From July, 2008
Bradford City 1 Burnley 2 At Valley Parade in Pre-season, 2008/2009
Owen Coyle and Stuart McCall paths crossed as players during their days North of the border but the Irish player born in Scotland and the Scot born in Yorkshire never ended up on the same side and so as they faced each other as managers it is no surprise that one ended up happier than the other.
However – considering the result – one would be very surprised if it was Coyle who was more pleased as McCall watched his Bradford City team that is surely too good for League Two more than match a Championship side who have spent big in the Summer.
Spent big on Martin Patterson – £1.3m from Scunthorpe – who along with Robbie Blake were head and shoulders the best thing about the Burnley side which struggled to keep up with City in the opening exchanges.
The Bantams were approaching race trim. Rhys Evans is still a question mark in goal – his ability with crosses is the question and both visitor goals on the hour and in the last minute came when crosses got into the box and were not cut out – but the back four of Paul Arnison, an outstanding Graeme Lee, Matthew Clarke and Paul Heckingbottom coped well with the troublesome two up front for the men from over the hills. Willy Topp – playing a full ninety minutes – and Omar Daley troubled the full backs and the middle pairing of Paul McLaren and young Luke Sharry – not looking out of place – started brightly.
However – and shamefully – rather than competing with City in the spirit of warming up for league games – Burnley resorted to physical play with Remco van der Schaaf putting in the type of tackles that would get cards in games and resulted in him being compulsorily substituted after thirty-five minutes.
Referees are told to take pre-season games as if they were full matches so where Mr G. Laws got this rule from is anyone’s guess but the validity of the game from that point on was highly dubious. In a league game Burnley would not have been able to use soft reffing to stop City’s playmaker with fouls and one doubts anyone can be proud of the Clarets for that sort of play or for the persistent handballs in the second half that killed off chances which would have gone punished in the season proper.
So City scored before half time through Barry Conlon after he coolly chipped in when capitalising on a mistake and did enough to suggest that we were far closer to the Championship level than we last season – or that Burnley are closer to League Two – and the result mattered even less than usual with the favours that were given to the team from the league higher.
McCall has Chris Brandon, Lee Bullock, Joe Colbeck and Michael Boulding to come back into this side and in McLaren he has a player so good that he has literally put his shirt on him. Ten days until the start of the season for both these clubs and McCall will be happier of the two managers.
Burnley might have had the win thanks to the favours but they were matched by the Bantams and if it turns out that both sides are League One quality then 2009/2010 could very well see this fixture played in that division.
City’s 4-0 defeat to Motherwell brought us all down to Earth. The signings and a win over Bradford Park Avenue seemed to have got City fans thinking that League Two was in the bag. A trip to a UEFA cup team saw to that and over the weekend Shrewsbury over took us at the favourites to win the league.
I liked that rush when Michael Boulding signed and I still feel it now. I’ve looked at the eleven and the sixteen that City can put out next season and the bumps of ability around the squad are impressive.
Take the midfield situation and the players like McLaren and Brandon are in and the likes of Phelan and Eddie Johnson making do are out. Tom Penford was snapped up by non-league clubs wanting to punch above their weight when he left us but we have snapped up players for League Two clubs looking to punch above.
Players like Graeme Lee who would be the most impressive name on someone else’s team are now in our team and we have a collection of these guys. You would have looked and worried cause some visitor had former Premiership players like Boulding or multi-million guys like Peter Thorne. We have a fist full of these guys. We have the best team in League Two next season.
But having the best team and playing the best football are two different things and on Wednesday night we get to see how these Bantams play against Burnley.
Rhys Evans seems to be Stuart’s first call as keeper but I’m not convinced. This is the weakness in the side as every other position fills up.
Paul Arnison at right back with Milton Turner as back up if the Guisley man can be signed. Paul Heckingbottom at left back. Graeme Lee and Matthew Clarke in the middle which is strange cause I would never have thought Mark Bower should be dropped. Clarke is just too impressive and the sort of big man we need.
Joe Colbeck is sitting out the first two games but Omar Daley can and will fill in. Paul McLaren seems a shoe-in for the starting line up with Lee Bullock or Kyle Nix alongside him. I’ve not been impressed with Bullock much but McCall is and those two could be his starting midfield. Nix might be needed on the left with Chris Brandon injured.
Michael Boulding is injured too but Peter Thorne and Willy Topp will be up top on day one and if not then Barry Conlon is scoring freely in pre-season.
