Bradford, the City which needs to smile

Flicking between channels during The Simpsons advert break one weekday recently, I was shocked to see Valley Parade appear as part of the backdrop behind a BBC national news reporter. The piece actually had nothing to do with Bradford City, it was about how the life expectancy of people living in poorer places like Bradford was a couple of years less than people who lived just a few miles down the road, in nicer areas.

My surprise turned to annoyance. As a Skipton resident, it was great that the reporter was telling me people who lived down the Aire Valley from Bradford are statistically likely to live a bit longer, but why did this national news story have to focus on Bradford at all? It was just another negative media piece about the UK’s sixth largest city, at a time when it seems to be getting especially kicked in the teeth from all sides.

During the recent General Election campaign, the plight of Bradford was highlighted when local resident Emma Heal attacked David Cameron for the way the Conservative Bradford Council had allowed the city to go into decline. She was referring to the embarrassing hole in the city centre where a shopping centre was supposed to have been built long before the term “credit crunch” was heard of by most people.

Then there’s the on-going saga with the Bradford Odeon, an iconic building allowed to rot away through no one having the ambition or vision to do something worthwhile with it. More serious was the recent Bradford murders which generated huge national media coverage, little of which gave a positive impression of the city.

And the negative headlines may not yet be over. Recently Bradford City announced its home game with Southend had been switched from Saturday 28 August to the evening before, without providing any explanation. But it’s recently become clear why, as the English Defence League (EDL) is scheduled to be holding a protest in the city on that day, which has forced the police to ask for the League Two fixture to be moved (the demo is advertised on its website, and there are rumours Bradford businesses will be closing for fear of trouble).

You need only watch footage secretly filmed by the Guardian in May, or check out local media reports of demonstrations the EDL has held in other English towns, to appreciate what might be in store for Bradford that Bank Holiday weekend. One of the organisers told the Guardian reporter, “Bradford will be huge…(it) is a place that has got to be hit.” Memories of the Bradford race riots in 2001 remain fresh, the prospect of similar scenes would have the vast majority of Bradford people despairing, and TV crews charging up the M1.

Far be it from me to influence your political views, but if you are against the EDL’s protest you might wish to visit Centenary Square on Saturday to add your signature to a petition to stop the event.

Regardless of whether or not the demo does go ahead, the problems in Bradford remain. The way the City has been allowed to decline is heart-breaking, and the reputation it has among people who live nearby shows just why it has such a poor national one. So many of my friends talk of going shopping to Leeds or Manchester or Harrogate or anywhere but Bradford, and who can blame them? A few years ago I organised a trip around the pubs of Bradford for my birthday night out. Some friends were genuinely fearful of coming, having pre-conceptions of what the City is like. In the end they were pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the City Centre pubs were. Not that they’ve been back since, mind.

The City needs shaking up, it needs people with a vision and sense of realism to tackle the issues and give every resident the sort of place to live they deserve. It needs a pro-active commitment that won’t be abandoned when problems arise, it needs more than short-term thinking or a belief that a magic wand can solve everything. It needs help now, but sadly we won’t hold our breath.

And what does this have to do with Bradford City? Not much, but as the new season approaches and we largely remain optimistic about the prospects of glory, perhaps it’s worth reflecting on whether the football club can play a role in lifting some of the gloom.

Of course winning football matches doesn’t remove the problems. We’ve just seen a World Cup held in the World’s poorest continent, which had sparked over-optimism from some people that a football tournament could change these issues. It couldn’t, but it could have helped a little. And even though it’s inevitable that, in years to come, we’ll be treated to media stories about how the World Cup didn’t change Africa and how those lovely stadiums are now under-used, we shouldn’t forget it did some good.

Which Bradford City Football Club could also do locally. For all the negative media stories and problems that affect the City’s image, how good would it be to have Bradford associated with success through reports of the club’s success? “Bradford win again” we might hear every Saturday night on the BBC Football League Show. “Bradford are top of the league” would make a change from hearing about all those league tables the City inevitably appears near the foot of.

In our Bantams bubble we sometimes allow ourselves to believe only those of us inside Valley Parade on a Saturday afternoon care about the team’s fortunes. But who listens to the home radio commentaries BBC Radio Leeds is so jubilant to have agreed again for this coming season? Who else scans the back page of the T&A every day? Who else would join us in Centenary Square to celebrate a promotion? Bradford City does matter to more people than just those of us committed enough to go to the games, and it can do some good in difficult times.

As we prepare for the big kick off, hoping that this time it will finally go in the manner we dream it, it’s worth considering whether who most of all needs Bradford City to get promoted this season is the City of Bradford itself.

