From February, 2010
Bradford City 1 Darlington 0 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
While Peter Taylor was plotting to take Bradford City to two wins in five days Mark Lawn was considering pulling out the club to put the Bantams in administration.
Lawn’s ire came after his car was vandalised by some City fans following the Accrington Stanley game last weekend. Lawn’s upset abated as he described,
The general abuse shocked me and I won’t stand for it. It’s more than out of order. I talked to Julian (Rhodes) the following day and said that I felt like taking the loan back. Then Bradford City would be in administration – it’s as simple as that. We have all these wonderful fans but there are always some who want me out. But what would they do then? If I took my £1 million loan back, what do they think is going to happen to the football club? Never mind my share investment capital, without that loan the club would not exist.
Lawn wants the offenders to come to him to talk the matter over, and to be banned for life and to face criminal damaged charges and rightly so. The joint chairman is right to make a clear statement that such behaviour is unacceptable.
What to make of Lawn’s follow up statement is up to the individual fans – be they those who attack cars, those who turn up week in and week out for decades, who raise money to pay for today’s match winner James Hanson, those who kept the club in business twice in the last decade:
I’m a fan like them and I’ve two million more reasons to be frustrated.
The £5,000 donated to the club by a supporter via The City Gent paid for two thirds of James Hanson’s transfer represents a significant fan investment in the club and paid off handsomely for the Bantams today with the former shelf stacker turned City top scorer starting and ending the conclusive move of the match that saw Darlington dispatched from Valley Parade on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat.
The result seemed in little doubt once the Bantams – who started the game effectively with new signing Mark McCammon and Hanson operating as a powerful two man battering ram – took the lead when Hanson played a smart ball deep to a confident Gareth Evans down the right flank who centred to McCammon only for Hanson to spirit in front of the new boy to convert.
Hanson should have doubled City’s advantage when a similarly well crafted move came to the striker who hit a good shot which was saved by young keeper Shane Redmond who – along with the central defender Ian Miller – put in superb performances that did much to keep the Quakers in with a chance of salvaging something from the match right up until the final whistle.
Not that the forward line of the visitors – well marshalled by Steve Williams – looked like taking those chances. The visitors lacked confidence and often lashed the ball on the slightest sight of the net threatening very little.
When Darlington did muster an attack they found Peter Taylor’s City more resolute than one would imagine they would have been under Stuart McCall but – as a result – a touch more tedious.
Twenty minutes from time and substitute Omar Daley played a fine cross field ball thirty five yards from his own goal and as Michael Flynn took the ball to attack Daley meandered forward more bothered about maintaining defensive position in front of Robbie Threlfall than joining the mounting attack. It was not uncommon over the afternoon and typified City’s approach to the game. Being hard to beat rather than beating the opposition out of sight.
Taylor’s side got a first home win for the new manager and the second win in three. His pragmatic approach to the game becomes clearer with his withdrawal of McCammon and introduction of Michael Boulding who spurned a last minute chance to set Hanson’s up for a double. Boulding’s arrival saw City’s midfield switch to a prescribed path of playing early balls to try get behind the Darlington backline. Flynn and Bullock would play the ball long – often without looking – to the groans of the supporters but Taylor was satisfied that the players were following his plan.
Sitting back, hitting a team on the break, and sneaking a win. It was a far cry from the expansive 433 and dashed hopes of Stuart McCall’s three years at the club but as Taylor takes his Bantams for three away games at Aldershot, Rotherham and then Port Vale on the road in in the next ten days such an approach could prove useful.
And three points won at Valley Parade is a welcome Saturday afternoon but it is an afternoon tinged with sadness and Peter Taylor and his practical football took over from Stuart McCall’s dream of glory and shows signs of reward. City have beaten the top and the bottom sides in the last week and done so with the same common sense, simple type of performance.
Drifting away was the dream of McCall for sure, but with it it seems goes that of a club in which the supporters who have done so much to keep the Bantams in football are at the heart of Bradford City. The club exists at the behest of the joint chairman – he makes that very clear – and feels things more times more than any other supporters.
One hopes that he fells he has 2,000,000 reasons to feel happier today.
A new issue of The City Gent goes on sale tomorrow which features a lengthy, exclusive, revealing and touching interview with former City manager Stuart McCall.
The issue is dedicated to the former manager and discussion on his exits and the events around it with the usual mix of passion and thoughtfulness of the counties longest running fanzine.
Pick up your copy from gentlemen tall and short around Valley Parade tomorrow.
After last Saturday’s game at Accrington Stanley Bradford City’s players were “simply not good enough” and Peter Taylor had to get rid of them. After the win at Rochdale on Tuesday night they were “brilliant and capable” and had beaten a team five points top of the league.
This weekend the same players face moribund Darlington. So which is the real reflection of the current set of Bradford City players?
The season has seen them wend a way to the lower mid-table for sure but also create a club record of games unbeaten. Rochdale made them looked hapless, they returned the favour and beat them when Dale’s lads were brimming with confidence. How good, or how bad, are the City players?
Certainly following the game Peter Taylor was clear about what he thought had transformed the team saying that the return to a 442 on Tuesday night with Michael Flynn up front alongside James Hanson – a function Taylor credits Wayne Jacobs for passing on to him – and an evening of hard work.
There were so many good things but most importantly they realised that they got the result through hard work and togetherness.
So if the players are together and work hard then they are “good” divided – as they were following the departure of Stuart McCall and the communal lip out sulk – they are “bad”. So are they good or bad?
Perhaps the question is framed wrong.
The terms of good and bad in football have always been around but have come into a sharper focus in the digital era where games like Championship Manager and FIFA demand that players be rated and assessed. If you, dear reader, ever played one of the LMA series of management games you did so (in some years) with a Bradford City team assessed and rated by yours truly.
I recall opening the spreadsheet and being given a range – Bradford City players could not be rated over 59% or under 44% – and were scored in categories like shooting and passing. I wondered how one rated players like Bobby Petta in those stats. For sure the man could hit a ball, but only when he could be bothered and why award him the higher fifties because he once leathered a ball in against Huddersfield when Steven Schumacher scored more – albeit less impressive – goals?
The question asked in that instance really was one of “good” and “bad” but that is the world of clicks and buttons and the reality of football offers more depth. Robbie Blake – for example – was considered for long periods of his career a player who would be good enough for the Premiership if only he had the pace suggesting that his abilities would be spread between percentages, if they could be encoded at all.
The way that the good people at Codemasters created their game allowed an even spread of abilities up and down the game. There were as many players with the ability levels suited for the Premiership as for the League Two – linear distribution – and as City slipped down the leagues having risen up in double quick time the previous decade it struck me that that notion was wrong.
As the skill level of players at, and visiting, Valley Parade decreased from the days of Paul Scholes volleying in a David Beckham corner it became clear that there was a level of ability which rose and fell up and down the leagues but that as we fell down the leagues this quality did not drop off to the same extent. The difference between the second and third tiers of football were not as great as the drop between the top of the top flight and the clubs at the bottom.
The exponential growth of players able to play at a level as one descends the league means that while only one English footballer might have the abilities of David Beckham and ten are good enough for the Champions but a hundred Englishmen are good enough for the Premiership on the whole and thousand able to play at the next level down which encompasses an area I’d say is roughly the half way down the top of the Championship to the middle of League Two.
It is crude analysis for sure but it explains how a Paul Jewell or a Peter Taylor can take clubs like Wigan and Hull and take them through the leagues to the edge of the Premiership play-offs. The players who were idling either at those clubs or to be bought up from rivals of a similar standing did not improve in natural ability – the did not become “good” having been “bad” but they certainly improved.
Improvement that is put down to coaching and to motivation. The latter being shown in Paul Jewell’s ability to build a mental toughness in his players in which they believed they were capable of beating any team at any level and the former being in team drilling and understanding of the roles and responsibilities on the field and the pattens built up.
The average player in League One when promoted would be expected to get on in the division above, when relegated to be able to play in the one below. The same group of players who seem hopeless at one point can seem brilliant at others when they have the right approach to the game and to each other.
Which brings us back to Bradford City and the difference of three days between Accrington and Rochdale. Assuming the players have not simply “become good” over the space of three days and that Taylor requires more than a couple of sleeps to have the players won over to his tactical approach or his mental position how have the Bantams improved?
Probably the change has much to do with the depressed mood at the club that came as a result of sacking Stuart McCall being superseded as a worry by the idea that if a team cannot complete with Accrington then it is likely that that club would be relegated. The players had a sulk, they were upset, but professional pride – or perhaps the mental toughness they have – kicked in and they raised the game in keeping with the raised noise from the away end.
Add to that Taylor looked at simple basics of the team and noted that – since Paul McLaren left – we have had no quality delivery. That problem has been fixed by loanee Robbie Threlfall. Threlfall’s delivery played a part in all three goals against Rochdale. A small practical fix which allowed Luke O’Brien to move forward to balance the left flank and set City for victory.
Threlfall makes his Valley Parade début against a Darlingtonnnn side managed by Steve Staunton who was himself a Liverpool left back loaned to City and is set to be joined as a temporary transfer at the club by Gillingham’s Mark McCammon,physicalcal striker.
McCammon seems likely to partner James Hanson up front as the club praised The City Gent for raising £5,000 to pay two thirds of the transfer fee for the player. The last two weeks has seen much debate over the club and the owners of that club and acknowledgement is given to the joint chairmen for the investment they have made but The City Gent’s – in effect – buying a player is another of many examples of the supporters of Bradford City funding the business of Bradford City and when calls are made to the joint chairmen for clarity it is done in the knowledge that frankly amazing actions such as Jeremy White’s fund raising is done by people who should be considered more than consumers of the Bradford City product.
The McCammon/Hanson combination sees Peter Taylor go about the business of making the no nonsense attack that his Wycombe side had and will allow Michael Flynn to slot back alongside Lee Bullock in the midfield alongside O’Brien on the left and Gareth Evans on the right although a return for Omar Daley or the inclusion of Scott Neilson is possible, but would be harsh on Evans who is returning to form.
The back four of Simon Ramsden, Matthew Clarke, Steve Williams and Threlfall will continue in front of Matt Glennon.
Good players, to a man.
Gillingham striker Mark McCammon is set to join City causing the ire of Ronnie Moore as the 31 year old turned down the chance to join Rotherham.
“We had a call late on from the agent saying he’d had a change of mind and he’s going to go to Bradford. It’s disappointing for us.” fumed Ronnie “Maybe it is the Ground. Is there some other reason why he’s not come?”
Having seen Craig Disley of Shrewsbury get a bad injury by sliding on the Don Valley Stadium pitch Moore could be correct, but probably not in the way he means.
McCammon played in the 2004 FA Cup final for Millwall in his career that has taken him to nine clubs previously. He has a physical style having once caused fury for City fans when as a Doncaster Rovers player he has lucky not to be sent off for leading with his arms for most of the game.
Peter Taylor was quick to share praise with Wayne Jacobs are the 3-1 win over Rochdale on Tuesday night with the new City manager crediting his inherited number two with a couple of match winning nudges. Following that Taylor could not speak higher of the ten year Bantams left back saying:
He’s a very good professional and a really honourable man and hopefully he is as happy as I am with him.
Jacobs had faced near unprecedented criticism in his role a Stuart McCall’s assistant with some supporters suggesting that he was simply incapable of doing his job on the basis of training sessions watched, on the club’s warm up and warm down procedures, on the way he points during games. Mark Lawn has wanted “an experienced number two” brought in over Jacobs during McCall’s time at the club.
Peter Taylor – the man who has been brought in because of what he knows about football – knows enough to want to retain the services of Jacobs beyond the end of the season when the assistant’s contract expires and despite the arrival of Junior Lewis as a coach this week.
To Taylor Jacobs offers a link not just to the past of the club – he is a link back to the Premier League and back to Wembley and Chris Kamara – but to recent years under his and McCall’s stewardship. Jacobs is not just the other ginger legend – he is every coaching session in the last three years, every games played and the payers reaction to it. He is player that he and Stuart watched and he is all the knowledge that comes with working with the current squad for three years. He is knowing the name of Michael Flynn’s wife and he is being able to say from first hand experience just why City went from top to outside the play-offs this time last year.
That Taylor values all that knowledge says much about his approach as a manager which is one of augmentation and – that word again – stability rather than revolutions. His Hull City team that went up two divisions contained the likes of Ryan France and Ian Ashbee who ended up playing in every division for the Tigers and as he gets to grips with the City squad one might wonder how many of the Bantams squad could do the same and step up league after league. We can but hope.
Perhaps the effect of Taylor and Jacobs can be seen in Robbie Threfel’s arrival at City. Imagine Taylor turning to Jacobs and asking who takes change of the dead ball situations and Jacobs explaining how since Paul McLaren left no one had grasped the nettle. The Liverpool loanee’s delivery has added to City’s arsenal and had a significant part in every goal on Tuesday night.
Taylor made it clear from his interview – before, one assumes, he had met Jacobs – that he wanted to retain the staff already at the club. He is a manager who understands the merits of the knowledge at the club and the merits of carrying on with the things that Stuart McCall has brought, pruning the poor, adding to the good.
Over the last couple of years I’ve witnessed a lot of the goings on at City through various media. The first has been the Internet, to which this site is but one of many saved to my favourites, and others have been the paper publications such as the T&A, Bantams World and The City Gent.
In the last three years I have been a season ticket holder and spoken to or overheard opinion from fellow supporters. As I have been a Season Ticket holder for nearly three seasons, bar a time in my mid-teens when the club climbed into the second tier, I’ve also witnessed the League Two displays and formed my own opinions.
What’s my conclusion based on all this evidence? Read on.
- We think we are a really big club.
- McCall is a good City man but not a good manager
- The squad are not fit to wear the shirt
- The officials are awful at this level
- It’s a lot warmer at VP than at Odsal!
- We haven’t a penny pot to pee in
- Where’s the money from all them season tickets/Delph money
Do I agree with any of these conclusions? Like all people with splinters in their posteriors, I’m going to say no and yes.
We think we are a really big club….
Well we’ve got a big ground – we don’t own it and sold it for a 10th of what we paid to develop it originally. We now pay nigh on £1.2 million just to play here. Our squad is tiny. We use council pitches or a five aside complex to train at.
We played in the Premier League – yes for two seasons where like most un-established clubs, we stretched way beyond our means and suffered as a result. In the Premier League we were fodder for the big teams, a challenge for the middling teams and could gain points from the rubbish teams. We stayed by the skin of our teeth. We’ve got this little bit of history to keep us proud but we’ve never been a massive and consistent force in English football. Ask a foreigner even when we were in the Premiership who City was? Well the Swede I spoke to in London in 2002 said he didn’t know and had to ask a friend.
What about our big fan base – I should think so from the 500,000 strong Bradfordian population which makes it the 4th largest metropolitan district in England. Premier league Burnley is 88,500 in population. Someone said to me that Bradford is a rugby town. Well on Friday night against Castleford, we had less than 9,000 in Odsal. Admittedly, the game was on Sky Sports and it was freezing (see point 5) but still, City competes with that having 11,500 average for this season. In division 4. Not the top tier of rugby league!
In conclusion we have delusions over our size. But I believe that this keeps the gates high. We have some serious potential. We also have some unbelievable risks in the rent paid to play at an oversized ground we no longer need. City needs to downsize physically as well as in aspiration.
McCall is a good City man but not a good manager
Yes. We all agree in these difficult times that Stuart McCall is a great City man who holds iconic status in almost everything he has done for us….
Except as manager. Do I think he was bad? No, but as another Arnold Laver product chafes my cheeks I also say yes. He has brought some interesting players to the club. At times he has brought some bizarre signings in like the 5ft 4in forward David Brown two seasons ago. Brown entered the field of play at VP after scoring on his debut in a previous match away at Macclesfield Town. He looked like a Smurf against Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy! Central defenders and centre forwards in league two are big for a reason. Diddy David was not. However, it did provide some good amusement for the City faithful.
Do I think McCall should have left? Yes, because he wanted to. I thought the reason for getting McCall in would be to build slowly and carefully to build a platform to grow the club again. We wouldn’t sack Stuart. That would make us Judas. But talk of promotion which was unfulfilled, talk of double promotion which was also unfulfilled and then talk of promotion despite a massive reduction in playing budget which has also gone to pot makes me think that only the very best managers in English football could cope with all that pressure of expectation.
The fans and the board in my opinion did not use Stuart McCall to his strengths. We could have built a strong squad like Rochdale has in the time McCall was given. Instead we went for broke in his second season(remember the premier league?), failed to achieve promotion and then battled to compete in an allegedly poor league. We thought the club would bounce. A club with this much weight around its neck does not bounce. To compete, you must be agile. We are currently lumbering round without coherent direction, attainable goals or hope. This is not Stuart McCall’s doing. Its us. The fans and board members, with our insatiable appetite for success whatever it takes that crushes our own development
In conclusion, McCall failed because we fail. It’s a competition, not a divine right (see point 1).
The squad are not fit to wear the shirt.
Fit that in with the opposition chant of only singing when we win. Well, like petulant and ungrateful children we do throw our toys out the moment it all goes wrong. We boo the players, myself included which is shameful. When you feel bad, things keep going wrong and someone you want to impress (the fans) keep telling you you’re bad… guess what? You’re bad.
The affect of morale has been plain to see over the turbulent last few weeks. Its clear now that the players were playing for their manager. They had a great affinity for him and are crushed as a result. Many are out of contract at the end of the season and while they can impress in the safety of a training ground, on the pitch is a different matter. When you are down, doubt yourself and are afraid for your standard of living you will make errors. You will take the wrong decision under pressure. You will hoof the ball up to a lad who wins 9 out of 10 headers even though he will loose possession and it will be back soon.
What is needed is determination. Only a few of our lads have it. Ramsden and Flynn are definitely those who will not give up. The rest? Whilst not giving up like Dan Petrescu did all those times, they are not battling for the full 90 minutes. Especially in the two games following McCall’s exit.
Are they fit to wear the shirt? They are the only players we have got. Get behind them, give them the strength. Find forgiveness in your hearts for Zesh Rehman and Matt Clarke. They are only men. But us as fans can give them that little bit they need to achieve that little bit more. If its hard for us to watch, it must be harder for them to cope with the pressure of expectation. We must play our part even if they are currently not achieving theirs.
The officials are awful at this level.
Yes. Full stop.
My knowledge of the game is poor to say the least but even I know when Michael Boulding has his own shirt twisted twice round him by a slow centre half’s hand. Its poor. Its allowed, because Clarke for us gets away with it every other game. But its not good for the game.
Until refereeing gets a major overhaul, we need to be good enough in this league to beat 12 men. Yes, the one with the whistle and the power to send players off included! Can we do this? Yes with investment, both in money and time to develop some quality players.
It’s a lot warmer at VP than at Odsal!
Yes, it is. But I’ve sat in the Midland Road stand for the last few seasons. We are protected from the elements by the Main stand and because of its orientation. The Kop on the other hand is like being sat in a wind tunnel on the occasions I have swapped to sit there!
If we could save ourselves significant amounts of rent by relocating to Odsal despite its run down appearance, upturned corners of the pitch and rugby connotations we could achieve more in terms of playing budget. It’s a no brainer. But its not without its critics including me.
The Odsal Sporting Village will not be completed. I will stake big money on it. There is no political clout within Bradford Council to achieve this development much like the hole in the city centre. If it happens, I’ll laugh my head off because I was wrong and that Bradford have come together to actually do something for the community. £70+ million for a 18k seated stadium, though? Someone hasn’t done a Value for Money investigation on that one!
VP is our home. Its also dragging the cash straight out of the club and into the hands of someone who profits from other’s misfortune. Its becoming tough choice for the board members to make now. What ever happens, a solution must be found to the £1.2million overheads we pay before a ball is even kicked.
We haven’t a penny pot to pee in
This is true. We are working within our means as far I know. Players such as James Hanson actually earn less being a full time pro than what he got working for Co-op as an assistant manager. Our top scorer earns less than a shop worker. Just think about that when you think about how big Bradford City is.
The overheads don’t help. Big name players cost money and are not guaranteed to achieve success. For us to progress we need to make our own stars of tomorrow. This won’t happen this season, next season, or even the year after. But it has to be an avenue to explore along with the others. Peter Taylor could help us with this. We can only wait and hope.
Where’s the money from all them season tickets/Delph money?
Stuart was given a playing budget of £1.2 million for this season. Couple that with the £1.2 million overheads and countless other running costs for the club, we can safely assume that the Delph money went into a financial black hole that is City’s accounts book.
Fans look to the board to provide sufficient finance to ensure success on the pitch and rightly so. Mark Lawn injected £1 million to ensure stability last season. Although he did well out of Driver Hire and the Rhodes family have had some success with Filtronic, they cannot afford to throw money at something at the expense of their own wellbeing. For fans to expect that is quite unbelievable.
Despite me trying to work out the City incomings, I still don’t know how the club keeps afloat. I then have to assume that the board provide funds from their own reserves (which will have depleted in the last few years due to the recession) to keep the club going. Mark Lawn restructured the clubs income stream to allow two amounts of season Ticket money to come in per season. One at around Christmas and one in the close season. This will have given the club some initial boosts in finance but this is now over. I have to have faith in the board of Bradford City because, quite frankly, who else is there to turn to.
New investors will not approach City whilst we reside in this league. Ask yourself this: Do you want to be in the same position as Notts County? They can keep their 5-0 mauling of us if we continue to remain solvent and they disappear from the football world. A terrible set of affairs.
In conclusion, its all a bit pessimistic isn’t it? We are constrained financially and this won’t go away. We are in a major rut and are sailing dangerously close to going out of the league entirely.
Come on, Pete! You must have some positives? Yeah. In the potential stakes we are pretty good. The focus needs to be on reducing the overheads, maintaining the good season ticket sales and growing the playing staff. These are all long term aims.
In the short term we can and should survive this year. I believe if Peter Taylor wants to stay and can improve this club he should be given a two year contract to provide progressive improvement. First year should be the aim of a top ten finish. This is achievable. Second year should be the aim of playoffs and hopefully promotion. This could be achieved if the quality of playing staff recruited in year one can support progressive improvement into year two. If he smashes this and we go up next year, he and the club will have exceeded our expectations and we’ll be as delirious as we were after Wolves all those years ago. Or maybe not!
What about us fans? We need to be patient. Stuff the ‘big ground-have you seen the premier league-we all hate Leeds scum’ rhetoric. Lets build for the future and actually trust the club to improve itself rather than bowing to our insatiable appetite for success.
‘Can we do it?’ said Barrack ‘Yes, we can’ shout the City faithful.
