Ryan Sparks: “Our ambition is to turn Bradford City into a club to be proud of again”

By Jason McKeown

“Is this a sick joke?”

“Disgraceful cheap option”

“Conference here we come”

When Ryan Sparks was announced as the new Chief Executive of Bradford City in November, it’s fair to say the initial fan reaction was far from positive.

Sparks had until recently been the club’s Head of Media and Public Relations, seemingly more well versed in managing official Twitter accounts than football club budgets. He is just 29 years old. And his appointment came at a time Bradford City were badly falling short of pre-season expectations of a promotion push, sliding instead towards relegation trouble. All in the middle of a global pandemic.

It was a brave call.

Yet nearly 12 weeks on from that day of social media scorn, the youngest CEO in the Premier League and Football League is winning over a fanbase that has in recent times maintained a mistrust of those running Bradford City. Weary cynicism has been swapped for cheery enthusiasm, as green shoots of progress have become visible on and off the pitch. The new leader overseeing the day to day running of the club has begun to lift the gloom.

With the Bantams having climbed up the table whilst significantly revamping a faltering squad, the last three months have gone much better than was first feared when Sparks was unveiled that November afternoon.

“I knew that I would get a mixed reception to say the least,” Sparks reflects to WOAP. “I probably wasn’t who people wanted to take over the role. I understood that and knew what was going to come my way.

“Supporters probably saw it as an easy option for the club to turn internally. I saw it differently. I saw it as that I’d had an inside track of the club for the last two and half years, when it was at its worst, but I’d also seen the very positive steps we had taken over the last 12-18 months that perhaps had been masked by on the field disappointments. I also had a vision for what the next steps needed to be to keep us moving.”

***

Looking at the situation from the outside, it was easy to write Sparks off. But the reality is the experience he had built up, working in Sport over the last 15 years, offered him a good grounding to take up the mantle. He reveals, “I’ve always wanted to get to this position. I made myself a promise when I was 16 that I would run a club in a sport by the age of 30. That was my personal goal.”

Having initially cut his teeth as a sports editor, Sparks spent two years as Media and PR Manager at Bradford Bulls, during a period where the fallen Rugby League giants were dealing with administration. At one point, Sparks was just one of four employees kept on and between them they had to somehow keep the club running. He then moved to second tier side Featherstone Rovers as Head of Communications, where crowds hovered around 2,000. It was no wonder, perhaps, that the opportunity to join Bradford City in 2018 held appeal.

“I have Gareth Jones, the ex-Radio Leeds sports editor, to thank for the initial link up between myself and the club. As he recommended me to them,” Sparks reveals. “At the time Edin Rahic was looking for someone to shape the club’s communications and improve its image. From a distance, in the relatively quiet town of Featherstone, I thought that would be a good challenge – and one that I could actually deliver on quite quickly.

“Initially the conversation with Edin was good, but it was clear to me that something wasn’t right. There was a distraction. We first spoke in April, but I didn’t join the club until July. He was never clear with me, but eventually he told me he’d like me to come in.”

All this was taking place during a time when Rahic was under increasing pressure from fans, after the collapse in results that followed Stuart McCall’s controversial sacking. Troubling stories were coming to light about the way the chairman’s overbearing management style was tearing the club apart. Sparks quickly realised that the situation was a mess.

He continues, “I was very uncomfortable when I joined. I thought the culture inside the club was toxic. The remaining staff weren’t on the same page, there was zero leadership, there was no direction. I thought there was an identity crisis going on in terms of the look and feel of the club. Having come from Featherstone where, yes it was small, but we knew what we were trying to achieve all the time and had a set strategy, it was a real shock.

“I remember having a conversation with my chief executive who I had left behind at Featherstone, and he rang me one week into the job to see how I was getting on. I told him I just wish we had some of the things in place that were at Featherstone. It was hard for me to come to terms with the fact I thought the set-up of a Championship Rugby League side was far superior to a club who only 18 years prior was playing in the Premier League.

“When I look back now, I was perhaps a little bit naïve. I think that me coming to Bradford City was a bit of a final throw of the dice for Edin, from an image and communications perspective. He didn’t really know where to turn.”

