IT WAS with a sense of foreboding that I strolled down the stand at Crawley to face the manager pitch-side.

I can still picture the scene – and the death stare that would greet me. Furious wasn't a strong enough way to describe Phil Parkinson's mood.

Thinking hard to pick the right printable words, he looked ready to punch somebody. I just prayed it wasn't going to be me.

Parkinson's anger was directed at a second-half capitulation that had just confirmed the size of the task he had accepted by becoming Bradford City manager.

One up at half-time to 3-1 down at the final whistle and a gutless defeat that left the Bantams 22nd in League Two – or 90th out of 92 in the entire Football League.

If he didn't suspect it before, three weeks into the job his first brush with Steve Evans had opened his eyes to the big issues he had inherited.

"We were two different sides that afternoon," recalled James Hanson, the only survivor from that grim day. "I think that's when he realised we had a problem and he had to reshuffle things totally around."

The Telegraph & Argus website comments, never a barrel of laughs after any defeat, were dripping with vitriol.

I suspect most of those critics had not been among the 440 fans who made the journey down to West Sussex but their opinions summed up the mood.

"The back four need shooting", "we can't string three passes together", "I wouldn't pay some players in washers"… You get the general gist.

The so-called honeymoon period for Parkinson was also over as he took his fair amount of the stick. "I'll give him six months", "he's a deadbeat manager", "we're still going nowhere."

Nowhere eh? It is five years to the day since that Crawley collapse – September 17, 2011. Much happened since?

Parkinson's instant reaction was to jettison several of the team he had been handed.

Guy Branston would hardly start another league game; Lewis Hunt, the substitute who had been subbed, would never kick another ball. Others such as Mark Stewart and the late Chris Mitchell were soon on their way back to Scotland.

The results weren't immediate and safety that first season – the only goal he had been set when taking over – was not achieved with too much to spare, particularly with the aftermath of Crawley part two six months later.

But Parkinson's response to that September afternoon of awakening was the first significant step in stopping the rot. Suddenly, ever so slowly, there were hints and signs that Bradford City were capable of going in the right direction once more.

Without over-egging the pudding, it's fair to point out that without that head-clearing 45 minutes at Crawley we might never have witnessed some of the momentous matches that would follow.

Next Saturday, ten times that away support will follow City across the Pennines to Bolton and a first reunion with Parkinson since that week in June.

A sell-out army of over 4,300 will be roaring on the Bantams side, hopefully still unbeaten after this afternoon's home clash with Bristol Rovers.

Parkinson v Stuart McCall; there is an almost tribal feel about the build-up. You could imagine it as a boxing pay-per-view.

The anticipation for how City's former manager is received by a support that once adored him is almost as great as for the game itself.

No doubt there will be plenty of scorn – that's how football works. Adulation in the stands can be fleeting, especially given how many viewed the manner of his summer exit.

But I would hope that is the minority; surely it's about acknowledging what Parkinson did achieve during his lengthy tenure in a hot-seat that had defeated so many before him.

He deserves the pre-match plaudits for restoring the pride in a club that had forgotten what it was like to be successful; giving fans the opportunity once more to puff out their chests and say "I support Bradford City" without being laughed at.

Yes, I'm sure Parkinson and his team will get plenty of flak once the first whistle is blown – especially when he starts to "have a word" with the fourth official over any contentious decision.

There will no doubt be a few in the away side with a point-proving agenda of their own.

More importantly, it's about showing how far this rebuilt and restyled City have come in such a short space of time under McCall's second tenure.

No better way to do that than by putting the leaders, assuming they are still top at tea-time, in their place at their place.

But before all that, let's not diminish the efforts of the manager who made this club relevant again.