The way the names trip off the tongue. The way they fill the starting eleven with quality like Bower, Nix or Topp to spare. That is the indication of the quality Stuart has.
Someone once told me (It was me – Ed.) that to get promoted you get a bunch of players together who are too good for the league you are in and let gravity take you up. Gravity bounced City off the floor of football. Time for the bump back to begin.
Michael Boulding has signed for City. Graeme Lee has signed for City. Paul McLaren has signed for City. Chris Brandon has signed for City. Paul Arnison has signed for City.
If the Bantams had signed two of these five players then people would have been talking about us as promotion contenders. If we had signed three of them people would be saying we were making moves but we have brought in over the summer five players of massive quality.
Five players who can play in the league above. Five players who most teams in the bottom two divisions would want in their sides.
You can argue about Arnison but he played in the play offs for the Championship last season. Boulding went out of the league but still was wanted by League One where McLaren was the top dog for assists. Lee has turned heads with his signing although Moore would have been more impressive and Brandon started the ball rolling.
Add these to Joe Colbeck ripping teams apart, to Lee Bullock who is league one quality, to Billy Topp and suddenly City have a team that can and I think will murder the rest of this league.
What Stuart has this season that he didn’t have last one is options. He can use Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding but who can say that Barry and Billy would get less goals? He can put Omar Daley down the left or he can use Kyle Nix or Chris Brandon to be tighter. In those last ten minutes that make the difference between teams that go up and those who don’t options to exploit the weaknesses of the opposition win you games.
The squad City have is packed with players who would have been the most impressive guy on most team sheets. Guys like Boulding and Lee who would have raised eyebrows separately are together in a kind of League Two all-stars picking the best of what was on offer.
And making a season to savour.
Michael Boulding has an impressive goal tally for sure and he has been tagged as a target for City for a long time this summer but in terms of alarm bells there is very few that the 32 year old has not clanged.
Boulding joins City after the sort of on off chase which never has brought us much joy in the past. His father insists that the decision to join City has nothing to do with cash but one cannot help but be reminded of the transfers of Ashley Ward, of Lee Power, of Benito Carbone when thinking of this deal.
City’s best signings grasped at the chance to come to Valley Parade with both hands.
Then there is the injury picked up in training with minutes to go of a training session before a game which saw him able to go home rather than to Farsley. In itself not a problem – an injured player should rest – but hardly that desire to settle in to City.
Nevertheless Rory Boulding played that night. What are we to make of Rory and the deal that brings him in his brother’s pocket? How much elevation does the younger get to please the elder? How does McCall deal with Michael if if offers the opinion that Rory deserves a starting run out?
We are to hope that Michael is just pushing for his kid brother not pushing him into places he should not be. These are alarm bells but in a world where Christiano Ronaldo is a slave perhaps this is just Michael using player power and making his own decisions.
The biggest alarm though sounds when one recalls Mansfield’s brilliant, spirited display at Valley Parade last season after which I commented that the team would not be relegated should they play like that more often.
Boulding scored in that game. His 25 goals in a relegated side that can play so well but often did not makes one wonder how the striker fits into that or any of the many teams he has played for? Is the one of those players who while impressive gets more out of a team than he puts in?
Chris Waddle’s time at City was brilliant to watch but Shaun Murray got us out of the bottom two. Wayne Rooney’s second season at Everton was much worse then the year after he left and Tim Cahill took his place. These were good players who for whatever reason did not fit.
Let us this is not the case with Boulding. Let us hope that there worries are unfounded and that the alarm bells are pre-season tension playing on the mind. After all all indications are that this reason is very much make or break.
We welcome both Boulding brothers with the same – if not more considering Michael’s three clubs in the last month – enthusiasm they join us with.
In 12 months time though this double signing and how the relationship between the two is handled could very much decide Stuart McCall’s future.
City have got Abel Thermeus on trial and will take the French/Haitian striker back to Fir Park where they called him The Flask and have a Bebo group about his “shiteness”.
Michael Boulding is going to join Cheltenham as long as they take his brother – the Chelt manager is getting it in the neck for agreeing to that – and I for one am glad that Stuart McCall is not taking City into the kind of bizarre deal that used to blight Melchester Rovers. “He will sign for us Roy but we have to sign his brother…”, “No Blackie, we could offer that chance to one of our youngsters who has earned it!”