Sparks quickly found his responsibilities went far beyond the remit of the role. In City’s third game of the ill-fated 2018/19 campaign, Sparks was left to manage the Tyrell Robinson situation, with the young winger facing serious criminal charges. “It became very obvious that Edin wanted nothing to do with that. He appeared to be still trying to get his head around the fact we couldn’t sell him,” Sparks laments. As City predictably fell apart on the field, Sparks contacted Stefan Rupp to try to get him to understand how bad things were. He also confronted Rahic himself, telling the chairman he needed to go.

Sparks explains, “I said to him that his position was untenable. I never saw it as a confrontation, I saw it in a strange way as trying to help him. I felt really bad for his family and what they were subjected to. I knew his kids were at a local school, things like that.

“Stefan rang me just before the Luton Town game and told me he was on his way to the UK. We discussed our previous conversations and he explained how he was going to act on them. I can understand why he wouldn’t have listened at first as I’d only just joined the club. But I was raising the issues with him for the right reasons.

“It was very emotionally draining. And I was regretting what I’d got myself in for. It wasn’t a nice place to be.”

***

Following that trip to the UK, Rupp acted and Rahic left the club. Julian Rhodes had returned to try to fix a financial mess that had been kept hidden even from Rupp. Amongst Rhodes’ lengthy to-do list was persuading a disillusioned Sparks to stay.

“At first I didn’t trust the situation,” he admits. “I didn’t know Julian from Adam. I was unsure of why he was there. But he was honest with me, he showed me every aspect of the financial situation at the club. I’ve seen financial turmoil at the Bulls, it wasn’t far off that. It was quite scary. Not knowing the back story, I could tell by the reaction of the fans that Julian was someone they trusted to steady the ship.

“Julian convinced me to stay. I had a good opportunity to move to a Super League club that December, which took a lot of turning down – especially given where we were. But I felt as though I had something to achieve at Bradford City and I didn’t want to close the book on it too quickly.”

As Rhodes uncovered the true scale of Rahic’s overspending, and the financial implications, Sparks worked closely with the interim CEO to begin to improve the situation. “We were working against the backdrop of financial ruin. There was a lot of work going on and Stefan had to put money in to help stop it from collapsing around us. It reminded me of the situation at Odsal when we were plunged into administration.”

Sparks feels he has learned a lot from Rhodes. “Julian was someone I could trust. I think it’s safe to say we’ve built up a really good relationship in the 18-24 months that followed. It’s been a real education for me, and I’ve really enjoyed working with Julian a lot. He deserves a lot of credit for the difficulties we’ve had to overcome – and in fact we are still overcoming.

“If the average person had looked at the budget compared to the cash flow and then looked at the accounts that were popping out on the back of that, you would have run a mile back then. It was a really tough spot. It became obvious to me that Julian felt he had a duty to help piece it back together. At the end of the day, it’s his club. He is a Bradford City fan. He didn’t want the club to collapse. I don’t think he could have lived with it.

“That’s why he chose to come back and help. And then probably stayed longer than he wanted to. But we were thrown up lots of different issues: relegation, the pandemic, the list goes on.”

***

As the world turned upside down last March, the curtailing of Bradford City’s 2019/20 campaign was one of the side effects of the pandemic. Sparks was thrown more into the spotlight as he communicated regularly with local media and supporters about the implications for the club. In the summer he was promoted to Director of Communications and Commercial, whilst a plan was put in place for him to succeed Rhodes.

Ryan explains, “Julian was really keen to put me into the CEO role. He approached me about it over the course of last summer, and I went away and had a think about it.

“In my time at the club I think I’ve always demonstrated that I saw no boundary to what I could do. Every time I got asked to take something on, I took it with very little fear. You only get one shot at life. As time rolled on, I spoke with Julian and admitted that whilst I lack in some areas, if he could help me with those areas over the next few months I could eventually take over. Stefan was on board; it was left between me and Julian.”

This transition period, behind the scenes, commenced as the 2020/21 season kicked off with matches behind closed doors. On the field it was soon evident that things weren’t going to plan, which increased Sparks’ urgency to take the reins.

“I felt us drifting. And people were blaming Julian for that, which I didn’t understand because he’d already internally and somewhat externally explained that his time was coming to an end,” he continues. “Julian believed he had completed his interim post if not overstayed it, in his opinion – and that it was time for the club to move on.

