Playing the season out in July

The Team

Mark Howard | Chris Mitchell, Steve Williams, Guy Branston, Luke O'Brien | Dominic Rowe, Richie Jones, David Syers, Jamie Green | James Hanson, Mark Stewart | Michael Flynn, Andrew Burns, Ross Hannah, Nialle Rodney, Nahki Wells, Lee Bullock

Pre-season football matches should never be mistaken for football matches.

For sure they look like football matches and to the unschooled they would appear to be football matches: twenty two men hoof a bit of leather around and occasionally stop to score, swear or stop for some other reason; but they are not.

Chief amongst reasons for this contradiction between what seems to be and what is is that pre-season football matches are not processed as football matches are by supporters and listening in around Nethermoor as Bradford City recorded a 3-2 victory over Guiseley proved this.

Firstly – and not least importantly – is the result which drifts into irrelevance almost on the sound of the final whistle. It matters not that the Bantams were the victors, nor indeed is the manner of the victory especially important. City twice trailed the team from two divisions below and came back to win but no prizes are given for character in friendlies. Contrast that to the next time a teams from two divisions away play each other in Leeds.

What matters on an evening like tonight is extrapolation. Looking at performances and casting an eye into the distance of next May and assessing how that performance will pan out.

So Mark Stewart – starting for City up front alongside skipper for the night James Hanson – touches in an equaliser to make the game 2-2 and is dubbed a “natural born goalscorer” destined for fifteen to twenty goals a season. His smart and accurate touch at the front stick after good work from Hanson is impressive. Hanson wins much all evening against defenders who include former Bantams Daniel Ellis, Mark Bower and Simon Ainge and back to his best Hanson will be a force.

Ainge twice goes close to giving his new club the lead over his old as City’s back four struggle to clear their lines and it is a weak headed clearance by Steve Williams that allows Alex Davidson to score the opener. Branston has to sort out Williams soon, so grumbles go, or we will have a problem. Chris Mitchell can hit a dead ball, but one worries about him at the back, unfair on the strength of a single mistake.

Extrapolations on goalkeeper Mark Howard are not good. Gavin Rothery scores the home side’s second which takes a deflection but leaves the keeper looking flat. In-between the two strikes David Syers gets onto the rebound from a Stewart shot and equalises.

There is much extrapolation about Jamie Green on City’s left who is a big winner on the night looking a player of some ability in a first half in which City struggle to maintain a tempo. When the Bantams retain the ball they look good – and players like Richie Jones are impressive – but there are spells in which play becomes frantic. Dominic Rowe bursts with pace but lacks composure blazing wide and over a number of times but he shows a usefulness. Extrapolating Jones’ ball out to the winger, and the winger surging forward, is enjoyable as City go in at half time behind.

More troubling though is the extrapolation of a team which loses the ball being punished too readily, and of a team which is not able to maintain a consistent tempo being too easily pushed off stride. David Syers’ goal masks a performance in which he has struggled to take control of a midfield and his replacement with Michael Flynn turns the tide in City’s favour.

Stewart’s equaliser comes, and then a superb delivery form Chris Mitchell is headed firmly into the goal by James Hanson. Hanson celebrates a goal against his former club and could have another later as City – despite the odd worry over being turned around too quickly when giving the ball away – keep the ball better and pass around the field with more fluency. Nahki Wells and Ross Hannah both test the home keeper’s palms and in the end the scoreline could have been more tipped towards the Bantams, but the result does not matter.

What seems to matter is the mood of supporters who wander away happy. Guiseley supporters have seen enough to suggest that their next season may be successful enough while City fans have seen enough trailers of what is to come to extrapolate from balmy July night to the sunny afternoons of next May and conclude that it might be a season they would enjoy too.

Pre-season plans take shape as Bolton Wanderers head to “Valley Parade”

Bradford City have today announced their pre-season friendlies for the 2011/12 campaign, which throw up a number of intriguing games. The headlines unsurprisingly centre around a visit from Premier League Bolton Wanderers. And, whether a slip of the tongue or an indication of how the rental negotiations are going, the Telegraph & Argus has stated the friendly will be played at Valley Parade.