Gareth Evans has just been kicked in the head by Rochdale’s on-loan winger Temitope Obadeyi. The referee, typically useless all night, tries to let the game go on as Rochdale charge forwards, but as the linesman nearby waves his flag frantically for the foul, he belatedly blows the whistle. The City players nearby rush over to check Evans is okay and say a few things to Obadeyi. The City fans, housed in the lengthways stand and right next to of the incident, loudly call for the issuing of a red card. It’s only yellow, so attention turns to a woozy Evans, being helped off the pitch by the physio.
As Evans stands on the touchline in front of us, waiting for the referee to allow him back on, we chant his name loudly and continuously. City’s number nine turns round to us to show his appreciation by applauding, before emphatically waving his arms in the style of a conductor leading an orchestra, urging us to keep going. With the chanting from away fans having being kept up since well before kick off, it’s his nod of approval for the support and the difference we are making.
And in response, we roar even louder.
On an evening of so many positives for City – terrific Wayne Jacobs-influenced tactics, colossal individual performances and outstanding goals – it was the connectivity between the players and fans which stood out to me as the highlight. This was unconditional, positive backing for the players – the level of which has not been seen since the memorable night at Lincoln City in 2007. The singing didn’t stop until the players trooped off the pitch, having all come over to jubilantly thank the fans at the final whistle. There will have been some City fans with hoarse voices the following day, mine certainly was.
And the reward for such backing was a performance of incredible commitment and quality. This was no fluke result, achieved by sticking 10 men behind the ball and grabbing a goal on the break. This was no long ball hit and hope, duck and let someone else take responsibility approach from the team. They played some brilliant football, they ran their socks off closing down the opposition, they deserved the three points and the winning margin.
Who quite knows where it came from? But it felt so good. When Robbie Threlfall netted that stunning free kick to put City 2-1 up, the celebrations were wild. Strangers hugged me, my hat went flying off, my glasses fell to the floor, at one stage I fell to the floor. And it was only after the adrenaline starting to wear off as we headed back to the car that I realised I must have twisted my knee in the process. I was suddenly hobbling, with a grin that couldn’t be shifted.
And the singing. The singing was as beautiful as a group of football fans chanting mainly out of tune can be. There was no time for rest and catching breath. One chant over, the next one begins. A new range of songs to enjoy and keep repeating in future games, the usual numbers sung more heartfelt than we’ve being able to for months.
We were one team – the players, the management, the supporters. When Rochdale attacked we cheered every time a successful tackle was made. When City possession broke down we seemed to collectively mutter “unlucky” and urge them to keep going. When the referee gave a decision against us we snarled and barracked him angrily in the hope he’d not dare be so foolish next time. When Rochdale fans finally bothered to sing, we took the mick out of how many years it has been since they were last promoted.
At Spotland the fans and players felt closer than they’ve been for a long time. Let’s do it again soon, more often, please.
Rochdale 1 Bradford City 3 At Spotland in League Two, 2009/2010
Following Saturday’s desperate loss at Accrington not too many would’ve predicted the events of last night at Spotland. Prior to the last night’s game BfB’s Jason ‘Winston’ McKeown had issued a rallying cry for supporters to find their voice and really get behind the team.
The message had definitely sunk in. Prior to kick-off their seemed to be a sense amongst the fans that City might just cause a bit of an upset. Another strong away following made the short trip over the Pennines to Rochdale however this time they had brought with them their full singing voices.
The atmosphere was fantastic and the acoustics allowed the chanting to echo around the ground, no doubt creating an intimidating environment for the home players.
As the snow poured down City, who had reverted to 4-4-2, started fantastically. They came absolutely flying out of the blocks and pressed Rochdale forcing them into early mistakes and adding pressure to their defence.
Michael Flynn had been moved up front to play with James Hanson and his direct approach, battling and strength really put the Rochdale back-line under strain. It also allowed James Hanson to become more involved in the play and the role of target man interchanged between the two players.
Gareth Evans, who started on the right side of midfield, began brightly showing real determination and pace to cause Dale’s left-back Kennedy a lot of problems. Luke O’Brien took the role on the left-side of midfield that allowed new signing Robbie Threlfall to slot in at left-back.
