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You're Not Helping! An Open Letter To The Valley Parade Boo-Boys

Saturday 28th January 2012
It's difficult to talk about Bradford City without harking back to the past – indeed, many issues surrounding the current season need to be contextualized, not least the behavior of the fans.

Getting relegated three times in six years does absolutely nothing for confidence, and this can clearly be construed as a reason for attitudes taken by some in the stands towards the team. Boos at full time no longer signify a sub-standard level of effort, but now include simply being outplayed or incredibly, as with last Saturdays result, the phenomenon of ‘not-winning'.

Call me a softy, but there's something about blokes in their fifties barking abuse at young men less than half their age that is worryingly unwholesome.

Time and again over the past ten years, a culture of negativity and derision has pervaded Valley Parade. Even back in the heady days of the Championship, vivid memories of assistant manager Ian Banks stepping off the bench and making wild gestures at fans to get behind the team showed something was wrong.

During Stuart McCall's time in charge, I lost count of the number of times he would appear in the back pages of the Telegraph and Argus, pleading with the fans to make some noise for the team.

The ‘twelfth man' is not a myth designed to get bums on seats – ask any professional footballer and they will tell you that injury-time roars of encouragement from the terraces help them find a second wind that can be the difference between one point and three. Booing one's own team can have the opposite effect, creating a climate of fear and nervousness that opposition teams thrive on.

Players become too scared to take risks for fear of making a mistake, which in turn leads to a series of five-yard passes between the back four, causing further frustration among the supporters. It becomes a negativity feedback-loop, and makes the ground a very unpleasant place to be.

Case in point: Omar Daley – a special talent on the wing who terrorized full backs with his electrifying pace and would occasionally cut inside to hit the odd screamer into the top corner. This was the Omar City fans will probably remember in years to come, but many will remember a different side to the Jamaican's game – one of a poor first touch, a lack of quality in his delivery and an unwillingness to pass to team mates.

Players like Daley are enigmas, and should be handled with care – yet whenever mistakes began to creep into his game, a barrage of angry sighs and abuse would emanate from the stands, affecting his game considerably. In his final season at VP, Daley seemed so bereft of confidence that Peter Taylor eventually ran out of ideas and sent him on loan to Rotherham, plunging us into a relegation dogfight.

A perfect example of fans being their own worst enemy and driving away one of the last morsels of talent from a club which – as we see fit to keep reminding ourselves – used to have it by the bucket load.

Some fans may see the booing as cathartic – with many of them simply popping down to Valley Parade every other Saturday to let off some steam, the frustrations of their terrible week boiling to the surface and manifesting themselves as despicable abuse towards lads who are simply doing their jobs.

I accept, the crowd is better than it was last season, possibly down to lowered expectations and a better team – but the culture of destructive criticism still hangs over Valley Parade like a black cloud.

So I ask, nay, beg, our supporters to think before they open their mouths at our next home match against Crawley Town. Crowds at VP are usually 10,000-strong and could be our biggest weapon. Unfortunately, we have become our own biggest hindrance.
Richard Beecham

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