Vocal Support and Vocal Dissent

By Paul Askham

I’m writing this in the full knowledge it will divide opinion as everyone’s different. I’ll front up to start with by admitting in day-to-day life I’m probably too passive, with very few hard-held opinions. I’m not politically engaged because I feel that unless I actually got into politics and made differences myself, that my little vote would have a miniscule effect on the world.

In short, the world wouldn’t work if everybody was like me. I’m aware of that and there’s no sanctimony intended in what I’m about to write.

I do have issues with extreme views, and rarely agree with the most passionate 10% whether their opinion be positive or negative. That goes for football, politics, business and religion. You can often see the origins of extreme views or reactions, but the point people are trying to make is often lost in their passionate delivery. Exuberant positivity isn’t sustainable, and often leads to the exact opposite reaction in lean times.

The issue when it comes to supporting our beloved Bantams is that the pain to pleasure ratio is around 90:10. Even supporting a good team the best you could probably hope for over a sustained period would be 70:30.

I was at the recent Tranmere and Carlisle games which have been about as lifeless and embarrassing as I’ve seen in my 20-odd years watching City. Something is wrong, there’s no getting away from that and we just have to hope the recovery mission is underway.

My 20 years of Saturdays trailing around watching City were, until a couple of years ago, directly followed by dragging myself out of bed on a Sunday morning to play hungover football on pitches cows would probably turn down the chance to walk on. The level of football I played at does not allow me to directly comment on footballing ability with any derision. Having been woefully mis-matched against the odd ex-pro though, I know that at the age of 41, Jason Gavin would run a game if he was to turn up at your local Goals Soccer Centre.

The playing staff at City are a set of 25 lads who, whatever your opinion, will have supreme ability compared to you or I. They may do their best to hide it at times, but it’s a fact that they can’t be rank bad footballers. They may be too young, too old, injured or low on confidence, but they will have some ability, somewhere.

Ignoring ability for now, a football team remains a set of 25 lads and there will be similarities to changing rooms at all levels up and down the country. As a former Sunday-morning Brighouse league clogger I have shared enough changing rooms and been part of enough squads over the years to have a rough idea of how vital social unity is.

In-fighting gets you nowhere at pub league level. I’d strongly suggest that will be the case at professional level.

The thing is that at professional level, supporters have a massive part to play in that social unity. We are supportive where we can be, but it is equally important to be positive in our dissent. Not many people on the planet will get better when somebody who should be an ally shouts abuse from five yards away. Novak Djokovic will probably win the Aussie Open amidst boos in the next couple of weeks, but only a select few elite individuals thrive like that. We don’t have any elite individuals.

I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong, but I suspect chants of “not being fit to wear the shirt” will presumably be in the hope or expectation that the players will get back into the changing room and talk to each other about how they need to get better for the fans.

The reality will be that they will probably now only want to get better for themselves so they can try further their careers. As fans we consistently embarrass ourselves trying to intimidate former players and they come back to haunt us. I think I’ve seen that work once in years gone by when Joe Colbeck returned to Valley Parade. Other than that, we end up with a division scattered with ex-Bantams who can’t wait to ram the words of our most vocal dissenters back down our throats. That will be a product of what they saw in us fans when they represented us as well, not just in an opposition shirt.

Who, reading this, after being verbally slaughtered and @’d on Twitter would bust a gut to please any group of people anywhere? People even had a go at our best grafter Levi Sutton last season after his handball at Newport. The worst 1% unfortunately get heard the loudest.

Our current squad is undoubtedly limited. There’s a few decent players, a few average ones and a few I’d pay the taxi-fare to go elsewhere. Whether they’re good or bad though, they’d play better if they were confident. Adam Raj’s comment on Elliot Watt in the Carlisle write-up didn’t seem to go down well with some readers, but I totally agree with him. In a confident team where people weren’t hiding Watt would be great, and I suspect he will go on to achieve at a higher level elsewhere. In our team he gets caught hanging onto the ball too long as nobody around him wants the thing.

I was brought up that if I’ve nowt nice to say, don’t say owt. Obviously that’s not to be taken absolutely literally. I moan and groan with the best of them in hard times, but my most positive outlet for that on Saturday was whinging to my mate on my way back to Carlisle Wetherspoons, rather than feeding the malcontent from the stands.

