Issue Stuart McCall and the forty-five minute claim

As told by Michael Wood

“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.