By James Chamley
After a dismal performance and result away to Exeter of all teams in November, the first questions about whether Derek Adams was the right man to take us forward began to be asked from a minority of supporters. At the time, I was of the belief we needed to stick by Derek Adams for at least a full season given the lack of stability we as a football club have had for far too long now.
I was prepared to wait at least another year in the belief that it would pay off in the long term. And yet, I find myself at the beginning of February standing with the growing number of Bradford City supporters wanting a change in manager.
Since that date, performances and results have continued to be poor. But it is Derek Adams’s overall demeanour and tone that is the main reason I believe he has lost the support of many fans. It’s certainly the reason, for what it’s worth, that I have lost faith with him.
Contrary to what some may believe, I am not of the opinion we as a fan base demand instant success or tiki-taka football. I have seen us in the past be incredibly supportive of teams who haven’t been performing well or not being getting results. I remember the majority of fans being right behind Phil Parkinson during his run of 1 win from 21 games in 2014 for example.
What we do demand, however, is a manager who can relate to us and who understands the history and ethos of the football club and builds a team in this image. This is why, during his tenure, despite his unpopularity with certain sections, I was for the most part supportive of Gary Bowyer. I will not try and defend his style of play and maybe he was rightly removed in the end, however I could tell from every interview he gave, he was proud to be the manager of my football club and was desperate to do well for us.
I remember him speaking around the time of the anniversary of the fire disaster, quite soon after being appointed and thinking to myself, this guy gets it. And again, when I attended a fans forum that summer, it was clear he had a lot of time for the fans.
Obviously, things did not work out for Bowyer, so a better example would probably be Phil Parkinson, who I will never tire of mentioning. A man who understood the club and it’s fan base. When recruiting in his first summer, he completely understood the type of players the fans would get behind during the good times, and more importantly in the bad.
Parkinson identified players who would roll up their sleeves and relish the challenge of in his own words, ‘awaking a sleeping giant’. This meant that during the 2013 season and beyond, when things didn’t go so well, we as supporters would get behind the team and the manager.
Of course, we also had Stuart McCall who we all know had a great affiliation with the football club, perhaps to his detriment in the end. These managers are the most recent examples of people who succeeded, failed and did a bit of both in between, but regardless of this, were all people I could get behind and give my support to.
I have been a supporter for over 20 years now and given that for most of that period we haven’t been very good, simply liking the man in charge is a big thing for me. And I believe it is for others too. I really am struggling to get behind or like Derek Adams.
The point I am trying to make is that to be a successful manager at a club with the biggest supporter fanbase in the division, you have to get said supporters on side, preferably from day one. Derek Adams has completely neglected this part of the role.
Maybe he believed he didn’t need to blow smoke up the backsides of fans because his outstanding previous record would stand up for itself. With every interview, it sounds more and more like he believes we are lucky to have him as our manager and that we should be somewhat grateful for his presence.
In his bizarre interview after Saturday’s defeat to Exeter, Adams stated he took a risk to join Bradford City by leaving the mighty Morecambe of League One and that we would not find a manager with a better record than his. Perhaps he is right, but it could be argued that being a strong fit for THIS football club is more important than being successful at a different football club.
The problem with the approach Adams has taken towards the supporters and the media is that things on the field haven’t gone well, and now he is left with no loyalty from a set of supporters whom he has no relationship with. His previous record is clear for everyone to see and maybe if we as fans had a greater bond with Adams, we could cite this as a reason to endure the tough period we are currently going through to stick by him and go again next season.
BBC Radio Leeds’ Jamie Raynor has given Adams plenty of opportunities to begin to build bridges with supporters in recent interviews and Adams has stubbornly turned down this opportunity. In fact, he has chosen to openly criticise some supporters in his most recent interview at a time where he needs their support more than ever. Wrong move Derek.
The questions some supporters will have over the possibility of removing Derek Adams will come from the need for stability and the matter of who replaces him. There aren’t many standout candidates out there and we have said so many times before that this club is craving stability.
However, stability should only be given to the right person, and Derek Adams should not remain in the role simply because we are too scared to make yet another change. Stability and patience should be given to someone who we as supporters can get behind and someone who doesn’t refer to the club and its fans as ‘they’ and instead is one of ‘us’.
A new manager at this level is always a risk, hence why they are managing at this level in the first place. Most potential managers will have failures on their CV and that will put certain fans off appointing them. But it’s important our next appointment, whenever that may be, must be a good fit to the club and whom we believe can successful for Bradford City. With respect, this might take a different skill set than the one required to be successful at a club such as Morecambe.
Do I truly believe a change in manager will change our fortunes? Probably not. After all, until major changes behind the scenes occur, then we will more than likely continue to underachieve and rebuild season upon season. That doesn’t mean, however, that nobody else can’t also be held accountable. And if we are to suffer this continuous, abject failure then, surely, we should do so with a manager at the helm who we as supporters can relate to and, more importantly, we like.