Dave Baldwin outlines the challenges, and now we wait

Sitting in the BBC Radio Leeds studio next to Dave Baldwin – the Bradford City Head of Operations telling listeners about the club’s latest position financially and on the rental talks over Valley Parade – offered a somewhat unique and surreal view of current matters. But above all else I personally took away stronger feelings of relief, encouragement and reassurance.

Baldwin took the time to honestly outline where Bradford City Football Club is at, ahead of a summer of huge uncertainty and unrest. Those explanations and reasoning may not be something we can all fully agree with, but compared to the majority of the messages we supporters have heard to date they were at least enlightening and detailed.

A huge part of the frustration in recent weeks – as City’s position dramatically shifted from trivial worries that the playing budget might be reduced a little next season, to full-blown fears over whether we’d even have a club to support – has been the drip-feeding and stop-start nature of the communications we’ve received. At times the club’s future has been painted in the bleakest of terms, leaving us to question how sincere these warnings were and – if they were entirely accurate – how the Board had allowed the financial position to become so bad.

Dave veered away from the hysterical, and instead calmly discussed the issues facing the Bantams and the solutions they are actively pursuing. These are difficult times for the club, that much was clear, but it’s not the end of the world we might envisage. There will at least be a Bradford City to support next season, and the Board is endeavouring to ensure it is a Bradford City playing at Valley Parade.

Once we’d finished the programme, Dave turned to myself and BBC Radio Leeds’ Derm Tanner and joked how he’d “wait and see how some supporters twist my words”. In the recent past words uttered by Mark Lawn and Baldwin have been presented in entirely different light by some fans, which Lawn admitted to BfB in January had caused him to rein back speaking publically. There is a growing sense of unrest from fans towards the Board at the moment, and those who want to garner further ammunition to throw at them can find – or already have found – bits that Baldwin said on Radio Leeds to use against them if they wish. But whatever your view of their strategy, it is better they communicate to us honestly than not at all.

The audio of the hour-long Radio Leeds programme can be found here (note: link content only available until Monday 16 May).

So now we wait. Rumours are flying around rapidly – some ludicrous, some seemingly credible, some shocking, some encouraging – and BfB won’t irresponsibly report on these. But what is obvious is that the outstanding issues that we take into the summer won’t be cleared up for some time. Baldwin is hopeful of a decision over the rent negotiations soon, but it may take weeks. In the meantime season tickets are on hold and the managerial vacancy is likely to remain unresolved.

One criticism to come out of the programme is the assertion by Baldwin that any agreed rent reduction would help the playing budget for next season. Certainly it would be irresponsible for the club to use all of any savings they are able to agree on the short-term objective of promotion. BfB understands, however, that interim manager Peter Jackson has been informed the playing budget for the manager next season could be extremely low, should the talks not go well and City remain at Valley Parade. To put it one way, the much-talked of £750k budget Dagenham were promoted with last season would seem luxurious in comparison.

Endlessly throwing resources only on the playing budget would be reckless; but without extra revenue or savings from somewhere City could once again struggle stay in the league next season.

Patience is the name of the game. As supporters we want a positive resolution to these talks, we want to be looking forward to kicking off the season at Valley Parade, and we want to be debating football matters like summer signings and pre-season friendlies.

But these talks with the landlords are not just about next season, but the future of Bradford City for years and decades to come. So we have to tolerate the delay, and hope it proves to be worth it for entirely the right reasons. As much as many supporters don’t trust the Board right now, we have to hope that they continue to share the best interests of every supporter and that they will take the correct decisions.

Having heard what Baldwin had to say, I’m more confident this will be the case. So long as they remember that it’s good to talk, and to keep us fans in the loop as much as possible.

Radio times

A Manchester United-supporting friend came along with me to the recent Northampton game. Having been to very few live football matches over his life and used to following his team via a Sky subscription, he joked after Bradford City had come close that he “keeps expecting to see a replay”. I chuckled back, “aye, and where are the commentators?”

Yet now that the club has reversed last season’s controversial decision to have no live radio coverage of home games, there are two sets of commentators broadcasting live from Valley Parade to the rest of West Yorkshire on matchdays. And with a strong desire to follow how the Wales v England game was progressing on Saturday, but not wanting to listen to Radio 5 Live commentary of it while watching City v Shrewsbury, I had a go at listening to BBC Radio Leeds while at the match.

Such practice of listening to the radio commentary of a game you’re watching live is not unheard of among football supporters, and a quick glance around me before kick off suggested there were plenty of other people tuning in to keep up to date with the big international. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable experience to have my regular view of a City game be accompanied by the voice of Derm Tanner – not least because it drowned out the usual moaners.

I’m used to Derm’s excellent commentaries of course, as when I can’t make a City away game I usually tune into his station’s coverage. Nevertheless there was something peculiar about seeing for myself the action he was describing. As David Syers charged forwards down the right wing, Derm was telling me and thousands of others that Syers was on the attack. We’re all used to commentators from watching football on TV, but in a live environment it took some getting used too as the chanting from the Bradford End could be heard to my left and through my earphones.

Most enjoyable of all though was getting to hear the views of City legend John Hendrie, who co-commentates with Derm for home games and the occasional local away game. I’d never heard him in this capacity myself, and his considered views added some depth to my following of the match.

Perhaps the biggest surprise though was his less than positive views on his former team mate and current City manager, Peter Jackson. Speaking just as the match was about to start, Hendrie declared that he thought City “could do better for a manager than Jackson.” When midway through the first half Jackson got into a heated argument with the 4th official that saw him creep onto the pitch, a disapproving Hendrie groaned “what does Jackson think he’s doing acting like that?”

Hendrie was especially unimpressed with Jackson’s team selection and, at full time, suggested it had contributed to the defeat. “So you think Jackson picked the wrong team?” asked Derm. “Well I certainly wouldn’t have chosen the one he has.”

His points – that Scott Dobie should be given an opportunity up front and that Syers is wasted in a right back position – were difficult to argue against. It is easy to criticise from the stands or the comfort of the press box of course; but with Hendrie’s vast experience playing and a short stint managing Barnsley,  his views carried some weight and were interesting to hear. It was certainly more insightful than the bloke who sits near me, who spent the whole 90 minutes alternating his target for abuse between Jake Speight, Gareth Evans, Luke O’Brien and Michael Flynn.

Ultimately it was a novel experience, listening to live radio coverage of a typical afternoon at Valley Parade. As supporters many of us rely on local radio to follow the Bantams when they’re on the road, but the furore over the home commentaries last season suggests they’re plenty of people in the region who follow the Bantams via the radio when they’re playing at Valley Parade too, rather than go to the game.

With some doubt over the future of local radio and its football coverage in particular, the service Radio Leeds provides is something we should be grateful to have.

I’ll be earphone-less as normal in future, trying to ignore the moaners and getting behind the team. But I’d certainly be more willing to get plugged in again on occasions; enjoying the game in the company of professionals who have insightful opinions to offer and who are genuinely on our side.

Now all Derm needs to do is sort out those action replays.

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