“I felt I’d had good apprenticeship and the transition could continue, so I was quite pleased to take it on. I try to take us forward a little bit each day. You get set-backs – along the way I’m going to make some bad decisions and I’m going to make some good decisions, hopefully more good than bad! But I’ve really enjoyed it so far, because this is what I’ve worked towards since I was 16 years old.”

The initial few weeks in charge were challenging though, as City continued to slump down the table. Sparks had made the decision to extend the under pressure Stuart McCall’s contract, but in the end made the tough call to sack the City legend.

Sparks states, “I don’t regret the contract extension, because I wanted to give Stuart every opportunity to succeed. But sadly, things didn’t work out.

“The day he was removed from his role was horrible. It was one of the worst days of my life. Probably the worst day of my career. It was difficult and quite painful. I told him that part of the decision to part company was based around protecting his legacy. It’s a results based industry, and our results were far from good enough. But I had it clear in my mind that Stuart McCall has to have a future at our club forever, and I would never let that be tainted.”

It was the third time McCall has departed as City manager, and the previous two were emotional and controversial. This time around, there was no bad blood. “One thing that’s very pleasing to me is that we have spoken several times after,” Ryan confirms. “Stuart rang me around Christmas, and we had a good chat. There was no clearing of the air needed. Parting company with him wasn’t personal and he knows that. Right to the very end, I stood shoulder to shoulder with him.

“I respect Stuart. Growing up in Bradford, he was a hero. When I think of all the managers and coaches I’ve worked with over my career, and there have been several, he ranks right up there as one of the ones you’ll never forget. He was fantastic to work with.”

***

After sacking McCall with City 22nd in League Two, Sparks turned to academy coaches Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars as caretakers. The pair have hugely impressed, halting the external search for the next manager and being elevated to the title of interim managers. Sparks beams, “We’ve unearthed two fantastic potential managers through trusting them, knowing what they had in their locker and giving them a chance.

“It’s quite strange because there is some synergy between their appointment and mine. They were given a shot and probably written off by some, but we’re trying our best as a collective with a clear vision that we all share.”

Given the upturn in results since – City have achieved 18 points from a possible 27 under the pair – is Sparks tempted to make the arrangement more permanent? “As a club, including Mark and Conor, we’re all quite relaxed about the situation,” he responds. “It will develop naturally. They’re very happy. We all trust each other. Mark and Conor know I’ve got their back 100%. I have done from day one. Their previous roles aren’t in jeopardy. The academy is also right behind them because they are their products, if you like.

“If and when we think a decision needs to be made, to take that further, we will. Making them interim managers has suspended if not closed our search for a new manager. So at the moment they are very much in charge of the team.”

The trust in the rookie managerial pair extended to letting them play a huge role in the January transfer activity that has seen nine players come in and six shipped out. “Recruitment is an area we had to get better at,” Sparks admits. “Whatever happens with the salary cap, in my mind we’ve got to win the recruitment race if we’re going to compete at the right end and move forwards.

“The club has got it wrong too many times, through no fault of the players who have come in. And I just won’t have that. We cannot let history repeat itself, or I’m not doing my job. I’ve got to be focused on making sure the people who come through the door are our kind of people, in terms of how they go about their business and the application.

“I think we’ve more than like for like replaced the players we’ve said goodbye to. And I think we went about that in the right way as well, ensuring that the players who left the club had a future elsewhere. Because one thing I want us to do is be respectful as an organisation.”

The transfer activity has been shaped by another arrival, Lee Turnbull as Recruitment Director. Ryan is delighted with the impact Turnbull has made, “Lee has been brilliant. I met him in November, just before I got the CEO job. Immediately I thought he was someone I could work with. I liked what he had to say. We talked about the different pillars of successful recruitment, and how it can be wrong and right.

“The deals Lee did were fantastic. We were pleased with how we executed the plan over January. There were some changes as we went along. Stuart’s departure changed things slightly as well in terms of the profile of the player the manager was looking for. With certain positions, they saw it differently to how Stuart saw it, and that’s fine.

“At the end of the day, the squad has been recruited for Mark and Conor and it’s by Mark and Conor. They identify the players they liked, and Lee has gone away and worked with me in terms of trying to get the deals done. We’ve worked together really well. And I think Mark and Conor would agree that we’ve delivered an improved squad.”

Whilst Ryan stresses he himself was not making decisions over which players to sign, he has been very keen to make sure that people are coming in for the right reasons, and that they will contribute to a stronger culture.

“When I first walked into Bradford City, it was full of ego and disregard for each other – and those days are over,” he declares. “We’re together and we respect what each other does. It doesn’t matter what job you do at the club: everyone has got a role to play. It’s a different Bradford City at the moment and it’s one we’re trying to build for tomorrow not just for January.

“The one thing I’m trying to build now is the lure of our club. The value of playing for Bradford City. And building the culture around that. Because that’s what initially attracted me to the club.”

***

With Bradford City beginning to get back on track, Sparks is now focused on continuing to rebuild whilst mindful of some tricky challenges ahead. The news that the salary cap has been withdrawn is potentially a welcome boost for the club. But with the UK lockdown continuing and uncertainty over when fans can return, the financial outlook remains uncertain.

Not that City are in trouble right now. They continue to be financially supported by chairman Stefan Rupp, who quietly behind the scenes keeps in regular contact with what’s happening at the club. “Stefan and I speak most days now,” Sparks confirms. “He is well aware of everything we’re doing. He is involved, but he doesn’t interfere with things that we pay other people to do.

“We now talk about the next 2-4 years and what we want to achieve. I think he understands that what we’ve been through is disappointing. He is supportive of myself and the staff at the club. He’s really behind Mark and Conor.

“One thing he repeats to me a lot is that we have to get the club back to the one he found, that’s the task. He often says, ‘I owe that to the people of Bradford at the very least’. That is the benchmark. We’ve got to get back to the right half of League One.

“The recent attendance figures we’ve been getting on iFollow have got Stefan really excited. As it shows that fans are rallying behind the club again and believe in our direction. Stefan is also really excited by Danny Rowe’s right foot!”

The extra financial revenue that City are earning through iFollow sales – more than 3,000 supporters bought a pass for the Exeter game – could be really important over the second half of the campaign. Especially as hopes of fans returning to stadiums before the season’s end appear to be fading. And there are some challenges ahead, not least what to do about season tickets for 2021/22.

Sparks admits, “It’s pretty tough. The iFollow figures will certainly influence where we are at by the end of the season. Because of the way we’ve handled the last 12-18 months, we can just about work our way to May/June before we have to go with selling season tickets.

“We’ve been in meetings this week with the EFL, and part of it is discussing if iFollow will be available next season if we need it, as a back-up. We don’t want to go there – we all want to be back at Valley Parade in person. But the idea of keeping next year’s season tickets off sale as long as possible is to give us the injection of money when we need it. It also shows our supporters the same respect we did with them last season, by suspending sales, because we refuse to sell a non-viable product.”

Sparks is referring to the decision City took last summer to take season tickets off sale until it was known what the 2020/21 campaign would look like. And when they did eventually go back on sale, they were positioned as iFollow passes first and foremost. Sparks revealed that City were criticised by other clubs and even questioned by the EFL over their stance then, but he feels this will put the Bantams in a better position than many others over the coming months.

“It’s proving to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Because unlike other clubs, we are not facing the possibility of mass refunds – because we sold them as iFollow passes rather than season tickets.”

And what is the plan for 2021/22 season ticket prices? “I don’t intend for any major price hikes, I want to make it as accessible as possible for people to come and watch us, because I can imagine what people have been through the last 12 months is far worse than what we’ve been through. We’ll be looking at payment plans and credit for season tickets. We’re trying to support people the best we can.”

Nevertheless, Sparks warns that a low uptake of season tickets could really hinder the club. “If we are behind closed doors next season, I will be worried, because we can’t take much more of a hit. If we can’t attract at least 9,000 people to buy a season ticket, potentially to only watch games on iFollow, that would be a threat to us. But we wouldn’t be alone in that respect. And I’m sure our supporters will want to help us along the way.”

***

The ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid will clearly have an impact on budgets for next season. Whilst City were active in the January market, most clubs – especially at the top – kept their powder dry. An uncertain market lies ahead for all – which impacts the potential of City keeping out of contract players on good wages, like Connor Wood, Anthony O’Connor and Lee Novak.

Ryan explains, “Next week we are beginning our recruitment cycle for the summer. We’re going to be in the rare position – at least during my time at the club – where we are not going to be overhauling the entire squad. We’ve got around a dozen players contracted for next season, and that gives us a real platform. It takes the pressure off, in terms of filling the squad with quality.

