Jamie Spencer was the last link to the old guard at Bradford (Park Avenue) until his departure from the club by mutual consent just over a week ago.

Part of a squad put together by on a limited budget, and managed expertly by Mark Bower and Danny Boshell, he and his teammates performed at a consistently high level for two seasons, recording back-to-back play-off finishes in National League North in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Spencer left to join Guiseley after that second season, before returning to Horsfall ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

But the 26-year-old’s second spell with Avenue did not go to plan, and after he missed around a third of last season through injury, with the club relegated from National League North on the final day, things soon got even worse.

Spencer’s dreadful season-ending ACL injury in September has played a key role in them slumping into the drop zone of the Northern Premier League Premier Division, while fellow Avenue stalwarts Bower, Boshell, Luca Havern and Oli Johnson have all left the club since the start of November.

With Spencer now joining them in departing BD6, he spoke to the T&A, ahead of a hopeful return to action with a new club for the start of the 2024/25 season.

The midfielder suffered that terrible knee injury during Avenue’s 1-1 draw at Blyth Spartans in the FA Cup second qualifying round.

Taking National League North side Blyth to a replay meant Avenue had only lost one of their previous seven games in all competitions.

But without Spencer from that day onwards, things have fallen apart.

He reflected: “Without trying to sound awful, we’ve only won three times all season since I got injured.

“There’s obviously more to it than that, not least because we’ve changed managers from Mark to Luca to Tom McStravick to Danny Whitaker.

“There’s been an influx of players and loan signings too over the last few months and it’s not easy adapting to those big changes.

“If you brought in nine new lads overnight to play for Manchester City, they’d find it hard to gel too.

“It’s a massive change, especially at part-time level, because often you’ll have young lads coming in who don’t know the league, so you need to give them time to bond, and with us, they were adapting to a new manager too.”

Spencer added: “I think we got to a point in mid-September where we were okay, but I did my ACL, then we had the likes of Harrison Hopper, Will Longbottom and Mitch Lund starting to struggle with injury too.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Will Longbottom has been out injured for a while, and Avenue are really missing his eye for goal.Will Longbottom has been out injured for a while, and Avenue are really missing his eye for goal. (Image: John Rhodes.)

“When you added in a couple of suspensions for the likes of Brad Dockerty, that had a real impact on what was a tight squad.”

Spencer may only be 26, but his experience was key to the Avenue side, whose youthful squad have suffered at times this season.

He admitted: “It was infuriating seeing the young lads out there struggling.

“Danny and Mark have done a lot for me since I came into non-league football, so for me to be injured, unable to help them out or do anything about the results we were getting, made me feel guilty.

“When the lads are struggling, there’s only so much you can say and so much impact you can have when you’re not able to play.”

Spencer thinks the world of Bower and Boshell but understood the decision for the club to part ways with them.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Danny Boshell and Mark Bower keeping a watchful eye on Jamie Spencer last season.Danny Boshell and Mark Bower keeping a watchful eye on Jamie Spencer last season. (Image: John Rhodes.)

He reflected: “I think Mark and Danny would be the first people to hold their hands up and say the results weren’t good enough at the time they were sacked.

“But I think they also knew Avenue wanted to go down a different route (with the club seeking a head coach with an all-encompassing first team and academy role) to how they like to manage.

“From that aspect, I don’t think them being sacked was to do with results alone.”

Results have not exactly picked up since Bower and Bowell’s departure either, with just two wins to speak of.

McStravick’s last game in interim charge in December resulting in a remarkable 4-3 victory at play-off hunting Macclesfield, before Whitaker finally earned his first win at the ninth attempt last Saturday by seeing Avenue to a 3-2 triumph at high-flying Warrington Rylands.

That latter win means they are now only six points off safety in the NPL Premier Division and Spencer, now an outsider, said: “You never know what might happen.

“The win on Saturday, you could maybe argue that was part Rylands going down to 10 men (with the scores level at 2-2 on the hour mark) but any win in this league is decent, especially in Avenue’s situation.

“There were a few new faces coming in on loan to help out in that game and there were some good people in that dressing room already.

“I’m close to Harrison and Lucas Odunston and they’re the kind of lads you want in your team in tough situations like this.

“Lucas is still only 23 but he deserves the captaincy he’s been given, because he’s played really well over the last couple of seasons in a struggling side.

“With the likes of Harrison, Lucas and Will Lancaster in your team, you know you’ll get nothing less than 110 per cent from them.”