Peter Jackson autobiography: Lifting the lid on life at Valley Parade (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Peter Jackson autobiography: Lifting the lid on life at Valley Parade
Peter Jackson at his unveiling as temporary manager at Valley Parade before his first game in charge against Gillingham in March 2011
Managing his hometown club Bradford City was Peter Jackson’s dream job – “a dream that turned into a nightmare in the space of six months.”
With over 400 appearances for the club behind him, Jackson seized the opportunity to take the Valley Parade helm after Peter Taylor’s departure in February 2011.
Jackson had rung joint-chairman Julian Rhodes offering his services as soon as he spotted the news flash on TV that Taylor was going.
“It wasn’t a massive shock,” he said in his book, Living with Jacko. “City were 21st in League Two and in grave danger of slipping out of the Football League.
“Taylor was a massive name ... but City had lost seven of their last nine matches and he’d been under pressure.
“I had numbers for City’s joint-chairmen on my mobile, so rather than going through a third party or the press I decided to strike while the iron was still hot and ring direct.
(Survival) meant everything. I was born and bred in Bradford and had played for the club, so how could I have handled being the manager who took them out the league?Peter Jackson
“Julian had my number because I’d been on their shortlist when Taylor succeeded Stuart McCall a year earlier and he would have known who was calling. He answered immediately – a good sign.
“I went straight to the point. I knew they would be looking around for someone to succeed Taylor but in the short term I would go in for two games in the space of four days.
“I’d get rid of the doom and gloom around the place and give them a little bit of time to sift through what was sure to be a lengthy list of applicants.”
Jackson wanted everything to be “absolutely spot on” for his first game – a trip to Gillingham. They had just hit the M1 when the fire alarm went off and smoke billowed through the team coach because the dinners were burning.
“Mark (Harrison, the media officer) had put the cartons of pasta into the microwave without removing the outer wrapping.
“The driver pulled on to the hard shoulder, we chucked away the burnt-out cartons and we had to open all the doors and windows to clear the air.
“We stopped at the next motorway services and bought a load of sandwiches and I couldn’t help thinking ‘this isn’t exactly the start I was looking for!’”
Jackson’s target of avoiding the drop that season was achieved with a 1-1 draw in the penultimate game at Hereford, where his own playing career had begun 32 years earlier. He sat in the dug-out afterwards “totally drained” and filling up with tears.
“It meant everything. I was born and bred in Bradford and had played for the club, so how could I have handled being the manager who took them out the league?”
Three months later, he was suddenly gone but Jackson’s connection with Valley Parade remains strong.
He still fills up at the memory of the cheers he would receive walking along the touchline to the home dug-out.
And just like any supporter, Jackson was among the travelling army that headed to Wembley for last season’s Capital One Cup final.
He went down with older brothers Anthony and Gerrard, who had both escaped the burning stand during the fire.
“I thought it was important we should all be together for what was without doubt City’s biggest day since winning the FA Cup in 1911.
“We set off with our packed lunches in the boot, had a couple of pints when we got to Wembley and then joined the rest of the fans in the stand.
“I was even waving a flag! It meant so much for us to be there.
“A lot of the 30,000 fans might never have been to a match before and might not go again but for the hardcore of true supporters, that was one of the greatest days of their lives.
“Reaching Wembley didn’t do the city of Bradford any harm either. There hasn’t been much for people to get excited about recently and there is a lot of hardship in the city.
“But all of a sudden people here and around the world were sitting up and taking notice and for a while a little bit of that feel-good factor rubbed off on everyone.
“As the teams came out, one supporter said to me: ‘that could have been you leading City out at Wembley.’
“It might have been me but it wasn’t and I didn’t feel any regrets at all. I hadn’t regretted my decision to resign at the time and 19 months later I still felt the same. It was still the right thing for me to do.
“Above all, I like to think the day finally demonstrated that Bradford City fans have forgotten all about the bitter rivalry when I was manager at Huddersfield.
“People don’t ask for autographs any more – they take a picture on their mobile instead. And that day I must have had mine taken around 300 times.”
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