We can’t give up yet

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown 

Geoffrey Richmond would probably be enjoying this. The former Bradford City chairman was nothing if not a showman, and would talk up a battle to avoid the drop as box office entertainment. “The Bradford public loves a relegation scrap,” he once told long-time City supporter, Mark Neale. The adventures of his time at the helm certainly supported this.

In the 1996/97 season, Chris Kamara’s Bantams were in the fight of their lives to survive in Division One (now the Championship), and at this stage of the season were on a poor run of one win in eight. Using the local media, Richmond whipped supporters into a frenzy and City narrowly secured survival with late season home wins over Wolves, Stoke, Charlton and QPR. All played out in front of a couldron of noise.

Fast forward three years to 1999/00, and another City relegation battle – this time in the Premier League. Paul Jewell’s charges embarked on a poor run of eight straight defeats over March and April, and a Good Friday 4-4 draw at home to Derby seemed to condemn them to the drop. Yet from nowhere City won three of their last four games to stay up, which included home wins over Wimbledon and Liverpool that occurred in front of two of the best Valley Parade atmospheres I’ve ever seen.

That us-against-the-world, Bradford defiance has been at the heart of successful relegation battles. Even in 2011/12 – the last time we were in danger of going down – there was a coming together after the Crawley brawl. Fans, players, managers and owners fighting as one to get over the line. When the chips were down, we would go into survival mode and fight. Working together to defy the odds.

These examples of our recent history underline why it shouldn’t be time to give up on Bradford City this season. Yes of course, the situation looks bleak. This group of players are a major disappointment. Spineless, gutless, cowardly – insert your own insult and it will be hard to disagree. For a club that has in recent years set such high standards, this lot aren’t fit to wear the shirt.

But they’re all we have. And despite the severity of the league position, they are still capable of getting out of this.

What gives hope is the madness of this season’s League One. The 12 teams above City are still deep in relegation mire. There are a lot of clubs that remain catchable, albeit we’ve given them a big headstart. Across the final eight rounds of the season, there are 29 fixtures between teams in the bottom half. That’s a heck of a lot of six pointers, where teams will drop points.

From City’s point of view, they have to produce extremely good form over the last eight games. Winning the occasional game like against Peterborough won’t cut it. They need a run of victories, a bit like what they showed over December where for a fleeting moment they looked like promotion contenders.

The run-in could be kinder but could also be worse. The next three games against Blackpool, Charlton and Doncaster are our toughest remaining, and realistically four points are needed. After that, the final five matches are against Bristol Rovers, Coventry, Gillingham, Scunthorpe and Wimbledon. They are winnable games. And if City can get to the Memorial Ground on April 13 with the gap to safety reduced from the current six points, there’s still every chance.

To the players the message is simple: give it everything you have. To an extent, they’ve been shielded from the fiercest supporter criticism that has been reserved for Edin Rahic, Michael Collins and David Hopkin. But there is no question we supporters feel very let down by their efforts. On paper, they are so much better than the league table shows – so prove it. Every ounce of effort is a minimum requirement. We also need intelligence, composure and quality. The imminent return of Sean Scannell from injury – the winger could be on the bench on Saturday – will help.

As supporters, we also have a massive part to play. Valley Parade flickered into life during the second half against Peterborough, but we’ve been too quiet this season. That’s 100% understandable, but how good would it be to go back to the days when Valley Parade was a couldron of noise, starting against Blackpool on Saturday? How about we use the hours of 3-5pm to park our justifiable grievances and roar on the team?

Blind faith is a ridiculed approach these days. The mantra “just get behind the lads” has been mocked by many fans, who rightfully have pointed out that the people who utter such slogans were the same supporters who foolishly backed Rahic to the end, and the same people who always refuse to criticise the club. Blind faith makes you a fool. Setting yourself up for a fall. In a wretched season, being a cynic guarantees you will be proven right. It’s completely understandable. The club have offered us little reason not to be disillusioned and weary.

But for how bad things are now, the worst is yet to come. Relegation will hurt us for years, and the consequences would be keenly felt, long after the last member of the current squad leaves.

Take a look at the League Two table. 14 of the 24 clubs have been relegated from League One since Bradford City were promoted to the third tier in 2013, and there are two more plying their trade a league below. When teams go down from this level, they rarely come back quickly. Our last League One relegation in 2007 was followed by six years in the basement league, most of which was grim. That is the sentence awaiting us once again.