Bolton travel to West Yorkshire on Sunday 24 July; the first time they have played the Bantams since Wayne Jacobs’ testimonial in July 2004 ended with the long-serving left back scoring a penalty in the last minute that was so weak you had to question whether it had all been contrived. Bolton manager Owen Coyle has been a regular pre-season visitor to Valley Parade, however, bringing along his Burnley side in 2008 and 2009.

Before that pre-season will begin at Silsden AFC’s new ASDA Foundation Stadium on Wednesday 13 July. As a Skipton resident, the seven-mile journey to watch this game will be the shortest trip I will have ever made to watch the Bantams. Two days later (Friday 15 July) City travel to Ross Hannah’s old club Matlock Town, before the much-discussed friendly with Guiesley (Tuesday 19 July) finally takes place, as part of the James Hanson transfer two years ago.

After Bolton’s visit is the annual game with Bradford (Park Avenue), on Wednesday 27 July, this time at the Horsfall stadium – two miles away from Odsal (so maybe a chance to check out pre-match pubs for next season?). Pre-season ends with a home visit from Greg Abbott’s Carlisle United on Saturday 30 July, one week before the opening League Two fixtures.

How good is James Hanson?

When a shelf stacker and Guiseley forward put a couple of goals past Bradford (Park Avenue) on new year’s day two years ago one has to wonder if the people at the other Leeds/Bradford game asked the question “How good is James Hanson?”

For sure he had – by all accounts – dominated the Park Avenue defenders but – like Hanson – they were part times and while the Guiseley looked good he did not stride the field like a Colossus. Eventually Mark Ellis had a whisper to Stuart McCall who took him to Bradford City where he became top scorer in his first season.

When watching England beat Hungry on Wednesday night most of the discussion around our sofa was on the young players called up by Fabio Capello and the ramifications of that. There was a contention – by yours truly – that Newcastle United’s much coveted Andy Carroll should have been given a call up. Others thought that (amongst other things on a lively night of discourse) a player could not be judged as good enough for the England side if he had not been proven good enough in the Premier League.

So the question formulated that if Carroll might be considered good enough on the basis of a season not competing against the top class of English football how good could Hanson be?

Rewind to Hanson’s first season at Valley Parade and one recalls on many occasions turning to those around and exclaiming with an amazement that “that guy just does not lose headers!”

Indeed Hanson – when fit and on form – is uncanny in his abilities to rise high, win the ball and feed it accurately to his team mates. Ball winning was a Barry Conlon thing but Barry did not win as often, nor did he head it as accurately, nor did even he put in the effort of James Hanson and when watching last season’s player of the season very few would have put the limits on him that were placed on Conlon.

Conlon – it was said – had to have his best game to be as good as the rest of the side and “good enough” for League Two. Hanson – thus far – has not come up against a League Two defence where he did not enough the balance of play. Long may his superb attitude continue because – at the moment – one doubts that League Two is poising different problems than that game with Park Avenue.

Then came Nottingham Forest a team that – were it not for the randomness of the play-offs – be in the Premier League and the squad to go with it. Hanson – a half time sub – enjoyed as good a return against the twice European Champions as he did against League Two sides, and did in his non-league days. He won more in the air than one would expect against a League Two side, let alone a side who have pretensions for the Premier League.

So how good is James Hanson? Tongue in cheek one might say that if Andy Carroll might wear the three lions then why not give Hanson a call up? If one does not believe that having played in the top flight is essential for England honours – and Steve Bull‘s five in thirteen suggest that a player who has not been at the highest level can offer something to England – then perhaps the national management should be looking at the League Two players who impressively play up when facing a side from a higher division. Scalability in football play is a rare concept.

Returning to the question in hand – and not suggesting that he should be partnered with Wayne Rooney next game – how good is James Hanson?

Certainly he has proved himself able at levels lower than League Two and at League Two itself. His first game against a higher opposition did not curtail his progress so perhaps all one can say is that so far we have yet to see a ceiling on his abilities.

Perhaps though for an answer to the question we need to look not at ourselves, but at the stars. The younger stars of Nottingham Forest that is who were used that night and that manager Billy Davies described as having things come to easy to. Davies’ criticism that a young player has the big car and the nice house too early at his club and as a result they lack the hunger makes a sharp contrast to the two City goalscorers on the evening.

