Drawing a line

By Jason McKeown

I love Bradford City. And I’m fed up of hating them.

I’m fed up of this wretched season, but which at least has now ended with a 0-0 draw against Wimbledon that keeps the Dons in League One by the skin of their teeth.

I’m fed up of feeling angry about City’s woeful effort to avoid relegation. I’m fed up of watching players who can’t or won’t run through brick walls for the club. Who simply don’t care as much as we do. Who go through the motions at best.

I’m fed up of the lack of fight. The fact we have only gained one measly point from a losing position all season. Folding every time the going got tough.

I’m fed up of laboured attacking play. Of a weak midfield. Of a ponderous defence. I’m fed up of conceding soft goals. And of only sporadically finding the net.

I’m fed up of losing. So, so many games. Soft defeats, heavy defeats, unlucky defeats, gutless defeats. I’m fed up of the sharp decline in our standards. Of watching all the good work of 2012-2017 thrown away. I’m fed up.

At least this was it for the season. The last knockings of a turgid campaign are done. There was an element of here’s-what-you-could-have-won watching Wimbledon players and fans celebrate survival on our turf. At one stage in January, they trailed the Bantams in the table by eight points. They never threw in the towel. And in avoiding the drop they served to embarrass the City players even further.

Wimbledon only needed a point to stay up, although it was mightily close for them. There was huge, huge drama in other key relegation tussles involving Plymouth, Scunthorpe and Southend, meaning the Dons stay up by virtue of a goal difference that is only three goals better than Argyle.

The Dons manager, Wally Downes, nearly paid the price for adopting a conservative approach. He set Wimbledon up not to lose this contest, which meant City had 63% of possession and clear territorial advantage. And though the Dons hit the post and arguably created the better chances, a better team than the Bantams would have won this game and sent Wimbledon down.

There were positives from City in the game. Danny Devine made his first home league start since New Years Eve 2016, and acquitted himself fairly well. Useful on the ball and with a good awareness of players around him, he was positive in intent. Alongside him Jermaine Anderson was decent. He is coming into his own right at the end of the campaign. A limited player for sure, but not hopeless. It will be interesting to see if Gary Bowyer rewards him with a new contract offer.

Out wide Sean Scannell was excellent again. At full time he gave his boots to a young supporter in the Kop before embarking on a solo walk of applause that looked every inch as though he was saying goodbye. He linked up well with Kelvin Mellor, and on the opposite side Calum Woods was in fine form. Woods’ short time at Valley Parade has been injury hit. Interestingly, City have not lost one game where he has featured. Lewis O’Brien rightly got a good reception on his final game of his loan and did well.

Elsewhere it was patchy as usual, and that was why City’s huff and puff did little to hurt Wimbledon. There was simply no quality in the final third. Crosses were easily defended. Opportunities to take a shot at goal were not taken. Eoin Doyle rounded off a season of under-achievement with a lifeless display. It was no surprise he was substituted. What was remarkable was the amount of home fans who clapped him off.

If the game lacked incident, the scenes at the final whistle certainly offered up plenty of talking points. Wimbledon, who brought an impressively large away support, celebrated wildly. Their fans charged onto the pitch to embrace their players. It was a heart-warming sight and you’d have to be a joyless football fan to begrudge them their gleeful blowout. 19 years ago, I and thousands of others were celebrating Premier League survival on the pitch after beating Liverpool, which ironically had sent Wimbledon down.

So fair play to the vast majority of Wimbledon fans today. And massive congratulations on staying up. However, it was tainted by at least one idiot setting off a flare (pyro) in the middle of the pitch. Of all the football stadiums in the world to do this in. Of all the moments to do it. Prior to kick off, Wimbledon fans had impeccably joined in the minute’s silence to remember the Valley Parade fire disaster. But this thoughtless moron badly let down their club.

56 people lost their lives at Valley Parade because of a fire. Hundreds of others were injured. Thousands were mentally scarred by what they saw. It doesn’t go away. Talk to people who witnessed the fire and how it has affected their lives. And on the day we pause to remember those awful events, Bradford City supporters are forced to endure the smell of smoke in their own stadium.

It is unacceptable. Wimbledon and their fans would do well to name and shame the individual behind it. Because it is damaging the reputation of a fine football club. Well done to the rest though. You are a credit to your club and to football. And it was nice to see a group of fans actually enjoying themselves at Valley Parade this season.