Whilst players, managers and owners come and go, it is us supporters who will stick with the club through thick and thin. League Two is our hell to endure, not theirs. This is our problem, and there’s still a lot we can do to try and stop it from happening.

And that’s why I don’t think we can afford to give up on this. And why, despite our merited anger, we somehow have to keep going with our support. To back the team loudly and defiantly. The lessons of 96/97 and 99/00 show that desperate situations can change quickly. And that bursts of relegation-saving form can appear from nowhere.

The players and manager must take a lead. Off the field, the club must do more to connect with the fans. And we supporters have a part to play, no matter how hopeless the situation looks. This is our football club. Our lifestyle. Our passion. As long as avoiding relegation remains possible, we mustn’t give up. The criticisms and the long inquest can wait. We cannot change the past, but we can still change the direction of our future.

As the chant goes: I’m City til I die. This is the time to shout about it.

Categories: Opinion


16 replies

  1. That’s more like it Jason ! CTID

  2. The problem is that, although Rahic has gone, nothing really seems to have changed. Results haven’t improved, we remain firmly anchored in the bottom four and, with low profile Rhodes running things, PR is as bad as the Rahic era. If anything, we appear to have lost even more attending fans. Under these circumstances, it’s hard to even bother attending games, let alone shout non stop for ninety minutes.

    • Don’t disagree. But for a few weeks now we should shout and sing and chant our defiant voices as Jason says. CTID. not manager x or chairman y or players zzzz til I die

  3. What’s the management mantra, five positive points are required to balance-out a single negative one? I just hope that none of the players read this, because being defined as ‘spineless, gutless, cowardly’ in one breath and then urged ‘to give it everything you have’ in the next just might not cut it. (It’s hard to disagree with your appraisal of them though.)

    The point you make about Valley Parade having been quiet this season is also accurate, but as a group of supporters I think we deserve quite some credit for staying behind this team/management – certainly so at the start of every game I’ve been to this season, if perhaps not by it’s end – despite what we have had to endure on a weekly basis.

  4. Okay, you’re not going to like this Jason, but I well remember the two seasons under GR you’ve used as an example and I don’t think there’s any parallels between then and now. Sadly, I don’t see any fight in this bunch as I did in those two teams.
    Firstly, during both seasons we had a consistency. We had one chairman and one manager. This season has seen us go through changes in ownership (okay, Rupp was there before but the day-to-day running has changed) and we’ve gone through three managers.
    The other key thing is that in both examples when Kammy and PJ were in charge, we were favorites for the drop from day 1. It helped to create a siege mentality. Remember head-shave-gate which GR used as a brilliant piece of PR and to get the fans onside? There’s been none of that this season. On paper we had a team capable of top six not rock bottom.
    This season is so different. This is a team that has no fight. Spineless, gutless, cowardly are fairly accurate descriptions of a group of players who should be doing so much better. CK & PJ had players who, with the best will in the world, were not top class players in their respective leagues. But they did make up for that with fight and belief. I see neither ability or desire in this current bunch.
    The last few weeks have shown that when it’s all on the line, they’ve come up well short. Three managers, all with different approaches in how to coach and not one of them has managed to get a significant change in attitude or performance from them. That’s why we’re going to go down.

  5. I agree with Jason except that i believe six points are needed by Bristol Rovers..get two home wins on the bounce and we can win the last 2 st home as well…then one away win from Rovers, Coventry and Scunthorpe might just manage it !

  6. Unfortunately this bunch are totally devoid of any backbone, they have used the spectre of Rahic to get away with much of the criticism they have deserved this season. They proved that they are capable with our results in December, then for whatever reason they reverted back to the rubbish we had witnessed for the early part of the season. GB is deflecting criticism for our performance at Oxford by blaming a poor refereeing decision, the match was almost over, what did we do in the previous 93 mins to warrant a result, sweet FA.
    Its now up to the players to stand up and put in 100% to save the club from relegation, but somehow I doubt they have the cahoonas.

  7. When you are continually being told you are spineless,useless,gutless and rubbish, is not conducive to lifting morale.
    The majority of players at City are good players in the right atmosphere and with encouragement are a match for any team in this div, with belief they can come good.

