The Future Is…?

Unlike Marty McFly, we don’t have access to a time machine but what fun it would be. You could go back 104 years to the day to watch City draw 0-0 in the 1911 FA Cup FInal, fast forward four days from then to watch us win it in the replay, sit through promotion at Molineux without the feeling of cold dread slowly enveloping your entire being, or you could simply keep pressing rewind to enjoy James Hanson’s header at Villa and the accompanying delirium that went with it.

You could go meet a charismatic bloke called Jesus, have a chat with Julius Caesar, and go back to see Bradford booming in the industrial revolution. You could even go see the moment that Bradford City was formed and write into the club charter – “don’t ever sign anyone called David Hopkin.”

What about the future? Who knows what it holds, but you can bet it will be interesting and full of highs and lows - with or without Gianni Paladini. The rumours involving Signor Paladini and his band of merry men continue to swirl, and various sums, deals, and transfer funds are being whispered about. More than £10 million to spend on players seems to the latest. Wow. 

It needs sorting. I know these matters do not happen overnight but it's very distracting for the supporters, so imagine how the coaching staff, players and manager feel? Take PP for example, he must be thinking: Will I be manager next season? What will my budget be? How will the working relationship work? What is going on? The club can put out as many reassuring lines to the press as they like, these questions are part of human nature. They have an impact on the team.

If we do end up with a new owner, we could be looking at a very different Bradford City. So on that note, here is a look at how things could* turn out if the deal goes through...

21st April 2020

Gazprom Premiership: Everton 1 - Bradford Bantams 2

What is happening? Bradford Bantams’ Champions League and domestic double dreams became a little bit more like reality and a little less like fantasy, with a 2-1 victory at Everton, a typical display from this hard-working but classy side. Not since George Galloway was unceremoniously hoofed out of the city in the 2015 election has there been such delight in Bradford.

After letting in a sloppy goal, the Bantams fought their way back into the game with the ageing Cesc Fabregas at the centre of everything. There has been much criticism of the Spaniard’s commitment to the cause in recent weeks, particularly as he continues to chopper in from London every day instead of moving to the area, but what cannot be doubted is his class. He ran the show today, and Bantams' third manager of the season Jurgen Klopp could only purr in delight in the post-match press conference. A fan mentioned to this correspondent after the game 'He's good, but not as good as Nigel Pepper' but I'm not sure what they meant or who that even is.

“He was everywhere and he shut his critics up,” said Klopp. “We sat down this week to talk about his situation and he said there’s no way he’s moving up to Bradford. He liked Baildon for a second, but didn't like the traffic delays up the main road from Shipley and near Crossley Evans which have gone on for the past five or so years apparently. He’s a fan of the new Westfield and likes the local cuisine, but he said a visit to the Bradford Brewery with a bunch of portly men just isn’t the same as a night in Mahiki with long-legged Russian models. However, he’s loving his football here and that’s what matters.”

The well-publicised saga over Fabregas’ long-commute aside, this Bantams team is beginning to put together a run which threatens to see the club make the dizzy heights of the Champions League, just a year after they won their first FA Cup in 109 years. Six games unbeaten including a 3-0 thumping of Chelsea, however beating the Blues is standard practice for this lot. There is a sense of exhilaration amongst the majority of fans, and the protests over the name change to 'Bradford Bantams' that take place before home games are down to 100 people at the very most. A man called Charlie still screams ‘City’ at the Directors box for the full 90 minutes though. 

Although there are murmurings from the boardroom about the lack of flair on offer, particularly with an array of more creative 'stars' left on the bench, the club is winning games for fun. Next week’s Cup semi-final against Reading, managed by old-favourite Phil Parkinson, offers a chance to blood some of the young starlets and Klopp has been told by Paladini and his consortium of wealthy pals in no uncertain terms that retaining the cup is a must.  

There’s no doubt, these are uncertain times for yet another manager but they’re unbelievable times for the Bradford Bantams.

