Nobody likes a slow start to a league season. The summer suddenly feels like lightyears ago, with all the pre-season hype and anticipation quickly fizzling away: and it’s easy to put this season firmly in that bracket so far.
We are already a quarter of the way through the 46-game league campaign (give or take a few minutes!), and we’re constantly told that 10 games in is when we should properly judge our team’s fortunes for the season ahead.
Or should we?
This hasn’t been the best start for the Bantams – but make no mistake about it, it’s by no means been the worst. Most City fans would take this start over the way we began the 1926-27 campaign, for example: when we won one league game (against South Shields) between the start of the season and mid-December!
But the Bantams’ history proves that while a slow start is by no means uncommon, it’s not always indicative of a season of struggle. Here’s how our start this year stacks up against some of those examples..
Record after 11 games: 3 wins, 2 draws, 6 losses
Final position: 8th in Division Two
Three points for a win wasn’t introduced until 1981, but under the current system, City’s second-ever league campaign would have yielded a start of 11 points from 11 games, just one more than where this year’s group sit.
Robert Campbell’s men would win nine of their final 23 games though to end the year comfortably mid-table, finishing 8th on the 18-team Division Two table.
Record after 11 games: 3 wins, 5 draws, 3 losses
Final position: 6th in Division Three (North)
Again taking today’s rules into consideration, City would have picked up 14 points from their first 11 games in 1927-28, the year after being relegated from Division Two.
Cross-city rivals Bradford Park Avenue were champions that season, but City still ended up finishing a respectable sixth.
Record after 11 games: 2 wins, 4 draws, 5 losses
Final position: 5th in Division Four
Bob Brocklebank’s class of 1963-64 (again, adopting the current three points for a win system) had an identical 10 points from 11 games following the opening quarter of that campaign, and looked to be in some trouble at the bottom end of Division Four.
They turned it around though, ending up fifth following two five-match winning runs at different points in the season guiding them to the right end of the division for a rare occasion during those lean years in the club’s history which were the 1960s.
Record after 11 games: 1 win, 3 draws, 7 losses
Final position: 7th in Division Three
A City squad featuring the likes of Peter Jackson, Stuart McCall and Bobby Campbell won just ONCE in the club’s opening 15 games of 1983-84, a remarkable start.
Inevitably, it sparked fears over a return to Division Four, but November provided a turnaround in fortunes which resulted in a romp up the table. Trevor Cherry’s side won 10 games in a row between November 26th and February 3rd, which eventually led the Bantams to a seventh-placed finish. The following season, they were champions.
Record after 11 games: 4 wins, 2 draws, 5 losses
Final position: 2nd in Division One (promoted)
Though Paul Jewell’s legendary promotion-winning side had a respectable enough 14 points at this stage 20 years ago, they only did so courtesy of a three-match winning run in games 9, 10 and 11.
Prior to that, City won once in their opening seven games, the new-look side assembled by Jewell clearly taking time to gel. How it clicked thereafter though – and if there is absolutely any proof that a poor start doesn’t always mean a poor season, it’s the 1998-99 campaign that sums it up.
Record after 11 games: 3 wins, 1 draw, 7 losses
Final position: 10th in League Two
Times were tough in the opening two months of Stuart McCall’s first reign as Bradford City manager. The Bantams found it tough to adjust to life in League Two having been relegated the following season, producing an identical record to this season’s squad after 11 games.
However, McCall stabilised things thereafter, and City eventually ended up finishing 10th in their first season back in the bottom tier of English football.
Record after 11 games: 3 wins, 4 draws, 4 losses
Final position: 5th in League One (lost play-off semi-final)
Even the most recent years of our history have a fine example of a poor start eventually resulting in a commendable league finish – and in the case of Phil Parkinson’s squad of 2015-16, it was much more than respectable.
Prior to the 3-1 win against Rochdale in the 11th game of the season, City had scored only nine goals in their first ten games, and were seriously struggling to pick up wins. However, that Rochdale win was the start of a nine-match unbeaten run which provided the platform for City to eventually make the play-offs by the season’s end.