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.