Bradford City and Brazil

In 107 years Bradford City have won one major trophy and have spent 16 years in the top division. For a brief period in the years leading up to the Great War City did establish themselves as one of the leading sides in the country, but following the tragedy of the war a place among the top five proved to be unsustainable. As Accrington Stanley passed the ball around neatly during Tuesday nights match I pondered what it was all about – i.e. the point of having a football club that will probably never repeat its all too brief moment in the sun.

If we take it as read that City, barring an unlikely and unforeseeable set of circumstances, are highly unlikely to win another major trophy, then what is our aim as a football club? The consensus view appears to be a place in the Championship. If, and it’s a big if given our current position, we achieved Championship status what then? Would our supporters, and chairmen, be content once the novelty wore off? Of course not, the bar would be raised, we would yearn for a season or two in the Premier League to grab the enormous cash windfall. Is that what it is all about – money?

Back to reality. As Accrington Stanley passed the ball neatly about some City supporters screamed at our players to ‘get stuck in’. When we had the ball, if more than two passes were exchanged, particularly in defence, the players were abused ‘stop fucking about’, ‘get it forward’. In an opposite, but parallel, universe, Accrington Stanley, putting aside their later time wasting antics, seem to be a club enjoying themselves. Their Ultras sing merrily away throughout games and it seems a happy ship. Perhaps they are content to be playing in the Football League and are celebrating that fact every Saturday. It’s an attitude far removed from some of our supporters to whom the word enjoyment is an alien concept.

If we accept that City are unlikely to win anything of importance in the world of football should we move our eyes to something else? Should the club reposition itself to become one committed to attractive attacking football, whatever the consequences? By that I do not mean the relentless passing style of Spain, which at times was frankly boring, as it was often passing merely to retain possession. I mean a commitment to pace and first time passing used to attack teams.

I once spoke to Julian Rhodes about such an approach and told him about the Middlesbrough supporter Simon Clifford who was achieving incredible results with his fledgling Futebol de Salão Brazilian style football coaching. Small scale training methods with heavier than usual balls was beginning to produce players with high levels of ball skills and his boys teams had beaten domestic and even one international team. Unfortunately, Julian had the very survival of Bradford City on his mind when I mentioned Futebol de Salão.

My point wasn’t, and isn’t, about which method City adopt, it is about a vibrant club that dares to be different. I wince at the mention of percentage balls and working the channels. It smacks, to me at least, of joyless professionalism. The Charles Hughes school of direct football. Is our future effectively gambling on the one in a million chance of City finding success, or do we accept that our dreams are false and follow another path?

It might not bring success any closer, but at least it could remind us that professional football is supposed to be entertainment and we are allowed to enjoy it.

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