The fight of our lives


By Jason McKeown 

It took a lot of effort to be at Valley Parade tonight. The wife had an evening function to go to, and it was my turn to stay home with the kids. The perfect excuse not to go. But instead, I got my dad to babysit, meaning he had to get back from what he was doing slightly early. And because it takes time to travel to Bradford, I had to leave the wife to sort out the kids until he got there. She wasn’t impressed, tutting disapprovingly and sighing loudly as I headed off.

It took a lot of effort to be at Valley Parade tonight. But in the past I wouldn’t have worried about any of the hassle. Missing a home game was always unthinkable. Going to Bradford City is my thing, and I’ve spent more than 20 years asking others to make sacrifices for me going, trying to make up for it later. I don’t really drink. I never go to the pub. Bradford City is the one vice that others kindly tolerate.

It took a lot of effort to be at Valley Parade tonight. Not just because of childcare headaches, but because the stench of Bradford City’s 2018 decay makes it more and more tempting not to bother. I’m not there yet, and I genuinely hope I never will be. But amongst friends and acquaintances who I habitually chat to about the Bantams, there’s been a notable drop off in people going. Some have found the purer joys of non league football. Others just don’t want to know full stop. On the official City website this week, the club revealed some 2018/19 season ticket holders have yet to actually pick up their season ticket card. I’m guessing they won’t be bothering. Writing off their £169 outlay without taking in a single game.

It took a lot of effort to be at Valley Parade tonight. Evidently too much effort for many. The stadium felt eerily half empty. Vacant seats outnumbering those with bums planted. Stay home and watch the Champions League. Or Bake Off. Or go to the pub or to the cinema. Stay away from a chilly West Yorkshire night. From watching this underwhelming football team. From having anything to do with this deeply unpopular ownership regime.

It took a lot of effort to be at Valley Parade tonight. And for those who stayed away, the big worry is how many will bother to come back.

They certainly didn’t miss anything here, as the beleaguered City side plummeted to new depths. They fell a goal behind in under 90 seconds and were 2-0 down by the tenth minute. Coventry were hardly the strongest of League One teams, but were comfortably better in every department.

City look every inch a team that will be relegated. Watching them tonight and against Rochdale on Saturday, they remind me so much of previously relegated Bradford City sides, like the class of 2003/04 and 2006/07. Back then as now, there was some effort and on paper the players didn’t necessarily appear out of their depth. But performances would be disjointed at best. And at crucial points in matches, dreadful individual mistakes would be their undoing. 90 minute efforts undermined by poor application and self inflicted moments of stupidity.

City huffed and puffed for 45 minutes, but rarely convinced they could come back. Many fans left at half time. Those that stayed were rewarded by Anthony O’Connor pulling a goal back. But within eight minutes they were 4-1 behind through more dismal defending. A second for O’Connor and City preserved some interest in the final knockings, but a disallowed George Miller goal for handball saw the on loan striker dismissed. It was a debatable decision and there’s been too many of them late. The final push from City was heartening, yet ultimately the Bantams were well beaten and have now slumped to the bottom of League One. It is hard, even at this relatively early stage, to make a case for them staying up.

There was initially some improvement when David Hopkin took over, but after four straight defeats that looks a distant memory. He lacks the players he needs, but the 4-3-3 deployed here failed to get the best out of Jack Payne and Miller. In the centre Josh Wright was once again feeble and the returning Hope Akpan was too easily knocked off the ball.

The players aren’t really responding to Hopkin. There just isn’t enough mental strength. And behind them there is nothing in reserve. In fact, for all the talk of the owners focusing on youth development, WOAP understands the club hasn’t entered an under 23 development team this season as a cost cutting exercise. So the bright young players at the club aged over 18 have no competitive football. They are being left to stagnate. The one principle Edin Rahic has tried to instil, gone. At this stage it’s tempting to wonder if they’ve given up even pretending they have a strategy.

As bleak as the outlook is around Bradford City right now, the fear is how much worse it will get. Coventry, a club further on the process of deeply unpopular owners, offer cautionary lessons. Even though their plight and fall out is arguably much tamer than the likes of Blackpool, Blackburn and Charlton. But looking ahead at what they and others have endured, and our similar troubled path, there are clearly some major tests to come for City supporters.

