As the Bantams prepare themselves for their first season in League One for over half a decade, I ready myself for one giant leap into the unknown.
|Can we expect another trip to Wembley this season?|
This Saturday, the wait is over. This Saturday, it all begins again. This Saturday, another season of passion, euphoria, elation, anger, despair, happiness, pride, pain and heartbreak commences with the opening game against Bristol City at Ashton Gate. This Saturday, Parkinson’s men get their first taste of life in League One.
And I know how they feel, especially the ones who have never set foot in the third tier before. Because I’m in a similar boat: I’ve never seen City play outside of League Two.
As I mentioned in The Width Of A Post’s season preview earlier this week, League One is uncharted territory, and I have no idea what to expect. Any predictions I make are based on my knowledge of all the newly-promoted teams I’ve seen over the years: the ones who have had a dire campaign and just hung on in there by the skin of their teeth; the ones who have been mercilessly exposed as simply not strong enough for the division and who have plummeted straight back down again; the ones who have emerged as strong sides and have remained in the league for years to come; the ones who have somehow sailed on to secure back-to-back promotions.
Which all leaves me wondering what will happen to us this season. Will we become the easy scalp, the club that others point at and jeer at and view as a nailed-on three points, as probably was the case during part of the League Two stint? Or will we tear every team to shreds and leave Coventry City cowering in a corner? Will every game be closely fought, or will we endure multiple throwbacks to cup final day, when a ruthless Swansea team showed their superiority? Will we go up again, or is talk of another promotion ill founded? Oh, we’re top of the table now – is that a good omen? Will we be able to sustain our current pole position, or will we languish at the bottom of the table? We’ve seen these players compete with Premier League teams before – they’re obviously ready for this level. But to produce that quality over 46 games? Can we do that?
I look at our squad and see a competitive, experienced, sharp group of lads who share such a tight bond. I look at the wise Parkinson, who dragged this club off its knees and reenergized the Bantams. I look at the backroom staff, Nick Allamby and his acclaimed fitness programme, and I see the most professional and organised set up I’ve ever known at City. My knee-jerk reaction to the question, “Can we be successful in League One?” is to say, “Yes,” because look around – this is our best chance yet to keep moving on up to where we feel we ought to be.
For me, it’s just a case of maintaining this momentum and making sure that the progression from that meagre, feeble League Two side we cringed at under Peter Taylor, to a quality squad that enjoy great success, is built upon.
It’s not going to be easy. We are stepping up into a league with a lot of financial muscle, and there are ten or eleven clubs – including Sheffield United, Wolves and Bristol City - who all have their sights firmly fixed on promotion. It’s a tight division.
But there’s no reason why we can’t compete with the other 23 teams there. I bet Brentford don’t have a Gary Jones, a Nathan Doyle, an Andrew Davies or a Nahki Wells.
So, what can we expect? That remains to be seen, but, whatever happens, we know these lads won’t be going out on a tentative whimper.