From June, 2008
The PA announcer predictably played Bob Marley to welcome him to Valley Parade and sporadically among the crowd were Jamaican flags. For half a season we’d been entertained by a speedy and exciting winger from the same country and now we were welcoming someone who’d been described as twice as fast and regularly kept his new teammate out of the national side. There was a sense of anticipation in the air that had been lacking when welcoming new signings in recent years.
His name was Omar Daley and the day was Saturday 27 January, with Yeovil Town the visitors at Valley Parade. Colin Todd had already introduced us to three Jamaican internationals who City fans had taken to their hearts, and now here was number four ready to go.
Damion Stewart had only enjoyed a brief stay, quickly earning a move to the Championship, while the Main Stand at Valley Parade that day included one particularly interested onlooker who would sign Jermaine Johnson a few days later. Bob Marley finished singing ‘no woman and no cry’ and Daley was cheered onto the pitch by his new fans. With City also on a three match unbeaten run, expectation hung in the air.
As is typical of City the occasion fell flat. Five minutes into the game Johnson dallied on the ball too long and Yeovil broke forward to score. A second goal followed soon after the interval as the original Jamaican, Donovan Ricketts, took up a woeful position to collect a low cross. Any hopes of a fightback were extinguished after Eddie Johnson had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside, a decision that so enraged Jermaine he was sent off for arguing with the officials. Daley had a quiet debut and was barely noticed.
18 months on and Ricketts’ contract expiry means only Daley remains at City of the Jamaican quartet, though his popularity has dipped lower than his country’s FIFA world ranking. Three games into his City career the manager who brought him back to England was sacked and Daley struggled to find form during a failed relegation battle. Last season bigger things were expected of him but form remained patchy. A good run of form before and after Christmas was rewarded with a new contract, but performances dipped again and he ended the season widely unpopular among supporters.
There’s no question Daley has some ability in his locker, as observed during some of his better games last season when he was a match winner. Yet for every performance like Lincoln, Accrington and Bury away there was Rochdale, Dagenham and Barnet at home.
Confidence appeared to be fragile and the laid back manner interpreted as lazy, with bucket loads of abuse flying in his direction from the stands clearly counter-productive. The line up and result will remain unclear for the opening game against Notts County, but what can be predicted is some fans will be ready to heap more abuse on anything City’s number 7 does wrong.
This sort of reaction is one Billy Topp is yet to be suffer. If Daley’s arrival was a big occasion, the full debut of the first player in six years to cost City a transfer fee was an evening soaked with excitement. Almost a year to the day of Daley’s first game, Topp took six minutes of his first start, against Shrewsbury, to show City fans what they had been waiting for since news a young Chilean was on trial broke the previous September.
Expertly controlling a long ball played towards him, Topp produced a great touch to twist past the defender and charge into the area before laying the ball into the path of the advancing Kyle Nix to score the opening goal of the night. Lack of fitness, which would become a common theme, saw him taken off shortly after half time but the potential was there.
Potential which has also yet to be realised. That night remains the high water mark of Topp’s time in England as performances failed to sparkle. There were some flashes of brilliance, but too often Topp looked a player still finding his feet and uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. His continuing battle with a muscular problem clearly didn’t help and his season was cut early so he could have an operation. Such problems haven’t stopped fans already writing him off and this week the club had to deny rumours Topp wouldn’t be coming back from a break in Chile.
In what is shaping up to be a big season for City, the contributions of Daley and Topp may prove more significant than anticipated. As the wait for new signings continues and supporters debate what next season’s first choice eleven should be, the names of City’s two overseas players rarely seem to appear. With Stuart known to be after another striker and new signing Chris Brandon classed as a midfielder/winger, this may initially be the case; but past history suggests neither will necessarily be consigned to a life in the reserves either.
As he builds a team he believes to be capable of delivering promotion Stuart will no doubt take a bit of everything he has learned during his playing and coaching career, and the events at Valley Parade 10 years ago will almost certainly feature in that thinking when City, of course, won promotion to the Premiership with a well-organised and talented bunch of players.
Two of its biggest stars were Peter Beagrie and Robbie Blake, but few supporters would have believed that would be the case the summer before. Both were considered enigmas – talented but inconsistent. Their popularity was generaly low going into that memorable season; with most supporters fed up with Beagrie in particular after a disappointing first season. His popularity was a bit like Daley now.
When we supporters fondly look back on events 10 years ago the memories are not that success came because manager Paul Jewell was given millions to spend in the transfer market, but the way he moulded his team and got the best out of so many. This particularly included Beagrie and Blake and, as Stuart scratches his head about how to bring out the best of Daley and Topp right now, a similar approach of good coaching, extra training and confidence building may just do the trick.
Playing with better players should also help as it did for Beagrie and Blake a decade ago. We know Daley can beat players and give full backs a headache, and by his own admission he prefers playing in front of a full back who’ll get forward. A strong midfield pair in the shape of a Gareth Whalley and Stuart will also help to get Daley the ball in the areas he can really hurt the opposition.
Stuart has already made the Topp-Blake comparison and the promising glimpses of Topp we’ve seen suggest he could be the tricky forward running at defenders and popping up all over the final third that Blake was that year. A pre-season of building up a good partnership with Peter Thorne could even see a replication of the Mills-Blake combination.
Improved fitness for both will also play a part and, as we impatiently wait for new signings and look forward to their big debuts, it’s hoped they will not just be better than those departed, but can bring out the best in those who can do better.
I’ll admit it. I never saw it in Nathan Doyle.
Yeah, yeah, yeah I know what you are all thinking. Here comes Harris trying to be all controversial again but as honestly as we all realised it wasn’t in Bruno Rodriguez or Ashley Ward and just did not see what Doyle had that made him player of the season.
