Welcome, or welcome back

Blogging may have been a fad, a semi-comic emblem of a time, like CB Radio and disco dancing, but independent writing and publishing is not. Sharing ideas and passions on the only free medium the world has known is not a fad or joke.

We were struggling, whether we knew it or not, to found a more fluid society. A place where everyone, not just appointed apologists for the status quo, could be heard. That dream need not die. It matters more now than ever.

Jeffrey Zeldman, 11th December 2013

Welcome, or welcome back.

This is BfB and it has changed a little on what it was before I took it down a few years ago. It has changed in the past from online newspaper to blog to opinions and reports and to what it is now. Everytime its found an audience and that audience has always come on the basis that they want to read what I write.

And it is me writing. In the years 1998 to 2012 BfB published articles from over 250 passionate Bradford City supporters and was proud to do so but now that writing list is shrunk to one, me.

There is a lot of good reasons that it will stay like that, at least for a little while. Back in 1998 there was a lot of skill involved in getting something on the Internet. Even five years ago the vast majority of the BfB writers would not have known where to start if they wanted to be put something online. I owned the printing press and was happy to publish. These days everyone who wants to be heard on the subject of Bradford City can be heard on the subject of Bradford City and if you don’t believe that then look at #bcafc on Twitter.

This is my contribution to the Bradford City debate. Its smaller, but deliberately so and yes I’m more than happy with that. I’m not going to write a preview and a report on every game nor am I going to write an article every day. Those things can be got elsewhere.

The old pages are still where they were and a lot of graft and quite a few quid has gone into making sure that that history is not lost.

As for the writing it will be as it always has been, my opinion, and if you do not like that then I’ll only say that that opinion is the only one I have on a subject and now I’m over forty I can’t even be bothered to apologise for that any more. I welcome correspondence – both in support and against – but I’ve got a standard and this is my house so I expect you to stick to them. If not #bcafc welcomes you and I’ll not get involved in any debate outside of BfB unless a comment is addressed to me and I’m sufficiently motivated to answer it which I rarely am.

If you want to talk to me about Archie Christie then feel free to but what I know that you don’t could stun a herd of Wildebeest in their tracks. If you want to talk to me about Mark Lawn then you can do that too. Despite what mischievous sources would tell you there was no legal action against BfB that shut it down, and no agreement or gagging or anything between myself and Bradford City or Mr. Lawn. People sometimes say my attitude towards Mr Lawn comes from sour grapes that he closed my website down but that does him, and me, a disservice that this should rectify. I shut it down, I open it back up, and I welcome you to it.

Finally, if you are wondering why BfB returns having missed the best bits of City – Wembley twice and so on – then do not worry I saw it all, and more.

Michael Wood

On Mark Lawn

@michaelwood your ongoing personal vendetta got boring months ago. #bcafc
@Love_13_Hate 11

Vendetta – noun: Any prolonged and bitter feud, rivalry, contention, or the like.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary

When I closed BfB down in 2011 it was not at the urging of Mark Lawn and while I have made this point a great many times there seems to have been an idea taken root that because “he closed down my site” that I had a personal vendetta against him.

By reopening the site having had (and wanting) no contact at all with Mr Lawn I hope that that accusation levelled at him – that he closed down the site – can be laid to rest. He did not and would no doubt take a dim view of people saying things which were not accurate about him.

I have no personal vendetta. In fact I have discovered a great many things since Mr Lawn started his involvement with Bradford City that are entirely personal about him, and his private life, and his family life. I consider all those things to be entirely none of my business and certainly not the business this website. That is because one thing I can tell you, dear reader, for sure is that whatever disagreement I have with Mr Lawn it is not a “personal” one.

I disagree with a great many of the things he does in his position as Bradford City joint-chairman.

I disagree with the way I am told he treats the people around him, I disagree with what I see as him having held the loans – yes loans – he let the club borrow over the club like the sword of Damocles, I disagree with the way he styles himself as a “custodian” of the club, I disagree with the way he represent himself when he is called on to be the public face of the club, I disagree with how he approaches the business of the football club.

And these disagreements come from having interviewed Mr Lawn, and having had “lively” conversations with him and with people claiming to represent him. It comes from having reported on the day he arrived at Bradford City and a good many of the days since then, and it comes from my experiences as a Bradford City supporter.

