NO ONE could accuse Gary Bowyer of having it easy in his eventful managerial career.
The 47-year-old, the latest new face in the dug-out at Bradford City, has been entrusted with an exacting – many would say daunting – 11-match brief of hauling the beleaguered Bantams out of the League One relegation zone after agreeing an initial deal for the rest of the season.
Bowyer becomes the club’s fourth permanent manager/head coach in the space of just 13 months.
It is just as well that he has worn the equivalent of a hard hat during his previous spells in charge at Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers – and earned his spurs in handling highly-pressurised situations at Bloomfield Road and Ewood Park that would have tested the most experienced manager.
Bowyer takes over a down-at-heel and listing Bantams squad who have resembled a disconsolate and demoralised lot in recent times and possess the classic hallmarks of a side heading for relegation, unless the situation changes in double-quick time.
Yet he spies genuine hope.
Bowyer, who will be assisted by Andy Todd, son of former Valley Parade chief Colin, said: “I am absolutely delighted to be here. This is a massive club and the opportunity to manage Bradford City does not come along that often. It was one I had to take.
“I have been ready to get back into management for a while, but it has been about getting the right opportunity. This is a fantastic one for myself and for Andy.”
Bradford are six points adrift of safety after Saturday’s grim 5-1 loss at Portsmouth with City having won just once in their past nine league outings.
This said Bowyer has been in more demanding situations in the past and it is that strong mentality that is likely to have propelled him to the forefront of the minds of the club’s hierarchy when deciding upon a replacement for David Hopkin following his shock resignation last week.
I have been ready to get back into management for a while, but it has been about getting the right opportunity. This is a fantastic one for myself and for Andy.Gary Bowyer
Bowyer’s time at Blackburn, where he managed full-time between May 2013 and November 2015 after two previous stints as caretaker, was played out amid a chaotic backdrop of an ongoing fans revolt against the club’s Indian owners Venky’s.
His two full seasons in charge of Rovers saw him lead the club to eighth- and ninth-placed finishes, which were complemented by a run to the last eight of the FA Cup and big profits on the likes of Tom Cairney and Shane Duffy.
Other leading players such as Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes were sold to help the cash-hit club make ends meet, with Bowyer forced to work latterly under a transfer embargo after Rovers failed to meet Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
The contribution of Bowyer, sacked in November, 2015, was not forgotten by Rovers supporters, who gave him a warm ovation during a pre-season friendly at Blackpool in the summer of 2016.
His tenure at his last club Pool, in even more trying circumstances from June, 2016 to August, 2018, is something that will also command supporters’ respect.
Dysfunctionality prevailed, with ongoing protests staged against the Oyston family – the club’s reviled owners – and off-the-field issues, including court battles, assuming much notoriety.
It was to Bowyer’s immense credit that he secured promotion to the third tier with the Seasiders last term – in a 2017-18 season that saw many supporters stay away in protest at the continued presence of the Oystons and Bowyer forced to operate within crippling financial parameters.
Ultimately, but perhaps understandably, the strain eventually told upon Bowyer – whose two predecessors had described the job as an impossible one – when he resigned just one game into the 2018-19 season.
A measure of what he had to contend with arrived with the fact that he had paid for temporary training accommodation out of his own pocket, with Pool’s own training base being unusable.
Bowyer has inherited a stricken situation, on the pitch at least in his new role, but no one can say that he will be ill-prepared.
The former Rotherham United player said: “We are totally aware of the challenge that lies ahead, but if I did not believe we could get out of this I would not be here.
“That is the most important thing. We have belief in the players and we are going to work very hard from now until the end of the season and concentrate on the games we have left.”
The fixture list will afford Bowyer few favours in his first few weeks, but successive home games – albeit difficult ones – against play-off chasing Peterborough United and leaders Luton Town is something that the Lancastrian views as a positive.
He added: “I remember coming here with Blackpool a couple of years back. It was the start of the season and the place was rocking.
“I speak to people that have managed here that know the supporters. They have said what a good club this is and good fanbase and what an impact the crowd can have on the team when they get behind them.”