Stuart promises to walk as the season comes down to eight games.

“If we don’t finish in the play offs I don’t deserve to be here, I will walk.”

The words of manager Stuart McCall minutes after his City side slumped to a fifth straight away defeat by losing 4-1 at Bournemouth. It was only three weeks ago that the City legend signed a new two-year contract stating, “my managerial ambitions lie with this club. I can see myself being here for the long-run, taking us where we all want to go.” Five defeats from seven games later and a season that was seemingly bubbling along nicely is on the brink of collapse.

Stuart’s admission comes with the City cyberworld seemingly about to crash, such is the level of criticism and calls for him to walk being aired. It’s hard to believe that the last time we all set foot inside Valley Parade we were doing mexican waves and chanting “we are going up”, with City thrashing Aldershot and climbing to fourth. Saturday’s home game with Port Vale will see the team under huge pressure and just making the play offs will now be an achievement when not long ago it looked like a failure. There are eight games left to at least secure one of those spots, it’s not dramatic to say they could be the last eight games of Stuart’s long and successful association with Bradford City.

Some will be pleased by Stuart’s promise. Faith has been whittling away for many and the idea he would have continued if the club failed was bringing rage, not to mention potentially hitting season ticket sales. Others will look at it with great sadness and disagree with the idea of us having to recruit another manager this summer. That even if this season ultimately ends in disappointment it will still be progress on last year. Do we really want to rip things up and start again?

The timing of Stuart’s announcement is arguably not the greatest. He must restore belief in a squad who’s confidence is draining quickly and who simply don’t appear to be able to find the resolve to come back from adversity. Will hearing their manager might quit perk them up into doing better to ensure they don’t lose him, or give them the excuse to play on further insecurity? If it does spell the end it will be bitterly disappointing that certain players who frankly wouldn’t be fit to lace Stuart the player’s boots should trigger the final curtain on a relationship with City stretching three decades.

As for us supporters, a line of some sorts has been drawn and if there’s one thing it would be nice to see as a result of Stuart’s statement it’s a collective getting behind the club during the last eight games. If he fails, those who want him out will get their wish, but only the most adrernt critic will be taking pleasure in him leaving. If he succeeds then he will have deserved his chance to continue and carry on the progress he has made.

Which is where the other lot of fans come in. For every email and text Derm Tanner read out on BBC Radio Leeds tonight angrily stating Stuart is a disgrace, there are many other supporters who believe him to be the right man for the job and deserving of the chance to continue. I would class myself in that group of fans and too often we are too quiet, allow others to scream loudest and merely shake our heads without making it known we disagree. Well now is the time to make sure our voices are heard and to show to other fans and, most importantly Stuart, that our opinions are just as valid and that we don’t want him to leave. It’s time to chant Stuart’s name louder and cheer the team more vigorously, doing everything we can to help his team cross the line.

The season is now condensed into eight games which will have a huge bearing on the future direction of this football club. Recent form may be dreadful but the club is still in a strong position and this present squad capable of delivering glory. Now is the time to pull together and look ahead. The result tonight cannot be changed, but the results against Port Vale, Chester, Brentford, Morecambe, Lincoln, Dagenham, Rochdale and Chesterfield can still be influenced.

Stuart has given so much to this club and to us supporters, the least we can do is get behind him for the last eight games.

Deflecting viewpoints – Bournemouth v Bradford City – League Two preview

Deflections are habitually described as wicked, and the one which Dean Moxley’s cross took off Paul Arnison to loop over Rhys Evans for Exeter’s winner on Saturday was heinous in its contribution towards City’s promotion hopes.

City spent the remaining 70 minutes trying to neutralise its implication but in the end it was late drama 250 miles to the East, in Kent, which had the most telling affect. Grant Holt’s late equaliser may have pushed his Shrewsbury side above City, but the two points it cost Gillingham means automatic promotion remains a reachable three points away. Victory at Bournemouth tonight could shorten that gap to mere goal difference and deflect a season in danger of going either way back in the right direction.