It comes from thinking that Bradford City as a football club is badly run at board level. That in the majority of important respects we make the wrong decisions. On manager retention, on player budgeting, on future planning, on negotiations. I disagree with the way the the club is run.

I’d rather not disagree.

I’d rather that the club operated along the lines I’d consider to be “well run” and that the other things I know were not the case but my experience tells me they are and I am hostage to that knowledge.

When I talk to someone who has seen these things first hand, or I experience them myself, I might wish that they were not the case or even – on occasion – wish that I did not know them but I cannot not know them, and my views are formed by that.

I really don’t have a vendetta against Mr Lawn – personal or otherwise – I just want to hold the man that owns a part of – and ostensibly runs – Bradford City to a good standard and when he falls below that I reserve the right to say so.

I wish that were less often the case.

On Correspondence

This is how I run comments on BfB. You should read this carefully before posting a comment so you do not feel you have wasted your time.

Correspondence with BfB is not all for publication and most comments will not be published but it will be read. For a comment to be published it will have to make points which add to the article which includes challenging the points made.

If a comment is not published then the chances are it was appreciated. There is not going to be a lengthy debates over why it is not available for all to read. The judgement is made based on how interesting the comment would be to the reader.

Think of the comments as Letters to the Editor and maintain the same standards.

Comments will never be published without a real name being used. Your name is both your forename and your surname. Somewhere else your name might be not “Dave” or “@Bantam57” but if you want to comment on BfB then you have to include your full name.

Your comment might be edited for clarity but the chances are that if your comment needs a lot of editing to make it clear then it probably would not be published anyway. If one would have to change “u” to “you” seventeen times to make a comment readable one might be prepared to conclude that that comment would not be worth reading anyway.

Many comments will get a reply from the writer but this is not threaded debate and that reply will be the end of that part of the discussion. If you have a question, and if that question warrants a response, then include an email address. The place for personal correspondence is not a published comments section, at least not on this website.

Finally there may not be comments on an article. It could be because the article has automatically had comments turned off because of its age, it might be that comments have been turned off because discussion seems to be at an end. Finally it might be that I’ve decided the article will not be subject to comments. Sometimes a statement is a start of a debate, sometime it is simply a statement.

Some time ago there were few places to engage in online discussion and now there are many and you are free to talk about the subjects raised here there if you do not like the house rules.

But these are the house rules.

BfB is Closed

On the 4th of November 2011, after talking with Bradford City Football Club, www.boyfrombrazil.co.uk was closed. This decision was made by Jason & myself and Jason & myself alone and not at the request of the club.

The last thing we would want to do is distract the club from making progress. We apologise for any distress this site may have caused people at the club at any time over the last twelve years and hope that removing this source of comment the club to focus that progress.

Thank you for reading, it has been a pleasure to write for you and you can read the historic BfB articles.

Michael Wood
11th December 2011

About Secondary Heroes

Stuart McCall, Bobby Campbell, Ces Podd, Peter Beagrie, John Hendrie, Benito Carbone…

Bradford City’s all-time greatest and best players are widely known and rightly celebrated for the contributions they provided to our history. We can read about them in books, learn about them at the excellent Bantams Past and relive their stories through talking to our friends.

But beyond the obvious and the renowned, there are numerous Bantams heroes over the years who might not quite deserve the title of ‘Legend’ and who are not recalled as often; but who, nevertheless, gave us some great moments when they wore claret and amber. And whose mention of their name can stir happy memories.

BfB will pay tribute to these less illustrious greats who served Bradford City well for a time. We will remember players who may not grace many supporters’ all-time City XI, but who still retain our affection.

The writers of BfB will be queuing up to share their secondary heroes, and if you’d like to get
involved in writing about your less obvious favourite City player we’d love to include it within our series too. We’re not necessarily looking for you to retell the history of the player – most of us will know their story – but more your personal thoughts on what they meant to you, the impact they had on the club (short or long-term) and your favourite moments they delivered. Drop us a line.

BfB & The OMB

There are questions about why BfB has asked the OMB to remove full articles from that website. These are the answers.

BfB has never been, and never tries to be, to everybody’s taste.

