‘Fan power’ is having a good season at Bradford City.
Having helped rid the League One club of former chairman Edin Rahic late last year, the Valley Parade faithful can now be credited with helping to extend Jack Payne’s stay on loan from Huddersfield Town.
“The fans had been asking me to stay a lot,” the 24-year-old told The Yorkshire Post at the end of a week in which he rebuffed interest from elsewhere to stay and fight relegation with the Bantams.
“I won a couple of ‘Man of the Matches’ recently. I went upstairs after the game and spoke to the fans personally. They were all saying, ‘Please stay’. It was the same over Twitter, asking me stay. That does make a difference.
“I am not sure the fans realise that. But I promise it does. I have always believed you need to be where you are most wanted – and I do feel really wanted here.”
Payne’s presence in the City side that will take on Southend United, coincidentally the club where it all began for the London-born playmaker, is a major boost for everyone at Valley Parade.
Not only is he Bradford’s top scorer with eight league goals this term but he is also the man who helps make things tick in attack for David Hopkin’s men.
His undoubted talent is why Sunderland, among others, are understood to have enquired over the potential availability in January of someone who already has three promotions to his name.
Payne, however, was keen to stick around in West Yorkshire after cutting short a loan spell at Oxford United this time last year to join Blackburn Rovers’ ultimately successful push for the Championship.
“I will never say I regret doing that,” added Payne when asked about a move to Ewood Park that saw him make 11 appearances from the bench for Rovers and just seven starts.
I have to say just how lovely it was to know people wanted me to stay here. The fans appreciating me is a great feeling, I am not going to lie about that.Jack Payne
“I had a great time at Blackburn and got promoted, playing quite a lot of football. But it does disrupt your season. There is only about four months in the second half of the season.
“You have to get to know a new manager, a new set of lads and a new club. You have to win those people over. It is not ideal to disrupt your season and that is one of the reasons I stayed.
“But I have to say just how lovely it was to know people wanted me to stay here. The fans appreciating me is a great feeling, I am not going to lie about that.
“You work hard and try your best. To know it is being recognised is a lovely feeling.”
Payne’s retention for the rest of the campaign did come at a cost for the Bantams, who had previously covered a little under half of his weekly wage with parent club Huddersfield paying the rest.
Now, City are resposible for a little over 90 per cent of Payne’s wage – a significant outlay made possible by Stefan Rupp, who struck a deal to remove Rahic from Valley Parade in early December following weeks of protests from fans over his fellow countryman’s running of the club.
With Rahic out of the way and Hopkin’s work on the training ground increasingly reflected in performances, Bradford have been on a decent run.
Last weekend may have brought a 3-0 loss at Barnsley and a return to the bottom four. But City’s survival hopes have been significantly boosted in recent weeks, not least by a four-game winning run on home soil in the league that Chris Powell’s Shrimps will be keen to end today.
“Southend are one of those teams we can pull in,” said Payne about a club where he scored 17 goals in 88 appearances after initially being made to wait for his chance by Phil Brown.
“December was really good in terms of us dragging a few others teams into it.”
Payne is out of contract at the Terriers in the summer but the Premier League club do have an option to trigger a further 12 months.
With relegation looking likely and the 24-year-old having featured in exactly half of Town’s games in the 2016-17 season that ended in promotion to the top flight, there is every chance he could be wanted once again at the John Smith’s Stadium.
“Huddersfield have not said too much,” he added. “They did recommend me to stay here (for the rest of the season) but, in terms of next season, I am not too sure.
“They have the option so we will just have to see what happens. For now, I just want to focus on Bradford. I am in good form, the team is in good form and I feel settled.”