Odsal vs Valley Parade – The debate rages on

Mark Lawn, ever the shrinking violet, came out with a robust statement regarding the Odsal debacle at the weekend. His points, however valid, are unlikely to improve relations between BCFC, the Bulls, and Bradford Council. His programme notes for the Morecambe game are also interesting. He states that the council’s feasibility study around the Bulls taking residence at VP was done without consultation with BCFC and goes on figures that are nearly 10 years out of date. Yet they are prepared to throw £1million of taxpayers money at yet another Odsal plan.

I took two work colleagues to VP for the Morecambe game last Tuesday night. One was a Middlesborough fan who said he liked the stadium, particularly the ‘house’ in the south-west corner! The other was a one time City trainee/first-teamer and full time Bulls fan. His view of the situation was akin to most Bulls fans. VP is not suited to Rugby League. He’s right.

Our jaunt to VP on Tuesday was part of a sports fan away day thing we do at work. Recently we travelled to the Keepmoat stadium for the Boro vs Donny game. I sadly missed this but the agreement was we would visit both Odsal for a RL game and VP for a bit of hoof ball. The Odsal vs Castleford game was an enjoyable experience for all concerned. It had been a while since I had been to the ground. In the late 80s and early 90s I went to a lot of Stock Car and Speedway events which I feel Odsal is great for. This time I got to see what the grass in the middle was used for! I enjoyed the standing, the beer on the terraces, even the obligatory overpriced Ecoli burger was good. All in all, it was an enjoyable ground, if a little chilly with no shelter to speak of.

Can it support football? Yes, with some serious development work. Due to the track surrounding the pitch, the corner areas are elevated up. It looked like an upside down parachute with the corners being pulled up by imaginary lines. This would need to be flattened out before suitable for football.

The pitch was in much better condition than the VP one. Despite a good game of egg chasing every other week and the same kind of harsh winter that VP has seen, it was green. I can’t foresee any complaints from the 22 footballers who have to earn their brass there.

So Odsal has some good stuff going for it. Transport links and parking is very good, with bus users having the benefit of the improved Manchester road to get them to and from their beer and nightclubs!

So then: Valley Parade. Well, its better isn’t it. A well constructed (I should know, I put a fire retardant wall up in the new Kop approx 10 years ago) and seated stadium. First class facilities (except the loos!) and a great location, only 15 mins stagger from the city centre or Forster Square retail park and train station.

The ground has so much history. Manningham Rugby Club which became BCFC. 11th May 1985, RIP the 56. The finest City goals the Leeds Utd fans have ever seen (thanks to Beags and Collymore!). Its part of Bradfordian life no matter which bit of the city you grew up in. The sentiment is there which maybe Odsal doesn’t possess. Didn’t it used to be a rubbish tip?

But it can’t support Rugby League can it? Yes it can. VP seats 25,000 fans. Whip out a few rows at the northern and southern ends and you have a longer pitch. This will satisfy the men with odd shaped balls. Better for hoof-ball as well! Its has covered seating areas and the possibility of reintroducing terraced areas in the lower Kop and main stands. There is much that can be done to VP to accommodate the RL lot and also please a fair few stalwart footy fans who like to stand as well.

What’s more, it’s a little cheaper. Mark Lawn estimates it would cost £5.5million to buy the ground back from the cash strapped Gordon Gibb. Mr Gibb is likely to want that cash injection as soon as possible before he sells it to someone else who may not want to be as ‘kind’ on the rent side of things. Another £1-2 million in pitch strengthening and other adaptations mean that its a maximum £7.5 million outlay for a true multi-purpose stadium. The remainder of the £15 million airport windfall can then go on redeveloping Richard Dunn and creating excellent training facilities for both codes, and all other sporting endeavours in the city. Sell Odsal for a few magic beans and you have more houses being built on a brownfield site.

Now I’m not a business man. I am a council worker, but for them east of Pudsey. The figures look attractive, sustainable and value for money. Say those 3 words/phrases to anyone in local authority and a green light usually beckons!

So why not? Its all about politics. All concerned are private businesses. The council wont want to hand £5.5 million to someone who runs his business in the North Riding of Yorkshire and until recently, Lincolnshire. They would rather build a pond or a grass verge in their fair city.

BCFC and the Bulls are private companies that serve the Bradford populace. However a major development that doesn’t meet all demographics is difficult to implement. How many Polish descent Bradfordians go to City or the Bulls? How many Asian, Irish, Chinese or other ethnic groups are likely to use these facilities? These are all questions likely to be asked at a high council level. This is not meant to sound inflammatory, racist or bigoted. Please don’t think it is. It’s the fact that all councils in the UK are required to show how investment in the community brings a benefit to all social and ethnic groups. Its called being inclusive and the dreaded ‘sustainable’ word.

I can only hypothesise. I don’t know what is said at the high level of Bradford Met Council. This is my guess, coupled with an almost fanatic rivalry between Bulls and City (two different sports, please get over yourselves!) and a local council without a party majority. Politics are stifling the sporting progress of two fine clubs who deserve better and also a Bradford population who continue to suffer whilst our elected members continue to bicker.

