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Bradford City winter woes are nothing new
Simon Parker column
Phil Parkinson’s eyes never left referee Mark Brown.
The City boss stood motionless on the touchline, an unblinking gaze fixed on the match official.
Physio Matt Barrass shouted that the allotted five added minutes were up but Parkinson hardly responded. All his focus was centred on willing Brown to put the whistle to his lips.
And when he did, and the drama was finally complete, the emotion came flooding out.
With a punch to the air and a hug for assistant Steve Parkin, Parkinson once again embraced that winning feeling.
Meanwhile, the rest of Valley Parade erupted with a passion usually reserved for cup semi-finals and Wembley.
But then Tuesday had been that kind of night.
To the outside world, a scoreline of Bradford City 1 Port Vale 0 will have meant little. Certainly those numbers gave no indication of the back story to such a longed-for victory.
Inside the Bantams bubble, we all knew the details that did make the three points so memorable: the long catalogue of missed winning opportunities and the lack of a victory at Valley Parade for nearly five months.
It was 11th time lucky and the oft-repeated statistic of beating Shrewsbury on September 28 could finally be consigned to the record book. City had a home victory, and a first win in 2014, to celebrate.
This time last year – and we all know what magical occasion this weekend commemorates – City could not buy success on their own patch either.
While the magic of the Capital One Cup consumed us all, Aston Villa aside they stumbled for almost three months without sending a Valley Parade league visitor away empty-handed.
In 2012, it was March before City grabbed a first home win of the year – and that after Parkinson had scooped manager of the month for December.
Incredibly, until this week’s Vale game, you had to go back three years to Peter Taylor’s final afternoon as City boss for the last home win in February – and that was hardly the most convincing.
Remember the Steve Williams show – scoring two after giving two away – against the nine men of Stockport?
The 2010-11 League Two campaign will not be recalled with much fondness as City flirted with relegation and potential oblivion. But Taylor’s side were the last to win at Valley Parade in the opening two months of the new year.
The winter of discontent phenomenon is nothing new.
When the clocks changed in the autumn of 2004, season-ticket holders had to wait until March for their next home win. And this from a team that had begun that period in second place!
Like Parkinson seven years on, Colin Todd had just picked up the managerial accolade for steering City to five straight October wins only weeks after the club had exited their second administration.
When Sheffield Wednesday were put to the sword by a Michael Symes-inspired second half for that last of those successive victories, nobody could have imagined it would take another ten attempts for Valley Parade to savour its next success.
That wretched run included an ignominious 4-1 thrashing by this afternoon’s opponents MK Dons, which coincided with the return to English shores of yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur after a record round-the-world voyage.
MacArthur had sailed solo around the globe – and City had not managed a single home win while she was gone!
The following season, City beat Walsall on December 28. Then it was three months before local lad Joe Brown scored in the last minute against Blackpool to seal the next Valley Parade victory.
In the relegation campaign that followed, City’s last home win was on December 16 ... and that was it for the remaining 12 games. Droughts don’t get worse than that.
City fans have rightly earned their reputation for being a sturdy bunch. They have had to put up with plenty down the years and still come back for more.
But perhaps it is time to start lobbying hard for the winter break that UEFA are always suggesting. It might spare familiar heartache for the Valley Parade locals.