The work in progress

48 hours on from the red hot away atmosphere at Elland Road on a sunny Yorkshire evening, the quaint surroundings of Steeton AFC’s Summerhill Lane ground and a heavy downpour formed the more grounded backdrop to the Bradford City Development Squad’s place of work.

They were here for a friendly against their West Riding County Amateur Football League counterparts – a derby with none of the intensity of Tuesday but with plenty of meaning for all on the pitch. The serious stuff has got going for City’s first teamers, but for almost everyone wearing the lovely pink kit this evening it was an opportunity to prove they are capable, one day, of promotion to the senior squad.

City's Development Squad in development

City's Development Squad in development

Much has been said over the summer about the Archie Christie-led initiative of tutoring a group of younger players, so they can potentially be good enough for first team action over the next few years. But as the football season gets into full swing, it’s likely the Development Squad will become largely forgotten. Indeed some of the usual message board trouble makers have already attempted to criticise City devoting a budget to Christie, while hinting at a rift between him and first team manager Peter Jackson.

But if Jackson really doesn’t care for all of this, he must be desperately short of things to do in an evening. Tonight he, joint-Chairmen Mark Lawn and Head of Youth Operations Peter Horne watched from next to the City dugout while Wayne Allison – surely a Jackson appointment – barked instructions at the team alongside a near-silent Christie. Interest within the club for the Development Squad is clearly strong.

The treacherous downpour and lack of team sheet meant this writer struggled through his rain-soaked glasses to identify everyone who was playing for City this evening. From the first team squad there was Jon McLaughlin in goal for the 90 minutes, Leon Osborne leading the attack and – yes, he is still alive – Lewis Hunt at centre back. Meanwhile new loan signing Michael Bryan lined up on the right flank and enjoyed an encouraging evening.

An up-for-it Steeton made the sure game was competitive, but as City got into their passing stride they were clearly a cut above. Scott Brown, who isn’t allowed to play for the first team until he turns 17 in November, was once again utterly masterful in the centre of the park. The Scottish teenager effortlessly sprayed the ball around with great accuracy and confidence, spotting things others don’t see. He is Bradford City’s secret weapon for either later this season or next, and the potential is huge.

Dominic Rowe took a spot on the right wing and drove the team forward well, though his positional awareness still needs some work. Adam Robinson looks a great prospect at centre back, while the number three (who’s name I wasn’t sure of, sadly) was terrific getting up and down as left back. Up front Osborne showed a much greater level of maturity compared to his petulant display at Silsden a month back, and it was great to hear him offering rookie partner Darren Stephenson advice and encouragement throughout.

It was Osborne who put City in front after he was played through on goal and rounded the keeper. Soon after Stephenson – who earlier had missed an open goal, albeit from a tight angle – struck a second from inside the box. The rain was incessant in the first half and my lack of coat or hat soon had me shivering. Suddenly a comforting arm was placed around my shoulder, before I turned round to see who it was and to accept their offer of a handshake. It was Jackson,  walking around supporters saying hello. The personable style of this man is hugely impressive, I think I’m developing a man-crush for him.

Shortly after a half time interval made entertaining by ear-wigging Allison’s team talk on the pitch, it was 3-0 when a young substitute – who I believe to be Kieran Djilali, on trial from Crystal Palace and very sharp –  finished emphatically from just inside the box, and the rest of the game seemed like a typical second half pre-season friendly where little happens. The cross bar was struck towards the end by City and Steeton’s players looked increasingly agitated with each other; Luke Dean was assured in a less familiar right back position.

A decent evening’s work, though the quality of opposition and basicness of Steeton’s ground symbolised how there is some way to go for the Development Squad strategy to achieve its objectives. This is no overnight route to success, and in things don’t go well on the pitch this season the conviction in maintaining this long-term approach may be tested by some.

But if, as per usual, the first team fails to live up to expectations this campaign, there’s great comfort to be had from knowing that a Plan B is already in operation.

David, Goliath and Tom Cleverley

It is hard to not fall into the trap of painting Bradford City’s attempts to claim some of the loan fees paid by clubs to Manchester United from clubs who have borrowed one time City youngster Tom Cleverley as being a kind of cheeky David trying to sneak Goliath’s wallet out of his pocket and in doing so dismiss City’s claim as being opportunistic.

There is something cunning about the Bantams’ claim for slices of the money paid by the likes of Watford and Wigan for the player. It seems that City – bolstered by the player’s move into the England senior squad and Manchester United first team picture – have been alerted to the terms of the deal and almost certainly those terms and the sell on clause in them was nothing at all to do with these loan fees and everything to do with the idea that the midfielder would bubble around at Old Trafford before Gabriel Obertaning his way to Newcastle United to deliver City a slice.