So what is likely to happen? The status quo. Bulls will stay at Odsal and get some covers for the terracing at an unattractive price. City will continue to pay huge amounts of rent and struggle to maintain the VP site.

I echo Mark Lawn’s words. We don’t need a pond, we need leadership.

What one single thing would you change about Bradford City?

As we worry that Bradford City will be heading for the worst finish the club has had in forty-four years drastic measures are being debated for the future of the club with almost nothing having been changed, tweaked or altered in the hypotheticals that Bantams fans are talking in. Flights of fancy or wild notions to serious notion and simple building blocks have been heard and discussed.

And so the fifth of the Barry Article asks…

“What one single thing would you change about Bradford City?”

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

What a question! After another hugely disappointing season, the temptation is to simply say “to have success”. But I believe football clubs go in cycles and the good and bad times can never last forever, so I’d prefer to retain my blind faith that it must be our time again soon and use my wish on something more ever-lasting.

Which means I also wouldn’t want to change chairmen, manager or players; as these things happen over time anyway. Nor strategy, as what seems the obvious one now may not be in two or ten years time. I prefer to trust that those responsible for getting it right will do so eventually. Please.

So having nobly avoided the temptation to wish for a ten-point lead at the top of the Premier League or signing Lionel Messi, I’m going to push my luck and ask for two wishes. The first is for the Kop to go back to terracing. Standing up at football is how it should be and there was nothing wrong with our beloved former terrace.

I miss the days where I stood next to the same group of 20 or so people and the banter we had; when we went all-seater, we suddenly never saw each other. Now I sit behind the same moaning idiots every week, debating moving my season ticket for the next campaign but fearing I’ll just be stuck with different moaners. It was never a problem standing in the Kop, I yearn for that.

And the other thing I’d change is for City to have their own anthem we can all sing before the match. Nothing horrible like what that lot down the road sing; more like other clubs who adopt their own anthem and sing it before every game with such passion and excitement. Sheffield United, Notts Forest and of course Liverpool fans, I’m so jealous of the way you sing your anthems.

If only we could have our own anthem to sing similarly passionately prior to every match, maybe we’d finally get rid of that dodgy home record. Which reminds me, that’s another thing to change. Hmmm, any chance of a third wish?

Dave Pendleton Bantamspast Curator & Former City Gent Editor

A simple question to answer. The ownership of the ground. Without the dead weight of the lease payments City would have, according to David Baldwin, the ability to pay Championship level wages. Of course, whether we would want to pay high wages is another matter, but to have the ability to do so would obviously only benefit the club’s progress.

I would love to see the ground placed in the ownership of a non-profit making co-operative and have the ground set aside for sports use only in perpetuity. Even better a City of Bradford Stadium, with City, and possibly the Bulls, playing at a Valley Parade central to the sports community of the entire City of Bradford. It would once and for all remove the burden of repayments and ground development costs from both clubs and would send a tremendous signal regarding community cohesion. It would take a leap of faith, particularly from a section of the Bulls fans who view visiting Manningham to be akin to signing your own death warrant, and those City fans who resent Zesh Rehman’s presence in the City side, but with open minded optimism we could be on the verge of something special at Valley Parade.

Whether Gordon Gibb fancies being paternalistic towards Bradford, or Bradford Council is brave enough to push through such a scheme, is questionable. However, we have to be optimistic, otherwise we will fall into the same self-fulfilling cynicism that often dominates thinking about Bradford and Bradford City.

Steve Baker Stalwart City fan and Bantams Bar regular

I’d like to see some proper sales and marketing plan. What are we doing to raise funds off the field? I know Roger Owen has been brought in, but I’m yet to see what he has put in place to generate more revenue to the club. I have loads of ideas that would help boost the clubs coffers, but there is no point in suggesting these to the club as it just falls on deaf ears.

If there is more money coming in, it makes everything easier. There are loads of things the club could do – but whether its void of ideas, or just restricted due to lack of staff members. I’m happy to chuck ideas into the pot, but there is no fixed process for this.

When the Peter Etherington saga ended, the club advertised for a new commercial manager. I applied for this post and heard nothing back from the club. Im not saying I was a perfect candidate but I had some good ideas, and definitely have the passion for such a role.

So that’s what I would want to see – a club that offers great value on season tickets, but looks for all available opportunities to expand its money earning potentials. At the moment we are stuck in a rut, one we need to get out of ASAP. The money isn’t the be all and end all, but would Rhodes and Lawn turn down more income?

Paul Firth City fan and Author of Four Minutes To Hell

This would have to be a ‘If I won the rollover lottery’ moment.

I’d buy back the ground from the Gibb pension fund and charge City a nominal rent. I have no complaint with the rent the present landlord charges. I think it probably is a commercial rent. But it is a rent City cannot afford, given their overall finances.

