by James Oddy
Heard the story of the Yorkshire club that over-reached and over-spent in a bid to join football’s elite? Then, after getting itself in dire financial straits it plummeted through the football league? No, not a team from Sheffield. Not Leeds, either. But Bradford City.
For much of last season, the club flirted with relegation out of the league altogether. This dramatic fall from grace isn’t mentioned very often in the wider national press. Perhaps this is due to the supposed bigger clubs in the region hogging the ‘shocking mismanagement and on pitch mediocrity’ limelight. Or perhaps it’s because City’s fall down the divisions was slightly slower than other former Premier League teams, managing to sustain a few years in the Championship and League one before finding themselves marooned in the bottom half of league two.
But regardless of these two facts, Bradford City are a club that are underachieving to a ridiculous extent. Valley Parade is a nice, modern stadium that holds over twenty five thousand people. The city of Bradford itself, often unfairly maligned, is larger than one first realises, with a population of around half a million people. This points to a club that should be an attractive proposition to ambitious players, managers and investors looking for a club with that vague but all important ‘potential for growth’.
But the club seems to mirror the city it represents. Valley Parade is located just out of the city centre, perched atop of a hill. Despite its close proximity to the cash cow of Bronte country, the city below has been ravaged by the recession, with half finished building projects making the place feel like a giant construction site. Historic buildings have become abandoned and unused, with investors unwilling or unable to provide money for their maintenance and upkeep. The town’s Rugby League team, which experienced a similar purple patch around the same time as Citys (even becoming world champions at one stage) has suffered a similar financial collapse, and it appear likely they will go completely out of business in the coming months.
Bradford City seem to have been afflicted by this city-wide malaise. The club has appointed big name managers such as Peter Taylor, with little effect. Even more gallingly, the appointment of club icon Stuart McCall failed to achieve anything of real note, leading to him resigning out of frustration and exasperation. Seeing him prosper at Motherwell has gone to prove that he wasn’t a bad manger, rather a good manager at the right club at the wrong time.
While every off season seems to promise better things ahead, perhaps this off season the club will begin to make some positive strides. The signing of Andrew Davis on a permanent basis from Stoke is a coup, and manager Phil Parkinson showed some signs of being able to put together a decent side at some stages last season. For the city’s sake as well as the club, one hopes they can finally deliver some rare and much-needed good news.