Whilst all this was going on, Gary Bowyer came over to applaud the Kop and a handful of young and foolish City fans decided to invade the pitch too. The stewards and police were quick to react, getting them off the pitch. Absolutely the right thing to do. However, it all began to get sinister as the police began waving batons and threatening to use them on supporters who didn’t get off the pitch. The obvious anger of the police seemed out of proportion. They’re supposed to be the calm authority. The scenes quickly turned ugly.

And then, when the City half of the pitch was cleared, the players went on a lap of appreciation for those who had stayed back. And when they got to the Kop, they were greeted by boos. It was quite stunning. I joined in with the booing myself. I won’t lie, it felt gratifying. You could see the embarrassment of the players having to endure it. This is what they deserved, and the Kop gave it both barrels. A quite fitting end to the season.

And with that, we wave goodbye to League One. Close another chapter in the club’s turbulent history.

Draw a line. So we can move on.

Leaving the ground I felt relief. Not just because the ordeal of this season is now over. But because now we can truly begin to look forwards again. Allow optimism to cautiously re-enter the room.

I love Bradford City. And part of the deal is enduring set backs and failures. As a City fan, you have to be resilient. We don’t sign up purely for the glory. This is not the first occasion the club has been relegated. It won’t be the last. It is a moment in time. A bad moment, yes. But a moment nonetheless.

Perspective was on show with the minute’s silence. And, next Saturday, many of us will pack out Centenary Square to remember those who lost their lives supporting the club we all deeply love.

Saturday 11 May 1985 – that was this club’s darkest hour. Nothing we have seen this season comes close. Relegation is a major set back. But it is not a disaster. This club has come back from unimaginable horror. Losing a few football matches is nothing in comparison. We can recover from our current problems.

The end of this season allows us to start to heal our football wounds. To hope of a brighter future.

Now, we rebuild.

Bradford City will experience good times again. It might take a while, but they will return. And when they do, they will taste just as good as the great times of before. They will feel special because of all the difficulties and set backs we go through following the club. Bad times like this test our loyalty, of course they do. But there’s always next season. And so we don’t turn our backs on the club.

It’s time to start finding a way to love Bradford City again.



Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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26 replies

  1. Wasn’t there today as I was a wedding but I’m so glad the players were booed. Fully deserve it if not for lack of ability then certainly lack of susrained effort and pride. History makers but of the wrong sort. Thank God this season is over. Let’s hope these useless so called footballers are out of work for lengthy periods.

  2. The police were perhaps responding to disgusting scenes at half time. At the dm8king area these same young idiots shouted racist abuse and chucked bottles st two young Asian children playing football outside the stadium. They also chanted tommy Robinson at them…..police eventually moved in. I didn’t witness this but was told by 2 fans returning from the smoking area. The lad with the blue hoodie and baseball bat deserved to be clouded tbf….the stewards and police were too leniant……these city fans were a disgrace to the club and far worse in intent than a Wimbledon fan who in retrospect hopefully realises the folly of what they did…..

    • Excuse the typos 🙂

      • Yes I seen these ugly scenes and I was so disgusted that’s me done with watching Bradford City. I feel so strongly about the racism rearing its ugly head around the football matches in this country.
        We are now seeing thuggish behaviour that I thought had now been stamped out years ago.

  3. Today i primarily attended the game for the 56. It also felt like attending the first pre season friendly of tge 2019/20 season!
    The crowd, officially 17k waa more like the 7600 i waa told it was. Swathes of empty seats.
    So sad.
    Those City fans who did attend were largely there for tge 56.
    And yet Wimbledon played a strange game particularly late on when.if we had fluked a goal, they would have been down

    It was almost as if they did not realise that.
    At the final whistle their fans celebrated on the pitch deservedly but was the flare nèeded?
    Is the culprit aware of the history of Bradford City, or just brain dead?

  4. Yes I seen these ugly scenes and I was so disgusted that’s me done with watching Bradford City. I feel so strongly about the racism rearing its ugly head around the football matches in this country.
    We are now seeing thuggish behaviour that I thought had now been stamped out years ago.

  5. I didn’t go yesterday, but reading the comments about both sets of fans behaviour is disappointing.
    Whilst the Wombles fan who brought the smoke bomb/flare on the pitch should be ashamed, lets not take the moral high ground.
    At Rochdale earlier this season I witnessed our own fans lobbing a flare into the Rochdale end.
    The idiots involved were all young teenagers. More mouth than muscle.
    Perhaps we need to educate those City fans born long after 1985 about the events on 11/05/1985 rather than assume that just because anyone who is a City fan is fully appreciative of what effect it had on the club, fans and the wider city?

    • Chris we had a “fan” of approximately the top side of middle age, goading a small section of the youngsters, from the second tier of the Cop, they were down in the bottom corner, the left as we look at the pitch.

      • Chris in reply to the last of your comments, the Rochdale fan were hurling seats at City fans. Plus the stewards had neither the numbers or resolve to control the situation. The police were all out side the stadium and therefore no help at all. ( was this a cost cutting measure). But I agree with you about education, there is no way we want to go back to the good old days!!!!!

  6. A very fair summation of where we are. Two things epitomise this season for me… 1. Eoin Doyle: I’ve never hated a city player before, but this guy has reduced me to doing just that with his lazy, blasĂ© approach. It’s been like playing with 10 men with him on the pitch. In addition, he actually seems afraid of the ball at times – I have never seen anyone enjoy playing a game for a living less, and I really do hope we shift him over the summer to some other poor buggers. 2. The often shouted phrase ‘one of you’, which has morphed from meaning ‘just one of you’ to ‘will one of you’ – you’ve got to admire the creativity of city supporters in the face of such tripe. It’s unlikely I guess, but it would clearly be best for all concerned if Bowyer is able to offload the lot of them and start again, since the whole situation is toxic: we don’t want them, they don’t want to be here, I suspect Bowyer doesn’t want them either, and some of them are likely to be on a fair whack (eg. Doyle I imagine), which could be particularly divisive in League 2. Still, Bowyer has already begun planning for next season, which is already a big improvement over last year.

    • Dave, I totally agree with your comments about Doyle. When a guy like that is a virtual fixture in the side, it just sums why we’ve been relegated.

      • I agree Doyle is a total waste of space. Why Bowyer persist with him I don’t understand. Should have played Miller or even Payne. At least Bowyer made them face the rage and frustration of the fans at the end of the game. Interesting day on Tuesday when we will find out who is staying.

  7. We all echo your feelings about the season, Jason. None of us know what next season will bring. The only bright light is the sale of season tickets. It hasn’t been revealed how many flexi-cards have been sold, but my guess is that there will be a high proportion. Many will have bought them as a gesture and, I fear they’ll be left unused by uncommitted fans and Valley Parade will be even more souless next season. Gary Bowyer has a monumental task in the summer. I’ll be amazed if we are challenging for promotion but won’t be the least bit surprised if we fall through the trap door, into non league football. At this stage the club continues to be nothing other than a broken mess.

    • Absolutely agree about the flexicards – I suspect a sizable chunk of the STs will be flexs.

      However I think this also presents an opportunity. A good start to the season will bring in the flexicard holders generating further, maybe unplanned for, match day income. Could be key in the transfer market if we’re there or thereabouts come Jan.

      Wishful thinking maybe – but who knows….

  8. Wow, you summed it up brilliantly, I agree with every word you have put down. I drove up yesterday from Milton Keynes for one reason only. To pay my respects to the 56. The game meant nothing to me, the team means nothing to me, they are not Bradford City players. This season have made me so disengaged I have not been to a home game since January. I am not proud of it, but it is how it has made me feel. How empty was the stadium yesterday, that to me just showed how many fans have had enough. This season we lost our club, but I do honestly believe we will have it back next season under Gary Bowyer who comes across as a decent guy and is a proper football manager, who understands the values and the community and connection of the club with the fans. See you all again next season.

  9. Good season farewell comments Jason but the talk on some of the players we look like keeping is already scaring the hell out of me. Talk of players moving cos they are gonna be hit with a 25% pay cut is premature. Doyle for example down to 3750 quid a week. Who the hell else is gonna pay him that. It’s gonna be a long hard summer. B

  10. That was the most boring game of football since…..well, the last home game.
    I am fed up of 20 sideways passes, 10 back and then lump it forward in the hope that little Doyle will outjump the massive centre back.
    I am a bit more sympathetic towards Doyle. he has scored a few goals for us and I believe would have scored more if we had the players round him he requires. Would Nahki Wells have been as effective if he had the service Doyle has had to put up with? Hanson did the hard graft and Wells applied the finishing touches and I think that’s what Doyle needs. Still, if he left this summer I would not feel at all sorry – and the same goes for every man Jack of this dreadful squad.
    Surprised you booed the team, Jason. I didn’t but I watched them in silence, arms firmly folded. In retrospect, I think your reaction was the right one and mine a bit too tame.

