Friday, 15 February 2013

If Carlsberg Did Managers...

You’ve Got To Love Phil Parkinson

Bradford fans will be hoping for a sight like this on February 24th
   During pre-season, like most City fans, I’d read about the Bantams in the newspapers and watch them train on Look North, eagerly anticipating the coming season and looking forward to seeing the new signings in action. The bookies often listed us as favourites for the title, and promises of promotion accompanied the new managers.
   Not that those promises ever materialised.
   Until now.
   Step forward Phil Parkinson, a man who boasted Colchester United, Hull City and Charlton Athletic as previous employers, and who was a fully-fledged legend amongst the Reading faithful. When he signed on the dotted line last season, I had no idea that he would lead a serious promotion challenge and get the club to Wembley, especially in a competition that’s usually dominated by Premier League giants. 
   But, then again, City hadn’t exactly filled their fans with cheer before this.
   It’s fair to say that, in recent years, Bradford City have been no strangers to the managerial-merry-go-round. From the Stuart McCall era and the Peter Taylor plight, to the short-lived tenure of Peter Jackson, the Bantams have seen plenty of changes in gaffers. That’s a lot of anticlimaxes.
   Take Peter Taylor, for example. With an impressive C.V. that contained promotions and work with the national team, he appeared to be the prime candidate for the City job. However, within months of his appointment, the Bantams were hovering close to the relegation zone and there were calls for his resignation. It’s just crazy to think that we could have been playing non-league football the following year, as we all believed that Taylor would have got us to League One.
   After Peter Jackson’s departure, Phil Parkinson stepped in, and something happened to the club.
   Impact players were drafted in and new signings were made. The squad’s mentality changed. Parkinson vowed to make Valley Parade a “fortress”. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, he was laying the foundations for a promotion push and preparing to seriously contend for a play-off spot next season.
   The game against Fleetwood unveiled a new-look Bradford team, but the Wimbeldeon tie presented a side that played with so much composure, skill and dominance, and I just couldn’t believe it. Gary Jones was incredibly energetic and involved in midfield; the goals were coming in from anywhere and everywhere; some of the chances created by midfield were fantastic. City were tearing their opponents to shreds. The club’s form under Peter Taylor became a distant memory.
   Parkinson himself is the epitome of calmness and composure. When Paul Lambert was flaring up on the touchline, Parkinson was cool, considering tactics and changes in players. However, he’s also so passionate and appears to really love the club and his players: his celebrations with Parkin, his post-Arsenal embrace with Gary Jones and desire to remain in Bradford have all proved this.
   He’s probably quite the speechmaker, as well. I wouldn’t mind being a fly-on-the-wall in the changing rooms when Parky is addressing the team: in order to steady the players and produce such great displays against Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa, he must have said something brilliant.
   Parkinson’s fashion sense is making waves, too. If teachers’ clothing choices are anything to go by, the v-neck sweater has soared in popularity, and I’ve no doubt that the City gaffer must be partly responsible for this sudden influx of jumpers.
   Granted, it’s not all been cocktails and glitter under Parkinson (There’s been the slump in league form, but we won’t dwell on that too much.), but he’s taken us on a journey that we’ve all been encapsulated by.
   Long-term, the sky’s the limit in terms of what City can achieve under Parkinson. He’s managed to turn the club around and has completely revolutionised the city-people are just so proud to be from Bradford and he’s breathed new life into a town that deserved to be put back on the map.
   With that in mind, Bradford City can walk out at Wembley in the knowledge that they’ve not only got a whole city and country behind them, but also a fantastic manager who most clubs would be desperate to have.
   Can City win the cup? I certainly think so. Especially with Phil Parkinson at the helm.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

London Calling

The Bantams Are Going To Wembley. Can't Believe It? Neither Can I.

City's triumph prompted wild celebrations
   If probably sounds clich├ęd, but if, two years ago, you had told me that Bradford City would be busy gearing up for a League Cup final, battling for promotion and capturing the imagination of the British public, I wouldn’t have believed you.
   I wasn’t ever too negative about the Bantams, but I could have never have envisaged such a great run of form for the club. I’d dreamed about getting to the play-offs, of course, but never thought that those hopes would materialise. Peter Taylor’s dismal reign made sure of that.
  Yet, now, we’re going to Wembley. I just keep pinching myself.
   I’m just absorbed by the hype, drama and emotion that surround City’s monumental feat. I love opening national newspapers to find a two-page spread on Matt Duke, and watching Alan Connell and Carl McHugh on Soccer AM was just brilliant. I’m completely gripped by cup fever, and I’m loving every second of it.
   It’s not just me: the whole City has turned claret and amber. You can’t walk around the town centre without being reminded of the impending clash, as there are scarf sellers everywhere-not to mention the posters offering the chance to scoop tickets.
   I am slightly irritated about the so-called “one day” City fans, though. Although they help to generate more income for the club, which will be superb in the long-term, it is annoying to hear people brag about how “We’re going to Wembley” when they have no idea who Nathan Doyle, James Meredith and Luke Oliver are. The strangest thing is how passionate some of the plastic fans at my school are becoming: one allegedly compiled a list of all of the Bantams games that he’s been to and emailed it to his critics. I’ve almost developed a pastime of mentioning a Gary Jones free kick and subsequently watching their faces puzzle over what I’ve just said. They often have no idea what I’m going on about.
   However, it’s not something that I’m going to lose sleep over. Next season, when many of these ‘fans’ will be sat at home watching Soccer Saturday, we’ll be the ones celebrating, safe in the knowledge that our club are in no danger of administration as they compete in League One. Moreover, though, we’ve had to endure years of decline and heartbreak, so February 24th is going to mean more to us than it ever will to them.
   I talk to people about Wembley every day, yet the magnitude of the whole thing – Bradford City in a LEAGUE CUP FINAL – is still sinking in. The enormity of the achievement is something that I’m struggling to comprehend; humble City, a club who I have seen lose to Accrington Stanley and Crewe Alexandra, beating three Premier League teams and securing a place in the history books. I mean, fair enough if it was some other underdogs-maybe Barnsley, who had that notable F.A. Cup run in 2008-but not Bradford City. Things like this just don’t happen to our club. We’re not inundated with things to celebrate.
   And that’s partly what makes this cup run so spectacular. It involves our club, our club who, for so long, have had so little to shout about.  We’ve conquered three teams from the Premier League and will be marching to Wembley on February 24th. It’s more than what many of us would ever have dared to hope for.
   Going to Wembley?
   See you there.