Boo boys, boards and Bradford City

Having been a Bradford City fan for the last 20 years it is safe to say that I hold a ‘football supporters’ CV that possesses, more ups and downs than the average football fan.

I have spent many a Saturday afternoon stood on the Kop watching claret and amber clad footballers run up and down the hallowed turf. Or, during away games, sat at home, with the radio pressed to my ear, attempting to pick up the coverage from hosts such as Chris Cooper, Tim and Stix and the legend that is Mr Derm Tanner; as they attempt to paint a picture of the events of the game into the listeners’ ear (some better than others in my personal opinion).

I have witnessed chairmen come and go, managers change in the blink of an eye only for the new one themselves to fall victim to the rotating door that is Valley Parade. The stadium itself has changed over the time I’ve held my season ticket.  Stands have grown, changed, lost their roofs, gained a corner, been opened by the Queen and graced by fans throughout the football league ladder.

So why now have I have decided to type (or attempt to type) an article/rant/opinion or even a question…

I have become, like many other City fans, upset, disillusioned and almost embarrassed at times in the last few years with life down at Valley Parade. But being a fan for 20 years, I don’t see this as something that is out of the ordinary for the everyday City fan. However, it does seem that for an alarming  number of ‘City fans’ this discontentment must be voiced at every opportunity wherever and whenever possible.

I don’t know whether this negativity is something that has always murmured and occasionally rumbled throughout the terraces, and that I have been naive enough to think that it didn’t; or whether it is indeed it is something like Town – unfortunately on the rise. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my moments as an adolescent and as twenty plus year old man screaming at players and managers alike. I have spent many a Saturday, after a horrendous display, complaining to mates over a pint or on the bus home about certain players’ performance and worth in the team. I have even been known to, on rare occasions I can honestly say, call for a manager or chairman to resign or be sacked.

However I do not understand those ‘fans’ who seem to want to pick fault with everything that is Bradford City Association Football Club, in particular, and ironically do so via the club’s official message board.

Rant part over – the question I would like to raise to these people is simply, “What is the point?” Yes, we know that City are not having the best time of it at the moment; yes, we know that sometimes the manager’s tactics may not always match those of our own expectations; and yes we know that those higher up have made decisions that have sat like a bad curry.

But what do these people expect? I am not for one minute suggesting that voicing an opinion is wrong or unhealthy, but what I am saying is that those who voice opinions that do not seem based on fact or reasonable argument can only further disrupt or upset those involved with the club at whatever level. I am not trying to point the finger, as I truly believe that those City fans that have been with the club through thick and thin will share my feelings and know who I am talking about.

A case example can easily be found during, I hasten to add, City’s game against Swindon. As mentioned, I am a huge fan of Derm Tanner and believe he paints as honest a picture of the game as he can, for which I have no doubt he is respected by a vast majority of City fans.  It therefore baffled me that no sooner had Andrew Davies been dismissed for reasons unknown to Derm and Mike Harrison, that messages began to appear calling for not only Davies’ head but also that of Parkinson’s. What further baffled me was that it seemed as though those who had found this information out had simply been watching the very brilliant ‘panto’ that is Soccer Saturday, and had not actually been listening to or been present at the game!

Unfortunately these incidents are not a rare occurrence and other forms of social networking seem to be a good place for these people to berate players both past and present as well as fellow supporters, even on a personal level.

I’m sure and hope I have opened a can of worms surrounding this subject and hopefully spoken on behalf of a number of City fans. I could go on further but I shall leave that to someone else. Hopefully I’ve started the ball rolling that will begin to squash theses ‘so-called’ fans and help give the club I love a push in the right direction.

Looking for the truth in the local paper

The truth about Luke O’Brien’s absence from the City squad under Peter Jackson, that was the promise. The left back went from sure starter to not being able to get on the bench and now Simon Parker would lift the lid in the Telegraph and Argus.

I simply wasn’t in (Peter) Jackson’s plans. End of story – Luke O’Brien

And there it was. The end of Parker’s story and nothing else with it. No investigation as to why O’Brien might have fallen from those plans in the space of a few weeks and – in the article at least – no attempt to question O’Brien for that piece of information.