As long as the cheap season tickets continue (and that, hopefully, means for a very long time indeed), the club cannot afford high outgoings on rent and at the same time the wages for the sort of players that our impatient supporters demand. So, if expectation is to be met, the outgoings have to be cut or the ticket sales have to go even further than the extra 5,000 being sought. (OK, or the prices have to go up, but that’s far from a simple equation.)

If I don’t win the lottery, then I would be looking for a kindly benefactor who can afford the price of the freehold and, in the short term, won’t mind getting less than a market return on his money until the club can buy the ground back – which should be feasible in the medium term. Anyone one have Sir Ken’s number?

Odsal Sporting Village plans over?

The Telegraph & Argus is this morning reporting that a funding crisis has all but ended Bradford Council’s Odsal Sporting Village Plans. The proposed £75 million development was to include facilities for all types of sports, plus a new stadium for the Bradford Bulls and, possibly, Bradford City to play in. A hotel was also mooted.

But the Learning and Skills Council has frozen funding to refurbish Bradford College’s campus, so one of the sporting village’s main funders now has their own unexpected extra costs to meet and cannot support Bradford Council. The gap in funding has left the Council investigating scaled down Osdal revamp plans, with an urgency needed given Bradford Bulls may lose their Super League licence if their stadium stays in its current state for much longer.

It might be premature to write off Odsal as an option for the Bantams – the problems of high rent payments to meet at Valley Parade which led City to even consider moving have not gone away, and a solution of sorts needs to be found. The eventual revamped Odsal project may centre on just producing a new stadium for the Bulls that City could also use; although it seems wrong to move away from supporting other sports who more urgently need top facilities and just build a new rugby ground, when the Bulls could easily move into Valley Parade instead.

What it does show is that City cannot realistically wait around for a realistic vision of Odsal to be agreed and built – history of failed redevelopment plans and the recent obvious vanity of Odsal Sporting Village offer no confidence they will get it right this time. The Council has just short of £20m committed to the village, perhaps some of this money could now be used to purchase Valley Parade for City and the Bulls and use the rest of the budget making Odsal a home for other sports? Perhaps a deal can be struck so City and the Bulls pay rent to the Council, which directly goes to funding the other sporting projects?

With a General Election approaching, it will be interesting to see what political statements are made about the situation over the coming weeks. Bradford has two well-supported and worthwhile professional sporting clubs which help to raise the city’s profile – it’s time to take a firm grasp of reality and work out a solution that best meets everyone’s  interests.

A tale of two shopping centres

Five months of working in Sheffield does things to a man, brings revelations if you will, brings considerations.

Rotherham has become a suburb of a bigger City – or so it is commonly held down Sheffield way – but the people of the Steel City do not consider themselves to have swallowed up their neighbour but rather that it has been swallowed. “Rotherham: Suburb of Meadowhall.”

The middle of Rotherham is empty, the civic pride drained and the area that once was to be proud, all far too familiar.

The Millers address that pride in some ways – under Mark Robins at the start of this season and continuing under perennial Bradford City ire target Ronnie Moore – the battle for promotion from League Two. How much this pride can be felt by people in the Town who lost money in the administrations the club have twice suffered is debatable. People who lost out when the Bantams twice sailed the to the edge of bankruptcy have not had to watch the club celebrate big money signings the season after having a begging bowl pushed under their noses and being told that debts must be written off.

Adam Le Fondre – formerly of Rochdale – cost a record fee for the Millers while both Nicky Law Jnr this season and Eugene Bopp and Paul Shaw last were taken out of the clutches of the Bantams after we offered all we could and Rotherham trumped that offer. The increasingly iconic Woman with a B&B in Darlington would find such a sudden surge in cash hard to swallow and considering Moore previous position on clubs in administration but perhaps we underestimate the Millers boss who may flog Le Fondre in the transfer window and go around the area repaying those people who lost money. Probably not.

If Rotherham are defined by Meadowhall then they are certainly not to be viewed as a shop struggling in the credit crunch but are more like those chains that live in constant closing down sales presenting the financial face they feel most beneficial. They are able to flash the cash to land Le Fondre and Law but when the Football League ask about their plans to move back to the location they take the name from they talk about financial pressures that forced them out of Millmoor. The Football League have asked for answers from the Millers and given them a deadline for moving back to Rotherham but at present talks are ongoing about such a move and work is not due to begin until “2010/2011” and a site has yet to be found for such a development.

In the meantime the club play at The Don Valley Stadium, a stone’s throw from Meadowhall.

None of which is presented as schadenfreude nor indeed is hard to sympathise with. If Rotherham’s decline is the story of one shopping centre then Bradford’s is another – the much trumpeted Westfield development which sits as a large hole in the middle of the City Centre that begs for regeneration.

Despite much talk from City Hall and various development agencies the regeneration of Bradford City Centre remains a series of big promises with little or no delivery and the Westfield hole being a cautionary tale told by the people who want to save the Odeon building: “Let them rip this down will you? And replace it with more hollow promises that come to nothing!” would sum up their position.

