AS anniversary presents go, the scalp of Leeds United surely takes some beating.
Especially when victories – just three in 24 previous meetings, the most recent having come almost three decades earlier – had proved to be rarer than bantams’ teeth.
Thanks to James Hanson’s dramatic late winner, grateful Bradford City fans can raise a glass today to manager Phil Parkinson on his third anniversary of taking the job at Valley Parade.
“When you walk out and see the place full like it was against Leeds, it makes me proud to be manager,” said the 47-year-old when asked by The Yorkshire Post about today’s landmark.
“I know how much it means to the people of Bradford to win this and that is what matters most, not any individual dates or whatever.
“I had a lot of phone calls in the build-up. Julian (Rhodes, joint chairman) rang me before the game and said, ‘We have just got to win’. A few of the directors I bumped into after the Crawley game all said the same.
“I can’t imagine how much it meant. But we kept the lads calm and disciplined and that is what was most important.”
Parkinson may not be the sort to bask in the glow of personal achievements or landmarks being reached.
But City fans must surely appreciate the incredible job that he has done since succeeding Peter Jackson on 2011’s August Bank Holiday Monday.
Bradford were, quite frankly, in a mess. The first four games of the season had yielded just one point. And although the Bantams had beaten Barnet a couple of days earlier under the stewardship of caretaker manager Colin Cooper, no one at Valley Parade was in any doubt that the season would be all about staying in the Football League.
A confused summer of recruitment – the late Archie Christie had been appointed to set up a development squad but this seemed to muddy the waters for Jackson’s own plans – had left the squad perilously thin on quality.
Of the 14 players on duty in Parkinson’s first league game, a 1-1 draw at Morecambe, most had been jettisoned long before the end of the 2011-12 season.
Only Hanson – fittingly the scorer of the winner against Leeds on Wednesday night – and Matt Duke survived the cull to play a leading role for a team that has since been dubbed by fans as ‘the history makers’ for reaching the 2013 Capital One Cup final and clinching promotion from League Two via the play-off final in the space of just three months.
City’s progress under Parkinson continued last season with an 11th place finish in League One and there are high hopes this time around that the club’s upward trajectory will continue.
Whether a tilt at the play-offs is a realistic goal remains to be seen, especially with Parkinson’s budget having been cut from last year.
But the signs are promising with Bradford sitting eighth in the fledgling table with two wins from four games, while another Cup run could be under way after the West Yorkshire club were handed a winnable tie at Milton Keynes Dons in the next round.
For Parkinson, now City’s longest-serving manager since Trevor Cherry was in charge for five years in the Eighties, the challenge now is to harness the feel-good factor of beating Leeds into a string of continued good performances.
“It had been a long time since we beat Leeds, especially at Valley Parade,” said Parkinson on Bradford’s record of having defeated their derby rivals on home soil just twice – in 1932 and then again in 1986 when Odsal was the club’s temporary home in the wake of the fire disaster.
“We pointed that out to the lads beforehand. They were aware of it, but what they didn’t know is how we wanted to play. We had a chance to make history again.
“When you are on the television, despite not really mentioning it, it does add that little bit extra.
“There are millions of people watching and, deep down, you do want people to go away when the game is finished and think, ‘Cor, they’ve got something going on at Bradford’.
“I think that was the case (on Wednesday night). I am sure the atmosphere came through as well on the TV as it did at the ground and people will be talking about Bradford again for all the right reasons.”
Along with the prized scalp of Leeds, Parkinson has also been in the unusual position of enjoying his chairman’s discomfort after nominating Mark Lawn to undergo the ice bucket challenge that is sweeping the globe.
Designed to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease that can eventually affect and/or disable nearly all bodily functions, the challenge was something Parkinson underwent last week.
Lawn, sporting a Bantam onesie, received his soaking on the Valley Parade pitch 20 or so minutes after Wednesday night’s triumph before nominating fellow joint chairman Julian Rhodes, BBC presenter Harry Gration and Stuart McCall.
Parkinson added: “Mark might have got a bit wet but I’m sure he didn’t mind. Victory over Leeds will mean as much to him as any Bradford City fan because he is an absolutely dyed-in-the-wool supporter.
“Mark is a character and things like that show the camaraderie we have at the club.”