Recent form is not good enough, no one would argue. Defeat at Exeter was City’s fourth in a row on the road and fourth in six full stop. It’s a measure of inconsistencies with City’s promotion rivals – Brentford apart – that a one point deficit City had after drawing at home to Darlington last month has only increased by two during a period of some of the Bantams’ worst performances of the campaign.

Much has been made online about the latest defeat with the extreme calls of Stuart McCall to be sacked aired by some. Normally I’d try to argue this is ridiculous but there seems little point, not least because their cries are not going to be acted upon by those who get to decide. Furthermore I – as, I would guess, are many others who defend Stuart – am tired of receiving the lazy and patronising put-down of wearing ‘rose-tinted glasses’ when I do.

There’s no room for debate with some supporters, if you disagree Stuart should be booted out it’s not because you rationally believe he’s doing a decent job, you are stupid; or blind and own prescribed magic spectacles – I forget which.

Back in the South, the City squad have remained from Saturday and one hopes the unusually long period of time spent together as a group will have benefited team morale and increased focus ahead of a vital encounter with Bournemouth. Stuart took a squad of 20 to Devon last week before facing a disciplinary problem with Barry Conlon and Matt Clarke, which hampered selection.

Reaction to Conlon and Clarke’s misdemeanours is like opinions on the best way to punish children – everyone has a view but no one ever agrees. Details are unclear, but it would seem Stuart chose to keep them grounded in the stand and stop their pocket money for at least a week. Some criticise him for cutting his nose to spite his face by leaving them out, others argue the pair should never play for the club again. Both players are expected to be back in consideration again with Stuart’s reluctance to publicly criticise them hopefully being rewarded with a determination from both to make amends.

Conlon’s absence and another little injury to Peter Thorne left Stuart selecting Nicky Law up front with Michael Boulding at St James Park. Stuart is often accused of playing Law ‘out of position’, though these critics seem to ignore the fact Law’s career at Sheffield United has so far involved playing out wide or up front. A central midfield partnership with Dean Furman results in Law ultimately ‘out of position’. Some might call it clever management by Stuart to get such great performances out of him in the centre this season. They will probably be the same folk wearing rose-tinted glasses, though.

Law should return to the midfield but perhaps on the wing with Lee Bullock or Paul McLaren partnering Furman in the centre and Steve Jones on the right. The club’s failure to get returning injured players looking anything better than rusty is troubling, though Joe Colbeck and Chris Brandon may be considered for starts. As will Keith Gillespie.

Up front Thorne is definitely out so Conlon should partner the hit and miss Boulding. Stuart’s failure to bring in a fourth striker is been debated by some. Tellingly up to five clubs are reported to be on the verge of administration with talk of one League Two club being unable to complete its fixtures. That won’t be City, but the still tight finances mean the luxury of signing the mythical fourth striker who’d score lots of goals probably isn’t available.

Jones is the nearest to a replacement we had for Willy Topp in terms of space on the wage bill, and may play more regularly in the striker berth if other wingers can start matching his form out wide. Gillespie was clearly only brought in because of Omar Daley’s injury and whether he is on anything more than a pay-as-you-play deal is suspectable.

At the back Clarke will be expected to return with Zesh Rehman either switched to right back for Arnison or relegated back to the bench. Luke O’Brien and Graeme Lee will hope to better recent efforts with Evans keeping goal.

Bournemouth’s recent form is amongst the best in the league and stronger than most promotion-chasing clubs. From a seemingly hopeless position, their third manager of the season, Eddie Howe, has reinvigorated belief and ten undefeated matches from 12 has propelled the Cherries out of the bottom two. They are also the only club to win at Valley Parade so far this season and present a tough prospect for City to end their away woes against.

Defeat would prompt an even angrier reaction from fans and a win would largely bring calm. Whichever there will be eight games left to play and nothing to suggest the up-and-down nature of the first 38 will cease. This is going to be the most exciting end to a season in ages and as much as they may leave us sleepness and distraught on occasions they should also bring excitment and joy.

Spectacles optional.

Recent Posts