By Rod Lawson
I guess the vast majority of Bradford City supporters are extremely concerned by the form of the team, which since the start of 2018 has been exceptionally poor. A good many of us seem to feel that we are stuck at the bottom of the division, that there is very little prospect of us starting to improve and that relegation is a near certainty. I must admit that I share a lot of these views.
On his return to Valley Parade on the 5 November 2018, in the role of consultant, Julian Rhodes made a number of comments in respect of the current position, he is quoted as saying, “It is a privilege to be back here and I will do all I can to help turn things around.” As such, there was an immediate realistic acknowledgement of the club’s precarious position. He freely admitted that, “David’s (Hopkin) brief is let us finish 20th this season. That’s it and then you go from there”.
So is that the summit of our ambition? Is it realistic, can it be achieved?
Given the aspirations for a ‘Great Escape’, then is there any evidence, that a team which has sunk to the bottom of the table, can accumulate sufficient points and subsequently avoid relegation.
Somewhat amazingly, with a little research, the evidence is quite pleasing. History seems to be on our side, safety can still be achieved. It may well be that as fans we tend to be unduly pessimistic.
I have looked back through the records, in particular at the team which was bottom of League One on 9 November, throughout the current decade 2010-2018.
League One Table, teams in 24th Position:
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals F||Goals A||Goal D||Points|
Amazingly only two of those clubs were relegated at the end of the season. The real surprise is the final position of Plymouth in May 2018!
Final table positions of the above clubs at the end of the respective season.
So the evidence questions my initial hypothesis that we were in a position which meant that relegation would be an inevitable conclusion, to the end of this season. In short there is a small glimmer of hope, and evidence that teams in a similar position to City, have managed to climb off the trap door and avoid the drop to the basement division of the Football League.
However, the stark reality is that a number of the teams were relegated in subsequent seasons. Crewe Alexandra, Notts County, plus Yeovil Town are now in League Two; whereas Hartlepool United have sunk to the National League. Having said that three of the teams are still in League One. Currently the sides which avoided the drop are Plymouth who are in the bottom four, Shrewsbury currently eighteenth and Walsall who are comfortably mid table on eleventh.
The bold plan to get City into the Championship within three seasons, which was proclaimed by Rahic in May 2016, sadly this has now been proved to be rather hollow rhetoric. It should be noted that none of the above clubs, which were in the bottom spot on the 9 November, have subsequently made it to the Championship! So to get that plan ‘back on track’ will need a herculean effort and one wonders whether Rahic and Rupp have the personal, managerial and financial ability to achieve this reasonable aim.
It is going to require cool and calm determination, with the defence proving to be far less pervious than it has been. Simply put, we have to stop conceding – something which previous incarnations of the team have been so good at. It may not be pretty, but gutsy performances, with real application, may well strike a chord with many supporters.
It is not only the team on the field which has to change, but those who have made the decisions, which have resulted in this calamitous position. The management team have to demonstrate an awareness and a tangible ability to change. Results on the field will assist, but the feeling of alienation amongst the supporters is, I believe, a result of the detachment between fans and the owners, who seem aloof from the reality of the situation. It is all very well saying ‘Sorry’ very publicly, but then doing nothing about it, and failing to meet with any of the supporters, or do anything to provide evidence of change, compounds the growing feelings of mistrust.
Football is different from many ‘products’. It is not an essential, but rather a leisure activity. As such it has to be something which is attractive. For some, supporting City is a luxury, subsequently if it becomes an unpleasant experience, then it is an activity which they do not need, and in many cases they can cease to actively support the club.
So let’s escape from this potential fall from League One. However, the climb back from the precipice will not solely be based on what happens on the field, but rather the totality of the direction of the club, which will need to reinvent itself to win back the doubters. Many changes will be required to achieve that goal.