Bowling for Bradford

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I suspect many readers of this column may be familiar with the app called Timehop. Essentially it trawls through your social media accounts and tells you exactly what you were talking about one, two or even ten years ago.

I occasionally find the use of it a bit tedious, like the perverse way our own fans use it to remind us of the day we lost 9-1. It’s also a scary reminder of how quick time passes and how life accelerates like a cheetah trying to catch a bus.

This week, it gave me a stark reminder that it was a year to the day since we lost one of our finest ever players. He only played for the club for a short time but Robert McFaul Campbell captured the fans’ imagination, was a real character and no slouch as a footballer either.

The type of player sadly gone forever from the game. Yet he will never be forgotten by those who saw him play. He was the player adored by those of us too young to have seen Harry Lyon play.

Big Bobby was revered even more so amongst the supporters of Saturday’s opponents, Bradford City, and that is one of a number of reasons I have a soft spot for the Bantams. I have been involved with fanzines for over 25 years now and back in the pre-internet days, I used to religiously read the Bradford fanzine, the City Gent. Back in the day, it was simply the best around, and I believe it is still going.

It sounds daft but I like the kit as well: blues, reds and whites are two a penny but that distinctive claret and amber stripes is striking, without ever being garish. Of course, we also have the connection of Paul Jewell, as player and manager, enabling the sort of Premier League dream we could never have believed possible.

If you want a final reason to like them, then they have developed something of a reciprocal dislike of Bolton these days too, due to them poaching Phil Parkinson and the inevitable ensuing “our club is bigger than your club” arguments. Yet, Bantams’ fans seem a lot happier to be free from the shackles of Parkinson’s defensive style and are playing some good stuff now.

There’s no room for sentiment on Saturday however. They are undoubtedly one of the biggest clubs in this division and they will be backed by a large travelling support.

From our perspective, if there’s one negative to this season so far, it’s that we have not put our promotion rivals to the sword. We have been highly adept at skittling over the lower order but failed to bowl out the big hitters near the top of the table.

If we can now redress this by beating Bradford, it’s a great opportunity to put distance between ourselves and the chasing pack. In contrast, City will see it as an opportunity to close the gap, and Charlton are also coming up fast with games in hand too.

So it is a huge game, one for the fans to savour and I hope we have used the two week break wisely to gear ourselves up for it. Perhaps it’s sentiment talking again, but speaking to Bradford fans, they certainly have a feeling that this could be their year. If (and it’s still a big if) Shrewsbury were to fall away, then I’d be perfectly happy to see them get promoted, but preferably as runners up behind us. That’s not much to ask for is it?


Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 17th November 2017

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