Where do you see the club in a decade?

The win over Nottingham Forest has done much to get City’s season under way and optimism is higher as a result but winnings game, and indeed promotions, while wonderful are only parts of a wider progress which fans hope the club will make – or fear it will not – in the coming years. The weight of the question is significant. Clubs up and down the country talk in short terms about the weekend matches and the end of a season but supporters are with the club for decades, for the long term.

“We all have high hopes for City this season but where do you see the club in a decade’s time and what are the club doing now which will bring us to that stage?”

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

The nature of the question “Where do you see yourself/the company/the football club in x years time?” always fabricates a positive frame of mind when asked to ponder it.

The future is always something to look forward to, and inevitably you think of how today’s problems will have been overcome and everything will be perfect. You throw in a tint of realism to make sure your vision achievable – it would be foolish to predict that in a decade’s time Bradford City will be Premier League champions and about to embark on a Champions League campaign. Yet ultimately your 10-year future will be a grandiose improvement on matters now.

But sadly life doesn’t seem to work out like that, and one only needs to think back 10 years ago and recall where Bradford City were then to see how things can easily change for the worse too. If asked this question at the start of the 2000-01 season, I dare say you and I would have agreed City would continue their upwards progress and become fully-established as a Premier League club. Enjoying the thrills of beating Leeds United and Manchester United home and away, of lifting the FA Cup, of playing in Europe on a semi-regular basis and of having incredibly- talented players preparing in state-of-the-art training facilities.

Our vision would not have featured three relegations in six years or going into administration twice or Geoffrey Richmond turning out to be something of a traitor or a guy who owns a theme park running off with the deeds to our stadium or losing home and away to an abysmal Stockport County or Gareth Edds or crowds dwindling or a legendary player failing as manager or Bradford City 0 Accrington Stanley 3.

We can ponder the next ten years and dream of how our current woes – stuck in League Two, not owning our own ground – will have been addressed and Valley Parade will be a utopia of happiness. But even if the next decade delivers success, it will bring new issues to worry over.

So I honestly have no idea where this club will be in 10 years time – but I bet we’ll have something to moan about.

Paul Firth City fan and Author of Four Minutes To Hell

Ten years ago Bradford City were justifiably proud of staying in the Premier League and, with the riches that came with survival, looked forward to seeing some star names perform further magic. It is not necessary to go back over what happened in those ten years, unless there is someone out there who has learned nothing from two administrations.

So, trying to look ahead another ten years, the prime target must be financial security, even if that dampens the expectations of the fans. Maximising the income and minimising the outgoings will require perpetual vigilance from those who control the purse strings.

Maximising the income still means solving the riddle of where to pitch ticket prices, not least for the younger fans who are the future of an club. Today’s schoolchildren will be buying their own tickets in ten years time, provided they can be kept with the club. Only if at least two promotions follow will television income be a major proportion of revenue.

Minimising outgoings means a player budget that is sensible and adhered to. At Valley Parade it also means not paying huge sums in rent – so it means finding a way of owning the ground that is less costly than present obligations.

And speaking of today’s youngsters, all clubs bar those who are content to rely on billionaire owners need to develop their youth system. City will need to keep finding the next Dean Richards or Andy O’Brien, even if the end product is not a first-team centre back, but money from a bigger club paid on the progress of a very young player.

All of this requires skilful management off the field, preferably by someone with an astute business brain and experience of the successful running of a big company. If that someone was also a Bradford City supporter, he or she would be the perfect person to secure the medium-term future of the business that all clubs must be.

With that sort of future to look forward to, success on the field is more realistic. As illustrated recently by BfB, two promotions in ten years is achievable. Established in the Championship, three home grown heroes, our own ground, 20,000 crowds and financial security. I’d take that now.

Alan Carling Chair of the Bradford City Supporters Trust

I know where I would like the club to be in a decade’s time. As Julian Rhodes has emphasized many times, one of the main factors holding the club back financially at our current level is the rental bill for Valley Parade that has to be paid annually to the Gibb Pension Fund. But there has always been an obvious way to deal with this issue, which ticks many other boxes for both the club and the District. If Valley Parade is brought back into community ownership, the rent can be renegotiated, and the stadium developed as the focus for a fan-friendly, community-oriented club. And if both the Council and the Bradford Bulls were involved, there would be further benefits on the commercial side, and a stronger, unified presence for full-time professional sport in Bradford.