  11. Another good article which indeed draws a line under this sorry season but for me know the worry begins no more games talks within the club and outside by players,agents,management,contracts etc.
    Hearing fans going on about if we would have had Scannel all season is really clutching at straws a player who when he’s played has contributed no assists and no goals can we afford such a highly paid injury prone player since his injury at Huddersfield this and time as fast caught up shame but if different would he really be here anyway I think not.
    Take away the contribution of the two loan players from Huddersfield and our fate would have being earlier than the 3 games to go,admittedly Payne after January was strange tactics,other players not happy,opposing teams sussing him & us I don’t know but take away his goals & assists and the same for OB who performance wise was outstanding all season.
    So let’s see what happens over the summer and see if Rupp is true to his word or just more PR and for most of these players to do the honourable and leave to play maybe else where,a really worrying time for the clubs supporters who have showed their cards for next season it will be interesting to see if it’s anything like an even deck.

  12. Really enjoyed your summary of the game and season Jason.
    I have to admit I have only used my season ticket a few times this season, even when Rahic left my heart wasn’t in it.
    I attended yesterday but left after the minutes silence, (with quite a few others that I saw) I had no desire to see those players ever again.
    Respect to the fans who have bought a ticket for next year, after about 25 years of season tickets I haven’t bothered, although may still get a flexi.
    The behaviour at the end, which I obviously didn’t see, is one of the many reasons that my love of City and football in general is fading away.

  13. It was a game that more or less summed up our season; a complete non event, and had all the pace of a testimonial.

    It’s therefore difficult to draw any real conclusions, but it provided yet more evidence of Bowyer’s reluctance to make attacking substitutions, as it was crying out for a Payne, a Butterfield, or even young Colville to give some support to Doyle, who was completely isolated in what was basically a 4-5-1.

    Definitely wasn’t going to stay behind to applaud the players for their “efforts” this season, but wished I had now as I would’ve almost certainly joined in the booing.

    Credit to Wimbledon for staying up on their budget, but it really does add to the frustration, that a team like that finished above us, who came for a 0-0 against a side bottom of the league.

    They have heart, commitment, desire and play for each other though, all the things we haven’t got, which is why they are staying up and not us.

  14. That is the first league game I have seen since 2001 and what a sobering experience.

    From the appalling home kit (obviously designed by someone who has NO IDEA what Bradford City are about), to the complete and utter lack of any ability, skill or enthusiasm, this was an exhibition of what this club should NOT be.

    I felt really sorry for the little kids there in their replica shirts watching such garbage. They have never seen Blake and Mills, the sublime skill of Carbone or a Beagrie cross. The Collymore overhead kick was before they were born.

    Jason, I admire you for trying to look for positives, but the likes of Scannell are basically crap players; after all In the land of the blind, even the one-eyed man is king !

    Finally I pity the poor wallflower who says he is never again going to City because of racism. I hope he will be leaving planet earth entirely then, as it is an evil that is all around us. Him hiding away is not going to tackle the issue of TWO imbeciles is it ?

  15. Another good article Jason. Sums it up well. Another lacklustre display by City. Did not tell us anything new? It is a big disappointment that Bowyer has made no impact. Strange formation? O’Brien wasted out wide. Lots of sideways stuff and Josh Wright playing easy ten yard passes that never threatened any real danger to the Dons. Back and front poorly linked. Doyle gave his usual ineffective display. No point getting crosses in because there is no one there?

    Radical overhaul needed but current contracts may limit scope for change? No real basis to build on – major clearout of the no hopers needed.

    Leadership and a culture of hard work will be essential! Bowyer does not come across as inspirational or motivational in his interviews. Worrying!,

  16. Another good, reflective article Jason. The only piece I would disagree with is your assumption that the people masquerading in a “claret” shirt would have been embarrassed by Wimbledon’s desire & fight for survival. I have seen nothing to suggest any feelings of embarrassment from any of them, bar 2 or 3 at best, I just hope & pray we see the shortest retained list ever. Roll on August !!!

    • Your shortest retained list depends on the 16 players contracted beyond 2019 not being parked up waiting for pre season training to start. We can’t afford to pay em all off Ian. I’m sure they could put up with warming a bench for a season on good money. Interesting eh. ??

  17. Your shortest retained list depends on the 16 players contracted beyond 2019 not being parked up waiting for pre season training to start. We can’t afford to pay em all off Ian. I’m sure they could put up with warming a bench for a season on good money. Interesting eh. ??

  18. I didn’t go. Just couldn’t be bothered with the long round trip. I will be there this Saturday to pay my respects in Centenary Square. Maybe catch up with fellow fans for a drink after.

    Roll on next season… although the fact Anderson has been offered a new contract is a worrying start!

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