A Valentine’s Day Letter to Bradford City

By James Pieslak

Dear Bradford City,

From the moment I first stepped onto your old open-terraced Kop back in 1985, I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with you. Everything about you intoxicated me. Your ground, your noise, your smell, you had it all. I was in deep. My heart was marked from that day. City Till I Die. 

This love affair has given me some truly amazing moments. You have provided some of my most cherished memories. Some of the highs are just wonderful. The very presence of Stuart McCall in midfield and John Hendrie on the wing. Spurs and Everton in the cup back in the 80s, Blackpool away, Notts County at Wembley, Nigel Pepper vs QPR, Blake and Mills, Wolves away, Chelsea, Villa, Arsenal, Burton, Leeds in the cup, The Pie song at Doncaster. The list is long. I smile when I jot them down. Happy times.

There have, of course, been less happy moments too. Ipswich at home, Boro in the play offs, John Docherty, that checkered home shirt, McCall and Hendrie leaving, administration, Kevin Gray on Gordon Watson, Adam Chicksen in the starting line up, Millwall in the play offs x 2, Edin Rahic. This list is also long.

No matter. I have still followed you come rain or shine. I knew I was born to do from that moment I first stood on your crumbling terrace, mesmerised by the Valley Parade pitch. I have made excuses and lied through my teeth to go watch you. I have travelled to the south coast to support you with the foulest of hangovers. I have sung your name wildly, embracing friends and family. I have hugged complete strangers because of your actions. I have felt tears of joy stain my cheeks.

I have risked physical injury from cantankerous opposition fans. I have proudly worn your colours around the world, trying to spread the word like some odd Bradford City-missionary. I have passed my love of you onto my kids. Even my wife has an extreme soft spot for you, and she comes from down south.

Lately though, you have become oh-so-difficult to love. In fact, you have become increasingly easy to dislike. Successive seasons of misery have really taken their toll on me. At first it was frustration. Then it was annoyance. Then sadness. Anger. Hurt. Helplessness. Shock. Horror. Rage. Right now, it’s a mixture of all these emotions laced with apathy. I keep missing matches. My lads have to be practically dragged to Valley Parade. They’re sick of you. I am too. I did not see things going this way just a few seasons ago when my boys wanted to spend every waking moment at Valley Parade.

Throughout my existence on this planet you have always been very central to my life, but right now I can feel that slipping away. Joy, pride, happiness, excitement – feelings I have associated with you for so long – feel so rare nowadays. I used to be held back from getting to Valley Parade to watch you, nowadays I slog along forlornly.

I have never felt so out of love with you.

I am not disloyal. I am not a fair-weather supporter. I am just tired of you giving me so little to enjoy and love. I am tired of seeing you show such a lack of direction, vision and purpose. Having three young boys means there are viable alternatives to watching you on a weekend, particularly when they are so reluctant to watch your latest demonstration of tepid dross.

It’s pretty heart breaking, actually.

In the film Love Actually, there is a peculiar gentleman who quietly obsesses over his friend’s wife. At one point he turns up at her place unannounced and holds up a board saying: ‘To me, you are perfect.’ Now, I know you are not perfect. I don’t particularly want you to be a global brand, a Man City or a Liverpool. I don’t expect you to be. I just want you to feel like Bradford City again. I just want you to give me some of those feelings that remind me of being a little lad stood holding his Dad’s hand on the Kop again. Joy, pride, happiness, excitement.

There will always be rough with the smooth with you, and that’s a huge part of the charm. If you were to suddenly turn into the Harlem Globetrotters of football my reaction would be to quietly fall off my seat in the Kop in shock. You normally do things the hard way, but at least you give off a semblance of purpose, drive and vision when you go about it. That redeeming quality is one of the things I love about you, but right now there is scant evidence of this on or off the pitch. Instead, it’s empty platitudes and marketing messages from a club that doesn’t seem to really get me or care about me anymore. Key figureheads seem almost hostile.

If I was the creepy chap with the signs in Love Actually I’d knock on your door, Bradford City, and I would hold up two boards. One would say ‘Stop being so bloody awful’. The other would say ‘I love you really.’ Maybe I’d have a third saying ‘No to checkered home shirts.’

So, Bradford City. Two things. Number one, can you please stop being so bloody awful and number two, can you give me a reason to really love you again? I know it won’t take much, but I could do with some help from you that’s all. I don’t think I’m alone.

Categories: Opinion


26 replies

  1. Brilliant.

    I started watching City back in 1987 and I have shared in all those highs and lows too. I wouldn’t have change that for the world. What life experiences they have been.
    I don’t expect City to win every game nor be a Premier League/Championship club. I just want them to work hard and give 100%. I can take losing if they’ve tried.

    Since Rahic I’ve seen countless uncaring and lazy players. It’s not good enough and not fair to the paying public.

    What goes up must go down, does the other way work too? CTID

    • You started watching the same year as me Mick. The 80s and 90s were magical times for me, stood on the kop watching players giving their all. I’d give my right arm for those times on the kop again watching a team with some semblance of ability that actually care. I mean really care!

      • GC – I don’t recall any days of lazy/slacking players like the more modern footballers. You could question their ability but even the John Docherty players tried.
        The old KOP was a stand of dreams. That noise! That reverberation of noise when singing Super Sean McCarthy vs Huddersfield as we went 3 up. Who remembers all The Kop pointing at the away fans singing 1-0, 1-0, 1-0.
        The modern Kop can be good but never as great as the old terrace.

  2. Well, watching City since 66/67 or thereabouts the sentiments echoed in your article sum up what every City follower must be feeling at the moment. The rest of us can’t put it as eloquently, but thanks for putting it out there. Whether those within BCFC will heed the feeling supporters have for their Club only time will tell. Results won’t improve and the loss will be massive.
    We are all CTID.

