“IT FELT like a soap opera and I didn’t know where the next barmy line was coming from.”

Just three months into his new job at Valley Parade and Ryan Sparks was on the verge of walking away.

He felt worn down by the constant in-fighting between Edin Rahic and an increasingly distant and disillusioned fanbase.

On the long journey back from a 4-0 thumping at Gillingham, where David Hopkin had then refused to speak to the press, his media man was contemplating his own future.

“I was sat there on the team bus thinking, ‘where do we go from here?’ David seemed tired of talking on behalf of a squad that he hadn’t put together. He himself was considering his own future - after less than a dozen games in charge - and it was obvious we were in a relegation fight.”

Sparks is heading into his third year at the club after being promoted to director of communications. He is a trusted voice for Stefan Rupp and Julian Rhodes.

But he remembers how tough it was from the start – and how close he had been to quitting a job that he viewed as “the perfect fit”.

Sparks had been at Featherstone Rovers before arriving at Valley Parade. He was preparing for the rugby club’s game at Toulouse when the call came through in early May 2018.

“I was in the office putting the final details together for the trip and then, all of a sudden, I’m thinking about joining a club like Bradford City.

“It’s like what players must feel. It’s a big club, it’s a massive city which happens to be my home and it was just a perfect fit.”

But the reality under Rahic was very different as he immediately discovered.

“The brief I was given was essentially to improve, develop and restore the club’s public image. It became apparent within a couple of days of walking through whether that was going to be possible. And quite frankly whether or not I had taken on an untenable role.

“I’m not going to lie, there were some pretty dark moments, personally, in the first few weeks and months.

“There was absolutely no relationship between the supporters and the club. Trying to work in that environment is virtually impossible.

“I can understand a lot of people were very sceptical when the new person came in. They probably had concerns of an agenda because of the way the club was being run at that point.

“But I’m a normal guy from Bradford, in my late 20s, I learned my craft in a different sport and wanted to come to try and do it in football.

“I have always had a decent sense for how things might pan out and I could feel that change was coming. It had to happen, in all truth.”

Matters came to a head with a prickly conversation with Rahic. Sparks “put his head above the parapet” and advised him that it would be best for the then chief executive and his family as much as the club to “pack up and leave”.

“I was genuinely trying to help - and say what was, in my view, right. I felt for his family,” he said.

“But Edin wasn’t happy and said I’d showed him no support. I offered to resign even though I had nowhere to go to.

“I left the business that day thinking that. When I came back the next morning, I was asked to continue and, given what I felt was coming, I decided to do so.

“That was probably the start of the end, if I’m honest. It certainly changed the course, if any positives can be drawn from what was a dreadful period for everyone connected to Bradford City."

Sparks had walked away from a previous role at the Bulls and was willing to do the same.

“I’d been through two administrations at Odsal but that was the most difficult position that I’ve been in. I’ll never be a part of something I don’t believe in.

“The constant over-management became tiresome and what was happening on the field just added to it. I don’t think many people at the club were in a great place.

“It was almost pointless having any staff at the club, if I’m honest. The culture was non-existent and everything was just wrong.

“But there came a point when I put my head above the parapet and risked my own job to tell Edin what I felt was right to do for him and his family. I don’t think he realised at that point.

“Things can get really lonely when you don’t have any friends. When it’s not going right, that’s when you need people to reach out and help.

“But it’s fair to say that the phone wasn’t ringing for him. It was like talking to a boxer who’d finished his career and just wasn’t as popular anymore. He needed to chuck the towel in."

The return of Rhodes gave Sparks hope and a reason to stay put. The pair clicked straight away and he could sense a weight being lifted.

Rupp had to deal with the financial fall-out from the Rahic reign and it became a team effort to turn things round.

On the pitch, however, fortunes remained miserable as City slid back into League Two.

“It was the most unnecessary relegation I’ve ever seen a club suffer,” admitted Sparks. “It wasn’t a case of no money, it was just wrong from the start.”

But behind the scenes, the structure was slowly being put back into place.

Last season failed to bring the hoped-for promotion push but the progress off the field continues. Sparks knows there is still a lot more to be done.

“It’s been two years of a trust-building and confidence-building exercise and that’s still ongoing. At no point have I sat back and thought, ‘we are there’.

“But we’re a lot further on than where we were.

“It takes years and years to build a relationship and minutes to destroy it. That has been proven at our club like no other.

“You can’t flick a switch. I think we’ve come a fair way in 12 months but there is a great deal left to do.

“I owe a great deal to Julian Rhodes, who has been fantastic to work with since day one. He enables me to get on with the task at hand and move things forward, which is refreshing to say the least.

“Stefan’s financial commitment, when we have required it, has always been there. That is very important, certainly at times like these.

“Despite some of the difficulties, I am proud to be a part of what is a truly brilliant club. It is a nice place to do your work.

“Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we will have a start date for next season and switch our attention fully to an important 2020/21 season. It is a good feeling to be able to look forward.”