We pay our money and deserve a voice, I’m all for that. If that voice is used to directly undermine the confidence of the squad though, then we need to collectively give our heads a shake.

Players sign here in six monthly intervals and players overlap with each other. They will without doubt talk about how amazingly good us fans can be… and how amazingly bad we can be. That breeds the mindset that outlives players stays at the club, as well as managers and owners. It’s endemic, and we contribute to it. The same toxicity will be perpetual.

I mentioned earlier that I hope things improve. That’s all I can do.

Stefan Rupp was conned by his mate and we are now back to operating in the black in Division 4 as we were under Lawn and Rhodes. I’d love him to sell up to the right people as he seems to be even more apathetic than I am at the moment. At least in the meantime he’s keeping the doors open.

Ryan Sparks was great in good times earlier in the season. As alluded to before though, bad times in football outweigh the good and his regular comments in happier times weren’t sustainable. His recent silence has been disappointing, but he has only been in the job for a year and he’ll find a better middle ground in the future I’m sure. For me it’s clear he’s a bright bloke and has the club at heart. I’d rather he be doing real-life work in the background rather than interacting with fans on Twitter.

Derek Adams is a divisive bloke and I don’t agree with everything I see and hear from him. He has a three-year deal though, and hopefully window by window he weeds out those he wants rid of and builds a squad in his image, which has worked everywhere else he’s been. For me to keep this sunny disposition, I need to believe his summer signings were out of desperation with him not trusting Lee Turnbull.

Touch wood his recruitment guys have a stormer in the next three weeks to instil a bit of confidence in a disillusioned fanbase.

Categories: Opinion


24 replies

  1. When we played Morecambe on 12 Oct 2019 they were bottom and largely made us look like world beaters. Adams joined a month later and took the club to a squeaky bum 22nd place . The next year they were promoted. We have to give the guy a chance to do the same here but he is just so difficult to like.
    Player decisions – Staunton, Sutton, even Crankshaw.
    And the football – Its just painful to watch and I totally agree that abuse wont help so next game I am staying away – we will probably win 4-0

  2. Liked this article. Food for thought even though I don’t entirely agree with all of it. Players have to earn respect. They can give the club all the plaudits they like on signing, but the only place the player is really evaluated is on the pitch. They HAVE to perform for us to be placated.

    League 2 is a hard league to get out of. It needs a certain level of determination that translates well into upward performance in the league above. I think if City start to win games or at least amaze us with some exciting play, then the roof will come off the place like it did at the Arsenal cup game so long ago. That’s what we fans can do.

    I hope we get the players we need in this window. It’s absolutely needed to see some real progress.

  3. I don’t agree with all the article but a good write up non the less.
    I think Saturday was, in a sense, a perfect storm waiting to happen, which wouldn’t have happened had we played anyone else. The factor of more ex players than you shake a stick at, coupled with one of the worst halves of football I have ever witnessed gives you the ingredients. Throw in two of our ex players scoring and you end up with the shit storm at the end. Not that im condoning personal abuse, just pointing out why it happened. The tirade of frustration was strange because its kind of come from nowhere, the football over the months has gradually become worse and worse but the crowd have largely backed them. If they weren’t giving their support over 1200 wouldn’t have made the long journey to Carlisle.
    Saturday is a culmination of not just this season, but 4 seasons of abject football served up. Those 4 seasons all with Rupps limited involvement. It’s not just the players fault, it’s a collective of all who work at the club. Clapping harder isn’t going to change fundamental problems.
    Let’s see what January brings.

    • Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t meaning to suggest that mollycoddling the players and pretending all is OK is the way forward. I’m deeply irritated with them, but if I saw someone who deeply irritated me on the street I would ignore them rather than shouting at them. That’s what I was trying to get across.

  4. This sorry state of affairs is of the club’s own making. Pre season the club declared that the objective was to achieve promotion and even prior to Carlisle the manager reiterated this aim. I suspect I’m an example of someone taken in by this hype as I purchased a season ticket and I live in Leicestershire. I have attended one game, home to Barrow and I was disillusioned with the performance and realised then that talk of promotion was a pipe dream. I should add that I have supported this club for over 60 years.
    My point therefore is that if you go out of your way to build expectations only to spectacularly fail , is it surprising that a big crowd vents its frustration in the way it happened on Saturday?
    Respect has to be earned and the consequences of not understanding this for any organisation, whether at government level or at a club like ours will be damning.
    You cannot treat people as fools and I fear for the future of our club under the present ownership. Without a change in fortune on the pitch quickly, season ticket sales next year will plummet and the cycle of decline will continue. Sorry but optimism is in short supply, from where I am sitting. I just hope to be proved wrong!

  5. Well Paul, you have played a neat game with this comment and have said much of what I have been thinking certainly over the past year or two. I have no issues with criticising the manager, tactics, substitutions, signing (lack of or after the event) because he is in charge, but not individual players by name. Listening to Gary Jones on saturday I don’t recall him slating any player by name and thats the way it should be. Yes we can all make mistakes but put players on edge and they will only make more. We all hear about confidence and I certainly would not wish to participate in knocking our players confidence.
    Theres nothing wrong with groaning at a missed open goal and the wry comment that often generates laughter. There are a lot of ‘supporters’ who need to lighten up or just leave it for a few matches. I have supported City about 65 years. I haven’t been to every match, indeed after early tonkings in a season (Lincoln for one) I gave it a rest. Yes I was at the Hereford match (ha ha) but I doubt whether I would be anywhere near balanced if there had been 65 years of social media. The negaphiles seem to lead and it needs an occasional sensible comment to emerge and we can only hope that your article can get sensible people thinking that open named criticism (in all forms) of our players will only end up in worsening our team.
    Players have ability/specialisms that can and should be used to benefit the team not square pegs in round holes. Players have to do what the manager and coaches want otherwise they will not be selected for the next match. So Gary Jones, if players don’t tackle match after match its because they have been told not to and it pleases the manager! Hence the manager is open to criticsm in my view!
    But we do need to be seen as fair supporters, and if its beyond some to be fair, perhaps they’d do us all a favour.
    Another aside, many supporters and commentators need to recognise we are 4th division and the Premier League, Championship and First Division are in the past. I have ambition for our club but we need to play the next match, not some dream game which can only develop dis satisfaction with our lot. Win the next match and it may lead to playing higher in the league structure
    But Paul a timely article, thank you

  6. The only highlight on Saturday (after a Positive Covid test stopped me going, someone else had the misfortune of picking my ticket up at Brunton Park) was Gary Jones honest appraisals of the squad.

    Without being too negative about the negatives and too positive about the positives. Is he not coaching anywhere?

    • Gary Jones has said in the past that he doesn’t want to go into coaching. I believe he does support work for people with mental health issues.

  7. I agree with the sentiment of this feature.

    The performance on Saturday was abysmal. After an encouraging start to the game it was depressing how everything fell apart. Had there been an opening goal in the first twenty minutes I suspect it would have been remembered as an emphatic victory but when Cook was substituted it felt ominous. The end was ugly.

    The reality is that no-one at VP can be accused of wanting to fail. Defeat at Carlisle had nothing to do with ground ownership or training facilities. Nor to do with the financial health of BCAFC (which is much better than that at most clubs above us in the division).

    On the day, defeat boiled down to inadequate, predictable tactics and a lack of resilience in the team. Frankly it’s not difficult for opposing sides to work out how to beat us – ie deny us time on the ball, press against us and force mistakes / make our players panic.

    It’s easy to see the shortcomings in the team, in particular the lack of goalscoring options and the absence of leadership on the field. What I find alarming is the lack of self-belief in the side which contrasts to the winning mentality that was evident in early season games. Ultimately the manager needs to sort the tactics and the coaching. However I’m not convinced that it helps anyone do their jobs and deliver success at VP with sort of abuse being targeted at the players and club officials.

  8. There are a number of players who want away either in this window or the summer. More will be expecting to be shown the door. Not the recipe for winning mentality.
    At the end of the day DA has had five months and 23 games. Hardly enough time to make a significant difference. As you say there has been evidence of some endeavour with decent comebacks and gritty performances against top seven side. It was never going to be easy and without setbacks.
    We have all got to remember that the Club was a basket case post Rahic and we are building from a low base with significant financial handicaps. We will get there and success when it comes will be all the more sweet
    Stick with it and stick together

  9. I’m on the same wavelength as this writer and those posting comments, so it’s good to know that other fans have this outlook, as too often all I read on forums is a point of view that everything about the club is garbage – of course it isn’t; there are things we do well, as well as areas where’s there’s room for improvement.