Off the cuff it has been remarked that the hole should be filled with the very sort of joint community stadium which Rotherham limply seek but such thoughts are never turned to football at City Hall, a curious point because one might suspect that those regenerationists might find some like minds at Valley Parade.

At Valley Parade we have our own section who make vague and hollow promises about things improving in the future if only they can knock something down. The debate on sacking Stuart McCall is active and rich but in reading it one is reminded about the promises of the developers who knocked down Forster Square and before that The Swan Arcade which turned out to be utterly hollow.

In this metaphor Stuart McCall is the Odeon Building and his critics promise that regeneration will start following removal, Colin Todd is the Forster Square site and the big hole in the middle of Bradford is where those fans who promised that getting rid of Todd/Square would benefit us in the long run have left us.

Personally I’m not inclined to believe the promises of those who talk about sacking Stuart McCall and would put the promise they intrinsically make that the next manager will get the club rising up the leagues again alongside those of the people who brought us the hole in the middle of Bradford. They are hollow promises, and following them has led both the City and t’ City to this point.

When these clubs go shopping they test the resources that have previously taken one into the Premiership and the other half way up the league below. City’s marshalling of resources is done with a prudence – what was spent is within what can be afforded – while Rotherham seem either unbridled by such a need to trim that spending or do not believe it will be a problem for them in the future.

Assuming that Rotherham are not robbing both Peter and Paul to pay Adam then their ability to exit Millmoor is perhaps another difference between the clubs. While Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes keep within a budget that includes the price of paying former chairman Gordon Gibb to stay at Valley Parade The Millers fair thumb their noses at the former chairman turned landlord and have opted out of their home City precisely because of the cost of staying.

Imagine City leaving Valley Parade to go play at Farsley Celtic to get around paying expensive Gibb’s rent, or, if you want, imagine Wimbledon deciding they do no want the costs and effects of staying in London and so relocating to Milton Keynes. Trying to think of an FL/FA rule that allows one and not the other is a brain pickler.

Ultimately comparisons between City and Rotherham are enough to pickle the mind too. City fans consider us a far bigger team but men over fifty not connected to either club would probably say both of us are perennial lower leaguers. Rotherham have either survived two administrations and losing their ground in much ruder health than City. They did – of course – exit without a CVA the second time which in 2004 when the Bantams were preparing a second escape was penalised not by a 17 point penalty but by being thrown out of the Football League and being forced to start at the foot of the football pyramid. No two administrations are alike.

The Miller’s start to the season attracted the attentions of Barnsley to manager Mark Robins and so the investment in the likes of Le Fondre and Nicky Law Jnr paid off for him. Stuart McCall spent the summer moving players on missing out on the likes of Steve Jones because of an unwillingness to extend the wage bill without an assurance it would covered by a player exit.

Robins looked impressive to Barnsley and Moore may end up taking his team up. All at City talk about an unwillingness to risk the future of the club. In spending money to out bid us on players while under a Football League Sword of Damocles concerning moving back to their home town which they could do but do not what to it seems fair to say that the same is not true for them.

So Stuart McCall – two wins in three – faces Ronnie Moore – two administrations and a clutch of expensive players the year after – and City face Rotherham United at Valley Parade with the Bantams chasing points and the Millers promotion. Moore’s arrival replacing Mark Robbins saw the Millers stutter but since they have regained footing and sit third having drawn 2-2 with Burton last week after losing to Shrewsbury the game before. Nursing a 3-0 FA Cup drubbing (3-0 defeats now officially being considered drubbings) by Luton Town lats game one must go back to the 24th of November and a 2-0 win over model of managerial change Lincoln City for the visitor’s last win, that game seeing Adam Le Fondre score twice has he has a habit of doing. An intelligent player Le Fondre – like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before – is a reader of the game finding and exploiting weaknesses in defences.

City’s defence go into the game on the back of a clean sheet earnt with Matthew Clarke in the side filling in for the injured Zesh Rehman. Rehman is expected back and Clarke’s reward for his performance at Darlington will probably be the bench – few tears drop at Valley Parade because Clarke does not play – with Steve Williams partnering the returning City skipper. Simon Ramsden and Luke O’Brien take full back roles. Criticism of Luke O’Brien this year baffles me, I think he is performing better now than when he was player of the season and as pointed out he is doing so in the difficult environs of a 433. Simon Eastwood – who looks like he will not be given the goalkeeper gloves at Huddersfield after Christmas with Alex Smithes seemingly set to sign for fun loving Stoke then be loaned back to Legoland – will keep goal.

The 442 deployed at Darlington weighed up against the 433 Stuart McCall normally plays shows the problems City have this year. Not scoring enough goals in a 422 forces the more attacking formation of 433 which ships concessions at the back forcing us to the 442. It loops around and is only broken by players practicing, getting patterns and the continued building a team ethos which was sadly lacking last season. The 433 – which Rochdale dispensed with – will no doubt get a run out against Rotherham and perhaps the decision between which approach to take could win or lose the game in the dressing room.

