No need to sneer at Bradford, Reading or anything that happened at Valley Parade

Bradford City’s FA Cup quarter-final against Reading was given a bit of shoeing over the weekend.  The goalless draw at Valley Parade failed to provide a decisive outcome and the standard of the football led to much social media chuntering.

In a way, though, the drone of complaints rather emphasised how detached we have all become from the game’s essence.  Football isn’t purely about aesthetics, and yet the accepted definition of what constitutes a good match seems to be increasingly defined by them.

That game was very honest.  It lacked the perfect playing surface, it didn’t create any particularly memorable moments and nothing that happened within that ninety minutes will ever be found on YouTube, but the palpable sense of struggle throughout made it highly engaging.

Supporters who have been raised purely on the Premier League can be very spoilt.  Even before kick-off, there were live-blog complaints about the Bradford-themed cup cakes, the marshland of a pitch, and the over-exuberant local with the microphone, but try to look at it from a different way: there was some tradition there, some much needed authenticity at a time when such a commodity is in short supply.

Sometimes, it seems as if football can only be enjoyed by the majority when a certain set of conditions are met: a game has to be played on a carpet and inside a cathedral-like stadium, it must have the right players, and it must conform to the right style of play.

“If not, then I’ll still watch, but only in a sneering, facetious comment-making way.”

Nobody should be told what they are and are not allowed to watch or enjoy, but there was an irritating reluctance to embrace the sense of occasion on Saturday.  Beyond the rickety framework, what did that picture actually look like?

A lower-league club raging against their position in the game, a town who whose imagination has obviously been caught by a fixture, and a group of players kicking each other into the air.  There was no cheating, there was no melodrama or sulking, and there wasn’t even any refereeing controversy; it was ninety minutes of blue-collared effort and, while it may not have been that watchable, it was still a spectacle.

The game is about winning and losing and, in the absence of goal-mouth action or Vine-worthy pieces of skill, that was the takeaway detail from Saturday lunchtime: those two teams did absolutely everything they could to progress.

So Bradford didn’t spend £150,000 to re-lay their pitch in the middle of the season and the two teams didn’t cost as much as one Chelsea forward, but that just makes it a different form of entertainment rather than something which can’t be enjoyed at all.

Pause for a moment and think.  Consider everything that irritates you about top-flight football across an average weekend, then recognise that Bradford against Reading was actually its welcome counter-point.  One of the loudest complaints about the modern era concerns the detachment of football from its community moorings, yet when given a fleeting glimpse of what that once looked like, fans invariably recoil.

Neither the Premier League nor Sky Sports invented football and, as such, this wasn’t some bastardised knock-off version of the sport which had to be tolerated.  This was the game in its original form, without the high-definition, without the montages and without the perpetual hand-wringing over ‘what it all means’.

Different can be fun, but only if you embrace the variation.

Follow @SebSB

5 Comments on "No need to sneer at Bradford, Reading or anything that happened at Valley Parade"

  1. Lanterne Rouge | Mar 12, 2015 at 12:53 pm |

    I was at the game and what you say was quite true - it was an unbearably tense, exciting occasion full of blood and thunder. Tremendously gripping entertainment.

  2. Tony Watson | Mar 11, 2015 at 10:03 pm |

    Glad to hear the voice of common sense. I’m a Bradford CITY fan for 61 years. (Not town, Bradford is the 5th largest borough in England by population!)
    It wasn’t a great game but both teams gave it their all and cancelled each other out. I was at Chelsea in January with 6000 Bradford fans and we made far more noise than the other 35000 in the ground nibbling their prawn sandwiches. We enjoyed singing, Mourinho was right, your fans are s****!’

  3. Paul Khan | Mar 10, 2015 at 10:48 am |

    Mine, & I’m sure, tens of thousands of other proper, down to earth, hard core supporters of the true beautiful game. Well said, it’s time the powers that be listened & stood up & be counted. This is the grass roots & the home of football & the so called “super teams” wouldn’t exist without it!

  4. At last some sanity in a World dominated by greed and money of the Premier League …two sets of fans who passionately supported their team …unlike the library loudness of the Chelsea fans.

  5. Totally and completely spot on - good luck to Bradford and Reading. 2 decent local town clubs working in their communities.

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