Likewise during his time at the club there was no question poised to Jackson about O’Brien and why one of the club’s players had been frozen out – or if there was it was not answered – but after Jackson’s exit there was this article saying that O’Brien was “(shooting) down the conspiracy theories regarding his lack of action for City.”

Let me say at this point that I’ve no ace to grind with Simon Parker or anyone else who writes about City. Jason, myself and the other writers of BfB pretty much write when it occurs to us rather than having to hit a deadline and are not bound by the need to maintain relations with the club. Parker does a tough job and he does it under pressure from his employers and (indirectly) the club on one side and a demanding readership on the other. I’ve no axe to grind with Parker or anyone else who covers City.

However the reporting on the club seems to slip into condescension far too often. If a person covering City is not able to get to the truth of a situation then I’d rather that they did not present a half truth, and present it in such a dismissive manner.

We have no idea of the truth of O’Brien’s absence before or after Parker’s article and the reaction to being told that he was not in Jackson’s plans is to find out why. If that is not possible then do not write a story which talks about “conspiracy theories” that you are not able to cast any light on.

Likewise when BfB found out that Omar Daley had been offered a new two year deal at Bradford City within an hour Derm Tanner had tweeted that there was no truth in the story. Three weeks ago we found out that Daley was heading for Motherwell, Daley headed for Motherwell two weeks later. The information came from the same place. Tanner might have been right to say that Jackson did not believe there was any truth in it, but simply repeating what he was told is hardly the stuff of investigative reporting.

Again, this is not to criticise Tanner, but rather to point to the idea that if the people who cover the football club are not able to investigate stories beyond asking a single person and dragging very little out of them then I would rather that they did not present their version as “the truth” especially if it is so obviously limited. If it is not possible to do more than asking O’Brien and print the words “end of” then it might be best to change the tone of articles.

Of course this is not important. In the end getting to the truth of why Luke O’Brien did not play or even why Omar Daley said he was getting a deal and Peter Jackson said he did not really do not matter in the scheme of things but for he people who report on the club to be in the habit of not asking questions, or not attempting to dig into stories, of not looking any deeper than the first thing they are presented with is not a good position for the club to be in.

After all if the history of this club’ boardroom tells us one thing it is the supports are not always presented with an accurate version of events. At the moment Bradford City may be being run superbly, as well as possible, but that has not always been the case and the current board would appreciate the fact from the situation they inherited and the reasons for that.

If the reporters who cover City are not able to question the official line it would be good if they did not present that as truth.

There are no comments on this article, Michael is on holiday.

BfB meets…Bantams Banter

The 2010/11 season may have been one to forget for everyone who cares about Bradford City, but the introduction of a dedicated podcast – Bantams Banter – was a rare bright spot competing against a tide of widespread misery.

Presented and produced by City supporters Tom and Dom, the regular series of downloadable audio shows quickly grew in popularity – as the pair’s comedic style when talking about City became a must-listen for Bantams fans around the world. “Over time, word of mouth has spread about the show and we ended up with a 100,000 downloads last year,” Dom Newton-Collinge told BfB. “We want fans to feel, when they’re listening to it, that they’re getting an honest view on City matters. Like they’re at the game almost, sat next to their mate. We tend to say what we see, which is what all the fans do. And I think that’s why it has been so well received.”

“THEY’VE NEVER TOLD US OFF ONCE. THEY COULD EASILY HAVE DONE.”

There are just under 10 minutes until City’s friendly with Guiseley is about to kick off at Nethermoor Park, and BfB meets up with Dom at the front of the main stand to interview him about the success of Bantams Banter. Sidekick Tom is unable to make it, as his cousin’s band is playing at the 02 Academy in Leeds. Our discussion about finding a suitably quiet place to chat leads to Dom suggesting we gatecrash a part of football stadiums he is very familiar with from his podcast work – the press box.

A quick negotiation with the Telegraph & Argus’ Simon Parker later, and we’re clambering over empty seats to the quiet annoyance of City’s official website editor, Mark Harrison, in order to find an empty spot. On the row in front of us, a few seats to the right, are Mark Lawn and other members of City’s Board. It’s a slightly surreal experience; though for Dom it seems more a case of sitting with good friends like Mark Harrison – oh, and close to the guy who once made him redundant.

