By Joseph Marczynski
When Bradford City were relegated from League One, we were almost dead and buried by November. We’d fallen to 24th in the table, only rising to the giddy heights of 20th from this point until the end of the season.
We hit a “turning point” during the festive period, with four wins, including 4-0 drubbings of Walsall and Rochdale. But we failed to build upon them. The season saw more false dawns than a Vicar of Dibley convention, and we all know what happened next.
Emptying a truckload of cash to retain Jack Payne turned his performances from champagne to Lambrini. David Hopkin did the honourable thing and jumped from the already partially-submerged ship. Bowyer-ball failed to stop the rot, bringing untold tedium as we sank into the depths of League Two.
As we fall into the relegation spots following a truly appalling loss to Carlisle, there’s a similar blend of malaise, dismay and fury from the City faithful.
I won’t lament the undoing of Parkinson’s years of progress, because you’ve heard it all before. Just like posting the highlights of the Chelsea game every time Mourinho coughs, it’s unhealthy to spend so much time wandering down memory lane.
Since we were promoted in the halcyon days of the 2012/13 season, the lowest number of points to survive the League Two drop – discounting the season Bury went into administration and the Covid-curtailed 2019/20 season – was 35. That’s 22 more points than we have now, six wins and couple of draws would do it.
If we maintain the abysmal form we’ve shown so far, of just under a point a game, we’d hit this benchmark, with 43 points, give or take.
In the 2017/18 season, this would mean relegation, with 47 the number required to stay up. In the 2016/17, we’d also go down. We’d scrape by in 2015/16 and 2014/15.
Looking ever further back, things are less optimistic. 2012/13, we’d need 52 more points to survive the drop. In 2010/11, we’d need 48.
It’s not a forgone conclusion we’ll still be a Football League club come summer. Relying on Southend and Stevenage to simply bow out gracefully isn’t a coherent strategy. But how did we get here?
There’s only so long we can hang all of the club’s issues on Edin Rahic. Yes, his meddling was about as healthy for the club as inhaling asbestos, but he’s now been gone since December 2018, and the club has continued on its vertigo-inducing plummet into obscurity.
Naivety is perhaps the fairest word to describe the club’s approach this season. Allowing James Vaughan to depart for nothing – not the promised significant compensation – spending little money on a reasonable replacement, was at best foolish, at worst, complete incompetence.
As was retaining players who had failed to perform to even basic standards (Kurtis Guthrie, Dylan Mottley-Henry) or who spend more time on the treatment table than the pitch (Zeli Ismail – the first professional footballer with Quavers for legs, who we somehow originally agreed a deal where he could choose to excercise a one-year extension).
Publicly dismissing the free agent market which has proved useful in the past (Matt Kilgallon, Paul Caddis, Jim O’Brien – I stand by the opinion O’Brien would have helped us avoid the drop into League Two) and sitting on our hands over summer, fearful of salary cap restrictions that were predictably circumvented by more savvy clubs.
Issues in the depth of the team were clear before this season kicked off. Paper-thin with a wince-including bench even when fully fit; this is a hodgepodge of players, rather than a coherent squad. When you’re starting to look back at players from the League One relegation squad with misty-eyed admiration, it speaks volumes about the current crop.
It doesn’t help that the club is a vacuum for footballing potential. The list of formerly promising players who have failed to perform for us is almost endless: Eoin Doyle, James Vaughan, Sean Scannell, Jacob Butterfield, Jake Reeves, Shay McCartan – all had decent pedigree before donning the Claret and Amber.
If we go down, we’ll become the first former Premier League club to fall out of the Football League ever. A once proud, historic club, demoted to a future pub quiz question.
Formerly stable clubs who dropped into the National League have made an uncomfortable home there. Hartlepool, Chesterfield and Notts County are still mired in the Vanarama, with Macclesfield dissolving into the ether upon confirmation of their demise.
I hope I can reflect on this article during a blissful, fully-vaccinated summer, embarrassed by my overreaction, looking back at a steady-midtable finish.
Recruitment in our typically woeful January transfer window will be pivotal, with a new spine – including a goal scorer – the minimum requirement to climbing out of the grave we’re frantically digging for ourselves. Serious money has to be spent. Inertia isn’t an opinion. Shirk the responsibility and commitment again, and away days to Weymouth and Wealdstone could soon beckon.