THERE is an old head on the young shoulders of City’s new chief executive.

At 29, Ryan Sparks has become the baby of the boardroom – the youngest in such a senior role beating Mansfield’s David Sharpe by a few months.

But he is certainly not wet behind the ears for such a demanding position. He bears the scars from several battles already.

When Sparks arrived at the club in the summer of 2018, I joked with him that he wouldn’t make Halloween.

He nearly didn’t after seriously considering his future on the way back from a 4-0 thumping at Gillingham that October when then-manager David Hopkin refused to speak to the press and was close to quitting himself.

That was one of several horror shows, on the field and behind the scenes, that Sparks has witnessed and survived to get this far.

Initially brought in as the club’s media man, a job he had previously done in rugby league with Bradford Bulls and Featherstone Rovers, working under Edin Rahic was like nothing else.

Even two administrations at Odsal could not prepare him for the level of toxicity that had crept into every pore at Valley Parade.

With the infighting between chairman, his staff and the supporters at its peak, Sparks offered to resign after advising Rahic to “pack up and leave”.

That was the lowest point of a torrid first few months at Valley Parade but the return of Julian Rhodes convinced him to stick at it.

The “most unnecessary relegation I’ve ever seen a club suffer” may have followed at the end of that season but Sparks could sense a much-needed change.

His relationship with Rhodes has grown from that turbulent beginning to make the succession as chief executive a relatively smooth one.

There was talk of former Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins becoming involved, but those close to the club sensed it was always a lot more likely to be an internal appointment.

Rhodes revealed that the decision had been made a couple of months ago.

During that time, Sparks has been involved in more and more of the decision-making as Rhodes prepared to step aside. The only area where he had not had a say up to now has been with recruitment.

The former Woodhouse Grove pupil has focused on the communications and commercial side, providing a voice for a top brass who rarely say anything in public.

But Sparks has also had a role in some of the most controversial and sensitive issues that the club have faced behind the scenes.

As well as being at the forefront of the Rahic fall-out and his exit, Sparks was understood to have been the main figure in the club’s handling of the Tyrell Robinson case.

Anyone who has dealt with him knows that he doesn’t lack for self confidence and is willing to front up to the critics.

Sparks has been a bullish presence in the regular EFL meetings through the pandemic, representing City’s interests in the negotiations throughout the financial strife that COVID continues to cause.

He puts his head above the parapet on social media – and Sparks anticipated the eruption in certain quarters that followed his announcement.

While stressing the importance of transparency in the new post, he will not be coming off Twitter.

The current scenario is clearly a tough one. Everything is dictated by results and City’s poor run and lowly league position casts a massive shadow.

The squad desperately needs bolstering and the January transfer window cannot come quickly enough.

Sparks will have his say in ensuring Stuart McCall has the full backing from above. Those discussions will start straight away to get a rescue plan in place to ensure City can drag themselves clear of trouble.

He will have an even bigger presence given the increasingly-reluctant leadership from Stefan Rupp, who has full faith in his appointment.

The ongoing ban on fans at Valley Parade – and confirmation of Bradford’s placing in tier three won’t change that anytime soon – creates a natural disconnect that makes everything feel even worse.

Sparks knows he will have to win round a sizeable number of supporters against accusations that the club are just promoting on the cheap and taking the easiest option.

But he has demonstrated in the past couple of years that he doesn’t walk away from a fight.

And, off the pitch at least, he believes the club are in a more solid position than when he walked in.

Despite everything, he sees the semblance of an infrastructure being rebuilt after Rahic ripped everything away. The biggest job now awaits.