Wednesday, 31 July 2013
The Inside Line: Bradford City (03/08/13)
The countdown is over, the new season is almost upon us and with that comes the introduction of a brand new feature on The Exiled Robin.
Each week, with the help of some esteemed fellow writers, I'll be bringing you a fan's take on the opposition, giving you the chance to find out a little more about them ahead of the match.
Now you may have thought we'd been relegated but as we kick off the season against last season's League Cup runners-up, a side that went on to win at Wembley, surely that's not true? Bradford City had a remarkable season last time out, one which they surely can't repeat, although you can't help but feel we may have drawn the short straw in pulling them first, whilst last years elation and confidence is still so prominent.
I spoke to Mahesh Johal from "The Width of a Post" - a thoroughly comprehensive website following the Bantams and he gave me a in-depth view of what we can expect from Phil Parkinson's Claret and Amber army.
First of all, congratulations on a fantastic season last year – a superb cup run which I think we all enjoyed, and ultimately two Wembley appearances, the last of which means you’re here today.
It’ll be hard to top that this season, won’t it?
"Yes, last year will be hard to top! Firstly, it was an amazing achievement to get promoted and to do it at Wembley was the perfect finish to the season. The cup run, which in itself was a dream, was the best bonus any League Two team could ask for. To have the media attention and all eyes on you is surreal feeling for the club and the fans.
The Wembley appearance was a memorable but poignant occasion for a club touched by tragedy
I had never been to Wembley (as a City fan) so to go there twice was in the space of three months was magical. Regardless of the result on the first trip to see that much claret and amber in one stadium and to see the outpouring of passion is a sight and feeling that I will never forget. The chant ‘this is the best trip I’ve ever been on’ was so true on that day.
The second final seemed more like a business trip and we went there to get the job done. The ecstasy of finally scoring at Wembley (after conceding five the first time round) was one thing, but to go three up in less than half an hour was something else. I feel lucky to be a part of that season, but I’m looking forward to this new one."
So, everyone’s pretty pleased with the gaffer, Phil Parkinson, one assumes?
"Yes, 'pleased' is a word that could describe it. We've been looking for several years to find someone like him - a manager to get us out of League Two and someone we can progress further up the football pyramid. He seems to have a real passion for the job and the club and sees the potential in us (rejecting the chance to talk to Championship club Blackpool last season epitomises this). I recently voted in the FL125 club poll and he was a way ahead as our best manager. A lot of managers talk a good game but fail to deliver, and Bradford have had many. Parky has a clear picture of how he wants to run the club and team and he has delivered that."
How has the squad held up, are many of last season’s heroes still with you or have the vultures swooped? I remember from your cup games the pace of Wells and delivery of Gary Jones in particular standing out, whilst Matt Duke showed what a top quality ‘keeper he can be on his day?
"We've kept the core our promotion squad that was key. The likes of Andrew Davies, Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones all signed new deals. They could have gone to clubs in higher divisions so to keep them is a real positive for all connected to the club. Nahki is still with us. Peterborough apparently put an offer in and Burnley have been linked. I'm resigned that he will leave one day but at the moment he's wearing claret and amber and doing well in pre-season.
Matt Duke has actually left the club. He was awesome in the cup run and has definitely won the hearts of the City faithful. But, he was always prone to an error and found himself on the bench after the cup run. I think we offered him a deal but he wanted guaranteed football and left for Northampton. I really hope he does well because he was such a massive part of last season."
And which other members of your squad do we have to look out for this season, has Parkinson added to the squad well?
"From the present squad, I'd say Nathan Doyle. A central midfielder, he was a class above League Two and I think he will be really well suited to League One. I also hope James Hanson does well. After such a great season last year I think he could be one to really watch. He might not score the goals like Wells but his all round play and work rate will cause teams problems!
We've brought in a couple of midfielders, Jason Kennedy from Rochdale and Mark Yeates from Watford. The latter seems to be a real live wire on the wing and has had a great pre-season by all accounts. He played under Parky at Colchester and his experience and ability on the ball make him a real threat. We're in the hunt for another keeper. Gary Woods – who got promoted with Doncaster last season - has been training with us so he may potentially fill the void."
So what are your expectations for the season, is a successive promotion out of the question, or will you spend the season looking over your shoulder?
"We built a very good squad last season. It's one that is resilient and obviously believe in each other. With the new players, promotion could be on the cards but we need to respect this league. We thought we'd waltz league two and it took six years to get out of it. The clubs on a high and we shouldn't fear anyone. I'd love another promotion but if someone offered me a solid mid table I'd take it. After being in League Two, I don't want to be back there so if we're to consolidate and push the season after then fine."
Bradford will be chasing a second successive promotion this season
Who do you think will go up, and down?
"I’m pretty terrible at predictions so I’ll say that all teams have a chance at promotion and relegation! However, the usual names like Wolves, Sheff Utd, you guys, Brentford should be there and thereabouts for promotion. Its a bit of a cop out but I genuinely think there are at least 10-15 teams that would back themselves to be in a promotion/play off hunt. Relegation wise, I am again unsure."
Bradford have received a lot of positive press regarding their dynamic and low ticket price policy over the past few years. Can you explain to the readers a little about what the club has done, and will it continue this year?
"It is continuing. Season tickets are £200, which is great value whatever league you're in and we've sold over 11,000 for this season. We also have the flexi-card where you pay £50 for a seat and then get to buy match day tickets at £10 per game (half price). I live and work in Manchester so the flexi-card is brilliant as it's difficult to commute mid week back home."
From the memory bank, I can recall two particular games against the Bantams that were notorious from a Bristol City point of view. Firstly a 1-0 victory at Valley Parade in the 1989 League Cup quarter-finals (perhaps you should have drawn Arsenal!) that preceded our very own oh-so-nearly-glorious moment in a televised semi-final against then-giants Nottingham Forest, where the width of a post (see what I did there!) kept us from reaching Wembley.
The second occasion was a quite horrible wet, windy autumn day when we’d just appointed the unknown Benny Lennartsson as manager and we got demolished 5-0. It just rained and rained all day, and I remember leaving Exeter whilst at University at 7am and getting back home at 11pm, soaked through after our car broke down on the way home!
Do you recall either of those games, or are there any others in fairly recent memory that have stuck in your mind?
"I like the pun! Yes, I remember the 5-0 game as it was in our Premier League promotion season. I remember it in particular because my Dad went to the game. He is not the biggest football fan and we watched the game on our old Kop. We were on a great run at the time and the team were in buoyant mood. It was one of those game were everything we touched came off. Correct me if I am wrong but I’m sure there was a bit of a freak own goal?"
And finally, your recent record against us is very good, with six wins and two draws from our last eight meetings, scoring 19 goals in the process. Indeed, at Ashton Gate you’ve won three of the last four – are we in for an opening day shock?
"I wasn’t aware of that record and it is quite good. Of course I’d like three points and I think all fans want their teams to win in the first game of the season but I’m more concerned about having a good performance.
For us, there’s a real sense of optimism around the place, so it would be good to get a good result but I think Bristol will be a hard place for teams to go. For me personally, I want to see a good performance in these early season games. As we know from the last campaign, the season will be a long slog and wont be defined by the first game of the season."
In fact the statistical record is particularly - worryingly - one-sided. Of the last 27 league games stretching back to 1908, Bradford have won 19 with five draws. City’s only wins in this time were in 1910, 1985 and 1996. Perhaps a maximum return is too much to hope for to kick off our re-acquaintance with the third tier?
My thanks to Mahesh for his time and I hope you enjoy reading this first of many editions of 'The Inside Line'.
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