What happens next

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

“The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.” Woodrow Wilson, former US President

When Freddie Ladapo bundled home to secure Plymouth Argyle a 3-3 draw with Bradford City on Saturday, there was a stinging reminder that as welcome as the news is that Edin Rahic has left the Bantams, there’s still a long way to go to fix the damage.

History has repeatedly shown that the success of a revolution is not the act of deposing a regime, but what it is replaced with. That is incredibly topical nationally right now, with the fierce Brexit debate. And as Bradford City embark on life after Rahic, the challenge of rebuilding the club will be an important marker in defining the success of the revolution at Valley Parade.

Make no mistake: these next six months are absolutely pivotal for City. It is going to be a bumpy ride. The mess on and off the field is considerable. The exceptionally poor leadership of Rahic has dismantled so much about what makes this club special. Restoring it will not be easy. As Saturday shows, the removal of Rahic is a big step but not the final act.

The focus now inevitably turns to Stefan Rupp, who this week removed his business partner and is now the sole owner of the club. Rupp has been criticised in many quarters for allowing Rahic to run the club so dismally. That is understandable to an extent, but fails to recognise Rupp has been misled by a trusted partner, and the information he has relied on from Rahic has been incomplete. Rupp has, at least, seen the light and acted. But it puts him in a curious position.

Had Rupp never met Rahic, through sharing the same bank consultant, he would not be the owner of Bradford City right now. He was not a football fan, and his decision to invest in the Bantams was on the basis Rahic would run the club day to day, whilst he continued to live his life in Germany, focusing on other things. It is highly unlikely that he will change that and relocate to West Yorkshire. Meaning that City will be owned from a distance.

As Bradford City supporters, we live and breathe the club – it dominates our thoughts, our conversations and our leisure time. We invest so much time, money and emotion into Bradford City, and it is therefore not easy to accept having an owner who doesn’t share that depth of feeling.

Yet that doesn’t mean Rupp has to be seen as a bad football club owner. Of course, he has much to prove right now and a responsibility to rebuild the club. But his financial commitment cannot be disputed, and he will continue to pour a lot of money into City, over the next six months, to try to undo the damage and save the club from relegation. The priority has to be to stabilise the club.

Historically, Rupp is the richest owner Bradford City has ever had. He is not here to prop up losses forever and understandably so; but the depth of his resources is vital right now. Clearly, Rupp has to restore trust and confidence from supporters, who won’t forgive or forget Rahic in a hurry. But on our part, there is a danger that turning on Rupp will only make the task of rebuilding the club even harder. For now, reserving judgement and giving Rupp a chance to save Bradford City is both pragmatic and imperative.

Rupp’s distant ownership approach means the day-to-day leadership of the club is crucial. The return of Julian Rhodes has undoubtedly brought enormous benefits to City. It sped up the departure of Rahic, as it showed to Rupp that the club can come together without his partner. David Hopkin, who at one stage seemed to be on the brink of quitting, has benefited from being able to get things through – changes to coaching staff, new signings, and even pre-match preparations. Results and performances are getting better.

Rhodes brings many qualities. An air of calm that was completely absent before. Experience of difficult situations. A more recent track of rebuilding Bradford City and helping to deliver major success. His retention to the end of the season is really important.

There is a minority of supporters who seem intent to talk Rhodes down on the back of the club’s previous financial problems under his watch, but what is the alternative right now? The story of Rhodes the Bradford City chairman was getting through administrations and then taking the club forwards. It’s hard to imagine a more important type of experience right now for City’s predicament. Rhodes is vital and deserves our support.

The other crucial cog is David Hopkin. Criticism of the City head coach – now manager – has started to grow in volume in recent weeks. His record since taking charge isn’t great, and the style of football has at times been a difficult watch. Again though, there are mitigating circumstances. He inherited a poorly built squad. He walked into a backdrop of supporter-owner discontent. He is only recently able to make significant changes, and they are bearing fruit. Without a transfer window yet, there is only so much he can do.

Bradford City have been crippled by short-termism over 2018. The controversial sacking of Stuart McCall led to 87 days of Simon Grayson in charge, followed by 78 days of Michael Collins. These are the two shortest managerial reigns in Bradford City history. Today (Monday) is only day 96 of Hopkin’s tenure. The idea that we give in to more short-termism, and consider another change, risks more turmoil – at a time where there so many other challenges to face.

For what it’s worth I like Hopkin. You can see what he is trying to do, and that over recent weeks he has been able to construct a spine to the team that has made them more competitive and tough to beat. He’s on record saying he has developed plans to strengthen in January that he expects to be implemented straight away. I think he deserves that opportunity, and that his past experience at Livingston shows he has a track record of turning around a failing club. It’s worth considering, also, that January will be the first transfer window since early 2016 that the manager will make decisions free from boardroom interference.