“I worked for Bradford City for a few years,” Dom explained when I asked him about his background. “I was the assistant press officer, which included getting to travel with the team to away games. It was the best job in the world: I’ve been a season ticket holder since before I can remember.

“Then when Mark Lawn came in there was massive changes. They thought things would be better when Stuart McCall took over, but it didn’t work out. So I got back from a holiday in New York, where I’d spent every bit of money I had saved up when I was working for City, and Lawn said he was going to have to let me go, and made me redundant. I was absolutely gutted.”

Not that Dom was out of work for long, with BBC Radio Leeds’ Derm Tanner straight on the phone with an offer to work with him. Dom revealed, “He taught me all the ropes – everything I know in radio now I learned from Derm really. I was at the BBC when I got a job offer from Sky, and I ended up working for them doing horse and greyhound racing commentaries. I knew nothing about them at all! I hated the job, they knew I hated it and they laid me off after six months.”

Now working for a local radio station in Bradford with his friend Tom, the pair began to develop the idea of Bantams Banter and a podcast dedicated solely to Bradford City, featuring hard-hitting opinions mixed with humour. They approached the club, who agreed to the idea, and when the show launched in August 2010 it carried the club’s ‘official’ tag.

“Well it was official until they listened to it!” laughed Dom. “Then they said they liked it, but the Football League would have something to say. But even though it’s no longer official, the club are really good about it. They really like it and they try to do everything that can for us, such as meeting the players.

“They’ve never told us off once. They could easily have done. They know we push the limits, but they accept that it’s just honest views.”

“BECAUSE THIS IS OUR OWN THING WE CAN BE MORE RISQUE AND EDGY ABOUT IT.”

As unplanned as this location for our interview was, with the match having now kicked off, it seems like the perfect way to chat to Dom given the format of Bantams Banter. Last season a podcast was produced for every home game, and the majority of the content is recorded while they watch the match live from the Valley Parade press box.

“We put loads of research into it before we launched Bantams Banter, in order to discover what works,” added Dom. “We listened to Chris Evans, BBC Radio 5live. Just trying to gather as much information as we could, and then thought how can we take these shows and make them our own?

“We’re trying to introduce a new way of reporting and new style of media. There’s been a bit of a breakthrough recently where you can be more silly and people like it. We’re trying to introduce that to sport. Soccer AM have done it and stuff, but because this is our own thing we can be more risqué and edgy about it.”

Initially the podcast got a lukewarm response with few downloads, but Tom and Dom stuck at it and, over the course of the season, its popularity grew considerably to around 4,500 downloads per game. “After the first few we thought ‘it is worth it?’ because we were getting about 100-200 downloads. We persisted with it and tried to make it look as professional at it could. It’s worked out now and really taken off.

“To be honest I feel quite shy and embarrassed about the fact I do the show, but I want people to listen to it and I want people to download it. I’m not going to profess that we’re some type of media geniuses or anything, it was just lucky the idea works, and we’ve got the people who download it to thank for that. Because without anyone downloading the podcasts, it would be nothing really.”

“ONE OF THESE DAYS I WILL GET MY HEAD CAVED IN – IT WILL MAKE A GOOD PODCAST!”

That producing the show while a game is underway comes across so natural on the podcasts is testament to the pair’s broadcasting abilities. Trying to record an interview under such circumstances at Guiseley quickly showed me how difficult it must be to remain fully focused on producing the show, though Dom admits the pair quickly forget the fact they’re even recording.

“When you do a podcast of the nature we do you forget that you’re on. That is one of the reasons it works well I think because we don’t have to think about what we’re saying it’s more natural. You can tell it’s not very professional and that we don’t really think about what we’re saying.

“While regular radio commentators just need to focus on that afternoon, we recognise we need to make sure our content carries into the week. Not everyone listens to it straight away, that’s why we try to make it funny if at all possible, because humour keeps something fresh. We try to give listeners something to laugh at. They don’t want to hear us say ‘Hanson has tripped over’ they want to listen to ‘oh bloody hell Hanson’s fallen over, what a donkey!’

“If you listen to our podcasts now from last season, you can still laugh at it. Even though the game’s months old.”

And this approach led to many memorable moments on the show last season. Highlights included the dramatic Stockport home game, where listening back you could vividly relive the pain we all experienced during that nerve-jangling 90 minutes. On another occasion they recorded a podcast from Crewe’s Gresty Road, and found themselves confronted by angry home fans when they cheered a City goal.

