The Missing Ingredient

As far as starts to the season go, it’s a struggle to find the right words to describe Bradford City's opening 11 games. While some might opt for buzzwords such as 'stuttering' or 'slow', as things stand, I'm leaning more towards to the 'dismal' end of the spectrum.

I'm not alone in accepting that, as a fan of Bradford City, the odd spanking at the hands of Swindon or the occasional draw with Fleetwood is nothing out of the ordinary, but when our beloved team are languishing in 18th and losing (convincingly so) to teams such as Colchester and Peterborough, alarm bells do start to ring.

For every City fan, a different diagnosis is offered to explain our current slump. On what feels like a weekly barrage of negativity on sites such as Twitter and the deplorable comments left on the Telegraph and Argus' website, many fans are choosing to blame Phil Parkinson – a theory which I find, like so many City fans, to be pretty baffling.

We all know the narrative – Parkinson came, we went up, we stayed up and for those who have been away for the past year, we beat Chelsea in the cup. Last year we finished 7th, our highest league finish in what felt like an eternity. We beat Leeds, we reached the FA Cup quarter-finals and yet somehow, all that still isn't enough.

I'm well aware that success in football isn't measured by how good you were, but how good you are (sorry Liverpool, Newcastle, Leeds etc.) and right now, we don't look anything like a successful club. But to blame the man who has given us all so many memories, some of which we'll undoubtedly treasure forever, seems nothing short of bonkers.

I could list all the reasons behind my love for Parkinson, but to do such a task would be pointless – I've only allowed myself 1,000 words for this article, so I'm not going to waste 500 of those convincing you what you already know. Instead, I'm going to offer an alternative take on why City have been struggling to do the business this season.

For me, our current trouble (is trouble the right word?) can be placed at the feet of the squad. But don't be fooled – this isn't an article demanding the heads of our keepers or the shins of Mr Routis, no. This piece is merely highlighting a point which I believe has played a key role in our dismal 2015/16 campaign - that of City's 'missing ingredient'.

Throughout the past few years, the turf of Valley Parade has been graced by some brilliant leaders. From Gary Jones through to Andrew Davies, Bradford have always possessed that man that everyone can turn to whenever Walsall snuck an early goal or Port Vale clinched an undeserved equaliser.

Today, in my opinion, that player doesn't exist.

Allowing Andrew Davies to leave has been, for many, the scapegoat when assessing our current situation. And to some extent, I have to agree. I say to 'some extent' because I do sympathise with City's view that Davies was injury-prone (and therefore not value for money), but by the same token, I also sympathise with the City faithful who feel frustrated in our inability to find an adequate replacement.

As the old saying goes, you don't know what you had 'til it's gone' – and when it has gone, is it a good move to replace it with a youngster on loan?

I have nothing against our current squad. Player for player, I believe we're as strong as any team in the league. In McArdle, we have a true warrior; in Billy Knott, we have midfield dynamo; in Devante Cole, we have goals. But just because a jigsaw puzzle may look wonderful on the cover, if you haven't got the hands to piece it together, all that's left is a disjointed mess.

What our team needs is the man who can piece it all together on the pitch – the man who can help the players see what we all know to be true. In Darby, I believe we have a fantastic player, but to compare his ability as a leader to that of Gary Jones would be nothing short of sacrilege.  

Can a rudderless ship safely make its way to harbour? In theory, no. But what's great about being a City fan is that theories mean nothing – need I remind you of the Capital One Cup, Chelsea, Sunderland etc?

If this season is going to recover, we're going to have to fill the boots of Gary Jones and Andrew Davies ourselves – we're going to have to play our part in encouraging, rallying and celebrating with the team, because let's face it, they aren't going to do it themselves.

I was there the night City beat Villa and I have seen the difference a full stadium can make when everyone sings from the same hymn sheet. Sure, there may be a missing ingredient in terms of players, leaders and inspirational figures, but with 18,000 season ticket holders packed into the stadium week in week out, perhaps they're not as integral as we first thought.

To miss the opportunity presented by selling so many season tickets would be nothing short of a crime. It's up to those who became swept along in #OneFourNine's optimistic tide to do their bit, to stand and to sing even when we're 2-0 down to Burton (Ben Williams howler, anyone?). We've seen the wonders that Crystal Palace's Ultras have delivered, so why can't we do the same? After all, if there's anything that being a City fan has taught me, it's that daring to dream is never a bad thing.