Just as there’s a restrained optimism on the playing side this season, I have a similar feeling about the project for Valley Parade. As Mark Lawn has now revealed in public, the Gibb Pension Fund has already named its price for the stadium, and the club has swung behind the idea of ground-sharing with the Bulls. There is a new administration at City Hall, which seems to recognize that fresh thinking is needed for the Council’s sports strategy, after all the problems with the Odsal Sports Village. It is going to be very difficult, of course, for Bulls’ fans to accept a move away from their Odsal home. Good luck to them if they were able to develop a new super-stadium there – we might even have considered joining them. But as things stand, it seems very unlikely that the finance will be available from either the public or the private sectors for a big new building project. And they still have to find new playing accommodation from somewhere within the next two or three years. This surely leaves ground-sharing at Valley Parade as the Bulls’ best available option.

Putting all this together, there is a huge opportunity waiting to be seized, and I would love City fans to be an integral part of it. Will it happen? Who knows… it would require people to work together in ways that may be unfamiliar to them, and feel a bit uncomfortable. But I hope that the club can get over its fears, and work constructively with supporters to build something special around Valley Parade – not just the bricks and mortar, but the inclusive community spirit. One thing is for sure. No-one is going to come in over the next few years to hand us success on a plate. So why not try doing it for ourselves?

Monday, Monday

On Easter Monday evening, BBC 2 showed the whole of “EXTRAS”: Series 1 – fine if you are a fan of Ricky Gervais’ cringingly uncomfortable humour otherwise one to avoid.

Earlier on that same Monday, Bradford City, with its own team of “extras” put on a cringingly uncomfortable performance that brought to mind Ricky’s follow-up and the catchphrase “You havin’ a laugh?” only it wasn’t funny!

In fact Monday’s performance ranked among the worst I have seen this season (fortunately I don’t go to away games) and that was a view echoed by many as I made my way back down Midland Road.

O.K. so the weather and the pitch were poor to say the least and the enforced absence of some of the few remaining crowd “favourites” did nothing to help the situation but none of these excuse such an abject performance.

Now before I go any further I need to say that I have refrained from contributing to BfB since Stuart left – not because I had taken my bat home but to give Peter Taylor a fair chance to make his mark on the side. I had decided that I would follow his lead and wait until the end of the season but yesterday proved too much for me and my resolve failed…. because I care!

Peter Taylor is the best option for Bradford City and its future success I have no doubt about that. But despite all the right noises and some ruthless removal of players, the performance on the pitch is still important to me and Monday was just not good enough.

Much has been said about Taylor’s teams being dour and difficult to beat. Monday’s was dire and too easy to beat. The revolving door policy regarding strikers has proved nothing except that what we have is better than what has been brought in. When the opposition put five in our box for most attacking moves and we are left with Gareth Evans working to almost no avail waiting for support it seems to show that defensive responsibilities are overriding attacks even at home.

The sight of a loan centre half playing as a lone striker proves that none of the “extras” brought in by Taylor can cover for James Hanson in either threat or fitness and, no disrespect to James, but he is an inexperienced player in his first league season. Such a sorry state we find ourselves in.

Do we blame the replacements or is it the style of play that renders them inefficient? Monday’s wind did not help but I lost count of the number of aimless long balls pumped forward with little hope for the front men. This has become increasingly characteristic of Taylor’s teams and goals from open play, whilst spectacular, have been rare.

Without the threat of an outlet player, the all eleven back defensive strategy simply keeps us under threat longer. We don’t look like scoring many and from what I have seen and read on this site the successes we have had are more down to opposition misses rather than defensive strength. (Darlington and Dagenham could so easily have inflicted home upsets if we are being honest.)

Monday’s midfield seemed caught up in the “give it away” panic that permeated the team with only Luke O’Brien showing any vision and perhaps laying down a marker for a more central midfield role next season. We missed him in the second half. At the back we were far too easily outmuscled and mistakes were once again punished in a way we seem unable to replicate when they work in our favour.

As for the despicable treatment of Zesh all I can add is that for once the boo boys were put firmly in their place by those who realise the good he has done in games despite an erratic season.

So if they were bad, it was a meaningless game so why does it matter? Well this week saw the introduction of the second low-rate offer on season tickets – something for which those charged with the running of the club should be given credit. But if the aim is to attract another 5,000 or so to invest in a season ticket then the team should be busting the proverbial gut to demonstrate what such good value they will be getting. How many of the not yet committed would be keen to sign up for another season of what we saw on Monday.