In such a context then Mark Lawn’s professional to professional approach is likely to fall on deaf ears. After all Wayne Rooney’s Gorilla chest vests do not come cheap.

Legally though the claim would depend on the definition of a loan and in that City’s case builds. Loans is a colloquialism for the correct term “temporary transfer.”

The loan system is a pathed cow path that replaced a team making an agreement that they would sell a player and buy him back later. The registration transfer might be temporary but it is a transfer and if money changes hands to enable it then there seems to be a reading of the contract that entitles the Bantams to some of that money.

After all were there no formal loan system and Cleverley had been sold to Wigan with a gentleman’s agreement that he would – if he played well – return to Old Trafford for a similar amount plus a bit for the Latic’s trouble then there would be no question of the Bantams getting a cut.

No doubt this will head to the football authorities. Bradford City – £45,000 a week for Benito Carbone – make poor Davids to anyone’s Goliath and so one wonders how much sympathy would be engendered. A decision in favour of City would help any club who had lost a player to the top flight only to see him loaned around the leagues and there is certainly a claim that the spirit of the agreement is that the Bantams would benefit from any financial gain that comes from the player moving to another club.

Reports suggest that Manchester United have offered to settle for £50,000. City might accept that. How often does any club go up against Manchester United and win off the field let alone on it? Regardless of who is right, often football favours might.

The Skipton Bantams

Life, they say, is full of ups and downs. For Bantams fans it’s been a long series of downs ever since “that” David Weatherall goal and that has perhaps been reflected in the support for the team.

But news of the projected re-formation of one once strong organisation might just offer a glimpse of comfort for those looking for evidence that the bottom of the cycle has been reached and the only way is – as Tony Blair and a group called Yazz and The Plastic Population used to say – up.

Ten years ago a Skipton-based Bradford City Supporters Club had more than 100 members – not bad in an area traditionally inhabited by Burnley and Leeds supporters. But somehow the club folded as the two key movers behind the group fell out with the board and, for whatever reason, decided that they should transfer their allegiance to Morecambe. Curious you might think, but, hey, there’s no accounting for taste.

With disappointment at the club’s decline giving way to despair, there was little enthusiasm to pick up the reins in Skipton – until now. Two Bantams fans have decided to attempt to recreate those heady days when guest speakers such as Stuart McGod, Lee Mills, Geoffrey Richmond and Jim Jeffries would attend a packed pub in the town and spread the gospel.

The two men behind the scheme are Chris Harbron, a former mayor of the town, and the retired ex-editor of the local rag (who introduced Bradford City reports into its sports pages).

“You still see lots of City shirts on the streets. Those Bantams fans did not just disappear so we’re trying to rekindle the interest,” said Ian Lockwood, the ex-journo. He’s not what you could call a lifelong City fan. “I was a York rugby league fan but my young son started getting interested in football. The dreaded words ‘Manchester United’ were heard so I decided to take him to watch a game of ‘real’ football,” he said. “Skipton is almost exactly the same distance from Elland Road, Valley Parade and Turf Moor. Of course Elland Road was like wanting to go to Mordor with all the other orcs and Burnley were away that Saturday so we tootled off to City. They lost 4-0 to Wycombe but they were now ‘our’ team.”

Their first meeting is in the Narrow Boat pub in Skipton at 8pm on Tuesday August 23. It’s a regular winner of the Keighley and Craven CAMRA Pub of the Season award so that’s a good start.

The first meeting is to gauge interest, form a committee and see what members want to do.

“We’ll follow what people want to do. We could sponsor a player, get speakers in but we need to decide some basic questions like how often do we meet and do we charge a membership fee,” said Lockwood. There are no plans to organise coaches to matches but that may well change if City reach the play-off finals (you have to be optimistic).

So far the well-established Shipley Bantams club has been offering advice and the club has been approached about providing a speaker for future meetings.

For further information, email skiptonbantams@gmail.com or turn up on the 23rd. If you can’t make it, an expression of interest would be valuable to see whether or not Skipton has fallen out of love with the Bantams

Petition to lower the prices at Valley Parade

There is a petition which – should it gain enough signatures – will be forwarded to Bradford City, the suppliers of catering at Valley Parade and to local media outlets making it known that fans would support a reduction in pricing for food and drink at Valley Parade.

Talking about the campaign the petition organisers made clear the intentions saying

We think this is something that can be changed for the good of many families, pensioners, and low income supporters that attend the games. As far as I am aware (The club) do not take a cut, however, (we hope) they can have an influence over stopping unfair pricing.

The petition can be signed at ipetitions.com/petition/fairprices/signatures

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