Michael Flynn and Lee Bullock take two of the places and in the event of a four Scott Neilson and Simon Whaley will take the flanks. In a three James O’Brien could come back in. Stephen O’Leary and Omar Daley are some way off match fitness it is said. Stuart McCall talked up visiting midfielder Nicky Law Jnr who played for the Bantams last term. I do hope that Law shows the same commitment to getting behind the ball as he did at Valley Parade because should he then the Bantams could enjoy an afternoon of midfield freedom.

The three/four in midfield denotes a two/three up front with James Hanson a regular and Michael Boulding failing to impress since his return to the fold culminating in his storm down the tunnel on Saturday. A note here about Dave Pendleton’s excellent article in the current and always grand City Gent about Boulding and the thunderous criticism of him. Excellent points are made about both players and fans.

Gareth Evans is in line for a recall alongside Hanson in either line up. Neilson or Whaley would join in a three.

Xanadu (after Coleridge)

As the colourful barge made its stately progress along the dappled waters of the azure canal, sunlight glinted on the gilded decorations that adorned it and the scent of the exotic drifted up from the fertile greenery of the spice trail below. Entering the Citadel through the West gate, I marvelled at the myriad sights and sounds of the great marketplace. Intricately woven fabrics in vibrant colours formed a dazzling backdrop to the stalls offering wares from the four corners of the known world.

Purchases made, I proceeded across the Citadel to the gently eddying shores of the central lake, settled on a sumptuous divan and sipped on a sherbet as the sun played though the fountains forming jewelled rainbows on the sand. Music from a damsel with a dulcimer drifted on the warm breeze that soothed my brow as I waited with others to join the caravan heading for the pleasure dome in the snowy hills…….of Odsal!

A knocking at the door woke me from my reverie and my visitor (not from Porlock) reminded me it was match day. The dream was broken and by the time I could regain my thoughts I feared the vision would be lost.

I needn’t have worried. It seems that the image of the future of the city of Bradford, those computer-generated drawings that promise so much, are safely stored and awaiting the magic moment that will bring them to life. But to some, the future of Bradford City this season also lies in drawing.

Comments overheard on the way out after last Saturday’s game included “That was a must-win game”, “Our season’s over” and “We’re drawing games we should be winning.” Whilst I agree with the final remark, the first two are as way off the mark as some of the plans for the city that remain on the drawing board.

Some games are “must-win”- the Wembley play-off final and David Weatherall’s winner in the end of season game against Liverpool both fall into that category. But to say that our season is over by mid November is pessimism beyond belief..

At this stage we have drawn eight league games but we have only lost * and we remain in contact with the play off spots at least. It’s true that turning our home draws into wins would put right where we want to be, but waht’s done is done and we remain I mid-table. This said, not once in any of the games I have seen – and some that I have heard on the radio – have I felt that City were prepared to settle for drawing. The team is set up to win, creates enough chances to win (and win well in most games) but just haven’t quite made it in the games we have drawn.

The reasons for this include amazingly poor refereeing, an unfortunately long injury list and extremely difficult playing conditions. Some would also say that the manager’s tactics and formations have contributed but, more than ever, this season I feel that Stuart is seeing and making the changes needed as well as coping remarkably well with the changes that a depleted squad has forced upon him.

A point against Bournemouth seemed to satisfy most of the crowd, given the circumstances and the opposition, but could have been all three. A point against Accrington Stanley seemed to satisfy very few, given the circumstances and the opposition, but again could and should have been all three again. But a “must-win game” in mid-November? I don’t think so.

City have “got into the habit” of drawing games. Drawing in Johnstone’s Paint could still bring very interesting outcomes. (Why do I think of Rolf Harris when I write that?) But football matches don’t always have winners. Drawing is an inevitable part of the process. Drawing at home is just as likely as drawing away and in both cases the outcome is just one point.

Now this might seem like stating the blindingly obvious but it’s the reaction to the drawing that puzzles me. Winning, even winning badly if there is such a thing, tends to send people home happy – just ask the French! Losing can still give you a feel good factor as we have seen this season. But drawing seems to bring out the negatives in far too many. Whether it’s a dramatic fight-back to rescue a point or the inability to finish off a team that is hanging on, the eventual reaction is one of two points lost or even thrown away.

Saturday’s inability to accept the gift horse offered should not dampen spirits as much as the weather. Bad days happen. But to say the season is over at this stage is just plain crazy as history has shown us only too well. Drawing may be disappointing but – pardon the pun – it is important to see the bigger picture. The current Bradford City is a work in progress and I firmly believe it will produce a result we will be happy with.