  8. I am with you Jason, ‘We can’t give up yet’.

    I tend to judge the difficulty in getting a result against our opponents based on recent form rather than league position. So, with this in mind, I have a different opinion of which games are probably going to be the more difficult challenges. I have taken the last 6 games as a guide to recent form. This shows that two of our next three games include a Doncaster team who are only 1 place above us -by virtue of goal difference- and a Blackpool side who are only 3 places above us with only 1 point more than us. IF, IF, IF, we can put in a Peterborough type performance against each of them then it should be a realistic expectation that 6 points should be achieved. Charlton are in 5th place, form-wise, so anything from that game would be -if ‘form’ is anything to go by- a much more difficult ask.

    OK, once those 3 games have been completed and the other teams in league 1 have completed their 3 fixtures, the form table might possibly look quite different when judged over a previous 6 games period as we prepare to play our next fixture, which will be against Bristol Rovers. However, if you will bear with me, BR are, at the moment, in a very healthy 7th place in league 1 over the last 6 games. Coventry, our following game, looks even tougher if we accept that their form sees them in 2nd placed position in league 1 -only above 3rd placed WIMBLEDON by a goal difference of a single goal. EEEEK!!!

    It doesn’t look good, but at least we appear to be playing Doncaster and Blackpool at a time when they are going through a ‘poor form’ faze. We MUST take full advantage of this opportunity to get six points from nine and then hope that the form table has changed dramatically enough (LOL) to really make the Bristol Rovers, Coventry City and Wimbledon fixtures ‘winnable’.

    “A drowning man will catch at a straw”.

    • Lonnie, you remain forever the optimist… but I am going to agree with you, and join you on this journey of hope….

      Maybe, just maybe, we can build a cauldron of noise and become the 12th man… maybe WE can lift the team…

      Then maybe, just maybe, they’ll respond and give us the performance we know they are capable of…

      Here’s hoping…

      (however, Roger will tell us off if we get too excited, so we must do all this team lifting from our seats only!!)

  9. What a waste of ink.
    Sorry Jason, but you are deluded.
    Ever since the play off final, we the fans have been sold a load of BS.
    Thing is we the FANS can smell it a mile away.
    This “team” hasn’t got a clue.
    Someone posted a comment on the T&A that this time next yr we will be top of league 2 and all will happy.
    I want my club to be run RESPONSIBLY. With CLEAR DIRECTION, that will get the FANS back on board, and bring success.
    Who,When, How, will this be achieved with the current owner who wants out ASAP?

  10. We should never give in, but I doubt anybody has the capability to keep this team up as it is lacking in too many areas. I hope I am proved wrong. What is more worrying than relegation is what happens next season. We don’t know who the manager will be, and the squad is clearly nowhere near good enough. On top of this we have the divisive social media evident on various websites. Some of our fans seem to be wallowing in negativity. For example, questioning Bowyer after 3 games seems pointless, our frailties are already entrenched.
    Others have claimed they can’t face league 2. Get over it. Some fans seem as mentally weak as the team. Do they walk around with hair shirts and indulge in self-flagellation? If they don’t want to go that’s entirely their choice but if they fold when the going gets tough, they can hardly call the team. I don’t think any of us should give up because of one deluded individual’s ego trip.
    Our large but declining fanbase is our only asset. Relegated or not, we need to renew our season tickets if we want to recover from you know who and his antics.
    Communication from VP is dire and we don’t know what Rupp’s ultimate intention is but at least if we can shift a decent amount of tickets then he may soften and continue to fund us if he feels he has our support. He may then think he can eventually recoup his loss if we recruit wisely, i.e. someone who does know football. If he does want out, decent season ticket sales should at least make us a more attractive sell to someone who is hopefully genuinely interested in City.
    Again, our fanbase is the only advantage we hold in the lower divisions. We need to galvanise our efforts and not let one mans folly spoil our Saturday afternoons.
    All I can say is watch Ripping Yarns Golden Gordon. How we could do with Gordon Ottershaw times 18000
    Up the city

  11. Jason. If the players read the nasty things you say about them, they just might think “Why bother”. You don’t need to broadcast such insults (deserved or not). Have a bit more respect. Mary Thornton.

    • Which would prove that what is being said about them is true. If they had any strength of character at all, they would be determined to prove us all wrong.

  12. Can we give up now?

%d bloggers like this: