From May, 2008
The word is that Luke Beckett has agreed terms with City and is our second capture from those strange lot down the road in two days as Stuart McCall starts making a City team that can go up two divisions.
31 year old Beckett has been on his holidays with a contract in his back pocket that will run a year with another year if either side thinks things have gone well which usually means he is being paid a fair price and shows City’s aims this season. Promotion or rip it up and start again.
Beckett joins Chris Brandon in making the short but glorious trip from Huddersfield and as with Brandon he has been linked with City before with Colin Todd opting to sign Eddie Johnson rather than Beckett two years ago.
Beckett’s role in the team can be summed up as Barry Conlon with goals and we can expect to see him partnering Peter Thorne up front next season with Conlon and Billy Topp fighting for positions. As Conlon showed this year this is a league where scrapping is needed and Topp might have to wait 12 months until League One before he starts to be a regular.
Brandon is a hard working midfielder but he is not Stuart McCall’s new Stuart McCall so he has to be balanced with another box-to-box midfielder like which might be Lee Bullock but Hartlepool fans consider Bullock an attacking midfielder. Brandon could join the midfield on the left flank tucked in to balance out Joe Colbeck as a flying winger on the other side but perhaps Stuart will go with Bullock and Brandon with Kyle Nix on the left and Colbeck on the right.
It seems that as Stuart starts his signings City are getting options and perhaps the gaffer is going to go for four quality forwards, six quality midfielder and let the pieces fall into place rather than fixing his team in his mind in June as he has had to last year because of having too few quality players.
One of the great things about emailing people is you can pretend to be sincere.
When I mailed a Leeds-supporting friend if she’d at least enjoyed her day out at Wembley last weekend I was able to do so without the immature smirks and wisecracks Leeds-supporting colleagues who sit near me have had to endure. I was equally glad she wasn’t able to see me shaking my head in despair after receiving her reply.
Yes she’d enjoyed the occasion, but was still carrying a sense of injustice that her beloved whites had lost to Doncaster Rovers. Not because she felt the players deserved more than the 1-0 defeat they suffered, but because the Leeds United supporters had notably outnumbered their South Yorkshire counterparts.
The Doncaster fans were rubbish for the number of empty seats they left she claimed, while ignoring the fact Rovers were forced to suspend ticket sales due to the number of ticketless Leeds fans attempting to buy them. I couldn’t help but feel it was a flawed logic to believe one club deserved to beat another on account of how many supporters they could muster.
Typical Leeds United fans – arrogant and looking down their noses at clubs who are now their equal, perhaps another season in England’s third tier will teach them to be more humble.
But wait. Supporters convinced success is their privilege on the basis of the number of their own, belief that opposition players won’t be able to handle the ‘intimidation’ of your big crowds, the feeling you can sit back and enjoy assured success…it all sounds a bit familiar – like us a year ago?
If there’s one thing the 2007/08 season should have taught us it’s that having more supporters than your rivals is not an advantage on its own. With our crowds averaging 10,000 more than many others, it was easy to get carried away in the belief these small clubs wouldn’t fancy running out at Valley Parade and we’d sweep everyone aside. The reality proved somewhat different as nine defeats contributed to the best supported club in the division managing only the 11th best home record.
Another year on and, despite the lack of success on the pitch, the aim is to dramatically increase crowds once more with a second remarkable season ticket offer. The daily updated figure at the bottom of City’s official website suggests it doesn’t appear to have yet captured the Bradford public’s imagination, but with many likely to be holding out until the last minute the club are still confident that the 9,000 adult applicants needed to trigger everyone getting a free second season ticket will be reached.
The season ticket initiative deserves all the applause it’s getting, but it does throw up plenty of questions for the season ahead. Will everyone who receives a free season ticket find someone to use it and, even then, will they go to every game? Are there enough supporters anxiously waiting until just before the deadline to see if the club are close to the magic 9,000 target, where they can then split the cost with a friend confident of getting that free season ticket?
The number of season ticket holders increased markedly following the £138 offer for 2007-08 season, but many of these were clearly floating supporters lured by the optimism that Stuart McCall’s return generated and novelty of live football. If, after watching a failed campaign of League Two football they renew it’s an achievement of sorts, but do they have other friends they can persuade to join them or will they think £75 a ticket or not bother? And what if 9,000 isn’t reached, what does the club plan to do then?
The growing uncertainty of if the season ticket initiative will succeed is similar to last season, where as City failed dismally to fight against relegation the number of supporters pledging to buy a season ticket was worryingly short of the 10,000 target. Julian Rhodes decided to run the offer anyway and the summer euphoria of Stuart’s return and Mark Lawn’s investment helped the uptake exceed expectations. There will be no such off the field moves this close season and it’s unlikely Stuart will be making the sort of headline signings that would trigger large queues at the ticket office. The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.
The hope is that the offer will succeed for more reasons than for those of us who have bought a season ticket for 2008/09 to get a second free. When Rhodes unveiled the first season ticket offer in February 2007 his motivation was to make the local football team affordable to everyone in the area. Football’s incredible rise in popularity over the last 15 years has sparked unprecedented interest, but seeing it in the flesh has gone beyond the reach of many.
