PHIL PARKINSON’S reign as Bradford City manager may be coming to an end, but the memories will never fade.
Stamford Bridge, Villa Park and Wembley will endure for generations. So, too, will the glorious nights when Arsenal and Aston Villa were humbled at Valley Parade en route to City reaching the League Cup final.
However, as Parkinson and his entire coaching staff today prepare for a new challenge at Bolton Wanderers, perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid the 48-year-old is just how far he has taken the club in 1,746 days at the helm.
City were, quite frankly, a mess when he was appointed late in August, 2011. Four years in the basement division had taken its toll and the initial meeting between prospective manager and board at Harrogate‘s Rudding Park saw Parkinson informed his sole target come May was Football League survival.
If he could manage that, Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes were at pains to stress, the future would be much rosier due to an anticipated improvement in the club’s finances, thanks in part to transfers such as those that had taken youngsters Tom Cleverley and George Green to Premier League clubs.
City, despite a few wobbles along the way, did stay up in 2012 and Parkinson quickly set about the task of rebuilding.
A year later, Bradford were back in the third tier via a play-off triumph. City were also the talk of the nation after making history as the first club from the bottom tier to reach a major Wembley Cup final.
It was an incredible turnaround and one that finally drew a line under more than a decade of depressing decline as the Bantams slid from the Premier League to the brink of extinction, a fate that Rhodes has since admitted would have been likely had the club been unable to avoid relegation from the Football League.
City have continued to make strides under Parkinson during the past three years, albeit at a slower pace than during that first full season. League positions of 11th, seventh and fifth are testament to that.
The cups, however, once again propelled Bradford on to the global stage in 2014-15 courtesy of ‘that’ win over Chelsea and the subsequent victory over Sunderland. Knocking Leeds United out of the Capital One Cup – in the process claiming a first home win over their neighbours in almost three decades – was also a night fans will never forget.
Now, of course, there will be no more of those glory days. At least not under Parkinson, who is today expected to finalise his move across the Pennines.
He will be joined at Bolton by assistant Steve Parkin, fitness coach Nick Allamby, goalkeeping coach Lee Butler and chief scout Tim Breacker.
Wanderers do seem a strange choice. Despite the recent takeover, cash is still believed to be scarce at the Macron. A compensation figure has been agreed for Parkinson and his staff but The Yorkshire Post understands this is nowhere near the £200,000 figure that had been touted earlier this week.
Add to that just how badly the Lancashire club fared in last season’s Championship – they finished 19 points adrift of safety – and Parkinson is clearly taking on a big challenge.
Mind, City’s new German owners are now facing the same. Letting such a respected manager leave is a big risk. Much now rests on what happens next, as both Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp will be very much judged on who succeeds Parkinson with Uwe Rosler, Steve Cotterill and Nigel Adkins already having been linked.
Get the appointment right and the Bantams can next season continue their recent upwards trajectory. Get it wrong, however, and fans will be quick to point out the folly of not fighting harder to keep hold of the third longest serving manager in the club’s history. As ever, the stakes are high at Valley Parade.