We understand that we present a view of Bradford City but never seek to portray this website as representing the views of all supporters. We go to great pains to point out that this site is the views of those who write it and nothing else. We like it that way and – judging by the readership which tops 1,000 a day most days – that is how you like it.

Our readers make a choice to come to this website and read what we have to say and over one hundred of them have chosen to write their own articles for us. BfB lets readers – and non-readers – decide how involved they want to be with our site.

Two months ago a series of articles written for this website appeared in full on the Bradford City Official Message site as forum posts and we got in touch with the club to ask them if it would be possible to remove those post and replace them with links back to the article.

There is no problem with the copyright on the article – copyright of BfB articles are owned by the authors anyway so it would be impossible to have a global possession on that – so the only issue over copyright is that someone else owns it. Nor was there a worry that we would be sued although our conversations with Mr Lawn would tell us that were the OMB to publish anything worthy of legal action then he would expect the club and not the author to be subject to that action.

There is no real benefit to people reading the articles here as the site has no advertising and the extra page views do not make us anything (rather, they cost us, but we are happy to have you here)

The important point was that readers make a choice to engage with BfB’s content and a choice not to.

I do not want BfB’s articles being shoved down the throats of people who did not want to come to this website. I respect those people’s right to not want to hear what we have to say to be able to go about their business without having BfB articles thrown at them as they try talk about City somewhere else.

Everyone knows where we are, everyone is welcome to read, every article has a link on it to point people at and people can decide if they want to read it, or if they don’t.

Nothing about getting sued, nothing about traffic, nothing about trying to stop people talking about the articles just a desire to make sure that people who do not want to read BfB do not have to read BfB.

About 1911s

The 1911s – named after the year in which Bradford City won the FA Cup which had been made in the City – are a series of articles which are more in depth than the daily news discussions and match reports. They are weightier beasts for sure, but worth the read.

Sometimes we have looked for our writers to take an overview of a large topic, sometimes we have asked them to go to the library and research the bejeebers out of something to provide a new insight and sometimes we have sent them with a dicaphone and an expense account* to interview a figure in City’s history.

We hope you enjoy.

* The expense account is entirely fictional.

Ricky Holden’s Defence of Mark Lawn

The following appeared in The City Gent #167 in reference to an article in the previous issue by Ricky Holden. It is included here for completion.

After taking in Ricky Holden’s spirited discussion of Mark Lawn on page 31 of issue 166 heartened to read such a passionate defence of the man and as I looked through the article it stuck me how few of the points Mr Holden batted away were ever brought to joint chairman as criticisms.

Mark Lawn used to travel on the CTC coaches and is a proper City fan the article screamed and one would be mistaken for thinking that there was a campaign against the joint chairman that sought to expose him as a fraud who oversold his association with Bradford City. In the three years of covering his involvement at City on BfB never have I heard anyone suggest that Lawn was not the passionate Bantams fan Ricky Holden states he is. One can only wonder why Lawn is defended against charges not levelled at him.

It is certainly true that people accuse Lawn of having a gruffness to his public statements and as Ricky Holden says he is rough around the edges but again seldom is this ever seriously used as criticism against him. On the BBC recently Lawn’s “University of Hard Knocks” saw him – paraphrased no doubt by the article author – more or less suggest that the Bantams were doing all they could to attract Asian supporters by having a Chicken Tikka Pie. One could, if one wanted, find any number of ways to portray Lawn over this and few of them would illustrate him will but again there is no campaign against the man because of his manner public speaking.

“The one thing,” Ricky Holden tells us, “that I do know is he is 100% Claret and Amber” and with that it would have been interesting to settle the term “100% Claret and Amber” with “I spent the weekend deciding if I was going to withdraw my loan and put Bradford City into administration” but again Lawn is forgiven and afforded the honorific “Supporter Chairman.”

One would be satisfied to write the article off as a passionate, if slightly misguided, defence of a man who takes his fair share of criticism if it were not for the statement that Lawn was “the only one willing to put his money where his mouth was” which is increasingly said of the chairman and so inaccurate as to be insulting.