Or… 21st April 2020

League Two sponsored by Chicken Cottage: Bradford City 0 – Leeds United 1

The last ray of hope and optimism that Bradford City had this season, a home win against Leeds United, has vanished. Everyone can pack up for the summer, because there is nothing left to play for. Certainly not pride - that departed at the same time as ex-manager Dave Hockaday, who went back to Leeds earlier this year after being promised money off at the Wetherby Whaler as part of the deal. Hockaday felt like the club’s last hope. That's saying something looking at him on the touchline today, consulting a book on football tactics and scratching his head.

This League Two derby clash of West Yorkshire’s madcap failures was everything it was expected to be. Low on quality, full of thunder, and in the end a deflected goal off a divot gave Leeds United the three points that leaves them certain of their league status. Granted, City’s status was assured just a couple of weeks ago but the fall from grace of both clubs is the saddest part of this tale. 'You're an embarrassment' was sang by both sets of fans - who to nobody knows.

Taken over by rich overseas owners, both clubs have fallen fast and hard. Leeds’ tale is the most dramatic, but City’s financial status is worrying. Struggling to retain the keys to Valley Parade after the spectacular fallout with Gianni Paladini, the biggest question has to be where will the club play next year? Paladini shows no sign of taking back his threat to evict the club. Money is still owed to the sulking Italian and Odsal beckons. A man called Charlie screams ‘City’ at an empty Directors box for the full 90 minutes. 

Of course, there are some positives. Andrew Davies, the injured club captain and player-manager is refusing to be negative. “We played well today and bossed long spells of the game. Unfortunately, when we needed to be at our sharpest we lacked the killer edge up front, which is the story of our season. Stead and Ross Hannah tried but didn’t have the luck or in Jon’s case, the legs. Whatever happens off the pitch is up to other people, we’ll be continuing to focus on what happens on it. Apart from the divots, that's up to the groundsman to sort.”

The club still has its soul. The days of the rumoured ‘Bradford Bantams’ are thankfully a memory and the mangy old scoreboard is back, as are the Bantam Belles, replacing 'The Saturdays' who provided half-time entertainment for a couple of epic seasons. The match was watched by a record crowd of 16,500, the biggest gate of the season and way above the 9,500 average this season. In another season of bad news, yet again the Bradford City fans have proved to be one of the few bright spots.

Or… 21st April 2020

The Poundland Championship: Bradford City 1 – Sunderland 1

City’s hopes of staying in the Championship are well and truly in their own hands as a point at home to Doncaster Rovers left the Bantams five points off the relegation places with just three games remaining. Phil Parkinson’s men were applauded off after a lively performance against the champions-elect, but some grumbling can still be heard amongst the City faithful.

Opinion is divided on Parkinson these days, despite a stand being named after him and a petition to put a giant statue of him on top of Richard Dunne Sports Centre attracting 30,000 signatures. His public rebuke of Steve Evans earlier this season as a 'sunburnt manatee stuck in a dugout' has earned him legendary status in the eyes of some. After a stunning promotion in 2017, and two seasons in the Championship - 18th and last season’s 14th place - there was an expectation that the club would progress again this year. This year has proved a little harder than that. Legends can become vilified as quickly as they are built into heroes. 

It is hard to blame the manager given the resources he has available. A lack of financial clout has left Bradford City’s progress short when compared to other richer clubs. Look at the Watford Hornets. Look at AFC Shaymen of Halifax, who will find themselves in the Championship next season with a silly name, but millions to throw at the challenge under the guidance of Gianni Paladini, who once courted City. Financial clout equals footballing prowess, and the Bantams despite their forward momentum over the past few years, are in danger of becoming stuck in the same gear albeit with a normal name...

Are we stuck in the same gear at the moment like the last example? Some would say so. The facts show that we've equalled last season's points tally with two games to spare, but our recent run of form threatens to see us wave goodbye to this memorable season with a whimper instead of a roar. Tired legs undoubtedly play a part in that, and Paladini's rumoured cash injection would obviously help bolster the squad. Would Paladini's cash bring the pride and courage that is instilled within this squad and which money cannot buy though? 

The future is most probably nothing like some of these extreme examples, but here’s the point, with or without Paladini it’s going to be up/down, hot/cold, happy/sad, elation/depression - as usual. Whatever happens we can’t do much about it – so bring it on and lets hope that whatever happens, happens quickly. All this second-guessing is becoming tedious and above all, very distracting.


 * may contain some ridiculous exaggerations.