Rolf Harris (that man again) delighted in asking his audiences, “Can you tell what it is yet?” long before the picture became clear. City’s drawing is worthy if the same question. And whilst the outcome may not be as assured as Rolf’s, it is still more enjoyable to watch it develop than to dismiss it before it is finished.

So, as we crawl along Canal Road in the rain, past the Polluted Water signs and the galvanising works, buy sweets from a car boot and take in the scent of burgers and coffee that drift down Midland Road, I accept the reality of the city rather than the computer – drawn dream and I know I will be back at the real pleasure dome… just as long as they don’t move it to Odsal!

As for Coleridge, the images he captured from his interrupted dream became a classic poem – only to be revised almost two hundred years later by that well-known team of architects, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch.

As for me, if the opening references seem somewhat obscure, contrived and more suited to a B.A. than a BfB. I apologise. But for those interested, join me next time when my subject will be “Man of the Match: L.S.Lowry and the early work of Status Quo.”

Enjoy the games – that’s what they’re for.

Notes on a Move

There’s been a little consternation over the last week or so about Bradford Council’s much vaunted ‘Sporting Village’ project at Odsal. As we all know this project has been doing the rounds for longer than most can remember, and every so often concerns are raised about Bradford City’s potential involvement. Let us for a moment forget the fact that ‘Odsal Sporting Village’ is as likely to happen as us winning the FA Cup this season and take this situation on both its merits and its drawbacks, because I don’t believe such a move would be the earth shattering event some would predict.

Firstly, as we all know, our beloved Valley Parade is leased back to us for a reportedly silly amount by our Rollercoaster loving ex-chairman. This would be a main facet of any argument which supported our moving home. A satisfying two finger salute and a fresh start; this brings me to the other point which I think would hold weight. The talk this season around the Bantams has been of a start from scratch, a club reborn from the failures of the bloated wage packet and ego brigade from last season. So, why not augment this new breed with a step away? I am by no means saying that we engineer a move away from Valley Parade as soon as possible, but I see no reason other than nostalgia to hold on with a death grip to a home which has not seen success for a long time.

The proposal itself would offer a wonderful arena for both ourselves and our egg-chasing cousins, potentially athletics and much more too, ok, so we would have to share it with others, but we wouldn’t be the only ones in that boat, Wigan Athletic manage it. If we are, as many feel, starting from right at the bottom, then this would give us an opportunity to do so in a new home, perhaps without the trappings of memory and expectation which haunt our current one. Moving stadium does not kill the club, it is us, the fans, who are that lifeblood, and I’m sure you feel the same as me, in that as long as Bradford City AFC exists, I will watch them regardless of what pitch they inhabit, I love the club, not the stadium.

That said, it would always be a wrench to leave, and there would be many thousands who would balk at the thought of leaving, and yes, it is a spiritual home, but there would doubtless be successes at any new ground, and potentially more revenue, without a crippling amount of rent. Tradition is important, but so is making the best of your situation and I, for one, believe a potential move would be a benefit to our club.

Yes, we have had some wonderful moments at Valley Parade, times which none of us will ever forget, David Wetherall with ‘that’ goal, beating Arsenal, Gordon Watson’s brace from the bench! But do you not think Arsenal fans witnessed some fantastic times at Highbury? Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park? Shrewsbury at The Gay Meadow? These memories do not die if the stadium does not remain, but our debt to Gordon Gibb might. However, this is the same council which seems to have created Britain’s biggest building site as a tourist attraction in the city centre, so I won’t hold my breath. For the time being, I will continue to enjoy inhabiting Valley Parade, hopefully it can provide some more happy memories.

Seeking the bald facts of an Odsal move

Recent talk had me thinking about the current situation off and on all day. would it be possible to get to the bald facts on the possible Odsal move without the ever present emotion getting involved as it has had a way of doing so far?

I can but try. Let’s start with each party’s point of view. Why do they want to come to a deal?

Firstly, Bradford Council. Committed to the costly Odsal sports village, part of which involves filling in the existing stadium bowl and building a new ground of only 18,000 capacity (by any yardstick, the smallest new ground envisaged for any major English city) overlooking the site of the original stadium. The scheme is as I’ve said very costly. A look at how the finances might stack up has convinced them that the figures look infinitely better if City can be persuaded on board with the extra income that would generate.

Next Bradford Bulls. Having wanted a new ground for years (some might say decades) they really wished for a rival to the Galpharm at Huddersfield, not only to preserve their super league status but to provide a venue for RL representative matches. This would have involved a new ground capacity of 25,000+.

They will grudgingly accept a 18,000 ground to secure their SL status on the present site and, equally grudgingly, they will accept a ground share with City if it means a lower rent for them at what they will still consider their (new) Odsal home.

Finally, Bradford City. On an ongoing financial knife-edge due to the costs of their Valley Parade home. 1/3 million a year just to play at VP (compare this with Notts County who pay £25,000 a year to play at Meadow lane.) then on top of this City also pay annual rent for the shop/office block. it probably doesn’t all add up to £1million a year but it will still be a crippling total figure.

