Category Archives: General Blog

The best-performing managers in Bradford City history

45 men have held the distinction of managing Bradford City in competitive football on a permanent basis. A small handful of those – namely Peter O’Rourke and Stuart McCall – have done so on more than one occasion, while others have enjoyed vastly-contrasting reigns in the Valley Parade dugout.

That is underlined by the win percentage ratios of all the 45 men that have held the job; from Robert Campbell in 1903 through to Gary Bowyer in the present day. Here, in reverse order, are the five best-performing managers in the Valley Parade dugout.

5. George Mulhall (November 1978-March 1981)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 124 Won: 52 Drew: 33 Lost: 39
Win Percentage: 41.94%

Former Halifax Town manager George Mulhall’s time in charge of Bradford City ultimately didn’t end with promotion: that came via his successor in the post, Roy McFarland. But the work Mulhall did during his time in charge at Valley Parade certainly laid the groundwork for the era of Bantam Progressivism.

Mulhall was the man who signed Bobby Campbell from Halifax, transforming him from an erratic striker into a goal-scoring legend in claret and amber. Peter Jackson was also blooded under Mulhall’s stewardship, and would go on to captain the club to promotion just a few years later. Les Chapman was another fine piece of business from Mulhall, and though he left the Valley Parade dugout in March 1981, he had laid the groundwork for what would follow across the 1980s.

4. Jack Barker (May 1946-January 1947)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 23 Won: 10 Drew: 6 Lost: 7
Win Percentage: 43.48%

Jack Barker did not have a long stint at Bradford City, but the first man to lead City in competitive football post-World War Two did bring some short-term success to the club.

At the time of his resignation in January 1947, Barker was the shortest-reigning manager in Bradford City history: yet the fact he is still fourth-highest successful in terms of win percentage makes his decision to leave all the more perplexing.

=2. Fred Westgarth (March 1938-July 1943)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 60 Won: 30 Drew: 13 Lost: 17
Win Percentage: 50%

World War Two ultimately deprived Bradford City fans of the opportunity to see how far Fred Westgarth could take the club. Westgarth stabilised the club after a turbulent 1930s, and even brought a piece of silverware to Valley Parade, too.

The 1938-39 Division Three North Challenge Cup remains the last trophy City won, some 80 years on from Westgarth leading the Paraders to success. He stayed with City for most of the war as City sides filled with guest players and temporary signings competed in the Wartime Leagues, but in 1943, he stunned the club’s board by announcing he was returning north to take the managerial post at Hartlepools United.

=2. Terry Dolan (January 1987-January 1989)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 76 Won: 38 Drew: 18 Lost: 20
Win Percentage: 50%

Under Terry Dolan, Bradford City came desperately close to reaching the promised land of Division One football after a wait of over 60 years. They fell just short of that goal, losing to Middlesbrough in the 1987-88 play-offs: but Dolan remains a popular figure at Valley Parade to this day.

He had a tough job taking over from the hugely-popular Trevor Cherry, but assembled an exciting side that were a joy to watch during his time in charge. The disappointment of losing in the play-offs in 1988 resulted in a number of big names leaving however, and Dolan left the following January. He still holds a mightily impressive win percentage of one win in two in all competitions, though.

1. Roy McFarland (May 1981-November 1982)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 82 Won: 46 Drew: 21 Lost: 15
Win Percentage: 56.10%

Roy McFarland’s Bradford City were one of the most popular sides in the club’s history – but the acrimonious departure of the manager 18 months after he took charge still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many supporters to this day.

City broke a number of records on their way to a 2nd-placed finish in Division Four that secured promotion. under McFarland during his first season in charge. McFarland even stabilised the club in Division Three during the early months of the 1982-83 season: before his former club Derby came calling in a hugely controversial episode.

McFarland and assistant Mick Jones stunned the board when they handed in their resignations in November 1982, and after a lengthy dispute, the Rams eventually had to shell lout a significant compensation package for the services of the City manager and his assistant. It was a highly-tempered end to a managerial reign that will always be overshadowed with controversy.

City quiz: How well do you remember the Premier League years?

With the club set to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Premier League years this week, now seems an appropriate time to test your memory of our two seasons in the top-flight around the turn of the century. Over 30 players played at least once in the Premier League for the Bantams: how many can you recall in 10 minutes?

Just head to the link below to play the quiz.

https://www.sporcle.com/games/aaronbower/bradford-city-premier-league

Bradford City Team of the Decade: The Right Midfielders

#1141: Garry Thompson 
City appearances: 102
City goals: 11

Perhaps most fondly remembered for his goal against Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the 2012-13 League Cup, industrious winger Garry Thompson served Bradford City with distinction over a number of seasons at the club.

