Bolton v Bradford City: Phil Parkinson turned me and City into a force '“ James Meredith

IT was quite fitting that James Meredith was speaking within the confines of Woodhouse Grove School when discussing the impact ex-Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson had upon him.

Phil Parkinson, the former Bradford manager

In the unlikely event that anybody does not know, the Bantams face their first reunion with their former manager at the Macron Stadium this afternoon, with the smart money being on Bolton chief Parkinson receiving some warm and respectful applause ahead of kick-off from the 4,300 travelling hordes.

Parkinson really should do, considering the heights he reached and the places he took City, planting the claret-and-amber standard at some revered venues such as Stamford Bridge and Villa Park. Not forgetting Wembley.

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Australian full-back Meredith is one of many in the Bradford ranks with cause to thank Parkinson for his instructive role in developing their careers.

Expect him to make a beeline for his old ‘gaffer’ after the on-pitch battles have ceased this afternoon – whatever the result.

Meredith’s debt of gratitude to Parkinson, who left Bradford in a shock move in June, extends not just to being thankful for being given a chance after being signed from York in June 2012.

The 28-year-old will also be forever grateful for the way in which Parkinson taught him to be a better professional – after admitting to being too much of a ‘party boy’ in his early City days.

Even though he may have incurred the wrath of Parkinson on occasions, by way of the odd early fine and reprimand – lessons have been learned.

Speaking at City’s training base, Meredith said: “For me personally, he turned me from a non-league to a league player.

“At that point – although I always worked hard and had a good attitude – my diet was not very good and I was not as professional as I am now.

“I was a bit of a party boy when I was young and he turned me into the player I am now. When you were doing something wrong, he would tell you and let you know and punish you for it.

“You had to do things right; he did not really care how much ability you had or how pretty a footballer you were.

“If you did not do the things in the way he wanted, then 
you were not going to get very far.”

On Parkinson’s overall impact in his remarkable City tenure, the left-back added: “Phil was a fantastic manager. When he took over Bradford, they were not in a good position and were struggling for a long time and he kind of woke the sleeping dragon and put a fire in their belly.

“He did a great job for everyone involved and we got that promotion and went on some great cup runs and pushed ourselves to the higher end of League One.”

All the portents are there for a white-hot occasion across the Pennines today.

The duel has all the trappings of a ‘big game’ feel, certainly as far as League One goes.

Alongside the Parkinson subplot there is also the not inconsequential factor that the game pits fourth against second – on a weekend when five clubs all have the chance to be sitting in pole position come 5pm.

In many ways, the game is a rewind to some high-octane occasions during Parkinson’s decorated time at City and Meredith cannot wait, with these choice dates getting his competitive juices flowing.

The in-form defender, who scored his first goal in almost a year in last weekend’s 1-1 home draw with Bristol Rovers, said: “I am sure that they will really want to beat us and their fans will be bouncing and getting spurred on.

“I think it will be a really hectic game and a bit edgy and high tempo. But it will be enjoyable and one we want to win.

“These are my favourite games and I like the big stadiums, the nice pitches and the fans filling them out.”

On meeting up with a host of familiar faces in the shape of Parkinson and his backroom team of Steve Parkin, Lee Butler and Nick Allamby, plus ex-City loanee Jamie Proctor, he added: “We know them all and what they are about and the way they like to play and do things and I am sure that will not have changed since they have gone to Bolton. It will be a bit strange, but we are all looking forward to it.

“Maybe the fans and the new (Bradford) staff want to prove a point. The fans are obviously really excited about it as it has obviously sold out so quickly.

“That gives us a lot of confidence and shows how much it means to them and we do not want to disappoint them.”