By Katie Whyatt
You can do this. You’ve got this, completely. It’s yours if you want it, promotion. You’ve peaked at just the right time. You can get out of this league.
Two months ago, I wouldn’t have believed that. I wasn’t sure how I felt about you, back then. Expectations had been high, going into this season, and, in truth, what we’ve seen with our eyes – and how we’ve felt about you – hasn’t always matched up to how we thought things would go. It’s been tough, and your manager has come under fire. But he proved his worth – not that he ever needed to, really – when it mattered most. He has turned ailing form around, again. And now look at you.
I remember your pre-season friendly, against Carlisle, that ended with the whole squad sitting in the banqueting suite to meet the supporters. So many of us turned out that day – the queue snaked the full circumference of the suite. There was such optimism, such expectation. We looked at you and saw a promotion team. We saw the heroes that beat Chelsea. We thanked you for last season, wished you look for this. Promotion? Easy, easy.
And then things began to fall apart.
To say things didn't go to plan probably undersells the opening month of the season. You came together over the next few weeks, and began making up for lost time. But things still didn’t feel right. You lost your way a little. False starts and wrong turns. Detours and doubling back. Always coming and going, but never quite something. As you looked in the mirror, you were confused by the reflection staring back. You had points on the board, but you didn't always feel it. We didn't know you yet. We didn't understand you. The mood of the season swung like a pendulum. One minute, we were getting there; the next, we were back to square one.
We needed some changes, a few new faces. A few big risks as the dealer shuffled his pack. Half-stick, half-twist as the window slams to a close. The final throw of the dice in a season littered with sliding doors.
I've always felt lucky to support Bradford City. I’ve always felt proud. But leaving the ground on Saturday – that was the most excited I’ve felt about what’s being constructed here all season. I remember a year ago, on the opening day, when you got a last-minute winner to vanquish Coventry – I was so taken by the football you were playing that day. By the overlaps, by the efficiency, by you executing moves you’d practiced a thousand times over. That was what Saturday was like, for me. You became that thing we always knew you could be.
Jamie Proctor, Billy Clarke, Kyel Reid and James Meredith – you look like you’ve played together for years. In that second half, your link-up play was out of this world. You read each other like a book. You knew every turn, every plot twist, the whole thing inside out. I saw Proctor despatching Reid down the right, Meredith whipping in that cross as Proctor peeled away. Tony McMahon winning it in the middle, Proctor raging into space as Clarke handed him the goal on a plate. Josh Cullen and Lee Evans – you were outstanding in the middle of the park. The backline – you tell your own story. And that’s without mentioning Wes Thomas, or James Hanson, or Billy Knott, or Paul Anderson, or Filipe Morais.
You know how much this means to us. When we see you in your element – it lifts us like few other things can or do. I love watching you, all of you. You make me smile. Hearing the Kop on Saturday, the songs of seasons past – it’s something only we understand. You’ve become what we hoped you’d be in pre-season. And we’re stronger for the journey we’ve been on.
Now, no one is looking at you and questioning if you’ll score enough goals. If you can cope without Andrew Davies. If you can cope without Gary Liddle. They’re talking about the play-offs. Even the most cynical among us left the ground on Saturday thinking you can realistically achieve promotion. Establishing ourselves in the Championship – that might be a tad tricky. But the play-offs? You’re showing all the hallmarks of a top six team. This league is there for the taking.
You have ten games left with which to inscribe your names in Bradford City folklore. Use them wisely. 30 points are up for grabs. You're sitting pretty in the final play-off spot, three points clear of your next challenger. This is a really poor division - you're better than this. You can beat these teams. You've got Wigan next, who haven't won in three. Remember what happened, last time you went there? Just a handful of you remain from that day, the game that made that team into what they became. It can do the same for you if you let it. It's a tall order, but you can win all ten of those if you really, really want to. You can make another unbeaten run. You can have your second perfect ten of the season.
You can nail this. We believe in you. We believe in you so, so much, and we made you see that on Saturday. As someone who sits on the front row, I can see what this means to you. I can see all the intricacies and subtleties of your build-up play. I can see how fast you are when you pass and move. I can see the nods, the gestures, the signals you send to each other. I can see your eyes light up when the crowd sing your names. I saw Reid beaming from ear to ear as he knocked one past his marker, sprinting through, the defender cowering. You had him in your back pocket that day, Reidy, and you knew that all the way. Like candy from a baby. You felt every coarse and every ripple of the Bradford City dream.
You can do this, if you really want. You’ve got this, completely. You’ve peaked at just the right time. You can get out of this league. You can do this. We believe.
Katie Whyatt is 18-years-old and has been following Bradford City for nine years. She also writes for the Bantams website Width of a Post.