As Davies bemoans the BMWs that his teenagers drive Hanson and fellow goal getter David Syers and men of the match Jon McLaughlin Steve Williams know that a failure will take them back to the days of part time football and a day job. If they ever drive a BMW it is because they have rewarded themselves for a lot of hard work by replacing the broken down Skoda.

There is something utterly refreshing about watching Hanson, Syers, McLauglin and Williams play. When asking how good one of these players can be then the answer is something of a cop out – they can be as good as they want to be.

At present there is a debate on McLaughlin and if he is “good enough” as if this were a binary situation and one which should the player kick back and stop making the effort that has put in him in the position he is in now he would remain at the level he is now.

It is an excellent attitude which has brought them into league football and that same attitude that saw them as the core members of a team which beat Nottingham Forest. Maintain that attitude and it is hard to set a limit on what they can achieve, lose it and they will stop being “good”.

When pre-season became interesting

At some point after the middle of the 1990s pre-season became a thing of interest.

Perhaps it is the rise of Sky Sports and the need for constant football, perhaps it is the public’s thirst for the close season to end as quickly as possible, perhaps it is clubs trying to spin out two or three extra big money games in a season but whatever has caused it pre-season in modern football has become much more of a big deal.

Looking at the likes of Guiseley who had Bradford City on the pre-season fixture list until recently the games against league opposition offer a chance of a pay day in excess of most league matches. Kendal Town play Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic and walking around the Westmoorland town one would struggle to miss this fact – that and the fact that Chas Hodges is playing in town soon – which is a marked contrast to the games within the regular season which pass without note in that part of the Lake District.

Certainly City’s return to action against Eccleshill United was eagerly anticipated with a good number of Bantams fans looking at pre-season as a welcome return to normality.

Turn on the ubiquitous Sky Sports News today and you will see highlights from pre-season matches up and down the land. Last year when Newcastle United lost 6-1 in pre-season to Leyton Orient then Sky’s talking heads damned the Magpies to a season of struggle in The Championship. They won it.

So in tone and in the minds of supporters and on the balance sheet pre-season seems to be interesting in a way which it was not previously. Pre-season matches happened for sure and occasionally they would be seen in the newspaper (as is my recollection) and talked about in vague terms by very few who seemed to have a mystic view of the new players on the first day of the season.

Steve Gardner turned up as an unknown on the opening day of one year with the words “He looked good in pre-season” offered by a City sage who had seen such things. The sage was considered rare and some what obsessive – like people who go to more than one date on a band’s tour – while extrapolations about Gardner, as with Newcastle, turned out to inaccurate.

At City the change over from a pre-season which was the preserve of the dedicated and the players probably occurred around the time that Chris Kamara was manager and City played Newcastle United in which Peter Beardsley and Tino Asprilla weaved majestically and a high quality Middlesbrough side in a two day period and then went on (again, if I recall) to play Santos of Brazil in a game which saw the only – to date – overhead back heel volley goal.

Compared to that the reality of the season seemed something of a let down. The circus had come to town and then left us with some reality where Norwich and Swindon – not Newcastle and Santos – were the opposition.

Peter Taylor managed Southend at the start of that period and Gillingham around the middle but perhaps it is his experience a England u21 manager which shapes his thoughts on how preparation games should be treated. He talks about how the Bantams could have played some big teams at Valley Parade – Premier League Burnley played at VP last season – but for the newly laid pitch but it is clear that Taylor sees these matches as build up to Shrewsbury Town on the first day, no more or less significant than any other training session and certainly not wasting the fresh grass on for a few extra quid.

So City have no big name on the fixture list – Rochdale are the highest placed side we face – and a swathe of games against low opposition including North Ferriby United who City play at one on Saturday afternoon. Taylor talks about the games in terms of being build up, fitness getters, and while supporters can watch the manager does not see them as being spectacles. His threat to take his team home at half time at Eccleshill says all you need to know about how Taylor prioritises.