The benefits? They’re clear enough for the council and Bradford Bulls!

The financial benefit is really the only Pro for City (unless you accept that a ground that is easier for away fans to get to once a year, while at the same time being far more inconvenient for most City fans 23 times at least every year, is a Pro)

There are more Cons for City. the revenue from advertising and the bars and catering franchise would be lost. There would be the major hurdle of negotiating their way out of the existing lease with Mr. Gibb…that won’t come cheap. Over time they would lose support from Baildon, Bingley and up the Aire valley as supporters found it more troublesome and inconvenient to travel to the far side of the city on matchdays. they couldn’t rely on replacing all the lost support from around Odsal for 100 years a rugby stronghold. Even keeping emotion aside, there is also the almost certain outright opposition to the move from fans. Finally there is the capacity. would any club voluntarily move from a 25,000 capacity ground in their major catchment area to a ground of only 18,000 capacity right across the city?

To do this is a tacit admission from the joint chairmen of permanent mediocrity. No more talk of a return to the Premiership ever.

Finally, there are the terms at the new ground. here we have no choice, we are compelled to speculate. Even though City are the bigger professional club, the bulls regard Odsal (even the new ground) as their home. they would not agree a deal which made them 2nd class citizens at Odsal. This being the case, as the bigger club, would City agree a move on terms inferior to the Bulls?

Would City agree to be the junior partners?

The council seems determined not to consider a move the other way…Valley parade could be bought and completed to a capacity of 30,000+….a home for both clubs more in keeping with our big-city status, for far less than the new Odsal stadium outlay and there would indeed be Rugby League representative matches and even the possibility of England under 21 soccer matches at the ground.

Whatever happens It is time their was a City fans forum on this one proposal – the possibility of moving to Odsal. time all the facts were made known by the joint chairmen. Mark Lawn has said that an offer was made to Gordon Gibb to buy back the ground but that he wanted a higher price than City could pay at that time. Let’s have the figures…what did City offer and what did Mr. Gibb want?

There has been too much cloak and dagger already in this whole affair. let the fans have all the facts and the true situation.

The worst news of pre-season is that we have to deal with Gibb

Everything was going right. Everything seemed to be going Citys way until the money men at Valley Parade started talking.

Almost everything that they said we great. City are making money just about but they will lose some next season as we go for promotion.

The money for selling Dean Windass and him getting promoted at Hull has helped but no one ever gets into football to get rich so Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes don’t expect to make a fortune. Football is a fan’s game for them and you don’t get rich doing that.

Or do you?

Because the worst news of pre-season came when the “landlord of Valley Parade” which is Julian Rhodes code for “that twerp at Flamingo Land Gordon Gibb” got paid. Not only did he get paid but we also found out that he had a freeze on the rent for five years and now the **** can ramp up the rent.

This is the pepper corn rent he talked about when he had the club sell Valley Parade to him. Pepper corn rent? If he told you it was raining you’d go out to get wet just to check.

He is getting rich off of us and thanks to a deal which is very shady. How much money did City get from the £2.5m sale of Valley Parade and why sell it if we were going into Administration not that long after?

We can’t trust him. We need to be rid of him.

Mark Lawn, Bradford Council, Someone wanting to be a third partner in City, need to get some money together and get our ground back from that man.

Because the worst news of pre-season is that we still have to deal with the chairman from our past.

So This Is It. City Doing Bad Doing Good

In a nutshell anything other than a win for Bradford City at Chesterfield will see the Bantams relegated.

David Wetherall’s side go into the game without Kelly Youga who joins Mose Ashikodi and injured back to the Premiership following his stay at Valley Parade and looking for results and miracles. If wishing made it so City would stay up but football is hard and our own mistakes have been compounded by refereeing point stealing leaving us where we are now.

Should the worst have happened at five on Saturday then City will not go into administration but will be starting next season with the cheapest season tickets in football after Julian Rhodes decided to honour the pledge for the 7,000 fans who have applied. City fans will pay £136 next term. One can only hope that this signals a turn around in the fortunes and atmosphere at VP. Julian Rhodes deserves it to – his actions today should be followed throughout football. As City falter on the field the ideas off it are laudable.

Rhodes says

As I keep stressing, the club’s future depends so much on the backing from the fans.

That is laudable too.

Also worth backing is City fan Nick Kitchen’s campaign to Bradford Council to get them to financially help City out. The title of the campaign is “Campaign Backing For The Bradford District Council To Help Support City Financially” and already over 600 Signatures.

If you see Nick collecting signatures around Keighley shopping centre, in the Bantams Bar, at the club shop before a game or in Chesterfield then give them a sign if you agree. If you get doorstepped in election week next week then you might wants to ask red, blue, yellow or “other” what they think before voting.

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