The Friends of Bradford City were formed under the banner “Positive in our support”. It is a motto that has been tested to the full in a challenging 13 months.
The Friends have resurrected the Player of the Year awards tonight after it was scrapped last season because of poor results. Not that the current campaign has been much to celebrate either.
They also oversaw a “cursed” calendar capturing the players with the fans in quirky match-day poses.
It was a novel attempt to get away from the standard action shots, with pictures taken in the bar, the car – even the Valley Parade toilets!
Unfortunately those featured so far have either been loaned out, gone altogether, injured or, in the case of this month’s poster boy Jon McLaughlin,
suspended for a very public brawl.
The calendar, which just about broke even, may not be repeated. If it is, the players might need quite a bit of persuading to get involved.
It was a fresh approach and one of the most pleasing things is that everybody has really gelledMark Neale
Yet despite the teething troubles, the fans group believe they are already making an impact. The £10,000 raised to buy a new minibus for the City youth team is proof of that.
Chairman Mark Neale said: “We’ve used this year as a learning curve and we now know what we don’t want to do next season.
“But we feel we can really go for it. We’ll probably organise less events but be able to put more resources into them.
“When we first started, the group largely didn’t know each other. The two Julies (Neale and Stainthorpe) and myself had experience from the old supporters’ club but most had not been involved in
something like this.
“It was a fresh approach and one of the most pleasing things is that everybody has really gelled.
“People like Mick Shackleton, who I didn’t really know, has become a good friend of mine.
“There’s a lot of negativity about but we try to put a positive feel around the club. We hope we’ve made a difference already.”
The Friends have also restored the Junior Bantams after a ten-year absence. A group of 20 youngsters were given a tour of the ground and the dressing rooms before the Macclesfield game.
And they have created a general focal point for the various separate supporters’ organisations that follow City.
“We’re trying to get that community spirit going again because there’s been nothing really,” said Neale.
“Shipley Bantams exist primarily as a travel club and the Supporters Trust are a very different entity. There has been nobody fund-raising.
“We’ve already developed relationships with the Shipley and Shelf Bantams and the City Gent (fanzine). Terry Dickinson and Steve Gorringe have been very helpful.
“When I was on the Trust board, we wanted all the various groups to come under our umbrella but they were too independent. Now, for the first time in ages, everyone is beginning to come together.
“The club are happy with the way it has gone. My involvement with them probably goes back to just after the fire but this is the first time when I’ve really felt they want to be part of it.
“They really want it to work. Two of the directors, Roger Owen and Graham Jones, sit in on our meetings and give their input.
“Some people have said we’re in the pocket of the club but when I spoke to City about starting this, I wanted them to be involved.
“In the past, the supporters club would do something and then ask the club about it. At least with Roger and Graham there, they can tell us what they think straight away.
“David Baldwin, the director of operations, has also been fantastic with us.”
Neale stressed that the whole point of the Friends is to be supportive and be there as a positive help. He insists they are not trying to antagonise the club in any way.
He said: “When we spoke to them initially, it wasn’t about raising £200,000. We saw our role as taking a little weight off the budgets the club have.
“If we can provide something like a new minibus that they need, then we can make that difference.
“We’re giving them more money at the end of the season for refurbishing the medical room and there will probably be another cheque. It’s anything we can do to help.”