The lack of commitment by some players may well be a valid area of criticism but commitment has to work right through the club and the supporters. Peter Taylor has been accorded the role of manager but to me there is a lot of the “Emperor’s new clothes” about his current situation. Too many seem to feign blindness to the reality of the situation and the way it has been handled. If you want commitment from players and commitment from fans you need commitment from the manager.

Despite all the right noises that commitment is not as yet forthcoming. All the talk about looking at players for next season that has perhaps excused some performances of late that would, under other circumstances, have been loudly derided has a hollow ring to it. Here today, gone tomorrow players have been the norm of the last month or so but we still don’t know if we have a manager for next season. Am I being unduly pessimistic or just realistic? We should soon know but in the meantime it is doing club, players and fans no favours.

As the season struggles to a close we need a lift of some kind to generate the ticket investment for the coming season. If those of us who have already committed feel this way how can we promote the future to those who remain undecided? Much sense has been said on this site about the need for a plan and the need to be open about it.

Tell us the plan, commit to it and just maybe we can forgive last Monday.

Where is the plan as the search for a new manager starts?

As Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes start to look for a new manager for Bradford City they no doubt have talked a few things over – assuming they do still talk – about what they want from this change they are presiding over at Valley Parade.

Perhaps they think they are about to kick start a revolution. They are not. The search for a new manager after less than 150 games – around three seasons of matches – is the status quo at the club. Since Trevor Cherry’s sacking in January 1987 no manager has been in charge of the club for longer than two and a bit seasons and City have had far more failure than they have success.

As they start looking for a replacement for Stuart McCall it might be worth Mark Lawn reflecting what what he is doing is not looking for new ideas and a new direction for the club but rather staying with the tried and tested methods of failure. Perhaps Julian Rhodes could point that out to him having been an advocate of keeping managers to an extent where two of his – McCall and Todd – are the two longest serving gaffers since Cherry.

Naturally it would be wrong to suggest that changing a manager cannot have success – although anyone who points to the changes at this club that brought us Chris Kamara and Paul Jewell should today be demanding Wayne Jacobs accent to the manager’s job – but given the period since Cherry and how frequently these changes have not brought success one could hardly call it a way to guarantee success.

More often than not in the recent history of the club changing manager has resulted in a worse finish in the league this season than it has last. Curiously the only two times in the last two years that the club’s manager on the first day of the previous season was the manager on the last day of the next the the club did not suffer this decline.

Nevertheless Geoff Twentyman, Tim Ward and Allan Brown are only remembered as the men who proceeded Brian Clough at clubs none of those clubs would think they made the wrong decision in replacing a manager. It works sometimes.

Then again not paying your mortgage and spending the money on lottery tickets might make you a millionaire, but will probably leave you homeless.

The problem with most football clubs – and with Bradford City – is that they crave success but try to cut corners to achieve it. They have no plan worth the paper it is written on.

The last three years at City are a great example of this. The middle season of McCall’s three saw him given a huge chunk of money to spend – against a transfer fee from another club – and a few months in whch to spend it requiring a revolution in the squad. When that failed a second revolution was needed to put back what was previously there and once again – in common with all football clubs in England in the last two decades – have once again found riches and frittered them away for the want of a plan.

Bradford City need better training facilities, we need better scouting, we need a better youth set up and the people who run these things at City need more backing in what they do. These are what a club can plan for and what increases the quality of the club.

One has to wonder what Mark Lawn’s plan for improving the club is? Does he have one? When he sits opposite people at interview is he going to be outlining the ways he is going to be improving Bradford City and looking for a man who can serve those aims or is he going to be looking for that potiential manager to bring the plan with him?

How is next season going to be better than this considering that the pointers of our recent history are that changing managers results in a deterioration in performance?

Where is the plan for improving the club? If it is simply changing the manager then that plan is a tried and tested failure and in backing it Lawn is taking a massive gamble not just with his money, but with our club.

Any new manager who arrives at Valley Parade will want money to spend to change the squad and aside from allowing dead wood like Chris Brandon to leave there is no increased revenue stream coming in so the club will have to borrow – Lawn has made it clear when he gave the club an advance on the Fabian Delph cash and not a gift of money – against the idea of increased revenues in the future.

So the club will end up spending money on players it cannot afford with the need for success which – should it not follow – will put the very future of the club at risk.

If Lawn has a plan to improve the club which is not just changing the manager then now might be the time to share it because failing that he cuts a figure of someone who believes they are innovating and pushing the club forward as he marches relentlessly down the path of failure.

Homeless, or a winning lottery ticket. What do you do with your mortgage payments?

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