The original season ticket sought to readdress the balance and, after some prodding, captured people’s interest. Other clubs have since replicated what City pioneered and, as the Premier League becomes further grasped from reality, Football League clubs have the chance to re-establish their importance in local communities by being a place young and old can afford to be.
Should the 9,000 be reached, prompting the second free season tickets, more fans will be supporting City next season than during the 1998-99 promotion season exactly 10 years earlier, a fact which underlines the high ambition of the initiative. Clearly it’s going to be touch and go if this is achieved and, even if it does, question marks over the future will remain. What about season ticket prices for 2009-10? What about 2010-11? It’s unclear if Rhodes and Lawn will have such a long term strategy and ultimately it could be out of their hands.
All of which underlines the importance of things going right on the pitch next season. City must mount a stronger promotion push sooner rather than later or the renewed interest in the Bantams will fade for many as quickly as it was rediscovered. There is a hardcore support who will continue to follow City come what may, but no amount of great offers will persuade the more fair-weather supporters to keep coming if we’re going to continue struggling against the likes of Accrington and Barnet. If City can be celebrating promotion the cheap season tickets will remain popular, but it seems unlikely there will be a strong uptake next year if another season of mid-table mediocrity follows.
The statement of ambition from Julian Rhodes this week, while putting pressure on the management team, is welcome. Whether the club should believe they can be in the Championship in two years is debatable, but the old saying of shoot for the moon and, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars could be on the chairmen’s minds. Certainly the immediate aims should centre of promotion from the basement league and provide those of a claret and amber persuasion the first opportunity to celebrate success in nearly a decade.
The pictures of Leeds United supporters crying at Wembley might have give us all a good laugh, but they should also act as a warning that big crowds at Valley Parade next season offer only limited help to achieving the goal of promotion. It’s appears such lessons are being taken on board with the announcement Stuart is to have a larger than anticipated budget to mould a team capable of achieving the dreams of a fickle and impatient Bradford public – before they conclude that even some of the cheapest season tickets in the country aren’t worth it.
Julian Rhodes arrived at Valley Parade to join a board and a man – Geoffrey Richmond – who fuelled progress with public high ambition and his demand that Stuart McCall try get back to back promotions to The Championship is straight out of the former chairman’s play book.
Rhodes has ratcheted up the pressure on McCall but with that comes an increase in resources at the manager’s disposal recalling Richmond would slip managers the money to make signings while banging the table for promotion. Indeed the current joint chairman joined the club and funded £4.5m spending for Paul Jewell as Richmond backed his manager.
While Richmond seemed to be tub-thumping his analysis of the First Division that year was good. Likewise Rhodes may have looked at League Two which has lost two or three big spending teams and gained through relegation a couple of financially troubled clubs. League Two is weaker this year than it was last and Rhodes has responded.
Looking at the season to follow then one might assume that Leeds will be promoted in May 2009 and Leicester will have followed them. Nottingham Forest and Bristol City have already exited the third tier of English football and – no disrespect – the likes of Scunthorpe have returned to it. League One 2009/2010 promises to be much less strong than the division does this year and like Richmond before him Rhodes has assessed the situation and aims to exploit.
How realistic Rhodes’s stated “realistic aim” is is anyone’s guess. Lennie Lawrence and Jim Jefferies both went into seasons with big resources only to perform averagely and football these days is only three defeats away from a crisis.
Nevertheless everyone at Valley Parade seems to be preparing for bigger things and – as his schooling at the shoulder of Geoffrey Richmond has taught him – Julian Rhodes is applying pressure up front and sliding resources in behind that.
William Hill are offering Bradford City at 10/1 to win League Two next season. After Darlington, perpetual four tier club Rochdale and relegated Gillingham we are the shortest odds in the division as the bookmakers take a look at the Bantams and see potential.
Stuart McCall is – we believe – abut to make Chris Brandon a Bantam at last as he rounds on ten players to increase the quality of the squad at Valley Parade. Brandon might be followed by Luke Beckett of Huddersfield Town, by Alan Marriott of Lincoln City and by Darren Moore of Derby County or all these players may never set foot in BD8 but it would seem that City are making a noise.
Mark Lawn is optimistic that the Bantams will make the 9,000 adult season ticket marker he has set down and should ticket sales be akin to last season then the Bantams would be the 20th best supported club in the Football League.
A further look at those figures tells you that only Leeds United and Nottingham Forest have bigger attendance in the bottom two divisions and that City’s average bums on seats is bigger than at least one club in the Scots, German, French and Italian top divisions.
Add to that the rumoured £250,000 coming City’s way following Dean Windass’s guiding Hull City to the Premiership then it is not hard to see why the bookies are starting to take notice. Lawn, Julian Rhodes and McCall must ensure that the momentum is built on in the coming weeks and month.
Perhaps though we should not pay much attention to bookmakers. Hull City are 5,000/1 to win the Premiership, Stoke 2,000/1. Bono of U2 is 1,000/1 to be the next Pope. These 1,000/1 Papal odds are the same price should one want to bet on Father Dougal Maguire of Father Ted to become the Holy Father.
I’m on my feet cheering Hull City on a Saturday afternoon and I’ve got two fists in the air and I’m watching the Tigers win promotion and I’m happy.
