By Jason McKeown
A quick exercise for you to begin with. Grab a pen and paper, or fire up the notes section on your phone. Firstly, write down the best five strikers you have seen play for Bradford City, in terms of their ability. Okay, now write down your favourite five Bradford City strikers, in terms of what they mean to you.
The chances are different names will appear on each of these two lists. Ability and talent is something that we can generally find universal agreement over. But when it comes to favourite players, our personal feelings can overrule logic.
Of course, your favourite players will be good players – why would we enjoy watching a hopeless footballer? But our favourite of favourites derive from an emotional connection that will be individual to us, and they are not always commonly shared. We’ve all had that thing where we love a particular player, sometimes when not many other fans have time for them. You can’t explain it, but our favourite players allow us to let our hearts rule our heads.
Stan Collymore, for example, is amongst the best five strikers I’ve seen in claret and amber. His talent was immense, as evidenced by several multi-million transfers to top clubs. But he’s a long, long way off being one of my favourite strikers. In fact, my favourite Bradford City striker is Edinho. Not the greatest ability wise, but someone who meant a lot to me when I first started going to watch City.
This favourite/best ability distinction is an important one to make, as on WOAP we prepare to unveil the 100 Most Popular Bradford City Players Of All Time. At the end of last season we asked you to tell us your top five all-time favourite City players, so we could find out who ranks the most popular of all time.
Given we’ve just endured one of the most disliked Bradford City squads in history, and the DNA and character of the Bantams has been badly damaged, I felt this would be a good way to reconnect with what makes the club so special. To reflect on the true heroes that we value – and celebrate what they gave to us as supporters.
We had a terrific response with over 700 supporters voting. This makes it by some distance the most popular poll we’ve even run. For perspective it represents 5% of the current season ticket holder base. Given nationwide polls you see in the media all the time (‘75% of UK people hate DIY’, etc) are usually based on surveying 2,000 people out of a country of 66 million (0.03%), I think 700 is a solid representation of the Bradford City fan base.
And it has certainly produced some interesting results. I ran a points system where every time a player was voted someone’s favourite they received five points, second earned four points, third got three points, fourth two points and fifth one point.
In total 141 different players received a top five vote. There were very clear voting patterns and distinctions between each position – especially the top 50. So whilst the results might attract a few debates, they have been compiled fairly and are robust.
The danger of this kind of survey is that more recent players will receive a higher amount of the vote than older players, as there are fewer City fans who were around to witness more historic achievements. This does have some bearing on the results admittedly, but looking at the top 30 in particular there are players from different eras going all the way back to the late 1950s.
Yes, the mighty Jimmy Speirs is not going to score brilliantly in a vote where no one who goes to watch City now was alive to see what he did. But I still think there is sufficient depth in the results that means players from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are represented fairly. And that if this poll was repeated in a few years’ time, the results would be largely the same.
One other trend to note is that when it comes to favourites, forwards have done better than defensive players. Goalkeepers especially do not poll particularly high. This makes sense when you think about it – few of us would rank a goalkeeper as our favourite player, as outfield players are more notable and achieve more measurable feats.
Defenders have still done reasonably well in this poll, even though only one makes the top 10. But it’s clear from the results that we like our driving midfielders, tricky wingers and deadly strikers.
Over the next week, we’ll reveal The 100 Most Popular Bradford City Players Of All Time, stage by stage, by counting down. This evening, we’ll unveil numbers 100-51, before breaking it down into the forties, thirties, twenties etc over the subsequent days. There’s a short bio of each of the top 50 players, including what they mean to City fans.
I’m very grateful for the help of fellow WOAP writers Ian Hemmens, Gareth Walker, Phil Abbott, Nikhil Vekaria, Ian Sheard, Tom Swithinbank and Tim Penfold for their help writing these profiles.
Hopefully you will enjoy reading them. You might find there are a few surprises in the Top 100 as we count down. And whilst ‘favourite’ is always a subjective matter that means you won’t personally agree with everything, just remember they’re based on a common consensus of Bradford City supporters. A poll of the most popular, from those best able to judge it.
Categories: 100 Most Popular Bradford City Players