Valley Parade. What a wonderful place. The best. It is inhabited by some of the wittiest characters on the planet, whose wisecracks leave your sides splitting. Whilst stood or sat in the ground you will have experienced a vast range of human emotion and lost your cool countless times. You have shivered, sworn, laughed and played hell. You have definitely eaten a dodgy pie or two.
It can be uncomfortable, cold, and at times, utterly grim, but you head back week in week out, year after year after year. You do because it can be utterly wonderful. Let’s take a look at some of the experiences that you have probably had at VP in that time.
1. Sitting near the bloke who just does not like James Hanson
‘Move then Hanson’, ‘carthorse!’, ‘he can’t finish’, ‘long ball to Hanson every time’. The Hanson-basher drones on like this throughout the entire game, yet is strangely quiet when Hanson scores, wins a header, holds the ball up, brings someone into play, clears an opposition corner, leads the line, works his socks off etc. You would turn around and tell the serial abuser of our big number 9 to shut up, but he’s got knuckles the size of your head and a slightly deranged look.
2. Playing silly beggars with the opposition goalkeeper
The players come onto the pitch for the second half. The opposition keeper jogs over to the Kop, and as he approaches you offer this professional athlete a respectful applause. He smiles in surprise and returns the gesture. ‘Naaaaaa’ you holler at him whilst proffering a rude gesture. The most schoolboy of jokes, but one that never fails to raise a giggle. Decent marks to the goalkeepers who laugh it off and top marks to those who throw a gesture back on the sly.
3. Watching Charlie lose it
Not many people run down to the front of the stand to berate the linesman and pontificate wildly, but it’s only because they’re too self-conscious to. Charlie goes crazy like no-one is watching, and that should be admired.
4. Squinting at the scoreboard. Are there 18 minutes left or 6?
The most endearing scoreboard in world football? Any salesmen flogging fancy digital scoreboards with instant replay functionality can get back in their emission-belching VW and get on the motorway. We love the dilapidated old scoreboard and its undecipherable pixels (boo to the recent upgrades). Many of us have read a Happy Birthday message to ourselves on it too… or at least we think we did, we just couldn’t quite make it out.
5. Getting into a chant too late
City till I die is being sung by everyone around you, and it’s booming out. It sounds ace but you’re late to the fold. You get ready to join in, stand at the appropriate time, raise your hands in the air, throw your head back… “CIIITY TILL I DIE”. And everyone stops.
You look a buffoon. It is obligatory for one of your mates to rub it in by piping up: ‘There’s only one of you singing’.
6. Losing your own internal ‘Everywhere We Go’ debate
‘I wish we’d sing something else for a change’ you mutter. One goal later and you’re one of the Bradford boys making all the noise. You’re doing a little clap and a bounce too. You love it really.
7. Wishing the Main Stand was finished all the way along the top tier…
It’s just a bit misshapen as it is. Someone working in property would label it as having character; others would call it incomplete.
8. …and wondering how great the ground would look at the height of the Kop all the way around
A capacity of about 40,000 perhaps? That would look mightily impressive, but nobody wants this.
9. Looking over Bradford during a lull in play and wondering what on Earth they were thinking when they built this >>>
Richard Dunne Sport Centre standing proudly on the horizon. Beautiful Yorkshire sand and gritstone stretching out in front of you, Little Germany, old relics of the industrial north, the odd modern monstrosity, Mosques showing what a multicultural city it is. Bradford has many critics, but they can all get stuffed, this is your realm and it is bloody fantastic.
10. Enjoying a lung-bursting scream at the referee and sitting down grumbling ‘every time, we get them every time’.
‘Every bloody time’ you moan as you sit down in a rage, and you are not far off the mark. We do. To the Darren Drysdale’s of this world, thank you for absolutely nothing.
11. Reminiscing about the old Kop
The funny plastic claret and amber spiky things they put on the perimeter fencing. Thinking you were dead hard if you stood right at the back in the middle amongst the noisy lot. Ending up five metres from where you were stood after a goal was scored. The feeling of slight panic as everyone surged forward, and the utter horror when you realised someone had stood on your brand new white Reebok Classics. Spion Kop written boldly on the side. What a brilliant terrace it was.
12. Spoiling your mate’s tweet after a goal
‘YEEES! 1-0. Hanson #bcafc’ your mate is trying to type as you hug them. Simon Parker from the T&A has already tweeted, and your mate’s live analysis will be noticed by precisely nobody. Welcome to the era of football via smartphone where everyone has to be first to tweet and post.
13. Watching City lose to the dross who are bottom of the league
You turn up at these games just knowing we’ll gift them three points, but it doesn’t make the frustration any more bearable when we do. 'Typical City' is the phrase to use when walking away from the ground at a time like this.
14. Shouting ‘out wide’ to Gary Liddle and feeling like Alex Ferguson when he obliges
Sit back in your chair and enjoy the respect that everyone is quietly giving you. You are shortly about to join in a chant at the wrong time anyway.
15. Asking the big PP question
Pre-game, the big question involving PP these days is not diamond vs. 4-4-2. It’s M&S pullover vs. suit vs. training top vs. waterproof jacket. What Parky will wear on the touchline is a hot topic. You would never enter into such detailed discussion about any other man’s clothing, but there again, you don’t love many men like PP do you?
16. Seeing something you’ll never forget
Some of the most amazing memories in my life have happened at VP. The wall of noise in the cup runs, Nigel Pepper’s thunderbolts against QPR to keep us up, Benito Carbone against Chelsea, Stan Collymore’s overhead kick vs Leeds, Gordon Watson’s double against Barnsley… Every time you head down to VP, you might well see something that leaves you speechless… As I said at the start, what a wonderful place.