He was a right back and a decent enough one but he looked raw around the edges and it seemed that his greatest attribute was not being Darren Holloway and when he left around the same time as Dean Windass the Bantams had a massive down turn but it was more to do with losing Deano than Doyle and I think the way their Hull City careers have gone have proven that.
Doyle was very good but player-of-the-season reason-we-got-relegated? Not so much.
But Doyle did have some talent. He could use a ball for sure but he could use his body too and he had some positional sense although that needed a bit of experience. He had a cool head under pressure and he passed the ball using his brain as much as his feet. None of these skills were as polished as they should have been but he was learning and in his months at Valley Parade he showed visible improvement.
The longer he was in the side for City the more assured he looked as well and the more he looked like he was wasted at right back. Most good right backs look like they are wasted in that position on the fringes of the action.
Hull City’s reserves are the fringes of the action for sure. They are nowhere for a player who had looked like he was going somewhere. City’s moves in the Premiership transfer market don’t suggest that a place will be opening up for Doyle soon. The guy needs to get back to first team football.
And City have a place for him but not at right back where Paul Arnison has been signed but back in the number four shirt and in the number four role. Doyle has the attributes needed to be Stuart McCall’s Stuart McCall.
He can win a ball and uses it smartly. He gets struck in but is not dirty. His instinct is to attack when defending is done and not leave his back door unlocked just like Stuart did. He has all the attributes needed to take games in League Two by the scruff of the neck and be the main man in a City team that aims for promotion. Throw in the fact that he is a popular player and he could be a summer headline signing for City.
And then he might do something that makes you see why he is player of the season.
This article is in reply to Football’s Administration Punishments Need To Change To Avoid Uncertain Futures
BfB is nothing if not democratic. In the language of all football fans, it’s a game of opinions. There are some places where there’s only one opinion that counts. Many of us have worked in places like that. But BfB is not that place. So, when Michael Wood posts his piece about how to deal with the ever increasing risk of a club going into administration and one of the other contributors wants to disagree with him, this is the result!
Let me say at the outset how very fortunate I believe my beloved team have been to go into administration at the right times. Not for us the 10 point penalty on either occasion Bradford City went into administration. We got in just in time. It would, of course, have been far preferable not to have got in at all, but there’s no point in rehearsing the reasons behind either of those two periods of financial difficulty.
These days it’s hard to keep up with who is and who isn’t in administration in the lower leagues. Even more difficult to work out is how some of these clubs are coming out of administration. Both are increasingly essential considerations as long as the present system is in place.
Take Luton Town, for instance. They went into administration last season and suffered a 10 point deduction. Those points in themselves cost them nothing. They finished 17 points below the safety mark. The administration and the associated inability to sign new players may well have cost them their League One place – but the deduction didn’t. It was a penalty that imposed no punishment.
Others have achieved the same in recent years. Leeds and Boston both went into administration when the points deduction was irrelevant. They were both already relegated. This brought about a rule change, which would allow such a deduction to be carried forward to the next season, when it might have a true meaning.
Bournemouth’s 10 point loss certainly was a punishment. They finished only two points below the safety line. Rotherham’s 10 point deduction left them 14 points away from the promotion play-offs, but again it could be argued that the fact of going into administration and the surrounding uncertainty knocked all the stuffing out of a very promising season spent, to that point, in or very near the play-offs.
But it is what comes next that matters more. As Leeds found, if you won’t or can’t get out of administration via a CVA, the Football League’s preferred option, you run a risk of a second penalty. Their 15 point penalty, thanks eventually to their Wembley defeat, was a genuine punishment. They will still be playing in League One next season. Without the deduction they would have gained automatic promotion.
All three of the League Two teams who start the new season in administration face the serious prospect of ‘doing a Leeds’. All three may come out of administration by a non-CVA route and, if so, will face the 15 point deduction for 2008-9 after their 10 point deductions for 2007-8. Additionally Luton already face another 10 point penalty for completely different breaches committed by those no longer involved with the club. Luton could start on minus 25 points and, just to avoid relegation to the Conference, they may need to win the number of points that would normally achieve a play-off place.
While all this could give Bradford City a head start on three of our League Two rivals, the bad news is that we did actually come out of administration via a CVA twice. OK, so Leeds United missed out on promotion last season. But this season they start with a clean sheet on and off the field. We all know it has taken City several years to achieve a financial break-even point and the present company still faces annual payments from the CVA that bite into the limited budget.
So the question I want to pose is not, as Michael writes, whether the penalty points system is too harsh on teams in the lower reaches of football and finance, but whether taking the 15 point hit might be seen to be preferable by some directors, providing only that their club can get over the one hurdle of the next season.
We can’t dwell on the Leicester scenario. That couldn’t happen now. Nor would I support Michael’s relegation-and-promotion proof suggestion, mainly because it would have involved two League One teams, Cheltenham and Crewe, being relegated and Luton, 17 points behind Crewe, surviving, when at the start of the season all of them believed that the four teams with the fewest points would go down. Why should Cheltenham and Crewe and their supporters suffer for the financial mishandlings of the boards at Luton and Bournemouth? And how long might it be before some directors decided that it was worth the 15 points, if they were guaranteed not being relegated?
But someone should suffer. A financial penalty is out of the question for a club that is in such debt it cannot continue to trade normally. What other penalty is available? Community service hardly fits the bill! A points deduction is less harsh than relegation, which is about the only alternative.
I believe that the Football League must do two things. The first they are already doing, although perhaps not quite well enough. They must at the start of each season make clear what their financial rules are and what the penalties for breach will be. That puts every club on notice. Go into administration and you know what to expect. Come out without a CVA and, again, you know what’s coming your way.
The second step the League must take is to make the semi-voluntary wages cap part of its own binding financial regulatory scheme. There is already in place a provision aimed at preventing clubs in the bottom two divisions from spending more than 60% of their income on players’ salaries. It was supposed to apply equally to the Championship, but there were too many big clubs there who wouldn’t play. It should be made a requirement of League membership that a club agrees to and complies with a salary cap. There should also be clear penalties for breaches. I would suggest a look at the Rugby League’s sliding scale, where the greater the excess the more points are deducted, would be a suitable guide.
Three final thoughts. I wonder what Julian Rhodes, the one in the middle of two administrations, would do if he were now given the option of the CVA which to this day takes it toll on the club or a clean financial sheet and a 15 point loss, even if that meant certain relegation. And how do the supporters of Halifax Town and Gretna feel? Wouldn’t they have preferred to have been forced to live within their means, even if a points deduction followed? And, last of all, I go back to how lucky City were with their timing and with the man whose offer allowed the CVA to be completed. Neither Bradford City nor any other league club should rely on that sort of luck ever again.
We wait, us connected with Bradford City, and we wait.
We have been waiting for Luke Beckett and Michael Boulding to decide who they fancy joining next season and Stuart McCall begins to tire of waiting. The move for Beckett is on hold but one of the player’s other options – Chester City – have been knocked out of the running for the player. It says much about the power of footballers in the modern game that guys on the bench at third tier clubs can keep everyone waiting. Nevertheless Beckett can.
McCall is growing tired of waiting for Michael Boulding but the former Tennis professional turned footballer who went out of the league with Mansfield last season seems awash with options for next season and the ball is very much in his court. He has knocked back City before back in 2001 when he joined Aston Villa rather than opting for to sign with Nicky Law. Within a week the Bantams were in administration and 19 players were redundant. One wonders how much this plays on the players mind when he deals with Rotherham agianst the stability seemingly offered at Valley Parade these days.
We wait for Boulding who has his pick of Yorkshire sides near his home and we wait for Darren Moore who is to talk with Leicester City before deciding his future. In essence The Foxes are offering the same deal as the Bantams – to end his career in promotion – but a division higher and nearer to his home.
This waiting is a good think for City and the people trying to bring Moore to the club. Without McCall, Wayne Jacobs et al then there is little reason for Moore not to dismiss the club in a division below out of hand. The waiting is tribute and shows that Moore is taking City’s approach seriously.
The waiting is hard. The waiting is torture as scribbles on bits of paper with “PA” and “CB” joining “PT” and “JC” in positions in elevens crop up on the desks of City fans everywhere. The waiting is hard.
We wait for Rob Burch the goalkeeper McCall has talked to and we long to do as he did and pop the question in public view to get a binding yes or no. Do you, we would ask Darren Moore, take this hope and manifest it in promotion?
Stuart McCall is making his second signing this afternoon when Paul Arnison joins the Bantams from Carlisle on a two year deal on a free transfer to play right back as the City gaffer looks to make the deals to bring in the players he thinks can play in League One.
Arnison played his last game for Carlisle in the play-offs against Leeds and you can see what Stuart is thinking in signing players like the former Newcastle United defender and Chris Brandon who joined from Huddersfield last month. Get a team of players who are League One quality together and then you will be a team good enough for League One.
Arnison has knocked back his old club Hartlepool United who are in League One to come to Valley Parade which suggests the ambition that McCall wants in his new faces not wanting any of them to get to used to the idea of playing in the bottom division.
He comes recommended by Stuart’s old mate Greg Abbott who is number two at Carlisle and replaces Darren Williams who only was at Valley Parade for a year after replacing Darren Holloway who never really had the best of times in the position. In fact it is hard to remember the last right back City had who looked the part.
Holloway got ripped apart more by fans than by left wingers but no one would say he commanded the position. Gus Ulhlebeek was nothing to get excited about and Gunnar Halle was not the sort who stopped people going by him. In fact the last time City looked like they had a solid right back was Stephen Wright.
Wright never played in the Premiership but the change of number two was probably not as important as the guy alongside him. For the last nine years City have struggled to get a right back to look good next to David Wetherall. Wetherall was a cracking player but perhaps he never supported the man to his right enough causing this constant problem with the full back?
In football you do what the guy behind you does. Goalkeepers tell central defenders where to stand and central defenders tell full backs and holding midfielders and Wetherall always pulled his right back too far inside giving them too much work to do to close down left wingers. It is probably something that has stopped goals going through the middle but the result is that we have been weak on the flank.
Left wingers have a field day at Valley Parade and they cross for big centreforwards who head in passes from the left. Paul Arnison gets to be the first right back in a decade to play alongside someone other than Wetherall.
One has to wonder what the reaction of Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes was at the “failure” of the 9,000 season ticket sale plan that only reached 8,296 adults giving a grand total of 10,707 holders at Valley Parade next season.
If it was not punching the air then it was probably a wry smile because while this is a public failure for the club in private the upside must have been talked about.
Had City sold 705 more season tickets then Stuart McCall would have had around £85,000 more in the kitty but the £1.25m generated will be more than most if not all clubs in League Two have. 95% of last season’s first stab at cheaper tickets has been generated.
The 9,000 free seats could have been filled by potential new supporters – the idea of giving the taste to would be fans for free in the hope that some are converted is a good one for a club that has twice as many seats as season ticket holders – but what atmosphere this would have created has been a worry.
What response would a person who will only go see a team if it costs nothing have had to going a goal down? Are they they sort of person who would by programmes and shirts? How would the paying fan have reacted to the freebies around him? How would he have reacted to having to park further away because of the extra cars from people who did not pay? To wait longer in the queues for the bars or the loos?
Such questions are avoided and while Lawn and Rhodes have a scheme that has failed to reach stated targets one cannot help but think that for many reasons the 700 fewer result is best for all. The 9,000 seats not given away for free can be resold. Commercial Manager David Baldwin must already be planning the Bradford City half-season ticket as the perfect Christmas present.
