THEIR relationship had started at Valley Parade with an apology.

Morecambe had lost 1-0 on New Year’s Day 2020 to City’s only shot on target.

The gulf in league places – Gary Bowyer’s side were fourth at the time, their opponents 23rd – had not been reflected in a contest controlled by the visitors.

Sparks, head of City’s media at the time, sought out Morecambe boss Derek Adams afterwards to say sorry. “I felt for them as they fought like mad,” he said.

But that performance left an impression on the now-chief executive who watched with interest as Adams turned the unfashionable seaside club on their head.

The way he transformed a team with the fewest resources in the division so dramatically got Sparks wondering what he could do with one of far bigger stature.

“I did not want to be in the position that his team were in that day and I found myself in that position with our club in November and December and it was horrific.

“The steeliness and the way he handled the pressure to get out of the position and then go from relegation contenders to promotion candidates in that space of time and achieve what they have and overcome Tranmere and Newport is nothing short of remarkable.

“I got to know Derek in December but I will be honest, I have watched his progress for many years before I came into football. He is a manager I have always admired.”

Like the Mountie who gets his man, Sparks had to wait patiently while Morecambe’s incredible progress delayed City’s plans to swoop.

But encouraged by the mid-season discussions when the Shrimps had given Adams permission to come and talk, the Bantams hierarchy remained confident of landing their only target for the vacant hot-seat.

By City’s standards, signing Adams has been an aggressive, front-foot move; using their size to grab their manager of choice from a rival.

It hints at the change of mindset that Sparks has talked of – and is confident the occasionally-combustible Scot will now drive.

To coin the phrase once attached to Simon Grayson, they have signed a “promotion specialist”.

Sparks said: “I think you have got to be clear about what you want to achieve.

“I can sit here and say, ‘Look, I want to be in the Championship’, but I actually have to piece that together. It is not going to happen by accident.

"We have just hired arguably the most successful manager in the fourth tier some would argue, given what he was up against at Morecambe from a budget perspective.

“He had spent 18 months with them and if you look at the legacy he left, it is quite impressive.

“Not only that, but the work he did at Plymouth and Ross County was exceptional.

“He is very highly-regarded by people who he has worked with in the past. You can see by Morecambe’s disappointment in losing him how much he meant to them and I get that.

“For us, we wanted to set our stall out for the season and that is why we were prepared to wait. I was always confident we would convince Derek to join Bradford City.

“It didn’t happen in December because it was not something we felt was entirely necessary at that time and Derek understood that.

“Generally, if you want to break the cycle which the club have been on, you have to try and change things.

“That does not mean changing things for change’s sake, but there has to be an element of changing what this club has become about and making it about something slightly different.

“We felt we had to do that, we needed to have to do something which - maybe from an outsider looking in - was outside the box.

“Going and taking a manager from another club on the back of success is one of those things.”

Sparks believes City have made “humungous” strides off the field in the last year but they “lacked leadership in the football department to take us to the next level.”

Adams has proved he can handle the gold-fish bowl environment of managing a club who will always have sky-high expectations while stuck in League Two. He did it very successfully with Plymouth.

“Plymouth are a big club and a big fanbase and he spent a long time there,” added Sparks. “To achieve what he did in that time should not be ignored.

“We have got a huge fanbase here which has almost got a desperation now to at least be competing in the third tier again.

“I share that desperation and what Derek brings to Bradford City - and I share that myself - is a relentless work ethic.

“That proceeds every buzzword you can throw at me. If you haven’t got it, you are not going to achieve anything.

“We will work as hard as we can to get out of the position we are in. That is my absolute promise.

“That has been a crucial part of the recruitment of Derek Adams. He is extremely focused and that has tended to lead to success for him.

“He does not concern himself with noise and what ifs, maybes and buts.

“If the budget is not the biggest in the league, it is irrelevant to him and it is irrelevant to me. That is why I have built up a good relationship with Derek.”