickly that this simply won’t be tolerated. Give everything for the club, and mistakes will be more readily forgiven.

Michael Collins likes to talk about understanding the club, and both he and especially Greg Abbott would do well to teach the players what Bradford City is really all about – and about the players who have succeeded. Get Gary Jones in to do a talk. Invite supporters to speak to the team. Hold it in the 2013 suite. Let the team understand and start to embrace our history. If they can appreciate our values, they can hopefully start to play like Bradford City players. Our history should inspire them, not weigh them down – but it needs to be understood.

On Collins I have some sympathy. Quite frankly, he should not have been given the job. At 32, and just starting out in coaching, he needed to learn the ropes – not be thrust into this role and effectively hung out to dry. He can often talk in cliches, he needs media training, and he would do well to be a little more humble. But in reality, Edin Rahic’s confidence and belief in Collins’ coaching ability should have been developed behind the scenes for a few more years.

During the World Cup, several fans tried to draw comparisons between the bright way Gareth Southgate was managing England and what Collins could offer. It was grasping at straws – Southgate has over a decade worth of experience in coaching, he was never a novice – and crucially missed an important point. Until Southgate was thrust into the England role following a newspaper sting on Sam Allardyce, the FA was letting him develop by looking after England youth teams and learning behind the scenes.

This type of approach would have aided Collins. He might ultimately prove to be a good head coach at Bradford City, but thrown into the job now with such little experience, he has to make his inevitable mistakes out in public, and operates under the cloud of suspicion that he is a puppet of the chairman. He is facing a hard time simply because his public has no faith in his ability to do the job – or in the process that led to his appointment.

Collins embodies much of the problems holding back the club. Clever theory, but a lack of substance. Good ideas, but a huge struggle to bring them to life practically. A belief that being bold will bring high rewards, without fully grasping the risks.

At times City look very badly set up. We have yet to see a true style and identity in the way Collins wants them to play. The players – who call him Mickey, rather than boss or gaffer – seem to like him, but does he really inspire them? Is he good enough, yet, to lead the club? Was he the best pick or the most malleable choice?

Which brings us onto Edin Rahic. The central figure in the supporter unrest, and the increasing target of fans’ ire. Confidence in the direction that he is taking the club continues to dwindle. Anger levels are rising. It could start to get nasty very soon.

Rahic is here to stay it seems, save for the unlikely prospect of Stefan Rupp deciding to unseat his business partner. Any supporter campaign to drive Rahic out of the club will probably fail on account of the owners’ steadfast resolution to stay the course, and the uncertainty over whether anyone else could buy the club from them. It is counter-productive.

But clearly, there is a huge problem. The decisions taken over 2018 have been bad ones. The sacking of Stuart McCall in February was hugely controversial at the time. It now looks like one of the worst decisions in modern times. The 2017/18 collapse also saw the players roundly condemned and many departures over the summer that were cheered by many fans, but is it more to do with the environment and culture of the club? The treatment of Matt Kilgallon looks suspiciously troubling. It is hard to believe it is being taken purely for football reasons.

To look at it another way, in January 2018 a season collapsed. Since that point the manager has been sacked, and almost every member of the squad has been moved on. Yet the downturn has continued. The root cause of the collapse has yet to be addressed, it seems.

With Rahic reportedly a regular at training sessions, and the image that swirled around social media of him leaning over the director’s box at Southend to speak to his manager, it doesn’t look clever. The narrative that is prevailing right now is that the chairman is getting too involved in the footballing side of things, aided perhaps by an inexperienced young head coach who would find it difficult to tell his boss to mind his own business. And with more non-playing staff leaving the club in recent weeks, the impression from the outside is one of turmoil. Impressions can be wrong, but City have a big credibility problem and that stems from Rahic’s approach.

It leaves City facing three paths. They either continue on with this strategy, even though the direction of travel looks dark and downwards. Rahic and Rupp sell the club – not on the agenda. Or Rahic modifies his leadership approach to be less hands on. It would be wrong to blame everything bad on the chairman; but in just over two years at the helm, he has overseen and instigated massive change – and that makes him accountable.

I’d like to see change myself. Bring in a director of football with proven expertise. Appoint a new COO, or at least tap up James Mason for his experience and expertise before his notice period comes to an end. Rahic is in really deep now. If he sacks Collins, his credibility is further shot as the man who appointed him in the first place. And just how attractive will the Bradford City job look anyway? City are already on their third different manager/head coach this calendar year. It badly needs stability in the hotseat.

Rahic needs to support Collins, giving him all the help he needs. There is nothing wrong with not having all the answers. Get the support you need to make this work. It is not nice to see how unpopular Rahic has become, but football is increasingly full of owners who are disliked by their fans. This isn’t a time for egos. Start doing the right things and acting as a custodian of the club – rather than the perception of a dictator – and opinions will in time change. Ultimately, only success on the field can cure the current problems. That should be the focus.

To us supporters, Bradford City looks a mess. And it is going to turn really ugly very quickly, if things carry on as they are. If Edin Rahic wants to be successful, he has to start appreciating what the club is good at – or at least what it was good at. A storm is brewing, and he is going to find himself right in the eye of it unless things change very quickly.

Right now, the mood is as dark as I have known it – and the contrast feels especially sharp, given how only recently this club felt so together and powerful. I have heard fans wanting the club to lose games so that anti-Rahic protests will move closer. Others have become disengaged, and stopped attending games or caring. That is incredibly bleak. “It doesn’t feel like my club anymore” is repeated too often. It is heart-breaking to hear.

Who owns Bradford City: Stefan Rupp and Edin Rahic, or 18,000 Bradford City supporters? The answer should be everyone. Instead, a power struggle lies ahead that come become horrible and self-destructive.

Long-term thinking is important, but it only works if you believe in the vision and have confidence it can work. Right now, as supporters we simply don’t have that.

Categories: Opinion

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31 replies

  1. In January 2018 it wasn’t just the season that collapsed – it was the whole club!!

    Rahic needs to do one and quick!!!!

    Give us back our club!!!

  2. Just need one of the big sponsors who is feeling and seeing the same thing and the whole place will collaspe like a pack of cards!!

  3. There is only one solution to what is going on at our once proud club, is for the people who sold our club to this lot is for them to buy it back with other investors who are there and willing and the names are out there just get together before it is to late.

  4. I am and my son have stopped attending, being a supporter for 35 years I haven’t felt so apathetic since the times of docherty somethings go to change, Rahic and his vision is I believe is taking us down

  5. So so sad this makes for heartbreaking reading. The players who many fans felt had stopped playing have moved on and still the situation goes from bad to worse the problem has to be the set up and the affect it has on back room staff that filters down to an inexperienced coach and players.Unless Rahic changes his approach massively l can see us going into a real decline both on and off the pitch.Please don’t let this happen to our much loved club the fans deserve much better than this.

  6. This is my 40th season and i renewed as my daugher loves going. Howevet, i stopped going for 1 season under Docherty after 3 games. Im heading the same way under Rahic. I simply dont care anymore and cannot believe how Rahic treats a club legend, players and fans. The club is heading for league 2, is disjointed and the sooner Rahic and Rupp are bought out if the club the better. Good ridance.

  7. STUART, STUART, STUART, STUART, STUART etc. add infidum!

    It’s done Jason…it’s properly done, I’m really sad about that and watching it die in front of my eyes is even more heartbreaking!

  8. I couldn’t believe how poorly the team played yesterday – the most apathetic performance I have seen at Valley Parade. No movement off the ball, hopelessly bad passing, and a general reluctance to take responsibility. I’ve stayed out of the debate (such as it is) so far, as a lot of the comments seem to me to be pretty mindless, but surely enough is enough??

  9. A good summary, Jason thank you. Although I’m struggling with the phrase ” It would be wrong to blame everything bad on the chairman” – I can’t think of anything meaningful that doesn’t ultimately reflect on Edin!? WOAP is about my only contact with the club now – it just too painful to read a daily dose of abject misery or listen to radio commentators desperate to find positives to keep their audiences.

    After 35 years I stopped going when Rahic lied and then sacked Stuart. As a family we will not give Rahic a single penny to fund his megalomania. The sooner the whole Rahic enterprise implodes the better. I just want the pain to stop – it’s like a form of grieving – a deep sense of loss. While I haven’t lived in Bradford for 30 years, I still visit family weekly and every time I take a look down on VP in the distance I feel sick at what’s happened to our club and togetherness.

  10. Another great article. We need change and fast whether that is coach, owners or both. I been a supporter since ’83 and have always felt a strong connection to everything at the club. R&R have all but destroyed it in 2 years. I don’t want to attend games anymore and have yet to collect my ST’s. It saddens me greatly. How has it come to this?

  11. Worried, very worried about my passionate club, with the best fan base in the North.

    Edin, you said you love the fan base at this club, then do the right thing and sell and let this club get back to hard graft that the majority of the fans do week in week out to come and watch, that is why this is a special place, Win, Lose or Draw, when the passion is there and the fighting spirit you can take a loss as a fan, what I saw on Saturday was dejectiom, no direction, no passion, no organisation and lack of commitment, then if this is the New way forward, it’s not for this club and time is time, you have had a go and it’s Frozen. So just let it go, Let it go, let it go.

  12. Great article. Simon Parker also summed it up well in his T & A summary of the match. It is no longer possible to paint over the cracks. Cliches and promises of action cuts no ice with me. My first City match was in 1965 a derby match with Park Avenue. That is when my love affair with City began. I have lost my heart and my enthusiasm for the club. I feel let down and lied to. The Kilganon situation should not be allowed to fester. Supporters are not stupid! They will not be lied to nor will they continue to support a club that has total contempt for them. Rahic promised communication with supporters – nothing happens – so the suspicion and conspiracy theories festers. It will not be long before the club loses its supporter base that has taken years to build. Unless there is a change in direction I see no end to this decline.

  13. Hard to understand a hangover from last season with an almost entirely new squad and a new management regime. They won the first match (just) but it has been pretty much a decline ever since them – except for a scrappy and fortunate narrow win over Burton. Get Gary Jones in alright..but not to just give a talk..but to take over the coaching and football decision making. Mike and Martin can support him for continuity and Greg can return to just recruitment and scouting. It isn’t too late yet but will be by the end of September – as at this rate of deterioration the atmosphere will become untenable.

  14. It has become obvious to me that there was no desire to succeed whilst Stuart was manager by our erstwhile chairman…. the Rahic blue print could never have been implemented on the back of Stuart’s potential success which is utterly unforgivable. The treatment of Matt Kilgallon is both illogical and distasteful. I sat at Roots Hall watching a team I felt totally disconnected with… even the new strip looks wrong…I’m sorry, I don’t belive

  15. You have hit the nail on the head, the content and style of your writing is very engaging and sadly accurate.
    Like many on here and elsewhere, I have supported City for a very long time. As I have over a fifty mile round trip to each game, then if I stop coming this season, then it is likely to be the end of actually supporting City.
    One of the main things that keeps me attending at the moment is the social side. I have a large group of friends and acquaintances, and what binds those relationships is City. Stop coming and that is likely to be lost forever, as other activities and interests are likely to fill my life.
    It really needs the owners to start to think through the consequences of their actions, reflect on what is being said and learn from it.
    I would estimate that there were only just over 10,000 at Valley Parade on Saturday, irrespective of the ‘official gate’. I go with a group of six and only half of us where at Valley Parade for the Wycombe game. If this continues, irrespective of ‘cheap season tickets’ I foresee the numbers dropping below 10,000 next season, and from a high of approaching 19,000 supporters then that would be a catastrophic development.

  16. As usual an excellent article, balanced and well thought out with some good suggestions for the owners. But will they read the article and take on board the suggestions- im not sure as Rahic seems determined to run the club and football all by himself.

  17. Excellent article which I hope Edin reads. I think we have to try and understand what makes the guy tick. From the outside his ownership is about fulfilling a long held dream of owning a football club whilst making sufficient money for a comfortable life style. So it will eventually be about money. And here it’s Stefan that holds the key. When he sees the value of his investment going down the pan, he will hopefully step in and get a grip of the situation. Trouble is, it might take relegation before that happens. What a mess!

    • The club is currently worthless with no assets of value. Edin has spunked both his and Rupp’s investment. They paid far too much for the club in the first place and have trashed that investment.

  18. It would be wonderful to believe that either a) Rahic and Rupp will step aside or b) Rahic will become a silent figure in the background, however Rahic is dug in deep now and his view on supporter unrest seems to be: “if you don’t like it, there’s the door” (I think he even said this during the Bantams Banter interview).

    I like the suggestions of getting fans or prior City legends in to explain to the players what the club means, however Rahic is never going to allow that. The fact that we are Bradford City is irrelevant to him and who we are as a club and where we have come from is of little note to him. He has shown nothing but contempt for those who have actual experience or a powerful voice on how football matters should be dealt with and we know this because every single person that has seemingly had a differing view to Rahic has gone. He is our “head of football” living out his Ralf Rangnick fantasy and given he has everything riding on this; his training ground meddling and him continuing to operate as Chairmen, CEO, Head of recruitment and so on is our (depressing) future.

  19. I hoped, after Tuesday, that you would not need to write this article. But, unfortunately, you had to. Saturday was a disgrace. There was no cohesion, no plan, no effort apart from Payne, and later on, Gibson and Colville. To me, the game was epitomised by the shambolic defensive positioning and goalkeeping leading to the first goal, by the lack of a captain on the field, by the appalling performance of the players, and this was most noticeable to me in Akpan who strolled around avoiding effort.
    The blame is blindingly obviously Rahic, and Collins is either not up to the job or not being allowed to do the job. Probably both.
    I wish I did not have a season ticket, because we wasted our money. For the first time in many years, I am debating whether or not to accept the waste and not go again.
    I am dismayed, distressed, angry.
    The owners must want the club to succeed, that is certain. But that means that Rahic is a fool, and Rupp has more money than sense.
    I see no way out of it. Players who don’t try, managers who don’t make them try, understandably apathetic fans, clueless owners. I dread to think it, but we are on a very steep slippery downhill slope.
    I wouldn’t think so badly if they were poor players, but they are not. They are leaderless and unmotivated.
    The omission of Kilgallon sums it up.
    This is a very sad time.