Dom recalled, “This big group of people sat in front of us were absolutely going for it – shaking their fists at us, telling us where to go, all sorts. Tom was really nervous. But something happens to me when I step into a football stadium, where I turn into an absolute nutter and I don’t care. One of these days I will get my head caved in – it will make a good podcast!”

“HE SAYS HE’LL ONLY WEAR IT IF WE GIVE HIM PICKLES EVERY WEEK, WHICH WE WON’T!”

In addition to recording the majority of each show live at the game, they carry out interviews with players and management. Manager Peter Jackson is a keen fan and this week invited the pair to view the new training facilities, while even the players are enjoying the extra attention the podcast – and the range of t-shirts – brings.

“Guy Branston loved the t-shirt we’ve done about him, though he did give us a bit of stick – he says he’ll only wear it if we give him pickles every week, which we won’t!” laughed Dom. “He was also telling us that he really likes the idea of the podcast and the t-shirts, because players at this level don’t necessarily get the opportunity to have that sort of attention. So it’s really good for morale. They think ‘oh I must be good because I’ve got a t-shirt’.”

Aside from the recording, production is time consuming. It can take around two days just to edit down the amount of content they have, in order to produce the final version. Fortunately with such a close working relationship, the pair get on really well.

“We’ve had tiffs sometimes when we don’t agree, but we realise the other one is only arguing because the other’s idea isn’t necessarily the best,” explains Dom. “When the show goes to the editing table for instance, there are bits that I cut out because Tom’s said something stupid. And he’s the same with me if he thinks I’ve pushed it too far.

“From start to finish Tom and I do everything. We know there’s a cap on our audience. At the end of the day Bradford City are not like Man United with 300 million fans. We know it’s not going to make us millionaires, but as long as people are enjoying it and it is making a difference – like helping the club out by raising money for the youth team through selling t-shirts – then it’s worth doing.

“Every penny we make goes into the podcast. The equipment isn’t cheap, my lap top broke last year for example. We went through a phase of thinking ‘should we charge for it?’ because many podcasts do. But at the end of the day we thought why should people have to pay for it? We enjoy doing it. We didn’t want to lose listeners because we’ve worked really hard to build a listener base.”

“IT’S THE MOST POSITIVE ATMOSPHERE THAT I’VE EVER SEEN IN A CITY TEAM.”

That said the show doesn’t exactly pay the bills, and the pair are hoping to develop their radio careers. They recently recorded a demo with Derm and are hoping to hear back from BBC Radio Leeds with good news. Not that they’ll be stopping Bantams Banter anytime soon.

“I’d never want a job that would stop us doing Bantams Banter. On Radio Leeds you’ve got to censor yourself more, and that’s not really us. We’d love to do it, because we want to be known and we want to get Bantams Banter more known. We think that if we are working at Radio Leeds, we can also attract more listeners to Bantams Banter.”

Ambitions for the new season including building on the podcast’s success by doubling downloads, while they are currently developing new ideas to gradually bring into the show. “One is try and pop out to an alternative sports clubs in the Bradford area like archery, and try and find out what it’s all about, “ revealed Dom. “It just adds something else. There’s going to be Bradford City fans doing these alternative sports and we want to hear from them.”

With the new season just around the corner, the duo are gearing up for getting back into the Bantams Banter swing of things and will be producing a podcast for the Bolton friendly. As the interview comes to its end and we pay more attention to the players on the pitch at Guiseley, Dom is filled with as much enthusiasm as any City fan about the team’s prospects. And his close access to the players – not to mention his previous employment at the club – make him a useful barometer of the mood around Valley Parade.

He explained, “I like the new morale that’s going on. It’s the most positive atmosphere that I’ve ever seen in a City team. I remember when we got relegated at Chesterfield and being in a changing room with grown men crying, like David Wetherall.

“I’ve got every faith with Peter Jackson. I like the fact he’s willing to take a risk in signing young players. He knows what he’s doing in this league, and he’s a Bradford City hero. He’s been here and done that, and managed throughout the leagues.”

To listen to last season’s Bantams Banter podcasts, click here for the iTunes store. The Bantams Banter website is under construction and will be available soon.

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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