Should City be riding high then why not sell an 18 month for £200 this December cashing in on any extra interest that a claret and amber side at the top of League Two would have? This would not be possible with 9,000 extra seats claimed if not used.
Lawn and Rhodes could put on a face of failure for sure and for sure many will say this is a defeat but with over 10,000 coming in to see League Two football which is a greater average attendance then we ever got in League One then would be justified in coming out ebullient.
The spin to apply to this is not that the Bantams have failed to reach a target – it is that City are once again the best supported club in League Two.
Cheap season tickets – taking football back to supporters priced out by the sort of rampant increases of the post-Premiership years that have ripped into support levels and put off a generation of fans – is a significant movement in football. It started at Valley Parade last year and is being taken up elsewhere this. If 95% retention is common at Huddersfield Town, at Brentford, and at the other place that have adopted the policy then the permanent revolution in pricing will start to take hold.
A comment posted this week on one of the various City-related message boards read, “No wonder people aren’t buying the season tickets…how pathetic City, c’mon pull your fingers out…”
It’s not the first time City have been labelled ‘pathetic’ by one of their own, and it certainly isn’t going to the last. The reason for this supporter’s particular anger was the lack of signings so far and belief that all targets should be on board before Sunday’s season ticket offer ends, to encourage floating fans to purchase in time.
They were not the only fan to state such views this week and, if he bothered to read these bulletin boards, Stuart McCall could be forgiven for scratching his head. Usually the role of a manager is to bring in the right players in time for the next season. It would be easier to understand why City were considered ‘pathetic’ if it was the week before the big kick off or if these supporters had only just started supporting the club and never experienced a close season, but when have City ever sorted even half of their summer signings by June 15?
Undoubtedly this a frustrating time of year for football supporters; by June most of us have forgotten the previous season’s frustrations and are anxious for the next one to begin. With pre-season friendlies not starting for another month, there is little to get excited about other than new signings. Each day I, as I’m sure do many others, anxiously check the City-related websites for news of who might be coming in, and the loading up of The Telegraph & Argus website to find a tame news story about something unrelated is unsatisfying.
One such piece appeared earlier this week, where Stuart McCall spoke about finding Holland’s first Euro 2008 match inspiration for how he’d like City to play next season. A comment underneath the piece complained that, “Instead of McCall watching the Euro’s, he should be on the blower to players and their agents he has already spoken to and firmed up his offers.” Imagine that, Stuart McCall being allowed to relax and watch TV in the evening instead of spending every second chasing his targets? Disgraceful stuff, hasn’t he just been on holiday?
Not that we City fans can even agree on what makes a good signing when they are made. It’s been amusing to read opinions of the various targets and types of players Stuart should be chasing. There are many fans who think we should be after, “young, hungry non-league players.” Sure there is a risk they might not be up to it, but they will be so grateful for the opportunity they will always give 110%, unlike some of the current shirkers in the squad. Clearly not everyone agrees and the signing of Harrogate Town keeper Jonathan McLaughlin prompted sarcastic remarks from some along the lines of, “ooh wow I’m sure that will encourage everyone to rush out and buy a season ticket!”
It would be fair to assume that those calling for City to sign ‘hungry non-league players’ are the same people who, when City were in the two divisions, were calling for City to sign ‘hungry, lower-league players’; but now we are firmly stuck in the lower leagues, why don’t we look to sign those ‘hungry, lower-league players’ instead?
Then there are the former players, with calls from others to sign up any former Bantam potentially available. As great as it would be to see Nathan Doyle, Simon Francis or Robbie Blake back at Valley Parade, such hopes are largely unrealistic. Even if they were available would they want to play in League Two? I was particularly worried to read comments that City should sign free agent Gareth Edds, until he signed for Tranmere. Why would we want to bring him back? Wow, that would get people rushing out to buy season tickets (oops, it’s contagious!).
But it’s one definite former player City are targeting which leads to the other major difference of opinion over who City should sign. Darren Moore was at Valley Parade for talks this week and, while it seems unlikely he’ll be rejoining this summer, you would have thought City fans would be in universal agreement this was a good move. Forgetting the fact he was a hero of our last promotion winning side, here is someone who was playing Premiership football last season and is wanted by around 14 other clubs. But no, according to some, he’s too old.
In what feels like a jump back nine years to a time when our team was considered a laughing stock by the national media, our squad is suddenly too old and we need to, “lower the average age.” At 34 Moore is coming towards the end of a successful career, but like second summer signing Chris Brandon (33) and other target Luke Beckett (31), he is hardly over the hill just yet. One would have thought that, with Dean Windass and Peter Thorne both joining City at 34 years of age, this would be the one club who’s supporters appreciate that playing careers last longer these days, and age is just a number.
“Oh and don’t forget Darren Moore wasn’t really that good for us and left because he was a disgraceful money grabber.” The truth about these two criticisms is somewhat different, of course.
In our promotion winning season Moore was one of our stars, making over 50 appearances. He had one particularly poor game at home to Huddersfield and was dropped, yet he quickly won back his place and made the PFA divisional team of the season. Even if he was ultimately considered not good enough for a team promoted to the Premier League, it hardly makes him a poor signing for a League Two club now.
As for money grabbing, imagine if the organisation you work for started performing outstandingly, partly thanks to you, and they brought in new employees on larger salaries. Wouldn’t you expect to be rewarded too?
Should we get Beckett or Boulding to strengthen the forward line next season? Are Carlisle pair Paul Arnison and Zigor Aranalde the full backs to bomb forward in the manner Stuart wants next term? Is Lewis Emmanuel really worth another go? Whoever we sign it’s guaranteed some will be delighted, while others will offer reasons why it’s a bad move.
