Parkinson plots progress

Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson. Picture: James Hardisty.
Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson. Picture: James Hardisty.
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LATER this month, Phil Parkinson will reach his third anniversary as Bradford City manager.

Even in an age when some chairman seem to change the man at the helm as often as their socks, reaching such a landmark is not unduly notable.

In League One alone, for instance, Russell Slade, Karl Robinson, Dean Smith, Darren Ferguson and Micky Adams have all been in their respective roles for more than three years.

At Bradford City, however, such a long stint in the manager’s office is a rarity with Trevor Cherry, whose five-year tenure ended in January 1987, the last to make it as far as his third anniversary.

It is a statistic that underlines just how unstable the Bantams have been down the years. Even Paul Jewell and Chris Kamara – who along with Parkinson are the other managers to claim a promotion at Valley Parade since Cherry led the club out of Division Three in the season that ended with the fire disaster – failed to match the current incumbent’s record of service.

Parkinson, on hearing from The Yorkshire Post that he is already the club’s longest serving manager in almost three decades, reacts with genuine surprise before casting his mind back to August, 2011, and his arrival in Bradford.

“Where we are as a club compared to back then, we have to be pleased,” said Parkinson, who took over in the wake of Peter Jackson’s sacking with City having just one point from the opening four games.

“I think we have made good progress and are continuing to do so. By that, I mean all areas of the club and not just the team. Things are building slowly and there is a good feeling about the club.”

Parkinson’s first season was a struggle with the threat of relegation only being banished the following Easter.

His second, however, was the stuff of fantasy as Bradford made history by reaching the League Cup final and then clinching promotion via the play-offs. Last season, that run of progress under the 46-year-old was maintained as the Bantams finished 11th in League One.

“If I’m honest, it has been a bit of a roller-coaster,” says the City chief. “Even in the year we won promotion and got to the League Cup final, it was up and down at times.

“The main thing, though, is we got there. That season put Bradford back on the map. It reminded people that Bradford City were alive and kicking. People will still talk about that season and what the team achieved for many years to come.

“The main thing, though, is it got us out of the bottom division. The key now is to keep going forward at our own pace.

“Do we have the resources to compete with the bigger teams just yet? No. But we have a firm direction that the club is moving in and everything is being put in place to keep Bradford City progressing.

“There is a sustainable growth in the club now that has taken a lot of hard work from Julian, Mark and everyone here. That is key, as the only way to build something permanent is to do things properly.

“The youth department, the commercial side and the first-team squad, they all have to grow together and, to me, this club is in a good place.

“The right standards are being set throughout the club.”

Maintaining that upwards trajectory may, judging on last season’s results, well rest on whether Andrew Davies can remain fit.

In the 26 games where Davies was at the heart of the defence, City collected 47 of their 59 points. Without their dependable talisman, Bradford won one of 20 matches and lost nine.

Asked about Davies, who has missed large chunks of the last two campaigns with knee injuries, Parkinson replies: “Andrew is a good player and I see what you are saying about how different our results were last season with him in and out of the team.

“You can’t hide away from those results.

“But, equally, we didn’t do too bad without him the year before, did we?

“The plan is for Andrew to be fit all season. He has been working hard on that and so have the staff.

“There is no reason at all why he won’t do that.

“But this is football and, as each season proves, anything can happen. And if Andrew is out for whatever reason, we have to be strong enough to cope with that.”

As for whether League One will be as strong as last term, Parkinson replied: “It is difficult to gauge with any certainty. But, to me, League One looks like it will be massively competitive again.

“And maybe even more competitive than last year, when the two clubs with the biggest budget (Wolverhampton Wanderers and Brentford) ended up finishing first and second.

“This time around, I expect there will be more of a spread. As for ourselves, we have to be realistic.

“The budget has been cut this year, as part of the attempts to build the club up gradually.

“Sometimes, things have to be done like that every once in a while. But we are still hoping for a good season.”