The Bradford City 2021/22 season preview #1: This is a big season

By Jason McKeown

This is a big season for Bradford City. Four years on from the gut-wrenching agony of losing the League One play off final to Millwall, the club’s painful decline must finally start to be reversed. The Bantams came so close to Championship football but have since fallen back to the depths of the struggles before Phil Parkinson. Almost as though those glorious years of 2012-17 were for nothing.

The push back has to begin now.

This is big season for Bradford City. Mistakes of the recent past are well documented. But this summer, it feels as though a genuine plan has emerged – and that the club is operating in a more focused, professional and thoughtful manner. It’s a plan that encourages supporter engagement and buy-in. I met up with CEO Ryan Sparks with about three games to go of last season, and it was obvious then that he couldn’t wait for the 2020/21 campaign to be over so he could get on with ramping up his strategy.

The club was ready and has shown that. 

This is a big season for Bradford City. They came up badly short, again, in 2020/21. The response has been to recruit the best manager in League Two last season. Derek Adams is a proven promotion winner who has delivered success at every club he has managed. He has a clear, methodical way of doing things – with a string of promotion winning medals to back it up.

For a club that has gone changed managers six times in the last four seasons, this time we really have to hope they’ve chosen wisely.

This is a big season for Bradford City. The recruitment activity has been front-footed and with a sense of urgency. Many of the new faces don’t cause pulses to race – but do offer plenty to intrigue. A year ago, City were floundering after James Vaughan could not be persuaded to stay and the hunt from a replacement became desperate and ultimately flawed. There has been a calmness about the club’s transfer activity this time – not prompting huge headlines, but not causing great anxiety either.

With the bulk of the squad in place before pre-season even began, the hope has to be that pre-season bonding will have proven deep and meaningful. That something special is brewing.

This is a big season for Bradford City. They prepare to welcome supporters back, after we’ve 18 months following the club through the lens of ifollow and the divisive battleground of social media. As the pandemic gave us an almighty distraction, it became difficult at times to remember why we love this club so much. More than 12,000 of us have given the club a vote of confidence by buying up season tickets.

As Valley Parade prepares to reverberate to the sound of football chanting once again, you hope the players and managers can provide reasons to cheer and demonstrate that it has been worth the long wait.

This is a big season for Bradford City. Supporters return to a stadium that has undergone significant tender loving care, as energy and focus has gone on improving the matchday experience – addressing the slow decline that has hindered many parts of the famous old ground. It helps make fans feel more valued, knowing the club recognises there’s more to all of this than ploughing all the resources into a playing budget.

That moment when the players take to the field at home to Oldham – the first home game back – could be one of the most memorable moments in the long history of Valley Parade.

This is a big season for Bradford City. The sporting of a white home kit with claret and amber trim will take some getting used to, but it embodies much of what is good about the club’s renewed way of going about things. Change, but with a purpose behind it. A reconnection with the club’s identity. A moment to use past glories as inspiration to create a new chapter of success.

Compare this season’s kit to the wretched 2018/19 relegation shirt, where City moved away from their own colours for no obvious reason. At the time it only added to the grim realisation that those running the club had broken Bradford City away from its roots and values.

This is a big season for Bradford City. They will kick off with a wave of positivity and warm sentiment, but it is also a point where further failure will be difficult to tolerate. If it goes wrong once again, what on earth would the plan be after that?

We’ve had days and weeks and months and more than a year all separated from each other. The Bradford City community fragmented. Battling to get through the huge challenges of lockdown. Looking after ourselves and each other against a deadly pandemic that hit Bradford as hard as any part of the country. We’ve had to deal with job insecurity, furlough pay, losing jobs, not being able to get a job, worrying about paying our bills, battling to keep a roof over our heads, struggling with a soaring mental health crisis, worrying about an incredibly uncertain future.

When we wanted to turn to our escapisms, our hobbies, what could our beloved Bradford City offer to us? A 2019/20 season that ended abruptly, the mood of the fanbase struggling to get over a dismal defeat to Salford that had all but spelled the end of fading promotion hopes. Endlessly replaying old Bradford City matches on YouTube. Unresolvable arguments on Twitter about Stefan Rupp, Julian Rhodes, Stuart McCall and others. And then an entire 2020/21 season watched online, where positive relief was in short supply.

No going down to Valley Parade with friends and family. No walk down Thorncliffe Road. No passing through the turnstiles. No gazing at the (occasionally) green turf. No seeing players new and familiar live in the flesh. No bumping into mates on the Kop. No chanting City ‘til I Die. No chuckling at Charlie’s latest outbursts. No high-fiving Billy Bantam. No losing your mind cheering a Bradford City goal. No warm feelings of joy going home after watching a brilliant Bantams win.