Debuting alongside the likes of Gary Jones and Stephen Darby at the start of the 2012-13 season, Thompson had an almost-immediate impact, finding a regular home on the right wing for Phil Parkinson.

He made 44 league appearances in total in his first season with the club, scoring what would prove to be a decisive goal in the first leg of the play-offs against Burton. Thompson had a knack of scoring crucial goals for City; including the one he scored in the round two win at Watford in the League Cup which, given what happened thereafter, is sometimes overlooked.

Thompson was equally crucial as City solidified themselves as a League One side in 2013-14, with the midfielder missing just two league games all season, before leaving the Bantams that summer to join Notts County.

#1192: Mark Marshall
City appearances: 88
City goals: 6

Mark Marshall’s arrival on a two-year deal in the summer of 2015 was seen as a shrewd bit of business by City fans: but he struggled to make a real impact during his one and only season working with Phil Parkinson.

He made almost 40 league appearances in 2015-16 – but started only eight of them. However, the arrival of Stuart McCall in the summer of 2016 transformed Marshall’s City career. He was thrown in from the start of the 2016-17, and was involved every game of the 12-match unbeaten run which started that season.

Marshall had also discovered his scoring touch, too. He missed just four league games in 2016-17, scoring seven times as the Bantams made it all the way to the play-off final. However, it was Marshall’s record with assists which was arguably just as impressive, which led to him being named the club’s player of the year in 2017. However, when City fell short at Wembley against Millwall, Marshall was one of a number of players to leave Valley Parade: he returned south to join Charlton.

#1176: Filipe Morais
City appearances: 71
City goals: 8

Like another right winger on this shortlist, Filipe Morais’ time at Bradford City is most fondly remembered for one goal in particular: but summing his career with the club up by talking about his goal against Chelsea in the FA Cup would be doing the remainder of his time as a Bantam a disservice.

Morais was one of a number of new signings in the summer of 2014, and the winger’s role in helping City to a seventh-placed finish in League One during the 2014-15 season was important. However, it was in the FA Cup where he truly flourished, starting each and every game in the run to the quarter-finals.

Morais contributed with key goals too; he scored against Halifax and Dartford in the opening two rounds of the competition before infamously drawing City level against boyhood club Chelsea in January 2015.

However, injury ruled Morais out of the majority of the 2015-16 season, and he featured just eight times. He returned to full fitness for Stuart McCall’s first season in charge, but was mainly used from the bench owing to the form of Mark Marshall. That prompted him to leave Valley Parade in January 2017, when he linked up with Phil Parkinson once again at Bolton.

Bradford City team of the decade: the centre-backs

Voting is on the Bantams Heritage Twitter account (click here). The top two centre-backs will make the team.

#1139: Rory McArdle
City appearances: 231
City goals: 15

Signed from Scottish club Aberdeen on the eve of Phil Parkinson’s first full season in charge of Bradford City, Rory McArdle would go on to play a part in almost all of the club’s modern-day success.

The centre-half, who became famous for his iconic celebration, had a knack of not only being a real presence in City’s backline, but coming up with crucial goals at exactly the right time for the Bantams, too. That was evident as early as his debut season for the club, when he not only scored in the play-off final win against Northampton, but the League Cup semi-final triumph over Aston Villa, too.

McArdle featured in 41 of City’s first 46 games back in League One in 2013-14, with all three of the goals he scored that season earning City vital points along the way. He featured in every game for the club on the way to the League Cup final in 2012-13, a feat he would replicate in 2014-15 as City made it to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

McArdle featured in all eight games as City were eventually knocked out by Reading, with his form that season earning him the player of the year award. The arrival of Stuart McCall in his final season as a Bantam saw him initially struggle to break into the side – but typically, McArdle battled his way into McCall’s plans, scoring the only goal in the play-off semi-final win over Fleetwood. His final game for the club was at Wembley, as the Bantams were beaten by Millwall, before he signed for fellow League One side Scunthorpe.

#1124: Andrew Davies
City appearances: 125
City goals: 7

One of Phil Parkinson’s first signings as Bradford City manager, Andrew Davies’ start to life at Valley Parade started in fairly low-key fashion, getting sent off in consecutive league games! By the time he departed the club several years later, however, he had solidified his status as a modern-day great in claret and amber.

Davies formed a rock-solid partnership with Rory McArdle during the club’s history-making 2012-13 season in the league, though injuries limited him to just two appearances in the run to the League Cup final; one of those was from the bench in the final itself.

Critics will argue that Davies’ time as a City player was marred by injury too often, but it is indisputable that whenever he did play, he was a huge presence. That was underlined by the role he played in City’s run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 2014-15, when he played in six of the eight games. Perhaps crucially, one of the two he missed was the 3-0 defeat to Reading in the quarter-final replay.

