Bradford v Barnsley: Valley Parade title celebrations provide spur for Clarke

AS the Bristol City squad celebrated on the Valley Parade turf after clinching promotion 10 days ago, Bradford City’s Billy Clarke admits to having looked enviously in their direction.

Bradford City's Billy Clarke (Picture: Andrew Roe).

Steve Cotterill’s men had just thrashed the Bantams 6-0 to clinch automatic promotion to the Championship with four games remaining.

Clarke, while admitting the Bristolians deserved their success after a fine campaign, did not enjoy the sight of another team celebrating on Bradford soil and believes the scenes can act as a huge motivation next term.

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“We don’t want the opposition celebrating on our pitch like Bristol City did not so long ago,” the 27-year-old, City’s top scorer this term with 13 goals, told The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s derby encounter at home to Barnsley.

“I didn’t like that. That isn’t anything against Bristol City, they have had a great season and deserve their success.

“But, for me personally, it was a bit of a wake-up call. We want to be where they are right now. At the moment, I do feel we are a little bit off that.

“Bristol City are the best team by a mile. But, in terms of Preston and MK Dons (second and third, respectively), we have beaten them both, but not had the consistency to do what they have done over the season.

“We need to find a consistent level in our performances and I am sure we won’t be too far away.”

A season that will live long in the memory for Bradford thanks to famous FA Cup triumphs over Chelsea and Sunderland could yet finish with Phil Parkinson’s side claiming their highest finish since being relegated to the third tier 11 years ago.

To do so, Bradford will have to improve on the 11th-place finish that was claimed in 2004-05, 2005-06 and last term.

With just two points separating Fleetwood Town in eighth and Doncaster Rovers in 13th, Parkinson’s men will fancy their chances of at least maintaining the club’s current standing of 10th.

A victory at home to Barnsley today would help, with Clarke admitting the Bantams’ faithful deserve to see their side sign off at home with all three points.

“We want to go out on a high at Valley Parade,” he said. “I have played in games this season where the atmosphere has been incredible. Leeds at home (in the Capital One Cup) was one, as was Chelsea away.

“I thought it might be hard to beat those two, but then Sunderland came along and that was incredible, even better than the Leeds match.

“The thing that really stands out for me, though, is that when we went to Rochdale, we had more fans in the stadium than they did, and we were the away team. I found that brilliant. It was something I have never had in my career before.”

Clarke’s tally of 13 goals puts him two ahead of James Hanson in the Bradford scoring charts.

It is not quite his best return, Clarke having netted 14 times for Crawley Town a couple of years ago and 18 in 2008-09 when he played for Brentford, Northampton Town and Darlington.

Nevertheless, the free transfer arrival of last summer admits to being pleased with his own progress.

“This season has been good and I have enjoyed it,” he added. “There have been so many high pressure games that have put us in the spotlight. Our main objective was to get in the play-offs and we haven’t managed to do it.

“But we can take so many positives out of the season and use that to ensure we hit the ground running next season.”

Today will see Bradford stage their annual remembrance service for the fire disaster that claimed 56 lives in 1985.

A minute’s silence will be held, while Barnsley will lay a wreath of 56 white roses ahead of the game. A fundraising walk from Oakwell to Valley Parade, including chief executive Ben Mansford, to raise funds for the Burns Unit is also taking place.

Manager Lee Johnson said: “I think it is an emotional game for football, with the disaster and events of that day. Hopefully, it will be fitting and a nice day for everyone and there will be some compassion from both teams’ sets of fans.

“There is not an awful lot on it apart from personal and professional pride. It will be a nice day to pull together as a football community.”