Hull City really hate Bradford City but I don’t know why and no one I know does. I guess they don’t like the way we went off to the Premiership after nicking their stand that time but whatever it is they hate us and we are a bit confused as to why. I have the same thing with a guy called Tim Johnson and I think me and Tim could get along well if only he got over the wanting to punch my face in thing. We are the same with Hull.
Especially because Hull have got Dean Windass leading them.
I always feel like Dean Windass was robbed from me. I loved having Dean Windass up front for City and from the minute he left for Hull I knew we were in trouble that season. Deano was the only player who had a club where the net was and he worked hard and he was smart as anything on the football field and without any of those things we were never going to win many. It would be like City now letting the goals of Peter Thorne, the work of Barry Conlon and the tricks of Billy Topp go on the same day.
But the worst thing about Deano leaving was that it was a self inflicted wound. Deano left and at the time he was getting death threats from a hand full of idiots who call themselves City fans but are really just sad cases. We ignore them cause they really are a minority.
But these guys were fed by the fact that we never appreciated Deano. All through his City career the boos were not far away. He was booed when we signed him for getting into the team over Robbie Blake and in the Premiership for not being Blake and the people who booed him when he played for us booed him when he came back for other clubs and scored against us.
Then when he returned to City the boos were not far away and some fans were so quick to get on his back. Deano was never perfect and his sending off against Bournemouth was stupid but he played with passion and he won matches for City and he did it time and time again.
But he could do ten things right and one thing wrong and some people would ignore the ten and jump on him for the one. Some people just enjoyed getting on Deano’s back cause they thought that being able to criticise Deano meant they were smarter football fans. It was personal abuse and nothing to do with what Deano did on the field which was head and shoulders above Eddie Johnson, Andy Cooke, Spencer Weir-Daley, Moses Ashikodi, Danny Cadamarteri, Michael Branch or any the other partners Deano had.
So when he had an offer from Hull City on the table alongside the death threats he probably looked at the team he has keeping up on his own and compared them to the club where he is a legend and thought why does he need to play for a team who boo him and moan about him. If he had thought “Lets see what they can do without me” then he would have been right. Letting Dean Windass go got us relegated and the people who made the climate that made him want to leave should know that they are responsible for that.
So I’m cheering Dean Windass’s brilliant twenty yarder at Wembley and thinking how that could have been a goal for us cause Deano would have stuck at VP for the rest of his career had it not been for some so-called fans driving him out. I hope Hull City do ok in the Premiership and I’m not jealous cause they will have thier Rodney Marsh.
But I am jealous of them for having Deano because he should be out player and some of us threw him away.
South Leeds is the part of the City that fashion has forgotten but it is in this refuge of the non-business man that having walked from work I looked for a haircut and settled onto a barber who had the most important thing one can find in this search – an empty chair.
I got snug and looked around catching a glimpse of the odd United poster – to be expected – before doffing my glasses and waiting for the cut. The rule with barbers is small talk and so we killed time before inevitably getting onto football and the Champions League final on Wednesday.
“Coke vs Pepsi” I offered attempting to close down the conversation. I sensed he wanted more so I continued “But I guess Man United, what with being Northern…”
“I hate Man Yoo,” he replied, “Because I am Leeds.”
He was and in the middle of Leeds he has a right to be. He snipped well and quickly so I tried to press him for more saying “I thought Leeds hated Chelsea too.”
He said that he would rather both teams lost the game – if only that were possible – and that if the fans were all sent to Siberian prisons then he would not be upset. It amused me and I laughed only for his hands to roughly grab me ensuring even sideburns.
“I don’t care.” he declared “I’m going to Wembley and we are going up.” and for a moment a rush of conversation ran though my head. We should be kin – this barber and me – for we have no interest in this Moscow Show and we long for the success of our own clubs.
We are the best of rivals but not enemies. We can agree on this point and build common ground from there. The interests of clubs outside the less than a dozen that make up the haves in football are best served by recognising that Leeds United, Bradford City, Ipswich, Yeovil Town, Exeter and on and on have more in common than we do separating us.
Here in this barbers shop in South Leeds we could join on this point.
“Perhaps a bomb will go off and both Man Yoo and Chelsea will be killed?” he smiled and started to finish my hair with a razor.
His cutthroat razor flicking down the back of my neck.
We are the two of us alone in his shop and bomb idea hanging in a pregnant pause between us. A long, sharp blade flicking my neck as he asks me “Who do you support?”
Well what would you say?
He looked down at the ground. There appeared to be no attempt to pass the blame or even highlight the virtues of the goalkeeper who’d blocked his shot. He should have scored and how he and his side could live to regret that moment.
Barely a minute later he’s celebrating though, two of his team mates had charged forward and ganged up on the exposed full back. They worked the ball effortlessly past him and sent over a low cross that’s tapped home. The villain a minute ago becomes the hero, 35,000 fans watching want to strangle him and many of their neighbours are quietly chortling as a former player of their’s strikes the blow.
Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, former Bantam, has just struck the second goal of Carlisle’s eye brow-raising first leg Play Off victory over Leeds United on Monday. The Cumbrian side were classed as underdogs having only won one of their last eight games, but were now in enviable position with 30 minutes and a home leg to follow. Leeds would pull a goal back right at the end and win impressively at Brunton Park three days later, but the tie had not been as straightforward as the Elland Road club might have assumed.
If the first leg result was unexpected, it was the approach of Carlisle which really surprised. There was no sitting back, concentrating on keeping the game tight and hitting Leeds on the break. They attacked from the first whistle, Bridge-Wilkinson unlucky with a shot clipping the post early on. Knocking the ball around confidently, they looked threatening every time they went forward.
Leeds are a good League One side and had plenty of chances, Carlisle keeper Kieran Westwood was in stunning form, but the Sky Sports stat on the half hour mark that the last five minutes had featured 74% possession to Carlisle showed just who was running the game. They scored soon after and, with Leeds expected to come out firing, seemed to up their efforts even more after the break. Bridge-Wilkinson missed that glorious chance but was soon mobbed by team mates after getting it right soon after.
The formation Carlisle employed for their attacking approach? 4-5-1. It’s something that City manager Stuart McCall, who is said to be taking in most Play Off games with an eye on new signings, will have noted. He came to Valley Parade last summer with fresh ideas, one of which included the aim of City being adaptable enough to play 4-5-1 in difficult looking away games. A decent pre-season draw against Burnley and narrow Carling Cup defeat to Wolves seemed to confirm it was a way his players could play.
Yet to some City supporters, 4-5-1 is a formation to provoke anger. Stuart has tried to play this way in other games during the season, with limited success. The formation is viewed as too negative and it’s argued City are playing for a draw. When Stuart opted for 4-5-1 at bottom club Wrexham in January steam was apparently coming out of people’s ears. The message from these supporters was to stick to 4-4-2 and stop being defensive.
They have a point about not been too cagey, but the success of only playing the traditional 4-4-2 formation in recent years is questionable. Omar Daley, Ben Muirhead and Bobby Petta are just three of the inconsistent wingers who’ve frustrated. 4-4-2 relies on wingers bombing down the flanks and getting in good crosses; but while there’s been several memorable days it’s worked, there’s also been several exasperating occasions where it hasn’t.
The secret behind the way Carlisle and I believe Stuart attempted to play, with 4-5-1, is to get midfielders charging forward from deep and causing the opposition problems in picking them up. The MK Dons played this system at Valley Parade last month and our defence struggled to mark the runners. It also needs a good defensive midfielder who can sit back and allow his four colleagues to take turns at charging forward at will.
The key, which is where Stuart has struggled, is the right personnel. Chris Lumsdon did an outstanding job for Carlisle at Elland Road by sitting back and allowing others to get forward, while Bridge-Wilkinson and Hackney particularly caught the eye with some killer forward runs. These players won’t be arriving at Valley Parade this summer but a Stuart-esqe defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder, or two, hopefully will.
Despite the fantastic opening hour at Elland Road, it all went wrong for Carlisle. For the final 30 minutes they were guilty of sitting too deep and holding out for 2-0, the late goal they conceded shifting the momentum. In the second leg they played 4-5-1 at home but were outclassed by a Leeds side who stuck rigidly to their 4-4-2, without playing any traditional wingers.
On this evidence a defensive formation to protect a lead it is not; but, if Stuart wants to adopt the 4-5-1 attacking principles of the MK Dons and Carlisle in away games next season, I’ll be one supporter at least who won’t be unhappy.
After seeing Leeds United win 2-0 to get to the Play Off final I have to hand it to the team from East of Pudsey – they have probably done football a great service and stopped administrations to come.
Before Leeds United 33 other administrations from City’s on the 9th of May 2002 to the start of the season were done in a certain way with clubs cutting themselves to the bone to find out how much money they needed and how much they could afford to pay off creditors.
A club would look at the cost of a thin squad and what they did not need they would make an attempt to put back into the pockets of the local businesses and the St John’s Ambulance who tend to get shafted in these situations. These club hamstring themselves for the future and some are penalised ten points and while no one is saying that wrongs are righted at least an attempt is made to do that.
Then comes Leeds United who look at the size of the debts and the tariff of punishment and decide that the one is worth the other and rather than trying to make amends to the community – and the community of finance, the small businesses who have holes in cash flow thanks to them – they are based in they play administration, the game and take the hit of points while ensuring they have a squad that can overcome the penalty.
So I’m a bank or an investor and a football club come to me know because they need some cash or their overdraft extending and do I agree because I know they run by a set of guidelines designed to protect us both or do I look at Leeds United and step away?
In abusing administration Leeds United will have changed things for all clubs looking for protection from creditors. The next time a club asks for financial help then they will be knocked back by the wiser investors who have seen that the only punishment that is given for taking the money and running is a football one so that football club will have to cut it’s cloth accordingly.
That or they will do as Halifax Town have done and feel the smash of creditors losing faith in their abilities to pay it back.
In that way I have to hand it to Leeds United. They have taken a system designed to protect clubs and investors and tilted it so far in the way of the clubs that the investors will never use it again and suddenly everything in the hand to mouth existence of the lower leagues of English football just got that bit harder.
