Reboot, Reload, Rebuild? Should McCall take Championship Manager approach?

I’ve bemoaned to all the notion that Championship Manager is a blight on real football but Stuart McCall could do with learning the trick that used to save my seasons when I was a slave to the pixel hot seat.

When I was in a bad run – and that one “win in nine” talk has become McCall’s bad run – I’d be faced with three choices. The first was blindly tinkering with the team throwing in a player there and taking out someone here with the idea that the right combination would come.

This seems to be what Stuart McCall is doing now making ekes and tweaks to the eleven that finished the last game. Barry Conlon’s start on Tuesday recognised the need to win and hold the ball away from home and Steve Jones up next to the target man recognised the need for pace on the break that is so often the route to victory for away sides at Valley Parade.

Big man, little man. Brawn and speed. On paper it works until you look at the paper and realise you have just selected as your best two forwards Barry and a bloke out of Burnley reserves. The team becomes a version of a version of a version of what you started with.

Likewise the midfield becomes contorted around the players who were in it last week rather than the ones who were in it when you were doing well. Nicky Law Jnr or Dean Furman is the question but when City were winning games on a regular basis Lee Bullock and Paul McLaren were in the middle.

Which lead to McCall’s second option – and the one most often favoured after a re-load – which is to click down list of players in the side and pick the team again from scratch evaluating everyone again and ending up with what is your best eleven. In City’s case aside from a couple of options in the midfield this is obvious from results when they were in the side: Evans; Arnison, Lee, Clarke, O’Brien; Colbeck, McLaren, Bullock, Daley; M Boulding and Thorne;

One could argue about the two loan midfielders Law and Furman who both have been impressive but I have never believed in playing loanees over your own professionals. Certainly looking at the team who lost to Bury four of them – Zesh Rehman, Nicky Law Jnr, Dean Furman and Steve Jones – belong to other clubs and when the debate starts about why a team does not want it enough this factor cannot be ruled out.

I recall fondly that at Wolves on the day that City were promoted Paul Jewell entrusted the game to what was the definitive side of the season favouring Robbie Blake over Dean Windass, Jamie Lawrence over Lee Sharpe, John Dreyer over Andy O’Brien or Ashley Westwood. He favoured senior professionals with long term stake over new arrivals and young players and he was rewarded for it.

Which is the option that this writer would have McCall follow now. A couple of days on the training field and a decision as to who are the eleven players he would want to win a Wolves type game of which we have plenty if we want promotion at the end of this season.

That of he could go for option three. Turn off and go watch some TV.

Stuart McCall and the forty-five minute claim

“One win in nine.”

It started in the Telegraph & Argus – this collection of four words to represent a statistical truth – but it has taken a life of its own.

Stuart McCall’s Bradford City side have only a single win in the last nine games. Three points? Well, no. In fact City have ten points from the last twenty-seven which is no great return for sure. “Two defeats in nine games.” sounds a little different too.

“One win in nine” has become the forty-five minute claim against Stuart McCall. It is true while being misleading. It is the lie, the damned lie and the statistic.

“Two defeats in nine”, “six draws in nine”, “just over a point a game in the last nine.” All as relevant but paint a different picture.

What is this picture? Who has ever referenced a top nine before? Did Top of the Pops do a rundown of the nine top songs of the week? Do amps go all the way up to nine? Is there anything special about the last nine games for City?

Sadly the only thing that makes the last nine games relevant to City is that if you take them as a statistical sample Stuart McCall’s record looks worse. Why not say “two wins in ten” or “three wins in eleven”? Why not? Because they sound better for McCall? The nine game sample is all about picking out a period of time that makes the City manager look as bad a possible.

Why not say that City have lost four in the last eighteen? Why take a mid-season sample anyway? What does it matter? Take a sample of the last 27 games and City have won 11, drawn 9 and lost 7. The points/game is low but then again our division’s leaders Wycombe Wanderers have 1.85 points/game compared to Manchester United’s 2.27 which says much about how the wins are being shared out in this league. That statistic illustrates something and gives us a context for understanding the season. Picking out the last nine games with an arbitrary cut off point designed to make the subject of a point look as bad as possible is not representative it is spin.

Perhaps Alistair Campbell – a man from Keighley who has convinced the world that his local team is Burnley – has made spin doctors of us all. Many – although not Campbell himself – believe that spin was used to justify war. Why use such tactics against Stuart McCall?

Why anyone would want to spin facts against the current City manager only they know – Joe Kinnear had something to say about local journalists doing it which McCall might think but probably would not say – but let us not mistake those who would base an article or argument around this ad hoc spin for anything that deserves any credit or for anything ethical. It is selecting only the facts that support your argument and down-playing the others to make the point you want to make, to serve the agenda you serve.

If you think Stuart McCall is a bad manager, if you think he is doing things wrong, if you think that Stuart McCall is taking Bradford City to Hell in a handcart and want to write me an article saying so then I will publish it but only if you have the belief in the strength of your argument to attack the manager on the basis of his full record as it stands and not by twisting information until it reflects only the worst light.

Comments: Rules of the house: Talk football not politics. Nuff said.

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