Wembley date justifies Bradford City blood, sweat and tears of Rhodes family (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Wembley date justifies Bradford City blood, sweat and tears of Rhodes family
Whisper it quietly but Professor David Rhodes used to be a Leeds fan.
The very private father of City joint-owner Julian will be making his third trip to Wembley on February 24.
There was the club’s only previous visit in May 1996 – and the 1972 FA Cup final when Leeds beat Arsenal. But his allegiance switched during the hooligan days that followed.
Rhodes said: “I took Julian to some Leeds games when he first got interested in football but we stopped going after nearly being killed by Man United fans running down Elland Road.
“It was getting crazy and we didn’t need that. So Julian started going to Bradford with a friend and his dad and I followed.
“It was totally and utterly different. You just don’t get that sort of trouble there and you never have. The supporters were not the same.”
Rhodes senior’s first game at Valley Parade was, fittingly, in the League Cup when Bobby Campbell’s goal sunk European champions Liverpool in 1980. City were well beaten in the second leg at Anfield but another supporter was guaranteed.
It would be another 17 years until Rhodes, the founder of Shipley-based wireless communications company Filtronic, would join the City board with his son.
What followed has been well documented. When City step out for the Capital One Cup final, all the blood, sweat, tears and remortgages will be worth it.
But Rhodes still believes that Julian has not been given the credit he deserves for saving the club from the financial abyss.
He said: “What Julian has achieved in the last ten years or so is totally remarkable. The club was in an unbelievable mess and there were so many problems.
“A lot of people don’t understand how desperate it was. You cannot comprehend where £36million worth of debts could come from and you were dealing with creditors who wouldn’t budge.
“It was so difficult and there’s no way you could sort it overnight. There have been so many stages that the club have had to go through over the years.
“But Julian worked his backside off over all this time. It’s been a full-time job for no pay.
“You can’t live in the past but it really is phenomenal what he has achieved.
“He has never sought the credit but some of the family members get slightly annoyed that people don’t understand. That doesn’t deter Julian in any way, though, he just gets on with it.
“I’m extremely proud. How many other fathers have got a son who has achieved so much?”
Father and son have watched City’s record-breaking route to Wembley from day one when James Hanson’s “beautiful” left-foot goal sunk Notts County in extra time.
Rhodes said: “I’d just got back from holiday to see the first game and what struck me was how very well disciplined the side looked. That amazing discipline has been one thing that has carried on through this cup run.
“I’ve equated it to an American football team where every player knows what he is supposed to do at all times. That’s what Phil (Parkinson) has instilled.
“I remember speaking to Terry Yorath a long time ago when he was manager of Sheffield Wednesday. I asked him why his players didn’t seem to know what they were doing at corners.
“Shouldn’t he be telling them at training exactly where to be? He said the players would practice it all week but by Saturday they’d forgotten again!
“But Phil has got that message across. Wigan was the most informative game of the lot – the defending that night was absolutely brilliant.”
Rhodes said: “It had to be changed but (Rory) McArdle had been playing out of position before that and young Carl McHugh has always had great potential. You could see that from the first game.
“Dave Whelan, the Wigan owner, was full of praise afterwards. But the difference is that they’ve been managed as a team.
“I might disagree with some of the things the manager does in league games but it’s easy to be critical from the stands. What has happened has been fantastic.”
Rhodes admits the goose bumps are there at the prospect of taking his seat in the directors’ box at Wembley to see his club playing in a cup final.
One of the key figures in City winning their survival battle off the field will love every moment of watching them trying to stun the football world once again on it.
“All this brings back certain games like beating Liverpool, winning at Wolves to get promoted and, my own favourite, the win at Blackpool in 1996,” said Rhodes.
“But this is something that has never happened in the past. And if by some quirk we win against Swansea, it would be unbelievable.
“The odds are heavily stacked against us once again – but hasn’t that been the case already? It’s going to be a great day for everybody.
“To go back to that Wigan game again, I stood there afterwards as the home fans disappeared. There weren’t only the 5,000 Bradford City fans behind the goal that remained but then you saw how many other supporters of ours were in the Wigan part.
“It shows the great support behind this club. Just look at how quick the tickets are going. We could have sold twice as many.
“Unfortunately the Wembley capacity is dependent on all these debenture tickets and there are 28,000 of them. It’s a bit daft because I’m pretty certain both clubs could have sold the ground out.
“But Julian was right when he said that Rocky was more believable than this. It’s still difficult to take in what has happened.”
And when the final whistle sounds and the Wembley hype has passed, City can look forward to a legacy of financial stability for the long term.
There is no danger of repeating the mistakes of the past. While the Premier League throw more and more cash towards chasing the dream, there will be no recklessness from Valley Parade.
Rhodes said: “You hear some of the comments but it’s got to be run as a business. You can’t just run a club as a hobby.
“Look at how much money has been ploughed in to other clubs when they’ve been treated like that. I think they are going to come crashing down to earth.
“Portsmouth have been the classic example and there are others. It’s grabbing at straws.
“The finances are going to be managed properly here. Julian knows what he is doing and I hope the fans appreciate that.”