  3. Couldn’t agree more and I think a lot of other supporters are of the same mind. This is from a supporter who has followed our club since the 70’s.

  4. Another brilliant article on here. It pretty much sums up how I feel. I’ve always loved going to games both home and away, but these last few months under Adams as drained my passion. I hate going to valley parade on Saturdays at the minute, I never thought I would feel this way. I’ve watched some rubbish over the years but never felt as disconnected with the club.

    • A wonderful piece of writing – heartfelt sentiments which I can really relate to (even if I don’t get to see City as often as I did in the 80s and 90s). Disagree about the “checkered” shirts though – I thought they were great! (White is the colour we should never have as a home kit).

  5. Thanks for this, and for sharing it. Great bit of writing & great memories.

  6. Absolutely spot on! I empathise with all your comments and I started watching with my dad in the late 1950s. It is all too depressing at the moment and difficult to express into words. I hope our current owner reads these articles in order to understand how our real supporters feel. It may just tug at his heart strings and persuade him to address the situation. This constant drift is debilitating and unless positive action is taken the patient (our club) will not recover.

  7. I personally think you are spot on. I have been a supporter since 1954 so a bit grumpy this team is so out of touch with the fans I too have no wish to get ready on match day, please please give the fans something to shout about and I have never been a fan of D A sorry come on city

  8. Brilliant.My sentiments intirely beautifully expressed.
    I have been in love/supporting BCAFC since 1958 but last Saturdays toxic atmosphere has made me question just how much more i can take.Oldham,away next Saturday…and we all know what happens after we lose that game!

  9. Footy in the demi monde of the lower leagues is rewarding precisely because success is so hard earned. If it came easily there would be none of the real highs. Stick together and engage positively with the club and we will come again (eventually).

  10. You are not alone. Brilliantly and beautifully put. (You are wrong about the checkered shirts though, design classic.)

  11. Very good article

  12. It’s a good article. Same as me, with my first game being in 1976 v Tooting & Mitcham in the Cup!
    I too don’t want us to be a global brand and I just want us to win occasionally.
    Unfortunately it’s just not as simple as that, so what you have to do is either get extremely lucky or put the right steps in place to build. Picking a successful manager and backing him is one of those. It may take time but we’ve done 50% of that.

  13. Very good article, thank you.
    Like others who have posted on here, I’ve been supporting Bradford City for many seasons. Whilst you expect the ups and the downs, you can accept the downs a bit more when the players give their all for the shirt. The atmosphere at Valley Parade last was one of despondency amongst the home supporters. No wonder the Exeter City supporters were chanting “come to a library”. I believe that the players were trying last Saturday, but problems stem from the fact that for most of the season, we have lacked pace and width. I am not a fan of playing one up front and for most of the season, that has been the case. I feel so sorry for Andy Cook. Clearly Adams believes in his approach but unfortunately most supporters have little faith in him at the moment. I personally don’t feel very connected to this team or the manager and therein lies the problem. There is clearly a disconnection between the supporters and the manager. I think that many supporters feel that a better manager could get more out of this current squad. Despite all of this, I don’t think that sacking Adams now is the answer.

  14. Brilliant article and sums up the way a lot of long standing supporters are feeling. I’ve been there since the 70s but am rapidly feeling enough is enough now. At the moment I feel like I never want to go again. I’d love to just feel that next season. Is going to be better but it’s so hard to see any positives at the moment.

  15. We will rise again. It may not be until August onwards, but rise again we will. Derek Adams may not get us there but he probably deserves 6 more playing months first. The end of October should be the judgement day.

  16. How lucky we were to watch Johnny Hendrie running down the wing…
    Spot on letter, I’m with you 100%.
    It’s apathy that is the biggest threat to City and the club needs to act quickly as the apathy among seasoned fans is growing.
    P.s. thanks for mentioning the pie song at Donny Rovers. So glad I was there for that one!

  17. Perfect – supporter of 40+ years. Not been for several months & won’t be back until the arrogance of Adams & the Sparks vanity project disappears. Worst time in years including administration.

  18. I’m not sure if reaching the Premier League and upper echelons of the Championship gave the old boys on this thread a sudden feeling of entitlement but if they’ve been going to VP since the 50’s they would have been brought up watching us play in the old Division 3 North and Division 4. We didn’t get out of Division 3 until 1985. 30+ years of lower league dross. Dross I saw for myself from the early 70’s onwards. I’d love to know what the difference is between then and now?

  19. Adam Chicksen in the starting line up.
    That’s GOLD – and true.
    Another great article summing up im sure most of us are feeling

  20. My dad born three streets away ,I had no choice,same as the post ,my love for you is hard to bear.
    If Derek Adams had any passion as we do he would pack his armour plated personality and leave.
    I keep looking towards Wrexham remembering to joy parky brought us .

  21. James, i love that article – i think you speak for all of us – 85 was my first season too but even if you’ve done 80 years or 8 years, the present is as bad as its been for everyone. Even though the players and standard of football in the Docherty years were much worse than today it was still better, it still had soul and purpose. I’m making am increasingly rare trip north on Tuesday just to be able to say ‘i was there’ when City beat Harrogate.

  22. Been going since being a lad with my gran, grandad, dad and uncle since 1960, very well written article, totally sums up how ive been feeling about my beloved Bradford City for the last few years, seen it all and been there through thick and thin , pains me badly recently just to go , maybe im getting old . But alas , CMON MIGHTY BANTAMS, Needs someone to take us by scruff of neck. CTID.

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