Can we stick together, through the rough and rougher? Already the bcafc hash tag is the scene of bitter and depressing fall outs between long-time City supporters. In some areas, friendships are strained. The debates about the culpability of Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp, and how to express the widespread feeling of dismay, are already fraught and heated. As protest efforts inevitably step up from certain quarters, and others resist or disagree with the approach taken, the supporter base will become more fragmented. Not so much on whether you are supportive or in disagreement with the owners – that particular debate is basically over – but on how we go through these tough times.

On a forum this week, one supporter talked about next year’s season tickets, provocatively arguing that anyone who buys one is a traitor. It’s clear that if things stay as they are, there will be an almighty drop off in season ticket sales no matter whether City stay up or avoid the drop. Those of us who renew – and I will certainly be one of them – will be labelled scabs. Those who boycott will be dubbed deserters. When we went to Blackpool early last month, we didn’t come across a group of supporters united in their disgust at the Oystons, but divided in demonstrating their dismay. An undercurrent of dislike of the owners, but expressed in different and divisive ways. Even if the Oystons did the decent thing and sold up, there will be some healing needed between Blackpool fans.

That could be us. I don’t think there is a single City fan not upset at Rahic’s tenure, and even the minority who support him acknowledge he has made mistakes. But we are all guilty of pointing the finger at others. At the Supporters Trust for their self-serving and embarrassing talks with Rahic. At fans who are too angry about the situation. At others who aren’t angry enough. “Head in the sand”. “Unrealistic expectations”. The barbs go back and forth. They will probably get worse.

Somehow as fans we have to stick together and not blame each other. To fall out as a group risks eroding our values of always welcoming others. Of being an inclusive club, where everyone has being made to feel a part of things and welcome. Sure, we argue like hell over everything. But there’s always a shared respect. That could easily be lost.

I believe that we are in the fight of our lives. Not to avoid relegation – we have been to League Two before and ultimately prospered – but the fight to save our football club from the negligence of others.

An erosion of our collective spirit will make for weaker opposition to the demise of our club. I don’t have all the answers for how we drive through this, but I’d feel more confident standing strong alongside 20,000 Bradford City supporters than I would being in a splinter group of a few hundred. We all want the very best for the club. Somehow, we must stick together so we can collectively take the fight to those who threaten our heritage, our values and our future.

Categories: Match Reviews

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36 replies

  1. I went tonight. I just don’t see where the club goes from here now. There was glimpses of what we should expect but that was inbetween periods where we totally switched off and we find ourselves conceding sloppy goals again. I have to say some of the more senior players that we need to stand up and be counted simply aren’t and are hiding away they need to be the example for our younger players.

    With regards to the owners they are the constant in this slump surely 4 head coaches can’t have got this wrong and have failed to get essentially 2 different teams to play.

  2. For personal reasons I didn’t attend the game at Valley Parade tonight. I do fear that there could become divisions amongst supporters which is exactly the opposite of what we need when we are struggling on and off the pitch.
    I feel that we should support Hopkin as I believe that in the medium to long term, he can take us to a higher league position than where we find ourselves at the moment. What is so disheartening is the manner in which our slide down the table has occurred. It could have been avoided.

  3. We need rid of the parasites.
    Then we can build the club up again.

  4. Two points from tonight, firstly as a team we have got used to losing, as fans we are also becoming used to it, as we left tonight having stopped until the end, we thought that wasn’t too bad really until we remembered we hadn’t seen a home league win yet, last one we were in holiday in August. Secondly there are too many signs that cash flow is running out. Executive Box holders are being asked to pay any outstanding balances for this season, every other year this has been around January/February for the third payment.

    • Your comment about cash is pertinent and confirms little prospect of investment in the squad by our current owners in January. Relegation is certain and we can expect further embarrassment to come. But hopefully the end of this chapter is in sight and there will be a new beginning.

  5. All the good work that was done over previous years has been well and truly undone. I don’t think there is a single person left at BCAFC who has an answer to this mess.

    Mr. Rahic was inexperienced and has now proved to be misguided and out of his depth. We’re an experiment gone horribly wrong.

    • The man thought he could buy cheap sell on for more , bring the wage budget down to level that allows Rahic And Rupp to take out finance.

  6. well he cant take us lower in the league can he we are bottom

  7. A united fan base is nonsense, I remember the season ticket holder next to me, telling me every week that Phil Babb was terrible. Isn’t that the joy of football, completely disagreeing with your fellow supporters?

  8. Sorry Jason, but it’s already too late.
    As fans we are resigned to Relegation. Not a hope in hell of staying up.
    But then what hope for next season…….on the back of the last two years under the current owners NONE.
    Unless there is a change in ownership we are going nowhere except in oblivion.

    I doubt even the Thunderbirds could save us now!

  9. I am one still to pick up my ST.So dejected I did not even realise there was a game tonight and am pretty glad I forgot.To hear the Supporters Trust are accepting the spin on just “WHY” is even more depressing.I will make the effort to collect my ST before the weeks out.Whilst Mr Rahic is is Germany.Keep the Faith whilst the gap from 4th bottom is not too high.Hopkin needs to change his helpers.

  10. We’re sinking faster than the Tiatanic.
    Edin Rahic knows he’s on borrowed time …. next season the drop in season tkts sales will be his final nail in the coffin … and it can’t come quick enough.
    Those that choose not to watch will be very hard to entice back to valley parade now unless we find ourselves with rich owner who invests millions into the club.


  11. I think your article sums up what the vast majority of City fans are feeling, it is taking a lot of effort to be at Valley Parade at present and I fear it is only going to get worse, as we head in to the winter.

    The fact fans are walking away from the club is concerning and as your article states will they come back ? It is the loss of the younger fans not coming to games any more,which, is a concern as under Parki and Stuart, there were vast numbers coming to the games and we going to loose these as well.

    We are now heading in to desperately worrying times to be a City Fan, all the good work on and off the pitch, which, was accomplished by the previous Chairmen and CEO’s has been undone in a worrying short period of time, due to gross errors in judgement by the new Chairman.

    As City fans we have watched some poor teams, but this just feels different and the disenchantment and gap between fans and board seems wider and not reparable this time.
    If we go down and the current Chairman is still at the helm, I can see us going down again and fighting for our very existence in the national league.

  12. Jason as valued member of the Cty fan group and someone I respect plesse can you outline any positive moves we the fan’s supporters groups even potential investors can do to make some movement on getting Edin Rahic out our club?….

  13. I attended my first match last night (living abroad for the last six years). I witnessed a lack-lustre performance for the first 10 minutes. Conceding 2 goals so early made any chance of getting anything from the match virtually impossible with the team they had on the pitch. O’Donnell stopped it being a rout (it could have been 2 -6). Your comment regarding everyone should consider sticking together is all well and good but who wants to watch a game when you know what the outcome’s going to be.
    The area we are weak is defence. Midfield are lacking, as is the front line. There is no width and no striker that can hold the ball (like Charlie Wyke). I see little change even with players coming back from injury.
    Crowds are dropping at an alarming rate and I can see little or no funds for January recruitment because of` lack of funds.
    I feel very sad for the long term future of the club I have supported since 1964. I have seen relegation and the club applying for re-election to the football league. I’ve witnessed the joy of promotion to the premier league and the lows of relegation back to the lowest tier and the joy of the rebirth in the Parkinson years. This is something different! I see a similarity now with City to what happened in the 1970’s with Bradford Park Avenue. The chairman of the day (Metcalf), interfered with team affairs and even picked the team. Most people know what happened next. God forbid that happening to us but unless there is a shift-change with these owners, I can only see a dark future for our club. I will continue to watch them but my heart is not really in it. I will go more out of habit than desire.

  14. Well said Jason. I left last night when it went to 4 – 1 (after 70 minutes). In over 40 years of supporting this great club of ours it is only the third time I have left before the end. (One of those was in the 70’s at the insistence of the police for our own safety). I now have serious doubts about whether or not I will go again until the Germans are out of our club and someone gets us moving in the right direction again.

  15. I have read the minutes of the BCST meeting with Edin. I noted that there were significant references in respect of two points, blaming the Supporters. In reality when you go behind after 90 seconds, and then again after 10 minutes, you cannot blame the Supporters, who although perhaps more mute, did not get on the back of the team.
    Frankly this is more transference and trying to blame supporters for the failings of leadership! Rahic in person and Rupp through persistent absence! Frankly if Football is partly about ‘Confidence’, then as Supporters we have No Trust in the Owners, who have Failed!

    • The man’s arrogant totally out of his depth with public relations.
      Blaming supporters is not good idea when there leaving quicker than the titanic sunk.

  16. Good piece Jason reflecting how we all are feeling. It is very hard to drag yourself to VP, we are long standing City fans; I have supported them since 1967, and my husband since 1958. I can honestly say this in terms of football is the worst yet. I honestly don’t blame the players or the manager, they are trying their best with only minimal skill, and resources available.

    Our demise and we have already resigned ourselves to League 2, is completely down to the owners. I think the only plan they had was to make money out of us at whatever cost. Anyone who knows anything about football is this, to rely on Youth Investment as a resource to fund the 1st team is risky at best, and at worst a deliberate act of negligence. Yes of course developing our own youth system is a good aspiration to have, but it needs funding completely seperately from the 1st team budget.

    We are most certainly in a fight of our city lives, but I would urge all city supporters to stick together like glue, yes we all of ideas about what has been happening, but I would urge you to embrace debate, but remember one thing and one thing only we are all City fans and want nothing more than to see our club prosper, the owners are not city fans no matter what is said, they came in 2016, we have all been here much longer with a fine family heritage, so even young supporters have a family heritage, it is in our dna.

    I personally think we should protest and do that as loudly as possible in all formats, it may come naturally or you may be hesitant in any event support any way you can. I will not let my club go down the pan, we have done this before. Our owners have demonstrated they are not fit to take care of our club, and they must leave, then we can try and build up from the wreckage.

    I don’t know whether there are would be owners out there, but sitting in the wreckage and allowing the ppl who engineered it is wrong.

  17. There is alus that sliver of hope that it would be a good night and they would surprise us. That together with an unfortunate sense of duty got me to the game as it always will. It is going to get messy (whether there is concerted fan campaign or not) as it appears ER will not acquire the self awareness to appreciate his own limitations. You wonder what insights his previous employers/colleagues in Germany could provide. I wager they are watching the car crash with interest

  18. seriously, get over yourself all this gunk about you did this or that , im a Pompey fan i didnt see anyone else worried we were getting 21 points taken off us every season ,nor the plight of Blackburn, Leeds , Southampton , Bolton , the list goes on , you got a crap set up , and your going down , no one cares as you did when you thought you were great getting to the league cup .you can bitch all you want its the owners , and look at my team a few years ago out of business, so the supporters bought the club , now top of this division by a mile, think about that you are one of the biggest supported club outside the top divisions , just get onto Portsmouth and find out how to do it
    then when you own the club i will read this with sympathy

    • Nice that you read other clubs’ websites and forums.

      I’d suggest that other clubs’ fans (maybe not Saints ones) were hugely sympathetic to Pompey fans and the ‘club’ but not to the ownership and management whose regime was allegedly based on corrupt practices.

      You’re top of the division with the manager who was vilified by your fans last season, so you just concentrate on getting behind him.

    • Self righteous tosser.

    • Erm Pompey fans sold out to the first money man who came along …enjoy your undeserved rise up the leagues and the crash which will inevitably follow. Has he suggested a name change yet…Pompey Disneyland perhaps?

    • The article is self-indulgent because it’s wrote by a Bradford fan for the current issues concerning Bradford City.

      If you want applause or sunshine blowing up your arse on how well Portsmouth has done, then go on your own forums for it

      Football isn’t a Museum, enjoy your few wins whilst you’re getting them.

    • Agree if there is feesable way we the supporters can buy into the football club then I would certainly be interested.
      So far all I’m seeing is the supporter group leaders sit on there backsides with no movement. What is wrong with getting supporters meeting put together with ideas put forward?.

  19. As always Jason you put it so well. I shall not watch City until things change. I cannot bear to see it and simply be miserable. The owners have damaged the lives of so many decent people. They now seem to have run away. They should hang their heads in shame. How utterly sad.

  20. I do wonder if we’re missing something in relation to what RnR consider to be “success”. As I marvelled at how incompetent we were last night, I was put in mind of the near-demise of QPR a few years ago. The abrasive Briatore and glib Paliadini allegedly stripped the club bare during their tenure. Results didn’t matter overly to them because they made their money from making the club buy superfluous players and taking a cut via Paliadini’s agency fees. The parallels are there- overseas players no-one had heard of who played like George Weah’s cousin; a massive squad; a vast turnover of players and no stabilìty in management.
    Mark Lawn resisted Paliadini’s takeover bid. Shame the current owners weren’t similarly rebuffed as they don’t appear to want anythi ng other than the assets they can strip out of the club.

  21. I’ve paid more money -relatively speaking- to watch worse quality football, with far fewer fans, in a ground that was falling to bits. Where was this? Valley Parade. I’ll still be going to cheer the team on as I did in far worse times. I, of course, want my team to win but I realise this team is more likely to lose. Accepting this, but hoping for some small miracle, results in, for me, a far less stressful, painful -a punch to the solar plexus type of pain- frustrated Saturday. This might sound unbelievable but, I still enjoy going to VP.

    ‘It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun’ (Mark Twight, 2002, “Kiss Or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber”). Or, if you prefer: ”Relish the challenge of overcoming difficulties that would crush ordinary men…learn to suffer” (Again, Mark Twight).

    • It is important to put all of the current affair into perspective. In terms of the historical record there is little argument otherwise that the leadership of Edin Rahic has been inept and even by the standards of VP, probably the worst there has been.

      With regards where we were in 2016 it is wrong to look back and pretend everything was wonderful. The reality is that the club had hit a glass ceiling. We had the choice of treading water and remaining an also-ran in the third division. To go forward and upwards needed new money and new ideas which is why most of us, myself included, were enthusiastic about the new regime which also promised a professional approach to running BCAFC.

      Inevitably the change of ownership in 2016 was a gamble but one that we all accepted as necessary if we were to get a place in the sun. That gamble has ended in failure and whilst considerable uncertainty remains about the future I am quietly upbeat about our prospects. For example we have seen for ourselves that the club has potential. The failure of the last three years has been one of leadership and crucially not because the club has been a hopeless cause.

      I genuinely believe that the club will emerge stronger (eventually) and that despite the shambles of the last year we can actually derive considerable self confidence about BCAFC and what it stands for. To go forward the club needs a vision and without one there is nothing for supporters and an investor to invest in. If you want an idea of what that vision might be you could do worse than read Jason McKeown’s new book ‘Who We Are’ that is published next week. I appreciate that some might interpret this as a cynical form of promotion for the book but take it from me, I can’t think of anything more timely. It will also be recognised as a means by which we can stand back from this utter shambles and take stock. In the meantime keep the faith about the importance of our club as a vital local institution. Besides Edin Rahic won’t be with us indefinitely.

      • Thank you for an excellent reply to my comment John. I will also take up your recommendation and buy Jason’s book at our next home game -I presume it will be on sale in the ‘City shop’.

  22. Agree Lonnie. Folk tend to forget where we have come from. Stood on a literally crumbling Spion kop in Div4 in the pouring rain with a few hundred other hardy souls. Its been shite before. As John D says there will be a new beginning it is just a question of when. As with Richmond early impressions of the new owners were good ironically but Rahic does bring a whole new meaning to both hubris and incompetence. It is a shame fan ownership is so difficult to implement and operate, FC United are now struggling money wise and there is discord between the fans. I wonder if those many City fans who derided Lawny mercilessly have pause for thought now. I doubt it!

    • I agree re fan ownership.

      The problem for FC United is they’re struggling to compete against clubs with wealthy backers.

      It’s a shame.

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