“Without naming names, once we begin that recruitment cycle, we will begin building certain personnel into the budget. And offers – if we feel it is right for that particular player – will be made. It will be constantly reviewed. The salary cap scrapping helps us, but in the same breath – when the threat of jeopardy is real, and we don’t fully know what next season will look like in terms of Covid restrictions – we still have to be careful.

“One thing I don’t want to do in my first year is record massive losses. I want to make sure that what we do is sustainable. There’s a lot to go into the mix. We’re not quite at the stage of sitting down and talking to specific players out of contract, but we’re monitoring it carefully.”

In the more immediate term, there’s almost half a season to complete. What are the objectives over the coming months? “When I first took charge, I had two clear goals for this season – improve the squad in January and keep us in the Football League. On the second one, we’re slightly exceeding that, but mathematically we’re not fully out of the woods yet. My aim is to finish as positively as possible, ideally in the top half of the table.

“We need momentum. From my time here, we were relegated in 2018/19 and started the next year with a brand new team, so no momentum at all. In 2019/20, we were slowing down fast. Our results were fading – everyone will remember the Salford game. We curtailed the season on a negative, with no momentum, and another overhauling of the squad followed.

“So the aim is to finish this season on an upwards curve, with players in the building we’re all excited to see again next season.”

Sparks is hopeful that more concrete building blocks are in place to achieve that. “I think we have a core for the XI next season already. And we can add to that in the summer. That’s where you will see Lee Turnbull have the most important transfer window, along with whoever is the manager by then, that we’ve had for a long time. We see it as an opportunity to really take the squad up another level.

“We want to be battling again next season, but at the other end of the table. That’s our aim. It will not be easy. The semi-abolishment of the salary cap brings its own uncertainty – clubs don’t really know what to do. Some are scared to spend. Some will gamble.

“We believe our recruitment will not be about pounds or pence. It will be about culture and what these players want to achieve in claret and amber, rather than what they think of the stadium or the fact we once won promotion to the Premier League.

“Our ambition is to turn Bradford City into a club to be proud of again. We are extremely proud of our past – and now it’s time to make new history.”



Categories: Interviews

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28 replies

  1. I feel so upbeat after reading this from Ryan.
    I like the commitment to creating a team to build from, that culture and mentality similar to PP days. The summer rebuilds left me disenfranchised, not any more.
    Fantastic interview. Well done WOAP.

  2. Ryan Sparks may be relatively young but judged as a CEO he has demonstrated the sort of skills that are necessary for success in any business – energy, tenacity, self-belief but above all, a willingness to listen and learn from others.

    He stepped into a cauldron of social media venom back in November with the bile brigade confidently proclaiming the collapse of the club and imminent implosion. It didn’t fit their narrative of conspiracy theory, cynicism and outright negativity to believe otherwise.

    Ryan mentioned in a recent Radio Leeds interview that his family had questioned the wisdom of him accepting the appointment and I suspect many people would have shied away from such a hostile environment. The fact that he has demonstrated his capability and silenced the keyboard warriors so soon is no mean achievement.

    It is unlikely that there will be not be setbacks along the way but the direction of travel is definitely very encouraging.

  3. Excellent article. It gives me some confidence that the club is moving in the right direction. Not all fans will be happy, but we are where we are. Despite the situation, City fans always turn up & support the club.
    CTID.

  4. That’s a good interview and it is really good to see longer term thinking and planning at city.
    Survival this season is what matters now.. 6 wins.
    Then the planning will see us prosper next season.
    I like what I see with sparks. Regarding the manager I trust sparks to make the right move.

  5. On the subject of IFollow for next season
    There must be quite a number of fans,who cannot attend Valley Parade in person because of Disability,or caring for someone with a Disability,so,at present,this revenue is lost to the Club.But having an IFolllow Season Pass would remedy this.Can I ask that the Club make this happen please?

    • I’m not entirely sure this is in the clubs power? Would be good to clarify.

      Currently there are protections around showing 3PMs to protect attendances at the game. Hence why through iFollow we were able to watch midweek games but not Saturday’s previously.

      I agree it would be a great benefit to many though!

  6. I’m sure Ryan Sparks will be very pleased with an article/interview that puts himself in the best light possible. I was disappointed to note that some subjects were omitted or only briefly discussed. Such as James Vaughan’s departure last summer. Also, how much of a financial hit did the Club take due to extending McCall and Black’s contracts?