The wait for summer signings can be frustrating, amusing and exciting, but no matter how many different opinions are offered it should be remembered it’s one person’s view which ultimately matters – which the rest of us need to have faith in.
Italy are struggling to get a win against Romania and David Pleat is waffling about what a good player Dan Petrescu was – I remember a different Dan Petrescu – and no one every says that the World Champions are not the team they were before the match fixing thing was exposed but should the Eastern Block side get a winner in the next 18 minutes then expect the words “The favourites are going home” to be heard more than once.
Italy are one of the favourites along with a group of teams that could be dubbed a set of usual suspects; Germany, Holland, Spain, France. All short odds and talked about in glowing terms. The entry of Portugal into that set of teams has more to do with their abilities from twelve yards against Sven’s England but as the fashionable Western Europeans of the moment they join the group with ease.
A Chester City website has started previewing next season’s League Two and they speak in glowing terms about Bradford City and William Hill have the Bantams as 9/1 favourites for the Championship but the last time I looked at the plaers currently at Valley Parade their were barely enough to make an eleven.
As with Italy, Germany et al though it is assumed that whomever the club can field will be better than the rest of the division. We are a big club at League Two level and we do have the resources to put out a better side than most.
The Romanians have just missed the chance to take the lead once more but Croatia did not when they bat Germany 2-1 in what was dubbed a suprise result. How it could be a surprise to anyone who saw Slaven Bilic’s team in qualifying keeping the ball and probing superbly as they bested England is amazing but their is a habit of ignoring England’s oppositions quality to focus on assassinations of the national side.
Nevertheless Croatia are not into the group of favourites and – as with The Czech Republic – are constantly picked out as suprise teams in the media at least and – one may think – by the German management.
Stuart McCall’s job at Bradford City next season includes making sure that this sort of surprise package never happens at Valley Parade. The bookies and the media may favour clubs like The Bantams before a ball is kicked but McCall will know – has been a part of – the kind of surprise package City were in 1999 and he will know the danger of under-estimating the unfashionable.
The fixtures for the year come out next week and City need to make sure that the quality of teams, not the history or weight of the names – is prepared for and that as favourites the players know that no game is won without the effort and application that the unfancied sides like the Croats put in.
The detail is skechy at the moment with talk from one side of a loan – highly unlikely considering his age – while other talk of two year deals and pay cuts. Regardless and rather ironically it seems that the man replaced by David Wetherall after falling out with the club over a contract is about to sign a contract to replace Wetherall.
Is the signing – should it happen – a good one? One can never be sure but aside from Stuart McCall’s return in 1998 it is hard to remember a deal that seemed so stacked in favour of success.
At thirty-four it is doubtful Moore has much pace but in April 1999 when he was cruelly exposed by Marcus Stewart of Huddersfield Town that problem became apparent and it has not stopped the player winning two promotions with West Brom and one with Derby since. Mark Bower is hardly the fastest to go alongside Moore but one plays naturally down the right and the other the left and a good partnership could be formed. A speedy right back – Ben Starosta perhaps – to provide sprinting cover would be no doubt be appreciated.
We fight in a league where smarts often count for less than brawn and possessing both – brawn in massive amounts – then the benefits of having Moore in McCall’s side are obvious. It is hard to imagine anyone in League Two bullying a partnership of Moore and Matthew Clarke should City want to combat the big fellas line up that they occasionally face in the fourth tier of English football.
Off the field – and assuming Moore does knock back the interested Championship and League One clubs to return – then one suspects that the main attraction of the move is Wayne Jacobs the Bantams number two who converted Moore to Christianity while the pair were at Bradford City and works with him in his Faith In Football charity. As a senior professional at the club one can only assume that this cultural difference is a positive influence – the experiences of Portsmouth suggest it is by no means a bad thing – and should the antics of younger footballers not be entirely to Moore’s tastes then he can always do as Reading’s 1980s winger Trevor Senior did and sit in the luggage racks of the team coach when the lads put on adult entertainment.
More seriously Moore was highlighted as one of the bright spots of a dire season for Derby and his figured in promotion success at almost every club he has been at. His return – should it happen – would bring with it the type of experience, the spine of the team and the physical presence needed to get out of League Two.
The relative irregularity of international tournaments helps them become memorable experiences through life, and I often find the beginning of a new one sees me look back at the last to measure how things have since changed.
Four years ago when Euro 2004 was taking place in Portugal, I watched games in between working two jobs; neither of them what I wanted to do with my life. I feel happy with subsequent career progress and even the current disputes over TV watching, which will largely consign me to following Euro 2008 from an old TV upstairs, is a nice way of appreciating the fact I’ve got married since Greece improbably became European Champions.
An examination of Bradford City’s fortunes since Euro 2004 leaves a big question mark over whether things have progressed during the past four years. That summer City had just been relegated from the-then Division One and were facing up to a first campaign in England’s third tier for eight years. Since then a first basement division campaign in 25 years has occurred and with it high, but typically unfulfilled, hopes. The term ‘disappointing’ is usually the politest used to describe a City season in recent years, with lowlights including that 3-0 home defeat to Accrington, getting relegated after loaning out the top scorer and Bobby Petta.
When looking further back at where City were during Euro 2000, the current position seems even more dismal. The ‘most exciting signing in the club’s history’ was unveiled a month after David Trezeguet’s golden goal won Euro 2000 for France, reputedly earning in a week what City would seven years later pay as their first transfer fee since 2001. We supporters were relishing another campaign of visits to Old Trafford, Anfield and Highbury; compared to next season’s trips to Moss Rose and Christie Park.
But as Euro 2008 kicks off with Holland and Spain throwing down early markers, something will be achieved at Valley Parade later this month that hasn’t occurred since those Premiership days – the club has broken even. It might not be earth-shattering news to turn the national media’s focus away from debating where Ronaldo might be playing next season, but it should be a worth a pint or two celebration for City fans. After years of rising debts and the struggle to merely keep going, plans for the future are being laid on more solid foundations.