    All of our players and staff are professionals, and chopping and changing too frequently brings chaos. We need a period of stability and acceptance that we are where we are, and we need patience to allow us to rebuild.

    Confidence is so important for players whether they’re old pro’s or young un’s.

    It seems really doubtful to me that we’re on for the playoffs this year, we’ve been too inconsistent and unfortunate with key injuries. What I’m looking for now is a strong transfer window, commitment from the players, and a top half finish. Then we build on that next season.

    • I hear what you’re saying Nick but how many times have we been waiting for “a strong transfer window, committment from the players and a top half finish building for next season”.

      It’s like a stuck record. We were saying this last year and more likely than not we’ll be saying it next year. We may not be a big club but we are a well supported one and the supporters deserve better than annual under achievement.

      I feel sorry for the current crop of players. They are copping the abuse for this habitual systemic failure and if there is a positive it’s at least some folk care. At least 1200 people pitched up on Saturday even if the 11 wearing claret and amber didn’t.

      I’m not expecting us to be world beaters. My view is that City should be a club that sits around the top of league one / bottom of the championship. Good years will see us flirting with the playoffs to the prem, bad years will see us flirting with the drop to league 2.

      Whilst all of us reading WOAP are generally moderate, mature folk it’s just so disappointing. It’s difficult to express this frustration positively so it’s bit a suprise that some sections of the supporter base express themselves a little more forcefully.

      I hate the rubbish posted on social media but quite honestly if a footballer is that bothered all they need to do is switch it off.

      • *** should read ‘no surprise’***

      • You are not going to get a “sustainable”Championship club without someone who is prepared to underwrite annual losses running into £10 million plus minimum. There are no buyers queuing up to throw that kind of money at City. Take a look at Championship clubs financials year on year.
        If your lucky you could alight on a star performer like Ainsworth who might buck the trend for a season or two. Alternatively you spend a bit more judiciously and yo-yo like Rotheram but still with a heavy subsidy.
        Bristol City have just posted a thirty plus million loss to achieve a mid table finish. Steve Landsdown has been putting his hand in his very deep pockets for years to no avail. Eventually he will turn the tap off and the shit will hit the fan
        Town remain £35 million in hock to Hoyle. They are doing ok at present but eventually it will drag them down.
        Do not forget the lease which is a drag on performance and means we can achieve probably only a slightly better than median budget at L2 level!
        Without a very generous benefactor we are nowhere near a durable Championship Club
        It is sad and a sign of the times but its long way back and it will need some luck and canny management to be moderately successful. The sooner everyone realises we are not a Big club other than having a decent fan base the better. It has got to the stage where it is holding us back

      • I don’t disagree Paul which is why I put our natural position in the football prymid as top of league 1 / bottom of championship which is where we were competing before the German takeover and approximately where we’ve been in the 20 years from the early 80’s

        I don’t accept that the best City supporters can hope for is mid table league 2 and I’m old enough to understand that football didn’t start with the Premier League and that there was a time when a good City crowd would be 3,000.

        Whilst not condoning personal abuse in any way shape or form I’d rather supporters express strong dissatisfaction rather than accept mediocrity because that means we have an invested supporter base. For a club that doesn’t own their ground, training pitch or anything else of value that is indeed our best asset.

      • Absolutely no one is happy with L2 football and given time and outstanding management ( a la Parky ) we might get to the cusp of the Championship again but it is long way back and we do not hold a great set of cards. That is not showing a lack of ambition it is just the reality.
        There is no sign of casino economics in football abating and unless you have someone of the stature of Ainsworth you are looking at serious deficit spending to get anywhere near the Championship. Big beasts like Sunderland, Ipswich and Wednesday find themselves struggling to keep pace in L1.
        Very easy to set the Championship as a goal but getting there is somewhat harder.
        The sooner everyone involved with the club accepts we are going to have scrap and fight are way out of this division the better. The sense of entitlement and exceptionalism has to go

      • It’s the club that have a stated aim of promotion this year.

