By Jake Verity
I’ve been going to watch City since I was back in Primary School. Now, I find myself at University and my love affinity with the Bantams is still going, but has felt strained at times over the past year.
Going to Valley Parade every other week was the highlight of my childhood. It didn’t matter if I was going to watch us lose 3-0 to Torquay United, it didn’t matter if I was spending my pocket money on programmes and merchandise for a lowly League Two side, it didn’t matter that my heroes were a far cry from the likes of Rooney or Gerrard and had spent their careers languishing in the lower leagues. What mattered to me is that I loved my local club and I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.
I owe it to my Grandad for getting me into football. He was a footballer himself back 50 years or so ago, turning out for Blackpool, Morecambe and Lancaster City. It was thanks to both him and my Dad that I even went to Valley Parade for the first time. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. My Grandad stressed the importance that I should support my local club and me, my Dad (who had never previously been a big football fan) and him chose to go to watch City play several times in the 2006/07 season in which we were relegated to League Two.
You’d wonder why after watching a team fighting for its life in the same predicament and league we are now, you’d get hooked on it, but things were different. I wanted to be at Valley Parade. We were poor but the players tried, the fans cared. There was talk of cheap season tickets being introduced the next year and the idea of being able to watch 23 matches with 14,000 others every other week was such an exciting prospect.
During my time watching City, I’ve seen the highs and lows many of us have. Whether it be scraping a 3-2 win against Stockport County, easing to a 4-2 victory away at Chelsea or watching your owner go on National TV in a onesie, I’ve seen most of the stuff you’d only see by supporting Bradford City.
I’ve seen us when we were bad, awful, truly beyond terrible. I remember watching us fight for the life at the bottom of League Two and we were so bad it almost became comical. There’s something different about that time though. The thing about that was the players cared. You knew they had no quality, you knew their abilities were limited and that many of them would soon be dropping a division regardless of where we stayed up, but they had fight, passion and desire.
When I moved to the University of Sheffield in 2016, we’d just been taken over by two German’s called Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp. Phil Parkinson had taken us into the League One Play-Offs and we had an excellent squad. Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes claimed they’d taken us as far as they could and you can only thank them for their service to our club. The two new owners brought promise, money and new ideas to Valley Parade and I was excited. I told my new friends at University I was a Bradford City fan.
“How was the Chelsea game? Did you go? It was unbelievable seeing that happen!”
“Oh yeah, you were that team who made it to the League Cup final when you were in League Two, that was such a good run!”
Well, how times change. At present I’m quite frankly embarrassed to tell people I’m a Bradford City fan, given how we’ve turned around and what a negative reputation we’ve begun to gather. People hear about what’s going on at Valley Parade, people know that you don’t go from being a solid top-six team to relegation certainties in the space of nine or ten months.
I took my friends at University to go to watch us play away at Rotherham in January. We were awful, we looked despondent and we didn’t look like the Bradford City team I’d watched in the first half of that season. It was just a tough patch of form though, but it also signalled the beginning of the end for the current regime. I was trying to convince my friends that we’d been playing brilliant, expansive football beforehand but it was hard to make them believe me based upon the quality of football we watched.
The next time I took them to see Bradford City play was against Wigan at Valley Parade under Simon Grayson. We were somehow more negative than during that game against Rotherham, it was depressing to watch. It was Mourinho park-the-bus-esque type of football and it wasn’t enjoyable. We managed to just about see out a 0-0 draw for the majority of the 90 minutes but then we ultimately collapsed in the final few minutes and ended up conceding a 1-0 win. My friends said they simply couldn’t believe the fact we’d spent the majority of the time at the top of the division in the first part of the season.
The last time I managed to convince my friends to watch Bradford City play? It was Accrington Stanley away. I don’t need to say much more apart from it was abysmal as everybody who made that trip will know. My friend likened us with “a team that belongs in a division well below the conference”, he’s a Newcastle fan and he knows just how it feels to be going through a tough time with your club. He’d gone from seeing Charlie Wyke to seeing Kai Bruenker leading the line for Bradford City, and the performances went from bad to abhorrent.