And if nothing else, the thing to look back on when recalling Euro 2008 in future years should be that we were free to watch it without distractions over our team’s continuing existence. Anyone remember who Portugal and Greece had to beat in the semi finals to reach the Euro 2004 final? I couldn’t without looking it up (Holland and Czech Rep by the way). While the rest of the country debated David Beckham’s quarter final penalty shootout miss, we were wondering how we might cope without Bradford City.
At the end of June 2004 that looked reality as the club were minutes away from closing. If there’s been nothing major to celebrate since, that we were saved at the eleventh hour is something that shouldn’t be forgotten. After all, will supporters of Rotherham and Halifax care whether Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s goal for Holland was offside the other night?
In the four years since we’ve had two and half years of mid table mediocrity under Colin Todd, before a calamitous and avoidable relegation to League Two. New investment was promised by Peter Etherington but delivered by Mark Lawn, and now a club legend is charged with delivering Julian Rhodes’ ambitious aim of a return to the Championship before the 2010 World Cup kicks off in South Africa. It’s easy to scoff, but then four years ago no one was talking about City returning to the Championship anytime soon – and that was just after we’d exited it.
So far this summer City fans’ focus has been on the increasingly unlikely chances of the season ticket offer reaching its target, but even if it fails average crowds next season are still likely to be higher than the three post-Euro 2004 years in League One. Stuart McCall has a transfer budget bigger than most in League Two and is apparently aiming in high with his targets. Lofty expectations are justified and, a year into the job, there is confidence in Stuart to deliver.
All of which is due to the hard work of Julian Rhodes and others in bringing City back from the brink in 2004 and keeping the club afloat before Mark Lawn came on board and helped the club finally break even.
There may be no England to cheer, but Euro 2008 should be a more enjoyable tournament for us to sit back and watch knowing there aren’t any doubts whether City will be part of the big kick off August 9.
The next four years before Euro 2012 in Poland/Ukraine should be very interesting.
Rotherham United are looking at coming out of administration and – as with Luton Town and Bournemouth – they face the same fifteen point penalty that Leeds United suffered last season because for whatever reason the numbers are not adding up and they are not going to be able to exit with agreement from the creditors as City did twice.
I’ve said all I want to say about Leeds United and the way they do business but I’m forced to note that the Football League’s punishments – well meaning as they are – seem to hit the clubs hardest that can ill afford them. Whatever went on at Elland Road the position in the league suggests that the club were able to take the fifteen point deduction in their stride. As Rotherham line up at The Don Valley Stadium with – we understand – a picked over squad then it can hardly be said that they are able to do the same.
Such is the problem with the punishment. Had City been hit with ten and fifteen point deductions as we would have been were those rules in place when we were in administration then the club could have ill afforded the relegations that would have come more quickly. Leicester City – on the other hand – used a CVA to walk away from massive debt and would have had no problem in taking that penalty and still being promoted back to the Premiership.
Some sanction has to be taken to avoid the Leicester City and Leeds United situation of walking away from debt but that sanction has become a harbinger of doom for those who can ill afford it such as Rotherham United.
A solution needs to be found. Administration is a result of a club trying to tilt the balance of a season towards them. We saw this in the Premiership when Geoffrey Richmond attempted to lash out cash and keep City in the top division risking all to do it. Over ambitious chairmen will always gamble the future of the club against short term success and football needs rules to stop this and protect those who have a long term view of the club – the fans.
Rather than docking points and having clubs begin seasons playing catch up the Football League should look at a system that says to clubs who want the protection from creditors that administration provides that they will offer them protection from relegation. Rather than losing ten points a club that goes into administration should not be able to be relegated for 16 months and not allowed to be promoted for a further year.
That is a year of insulation for clubs who hit financial difficulties for them to rebuild themselves without the fear that when they emerge from the blanket of debt they have cascaded down the leagues but the pay off – the way to stop a Leicester or a Leeds – is that they have to agree that they will not be promoted for two years. The period begins a month after administration is entered – that would stop clubs abusing the system to stop relegations – and would mean that should a team finish 24th in the league then the teams 19th to 23rd would be relegated.
Time then to regroup and rebuild a club like Rotherham getting the gates and the games without giving undue advantage but most importantly continuing football which is in danger of dying in Rotherham as – like City did – club’s stumble punch drunk from punishment into uncertain futures.
The technical debate – the reasons why a decision has been given or not – I love. I got my teeth into Aaron Wilbraham’s almost goal against City at the end of the season loved the debate between fans. The reasons why. The knowing the rules. The knowing football.
So when The Dutch squared a ball to Ruud van Nistelrooy who stabbed in I though offside. My attention was drawn to a player on the floor behind the goal, the replay showed that he would technically still be involved in play – according to rule 14, got to love rule 14 – and thus the goal should stand.
A remarkable bit of refereeing. The correct decision. Justice is done.
Yet something does not ring true and for a while I change the Blue shirts to Claret and Amber in my head and try empathy and it comes to me. Last season City were forced to defend with a man down in our own six yard box – technically the Referee should have stopped the game because playing on was dangerous – and that player played all onside.
I recall at the time talking of the technicalities of the decision that should have been but was not made then and were I Italian I’d no doubt be speaking of the same today. Of course Rudd van Nistelrooy – the master of offside – is allowed to stab the ball home and is rendered onside by a prone Christian Panucci but should he have?
Morality has little sway in football but using an injured player to gain an advantage – while legal – is hardly fair and certainly not laudable. Van Nistelrooy is technically right but wrong in so many other senses.
The pain of football is that were Ruud to ignore the chance he is equally likely to have seen his team suffer from similar. Least we forget that the Italian team that claims the crown as World Champions represents a League and an FA which allows AC Milan to represent it in the Champions League the season after they have found them guilty of match fixing and hands out punishments to Juventus that would hardly prevent a repetition of the systematic and persisting cheating of the Old Lady of Turin.
The woe of football is that rules have to be constructed around the idea that cheating them will become inevitable and that no one expects fair play. Should Ruud pass that goal up because Pannuci is injured? Pannuci played on.
The tragedy of football is that we expect so little from it.
In February 2008, we were told of the new offer for 2008/2009 season tickets – if 9000 adults or more were to buy a season ticket before 15th June, they’d each receive another, free, season ticket. It’s now less than a week to the deadline and only slightly more than 6000 have been sold – despite selling twice that number last season. Why is this the case?
Are City fans jaded? Perhaps so – last season, for all the signs of recovery and general optimism, was a mid-table finish in the fourth division when all is said and done.
Are City fans lazy? Certainly some are – witness the mad dash for season tickets as the deadline approached last season.
Are City fans fickle? Maybe. It’s fair to say that a good deal of the fans who bought tickets last season were definitely conspicuous by their absence in the years post-Premiership.
Are City fans cheap? Yes.
The fact that we sold more season tickets at a lower level of football just because of the ticket price speaks volumes. I applaud City for lowering the cost, I really do – football has always been too expensive to watch, and to put it in the financial reach of real people is how football should be.
The offer itself is where I think Bradford City have dropped an absolute clanger when it comes to this season’s season ticket sales. It is my belief that the reason that there is a shortfall of 3000 season ticket holders is solely down to the buy one get one free offer – people are waiting to see how many tickets are being sold, before swooping in at the last minute and grabbing two tickets – one for themselves, one for their mate, and paying half each. These will be the same people that then complain that “City have no money again” as they sit there having contributed less than 4p for each minute of league football played that season at home.
I think City’s BOGOF offer is an inspired way of getting more people through the turnstiles, but it has been handled all wrong. The message should have been “Buy One Get One Free – for the first 9000 adult season tickets purchased, if we sell 9000 adult season tickets”. There would then have been a mad scramble at the start of the promotion (although it’s been made unnecessary by allowing renewals to be done online this season) as will inevitably happen at the end of this one, and those that bought after the 9000 mark would still only be paying £150. Even play it a little cloak and dagger, and don’t publicise how many tickets have been sold. Those that were going to split the cost with their mate would still be able to if they get in early enough – and if I’m honest, at least these people might actually attend the games instead of having an extra season ticket to give to someone who more than likely won’t turn up. At this rate, instead of getting 9000+ new supporters (which is the aim), City could be in a position where anywhere between 3000 and 6000 people just don’t bother getting a ticket at all, as they’ll miss the deadline and instead of paying £150 for two tickets, will have to pay £300 for one.
“City Til I Die” is the mantra from the stand – but in reality, it’s more like “City while I can bleed them dry” for most. And that saddens me.
Mark Lawn is a no nonsense sort of guy.
When he talked about a plan to give Halifax people cheaper season tickets to go to Valley Parade as being a way to get them to follow a second club he did so in honesty. You can tell this because if he had nefarious intent his plain speaking style would have had him say “We are going to steal your fans.” Say that he did not.
Lawn is still finding his feet in this football game in the long term the offer could be a public relations hiccup but little more. If Bradford City were to drive to the Shay and – at gun point – force every Halifax Town supporter to buy a season ticket, a replica shirt, match days programmes and 23 pies a year then the story might get a column inch mention deep in the sport section buried under the news that Christiano Ronaldo had got out of bed on a different side this morning.
Stealing fans – as City stand accused of – is a reality in modern football. Back in the late 1990s Peter Risdale talked about Leeds United having a catchment area that included all of West Yorkshire disregarding the three other league club but Leeds themselves were under threat from bigger fish.
A wander through any town centre in those days would have shown you Manchester United, Liverpool and the odd Arsenal shirt. These days you can add Chelsea, AC Milan and Real Madrid to that list. Bradford City and Halifax Town are hardly getting a look in.
Whole industries are based on pushing the Premiership product and small clubs are getting swamped. Newspapers see clubs go to the wall but never break from the coverage of the top flight. 24 Sports News coverage does not flinch when administration but ranks the story under someone’s contract negotiation from someone at Old Trafford.
The likes of Halifax Town and Bradford City ring supporters to ask them why they have not renewed season tickets but the football fan on the other end of the line is assaulted on a daily basis by competitive messages. If football below the Premiership level got smart it would band together to make a more attractive proposition for all.
Halifax Town supporters are probably be right to be angry at Mark Lawn who like all other chairmen is looking after his club first and while I doubt he had any malice in what he did and like 99.9% of people who have seen a game in the lower two leagues last year he will be horrified by what is happening at The Shay there is still a persistent problem with self-interest in the game.
Recent articles on BfB about Leeds United and Huddersfield Town have produced a 2:1 ratio of abuse to sense in the comments the site receives and much of that abuse centred on the idea that it would be “funny” if Bradford City went out of business.
Football fans are programmed to want each other’s destruction when in truth the better our rivals do the better we tend to do. When we were in the Premiership Leeds were in Europe, Huddersfield the second flight and Halifax in the league. Is it really a coincidence that now we all struggle? Often – to steal a phrase – what is good for the tea and biscuit company is good for me.
Huddersfield Town vs Bradford City over the last few years has seen both clubs enjoy large attendances, added interest and the spoils of rivalry that make supporting a club so enjoyable but one comment on BfB last week said (paraphrasing) “I hope you don’t sell the 7000 tickets you need to stay in business.” as if there is a benefit for Town in not having a Bradford City.