#1209: Romain Vincelot
City appearances: 94
City goals: 7

No player perhaps epitomised the new era which arrived at Bradford City in the summer of 2016 more than Romain Vincelot.

Signed as the club’s new captain for the 2016-17, the popular Frenchman was equally comfortable in both defence or midfield: but it was at the back where he became a firm favourite for many during a season which ended with defeat in the play-off final to Millwall.

Vincelot missed just one league game out of the 49 City played (including play-offs) that season; and that was on the final day of the regular season, with City’s place in the top six already secure. No player made more appearances in all competitions in 2016-17 than the 51 Vincelot made, underlining his importance to manager Stuart McCall.

He made another 43 appearances the following season. City started it brightly – with Vincelot at the heart of that early-season success – but when a bad run of reuslts cost McCall his job, City’s play-off push dissipiated. It left the Bantams finishing mid-table and, at the end of the season, Vincelot left for pastures new.

#1214: Matt Kilgallon
City appearances: 58
City goals: 5

Former Leeds and Sheffield United defender Matt Kilgallon’s two seasons with Bradford City were contrasting to say the least. His first campaign with the club, 2016-17, saw him limited to just a handful of appearances in all competitions for numerous reasons: not least the form of Romain Vincelot and Rory McArdle.

However, with McArdle departing in the summer of 2017, it afforded Kilgallon an opportunity to stake his claim for a place in Stuart McCall’s plans. He would not disappoint, missing only four league games all season and eventually earning the club’s player of the year award in the process.

Kilgallon was undoubtedly the real shining light in a 2017-18 season that ended in frustration for Bantams supporters. However, that summer, he had an infamous fallout with the club’s hierachy and left to agree a deal in Scotland with Hamilton.

BRADFORD CITY TEAM OF THE DECADE: THE RIGHT-BACKS

Voting is on the Bantams Heritage Twitter account (click here).

#1069: Simon Ramsden
City appearances: 58
City goals: 1

Awarded the number two shirt following his arrival from Rochdale, Simon Ramsden made an almost-immediate impact at Bradford City.  Only a handful of players surpassed the 35 appearances Ramsden made during his first season with the club, with his one and only goal for City coming in one of his first games: a 2-2 draw away at Northampton.

His form during his first season with the club led to him being offered the captaincy for the 2010-11 campaign, but injury problems reduced him to just a handful of appearances throughout the entire season. Eventually returning from a series of serious problems, Ramsden became a mainstay of the side Phil Parkinson inherited in late-2011. However, he left City the following summer, after failing to agree terms on a new deal.

#1137: Stephen Darby
City appearances: 239
City goals: 1

Few words sum up Stephen Darby’s contribution to Bradford City as well as ‘historic’. Perhaps the greatest right-back to have worn a claret and amber shirt in history to some fans – and arguably the most important of his generation – Darby remains a City legend to this day.

His signature didn’t create that much of a fuss in the summer of 2012, with Darby signed as Simon Ramsden’s replacement. Indeed, he only started five of the first 18 league games that season – but he then started every single one of the remaining 31, including the three play-off ties that led to promotion from League Two.

Darby also started in every one of City’s ties in the League Cup that season: eight to be precise. His one and only goal for the club was, fittingly, a vital one too; with the Bantams struggling against Burton in round three, Darby scored an unforgettable goal from outside the box to help the Bantams eventually win 3-2. The rest, as they say, is history.

In City’s first three seasons back in League One, Darby missed just ONE game out of a possible 140, underlining how important he had become to the Bantams’ backline, cementing a place in history by becoming one of only a handful of individuals to have been league ever-presents in more than one season for the club. Now captain of the club by this point, Stuart McCall’s first season in charge saw Darby feature more sporadically, but he still made 29 appearances in all competitions, before being released in the summer of 2017, when he would reunite with Parkinson at Bolton.

#1187: Tony McMahon
City appearances: 128
City goals: 14

One of the biggest characters to wear a Bradford City shirt throughout the 2010s, Tony McMahon would eventually inherit the throne vacated by Stephen Darby as the club’s first-choice right-back: and do a commendable job in the role, too.

Signed initially on loan from Blackpool in March 2015, McMahon proved himself to be equally comfortable in both defence and midfield, convincing the club to give him a permanent deal that summer.

With Darby in situ at right-back, McMahon played in a number of positions – including right midfield – during his first full season with City, playing 49 times and scoring six goals: two of which were match-winners, against Oldham and Chesterfield. The arrival of Stuart McCall saw him become first-choice over Darby, with McMahon playing 31 times as City narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship.

He remained with City the following season, and passed the 100-game barrier for the club in the process, as he made another 40 appearances in all competitions – before departing Valley Parade that summer in favour of a deal with Oxford United.