Insulting to the people who in 2002 and 2004 spent summers raising money to keep the club in business and to everyone who did at that point put their money where their mouths were and did so to the tune of hundreds of thousands. That there was a club for Mark Lawn to invest his money in/loan his money to is because of the community of Bradford City supporters who put their money, time and efforts where their mouths were and stopped the club from going out of business. It is said that Bradford is a poor City – indeed financially it is – and the people of this City squeezing out £250,000 in eight weeks is the stone wringing its own blood. An act which deserves more than being written off as not having put money where mouth is.

One could write books on Lawn and his actions at Bradford City and opinion over the man will no doubt be divided but let us not create a revisionism that insults the people who have kept this club going – the supporters – and affords their success to the boardroom.


Michael Wood
www.boyfrombrazil.co.uk

New BfB design

You will have noted, dear reader, that BfB has a new design. It is an evolution of the current design to update a few elements and (hopefully) make the website better for more modern browsers and for mobile phones.

If you are one of the one in ten who use BfB on IE6 then I’ve kept some support but you need to tell whoever controls your computer that it is not 2001 any more and things change. Jim Jefferies was manager when your browser was launched!

Things that you will note, should you be of a mind to, is that the detail on archive pages is improved, that there is a menu at the top of the page, that each article has more information (and some of it is hidden behind a tabbed interface) and the comments interface has been altered. Good web design always evolves and things may come and go in the next few weeks.

If you have any bug reports, comments of the like then add them to this message unless – of course – it is that the comments do not work in which case I guess we shall never know.

Michael

About The Barry Articles

The Barry Articles – named after the ever divisive figure of City history that is Barry Conlon – are a series of questions asked to people connected to the Bradford City community to stimulate debate and give further breadth of opinion on the site.

We have cast a wide net to find the authors who are writing The Barry Articles – fans, writers, radio people, print journalist and players have been asked if they want to partake – and like the centre forward himself we hope that The Barry Articles will never without something to enjoy.

Mr Chris Dunphy

On the 12th of March, 2009 this website published an article by Michael Wood entitled “Are you part of the thousand who did not turn up Rochdale?” in which there were questions with regards to the attendance figures of the Rochdale vs Bradford City game on the 10th of March, 2009.

The questions raised in this article were answered fully in a statement released by Rochdale FC which was reproduced on this website along with the referred article. This was accompanied by a statement from Michael Wood accepting without question the clarification of the attendance figures.

Comments made by the website readers on this article along with elements of the article have caused some concern and as a result the article and associated comments have been removed by request of Rochdale FC and Mr Chris Dunphy.

At no point did Mr Wood intend to imply wrong doing by Mr Dunphy or by Rochdale FC or by any member of staff of Rochdale FC. Mr Wood deeply regrets any unintentional inference or suggestion of wrong doing and would like to take this opportunity to fully apologise to Mr Dunphy and the staff of Rochdale FC for any offence or discomfort caused.

This website and Mr Wood would like to clarify that it is incorrect to state that any of the staff at Rochdale FC or Mr Dunphy have been involved in duplicity in regards to financial misdemeanours, financial misdeeds or crooked practices. Any inference to that nature taken from the article is entirely incorrect and unintentional.

This website and Mr Wood have been frequent in praise of Mr Dunphy’s campaign for good governance in football and believe him to be of excellent character and a positive influence within the game of football.

This website and Mr Wood have on many occasion made the case for good governance and business practice within football and especially of the style displayed by Mr Dunphy. We believe him to be of the highest integrity in his affairs with Rochdale FC and in his other business interests.

Those connected to this website, and especially Mr Wood, very much regret publishing text that may have been interpreted as suggestion of criminal activity within the article in question and wish to reiterate their sincere and deepest apologies to Rochdale FC and in particular to Mr Dunphy

10 Years of BfB

It was the odd goal that made it interesting and it came late – a penalty – when Issy Rankin was felled in the Crystal Palace penalty area as he “danced his way to glory” and Fonz cool Peter Beagrie put in the spot kick. Was it a penalty? The newspapers the day after said it was.

At least that was what was reported in the first BfB match report some ten years ago today.

An image of the front page of the first upload of BfBBack then BfB was called – foolishly – The Boy From Brazil and Other Stories and was by no means the first representation of The Bantams online. The Internet Bantams mailing list covered conjecture and rumour, Someone’s personal site (who shamefully I have forgotten the name of) had followed the club until the writer moved South and The City Gent had a site and message board.

