The Michael Wood Column

Sunday 4 May, 2003

The new era: We just gave it a name

"It was right in everyone's face. Tyler and I just made it visible. It was on the tip of everyone's tounge. Tyler and I just gave it a name."
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

After 100 years of football something happend at Valley Parade. It happened on the 1st of Febuary in fact, at around twenty past four in the afternoon.

It was Danny Forrest's debut goal and make no mistake about it, it started something.

Tom Kearney was in place but injured. We had had Lewis Emanuel in the starting eleven at City and were all surprised by the development of Simon Francis. We had had the likes of Andy O'Brien, Dean Richards, Des Hamilton and Graeme Tomlinson go through the club in recent years but at the start of February 2003, with Forrest's goal, something changed at Bradford City, something that kick started a new era for the club.

Danny Forrest crystallised Francis and Emanuel from being some good young players into being a movement, a trend, a way forward. Nicky Law, Julian Rhodes and Gordon Gibb had already identified that the club needed to start finding it's own talent and brought in the men to do it but with Forrest's goal the attitude that City fans had to this project changed.

For the first time in my memory, City fan's believed in young players. Three months on from Forrest's debut and people are itching for Nicky Law to introduce the likes of Tom Penford, Kevin Sanasy, Jake Wright and Daniel Ekoku because in every young pair of legs there could be a Danny Forrest goal against Walsall. Every debut could be Simon Francis at Nottingham Forest and every youngster has a Lewis Emanuel vs Crystal Palace in them.

Seven senior professionals will be leaving the club next season to be replaced by kids and no one blinks. Imagine if Terry Dolan had announced his replacement for Stuart McCall as Lee Duxbury not Ian Banks. This is how much we have changed.

Senior professionals at the club are judged not only on their game but how and what they will teach the youngsters around them. Peter Atherton can come back when he wants but Gus Ulhenbeek is not welcome, who would you rather Simon Francis learned his right back trade from?

Chris Dowhan has step up a scouting network some ninety man strong with the remit to pick up the players discarded after their youth contracts come to an end.

Sure for every Simon Francis we sign we end up with a Mark Danks but for every Dean Windass or Lee Mills we paid over 1m for we ended up with a David Hopkin or a Dan Petrescu. The stakes are lower but the rewards greater. Nottingham Forest sold Jermanin Jenas for 5m to Newcastle United and should Michael Dawson join a big club in the summer they will be looking at seven figures again. Who would City sell Simon Francis for anything less than we bought Dan Petrescu for? We are financially secure and not in dire need of cash now. We can develop these lads and when the time comes sell them on to top clubs like Crewe did with Danny Murphy to Liverpool.

At BfB we have a chuckle at Nicky Law almost signing Adrian Littlejohn and not playing Danny Forrest at the start of February but Law was not to know the impact that Forrest's debut would have. Not even those who pushed for his inclusion could have seen the turn around the attitudes to the kids that has happened.

Back in August 2002 I asked What kind of Bradford City do you want anyway? concluding that we as fans liked to watch our kids go on to better things as O'Brien most recently did for Newcastle United and that the likes Eoin Jess, in the twilight of their careers playing for the final pay cheque were not really our thing anymore, those pay cheques having nearly cost us the club. It was an attitude that seemed to be growing amongst City fans. It was on the tip of everyone's tongue...

On that day Danny Forrest gave it a name and nothing should ever be the same at City again.

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