Issue A Very Bradford Revolt, or searching for the soul of Bradford City

As told by Dave Pendleton

It was a very Bradford revolt. John Docherty had arrived at Valley Parade with an impressive CV. He had taken the deeply unfashionable Millwall to the Premier League and was presented as a pragmatic results man. Apparently, just what Bradford City needed after the flamboyant style of the linkable Terry Yorath. Under the Welshman City were said to be easy on the eye, but were a soft touch, they played too much football. We needed results and Docherty was to be the man to get them.

The City fans, used to flowing football under the likes of McFarland, Cherry, Dolan and Yorath, were deeply unimpressed by Docherty’s long ball tactics. However, at first they were prepared to wait and see. There were many debates about style over substance. Some fans said they would take success at whatever the cost. However, results remained inconsistent and incomprehensible substitutions saw the mood of the fans darken.

Eventually the frustration burst into open revolt. During one match the Main Stand, yes the Main Stand, began a chant of ‘we want football’. The team was even once booed onto the field as the relationship between the fans and manager completely collapsed.

The end of Dark Days

I can still remember exactly where I was when I read the Docherty had left Valley Parade. I was elated. What became known as ‘the dark days of Docherty’ arguably changed the culture of the football club.

The chairman and directors fully understood that the supporters wanted a certain style of football. Yes, we wanted to win, but we wanted to be entertained. We were not willing to accept the joyless win at all costs style of football City employed under Docherty. Perhaps it was a different Bradford City back then? The fire had changed attitudes. The spirit shown in the aftermath of the fire, allied to the sense of ownership we had in the club, made the club feel very different to many of the other clubs in the Football League.

From the financial collapse of 1983 to the fire of 1985 and the agonising near miss of promotion to the top flight in 1988 there was a family feel to Bradford City. The bond between the club, players and fans was a close one. We had shared a lot together. However, although Docherty’s rein probably brought that era to an end, the revolt of the fans ensured that City would play in a certain style for the decade that followed.

The echo and the principles

The echo of those days are still with us. A significant number of City fans are uncomfortable with Peter Taylor’s approach to the game. We have been willing to go along with it so long as it brought success – and how desperate we are for any modicum of success following ten years when we have plummeted from one end of the Football League to the other. However, is there a growing realisation that there is more to this beguiling game than attempting to stumble to single goal victories? Yes, Bradford City has hit rock bottom but that does not mean that we should abandon the principles of the football club.

We should debate once again what we want our football club to be. We should debate a set of principles the club should operate to. Those principles should include: style of football; whether to support an active policy of promoting young players; whether to continue to support the policy of cheap season tickets; the policy of keeping the club on an even financial keel regardless of its impact on results.

I’m sure there are many other principles supporters will want to debate. However, as another season threatens to drift into nothingness it is a debate we must have. We are the soul of Bradford City Football Club. If we lose faith and drift away the club will be worthless.

Let the debate begin.