The Michael Wood Column

26th April 2001

Why it is worth missing Bradford City in the Premiership

After taking his Manchester City team into the top flight Joe Royle famously said "Manchester City need the Premiership and The Premiership needs Manchester City".

While the validity of Royle's comments will be tested as the blues look set to exit stage down after just one season, the spirit behind them is worth examining in this weekend where Bradford City must beat Everton or find ourselves returned to the Nationwide.

Manchester City are a big club TM, no doubting that, and the Premiership is at heart a scheme to make more money for more people so in one sense those die hard's at Maine Road are the very necessity of top flight football. Viciously ardent in loyalty, never requiring anything more than the chance to look downwards at more than they see up. No trophies are required, no European finishes. If Manchester United are the commander, Liverpool and Arsenal the generals then Man City are foot soldiers, standard issue foot soldiers at that. For Mancester City in the paragraph you could read Newcastle United, Everton or Spurs and probably a couple of others.

Not Bradford City though. We were never foot soldiers.

The posh papers dubbed us "The unacceptable face of the Premiership" back in August 1999. The midmarket tabloids revelled in our demise, never sure what to make of the blatantly otherness that City represented in the top flight. The red top's loved us when we won, laughed when we lost. No complaints there, they act the same way towards Manchester United.

So not foot soldiers, perhaps canon fodder? Certainly we took the shots square on from journalists and fans who went to Old Trafford or Highbury one week and then came to VP for a roughing up the next. Shots directed after our six week affair with a man called Stan, or when we got too big for our boots and signed Beni or when we went into Europe and got as far as Villa. Perhaps our crime, the reason that when the (R) appears next to the words Bradford City on teletext that few outside of this City will shed anything approaching a tear, is that we dared to get above our station.

Clubs like City are not welcome in the upper echelons. Sure Ipswich are welcome but any club that has a European trophy in its cabinet was never really a small club, just one slumming it for too long. Charlton and now Fulham are always welcome cause of "that London thing". Anyone who falls outside those criteria: Big club coming home or London club with deep pocketed fans, can forget being welcomed into the Premiership. If you are not box office, you are not worth having.

City are not box office. Bury are not box office. Wigan and Hull City are not box office. Does this mean we should aspire for less, just because we can not tempt people in Penzance to part with £5 pay per view?

So, for a while, City stood up and took a few blows for fans of clubs without a list of honours and by sticking in the top flight when we were 12 months overdue a return to lower league football we signalled to all the unacceptable faces of football that you can, if you want, upset the apple cart. It's worth remembering when Liverpool walk out in the UEFA cup final that they are only there on not in the Champions League because we, shoddy, unfashionable, not box office and unacceptable Bradford City, put them in that competition. The script said that we went quietly back to play our football and not bother Premiership people and we said no

We said "lets get a bit of life into this Premiership game". We tried to shake a few things up, we stole a few headlines, hopefully made a noise that could be heard down the leagues. We hope we never forgot our roots despite the temptations and for a time we made the Premiership just a little less of a procession and a WWF style event designed to be repackaged and sent out with a Hollywood ending and happy outcome for the majority of the viewers.

For a while, we made thinks a little bit more interesting in the Premiership.

And they never said thanks.

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