Positive Bradford City

For those outside the metropolitan area – and a good few inside it who might have missed the news – today is Positive Bradford day in the City.

Positive Bradford day being defined as a single day of the year where the inhabitants of the City are invite to recognise and forget the ills that have befallen Bradford and instead just think of all the good things.

One can hear the voices of decent but – in keeping with the day – those voices are ignored as a part of the ills and the positive is accentuated. It is a noble aim but very much a first step in mental civic rehabilitation. Still, as my Nan used to say “Them that don’t do nowt, don’t do nowt” and more power to the elbow of anyone who is involving themselves in Positive Bradford day.

Positive Bradford City day seems a way off. The talk of losing cultures and negative moods is around for a reason. Bradford City, like the City of Bradford, is in a slump.

Perhaps though the football club could take a leaf from the City in how to change that mood. Of course there is the idea that we could have a Positive Bradford City day at Valley Parade – imagine watching a game where all criticism was outlawed, how curious that would be – but for real examples on how to improve Bradford City one suspects the club need to look further afield.

To Germany and to St Pauli to be exact. The story of St Pauli is an interesting one and one which City could learn from. Not the pole dancing and pirates side of the club or necessarily the punk ethos and freebooters of the league tag but rather at the way that St Pauli turned their club around emerging from the darkest time for football in Germany with something rather enjoyable.

Which is underline the fact that St Pauli are not the most successful club in Germany and probably never will be, but they are enjoyable and passionate in a way which most supporters – especially Bradford City fans – are not.

Boiling the St Pauli experience down to the basics the German club were in a similar situation to the City of Bradford. They looked at the negative things around their club and area and worried they were insurmountable. The ground was in a bad part of town, the club had few fans, the tradition was not much to speak of.

Each negative was reassessed. How could it be flipped around, be a positive. Other people tell the story much better than I but a ground in a poor part of town gave rise to the Pirates of Football approach, the lack of supporters saw the club actively pursue new fans who were not commonly football supporters in the left wing punk scene of the City, the lack of tradition gave a blank slate for the club to be rewritten on. Everything that was a strike against became a strike for.

Which is not to say that City could enact the same solution just that the same method of positive thinking could be applied to Bradford City. Flip the things which the club think hold City back and there are opportunities.

One is keen to avoid enumerating those problems and giving potential solutions for fear of setting the debate too rigidly. More, on this Positive Bradford day it is worth musing not on the things we do not have at Bradford City but those we do, and how we can maximise them.

Satisfaction (I can’t get no)

Last Saturday’s game against AFC Wimbledon was my first since returning from a September holiday abroad. I mention this not to gloat over those unable to take advantage of low season holiday prices but to create a context for the thoughts in this piece. Whilst away I like to be truly away – no papers, TV, internet, radio, little contact with others from my home country and no mention of football.

But just before I left there was a crisis at the club (again) – a manager had “left”, a caretaker had taken over and another manager hastily appointed. Right up until I packed my case I had been content to allow new and young players time to gel and despite results I had a sense of optimism that, with patience and structure, the club was at last moving in the right direction. The prospect of fame for “Jackson’s Juniors” had been appealing to say the least. But in the end I left the country with a sense of uncertainty that had nothing to do with fear of flying but fear for football at Bradford City.

On my return to these shores the BfB website was switched on almost as soon as the kettle and, lo and behold, the crisis had deepened. The club lay desperately close to the non-league drop zone and a sense of despair permeated the articles and comments as I struggled to catch up with events that I had missed.

By the time I got down to the pub the following evening I was suffering, not from jetlag but from déjà-vu – new backroom staff, old boy signings but very few points to show for all the changes. Fortunately my friends reassured me that things were not as bad as they seemed, that this was not Taylor Mark II and the potential was there. All we needed was some luck. With their confident claims ringing in my ears I joined them in looking forward to Saturday’s game and, when the day arrived, set off in high hopes.

The rest, as they say, is history. I watched a match that, whilst entertaining in the first half at least, had many of the hall marks of last season. Younger and new players that I had been ready to give a chance to, had been discarded, a captain dropped and even newer players who seemed little better if not worse than those they replaced had been brought in. There was effort but no cohesion. A midfield woefully uncertain as to where they should be were all too easily drawn into a back 7 (or 8/9), a striker given no real service and a strike partner (?) playing as near to him as a batting partner in cricket. A fortunate but deserved lead – a rare thing at V.P. – was allowed to slip away but at half time there was hope that the new manager (new to me at least) would see the problems we all could see and address them. Sadly there was yet more déjà-vu. No change in the system, no leader on the field, a player having a nightmare game not replaced and substitutions that were too late and only disrupted the play even more leaving young Liam Moore to battle three Wimbledon players to try and deliver some sort of cross – no support just leave him to it.

I stayed until the end, many didn’t. I applauded the efforts of the players, many didn’t. I did not boo, many of those who had stayed did. And I left without any of the sense of positivism that I had felt when approaching the ground.

Now there are many on this site and elsewhere that would criticise my negativity and encourage me to remain positive. After all it is still September, there are good signs and it’s too early to be so despondent. Yet I look at the league table as well as the calendar and realize that whilst it may still be September almost a quarter of the season has gone. Our position gives genuine cause for concern and is made even more worrying by the fact that a win next Saturday, however welcome, would make no difference to our league position. The gap is already open and it looks like getting bigger before it narrows.

So am I guilty of negativity? Despite my outward signs of support and encouragement for my team my thinking is downbeat, the concern is worrying and am I somehow transmitting these feelings to the team? No matter how positive I try to be I get the feeling that my individual contribution to City’s performances is about as much use as my holiday contribution was to the Greek economy.

There is a big problem at Bradford City. There may well be several problems on and off the field that combine to make it so as articles on this site have suggested. Much has been said by those in charge of the team and the club but I believe more has been left unsaid and this leads to the different levels of dissatisfaction in our supporters.

All those involved with Bradford City, fans and staff, have an opinion as to what is needed to bring about a change in our fortunes. I have deliberately made no attempt in this piece to put forward my own views because, in the end, my views, and yours, count for nothing. But when pleasure in following your team is deprived, when optimism seems more and more unfounded, what should be a mutually satisfying relationship between club and fans is fractured. Rows increase and an eventual break-up seems inevitable. So however much I/we may dislike it we should not blame fans(?) who berate their chosen targets. It does not help but it is an understandable release of frustration built up over the years and yet most have managed to stay in the relationship.

I, like many others, have taken the disappointments my team have given me and yet I start each season and, hopefully, each match in a positive frame of mind. It’s the time between games that I struggle with. I suppose I am lucky, I can put post match disappointments to one side or ameliorate them with pieces such as this but at times I feel embarrassed even guilty about the way things are at V.P. and my contribution to them.

So please, can I have something tangibly positive from the club to satisfy my need to feel good about my team. Because right now I can’t get no satisfaction – and I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried, tried, tried.