The Michael Wood Column

10th of August, 2000

Benito walks into Us and Them

Benito Carbone is a softly spoken guy and to be honest half way back in the Bantams Bar we couldn't hear a word he said. We clapped anyway. This was not just about greeting Beni. This was us v them.

"Us" being City fans, "them" the press. Assembled here with pins to pop bubbles and a list of questions as long as your arm about grievances past at other clubs. One man snapped "Sack Sheffield Wednesday. He plays for us now.". "Go back to London and write what the fuck you want" came another call. No wonder the press wanted this to be a closed conference, no wonder chairman Geoffrey Richmond opened it to fans. 200 in Claret and Amber were his chorus. Saying what he could only think.

Trouble was brewing and boiled over when Richmond and The Daily Express's Matthew Dunn clashed on the pitch. Richmond asserting that Dunn wrote unfair articles about the club that the business man had picked up, dusted down and built into one of the top twenty in the country.

Part of the problem, perhaps all of the problem, is that while many people on the surface pay lip service to the Bantams there is a deep seated feeling about the club that will not go away and governs the coverage the club gets. Not exclusively but in a very real sense coverage of Bradford City is tinted with envy.

Not the Manchetser United European Cup envy or even the Huddersfield glory days envy but it is there. Why shouldn't it be? It is half a decade ago when City rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bristol City and Bournmouth. We have shot past Wolves and Birmingham City. It is only natural that they should ask why them not us? City are the guy in the Jag pulling into the pit village and being asked when his numbers came up? "They didn't. It was all just hard work" said the guy, a prelude to a key down the side of the drivers door.

From the other side of the fence we have our illustrious peers in the Premiership. They all claim to dislike us, the supporters that is, but even this is more envy. It is telling that our two games with Leicester were back slapping affairs between the supporters while ties at Sunderland and Boro were less friendly in nature.

That man in the stands has seen football and footballers change beyond recognition of late. His terrace is a seat in a super complex. His captain a guy from a country he would have trouble placing on a map and his kid has a photo on his wall of a guy he suspects would leave his club, passion and all, for a sniff of an extra grand a week. It hardly matters because he feels that the passion from the terrace has had its day. He claps every goal as politely as a the fat lady singing. He sees this and tells himself this is how it must be. The price of success. Then comes Bradford City.

We play in a ground that is lopsided at best, a proper football ground with an atmosphere that has survived all seating better than most. Our captain joined the club twenty years ago and one suspects would play for nothing if the club needed him to. He is one of us and has been through the worst with us. Our star players have names like Dean and David (and now Benito but you see what the point is) and every goal, and perhaps there are not to many, is greeted like the missing penalty in a shoot out with Germany. All this done for a price that sees the best seat in the house at a shade over £300.

Envy? You must wake up at night screaming.

Perhaps I overstate the point but is is enough to say that all the characteristics that people would like to see in the game are at Bradford City and not East of Pudsey or in North London and that is hard to take. Hell we have trouble with it most of the time so for you it must being like waking up in a unknown country.

We had some trouble with it yesterday. Benito Carbone signs and all the Wigan's and Boltons we used to rub shoulders with sharpen there knives and ink their pens with poison and the newspapers help them because there is no news like bad news and calamity is much easier to read.

As for the little Italian. He may turn per shaped or go belly up in the say way John McGinlay or Rob Steiner did but it will not be for the lack of support from the fans. He commented "Supporters love me", he is right. It is us v them and always has been. He is with us now.

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