  20. What would it take for Rahic and Rupp to understand that the current situation is not acceptable to die hard supporters. For only the 2nd time in my life as a City fan
    (nearly 60 years) I have left the match before the full time whistle. No bums on seats is what’s on the cards if it gets any worse, and that will have a knock on effect for the refreshment facilities in the ground….. plus all the pubs that supporters go to before and after the match. …. I sincerely hope we don’t end up with only 1,000 at home games…..but if that’s what it takes to get these jokers to sit up and notice, then so be it. As for Killer. As I understand it, is that he’s on 49 games and to play his 50th he would be paid a bonus (or something to that effect) If this a true, then shame on you Mr Chairmen for letting our player of the year down.

  21. I was in the legends lounge before the Barnsley game, Rahic was interviewed and stated ” I make decisions with my Bradford City heart”. Well its time to use your head. Our recruitment has been dire under your stewardship, we cant appoint a proven manager, we have a HC that doesnt inspire anyone , a captain on the field that is not good enough at all, our tactics or lack of them are laughable.
    Unfortunately we are stuck with R&R, lets hope that Rupp looks at the situation and decides to get rid of Rahic to protect his investment. We can always live in hope

  22. What a mess and a very sad situation.
    I too am one of those fans who have lost all interest / affiliation with the club.
    I really do fear the worst under this set of incompetents.
    Edin, Stefan ,Greg Michael, Martin you have let the whole of Bradford down.
    To coin a phrase “you couldn’t run a sweet shop”.
    Cliche after cliche from the head coach.
    Nothing at all from the Chairman (again) despite him stating he would learn from his mistakes !
    We need a take over and fast , get a new Proper football manager in who actually know something and can motivate and get his message across.
    Sadly this won’t happen.
    League 2 and beyond we are the new Orient!!!!!!
    Well done Edin, Stefan ,Greg Michael, Martin well done……..quite frankly a pathetic effort.

  23. Absolutely spot on. I feel the club have been going backwards from the toxicity at Yeovil, the players after that game seemed to be disinterested and went through the motions. The current team need to up the ante and show us some passion for the City shirt pretty quickly. As for Collins in my opinion stick to the system which suits the team, with the pacy wingers we have why play 1 upfront. We are not a premier league club who can change system due to the world class players they have. It’s difficult to see where the goals will come from and whatever the issue with killgallon, sort it, he is too good to not be in the team

  24. In the end, to drive the corporate vandalism and old fashioned incompetence of the Walter Mitty that is Rahic out we will need to make it personal, whilst always staying on the side of the law. He needs to be made to feel unwelcome in his own living room as well as at the club, that way he will be begging Rupp to bail him out of his self-created agony, we could wait for relegation or start some real legal agitation as soon as possible. What he has done is unforgivable and need stopping in it’s tracks now.

    • I think if the atmosphere gets any worse surrounding Rahic. Then he’ll do his disappearing act again, like he did post McCall’s sacking. Whether this will improve the mood around the club I don’t know, but at least he can’t interfere on the training pitch if he’s not physically there.

      I’m intrigued as to what you think City fans can do, within the law, to accelerate his departure? I’m afraid City could easily become the next Charlton or even Orient. With foreign ownership that’s rarely seen at the club.

  25. So far this season the only players with any credit are Kilgallon, O’Donnell, O’Connor, Payne, Scannell, Colville, Gibson, Doyle and possibly Miller

  26. another good piece…….however i disagree about protest. I think it can work and push Rupp into protecting his investment. The chances of Edin totally changing are slim. If fans hit them in the pocket yep it may hurt us in the short term but i think it is the better alternative than the longer term with Edin controlling things. Rupp has no interest in football but if will if he realises that this is going to hit him in the pocket and also the status he achieves from owning the club won’t look so great if the direction they have taken it is backwards.

    We need to enter the home games late in an organised protest. This will show the amount of unrest and potential season ticket losses next season. Individuals are choosing to not go and protest in their owb ways but this can be easily dismissed.

    Expecting Rahic to change and or waiting for him to do so is potentially more damaging imo. You even say in the article that Rahic would be reluctant to sack Colins as he appointed him so you expect him to be stubborn. He has changed the recruitment policy sightly once he realised that he wasn’t a scouting expert and that German 3rd divison players ain’t going to turn into diamonds from the premier league. He needs to know that he can’t push around the fans like he has staff apparently…..he appears to be a bully but a bully cannot expect to beat thousands of fans especially when you need them to survive and achieve your original goals

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