Issue Rhodes and the Catch 22

As told by Michael Wood

I spent much of this evening in debate with an eager reader who asked me how I could still support Colin Todd despite the 2-1 reversal at Milton Keynes Dons this weekend. He is to start a protest against Todd on Saturday – the protest will involve t-shirts – and wanted to know if I would making him a website for it.

I mulled it over – the idea that BfB supported Colin Todd not the idea of doing a free website for someone – and wondered how accurate it was. I flicked back through enough editorials to know that the Gaffer does not have a ringing endorsement from my comments but that there is much talk about the need for continuity.

At this point I cannot imagine the decision Julian Rhodes has to make. Certainly it is true to say that Rhodes’s faith in Todd has been shaken in recent months and with one win in eleven the chairman must be thinking issuing a P45 to a manager he inherited appointed as assistant by Gordon Gibb and then as manager by an administrator.

Rhodes probably knows that axing Todd would give him a popularity boost and lift the mood around Bradford City. Todd’s popularity has hit such low levels it is almost impossible to see it being turned around. The manager who was lambasted for negative tactics for most of the season now picks midfields of passing players – Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Tom Penford, Steven Schumacher and Owen Morrison are no one’s defensive line up – but having given the fans what they wanted he now carries the can for bad results.

And as results go bad so does mood. City walked onto the field at Milton Keynes a team which looks mentally beaten before a ball is kicked. It could have been the loss of Dean Windass but more likely the mood which effects the fans is deeply rooted in the club. Football is game played mostly in the head and built on confidence and just as in the stands the idea that Todd’s team will win has gone from the dressing room. It does not matter if this is true or not the presence of the idea is enough to curse the side.

In short – and to quote my late Nan – the poor Buggar cannot do right for wrong. I have no idea if Todd has “lost the dressing room” or even what losing the dressing room is but I have seen enough football to know that City are in the sort of situation where a someone would get a pasting in the game after a management change and for a while everything would be right again.

However Julian Rhodes has sat in on the last four management changes at City in some way and the Bantams have gone though the man appointed from within, the experienced professional boss, the young up and coming boss and the top international without any turnaround of fortunes. It would take an especially dense man not to at least pause at the idea of having to go back into the job market to find someone to follow in those footsteps without being worried that the problem is not in another area of the club and that changing the manager is not the so much nothing which it has proved to be over the last half decade.

In all honesty I could not say to Julian Rhodes that any of the candidates likely to apply for the job of Bantams manager would be better than any of the last five bosses who have been in charge at Valley Parade but I’d suspect that a great number of much worse bosses would apply. I could be pretty sure that the change would boost morale and Rhodes would know the cost of that in hard cash. Todd has a twelve month contract to pay off and for the £100,000 plus the chairman gives away the reward is the randomness of appointment and a very good chance that an application process would make hardly any difference whatsoever in anything other than the short term. Chris Kamara was three numbers, Paul Jewell was a big lottery win. Almost every other change has been a zero baller.

So faced with the level of uncertainty Rhodes is stuck in a Catch 22 situation. Todd’s presence at the club is deflating matters to such a point where it is hard to see a win coming – although they always do – but to get rid of him is expensive and repeats an often failing policy of football chairmanship. 99% of the time the new manager is no better than the old one and the whole process of paying off the one, getting rid of players, bringing players in and then eighteen months later sacking is costly and tedious.

So expect Rhodes to do as all chairmen faced with this problem do. He will hold onto Colin Todd for as long as he can because should the team manage to get past fifty points he has less pressure to make a change. Should he need to make the change – and after Saturday that change could be made on Monday morning – then he will fall back on what he is familiar with and appoint David Wetherall as manager until the end of the season. An untried manager coming in with a need to get points quickly. Sure Wetherall might get the wins need but things could go wrong in a bigger way than they are doing now. Such is untried managers.

So why do we back Colin Todd? Because I don’t like gambles being made with my club’s future when the stakes are so high.