The dust has settled on the season now and Stuart McCall has decided City were not good enough saying we were a four out of ten team.
The dust has settled on the season now and everyone is getting ready to not be interested in the European Championships and Euro 2008 but Stuart McCall is sat behind his desk at VP trying to find out how to make his four our of ten team a nine or tenner. He hasn’t asked me for suggestions but I’m going to give them anyway.
First I’d tell him to have not made as many changes as he has which is not like me at all cause I normally favour throwing out bathwater and babies on the hope that we might get cuter babies but Eddie Johnson, Darren Williams (Who seems to have done nothing wrong except remind people of Holloway) and Tom Penford were used to the way that Stuart got City playing. The big problem this season was that it took City four months to get into the zone and get used to each other so letting go of the players who were used to each other was not a great idea.
Second I’d say that he should look again at that four out of ten. Chop the first four months off the season and take the season half of it and City are a playoff team. A good start to the season and we could end up being the best side from January to January (not that that gets you promoted) which says to me that we need a couple of tweaks and not a load of changes.
The changes we need are about smarts. We need to get smarter and stop giving the ball away so much (getting rid of Paul Evans goes half way to this) especially when we are away from home. At home we just need to make sure we understand that the best way to attack is to get the ball as often as possible so we need a guy in the midfield to win it back and that guy is not Lee Bullock or Kyle Nix. Stuart needs a Stuart and he needs one who can come in on the first day of the season and be good. Everyone in football is looking for one of them.
Third he needs to change the law so Donny Ricketts can come back. Scott Loach did nothing Ricketts couldn’t do and made the same mistakes. People were just less bored of him is all so he didn’t get groaned at. Shame to see Donny go and I don’t think he got enough of a send off.
Lastly Stuart needs to fix his team in his mind before the first day and stop the chopping and changing of forwards. We need partnership and understanding to get out of this league.
Kevin Keegan was wrong to describe the Premiership as boring.
Today Manchester United square up against Chelsea and the winner could be decided by goal difference – the tiny margin between success and failure – and right up to the last kick of the game the season will stay interesting.
All a far cry from Chelsea’s days in the second flight of English football and I remember City would have played off with Chelsea for a place in The First Division back in 1988 had we beaten Middlesbrough.
I also remember Manchester United going to play Halifax Town in a League Cup game at The Shay.
United Town took the lead I think but Halifax came back to win and won 2-1. Halifax Town beating Manchester United seems a long time ago today.
Halifax Town are virtually gone from football. A meeting on Friday in Leeds left them with virtually no hope of a CVA or of any sort of a reprieve from the debtors. They are about to go into liquidation very soon and then there will be no more Halifax Town.
Supporters of Town – and there are not many one supposes – will lose the football club they have followed. Football is a strange thing and hard to understand for most. It is a metronome for the supporter’s lives ticking off weeks and years in the same way that any anniversary or regular event does.
I heard once that humans use rituals to mark out time – why celebrate a birthday anyway? – in manageable units and my better half does not really understand how I can recall dates because they fall within certain seasons but I can.
For football supporters that is one of the functions of the game – to allow a common and shared set of events that we use to mark out the paths of our lives. It is not the only one of these things society holds – I remember other things by which albums I was listening to around that time – but they are important and special and for the people of Halifax they are gone.
Today of all days I say this. Today 11th of May 56 people lost their lives watching Bradford City play Lincoln and we mark that tragic anniversary as we mark the joyous, the sad, the silly, the mundane ones around supporting football in a way that weaves into the fabric of our lives.
I doubt that the armchair supporters watching the Premiership “showdown” have even the faintest idea what I mean. I think they think these point of view to be outmoded and old fashioned. I think they look at supporters of clubs like Bradford City and Halifax Town as being part quaint and part dull following the unsuccessful bloody-mindedly as if community and kinship means nothing.
Manchester United vs Chelsea is Coke vs Pepsi. Whichever wins it makes very little to the rest of football which looks to crumbs to live on while at the top table they gorge.
The Premiership – Thatcherism gone to horrific extremes – will be settled today and at some point someone will mention that Chelsea have not scored enough goals despite paying a man £130,000 a week to do that. £130,000 a week as Halifax Town go to the wall.
Kevin Keegan was wrong to describe the Premiership as boring. It is not boring, it is obscene.
Observing from a distance, it’s often felt there are two sides to City’s potential new signing Luke Beckett.
On the one part is his undoubted goalscoring ability, which sadly we’ve suffered from too often in the past. 163 goals from 346 career starts (+49 sub) is a phenomenal record and the majority of City fans will be licking their lips at the prospect of a Beckett-Peter Thorne partnership next season.
Yet there’s also an impression that Beckett is a player who struggles to settle anywhere. There are no hints of a disruptive character or stories of any bust ups, indeed some supporters have fought to keep him in the past, but since been released from Barnsley a decade ago Luke has been the subject of eight permanent or loan moves. At most clubs he has flourished, but he doesn’t seem to stick around for too long. The exploits of Dean Windass and Thorne may be helping City build a reputation as a place for ‘mature’ strikers to flourish and, if Beckett can replicate that success, it’s to be hoped he’ll consider Valley Parade more the happy home that he appears to have found elsewhere.
