All bets are off when it comes to shocks for Branston

AS someone who once secured a pay rise off a new club on the result of a greyhound race, Guy Branston thought football no longer had the ability to shock him.

A career that has seen the 32-year-old turn out for 17 clubs and play for 20 permanent managers plus a host of caretaker bosses had seen to that.

Last month, however, the Bradford City captain admits to having been left truly stunned when Peter Jackson walked out at Valley Parade.

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Branston had been with the then Bantams manager just a couple of hours earlier at training and had no inkling as to the drama that was about to unfold.

“It’s true, I never imagined in a million years that Jacko was going to leave,” admits the Leicester-born defender when speaking to the Yorkshire Post at City’s training base near Apperley Bridge.

“As players, we are always the last ones to find anything out. Fans might not believe that but it is true.

“I read everything that I can on the internet and sometimes a fan will mention that we are signing so and so. Then, the following morning, I’ll go into training and that very same player will be stood next to me in the dressing room.

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“With Peter, though, I found out at the same time as the fans – even those on the internet who seem to know what is going on – because it all happened so quickly.

“He never said anything to me about wanting to leave. And because we were only four or five games into the season, I never suspected a thing. It came as a massive shock, probably the biggest in my career.”

Bearing in mind the career Branston has had since starting out as a trainee with Leicester City, this is quite a statement.

His footballing Odyssey has taken him to most areas of the country, from Plymouth and Devon in the south-west across to Colchester United in Essex. Yorkshire has featured quite prominently with his five years at Rotherham United comfortably being the longest spell at one club, while he also spent eight months at Sheffield Wednesday during the season Paul Sturrock led the club to promotion via the play-offs.

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Understandably, a career with so many stop-off points has led to many memorable episodes – and, in particular, ones involving some of the game’s biggest characters.

The Bradford captain said: “I have been lucky to work with some great people with Martin O’Neill at Leicester probably topping the list, even if he did once terrify me in a lift on an end-of-season trip to America. I might be 6ft 1in and him a little Irishman but he put me in my place.

“I’d spent some time on loan at Colchester earlier in the year and they were due to play Torquay United in the play-off final that day.

“Knowing I liked a bet back in those days, he asked me who would win the play-off final and I said Colchester would. He just stared at me and nothing was said for what felt like about an hour.

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“Then, when we got to the ground he just stormed out. I felt like I was about 2ft tall and him 8ft.

“I found out later that he had lumped a load of money on Torquay to win. The best thing is Colchester won the game!”

O’Neill was the first of Branston’s 20 permanent managers, a list that includes Brian Talbot, Lawrie Sanchez, Ronnie Moore, Paul Peschisolido and, much to his regret, Tony Adams.

He recalls: “He (Adams) came in at Wycombe and replaced John Gorman, who was a great manager to work for. Tony Adams, in contrast, was one of the worst.

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“He had just come out of rehab at the time and was a bit strange round the place. Mind, I probably didn’t get off to the best start as I got sent off a day or so before he was appointed in bizarre circumstances.

“It happened after the final whistle (of a Football League Trophy game against Plymouth). I’d had a row with the linesman during the game and, as we came off, he said to me: ‘If you could keep up with play, you wouldn’t have given that foul away’.

“I looked at him as if to say, ‘What you going on about?’ But he kept on at me so I said, ‘Well, you’re hardly slim’. His reply was, ‘**** off you fat *******’.

“I called him it back and that was when the referee stepped in and showed me a red card, which was definitely the strangest sending off of my career.”

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Branston’s loan stint at Adams Park was terminated soon after, which paved the way a couple of months later for a move to Peterborough United – and a first meeting with Barry Fry.

He said: “Barry is totally off the wall, as I quickly found out when I signed (in 2004). It took place in the Peterborough office of Ladbrokes.

“His office was above the bookies and when I got there, he was nowhere to be seen. Being at a loose end, I wandered downstairs for a bet.

“Barry was there in the corner so I went over. He explained that Ladbrokes was his office and he then whipped out my contract.

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“So, there I am reading it – while a couple of punters are looking over my shoulder at the Racing Post on the wall. I read it right through and said, ‘This is wrong, Barry, I am due another £100 a week’.

“His reply was a classic. ‘It’s only f***** wrong if this horse doesn’t win’, he said. I asked what happened if it does win and he said: ‘You get what you want’.

“The horse won but it still wasn’t over as Barry said, ‘Forget that, it’s all on this dog race and whether yours wins or not’.

“I was nervous watching the race as, over the length of the contract, this was worth about £5,000. Thankfully, it won and I was jumping around the place.

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“Mind, even then, Barry tried to get me to double or quits, but I refused. Which was a bit daft as the horse won and I’d have got an extra £200 per week.”

After working for so many larger than life characters, it is perhaps not a surprise that Branston fancies a crack at management himself.

With that in mind, the Bantams captain has been studying for his coaching badges and will next summer take his UEFA A Licence.

As keen as he is to go into management, however, the 32-year-old is also at pains to stress that he has a few years left as a player. And one major ambition to fulfil.

“I want to be known as the captain who took Bradford out of the dark and into the light.”

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