As the results will inevitably continue to be up and down, frustrations will continue to boil over. And the nature of us football fans is we will want to find new scapegoats. Rupp, Rhodes and Hopkin will come into the firing line, and it will be a test of their character to keep going. But I would hope that most sensible fans will recognise the huge difficulties faced by the club, and the root of the problems. If we can somehow stick together, there’s a chance we can pull through this.

Ultimately Rupp needs to present a vision for the club that we as supporters can believe in and get behind – but as I’ve argued, we should all be having a say in how Bradford City is reshaped. Communication has to improve significantly from the Rahic era. Broken and fractured relationships between the club and supporters, sponsors and other key stakeholders need to be fixed. With alarming stories of Rahic’s behaviour, the club needs better support for employees. Too many people were hurt by the way Rahic went about things. That cannot be undone, but it must not be repeated.

The players have a massive responsibility to show pride for the club. We’ve seen a significantly improved attitude since the Stephen Darby appreciation evening, and some members of the squad are starting to turn around negative opinions fans hold towards them. There is an onus on the senior players in particular to set the standards.

Whether fair or unfair, a nagging suspicion remains that many of the summer signings didn’t join the club for the right reasons. And when the chips are down, they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory for their commitment. A good team spirit is essential, and January’s transfer activity might be about who leaves the club just as much as who joins.

If City can somehow survive relegation, the restoration of the club can continue from a much stronger position. Going down to League Two, which remains more likely, will make it far more difficult to fix the damage of Rahic. As the last fall to the basement division showed, it could set us back for years.

It all means every game is huge. That every twist and turn will be emotional. Survive relegation, and it could be the biggest celebration seen at Valley Parade since the 2015 FA Cup run. Go down, and the pain will feel awful. It will really hurt everyone.

Rahic’s removal is far from the end. The revolution has started, but will only succeed if what replaces the deposed Rahic takes us towards the brighter future we crave. On and off the field, there is so much work to do and considerable damage to repair. You’d like to think the adversity can bring out the best in everyone, though the knives will be quickly out if things go wrong.

Patience is going to be needed. And if we can come together, this dreadful chapter in the club’s history could yet have a happy ending.

Categories: Opinion

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12 replies

  1. A very well thought out article and difficult to disagree with any of the points. I would echo that showing patience with those people who are now in charge and supporters getting right behind the team, are the elements most required. Perhaps we are now seeing the first green shoots of recovery. CTID.

  2. I for one would like to see James Mason back at Bradford, now that his tenure with Rochdale is over. What has been lacking is the communication from the club to the supporters. Julian, historically, seems quite shy and James did a great job of building that bridge between the club and the supporters. Hopkin should be left to managing the players.

    • I would also dearly love to see James back at the club. There you have a true Bradford City stalwart who the fans can see is not the “wool over your eyes” type. Straight talking where politically possible yet speaks supporter language. I wonder if we could get a movement going to get him reinstated? Never heard any angry voices from supporters regarding his role at the club. Quite the opposite! Most supporters seemed to understand the reason for his leaving. I believe that if Stefan were to ask James would return. We live in hope

  3. For me the team needs an overhaul in January and I don’t just mean getting new players in but also disposing of the bad eggs within the club, the core of the bad eggs such as Wright, Scannell and Chicksen need to be shipped out to bring a better team spirit within the camp, we need players up for the battle and all the team together and to do this you need to cut out these kind of players.

  4. Positive article though I would suggest Jack Tordoff probably takes the crown as City”s richest ever owner.One of the richest men in Britain.I did not go along with Mr Rupp been brought into fly over “Out” displays.His money clearly funded a very ambitious overvalued price paid for the club.He seems so removed and distant he would clearly not know (until annual accounts were produced)just how bad things were.They are bad.A payroll of players never ever higher.Mr Rupp has been duped as clearly as night follows day.Nobody else has the money to throw.Its good he is onboard at all still.He will realise his £5.2 million investment is not worth much.So does he stick or does he twist.So far he sticks and there are strong suggestions that come January he will twist.Football is just a gamble.Any sane businessman would not pay much for Bradford City.As things are or ever or at all.I would never talk Julian down.It took him many many years to recover some of the Rhodes families massive losses from 2002 until 2016.It could at some low points have cost him his long term health and indeed his life he looked so ill around 2005.Its some bloke who loves his club so much he is prepared to step back into as bigger mess as it has become.Just as he thought he could finally put his feet up and just enjoy as he once did from the Kop.I see already a fitter more together team ethos.There will sure be some major wheeler dealer work going on in January to ship out some of Rahics better signings.Signs are good.If they can take something from these home games coming before 1 January. Momentum could with the great support be sustained.A bad chapter in the book has passed.There will be many more good (and bad) chapters ahead.We had 2 good years in what 100.(2013 and 2014 financially)Bar maybe 1999 1982 1985 and 1988 1996 playing fortunes have always been average..In my life anyway.The rest we just belonged.We will always belong. Hopefully.Time to try get that ground off the Gibbs.Into fans hands away from owners chasing the gamble.The Supporters Trust needs stirring.I understand it may stand Gibb (through his Pension Fund) about £3 Million.Now how on earth do we find the unity to achieve that? With hope and god willing ha ha.