City’s unfortunate habit of conceding goals to Beckett began in March 2002, where his 10th minute strike for Stockport proved enough to inflict one of the most embarrassing defeats in recent history. Three years later the now on-loan Oldham striker struck the decisive goal that kept the Lactics up on the final day of the season, their claret and amber opponents fortunately having nothing to play for. Beckett was back on loan at Oldham the following season, his move to Sheffield United in November 2004 proving a major disappointment, and his temporary employers continued to prove City’s bogey team. 6-2 aggregate home and away victories were recorded – Beckett grabbed three over the two games.
That following summer manager Colin Todd infamously spurned the opportunity to sign Beckett in favour of Eddie Johnson. History could argue it was one of his worst decisions, but while Beckett ended up at Huddersfield he didn’t really set the place alight. Peter Jackson used his entire transfer budget securing Beckett, but his preference of playing 4-5-1 regularly left Beckett on the bench. Town’s number 18 still enjoyed a decent scoring record over his two seasons at the Galpharm, but the club’s progress has stuttered and his third Town manager in that time, Stan Ternent, has allowed him to leave.
The challenge for Stuart McCall, as it is with every player, will be to get the best out of Beckett next season. Their paths have already crossed at Sheffield United, so Stuart already has a good idea of the type of character he is. The season that has just finished felt familiar to recent others in the problems encountered up front. We seem to be able to get one regular goal scorer, but getting two fit and firing together is one reason why City failed to challenge for promotion again. Stuart needs to get the midfield supplying the ball to both strikers in areas they can hurt the opposition and work on discouraging performance levels dropping off.
With Barry Conlon, Willy Topp, Luke Medley and Omar Daley all capable of playing up front, Stuart looks more spoiled, relatively, in this department than any other City boss in years. A scenario similar to how his mentor Neil Warnock managed his strikers, heavy rotation, is easy to imagine. If this works, fine; but it can be a dangerous game and lead to loss of form and confidence.
Disregard an injury-plagued 2003/04 campaign and Beckett’s 12-goal haul this season is the worst of his career. Looking set to drop down a level and with a point to prove, we look set to finally be able to cheer at the sight of the Sheffield-born forward hitting the back of the net.
Today I got a message on my Facebook page – yes dear reader even the bloke what does BfB wastes time on Facebook – talking to me about trying to help City reach the 9,000 mark for season ticket sales. Have a visit and think about how City are using modern media to promoted the club which is welcome and a turn away from the face of most football clubs.
On Saturday I stood under canopy at Valley Parade at midday queuing for the single window of the ticket office to renew my season ticket and as each of the six or seven people in front of me were processed slowly. It was not cold and there was no wind whipping past the ticket office. The queue moved slowly but this was understandable because applications that go beyond the simple take time and the one guy processing them was working as fast as he could but in the end he is still one guy.
“I hope this is a simple one,” he commented as I got to the front and it was and I left having queued for a long time that kept within the limited of what could be called acceptable – probably because I was not too cold or too wet – and went on my way and my issue is not that I felt like I had been treated badly just that I did not feel as if I had been treated well.
The largest club superstore is attached to the ticket office. It is big, it is warm, it is empty – more or less – and in my head I picture a sofa with a coffee pot waiting for you as you go through the details of your application opposite the same man who rather than having to shout through a glass wall is opposite with a laptop in front of him entering information. I imagine the kids that were wandering around me outside watching the TV screens of the Manchester United game or browsing for products. I imagine a much more welcoming experience of renewing a season ticket.
For this May ritual of renewal is – for many people – the only contact with the club outside of a match day environment and while it is very typical of the rest of the game it is hardly something that one would relish and perhaps the club that lead the way in season ticket pricing might look at the way that tickets are renewed.
The day of treating all football supporters as if they are potentially violent thugs one must be separated from by sheets of glass are surely behind us and with so much space available to the club and understanding the unique nature of this contact between club and fan could more effort not be made to make a better experience?
A comfy place to sit while you are dealt with and a warm environment around you is going to make for a more pleasant half hour than one current enjoys when making the once yearly contact. The club that led the way on customer pricing can also start to make moves on customer service. I’ve no complaints with how I was treated when getting my season ticket but with some care and attention it could go from necessary evil to a comfortable, rich and enjoyable way of the club saying Hi to its main backers once a year.
www.boyfrombrazil.co.uk Player of the Season
- Peter Thorne
The If Only… Had Peter Thorne been fit all season and the Bantams been scoring and winning then who knows what the result of Stuart McCall’s first season would have been? He is the predatory poacher we missed without Dean Windass and as soon as he returned to full fitness with his intelligent play and able striking abilities City started to win. More please.
- Kyle Nix
Plucked from the season string at Sheffield United Nix has everything that a young player should have. He plays with equal measures of heart and skill and is a joy to watch with his vivacious and effective style. The finish on the end of Willy Topp’s turn aganist Shrewsbury lives long in the memory.
- Joe Colbeck
To say opinion was divided on Colbeck last season is an understatement with blows almost being exchanged over the winger who after returning from a loan Darlington ripped up League Two. Getting that form out of Joe Colbeck again next season is key to City’s promotion push. Keeping him long term may prove difficult.
- Barry Conlon
How many players turn around the Valley Parade crowd from the angry mob to the appreciative whole who may have debated his abilities but saluted his commitment and effort. If anyone has ever deserved a contract extension it is Barry Conlon.
- David Wetherall
The sentimental vote? Perhaps but David Wetherall organised a back four as well as he ever has done. The legs might have struggled but the brain was in full effect and it is that brain that will be behind the Bantams next year.
BfB poled eight contributors to get these results. The follow top fives are written by (one of) Jason, Roland, Michael, Omar and Paul.
The five best results and performances of the season
- City 3 Rotherham 2
Oh what a Tuesday night. We proved in this game that we can actually play well against a very decent side.
- Darlington 1 City 3
Stunning away victory against a promotion chasing team
- City 3 Notts County 0
One of the most comprehensive victories we have seen in some years.
- City 4 Shrewsbury 2
Another excellent Tuesday night, with Mr Willy Topp annoucing his arrival in Bradford with his first start, and setting up Nixy for the first goal.
- Dagenham and Redbridge 1 City 4
Superb away victory – what a reward for those of us who made the trip down to London down. Nicky Law Jnr made sure of the points with an excellent late brace
Five moments when we thought we might be going up…
- Beating high-flying Peterborough at Valley Parade in September to go seventh.
- Stoppage time at Bury in January, City are 2-1 up and they have a harmless looking throw in…
- Luckily beating Macclesfield when they dominated second half. “Sign of a good team playing rubbish and winning,” we thought. If only…
- Billy Topp beautifully setting up Kyle Nix to score, six minutes into his full debut.
- When Joe Colbeck broke through to net the third goal at Darlington.
…and five moments when we knew we weren’t.
- Watching Accrington play us off the park at Valley Parade in October.
- Being the better side at home to Brentford but watching the Bees have two shots and score two goals.
- Half time at home to Rochdale, somehow it was 1-1 but the opposition were on another level.
- Barry Conlon’s penalty miss against Dagenham.
- Must-win game at Rochdale in April, 1-0 down inside 24 seconds.
Top five that the gaffer got in – McCall’s best signings
- Barry Conlon
The example for everyone. Put in effort, get rewarded.
- Kyle Nix
Skillful, talented, young. Fingers crossed we keep hold of him.
- Peter Thorne
- Ben Starosta
Looks like the sort of full back who can defend well and then add to the attack.
- Scott Loach
They say that he will be England keeper one day. A way to go but impressive so far.
No Thanks – Five disappointing signings McCall made
- Paul Evans
What gives Evo?
- Alex Rhodes
Caught in the act of making Omar Daley look like a winger who tracks back.
- Willy Topp
So much fanfare, so much wait ’til next season.
- Darren Williams
Good, but like having Darren Holloway back.
- Nathan Joynes
Barnsley said he was great, he was not.
We will miss you – Five players who impressed but have gone
- David Wetherall
- Donovan Ricketts
Capable of making blinding saves.
- Tom Penford
A favourite of this parish
- Nicky Law Jnr
Who looked like a very good player. Better than his Dad for sure.
- Eddie Johnson
Because the lad deserves credit for effort.
That went well – Five great things about 2007/2008
- The atmosphere, and home performances, at Valley Parade improved thanks to proper priced tickets.
- Stuart McCall back is great. Having him answer critics in the second half of the season is better.
- Barry Conlon turned around the fans with some gutsy displays proving that it is possible to turn around the fans with gutsy displays…
- …and nowhere was this better seen than Joe Colbeck who tore down the right wing brilliantly for four months.
- We broke even for the first time since the Premiership. Now that is progress.
Next year – Five things to get excited about
- Stuart McCall is up to speed.
- 20,000 supporters in Valley Parade? Would be great if it came off.
- Willy Topp is resting in Chile as we speak and raring to go at League Two next season.
- Should Joe Colbeck continue his form from the end of this term then expect dewy eyed thirty somethings to compare him to John Hendrie with every other breath.
- Promotion. You know its gonna happen someday.
Wycombe Wanderers 2 Bradford City 1 At Adams Park in League Two, 2007/2008
The first thing to say about this game is that it is proof that City should have got out of this league at the first attempt.
Well perhaps not should have but could have. Wycombe Wanderers are in the play offs but they are no one’s idea of a good football team and if they do go through the play offs I wouldn’t expect them to last a season in League One.
If only… is the theme of the day.
If only City had not had had that really poor spell in October. If only Stuart McCall had got to grips with managing earlier. If only Mark Lawn and McCall had been installed before Darlington had signed nine players. If only…
Delroy Facey’s goal in the first five minutes was a big if only. If City are to move on then this venerable naivety needs to be stamped out by McCall. Leon Knight got a second and City were not that the races. A penalty came when Diddy David Brown was thrown to the ground and Luke Medley scored but next season if City don’t want another season of If Onlys then we need to make sure that when we come to places like this that we put up more of a solid defence. Teams that go places don’t concede in the first five minutes.
But this is end of the season and who cares? We have been in preparation for next year for a while now and this was the Bantams more of less on the beach for the summer.
