DAVID HOPKIN admits returning to Bradford City has felt like “coming back home”.
The 48-year-old Scot spent four years in West Yorkshire at, first, Leeds United and then Valley Parade around the turn of the Millennium.
His stay at City, where he remains the club’s record transfer 18 years on from his £2.5m move, was curtailed by a serious ankle injury and he only made 16 appearances.
Despite that, Hopkin retained an affection for the club and area that made last week’s return feel like a natural step.
“It is fantastic to be back,” said the former Scotland international, whose first game as head coach ended in a dramatic 3-2 defeat at Blackpool. “It feels comfortable. I have still got a house in York and we visit regularly.
“Coming back here just feels like coming back home. We have got a real affinity with the area because we lived here and also played at Leeds as well as Bradford.
“Yorkshire people are just very similar to Scottish people.
“They demand high standards. They are working all week and need to be coming here knowing they will see something on the park.
“It has always been about heart and passion and, hopefully, I can install that into the team. Make sure we all go home on a Saturday happy because that is the main thing. If we can build something here, then we can take it forward.”
Where Hopkin’s first arrival in Bradford in 2000 came amid huge optimism as the club embarked on an ambitious spending spree, this time around the atmosphere is markedly different.
City are in a rut, on and off the pitch. Supporters are growing increasingly disillusioned with how the club is being run by owners, Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp.
Despite that, more than 1,800 made the trip to the seaside last Saturday for Hopkin’s bow as head coach and he is determined to repay that support by turning things around.
“It is my job to make sure that everyone is together,” he added. “If it is not right on the pitch then the fans get on to me. Then they go on to the owners and, ultimately, the head coach or manager goes.
“My job is to make sure it functions on the pitch, to make sure the fans are behind us. Which they will be. Then, we just need to keep going and turn this place into a fortress.
It has always been about heart and passion and, hopefully, I can install that into the team. Make sure we all go home on a Saturday happy because that is the main thing.Bradford City head coach, David Hopkin
“When I came here and played against Bradford, you knew you were coming to a very tough game. That is what we have got to get back to.”
Hopkin’s first week at the helm brought a crash course in just why City have struggled this term. Not only did the Bantams collapse to concede three goals in the final eight minutes to lose at Bloomfield Road but his squad looks paper thin following injuries to Hope Akpan, Adam Chicksen and captain Josh Wright.
On what makes him tick as a coach, Hopkin said: “It is having a clear vision how to coach. I have been coaching for the last 10-11 years consistently. I started at a junior level, which is like non-League, and had success there, won leagues and cups.
“Then I moved on to Morton, they asked me to start up the youth development.
“I was successful bringing through young players. They didn’t have a young player playing for them, then within 18 months they had nine to ten boys who had made their debut. Five or six are still playing in the Championship in Scotland.”