  5. Rupp has acted as soon as he got the full picture and fair play to him Rupp has been badly let down by Rahic and has been guilty of niavity in ever trusting Rahic.

    However, Rupp is picking up the pieces and securing the clubs finances in the short term. Rupp will back Hopkin in the January window and as looks likely the club will be relegated. However, I think it will be a quick turn around under Hopkin in relation to bouncing straight back up.

    I cant see it been 6 seasons in the bottom tier again if the fans stay behind the club repurchase season ticket sales and give Hopkin a competitive budget to get the club moving in the right derection.

  6. I feel for Mr Rupp in all this, he’s been led down the garden path by Mr Rahic.

    What next ? Some serious investment in the playing staff needed.

    We all know getting out of lge 2 is very difficult .

    All efforts now must be on our relegation battle.

    Only way Mr Rupp will see his investment back is if we can rebuild and get ourselves into the championship.

  7. As a supporter for many many years I’ve soon good and bad managers go some as good as Mr Hopkin and some a lot worse but I’ve never seen Bradford City so devided as it is now and the person getting most of the flack seems to be Mr Hopkins which I find very unfair I don’t have to mention the past as it’s well documented.Lets be fair to him and give him a chance.he needs at least 2 years to get over all this and to get his plans into operation.good luck to him.

  8. I bet Rupp rues the day that the financial adviser introduced him to Rahic. I’m afraid the club are in for a rocky ride. With a sole owner that’s said he’s uninterested in the sport itself, I can’t see him ploughing funds into the club to even maintain League One status. Especially since spending any more would probably mean throwing good money after bad, he’s unlikely to ever see a return on his investment.

    The major culprit has been dethroned but it doesn’t solve the problems both on the field and behind the scenes that he created. I honestly don’t know where the club can go from here. It’s like all the hard work it took to get the club to where it was when Rhodes/Lawn sold it has been undone in 2 disastrous years. It looks like City are right back at square one. It’s heartbreaking, the club only ever seems to move forward and get on some solid ground before calamity strikes again. The club’s badge should depict Sisyphus.

  9. Like other other posters comment’s I really feel for Stefan. As Dell Boy would say ‘he’s been done up like a kipper’. We might well feel angry at the Rahic’s mis-management of the club and wasting money on season tickets, shirts etc under his tenure, but what about Stefan? He’s £millions in the hole thanks to his former business partner. He’s now the sole owner of a club he never really had any connection with. Arguably, the biggest signings this year could be those away from the pitch. Bringing James Mason back would, in my opinion be a massive boost.
    As for David Hopkin, the man should be knighted, not ridiculed for what he’s trying to achieve at this club. He walked into a club in free fall and has tried to mold a team from Rahic’s disastrous signings whilst all the time having to fend off the meddling off ER. How some fans think he was going to suddenly transform our fortunes is a mystery to me. This wasn’t a good team suddenly playing badly. The is was a bad team playing terribly.
    But he is slowly turning things around. And the more revelations that come out of VP, the more I come to appreciate the difficulties he’s been working under. Only today in the T&A we’ve news of players barely speaking to each other! If we do avoid the drop, then I’d say that DH should rank up there with the likes of Phil Parkinson.

  10. I agree that the rest of this season will be very hard indeed. It seems that David Hopkin is our only hope, but, from what I see and hear of him, and looking at his record, he is a very good hope.
    One thing that amazes me is that, if anything, we underestimated the mess Rahic made of City. The comments today by Simon Parker about team spirit and players living so far away are almost beyond belief.
    I certainly cannot believe how bad Rahic was. Rupp must rue the day he ever met him.

  11. Whilst I commend Stefan for his actions and his statement that he will do right by the club, there has to be a long term question mark on how long he will be around for.

    He would not have been remotely interested in getting involved had it been for a certain cretin and he must be massively worried about how much of a drain on his resources owning city would be.

    Will he be here in 2-3 yrs time? will we have to go through more turmoil which a new set of unknown onwers??

    Still very uncertain times!

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