Not for him an evening watching Beardsley and Asprilla run rings around his players. Not for him bowing the knee to boys from Brazil.

So a City squad of around twenty-two will be split into two teams of eleven with the aim of fitness not performance. City are without Michael Flynn (Groin), Tommy Doherty (Calf), Luke Dean (Broken leg) and Jake Speight (Broken promises) but Tom Adeyemi will make his debut following his arrival on loan from Norwich City and have Matthew Tipton and Lee Morris looking to earn contracts.

The game kicks off early for those who fancy a trip to Grange Road but one doubts that anyone will be encouraged to slam in an overhead backheel.

Falling out with Guiseley

If something happens at Valley Parade at the moment then it is done by Peter Taylor and the calling off of Saturday’s friendly match with Guiseley which was to be part of the payment for James Hanson has been played squared at the manager’s door.

With a summer of fascinating articles detailing grass and the growth of grass City came back to pre-season training with the news that Taylor had decided not to relocate the Bantams from Apperley Bridge to Weetwood. Following on from that – and very clearly laid at his door – comes the Guiseley news.

It seems that Taylor wanted the game played earlier in the day to allow the players to be in bed earlier keeping pre-season plans in place for the next day. Guiseley – who are counting the attendance from the game as a part of the payment for Hanson – objected to that time but the offer from City seems to be that another date needs to be their proposal or another date need be found before the end of the season, like it or lump it.

It is far from harmonious. Guiseley believe that changing the date of the friendly will hit them in the pocket and they are no doubt right. Even at seven in the evening one could expect Bantams fans to not fight traffic on the way to the North of the City, later in the season wedged between League matches the idea of playing another local side is also less appealing and fewer would go, hitting the bottom line.

Quiet why when a player signs for one club from another someone comes up with the idea that the supporters should pay part of the transfer fee is anyone’s guess. One thinks back to the transfer of Graeme Tomlinson to Manchester United where – to thank the Red Devils for taking our good young striker – I was offered the chance to pay £10 towards the fee which was in essence giving Man U money to give City to take our player.

City seldom make friends in the local football community but this action seems to almost pathologically antagonistic and perhaps that is why Taylor is given the credit for the decision rather than the club presenting a united front. Taylor does things his way – the recent talk from Valley Parade alludes to – and we don’t stop him.

So Taylor decides that his players should not be playing on the 13th of July and so they are not and that decision hits Guiseley in the pocket and probably does very little for the reputation of the Bantams but the club – which is to say the chairmen and executives – are possessed of a faith in the manager that sees them leave him to his own devices rightly or wrongly.

Perhaps someone should have told Peter Taylor that they wanted Bradford City to be the sort of team who help out the other local sides but the manager – at the moment – is calling the shots at the Bantams and while that seems to have hit Guiseley I’m not upset at this new order at Valley Parade.

Avenue back at Valley Parade for friendly

After an absence of a good few generations Bradford Park Avenue will return to their former ground to play Bradford City for a pre-season friendly.

Avenue played at Valley Parade just before the club lost its battle for survival in the early 1970s with Bradford City extending the hand to their rivals in those tough times.

City have invited Avenue for a pre-season match at Valley Parade on Tuesday, August 3rd 2010 – the Tuesday before the season starts.

On Tuesday July 13th City will play Guiseley at Nethermoor as a part of the transfer deal that brought James Hanson to Valley Parade.

As Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football?

This week we have seen our neighbours Bradford (Park Avenue) beat the much trumpeted FC United of Manchester 5-1 as they look to get into the Blue Square North. They were also the subject of a cheer leading article in The Independent. In our debates over the future of Bradford’s sporting grounds the idea of including Park Avenue in the future of Valley Parade and Odsal has come up.

With the decline of Farsley Celtic and Halifax Town and as Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football? Will it be good for Bradford, for sport in Bradford and for Bradford City to have Park Avenue back up football or would it divide the City, damage both clubs and hamper the Bantams?

So the question is…

As Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football?

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

To any City supporter under the age of 40, the thought of Bradford being home to two professional football clubs is as whimsical as completed shopping centres and thriving music scenes. It happens in other cities, but somehow we always seem to end up worse off.

