ALEX Gilliead knew it was a sign when he flicked through the Sky channels.

Idly searching for something to watch, up popped the highlights from a certain League One play-off final.

“I turned to the missus and told her, ‘That’s fate. I’ve got to go back to Bradford now and try and get a promotion this time’.”

Gilliead was an unused substitute at Wembley in May 2017, watching on as helplessly as the rest of us as Millwall’s Steve Morison broke Bantam hearts.

“He will never look onside,” smiled the 25-year-old after sitting through another viewing of the fateful late goal.

“We came so close to getting into the Championship but obviously things have gone on in recent years and now we’ve ended up where we are.

“But it’s all about this season with the manager coming in. He’s got a good track record in this league.

“It shows the ambition of the club and the new people coming in. We’re all pushing in the same direction and want to get out this league.”

Gilliead returns older and wiser for his third stint in claret and amber. That experience of seeing City at their best – and then suffering as the wheels fell off – is something he is keen to pass on to his new team-mates.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Alex Gilliead, left, celebrates a City goal with Shay McCartan and Tony McMahonAlex Gilliead, left, celebrates a City goal with Shay McCartan and Tony McMahon

“I’ve been there when the club have been at their best, winning every week and playing well and getting to Wembley.

“But then the manager got sacked, we were losing three or four games in a row and the fans weren’t happy.

“But the reason why everyone wants to play for this club is the fanbase.

“If you are doing well, you are loved. But if you aren’t doing well, the fans aren’t scared to tell you.

“That’s just part and parcel of football. It’s what you want to do.

“You want to be playing in front of that many fans every week, doing well and winning.

“If I can pass on one thing to the new lads who maybe haven’t hit the heights of that play-off team I was in, it would be that.

“When you are doing well, there’s no better place to be. It’s a massive club in terms of League Two – and it would be the same if we were in League One.

“If you can get it going in the right direction, performing well, getting the fans on board, it’s such a special place to be.”

Gilliead, who made 58 appearances in his two City loan spells, is now a more versatile player than the “star man on the right” that the fans used to sing about.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Alex Gilliead takes on Gareth Evans in the snow at Scunthorpe last seasonAlex Gilliead takes on Gareth Evans in the snow at Scunthorpe last season

After 35 outings during a year at Shrewsbury, he played 89 times in the last two seasons with Scunthorpe where he was often used in a more central role. It is something Derek Adams is likely to utilise.

Gilliead added: “I still do like down the right, it’s obviously where I’ve come through and played for most of my career.

“But I’ve played in the middle as an eight and a 10 and I’ve enjoyed that as well.

“I’m one of those players who will give 100 per cent wherever the manager wants to stick me.

“I had my conversations with the manager and he’s said he has seen me play various positions. We’ll probably try different ones throughout pre-season and see how it goes.

“But as long as I’m on the pitch, I’ll try my hardest to do a decent job to help the team.”

And Gilliead is keeping his fingers crossed that there will be a noisy Valley Parade audience behind him. After a year spent behind closed doors, he cannot wait to see the stands full again.

“It was such a strange season and felt like a bit of a write-off,” he said. “It was almost like it never happened.

“We need to get the fans back, especially at Bradford where they are a massive part of the club.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Alex Gilliead is excited at the prospect of playing in front of a "bouncing" Valley Parade againAlex Gilliead is excited at the prospect of playing in front of a "bouncing" Valley Parade again

“I’ve been reading about the season-ticket sales and they have been brilliant for League Two. It gives you that extra bit of excitement to want to get out there and play well.

“I’ve been lucky enough to experience playing in front of the fans here.

“When I first came in, I think the club were fourth or fifth in League One and they were getting 12-13,000, maybe more. The place was bouncing every week and I had some memorable games.

“That’s what I learned from those 18 months and will tell the lads. If we can get it right and get off to a successful start, we can gain so much momentum.

“It’s a tough start. Exeter have been a good side now for three or four seasons so that’s a good test to get ourselves off with and then Nottingham Forest is another big one up against a Championship side.

“We’ve got some hard games in pre-season as well with Doncaster and Blackburn.

“It will take its time to get to the start of the season but all the lads and the fans can’t wait for it now. Everyone has got a positive feeling.”