One of the biggest clubs in the league, Bradford City boast a rich history and loyal fan base, who show up in their numbers both home and away.They have had a bit to cheer about in recent years, reaching a League Cup final and going up via the League Two play-offs both in 2012.
That famous League Cup final appearance came after the well-publicised run which saw them beat Arsenal and Aston Villa on route to the Wembley final, where they lost to Swansea. Some thought it may have affected their chances in the league but they still went on to beat Northampton in the League Two play-off final in another Wembley appearance.
The Bantams were flying high in the Premier League as recently as 2001, as Paul Jewell guided them to the top flight for the first time in 77 years. The financial gamble of the big time took its toll and the club were plunged into financial struggles.
The West Yorkshire club play their home matches at Valley Parade, now known as the Coral Windows Stadium, where they have been for 111 years. It has undergone renovation over the years, especially since the infamous Bradford fire, which took the lives of 56 fans.
The ground holds just over 25,000 fans and last season they averaged around 14,000 and reached a season high of 18,218 for their Yorkshire derby with Rotherham.
Manager: Phil Parkinson
After being dismissed by Charlton in 2011, Phil Parkinson has re-established himself as a manager with City, attracting the interest of Championship clubs, but he has repaid the faith shown by the Bantams.
A former midfield man, the 6ft Chorley-born Parkinson came through the ranks at Southampton, where he failed to make an appearance before Bury purchased him for £12,000. He made 169 appearances for the Shakers, before joining Reading for £37,500 in 1992. His playing career ended at Reading 11 years later as he departed for the vacant manager’s post at Colchester United.
After guiding the U’s to the Championship after finishing second in League 1, Hull City paid Colchester £400,000 for Parkinson’s services, but he lasted less than six months, as the Tigers sacked him in December of the 2006/07 season.
After serving as Alan Pardew’s assistant at Charlton for a short time, he was given the Addicks’ full-time role. He soon suffered relegation and his side missed out on promotion before Parkinson was dismissed by the London club. Peter Jackson left City in August 2011 and Parkinson was his replacement, overseeing promotion to League One in 18 months.
Key Player: Stephen Darby
Fans’ and players’ favourite Stephen Darby cleared up at City’s Player of the Year awards as he won his second successive Players’ Player of the Year award, as every squad member voted for the right-back.
After coming through the famed academy at Liverpool, Darby spent time on loan at Swindon Town, Notts County and Rochdale before moving to the Coral Windows Stadium. His performances in the league and League Cup run have been key for City as he provides a solid outlet going forward, as well as defensively. The Liverpudlian was an everpresent last season as he appeared 49 times for The Bantams and 51 times in 2012/13, which is why he was so successful in the end of season awards.
His consistency and reliability endeared the 25 year old to the Bradford fans and his regular game time since leaving Liverpool has definitely helped the defender. If Bradford don’t progress to the Championship in the next couple of seasons, Darby certainly could.
In their first season back in League One, it seemed Bradford may have gained a second successive promotion after they hit the ground running. But ultimately, a tricky second-half of the campaign proved to be a struggle. Phil Parkinson’s side finished 11th, a solid position for their first season back in the third tier of English football.
They lost just 15 of 46 games, as they won 14 and drew 17 times. After losing Nahki Wells in January to Huddersfield Town, they lost their leading talisman and they had to adjust to life without the Bermudian for the rest of the campaign. Aaron McLean was signed to fill his void, but he only found the net four times in 20 appearances after signing on loan from Hull City in January.
Their form and hard work in the first couple of months of the season was undone as they won just one game from mid-October to mid-February and after that, they failed to string a consistent run of form together.
Exits in the first round of each cup competition meant they could concentrate on securing their status as a League One club and, after brief relegation worries, they earned the points to separate them from an end of season relegation scrap.
A season of solidarity has given them a good platform to build upon in the 2014/15 season.