It’s easy to feel envious of the derbies cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Sheffield enjoy, though so often in football local rivalries are unbalanced with one enjoying more success and so caring less about outdoing the other. Should Bradford (Park Avenue) continue their rise back up the pyramid and return to the Football League, it’s hard to imagine any City fan born after their neighbours’ demise in 1974, at least, not sharing in their joy.

The Horsfall Stadium has become a regular pre-season stop off for the Bantams, a number of youth players who never made it beyond a few first team games at Valley Parade have winded up in Avenue’s green and white. They are a club to raise a smile when hearing they’ve won a game or notice they’re higher up the league table when reading the paper. Should that continue, the idea of a Bradford league derby would attract excitement and intrigue – but it’s hard to imagine it would ever generate feelings of hatred from claret and amber.

The only real threat Avenue’s continuing rise could pose to City is to divert floating supporters from Valley Parade, reducing attendances and revenue; but even the thought of that right now seems improbable. Just like Guiseley, Silsden and Thackley, Avenue are non-league friends to cheer from afar. And to us ‘youngsters’ the idea of them as serious rivals belongs in the same history books as Busby’s.

Mike Harrison City Gent Editor

As a City fan and especially one who in my position as editor of The City Gent I am almost wholly occupied about what happens on and off the field for the Bantams. That said I do make a cursory glance at the inner pages of the T&A on a Monday to see how the local non-league sides have done that weekend. If they have done well I think “that’s good for them” or if they haven’t then I think “oh well never mind”. I will readily admit that I am very blinkered in my support of City, but on a certain level of course I wish the nearby non-league clubs well.

The fact that Park Avenue seems to be having a title chasing season is good for all those that support the reformed club. I am just about old enough to have been around for the last league game played between the two sides, at Avenue in January 1969 when I was seven and a half, but all I remember about the 0-0 draw is making my way into their main stand to take my seat and virtually nothing about the match itself. Whilst I am sure there was some cross-town animosity and rivalry, I certainly wasn’t aware of it at that age.

So I have no ill feelings towards Park Avenue and therefore I hope that they gain promotion and win the title. I hope that they don’t fall foul of what has happened at Farsley Celtic, who seemed to progress too far too fast and who have now paid the ultimate price. Park Avenue’s modest support could probably help maintain their club’s position in the conference north, but whether they were ever capable of gaining a further two more promotions to get back into the football league is debatable, but good luck to them I say.

Steve Baker Stalwart City fan and Bantams Bar regular

Personally, I have no issue with BPA doing well. I’m not necessarily going to cheer them on, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t be supporting them in their bid to get back into the league.

There are many rivalries in football, many teams we don’t like either as people or clubs, but very few clubs who we would say we are friends with or who have backed us when we have needed it. As much as rivalry is part of football, the same should be said of friendly relationships between clubs.

It would definitely be good for sport in the city, investment would be encouraged which can only be a positive thing. With the Westfield saga and the will it wont it Odsal project, investment in Bradford can only be seen in a good thing. I very rarely visit the city centre these days, but it is pretty much unrecognisable from when I was a teenager, with the effects of the recent economic downturn evident at every corner.

I don’t see how it would divide the city or supporters either. You are either one or the other, but following another local team is quite normal. My fellow season ticket holder in the Bantams Bar also follows BPA, goes to games and has an interest in them. But he will never chose them over City. And I’m fairly convinced this is what other people feel also from those I have spoken with.

I cant see how BPA doing well would hamper City. The resources we have as a club and the fan base we attract are more than likely going to be superior to Avenue. We are likely to attract better players and coaches, sponsors and investors and much more. To be honest, I’m a great believer in getting your own house in order before worrying about others.

Effectively City need to build on the good work done by McCall and Taylor, and ensure that moving up the leagues is what we do within an acceptable time frame. Taylor is right in asking for things to be improved such as the training facilities, the pitch and other things. This is what will stand the club in good stead beyond this season. If City are getting this right, and the performance on the pitch, then our success will bring more fans, more investment and better players. Its this that is important, not worrying about BPA and what’s happening with them. If City do well then I think its fair to say there is more potential than at BPA, with no disrespect to our neighbours.