City kicked off something special in football and some – including I note Huddersfield – benefited and is now offering cheaper tickets and getting full stadiums with great atmosphere. What was good for the one was good for all. Perhaps the same sort of innovation should be continued in a way that admitted that clubs at this – and to be honest every – level are yoked together.
I would suggest one chairman contacts all 24 clubs in League Two and proposes an away season ticket that did the same for travelling fans as City did for home fans and offered cheaper prices. Imagine paying £240 in the summer for away entry to every City game. Sure Rotherham would lose out on the £17 they scalp you for on the turnstile when you have driven down the M1 but they would get that money back from those Exeter supporters who took advantage of the offer for cheaper, nearer games.
All of which is to illustrate what could be done if clubs worked together. As it is the culture in football is very much every man for himself and while Halifax Town’s supporters trust rails against Lawn they do so because City have emerged as a clear target when they are up against a faceless system which robs them of support on a far greater scale than the Bantams ever could (or would) and exist in a community which has yet to recognise that when one is damaged all are.
Last season was a particularly great example of it.
Things are going wrong on the field, so in a fit of disgust those supporters determined to find criticism seemingly take a quick scan at the reserves and pluck out one or two names that it is ‘disgraceful’ aren’t in the team. With players underperforming and results not good enough, its easy to look at the unknown and hail them as the saviour to lead City forward from the mess.
Luke Medley was that such saviour last season with the cry of “why isn’t Luke Medley in the team?” usually following each and every defeat. Today’s news that Medley has rejected a new contract offer in order to find a club closer to his native London is another excuse for some to bemoan the young striker’s lack of opportunities last season; apparently the management’s decision to cruelly ‘ignore’ him all season has backfired and someone else will be benefiting from his talents.
The evidence to back up such thoughts centre around that goal against Wrexham last season. As a first touch on your debut, his wonder strike is one it’s unlikely we’ll see emulated for some time. Another promising sub cameo, down at Grimsby in October, underlined his undoubted potential. City were trailing and heading for a sixth defeat in seven when Luke entered the field. His presence and pace helped trigger some late pressure and he won the stoppage time penalty that earned a point. Look at his other appearances though, plus a failed loan spell with Cambridge City, and there’s not a lot to suggest he has yet-developed into a player capable of firing City to a promotion push next season.
Of course the argument goes he wasn’t given an adequate chance to show he could be any more than a player of potential, but it’s one that fails to acknowledge the bigger picture. Luke would have been worth more of a place in the team had those ahead him in the pecking order not been good enough, but were our forwards last season that bad?
Peter Thorne looked a class act at League Two level and certainly not someone to drop; Guylian Ndumbu-Nsungu was inconsistent but for the first three months of his loan spell at City, at least, did well; Willy Topp didn’t quite fulfill his big billing but there clearly must be something more in him to justify City paying a first transfer fee in six years and Barry Conlon, for all the blinkered abuse he got from some supporters who no doubt treated the likes of Lee Mills and Dean Windass with the same contempt, generally performed admirably after Christmas.
Throw in Omar Daley, who enjoyed a handful of excellent games in the strikers berth, and it’s not clear who Luke Medley should have been playing above. For all the problems the team suffered last season, the forward department wasn’t really the source.
And now, with Stuart closing in on Luke Beckett and possibly looking into adding another striker, the competition to play up front next season looks even tougher. All of which Luke will no doubt have noted and, living far away from his home and still only young, few would begrudge him looking elsewhere for a better opportunity. Like any youngster coming through the ranks, Luke has had to impress whenever the opportunity came his way and show he can do it in training and reserve games too. Finishing the reserves’ top scorer and his flashes of brilliance in the first team persuaded Stuart he was worth another deal, but had he stayed it seems unlikely he’d have played a bigger part in next season’s campaign.
So he’ll move on somewhere else where City fans will keep a keen interest and hopefully he’ll build on the success of a promising start to his career. Meanwhile, if and when things go wrong next season, another name will be picked from the reserves by some supporters to replace Luke as our saviour.
England are – as I type – strolling to a win over Trinidad & Tobago currently having put three past Clayton Ince but missing David Beckham’s passing in the second half of a friendly we are playing to allow us to make better mates with FIFA’s number two Jack Warner.
That yellow card for Steven Gerrard in the first half was probably about that too.
Warner is second to Sep Blatter the Brazilian who wants to implement a six plus five policy that would mean that teams of all nations must have at last half dozen nationals on the field with up to five from overseas. It will never work – we are told – because of European Law let alone the will of the big clubs that tend to have a say in these things.
Blatter is looking into the proposal and it is very doubtful he will get it past the EU although at present England and other leagues have a eight plus three policy where the eight are European Union passport holders and the others can be made up of those without. Donovan Ricketts, Omar Daley and Willy Topp are three. Blatter may end up pushing on that policy that will mean that in Germany and France you must have six Italians and Englishmen (or Germans and Frenchmen) and can fill the team with those world wide.
However Blatter trump card in these circumstances – and his move that would change the game – would be to accept the restrictions of the EU in those countries and not in others meaning that those in Africa, in Argentina, in Australia, in America will be bring their own talent through.
So as the English and Spanish fill leagues with the cream of Europe the league in Argentina is building up their squad. The Japanese J League has many, many Brazilians but is credited as improving the quality of the national team and the K League in South Korea does the same. Should you be of the believe that Blatter’s plan would improve national teams then how many national associations in the EU will worry as improvements in countries like Mexico, in South America, in the USA start to make wins in intercontinental games harder to come by.
The best players from the top European nations are always going to get games and the likes of Italy are secure in the idea what they will get their first eleven playing first team football at a top side but will top 25 ranking sides Sweden, will Poland, will Russia feel the same when a raise in quality means that they are slipping down? What about top 15 sides like Scotland and England?
Of course this all depends on the belief that six+five will improve a national side but if Blatter is right and it does then how long until the Europeans who stand against it begin to become advocates