    After three months of officially being CEO and a prior six months of grooming/acting CEO I would give him a C+ evaluation. Promising but not great.

    • I just read the T & A interview with Stuart McCall. Another example of how one sided these interviews are. The focus being putting the subject in the best light possible. I wonder what Stuart’s assessment of “panicky” Sparks would be??

  7. Heart warming read that clears up a lot from what happened in the past that led to our demise and hopefully our way back to success and also having a family football club that cares, right at its heart , That’s a club worth supporting especially in these days of Greed and Grab everything in sight. The club is showing it can work its way back to the top with determination and dedication, Hats off to the present management long may it continue. As for ” I Follow ” has the club e-mailed all existing supporters and showed how easy it is to obtain a pass for a live match. Also for away games when we are back in the Stadiums it seems a good source of support if you cannot travel it shouldn’t just be for overseas supporters

    • I’m hoping when things get back to normal that ifollow can be laid out on a permanent basis. I haven’t been able to attend a game home or away for the last 3 seasons but have continued to buy my season ticket. Imagine how amazing for me to see every game (home and away) on ifollow. Im more than willing to pay just given the chance.

      • In previous ‘normal’seasons the ability to watch games from within the UK using iFollow was restricted primarily to mid-week games – both home and away.
        This was to do with broadcasting t&c’s.
        I doubt that once fans are allowed back in grounds (without restriction) that any 3pm Saturday games will be streamed live within the UK

  8. Great interview.

    Interesting that he mentioned that there was no I’ll feeling between him and Stuart. That contrasts quite sharply with the interview Stuart gave to the T&A.

    I wonder if by ‘The Club’ Stuart meant the wider BCFC community (ie us fans) rather than the CEO / board. If that is the case I think that’s rather sad.

    Sad also that he doesn’t see his future in West Yorkshire in any capacity.

    Still looking forward it’s difficult not to be more optimistic. Let’s hope we can stabslise this year and kick on the next. The successful transfer window can only give us hope…

  9. Well that one is definitely a shooting arrow from the Heart right into the centre of Bradford City Football Club.

    What is more reassuring is the relationships between all involved and Stefan on board with full backing wanting to get back to the Club He bought, we all want to feel that connection again and reading Ryan’s words of commitment and no egos, with the right personnel only allowed to jump on board stopping the journey players at unrealistic wages, with everyone getting on with the job in hand all pulling in the same direction will be like music to most ears. Football is definitely changing and evolving and putting faith in the next younger generation is certainly looking like a good move at the moment from within Valley Parade.

    Let’s hope this is the start of a New direction, New legacy and New success…..

  10. It’s been a promising start, but the sum total of that promising start is moving from 23rd in League Two to the dizzy heights of 20th in League Two. So it’s a bit early for the told-you-sos. A promising start though.

    • Not sure anyone is issuing a told you so? At best just pointing out that worst fears haven’t come to pass and fans are largely behind the club now

    • Prior to the Exeter defeat our fans were lauding the unbeaten record, the significant improvement in performances and the improved outlook. The weather has played its part in stunting the momentum but for goodness sakes put things into perspective and stop being so miserable.

      What is it about a number of our fans that they are so small-minded and fickle? You get the distinct impression that they enjoy moaning for the sake of it. No doubt the past few weeks have been unbearable because they haven’t had the chance to indulge in being negative. But don’t let them miss the chance to whine.

      • Gary S, personally I’m quite pleased with the surprising turnaround. However, the aspirational thoughts that dominate this forum do require some offsetting opinion in order to maintain some realistic expectations. It’s worth noting that Ryan Sparks last season was quoted saying City’s goal was Championship promotion within 2 to 5 years. I remember the thumbs down I got for questioning it. After three months “officially” being promoted to CEO I am again trying to temper expectations on this forum.

        I still feel confident in saying City will avoid relegation this season and I was making the same claim when Stuart was manager. If I’m considered small minded I guess my sixty odd years of following City have made me that way. I’ve become a great believer in “actions speak louder than words.” Without a doubt Sparks can talk the talk. Now it’s time for him to put his words into action. He’s off to a promising start, I hope it continues.