        If there is a sense of entitlement it’s been driven by the club, not the supporters.

        It’s an interesting one this. My view has changed a full 360 degrees in about 18 months and it was a debate on WOAP with another contributor (Leon I think) that was responsible for the change in heart.

        All that said there’s a bit of me that thinks if we could just cobble a few wins together we can still be successful.

        Fingers crossed!

      • Yes Andy there hasn’t been much to cheer these last few years, but I just want to try a couple of years of consistency of players, manager, and see a way of playing each week so we fans know broadly what to expect home or away.

        If we’re building and knocking on the door of promotion we’ll be putting ourselves in contention year after year, not relying on a messiah coming in one year and it being a flash in the pan

    • Flip the mentality off EVERYONE involved with the club players..management…backroom staff.. supporters all need to understand that success is hard won and it has to earned. Part off that is to accept there will be setbacks and keep a sense of perspective in the bad times.

  10. Paul, I am picking on one small bit of your interesting piece, you say, ‘Stefan Rupp was conned by his mate’, the inference being that Rahic and Rupp were friends. As far as I am aware, they didn’t know each other, until they were introduced by their mutual bank. Rahic sold Rupp ‘the dream’, and Rupp (perhaps without due diligence) was the major investor in the newly formed partnership. If we want to blame anyone, perhaps we should broaden the scope to a certain secretive bank, somewhere in Germany!
    Standing back from the game, then one of the things that strikes me about the current squad, is that they seem as though they do not have an ‘esprit de corps’! They don’t appear to be a group, rather a number of individuals who play football for Bradford City. It is the small things, the lack of communication, they don’t seem to smile, acknowledge each other, even goals seem to be celebrated with less gusto than other teams. The playing ‘for each other’ in the ‘common good’,is not very apparent. I may well be wrong, but it just seems a little passionless.

  11. I agree with this article. I have a basic philosophy that I don’t every put anything anywhere on the internet that I’d be embarrassed to see on a roadside billboard, and I don’t bellow anything at a football pitch that I’d be embarrassed for my kids’ grandparents to hear.

    I see us fans as the Twelfth Man. We generally do a good job at that, albeit just as our team have lots of quiet, passive spells, so do we.Demoralising our team is shooting ourselves in the foot. Elliott Watt is 21, just 22 months ago he was a teenager. How emotionally resilient do you expect him to be? I’ve said before that I find Derek Adams press interviews a bit surreal, but think they make a bit more sense when you realise he’s trying to tread a line of not eroding confidence, which is a fragile thing.

    I know Ryan Sparks is getting stick for talking boldly of a promotion push. We actually want that level of ambition, but he was also justifying a 15% hike in season ticket prices. I checked the Carlisle season ticket prices- £360 for a basic early bird renewal, and even humble Barrow charge £296. Do the fans who are chanting for better results have the appetite for that? Do the majority of fans have the level of ambition to double their own investment in their local club? Because if not, why would they expect the motor sport loving Stefan Rupp in Germany to show a greater level of commitment?

    • 25 per cent rise this season in ticket prices. £150 to £200 this season.

      The club have the option of charging a similar amount to L2 clubs.

      Charge £350 for season tickets and take up would be 6k if you were lucky.

      That would certainly lower expectations leaving just the real hard core of supporters.

      That’s the conundrum cheap season tickets filling the ground which is great when the club is in the ascendancy versus a quarter full VP with less expectations and pressure on players signing and playing for the club.

      • Yes – agreed.

        It’s a shame that there isn’t some form of vehicle that could run in parallel with the cheap season tickets that would allow those of us lucky enough to be able to afford an increase in prices to invest in the club in some way.

        I’m not interested in suite upgrades, lotteries etc but would be prepared to invest in something tangible – some sort of bond scheme to allow us to buy back the stadium for example.

        We don’t want a repeat of the 25 year season ticket debacle so it would run alongside, but not replace, annual ticket renewals.

        I’m no financial whizz so I’m sure there’s a million reasons why such a scheme is unfeasible but it would be great to harness the large supporter base in this way.

%d bloggers like this: