Issue Ascent

As told by Michael Wood

As hours go the one from four to five as City played Exeter on Saturday was remarkable even by the standards the Bantams have set.

Leaving the field to a smattering of boos at half time Stuart McCall tweaked the layout of his team and sixty minutes later was the manager of the league leaders.

Wycombe Wanderers failed to beat Brentford and while Shrewsbury were sending out a warning with the match up between them and the Bantams to come in two weeks time City were the only team on fifteen points, the only team to have five wins, the team who is rightfully at the top of the division.

The hour turnaround pleased McCall – he called City “awesome” – and silenced those boos although those people were probably taking credit for turning things around. Credit though for the turnaround needs to go to McCall and an oft unspoken about tactical acumen in the management team that rather than addressing the issues of the first half that saw City a goal behind anticipated the problems of the second.

One up, Exeter would put two banks of four behind the ball and try frustrate the Bantams until the final whistle. McCall withdrew Paul McLaren to a deeper laying midfield role forcing the visitors to either allow the playmaker room to play or break ranks and leave holes. They never managed to balance out that quandary with McClaren pulling strings when left alone and the gaps left when he was pressured being exploited by Omar Daley and Joe Colbeck surging inside from the wing.

We talk about McCall the motivator, McCall the man-manager and McCall the legend but rarely does McCall get credit for tactical nouse as he showed to build this victory.

Getting credit is Omar Daley who seemed to be able to do no wrong in the eyes of supporters who seemed to have taken what they read in the T&A about his permanent purple patch to heart right until he showed the first sign of “the old Omar” – trying the sort of dribble that would win him man of the match an hour later – and the cliches poured forth.

The eight minute pre-half time spell did little to suggest the final result but this Bantams side has a mental toughness that is in no way mirrored in the chorus of the supporters who while not speaking with one voice are represented and remembered as jeering off a team that in an hour’s time would be top of the pile.

Perhaps though supporter’s reactions – boos and cheers – have lost significance to football clubs. Like a 14 year old who uses the eff-word as punctuation the boo has no currency as a comment because of its frequency and when language has no currency it stops making sense. We all lose our voice.

If Mike Ashley at Newcastle’s willingness to ignore the feelings of his club’s supporters – until he thinks they threaten his safety, that is – signals one thing it is that those in the club are far less concerned with what those supporting it think they are or should be. Perhaps the boo everything mentality that has taken hold in football is the justification for that.

If you stage a protest about how the club is being run just before the club ascends to the top of the Premier League you cheapen the value of a protest. If you boo a team playing well but a goal down you make your voice so much more ignorable.

Once clubs become hardened to the boos – once ignoring what the fans say becomes necessary – then all utterances from the stands becomes more ignorable. If as an owner or director of a club you cannot take the boos seriously because of their unintelligent frequency then why take the cheers as such? Why take a petition seriously? Why involve the supporters at all? All questions that as fans we need to address.

For the club, players and management the best riposte against boos is the league table, the five wins, the ascent to the top of the league for as a section of supporters make all our voices increasingly irrelevant Bradford City have rarely ever been so vital.