The announcement that Bradford City are staying at Valley Parade following the owners successfully pulling off a deal to buy the office block that stands adjacent to the ground means concerned fans are this week able to breathe that little bit easier.
At a stroke, the seven-figure purchase of the block means the Bantams, now free from the burdensome £370,000 annual rent that had led to joint chairmen Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes seriously contemplating a move to Odsal, can start planning for the future.
Season tickets will go back on sale next week, meaning the cashflow problems that led to the club’s higher-paid players receiving their wages late in April will ease. Creditors, including Bradford Council who just an hour or so after news of the office block deal broke were in touch with Rhodes to ask when the club would be settling their outstanding business rates bill, will no doubt welcome that news.
In football terms, securing a future at Valley Parade meant City were able to end the uncertainty surrounding the manager’s position by appointing Peter Jackson on a one-year deal.
That, in turn, should help provide assurances to any intended transfer targets that a move to Bradford may well be in their interests after all. It may also prevent predatory clubs coming in to pinch the likes of David Syers and Luke O’Brien, two of only a handful of players who can look back on last season with any kind of fondness.
Above all, though, the deal that has effectively kept Bradford at their home of more than a century means the club, staff and supporters can look forward with at least a modicum of optimism after a worrying few weeks.
Not, of course, that City are completely out of the woods yet. Four years and counting in League Two mean the finances are not exactly glowing, even allowing for the rent reduction that is coming the club’s way in light of the latest business venture involving Messrs Lawn, Rhodes and Rhodes.
Escaping the basement division – and not in the negative way that seemed most likely last term – is, therefore, a necessity due to the increased money that comes in from television, sponsorship and the like as a member of League One.
It means, of course, that the onus is now on Jackson. He knows that and is ready to embrace the challenge, not least as his CV already boasts one promotion from what was effectively a standing start at this level.
That came in 2003 when in charge of Huddersfield Town, who when Jackson took his first training session that summer had just eight players contracted to the club.
Jackson was helped in that season by Town’s flourishing Academy, the side that triumphed over Mansfield Town in the Division Three play-off final nine months after such an inauspicious start to pre-season containing no less than five players who had come through the youth set-up.
The 50-year-old will not enjoy such a luxury at Bradford, even though he publicly praised a number of the club’s promising youngsters during the final few weeks of last season. But what he has now got is a full summer to stamp his own mark on the Bantams.
Jackson’s budget also will not be the biggest in League Two as that accolade will belong to newly-promoted Crawley Town. But it will, in the words of joint chairman Rhodes, be “competitive” at around the £1m mark – down around £350,000 on the season that has just ended.
That means a busy summer of wheeling and dealing in the free transfer market for Bradford-born Jackson.
In that respect, several feelers had already been put out before the board had made their mind up. Crewe Alexandra’s Bradford-born striker Clayton Donaldson, last season’s Golden Boot winner in League Two with 28 goals, is just one of many to be spoken to by the Bantams, though according to Dario Gradi, Crawley remain favourites to bag the 27-year-old.
Whether Bradford do manage to sign Donaldson or not, what the return of a sense of stability to Valley Parade does is to at least make a move to West Yorkshire seem much more attractive.
Part of the lure for prospective signings will, no doubt, be the chance to play in front of crowds that all but a few of the 48 League One and Two clubs will look at with envy.
Whether the average attendance remains above 10,000 for the fifth consecutive season does, though, depend on how the second sale of cut-price season tickets goes when released next week.
Around 6,000 were sold before Christmas and, bearing in mind how poor the fare has been at Valley Parade over the past nine months, many supporters can be forgiven for believing there are better ways to while away Saturday afternoons during the winter months.
If that does prove to be the case then City will next year surely be left with no option but to abandon the current cut-price deal – last Christmas, 2011-12 season tickets were put on sale for £150 – due to simple economics.
That might be bad news for supporters, especially in these cash-strapped times.
But, in terms of the club’s future prospects, a price rise is likely to bring in more income at the gate, which in the past season has fallen by around 20 per cent.
Such a scenario is, of course, for the future.
If Jackson can inspire an on-field revival during the coming 12 months, fans are likely to be much more receptive to signing up for an entire campaign – and especially if League One football is on offer.
Only time will tell us if that is achievable. But, following the events of the last 48 hours, at least Jackson and City will be trying to reverse a decade-long slide from the Premier League to the lower reaches of English football’s fourth tier amid a much-needed atmosphere of stability.