One thing both clubs could benefit from is some form of strategic alliance, where City youth team or reserve players are loaned to Avenue to regain fitness and build match experience. I’m sure there are some players who would jump at the chance at first team football amongst City’s youth ranks, and if they are deemed good enough and can help in Avenues plight, I’m all for this. This should be done at the benefit of both clubs though – the youth players should not expect to walk straight into Avenues first team; they must earn the right to pull on the green and white or red, amber and black, whichever you prefer.

Dave Pendleton Bantamspast Curator & Former City Gent Editor

My first ever football match was Avenue v Hartlepool in 1970, incidentally Avenue’s last ever league victory. My dad was an Avenue fan, but he watched Avenue one Saturday and City the next. However, when he moved our family to Wrose it was inevitable that City would become my first love. My dad’s open minded stance has shaped my attitude to our neighbours to this day. However, it can be hard work, particularly when confronted by the hostility to City still held by some Avenue fans. Indeed, the biggest obstacle to Avenue sharing Valley Parade would be a section of Avenue fans for whom 1974 is still bitter memory. City are a convenient scapegoat for their own club’s failings, but that’s another debate.

The vast majority of City fans don’t see Avenue as a threat, so therefore are supportive of our former rivals. However, if – and it is a very big if – Avenue were to close the gap on City then those attitudes might change. Frankly, it is highly unlikely that Avenue will become serious rivals to City. The demographic of the Avenue fans is the wrong side of fifty and, unless they can suddenly attract a whole new generation of fans, the gap between the two Bradford clubs will grow. Despite City’s current lowly status the season ticket deals have kept attendances high and have help attract and retain a significant number of young supporters. As the era of the Bradford derby’s fades ever more into the past, the relevance of the rivalry will disappear into insignificance. It is already barely a historical oddity on a par with the fact that Bradford used to have more Rolls Royce’s than London.

David Markham T&A Reporting Legend

Of course, Bradford City supporters should welcome Park Avenue’s progress up the feeder league system. Looking at their position at the top of the Unibond League Premier Division, it seems likely they will be promoted as champions although they are being pressed all the way by one of our other friends and neighbours from non-League football – Guiseley – and they still have to play them twice.

Avenue’s president Bob Blackburn has invested a serious amount of money into the club, both on and off the field and it looks as if his investment is going to bearing fruit.

Make no mistake going into Conference North is a huge step for Avenue. They had a season there when Conference North and South were formed about five years ago, gaining their place through a play-off system even though they had experienced a poor season. Former City favourite Carl Shutt was manager. It was clearly a step too far and they were relegated back to the Unibond and Shutt left the club.

First of all, I hope Park Avenue have the players of sufficient quality to consolidate their place in Conference North. Then, I hope they can increase their fan base. I read in the T&A last week that they need to increase their average from about 500 to 700.

As a family we spent Christmas at Blackpool in 2008 and I went to watch Fleetwood play Workington on Boxing Day. It was their first season in Conference North. They have three smart little stands as well as a successful social club and they are about to build another new stand. They average just about 1,200 and considerable investment in the team this season has lifted them to the top of the League and, although they had their winning points against now defunct Farsley Celtic deducted, they are still slight favourites to go into the Blue Square Premier League – Conference – as champions although Southport are pressing them hard.

They have a far better ground than Park Avenue and if Avenue can consolidate in Conference North they will need to improve Horsfall or look for a better ground. The accommodation is little more than adequate and looking over a running track tends to spoil a match for spectators.

Bob Blackburn has bought land at Thornbury to build a new stadium, but that sounds to be an ambitious plan for a club that attracts fewer than 1,000 for normal league matches. Could they share Valley Parade? Park Avenue supporters I know wouldn’t be happy at that. There is some prejudice against ‘the club that plays off Manningham Lane.’ There are some of them, who are still re-living City-Avenue derby matches of the 1950s and 1960s.

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember those days – and great days they were with crowds of 15,000 to 20,000 watching those games in the 1950s although the gates tailed off in the 1960s, tremendous atmosphere and intense rivalry without the nastiness that manifested itself in the 1970s and still exist today. No segregation in those days either – fancy that?

