Clayton Donaldson finally makes it back home to Bradford City

FOR Manningham lad Clayton Donaldson, the claret-and-amber of Bradford City has always coursed through his veins.

Clayton Donaldson, in action for Bolton Wanderagainst former Sheffield United team-mate, Jack O'Connell in February this year. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

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Having attended the former Manningham Middle School, just a goal-kick away from Valley Parade, dreams of donning the famous jersey were never far away for the striker – but sometimes, you must wait that bit longer for your dream to come true.

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Rejected by City at the age of 16, when his boyhood hopes were shattered, Donaldson has finally achieved a lifelong ambition in joining his home-town club.

Heading home: Bradford City signing Clayton Donaldson, left.

Should he line up for the Bantams in their League Two curtain-riser against visiting Cambridge United on August 3, there will be no prouder Bradfordian.

Now 35 and at his 12th club, but still with plenty to offer in his words, Donaldson told The Yorkshire Post: “To be actually be able to walk out there and be living that dream will be emotional.

“It was always my aim to play for City, really. I am a Manningham boy and it was one of my dreams. I went to Manningham Middle, the school that was opposite the stadium. It has closed down now, while my primary school was Green Lane, which is just up the road.

“I lived just off Green Lane as well and every time City were playing, I was able to hear them from my house.

Clayton Donaldson salutes the Sheffield United fans after an away game at Ipswich Town last year. Picture: Robin Parker/Sportimage

“We used to sneak down to the stadium and try and sneak in, which we did a few times. I think it is safe to say that now as that was so many years ago!”

He added: “I have always kept an eye on City and it (joining) was always in the back of my mind.

“They came forward in pre-season in the last three years and it was not really the right time for me to make that move.

“But at this time now – even though I did have options and opportunities in the higher leagues – I just felt that I did not want to leave it too late.

Clayton Donaldson, pictured during his York City days. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

“I have still got a good few years left in me and did not want to leave it to where they were wheeling me out. I felt this was a perfect time to sign and help City turn things around from last season.”

Donaldson, who has signed an initial one-year deal, has many joyous memories growing up from watching his boyhood club, with the aim now being to help inspire a successful new chapter in the renaissance of the Bantams.

Despite City’s fall from grace over the past 18 months, there remains a kernel of hope that things may just be ripe for changing, with Donaldson certainly not short of a few well-wishers willing him on to play his part in the club rising again.

He said: “My phone has not stopped ringing since I signed.

“My friends and family have followed my career, but I have not really been able to get to many (City) games as I have played here, there and everywhere. So for me to be back on their doorstep and them to see me in games is good.

“I remember watching City when I was younger. Dean Windass did well and Stuart McCall was the main one, really.

“He was a great leader and captain and I always remember when he fell off the car as well (promotion celebrations), which was an iconic moment. Then there were the likes of Benito Carbone when the club were in the Premier League. Des Hamilton was a friend of the family, so I always kept an eye on him as well.”

Family and friends may have constantly cajoled Donaldson to head to Bradford over the years, but a bonafide City legend in Phil Parkinson has also done his bit to help convince Donaldson to make the move at this juncture.

The opinion of Parkinson, whom he worked with at last club Bolton Wanderers, has always been valued and his support staff also relayed the message that a switch to Bradford at this stage of his career made perfect sense.

Donaldson added: “He (Parkinson) was always asking me: ‘Would you ever go back?’ and I have said: ‘yes, of course.’ I think Gary (Bowyer) spoke to him a few times as well and there are all the staff at Bolton as well such as Parks (Steve Parkin), Matt (Barrass), (Lee) Butler and the fitness coach Nick Allamby. They have always spoken highly of Bradford and they made it easier.”

After suffering amid all manner of off-the-pitch vicissitudes at crisis club Bolton last term, Donaldson is hopeful for calmer waters at City in the forthcoming campaign.

He added: “Last season was mad, absolutely crazy. You would not believe some of the stuff we had to put up and cope with. It made life a lot harder and you saw that on the pitch. But off the pitch, the antics really took a toll on the players towards the end.

“I would not like to wish it upon anyone to go through that situation.

“Players have had to be very strong mentally and it is not nice when you just want to go out and play football with a free mind.

“It was definitely a season to try and put to bed and forget about.”