Julian Rhodes confident of turning Bradford City’s fortunes around

JULIAN RHODES is tired and his body aches.

ON THE UP: Bradford City's Valley Parade. Picture: Tony Johnson

A rational explanation for such fatigue would be the demands he has faced running Bradford City for the past three months, and especially juggling with a financial deficit for the season that is edging towards £2m.

Instead Rhodes has been playing 11-a-side football for the first time in 15 years.

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Sunday afternoon was spent turning out for Ilkley Town Super Veterans in an over-50s match and the man entrusted with turning around the Bantams’ off-field fortunes by owner Stefan Rupp sits down with The Yorkshire Post 24 hours later clearly still feeling the after-effects of his first full 90 minutes of the season.

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“We drew 4-4 with York Corinthians,” he says with a smile that borders on a grimace. “At our age no one wants to defend so there can be some big scores.”

For the record, Rhodes does not reach his own half-century until next month so only qualifies as one of two under-age players.

What he most definitely does fit the criteria to do, however, is steer his beloved Bradford City through troubled waters.

Without the businessman’s sterling efforts in the early Noughties it is highly unlikely Bradford would still boast a Football League club.

Bradford City's Julian Rhodes.

This experience is why Rupp turned to Rhodes late last year in an attempt to rescue a club that had lost their way horribly under previous chairman Edin Rahic.

Today is three months to the day since the 49-year-old answered that SOS call from the German and walked back into Valley Parade as interim chief executive.

“It feels a lot longer than that,” says Rhodes when reminded of his Bonfire Night return. “There has been so much to do, particularly at the start when we had to get things back on an even keel quickly.

“Getting to the bottom of what had gone on was crucial and, in particular, establishing just what the finances were like. Only then could we start to plan a way through the problems the club had.

Stefan Rupp, with former co-owner Edin Rahic. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

“I suggested to Stefan when I came back in that we were looking at a shortfall of £1.5m. Now it is looking like somewhere between £1.8m and £1.9m. Maybe even pushing £2m at a stretch.”

Rupp, as the club’s majority shareholder, has pledged to cover that deficit. Such support, Rhodes says, has been vital, especially during a January window that saw the Bantams bring in Jacob Butterfield and Billy Clarke on deadline day to bolster a squad that had already welcomed Calum Woods, Jermaine Anderson and Paudie O’Connor.

Rhodes, brought in to run City until the end of the season, added: “Bearing in mind where the finances are at the ambition in January had to be to somehow strengthen the squad without making the deficit even bigger.

“I do not want to be disrespectful to the players who have left or gone out on loan, but I feel we have achieved that. We moved players out to make a decent saving and brought in players at very good value.”

Clarke’s return to Valley Parade is an example of the wheeling and dealing that has boosted City’s survival prospects.

The 31-year-old was desperate to rejoin the club he had left for Charlton Athletic in the summer of 2017, but the sums simply did not add up.

An opportunity suddenly appeared, however, courtesy of Barnsley’s deadline-day move to buy George Miller, who is on loan for the season at City from Middlesbrough.

The Yorkshire Post understands a clause was inserted in last summer’s deal that would have seen the Bantams pay Boro £50,000 if the striker failed to start a certain percentage of games.

Bradford had resigned themselves to having to pay up next summer, but Miller’s sale to Barnsley made the penalty clause redundant. The saved money was quickly recycled into City’s deadline-day dealings.

“I did not really know Stefan that well before I came back because Edin was driving the club,” adds Rhodes, who is expected to reveal details of the club’s new cut-price season-ticket offer in the coming few days. “But Stefan has turned out to be a really good bloke. Very honourable and humble.

“He is determined to right what has gone wrong at the club. This includes covering the deficit for this season before, hopefully, getting back towards being self-sufficient next year.

“Unfortunately Stefan has not been able to be at as many games as he had hoped lately, but he remains fully committed to Bradford City.”