Hard to argue with Racey and hard too look the parents of all the kids who you have promised a route to the first team if they sign for City when you give away squad shirts to someone’s brother. What do you say when Michael tells you that he things Thorney is feeling it in the legs and perhaps a younger player?
Nevertheless Stuart McCall has confirmed that City are no longer interested in Boulding and the talks for Luke Beckett are still “on hold” and seemingly declared dead as the Bantams put in an enquiry for Leeds United’s Anthony Elding.
Elding – a player tracked before – is a pint sized goal machine putting in a strike every other game when he is on form and Crewe are believed to have bid £150,000 for him which the player rather than the club knocked back. He scores goals at this level and were he available for the free transfers that has brought Paul McLaren or Graeme Lee to Valley Parade he would be a great recruitment.
But £150,000? That would be City’s biggest signing not since Andrew Todd (who – memory serves – cost £110,000 although I could be wrong on this and the next fact) but since £1.7m was paid for Stan Collymore. It is serious cash for a club at this level.
Nevertheless McCall’s summer has been about bringing in a striker – Beckett was the first transfer move – and his missed targets are all front men. Peter Thorne can get goals for sure but is has been clear from day one that he does not believe that Willy Topp and Barry Conlon would be able to mount a promotion challenge without an additional twenty goal a season man.
He has looked for proven goalscorers and gone to the lengths of the Boulding nonsense and the breadth of offering money for Beckett to get his man. McLaren’s wages and Lee’s signing on fee. Brandon’s recruitment and Arnison’s arrival. These things are for nothing if the ball does not go into the net at the right end at lot next year and Stuart wants someone proven to do that.
The £150,000 for one player is a chunk at this level but spread over the recruitment of the summer making all those signings worthwhile it could be a the snip of this or many seasons.
Bradford (Park Avenue) 1 Bradford City 3 At Horsforth Playing Fields in Pre-season, 2008/2009
The first few friendlies of a pre-season campaign can be somewhat disconcerting experiences.
It’s great to witness the familiar sight of 11 players wearing Claret and Amber again and enjoy the stress-free experience of a meaningless win – City triumphing 3-1 at the Horsfall yesterday – in the sunshine, while it lasts. Yet the mixture of first teamers, trialists and youngsters mean elements of the team are strangers to many of us supporters who pride ourselves on a thorough knowledge of our team.
Understandable given the opposition’s level of ability and need to take the most from an afternoon playing on a bumpy pitch inside a running track; manager Stuart McCall could easily have picked his strongest eleven and seen them romp to a big win, but apart from improving fitness he would have learned nothing. Little for us supporters to have learned too and, at least, we were able to play the manager game of judging whether a 17-year-old youngster or trialist would be ‘up to’ the demands of taking the club forward next season – even if the unsatisfying announcement of the team over the creaky PA system meant we didn’t know some of the players beyond the number of their shirt.
One such trailist to catch the eye was number two (Milton Turner), a 21-year-old right back who was at Garforth Town last season. Having enjoyed a brief spell at Bury earlier in his career before moving around non-league circles, he may not appear an obvious choice to join a squad with the aim of promotion to League One. As a graduate of the much-publicised Brazilian Soccer School and after serving a scholarship in America, he has some potential. This was demonstrated during an impressive 90 minutes where his passing and bursts forward caught the eye. A sterner test on the tour of Scotland this week will help Stuart determine if he is good enough to play back-up to Paul Arnison.
The other less familiar faces included youngsters number nine (Luke Dean) and number 11 (Louis Horne). Both showed some nice touches and a willingness to work hard for the team, if looking tentative on occasions. Not something which Luke O’Brien (the number three now recognisable to most City fans after some promising first team appearances last season) can be accused of. O’Brien received some criticism for his display at Farsley on Wednesday but yesterday he looked more capable of being a squad member who could be called into the first team this season without too much trepidation.
But as well as the fringe players did, it was no surprise that the senior players on show heavily influenced this comfortable win. Peter Thorne led the line impressively and it must have been a great experience for Dean to play alongside him. Last season’s top scorer opened the scoring in the 20th minute after running onto a ball played over the top and expertly lobbing the ball over the stranded former City keeper Jon Worsnop into the net.
After the game Stuart could be forgiven for wrapping up Thorne in bubble wrap to prevent any injury problems, which wrote off the first few months of his City career. It’s to be hoped this time he won’t be waiting until November to open his account for the campaign and, whichever striker is brought in before the season starts, Thorne will be a key player in the coming months.