BfB served different aims. In fact it had three aims which were achieved to greater of lesser extents. First it was my personal calling card to get a job in the industry and to that end it worked with months, secondly I wanted the site to represent many opinions and today over 100 fans have had articles on the site and third I wanted – rather idealistically – to raise the level of debate between City fans. Judge this aim by our comments on the current site and that has gone well, look at the official site message board and we have made not a jot of difference.

Looking back at the first updates of BfB it is very much a product of the early days of the consumer Internet – not sure about its place in the world. It refers to itself as a “Netpaper” and has a concept of pages being released on different days.

Back then BfB had issue numbers – it was updated once every couple of days through dial-up after my parents had gone to bed to avoid my Father complaining about phone bills and wires – and issue eight from Saturday 6th February, 1999 told us about a trip to Watford, a Leeds interest in Lee Mills and an article about the cost of buying season tickets. It featured images until the lawyers from the FA came with serious legal letters and action against us, my being suing off the face of the Earth only being avoided when Chairman Geoffrey Richmond stepped in on my behalf.

Richmond was a hero back then and rightly so. He had not put a foot wrong since arriving in 1994 and had the club in the black every year to date. Read BfB in 2001 (apologies, the images for this version of the site have been lost) and Richmond is still well regarded. The site had changed then moving to the current address from a Freeserve page and taking on a new look following a stop in January 2000 and restart without my personal input beyond code a few months later as theBRADFORDCITYsite which introduced our readers to the penmanship of one Roland Harris. By August 2000 BfB had returned and I was back writing it.

The decline of City as a Premiership club made for interesting day to day reading and the site showed this moving from the articles format of the original site and to a more diary – blog, if you will – format which took the news of the day and gave reaction to it. Richmond – previously mentioned in glowing terms – was never criticised and retroactively the site is criticised for this although at the time I tried desperately to find someone who could make a counter-point against the chairman but could find no takers. In the ten years of BfB that is a sea change in the way that football is followed. Back then it was impossible to find someone with a bad word to say about those that ran Bradford City FC, now it is increasingly hard to find people who are not anchoured in a negativity of some sort or other.

Nevertheless the site was well read having gone from a readership of 100-150 in first year to something around the 400 mark at this time. With everything at the site going well – certainly better than it was on the field where the Bantams who were now managed by Nicky Law following the departure of Jim Jefferies – and a version of new site was launched.

The 2001-2003 BfB moved away from aping the club’s claret and amber colour scheme and started to create its own identity. In 1999 when the Bantams had been promoted to the top flight the BBC prepared a map of Premier League club with links to the 18 official sites and the two clubs that had no online presence – ourselves and Liverpool – had links to “unofficial” being BfB and Kop Talk.

I loathe the term “unofficial” and never use it to describe BfB. Former Arsenal man David Dein described sites like Arseweb and BfB as being “Pirates” as if as football supporters need permission or an “official” sanction to discuss their clubs. BfB is now and has always been a place for debate and that debate does not need the sanction of a club or a league to be deemed official so I reject the idea that without that our opinions are “unofficial”. They are the official opinions of the people who hold them and they need be nothing else.

The 2001-2003 version of BfB sets most of the trends that would be recognisable as being of the site for the next half a decade. The attempts to create a branding to differentiate from the (still feeble) official site, the news yoked with reaction and links to deeper full articles, the overtly wordy style that (we hope) treats the reader with intelligence, the low yield advertisements that mean we never got rich.

This version of the site detailed the struggles of Nicky Law (Hey kids, he is the current Nicky Law’s dad) to arrest the decline of the side and the arrival of Gordon Gibb who blustered and achieved very little while at the club.

Of all the versions of BfB over the last ten years this has been the most delightful to work with. The right hand side’s navigation between deeper information and the left’s wide space for text created rich areas for content that handled information large and small. To this point every part of BfB had been hand coded and the closest thing the site had to a content management system was a scribble of paper on my desk that tried to detail the links that various pages had.

At this point the site had a healthy 800 readers a day – this was around 10% of the home attendance although the aim of BfB, and one we have never reached, is to get 25% – and was a senior players in a plethora of new football websites.