      • It’s been a promising start, as I said. The improvement has been marked- and enjoyable. The transfer dealing has been decisive, especially in getting rid of the dead wood.

        But it’s way too early for the told-you-sos and the congratulatory back-slapping.

      • Can you explain where the back slapping is happening exactly?

    • No-one is saying ‘told you so’ although I sense that that is probably what you’d like to do.

      Tell us what should the club be doing and what didn’t it do properly in the past few weeks to improve the league position? Offer a few constructive observations maybe?

      Things are going in the right direction but I’m sure you will continue to complain irrespective.

  11. He then moved to Super League side Featherstone Rovers as Head of Communications.

    I’m not a rugby man but I don’t think Fev were a Super League club at the time.

  12. A lovely way to spend a Saturday evening, sat on the sofa with a cup of tea, reading an interesting article. Thank you to Jason and Ryan for the article.
    Clearly, there are two sides to every story and I’ve not read the interview with Stuart McCall in the T&A so I can’t comment on that. However, I was probably in the minority for wanting Stuart McCall not to be sacked earlier this season. I believed that he could keep us up this season. Obviously, we will never know that.
    There will always be different views of events by different people who are involved at a football club. This article has allowed Ryan to share some of his experiences from his viewpoint and for that I am grateful. The general feeling amongst supporters is that the club is moving in the right direction and Ryan along with Trueman, Sellars and Turnbull deserve some credit for this. There is still a lot of hard work ahead this season for us to maintain our league status and that has to be our short term priority. Bolton Wanderers have proved today that a single win can propel a team up the division.
    Looking further ahead, I do hope that Connor Wood is still playing for us next season.

  13. I consider it unreasonable for any fan to question the progress of the club, following the personnel changes of the last few months. We’ve probably heard more from Ryan Sparks in that short time, than we heard from Julian during the whole of his time at City.

    Inevitably, there’ll be those “so-called” fans who’s occasional praise comes through gritted teeth but mainly want to knock club officials at every opportunity. As John Dewhirst states above, tell us what the club didn’t do properly over the past few weeks.

    Ryan Sparks deserves the full support of City fans because we really need some stability if we are to progress.

  14. That piece really resonates with me and u guess many city fans, I for one was rather sceptical about a very inexperienced RS taking the reigns of our great club and wondered just who would guide him, im pleased to say I think he is proving worthy of the role. I would love to see season tkts on sale for next season so people can attend matches, I also believe the Ifollow format should continue indefinitely as this will be a good revenue stream for the club going forward, lots of people can’t make every game through a season and city fans want to follow home and away. I am prepared to back the regime for next season now, I will put my money where my mouth is and cough up, a combination package of season ticket and Ifollow would suit me and many more at the club. Congratulations to all at the club for steadying our ship once more, please let that be the last of very choppy waters for some time. Ctid

  15. We shouldn’t be surprised that an experienced communications professional can provide good messaging, but I like the emphasise on building the right culture- especially on treating outgoing players well. Most organisations are at their best when the culture & values are right, and that’s surely got to be essential for a football club, where it all comes down to an effective team performance. He also comes across as commercially savvy & mature, which is reassuring.

    I think the aspiration of championship promotion in 3-5 years feels ambitious right now but is surely the right thinking. It was 4 years from an 18th place finish in League 2, to the the first League 1 play offs- 5 years to the point the following year where the width of a post separated us from championship promotion under Stuart McCall.

    The timing of this with the McCall interview is an interesting juxtaposition, and there is some jarring between the two accounts of Stuart’s departure. That’s inevitable, though, I guess- Stuart is not going to accept he couldn’t turn it round. Encouraged by the suggestion above about protecting Stuart’s future legacy. Whilst I guess its not likely he will manage for us again, his link & contribution to our club is so unique & enduring there surely needs to be a formal role for him at some point, when the pain recedes, over & above pictures on the wall and a suite in his name.

  16. A really interesting insight to everything that has been going on and good luck going forward .

    The bit I missed was a recognition that over 9,000 fans have bought season tickets for a season of football that never happened. Now this is by no.means any fault of anyone connected with our club.

    But a nod to that group would have been good ad I understand a very small percentage have looked for a refund.

    Just would have been nice to acknowledge that. But having said that under horrible circumstances all the sounds and signs are very good.

    Bring on next season with a full VP.

    Well done to all of you behind the scenes that have kept this going so well.

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