Other chances were created and wasted in the first half, with Omar Daley so often the provider. Everything good about his game – ability to beat people, lightning pace and decent if not outstanding crossing – was on show in the first half. He set up Kyle Nix who should have scored with a simple chance, had a decent low shot from distance saved and enjoyed his best moment after going on a mazy dribble and superbly crossing the ball for Dean, who had time to do better than his tame effort at goal. Daley was taken off at half time and, while fans around me at least continue to find fault with everything he does, should be reasonably happy with his efforts.
As too should new signing Paul McLaren, who added the second goal just after half time with a superb curling shot from distance. This week’s release of the squad numbers revealed McLaren has been handed the number four shirt. Playing alongside Nix, he was a strong influence showing some good touches, vision and passing. If Stuart can get him the right midfield partner this season, he could prove as inspirational as his manager was when wearing the number four shirt 10 years ago.
A scramble involving some poor keeping and Dean’s persistence resulted in a third goal five minutes later, credited by the PA announcer to Kyle Nix who appeared to poke home the ball on the line, and at that stage City threatened to run up a big scoreline. Avenue, who had their moments in the game, then pulled a goal back after Jon McLaughlin spilled a low shot into the path of Stuart Rudd who fired home.
This season’s back-up keeper was widely blamed, but Stuart will no doubt have noted the Avenue attack had been instigated from Mark Bower’s inexplicably woeful crossfield pass which went straight to an Avenue player. There is keen competition between Bower and Matt Clarke for the regular place at the back alongside new signing Graeme Lee, still not fit, and City’s longest serving player won’t have enhanced his chances after going onto make a few mistakes shortly after – including almost scoring an own goal. A contrast to the composed and strong presence of Clarke.
Avenue’s goal was quickly followed by a round of substitutions for City which left Bower the only senior player on the pitch. Now we really were in unfamiliar territory as a clutch of City’s brightest youth talent saw out the final 25 minutes. Included among them was trialist Kory Nix – brother of Kyle – who displayed his sibling’s workrate and willingness to get involved with everything, if not the level of skill. Another trialist from the Brazilian Soccer School, Jonjo O’Hara, looked useful, but whatever intensity the game had was dying.
As if to sum it up a bunch of bored watching kids started their own kickabout on a patch of grass behind the goal, bringing the bizarre sight of players having to take a momentary break from trying to impress their manager to kick the kids’ ball back to them after it kept ending up on the pitch.
A good workout for City, but as Stuart ruthlessly takes the club forward there will inevitably come a time when some of the youngsters who featured yesterday are shown the door. Some, like Worsnop, maybe end up building a career at somewhere like the Horsfall Stadium. They may have been unfamiliar to most people watching but, possibly for one set of supporters at least, they may become better known in years to come.
Farsley Celtic 3 Bradford City 1 At Throstles Nest in Pre-season, 2008/2009
It was once said of a group of young footballers who went on to big things that “you won’t win anything with kids” and perhaps as Stuart McCall prepares his team for the start of what is expected to be a promotion season this motto has been taken to heart with the City boss arriving at Farsley Celtic with a collection of major signings who were all aged around thirty. McCall is not going to stand accused of trying to make youngsters do men’s jobs.
However if they warn that inexperience will not beget results then lifelessness is an even bigger ailment and it was that which was Bradford City’s undoing tonight.
We should remember that one should not read too much into pre-season – City ended with game with David Wetherall, Wayne Jacobs and Physio Adam Cook on the field – but the approach to a game at Farsley Celtic could be a telling factor. Paul McLaren arrived at Valley Parade to gasps and delight but he and Lee Bullock at the heart of the Bantams first half midfield put in little application. Throstle’s Nest is not a million miles from Christie Park or many other League Two grounds and every game in claret and amber is important.
That the Bantams trailed 3-0 at half time was an indication as to how little McLaren and Bullock had got stuck in and the turnaround in the second half was entirely down to the hustle brought to the game by Kyle Nix and the impressive Luke Sharry. If one was to read anything into pre-season games then it would be that Craig Bentham and Tom Penford might be at Celtic because of the abilities of Sharry who is very much one to watch.
Certainly if City are to get anywhere they are going to need more application in winning the ball than McLaren or Bullock showed and one worries that that pairing could be another Steven Schmacher and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson.
Also a problem – in the first half at least – was defensive struggling by young pair Adrian Bellamy and Luke O’Brien who were at fault for a goal each as they dallied on the ball rather that putting the David Wetherall boot through it.
The other goal came from one of those offside decisions which drive you nuts. Paul Arnison had half a good debut having to do much to cover Bellamy next to him and Kory Nix – brother of Kyle – in front both missing. Kory Nix started well tucking in and taking the ball but after a half hour went missing up front although this came after a distressingly high kick to his chest from a defender that shook the new Australian.
Up front Peter Thorne hit the post with a header and Willy Topp looked lively until he was moved to the right wing second half although it was from the right that the cross that saw Barry Conlon fouled to win and score a penalty that got City’s goal came.
Conlon was partnered by Michael Boulding’s brother Rory who played the second half. Shoudl he sign then Michael Boulding, as with Graeme Lee and Chris Brandon, had to slot into this team and one can be sure that at no point did the eleven on the field resemble those who will start the season.
However regardless of the players on the field should anyone in claret and amber turn up without putting effort in then we will not win. It is pre-season and not much can be read into it but that much I know and can guarantee.
“You won’t win anything without effort.”
The new season will move a step closer this week as the pre-season friendly programme begins at Farsley Celtic. An almost annual stop-off point for Bradford City’s preparations, this Wednesday’s meeting will provide those of us attending with our first football fix in months and offer some clues as to what sort of season the Bantams may enjoy.
It’s been well documented that City was under-prepared as they embarked on their first few pre-season friendlies a year ago this week. On the day of the first game, at Harrogate Town, Paul Heckingbottom had become only the third summer signing, after Peter Thorne and Barry Conlon.
Having taken over with less than a full team of senior players on the books, it meant new manager Stuart McCall had to use a squad topped up with trialists. Some impressed and earned new deals, some were quickly released and a couple of those who were – Peter Leven and Simon Johnson – earned chances at clubs who performed better than City over the season. It was hardly the most ideal of beginnings and it showed during the disappointing first third of the season.
The lack of preparation undoubtedly influenced the subsequent disappointing midtable finish last season; and the traumatic pre-season the year before shaped the even worse 2006-07 campaign. Then, five the six pre-season friendlies ended in defeat – including two 4-1 thrashings to sides in the division below. Manager Colin Todd was badly lacking in players as the Peter Etherington investment was delayed and then terminated behind the scenes.
The majority of new faces arrived less than two weeks before the opening game – all loan signings. A good start followed but, as form collapsed cumulating in relegation, it was obvious from those pre-season thrashings that the warning signs had been there from the start.
The memories of both patchy pre-seasons have clearly been in the thoughts of many fans as this summer has unfolded. There still remains a degree of unrest that certain key positions in the team are yet to be recruited for but, compared to the progress at this stage last season, there are plenty of reasons to feel confident. It’s likely a trialist or two will pop up in City colours during the next three weeks, but the majority of the squad is already in place and Wednesday will be the first of six build-up games to hone an understanding.
Which, traditionally at least, is what pre-season games are supposed to be about. Will Chris Brandon be better in the centre or the wing? Should Mark Bower or Matt Clarke partner Graeme Lee in defence? Is Willy Topp going to be up to it this season? Stuart will be able to better decide on such matters during the next few weeks, rather than having to rely on the first few competitive games of the season.
The result on Wednesday won’t matter but, given the fact it’s the third year in a row City has visited Throstle Nest pre-season and the last two ended in disappointing defeats, there may be something to be read into the outcome. It’s likely the remaining signings will quickly follow and Stuart should have a very strong idea of the squad’s capabilities in time for the first game which really matters, on August 9.
The news which broke this morning that Bradford City is considering linking up with a football academy in Mexico, to identify promising players, has been met with a mixed response from fans. While questions of where this leaves the present link up with Belgian outfit Royal Racing FC Montegnee – apparently not going as well as hoped – are valid, the argument against from some fans is that the likely resource needed to secure such a partnership should be spent on signing new players is both predictable and depressing.
Depressing because it is typical of the short-term thinking that continues to steer, and blight, football. Never mind considering a partnership that in years to come may bear fruit and bring possible substantial reward – why haven’t we signed another striker yet?
Coming in a week where City have baulked at paying a transfer fee for a player who would probably be considered back up in the coming season, to the annoyance of some, it’s perhaps unsurprising City’s Mexico link up has been received negatively be some. I read with some confusion that all of City’s efforts should apparently be centred on a promotion push this season, and that failure is not an option. It appears those in charge, at least, see a future beyond May 2009.
The reaction from some of our supporters is not unusual among football followers these days, as immediate success seems to be all that matters. Supporting a club which is well overdue some, it’s understandable newspaper articles about looking to the future cause frustration; but, as the club continues to move away from the difficult financial problems which have hindered progress in recent years, the possibility of them reoccurring shouldn’t be ignored.
News also broke today that the Football League are going to deduct another 20 points from Luton Town, meaning they are set to kick off the new season a whopping 30 points behind the majority of their League Two rivals. A quick scan at last season’s final table shows only the top seven would have survived relegation with a 30 point deduction – a stat which underlines how difficult it will be for the Hatters to avoid kicking off the 2009-10 season in non-league.
Rotherham and Bournemouth’s fates are still to be determined; the former having being told they will need to pay the Football League a £750k bond to continue – on top of trying to agree a CVA with their creditors. Next season’s League Two already hints at carrying a sense of farce.
It must be incredibly difficult for the supporters of these clubs to watch the Football League hit them with further penalties while claiming it’s, “to protect the integrity of the competition.” A worrying precedence has been set following the Leeds United saga last season and, while there’s a logic to clubs receiving some form of penalty for running up debts they can’t meet, the punishments don’t seem to be fitting the crime.
Are City immune? We may appear to be over some difficult times, but a quick look at the club’s history suggests it may not be the last. It’s vital we live within our means, build up the club on solid foundations and make decisions for the long term good of the club – not short term gambles. Refusing to pay £60,000 for Jon Shaw may be considered as lacking ambition by some, but compared to City’s activities in the transfer market since relegation from the Premiership in 2001 it would have been an extravagant signing.
Clearly money is still not awash at City, but the situation has improved significantly. It would be easy to sink it all into buying players, gambling on short term success and hope it then brings in money; but only four teams will get promoted from League Two this season and football’s competitive nature will mean if City are among them it will be an outstanding achievement rather than our right.
It may seem wrong to hear City talk of extravagant link ups across the world and it may ultimately be ruled out as a waste of time; but, as the lower reaches of the game experiences more difficulties and our local neighbours face up to going out of existence, now should be the time for ensuring we never again end up in such a situation. The merits of building ‘the brand’ in Mexico will be carefully considered – not for helping the club get promoted this season, but determining what it can bring City in the years to come.
Stuart McCall rubbished the idea that he would be joining Hearts and Mark Lawn quickly and unequivocally stated that the City boss was not going anywhere as for the first time in a long time the idea of the number one who was the number four leaving came up.
Of course McCall has left before – to Everton and to Sheffield United – and his return as manager was viewed as a totemistic mark to turn around an ailing club but few – when McCall was appointed – investigated the angle that City were recruiting a manager who may be prized by others.
A look at Stuart’s CV before City reads perfectly. An International who went to the World Cup. A player who won six League Championships and played in the wrong end of the English League. A leader on the field for a club who credit him with being one of if not the driving force behind promotion. Well respected coach of a team who have had a season in the Premiership.
Had he not been our Stuart McCall then he would still have been an outstanding candidate for the job and one we were lucky to have. The fact he was our cult hero masked the fact that his track record on the field points – as much as it every can – to a great manager off it.
Like Trevor Cherry or Roy MacFarland before him he came to City a rookie manager but a vastly experienced player and no doubt a few other clubs looked at McCall and noted him as one to watch. Roy Keane got the Sunderland job on the strength of his playing CV and once Paul Ince proved himself at League Two level – twice – Blackburn got interested.
McCall is in that field of players you can hang your spirit on and should City do as we all hope they will this year then expect those links to become more frequent.
City have not gone for Jon Shaw the Halifax striker who ended up going to Rochdale for £60,000 and I’m more than happy about that.
Stuart McCall made it clear that he would have Shaw as a squad man but not for that price and I could not agree more. For the cost of buying Shaw Rochdale could have paid a good League Two players wage.
That is the reality of football in 2008 in League Two. You don’t pay transfer fees anymore cause there are loads players who want jobs and at least one of them will be out of contract so rather than giving his club the cash you might as well give some of it to him as a signing on fee. Football has been like that since Bosman in most divisions.
We all know this so we can ignore the moronic calls that City should have paid for Shaw and that Rochdale are more ambitous than we are. The £35,000 we paid for Billy Topp might come to something in the future but as a rule if you are paying for players you are wasting money.
It is not amibition that makes a club spend £60,000 on a player it is gambling. Gambling on promotion, gambling on a resale, gambling that they have found the difference between a good season and a bad one it is a chance that I’m glad that City are not ready to take especially not on a kid forward who despite some noisey City fans saying was a proven goalscorer has only got goals outside the league and was rejected by Sheffield Wednesday.
Good look to Rochdale and that but I’m glad that City are putting the money we have into senior professionals like Graeme Lee and Paul McLaren and not throwing it after the latest kid to bang in a few goals outside the pro-leagues.
Darren Moore has just signed for Barnsley after City boss Stuart McCall told everyone that he wanted to bring the big man back to Valley Parade and for the second time I’m left feeling a bit used.
Moore is a good guy cause he is a Christian and knows Wayne Jacobs and everyone will tell you that he is a good bloke. In fact footballers like him so much that they elect him to the PFA. He sits around the table with Gordon Taylor when the footballer’s union make sure that no one get get anywhere when they suggest that players need salaries capped.
He is a good bloke and never made a noise after having his request for £15,000 a week from City turned down nine years ago. He went to Portsmouth and on to a great career that we all followed and cheered with only a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth about the way it all ended.
Great guy but when City came in for Moore how come it got out to the media so quickly? And what was the effect of it getting out. To us it said that City had high ambitions but to the rest of the game it said two things. First that Bruno was on the move and secondly that to get him you needed to compete with big spenders.
So the likes of Leicester City and Nottingham Forest all start to be interested and soon it looks like City’s hope if plucking Moore’s heartstring and pushing a bit of extra cash in his pocket to get him but when a club two divisions higher want to offer the chance of a fifth promotion to the Premiership of course he is interested.
So fast forward on the month and Bruno has got a move to the Championship probably on the money that City offered him and no one can blame him but for the second time City have figured in a deal that ended up with Darren Moore getting what he wanted and us being left with egg on our faces.
Graeme Lee is not Darren Moore in our hearts but neither was David Wetherall when he was signed the last time Moore decided he wanted to be somewhere else and maybe in nine years time we will look at Lee like we look at Weathers now.
Bradford City’s players returned to pre-season at the start of one of the more pressured period in the clubs history.
Under the stewardship of the club’s definitive player Stuart McCall the squad are expected to win promotion – and perhaps the odd cup – and the challenge for the same the season after.
A club that has won promotion eight time in 105 years wants to start bursting up the divisions. The feeling is the club play below their weight and the expectation on these players is that they can put an end to this underachievement.
So tasked with this Stuart McCall takes his inspiration from the best Bradford City manager there has been and like Paul Jewell he assembles a squad of senior professionals and exciting younger players.
Most of his recruits in the summer have been over or touching 30. Chris Brandon, Graeme Lee and Paul Arnison are – it is said – to be joined almost certainly Paul McLaren and perhaps also Michael Boulding joining the likes of Peter Thorne and Lee Bullock as senior players already doing laps of Applely Bridge. These are McCall’s McCalls, his Beagries, his Windasses.
Added to them is a small crop of younger players – Kyle Nix, Willy Topp and Joe Colbeck leading them – who look to be the legs and trickery of the experience.
Brandon is expected to take a left flank role opposite Colbeck and with McLaren and Bullock between them feeding the ball forward for two of Thorne, Boulding, Topp, Barry Conlon or Omar Daley. Behind them Arnison, Lee, Bower and Heckingbottom have over 1,075 career games between them. Add McLaren, Bullock, Brandon and Thorne to those and you have eight players with ust under 2,500 league games under their belts.
McCall believes that experience will get the club to achieve. He has staked his reputation on it.
For City fans are fickle from old and forgive little. The word when Stuart signed was the fear and the fear was the McCall would tarnish his position as the club’s hero on his return. Indeed twelve months into his spell in the big chair at Valley Parade criticism of McCall is audible and a recent ad hoc poll of supporters on their favourite player saw the usual winner’s place less firmly held.
Nevertheless McCall answered the call as heroes must do and now attempts his great feat – his Knight’s return – with polar opposites of cementing his place in the pantheon of players who have led on and off the field for the same club or fading away to be a memory of a player who once pounded the streets around Applely Bridge.