FOUR years ago today, Bradford City were sitting just three places off the bottom of the Football League.
Another forgettable season was drawing to a close, albeit with the doomsday scenario of relegation to the Conference having abated thanks, largely, to the continued failings of others.
Defeats for Macclesfield Town and Hereford United on April 9, 2012, meant City remained seven points clear of trouble despite their own loss that day at Shrewsbury Town, the 19th time the Yorkshire club had been beaten in 42 league outings.
Kyel Reid remembers well that sorry campaign. As Phil Parkinson’s first signing on taking over the previous August, the London-born wideman made 40 appearances as the Bantams flirted with the drop and admits the strides that the club has since taken are immense.
“Bradford City is very different now to back then,” the 28-year-old, back in West Yorkshire on loan this term from Preston North End, told The Yorkshire Post.
“It couldn’t really be much more different, if I’m honest.
“There was a lot of pressure. That is what I remember most. It was the first time I had been involved in anything like a relegation fight in my career. I was only young, probably 23 or 24. So, I was still learning about the trade of football and League Two. It was difficult at times.
“Now, I don’t feel any pressure. Chasing promotion is what every player wants to do. But I did feel the pressure in that first season at Bradford. There was so much at stake.
“We all wanted to get out of that league. But not that way! We wanted to go up and, of course, we did that the following year, when we had that great season. No-one will ever forget that year.”
City’s achievement in not only winning promotion from League Two but also reaching the League Cup final in what was Reid’s second season at Valley Parade remains, certainly, the stuff of dreams.
It was akin to a fairy-tale that, like Leicester City and Jamie Vardy this term, should have had the Hollywood script-writers clamouring to immortalise Parkinson and his ‘history-makers’ on the big screen.
This time around, Bradford’s push for a second promotion under Parkinson has felt a little more prosaic. There has been none of the jaw-dropping drama of those nights when Arsenal and Aston Villa were humbled. Or the sheer emotion of walking out at Wembley as the first team from the basement division to reach a major Cup final.
What has shone through, however, in the current push for the Championship has been the same togetherness and will-to-win that made 2012-13 such a wonderful time for the Bantams.
“We have more quality and more experience in the squad now compared to back then,” said Reid. “We are up a level fitness wise and technically. But the squad the gaffer has built has the same togetherness. The team spirit is massive. I think it is brilliant, as are the fans.
“It is like having an extra man. They help us kick on and find that extra bit of confidence that we need to grind out the results.”
A trio of consecutive 1-0 victories over the past fortnight certainly points to a side that knows how to get the job done. Another today against Swindon would do nicely as the Bantams look to avenge their opening-day thrashing at the County Ground.
Reid was still at Preston North End back then, the winger not having returned to Bradford until October as Parkinson turned to someone he knew well from not only Valley Parade but also his time as manager of Charlton Athletic. For Reid, the move was just what he needed.
“It was a great feeling coming back,” said the loanee. “I had a few options in League One but this one leapt out at me.
“The chance to come back somewhere I was wanted was a big pull. I knew the place and the surroundings. It wasn’t me going somewhere new and having to introduce myself to everyone. I have history here and the manager is someone I had worked with so it was a no brainer.
“Likewise, with some of the players. Lads like Stephen Darby really look out for me. We are close. Then there was James Meredith, who I had played with and already had a good understanding with.
“There is no better feeling than a full-back who wants to give you the ball. And gives you licence to do your bit going forward. It is all good.
“If I am honest, it doesn’t feel like a loan to me. It feels like I have signed. I am happy and so is my family. I wanted to play for something big and promotion is definitely that. It would be a great achievement to pull it off again.
“I was speaking to my Mum the other day and I told her how the club felt like the same as a few years ago when we got to Wembley. We won promotion then and it feels like the same is happening again. There is a real excitement here.”