Issue A little less punctuation, a little more action please

As told by David White

The headline on the official website – McCall: “Not good enough” – certainly summed up a dismal display at Meadow Lane. But why was it so bad? Perhaps removing the punctuation from the headline would give an indication. I have yet to see anything in Stuart that suggests he is indeed good enough.

I am not anti-Stuart. In fact, I like and deeply respect everything that he stands for. As a man and a player, there are few, if any, in the game whom I respect more than Stuart. I would always want City to be successful, but to achieve success with Stuart at the helm would be all the sweeter as I know it would mean as much to him as it does to us. That’s what makes writing this article all the more difficult because I genuinely do not believe we will achieve success, however modest, with Stuart as manager. The mauling at the hands of Notts County was embarrassing in the extreme, not least because the 5-0 scoreline flattered us.

Yes, it could have been different had the referee – or his assistant who had an unobstructed view – given us a penalty for the blatant two-handed shove by Hoult on Thorne, but in truth I expected nothing less than a defeat prior to yesterday’s game. I thought perhaps that I was being a little negative, but consoled myself by thinking that at least I could not be disappointed. I wasn’t.

Yes, Stuart is a young(ish) manager. But young managers need to learn from their mistakes if they are to become successful. Stuart displays a worrying inability to learn from his mistakes, and even when he identifies mistakes, fails to put them into practice. Last season he talked at length about a need for leaders. Yesterday we did not have even one leader on the pitch, perhaps until the arrival of Steve Williams who despite not being faultless, at least looked capable of organising and motivating team-mates. As for the decision to make Thorne captain, that’s really the subject of another article. Suffice to say, other factors must have played a part because it’s certainly not down to Thorne’s leadership ability.

During the summer Stuart talked about the need to adopt a more realistic attitude away from home. Surely if there was one game where a more defensive, hard-to-beat approach was warranted, it was at the home of the title favourites. At the very minimum we needed to produce a performance full of grit, passion and desire – the lack of those attributes on display from those in claret would be laughable were it not so serious. Stuart the player would not have accepted such a performance from his team-mates, so I find it so difficult to accept, that as manager, he appears unable to instil this in his players.

Perhaps part of the reason that the players lack grit, passion and desire is that Bradford City is too nice a place to be a player. I have no evidence of this, it’s just a feeling I get. I get the feeling that if you’re an old pro, Valley Parade is your destination of choice – you won’t get worked too hard, you’re likely to play every week (if you want to) and you get to trot around in front of 12,000 supporters every other week. So that’s the old pros accounted for, what about the youngsters? Well, if you’ve come up through the youth system, you go to the bottom of the pile. If you’ve been brought in from elsewhere you’ll get a game in front of a BCFC youngster, but not if an old pro plays in your position. Just go through the first eleven and substitutes from yesterday and look at how true this is. I can’t imagine it’s great for morale. And if you’re a left-sided midfielder or left winger, don’t even think about getting your agent to phone Stuart, the position doesn’t exist at Bradford City. Bizarrely, in the position most people would advocate playing an experienced player, goalkeeper, Stuart signs a youngster on loan to push our own youngster down the pecking order.

I find it very hard writing this article and criticising Stuart the manager, because like many supporters, I have found it very difficult to separate Stuart the man from Stuart the manager. I could not and would not criticise Stuart the man and could never fault Stuart the man’s or Stuart the manager’s commitment to the cause. One incident in yesterday’s game, however, brought it home to me that he just hasn’t got it in him to be a manager. In the first half we received a throw in on the left, level with the edge of the Notts County box. After some confusion Michael Flynn trotted over to take it, and it became apparent that no-one knew (Stuart included, I suspect) that he has a long throw. I suspect it’s an indication that Stuart doesn’t really know what he’s signing. I may be doing Stuart a huge injustice. If one of the reasons he has signed Flynn is because he has a long throw, then I applaud him, but I suspect he didn’t know. If he did know, he certainly hadn’t communicated it to the players.

Yes, this was only the first game of the season and yes, we won’t play against teams like Notts County every week, but this was the chance for The New Stuart to make his mark. It saddens me more than I can say that I truly believe that Stuart is not the man for the job. I agree that stability at football clubs is key, but having the wrong man at the helm for an extended period of time is not stability; it is folly.


Editors note Comments are off on this article in favour of a retort, which will follow later.