Just a Bradford City void. One that we had no idea if it would ever end.

This is a big season for Bradford City. As live football returns and we embrace once more something we had taken for granted, the rewards of getting it right this season – of all seasons – are absolutely huge. For all we have endured since 2017, and for all we have missed during the pandemic, this is a season where we need Bradford City to once again become a club we can be proud of.  

Categories: Season Preview


9 replies

  1. Great post. Hope to god we get promoted this season however I wouldn’t want Adams sacked if we don’t. Need to give him very minimum of 2 seasons.

  2. Well Adams has certainly done everything right so far during pre-season.

    No trialists, not making mass changes at HT in games – but most importantly getting a winning run going! Yea these were only pre-season warm ups when the focus generally is on simply building fitness….but after these last few years of losing more than winning – that above all else needed to change!

    So we head into the Exeter game on the back of a terrific win at Accrington – one of our usual bogey teams – if we can take that level of intensity down south next saturday we have a great chance of winning the opening game.

    Imagine what that would add to the atmosphere and emotion of the BIG return home the week after !

  3. Great article. Adams will ultimately get City promoted but based on the current squad it looks very iffy for this season. I hope the fans and Sparky have the patience and fortitude to stick with him.

    • Phil, can you name me more than five signings you are jealous of in league two this season? Which squads on paper can you look at and say “wow they look really good”?. Why is our squad iffy?

      To me this division is weaker than it was last season. Cheltenham, Cambridge, and Bolton were all really good sides last season and i can’t see the clubs coming down from League One being as strong as them.

      Mansfield, Exeter, Salford, Tranmere, Carlisle, Newport and a few others should all be up there fighting for promotion, but their squads are no better than ours. And their managers especially don’t have a record as good as Derek Adams.

      This division is there for the taking. We have the players and the manager. This is not the time to have your glass half full

      • Christian, my reservations are based on facts and not deluded emotions:
        – City have added 7 new players to a squad that gained 12 points in their last 15 league games. A pace that would have been rock bottom over a full season.

        – last season, City scored 47 goals which was tied for seventh lowest in the league. This season we have added one speculative striker in Lee Angol who will need to have an impressive turnaround season for City to advance into the upper half of the table.

        – City have 7 departed players who scored 22 league goals and were replaced with 7 new players who scored a mere 16 goals last season. Lack of goals is a potential problem.

        – interesting to note, only one team’s been promoted in L2 this century and scored less than 50 goals in a season. That was Bristol Rovers in the 2006/7 season with 49 goals and promotion via the playoffs.

        In conclusion, I would say that City’s hopes for advancement into the upper half of the table fall on the shoulders of Lee Angol having an outstanding season.
        “Emotions are Facts worst enemy.”

    • So the Clubs prospects for a successful season hinge on how Lee Angol performs. Really?! interesting (if slightly flaky) interpretation of ” the facts”.

  4. Like many supporters who read the excellent articles on WOAP, I’ve witnessed our decline from Millwall beating us at Wembley to the dismal defeat at Salford City in March 2020. I had no appetite to watch any games on iFollow last season, but like lots of other people, I am looking forward to supporting Bradford City in person again.
    There seems to be a lot of pre-season optimism like most summers. Let’s hope that Adams gets us playing inventive football which leads to more wins than defeats.
    With the constant chopping and changing of managers since February 2018, we need to give Adams the time he deserves. My worry is that if we aren’t in contention for the top seven, people will become negative and yet again, they’ll be calling for a new manager.
    Maybe Andy Cook will be the 20 league goals in a season player we want? Maybe, Reece Staunton will continue to blossom? In the words of Oasis, definitely maybe, May 2022 will be time for a Bradford City promotion party?

  5. This has been the best pre season I can recall with visible improvements both on and off the pitch. I feel the decline we have witnessed in recent seasons looks to have been halted with the appointment of Derek Adams who has proven skills and experience to take our club forward.
    We may have only played friendlies, but Saturdays excellent team performance at Accy Stanley epitomised how much progress we have made. It was clear that Adams has instilled an organised way of playing that the players are comfortable with and the team already looks more balanced and certainly much fitter.
    All the summer signings are noticeable improvements on last season’s team and I’m confident that we have found a formidable strike duo in Cook & Angol.
    Whilst it’s a long old season and optimism is always high in August for every club, hopefully all City fans are both excited about returning to Valley Parade and about the club’s realistic promotion credentials.
    Fingers crossed 🤞🏻

  6. “Compare this season’s kit to the wretched 2018/19 relegation shirt, where City moved away from their own colours for no obvious reason.”

    You mean just like this season when we are wearing a non City colour white for no real reason.

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