The reason why I’ve written this article is quite simple really. Bradford City needs its fans and though times are really tough at the minute, the club needs support to help stop this rut. Rahic has stepped back, Hopkin has full charge once January rolls around and Julian Rhodes is back.
We’ve seen some terribly bad times down at Valley Parade, but also some exceptionally good times. A club is nothing without its fans, and by turning up in big numbers against Oxford United will hopefully keep us as an attractive prospect for potential players who we could bring in, during the January window. If we stick together, we can begin to try and turn this round together, and by supporting Julian Rhodes’ initiative, it would show we’re well behind his return to Valley Parade.
We have to remember why we support Bradford City, and the reasons that helped us to fall in love with this club, because that will be the reason why we make ourselves go to Valley Parade. Yes, it makes me angry seeing Josh Wright wear the same Captain’s armband Stuart McCall and Gary Jones have graced. Yes, it frustrates me watching Eoin Doyle’s inability in front of goal, after watching the likes of Nahki Wells, Charlie Wyke and even Peter Thorne put them away for fun over the past 10 years. Yes, it really winds me up that Edin’s ripped our club apart considering how we were on the cusp of the Championship, but it makes me think that when the good times roll back around (which they will), it’ll be so much more enjoyable.
The problem I have with this Bradford City team now, as opposed to the one that struggled against Rotherham in January isn’t the fact they are shocking though (which they are). It’s that they don’t care. They are spineless, they fail to lack accountability and they don’t play for the shirt, or each other. Our two most passionate and possibly best-performing players are firstly a goalkeeper who is peppered with shots over 90 minutes, thanks to a terrible defence in front of him; and secondly, a young 19-year-old lad who’s making his first full season in professional football.
Bradford City will always get my support; I’ll continue to push myself into the horrible away days where it’s raining on the terraces at Accrington. If it’s Forest Green Rovers next season, so be it, I’ll be there. I support this Bradford City team because Bradford City are my team, I don’t go walking because times are tough and the football is hard to watch. When I get the chance to watch us away from Uni, I will do and I spend my very sparse cash trying to follow us across the country.
They aren’t good enough but most importantly, they don’t care enough.
Any Bradford City team will get my support, but this one certainly doesn’t have my respect.
Jake , this heartfelt article sums up how most of us feel. You remind me of myself when I was a student in the 1960s, travelling home from Hull to see City. It was not always good to watch, but we all felt we were in it together, and everybody cared. We’ve got to remain optimistic, and trust when the dross has been cleared out, another breed will take over. Personally, I should like to see Gary Jones back to help and inspire in some capacity.
Agreed Dave. Times aren’t great at present but they’ll certainly improve both on and off the pitch. Owners, Managers and Players come and go but fans are permanent. This is our club and we need to make sure we stick together rather than become divided. Announcing the return of Gary Jones would be a great way to heal what is currently a broken, fragmented club and also I think it’s more than possible.
Enjoy the game tomorrow!
Well said Jake! I see that we have had openness and honesty from Hopkin about the quality of the squad and Rahic’s dreadful recruitment. Hopefully we can move on?
Cautiously optimistic that we are getting the right kind of characters in (Caddis and Henry) to give it a go and at least go down fighting. Enjoy those away days with your mates while you can. Fond memories for me of crossing the Pennines from Manchester Uni and classic away days from the 80s during the era of “Bantam Progressivism”. An away win against the odds with a thousand City faithful cannot be topped.
A good read.
Interesting to hear that your Grandad played for Lancaster City. I went there a few weeks ago to watch Ossett United in the FA Trophy. The home team scored a 90th minute winner. It’s a good set up there for a 7th tier team.
Back to Bradford City and I remember spending my limited cash in the early 1990s on travelling to away games when I was a student. A 4-1 thrashing at Stockport County sticks out along with a last minute winner at Bury.
As for the current situation, plenty has been written and we all have our opinions. I really hope that the home supporters can cheer their team on to victory tomorrow against Oxford United.