The web then was seen as a place where everyone could express whatever they desire and they were doing. BfB would often be contacted by a couple of sites from whomever we were playing to exchange links and discuss the game which lead to our first of a fistful of major fall-outs when Roland Harris decried the people of Wimbledon and favoured a trip to watch City in Milton Keynes.

Aside from the spat between Harris and the football supporting people of Merton this represented something of a watershed moment for the site when we read criticism of BfB from other City fans. While we were being dismissed as not being representative of what “proper City fans think” by some it was striking that the site had moved out of being the parochial province of being “the fans site”. BfB has never tried to be the voice of the fans or to represent all Bradford City supporters but rather to present the voices of those who wanted to avail themselves of it.

The worst of these fall outs came when City played Southend United and Donovan Ricketts was sent off for giving the finger to some supporters who had racially abused him. For three days some Southend “supporters” bombarded the mail box and a percentage of those mails were threats which were eventually added to with abusive phone calls and threats of further “action” were I not to print an apology to those racists who had goaded the City goalie.

No apology or retraction followed nor did any of the threatened “action”. These disagreements – including one recently with Luton Town supporters, Bolton fans upset at John McGinlay being called Fat, Oldham fans in anger that we questioned the sportsmanship of their side who scored while we had players prone – change little over the years with a minority taking offence and blowing hard for two or three days before the Monday morning when something else takes the attention.

The lesson of ten years working on BfB and in the Internet industry is that often what seems important between a person and the screen late on a Saturday night is paled in the reality of the morning sun. At BfB we are serious, but we try not to take everything too seriously.

BfB begot Cabin Pressure – my business – which allowed minute by minute coverage of Bradford City on a new site which ran from 2003 to 2007. It featured some rather graphically pleasing icons and was build using a CMS I had written. It was this site which covered the club on the decline to League One and Administration Two. On the day when the club faced going out of business forever 22,000 unique visitors came to BfB to follow the progression and to find out – thanks to the close links with the fund raising of the Supporters Trust – what they could do to help save their club.

Perhaps this day was manifest destiny at work. Whatever had caused me to start BfB and keep it going for the years to those days and all those from the links that the site had enabled it to become a hub of information and action for those looking to save the club. I credit the likes of Mark Boocock, Mike Mason, Cath Tomlinson and Richard Wardell (and others) with having committed massive amounts to keep the club going in the summer of 2004 I hope that they would not mind BfB and the writers we have had taking the credit for creating an environment which offered a stream of communication to mobilise fans in support of their efforts.

If there is a purpose to sites like BfB then it is that. BfB – and many other sites for City and other teams – give an outlet for fans to discuss the club in the gaps between Saturday afternoons and to give people and outlet for passing their opinions around with some credit. Over 3,500 full articles have appeared on BfB and only two have been rejected in that time. Every writer has given a name and stood, colours nailed to the mast, saying “this is what I believe in and these are my thoughts.”

I’m proud of that.

So enjoy the retrospective of the first five years of BfB and visit the three archives – also take a look at the 1998 prototype for a Bradford City site which would become BfB. The site moved on until 2007 when two things occurred to change it. Firstly I moved to working at an Ad Agency and could not maintain a day to day update schedule moving back full circle to the article based update that I, Jason, Omar, Paul and Roland (and others) man today and secondly the nature of City’s position in League Two does not demand the constant update of news. On Tuesday and Wednesday in the week at Valley Parade not many things happen and while were the club in the Premiership January would be a hourly transfer update life is more sedate at City.

More sedate and covered elsewhere. The BBC, the official site and the T&A have up to minute coverage of The Bantams and there is no need for an independent site like BfB to try compete. What we offer, what we can offer, what we want to offer is the expert opinion of people who have watched games, who do know our players, who care about the club.

At present we get around 1,500 visitors on a good day and we have the best collection of writers we have ever had. Things are going well and for that I say thank you, dear Reader, for reading.

  • 1999’s BfB An example of the first version of as saved on 6th February 1999.
  • 2001’s BfB Two ears later on 11th July 2001 this was the last edition of the second incarnation of the site.
  • 2003’s BfB The last version of the third version of the site as saved on 13th September, 2003.
  • 1998’s Prototype The first stab at creating a Bradford City website from mid-1998. It did not work on Netscape 4 – what did?

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