FOR more years than Julian Rhodes cares to remember, money dominated the daily agenda at Valley Parade. Or, more specifically, a lack of it did.
That is what happens at a club where bankruptcy is an ever-present threat and only the financial support of the Rhodes family kept professional football alive in Bradford.
Around £9m had to be poured into the black hole that was once City’s debts, along with the providing of personal guarantees stretching into millions of pounds. At one stage, even the family home had to be put up as collateral to prevent City’s collapse.
Happily, the days of constantly worrying as to how the next bill would be paid are at an end. This season has seen to that, with the Valley Parade coffers having been swelled to the tune of £2m by the history-making run to the League Cup final.
Today’s second trip of the season to Wembley will bring a further financial boost with victory over Northampton Town, thanks to a pre-agreed bonus scheme with Phil Parkinson’s squad, likely to add £200,000 to the balance sheet and defeat £300,000.
Considering the perilous position the Bantams were in not so long ago, all additional revenue is welcome. For joint chairman Rhodes, however, today is all about taking the first step back towards restoring the fortunes of his beloved Bantams.
“This is a huge, huge day for Bradford City,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“There is so much at stake. This is a real opportunity to get Bradford City back on track and we have to take it.
“People say it has been a phenomenal season but I only think it will be that if we can win promotion. Getting to a major Cup final was right up there with any achievement in football. I’ll always maintain that. But promotion can really get us going again.
“I know I told the Yorkshire Post before the semi-finals in January that, if I had to choose between the two, I wanted to reach the League Cup final more than win promotion. I said that because I felt it would give us a nice platform to build on in the future.
“However, because we have now been on this tremendous run to reach the League Two final, there is now an opportunity to build on that platform immediately rather than next season.
“To understand what promotion would mean, you only have to look at our potential fixture list next season. Facing Wolves, Sheffield United and Coventry City would be fantastic, not just in income terms but also in proving to our supporters that the club is back on track.
“The alternative, of course, is staying in League Two. And no disrespect to Dagenham, Accrington and Mansfield, the prospect of facing Sheffield United and Wolves is a much more attractive one.
“That is why victory over Northampton would turn a good season into a phenomenal one. It is also why (today) is about more than money. By getting to the play-off final, we will earn somewhere between £200,000 and £300,00. Or, to be more accurate, we will earn £300,000 if we lose the final and £200,000 if we win. The bonuses will see to that.
“Either way, the income is useful. But what will really matter come full-time is us being able to look forward to next season in League One.”
City were given a timely pre-Wembley boost this week when Rhodes revealed to the Yorkshire Post that agreement had been reached over a new two-year deal for Parkinson.
Talks had been ongoing for several months with the Bantams manager, whose existing deal was due to run out this summer.
Parkinson will sign on the dotted line at the same time as assistant Steve Parkin and fitness coach Nick Allamby, which club officials believe could be as early as next week.
Parkinson’s role in reviving the Bantams cannot be overstated. He took charge just five games into last season with the Bantams already locked into what proved to be a long, if ultimately successful, fight against relegation from the Football League.
With the benefit of a summer’s recruitment behind him, the City manager has this term led a revival that few could have anticipated back in August. Now, however, the final challenge awaits.
Rhodes said: “If we can beat Northampton, this season has to go down as one of our best. It would certainly be right up there in terms of the promotions this club has won in the past.
“Getting to the League Two play-off final is probably something none of us could have imagined would happen. Not after losing at Wembley and certainly not after the (4-1) loss at Exeter (on March 16). I think after that we all thought any hope had gone because we were 10 points adrift of the play-offs with just 10 or 11 games left.
“But, credit to Phil and the lads, because they just kept going.”
Promotion would, Rhodes estimated, add between £1-1.5m to the club’s income next season. On the flipside, however, pre-agreed wage rises for players already contracted for 2013-14 would also add “several hundred thousand pounds” to a wage bill that this term stands at £2m, while new signings would also have to be made.
Rhodes added: “Getting back into League One would show we have turned the corner. After all the numerous problems we have had down the years and the many times when everything looked bleak, promotion would be a definite line in the sand. It would be the best feeling.
“Having said that, I am wary of Northampton. They are a good team and all our games against them this season have been tight affairs. They are a strong team and, as Leeds United fans will be able to tell you, Aidy Boothroyd knows all about winning promotion via the play-offs.
“He pulled off a shock in the 2006 final, as everyone expected Leeds to win. They finished above us this season in League Two so are favourites and Aidy will have them fired up.
“If, though, we play like we did at Burton in the second leg then we can win. One thing is for certain, if we do win it won’t be a nice straightforward win. Instead, we will probably go 2-0 down early on and have to fight back. That is just how we seem to do it at Bradford City.”