Living in the Wembley bubble taking its toll on Bradford City chief Baldwin (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Living in the Wembley bubble taking its toll on Bradford City chief Baldwin
The phone call finished, there is an immediate knock at the door with another e-mail complaining about tickets. Then the mobile vibrates again.
Welcome to the world of David Baldwin, the Valley Parade director of operations. It is non-stop and has been since City picked off their first Premier League scalp at Wigan.
Baldwin jokes that he is the “man with no life”.
He’s half right – there is no life beyond the bubble of Wembley and doing all in his power to ensure history’s most unlikely cup finalists are ready for their big day.
It has placed a heavy strain on his health – Baldwin’s blood pressure is uncomfortably high. And wife of 18 months Ashleigh only sees him in passing.
“I get moments to relax but you don’t ever switch off,” admitted Baldwin. “That’s the problem with sleep because your brain is in overdrive.
Dave BaldwinI won’t accept the lack of tolerance towards some of the staff. It’s quite sad to see. It’s a minority but a very selfish mode does kick in with some people... You don’t treat a fellow fan with such vicious and abusive language
“I’m very conscious of not overdoing it on the alcohol because in the end that won’t help either. But sometimes you do think a few whiskies might resolve the problem.
“Ash has been great and it’s been so important having someone behind you who knows when to be there and look after you and when to give you a bit of space.
“My wife has got a full-time job and she’ll still make sure I come home to dinner on the table and ironed shirts. She really does go above and beyond the call of duty.
“I’m sure that’s the same for the partners of all the staff. There are unsung heroes that really do keep everybody going.
“But I think another holiday might be in order once the final has gone and it’s definitely her treat with what she’d like to do.”
The Baldwins were on holiday in Italy for the win at the DW Stadium in the last week of October which sparked the cup mania.
After a hectic summer filled with transfers, player contracts, commercial deals and stadium renovation, it was their first chance to get away since early May.
The mini-break in Sorrento had been booked to slot in between two away games. Like every other fan, nobody seriously expected to be involved in a fourth-round cup tie.
Baldwin listened to the game on the internet – and the moment that Matt Duke saved the decisive spot-kick, his phone lit up like a Christmas tree. It has been ringing constantly ever since.
The Arsenal quarter-final was a huge logistical operation, shifting the number of tickets not seen since the top flight and re-using areas of the stadium that had lain dormant in all that time. Aston Villa, in comparison, proved a lot smoother.
Baldwin credits the staff who have helped City cope with this undreamed-of workload. The day before the Wembley sales began, he joined ticket office manager Mick Lamb in a 21-hour shift.
“I went home and had an hour-and-a-half’s nap but I don’t even think Mick got that. We both had a shower and came back in and went again until 9.30pm the next day.
“I can’t thank the staff enough for working above and beyond. The people at this club are Bradford City through and through and we dig in as a team. It is that much harder to enjoy the event. You don’t get the anticipation and those moments to be a fan because you’re so engrossed in making sure everything works.
“It does take a toll on you. My blood pressure is running at extremely high levels at the moment, which concerns my wife.”
There is no let-up during the sales period for the final. The allocation has been hugely over-subscribed and the process is not helped by the time-consuming method that Wembley employ.
“Ordinarily if you buy a ticket on the floor plan here, you select a seat, we process it and it generates a ticket directly.
“Wembley post 32,000 pre-printed tickets. So when a customer processes online, they appear as a line of entry on a spreadsheet.
“Then somebody’s got to go and pick those tickets, make sure they are the right price, put them in envelopes and post them out. The mechanics are very laborious.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot of tickets but when you see the boxes stacked up, that’s a whole room full.”
Many will inevitably miss out and that frustration has boiled over on occasions.
It annoys Baldwin when the club employees find themselves getting an earful.
“I won’t accept the lack of tolerance towards some of the staff. It’s quite sad to see. It’s a minority but a very selfish mode does kick in with some people. They have no consideration for the human element that’s going on here.
“You don’t treat a fellow fan with such vicious and abusive language.
“Sometimes I only get to hear about it second hand. If I see it happening, I will make sure that the person does not get a ticket for Wembley and will consider whether they should enter this stadium again.”
A folder thick with pleading letters sits on his desk. As we speak, someone comes in with a couple more. Everyone with a City connection is desperate to be at the big game.
Baldwin said: “I’ve got total empathy but it’s an impossible task. We’ve got 100,000 people wanting 32-33,000 tickets so two-thirds are going to miss out.
“We’ve received hundreds of letters and at one stage my emails were going up 85 an hour. That went on for 18 hours – even at 3am.
“There comes a point where you can’t respond quick enough to them all.”
The remaining general tickets go on sale from Thursday. Baldwin hopes to head off the expected mad scramble with an announcement over the weekend outlining a preference system.
He leaves a little clue about “people making a judgement call on their commitments going forward.”
He also knows that plenty more calls, e-mails and letters will be winging his way. But that’s been his lot for over three months now.