Eddie Johnson already is away somewhere now we have released him. I’m going to miss the idea that Eddie Johnson more than watching him. I always got the feeling watching Eddie that he was at 80% and that he had no idea how to unlock the other 20% and nor did Colin Todd or Stuart McCall. It was probably because he had come through Man United. Had he been Eddie Johnson signed from Farsley he would have been “could be good”.
Next season McCall has to bring in a good quality of player if the likes of Eddie Johnson get turfed out. He needs two new keepers and I liked Scott Loach but I won’t miss him if he goes for good. He flaps at crosses too much and I don’t like loan players. I like Ben Starosta and I hope he can sign for us next year but if he can’t then I don’t see Simon Francis’s name on the team sheet as often at Southend as I should do…
Mark Bower and Matt Clarke at central defense? Ok then. Paul Heckingbottom? Sure. He is good enough if the players around him are good enough and no one ever didn’t go anywhere because of the full backs. Stephen Wright after all.
Joe Colbeck on the right hand side and Lee Bullock in the middle are not a midfield. Stuart needs to pull out some impressive signings here. He needs to find a Peter Beagrie to supply crosses and he needs a Stuart McCall to win the ball and without wanting to put too much stress on the Gaffer that is the most important position on the field. Whoever he get there needs to work out a Hell of a lot better than Paul Evans.
But if McCall can get a McCall and a Beagrie in then the sky is the limit cause City have an attack that no one else in the league can match. Peter Thorne is smart and finishes brilliant, Barry Conlon has the effort, Willy Topp the skills and Omar Daley who is more of a striker than a winger cause strikers should be greedy has the pace to beat anyone in the league. Something to beat any defence in League Two next season.
So it call comes down to if Stuart McCall can find a Stuart McCall…
When David Wetherall plays his last game for Bradford City at Wycombe, professional football will lose one of the few honourable men left in the game.
Throughout his long career, Sheffield-born Wethers has always played for Yorkshire clubs. Although he never broke through into the first team as a trainee at Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United paid £125,000 for him in 1991. He went on to make over 200 appearances in the Premier League and European games for Leeds, captaining the side under George Graham.
A change of manager persuaded him it was time to move on and, in the summer of 1999, he joined the Premiership new boys, Bradford City. Little could he have known about what he was letting himself in for!
In that 1999-2000 season, when all the pundits, most famously one Rodney Marsh, gave City no chance of staying up, it was Wethers who scored the only goal of the game on the last day of the season against Liverpool. Bradford City stayed up; Leeds United beat Liverpool to a Champions League place; Wethers was a true Yorkshire football hero. Or was everything that followed all his fault for scoring that goal?
From then on Wethers could be forgiven for thinking he was jinxed. A groin injury kept him out of action for almost half the next season and without him City dropped to the foot of the table. Relegation – and a lot worse – was to follow. Having never played below the top league, Wethers could have commanded a substantial fee and salary at any of the Premiership clubs who expressed interest in him. Instead he dropped down with City, a mark of loyalty that was to be often repeated.
Injury struck again and he missed large parts of each of the next two seasons. Following the departure of Stuart McCall to Bramall Lane in 2002, Wethers was appointed as club captain – just in time to be made redundant! Bradford City were placed in administration and it was Wethers, as captain and PFA representative, who led the way in agreeing a deferment of wages that helped keep the club afloat.
A further relegation in 2004 was followed by a second administration. Having turned down a chance to move to Coventry City, Wethers once more helped out his employers. He extended his contract for no extra money, effectively offering to play for lower wages each season. How many top players can lay claim to that sort of deal?
When Bradford City came back for the 2004-5 season with just a handful of first-team players, it was left to the ‘Skip’ to lead the way. He played every game but one that season and didn’t miss a game the next season. He almost certainly wouldn’t have missed a game in 2006-7 either, but for yet another change of manager at Valley Parade. This time the new manager dropped him from the team. That new manager, albeit on a caretaker basis, was none other than David Wetherall.
It was all too late to save City and a third relegation followed. But Wethers played on, creating record after record. He is one of only six players to have played for the same team in all four divisions. When he plays at Wycombe, he will have played in every match in each of three different leagues for Bradford City and his last game will see him complete over 300 first team games for the Bantams before he becomes first team coach next season.
But all that is only a small part of why Wethers should be remembered by football fans up and down the county. When the back pages are full of stories of players cheating and arguing with referees, Wethers is still first to the scene of any possible set-to on the pitch, placing himself between potentially warring players, calming things down and ushering his own team away. Maybe it’s all the practice he had captaining a different type of Yorkshireman, a certain Dean Windass!
When allegedly top players declare their allegiance to the pay packet rather than their club and its supporters, no better example of club loyalty exists in modern times than that set by David Wetherall. But the man who never mentions his first class honours degree from Sheffield University always was going to be that much more thoughtful than those who admit to making a habit of kicking out at a solid wall in frustration at losing.
The word ‘legend’ is used far too freely these days. For Bradford City there is the legend that is Stuart McCall; there is the legend that comes in the form of Bobby Campbell; there is the legend that comes in the form of Ces Podd; and now there is the one more name to add to that short list of Bradford City legends. Thanks for everything, Wethers, and good luck in the dug-out.