I also watched Park Avenue play their final two seasons in the Second Division between 1948 and 1950 and I especially remember seeing Tottenham Hotspur – in Second Division championship season – West Brom, Leeds United and Coventry grace Park Avenue. It was sad to see their demise in the late 1960s and be voted out of the Football League in 1970.

It was also great to be able to watch League football on alternate Saturdays in Bradford. Despite Avenue’s successful season, we are still a long way off from those days and I just hope Avenue don’t over-reach themselves as Farsley have done. Their fan base was always too small and they went into the main Conference with crowds at about the same level as Park Avenue have now and over spent in trying to compete with bigger clubs with greater resources and sadly they had to be wound up a month ago. Their fate is warning to all clubs whatever level they play at – overspend at your peril.

Let’s hope Farsley can come back in Unibond North like Halifax Town did.

Richard Wardell Fundraiser in times of trouble and former BCST man

Breaking it down, we as Bradford City supporters shouldn’t be cheering on and supporting Bradford Park Avenue. However, welcoming their rise back up the football pyramid is a different matter.

I must admit that in this day and age of media hype surrounding the Premiership and the Champions League, I prefer to follow the fortunes of teams in the non league circles. Indeed, I notice that the top of the table clash between Bradford Park Avenue and Guiseley was postponed last night.

I am too young to remember Bradford Park Avenue as a league team so I don’t remember the days of Bradford having two football league teams. I suppose the question that we have to ask ourselves is what impact would league status for Bradford Park Avenue have on Bradford City fixtures? At the moment Bradford Park Avenue are averaging less than 1,000 people per home game this season. However, in the post Second World War years, a crowd of 25,655 watched Bradford City verses Bradford Park Avenue in a Division 3 match.

Another factor is cost. We as City supporters are all aware of the great (in my opinion) season ticket prices offered at Valley Parade in recent seasons. For their next home fixture Bradford Park Avenue will be charging adults £8, children £1 and concessions £5. If they were promoted to Division 4 (our current division), I wonder what the costs would be then?

The population of Bradford and the surrounding area should in theory be able to support two Bradford based football leagues clubs but theory doesn’t always work in the real world. People often talk about the great support that both Newcastle United and Leeds United gain but they are cities where there is only one league club. Discussions from time to time crop up about Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United merging but most of their supporters don’t want this.

So, back to the original question. Personally, I would like to see Bradford Park Avenue climb up the football pyramid and to play them in a league game would be great. However, being selfish, I wouldn’t want to see their rise result in our demise into non existence.

Paul Firth City fan and Author of Four Minutes To Hell

As a lad growing up in Bingley and without access to private transport, I was never going to be an Avenue fan. I even went to watch Keighley rather than Northern for much the same reasons. Apart from derby matches I’ve only been to Avenue (the football side of the stand, that is) once and that was in the sixties for a cup tie against Fulham – Johnny Haynes, George Cohen and some young kid called Allan Clarke.

City fans today, most of whom missed out on those derbies, love to hate teams in the league above us. Maybe they’ll be happy to see Avenue’s possible rise up the football ladder unless and until it impinges on City’s progress. We can cheer Avenue into the Conference North or even the Conference proper, especially when they struggle to attract 1,000 spectators for most games and we can’t find a soul who has given up his Valley Parade season ticket to go to Horsfall.

But if they did return to the Football League? Worse still, if they reached one league higher than City? Manchester United fans never worried much about what was going on at Maine Road once the Bell/Lee team fell apart. Pride in your city soon takes second place to pride in your City.

The raw deal at Nethermoor, but better than no deal at all

One has to feel a little sorry for Guiseley after they were given exactly what they did not want from the Football Association tribunal as they set a fee for James Hanson following his Summer move to City at much below the price they wanted.

The Unibond League club had bulked at the Bantams offer of £7,500, a sell-on percentage and a pre-season game between the two clubs next year when City offered it in the summer but as the transfer window began to shut and the non-leaguers pointed out that that had paid twice as much for the player Hanson partnered up front that original deal was exactly what the F.A. gave them.

Rarely have City ever got the benefit of a tribunal decision so one imagines a glass or two will be raised to the man in Manchester who were charged with the judgement of Solomon today.

Guiseley will feel hard done to for sure and probably reflect that they would have been better talking up the Bantams by a couple of thousand rather than aiming high – it is said they wanted in excess of £30,000 but these figures are only rumoured – only to be disappointed. They had no chance of keeping the player and are not hard done to in Hanson’s exit. He was a part-timer working in Idle Co-op when up front for them, a professional for City. No one would deny him the chance of that.

Hanson has been a roaring success since his move and has reportedly attracted the interest of Coventry City in the Championship as well as a good few League One clubs in his first six months which one doubts he would have had he kept banging goals in at Nethermoor. If his time at City proves to be short lived and he exits for bigger things then the slice of that deal they get may prove a bigger reward than they have now.

Les Ferdinand’s 10% sell on from the move that took him from Queen’s Park Rangers to Newcastle United netting Hayes some £600,000 which dwarfed the £30,000 Rangers paid for him up front. So pleased were the non-league side with this that they built a function suite and named it “The Ferdinand Suite” in his honour.

That Hanson is coveted by Coventry – or indeed anyone outside of Bradford City having spotted him and Stuart McCall having seen him as a potential City player – is down not to his performances for Guiseley but rather those for the Bantams and thus is seems right that as his development from talented amateur to proper professional comes and the risk that entails is born at Valley Parade then the tribunal would favour those at Valley Parade.

That City got the player “on the cheap” is true if he is successful – and he seems to be – but many a man has failed to make the grade as a professional and the deal is only inexpensive if a player settles into being a pro. Many have not and it is unfair to those players who plug away working in a shop all week and trying to impress scouts on a weekend to set fees for them so prohibitively high that clubs cannot afford to take the risk that the corn will pop in the pan.

So Guiseley get a raw deal but the alternative would seem to be no deal at all and those at Nethermoor would do well to keep fingers crossed that Hanson gets back in the goals soon and his value – and the value of a sell on clause they now have – increase.

“The James Hanson Suite” would be a just reward.

City and Guiseley muddle over the value of Hanson

James Hanson’s spinning volley on Saturday gave the Bantams a chance of getting richly deserved points but came at the wrong time for the club as they prepared for a Football League Tribunal where City and Guiseley will be told how much the striker should cost.

Protected by his age Hanson signed for City in the summer with the fee to be decided later and perhaps it is the excellent start the striker has made that has seen them asking for a fee reportedly of £50,000 for the player – Mark Lawn says that the Leeds club want more for Hanson than club paid for Gareth Evans. Guiseley manager Steve Kittrick sums up the non-league club’s stance and frustration saying “We are prepared to mediate, but their mediation is very, very slight.”

Kittrick says “I’d rather not say what fee we want, but on a scale of one to 10, Bradford have started at one and now moved to two and we’ve come down from 10 to eight.” and that would suggest the Bantams are refusing to go over four figures.

One can not blame Guiseley for trying to ask the league club for as much as they can – after all a player in this league has been paid the figure they want for one game of football – but looking at the balance books City no doubt see their financial picture as closer to non-league than the haves of professional football than the Netherfield club would probably suspect.

At League Two level how does one rate the value of a professional footballer when without the contract the Bantams offered in the summer Hanson would – probably and unjustly – still been working in the Co-op in Idle? Without the interest from a professional club – or at least the chance of a contract – a player has almost no value but why should Hanson have less value than Evans just because one came from a League Club and the other did not? Jon Shaw – one time Halifax Town man who City would have taken for nothing but Rochdale bought for £70,000 – has ended up back in non-league football at Barrow. Is he worth the fee paid or does the fact that he cannot prove himself at league level mean he is worthless?

Hanson’s four goals prove the player’s value but that same value was given to Willy Topp who did much less, less well than City’s current number seventeen. Guiseley and City are left going to a tribunal because frankly a player is worth as much as a team can get for him and as Hanson scores and wins everything in the air he seems to be worth rather a lot. Had Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding put Notts County to the sword in the opening game of the season and Hanson been cooling his heels all season would Guiseley have been happy with the traditional non-league fee of twelve tracksuits and a couple of balls?

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