Threlfall, who has signed on an initial one month deal from Liverpool, offered a bit more height, strength and positional awareness than O’Brien and looked composed throughout. He also offered fantastic delivery from dead-ball situations and this came to the fore in the tenth minute.
City’s high-tempo start put the home side under early pressure from which City won a corner. New signing Threlfall whipped in the corner only for Dale keeper Fielding (who was dressed in bright fluorescent orange in a bin man/lollypop stylee) to flap at the cross; the ball dropped to Matt Clarke 4 yards out and the big centre-back made no mistake in thumping the ball home for City’s first goal since the Torquay game. Cue wild scenes of celebration from the City faithful which was a just reward for their excellent early backing and City’s excellent start.
City continued to press following the goal which resulted in Flynn going close from long-range forcing a good save from Fielding although strangely no corner was given. Despite City’s excellent play Rochdale still looked composed and passed the ball well through the midfield. Their strikers, Chrises Dagnall and O’Grady linked well but their attacks were often snuffed out by the resilient City backline with all four defenders impressing.
O’Grady frequently tussled with Clarke throughout the half and often won soft free-kicks when it appeared, to the majority of City fans, that the former loanee was constantly backing in.
Rochdale continued to press towards the end of the half with efforts from Jones and O’Grady although City keeper Glennon watched both go harmlessly over. As City showed signs of tiring from their early tempo Rochdale began to find more space in the midfield often through Dale midfielder Taylor who had so clinically exposed City at Valley Parade. More passes were strung together as pressure built on the away side which resulted in Dale pulling a goal back just before half-time. O’Grady managed to battle his way past Williams and fire a low ball across the face of goal for Chris Dagnall to apply a finish that squirmed under Glennon’s body at the near post. In previous weeks heads would’ve dropped and a feeling of inevitability would have set in however, buoyed by their brilliant start and vocal support, City battled on against an increasingly dangerous Dale and made it to half-time for a well earned breather.
Suitably refreshed from their half-time oranges and no doubt words of praise from their new manager, the players returned to the field for the second period. Once again the support for the players and manager rang throughout the ground.
City started with a similar intensity to press and shut down the Dale players but seemed to be increasingly getting pushed back deeper and deeper as Dale enjoyed the early possession. After having a moan to the referee as the players walked off for half-time, Chris O’Grady seemed to have convinced the ref that the City defenders were constantly fouling him, and not vice versa, resulting in the man in blue giving the striker a floury of early second half free-kicks around the City box.
Once again City’s resilient defence managed to keep Dale at bay, snuffing out several attacks. The desire to prevent the home side from attacking was typified by Gareth Evans who, after requiring treatment twice in the first half, never stopped running and tracking back (and forward) and arguably enjoyed his best performance in a City shirt. He not only worked tirelessly but showed signs of skill and composure going forward that have been lacking in recent weeks; he even managed to act as mascot to gee the City fans up after receiving a nasty boot to the face in the first half.
City’s never-say-die attitude resulted in the home side making two attacking changes to find the break through. During this period of pressure City looked to break on the counter attack using Hanson as an outlet but the former shelf-stacker looked increasingly shattered as the game went on.
With 15 minutes left Michael Boulding came on for the solid Stephen O’Leary where Flynn pushed back into central midfield. Boulding’s fresher legs put more pressure on Dale as City looked to steal all three points. As City attacked left-back Threlfall found himself on halfway and played a quick one-two with Luke O’Brien, getting the ball back Threlfall powered his way past two Dale defenders and was up-ended by what appeared to be the last man right on the edge of the box.
The away fans screamed for a penalty and a sending off but the referee took lesser actions instead giving a free-kick and a yellow card to the guilty Dale player. City lined up the free-kick with Flynn waiting to drill an effort goalwards, instead Threlfall stepped up to curl a beautiful strike over the wall that appeared to go off the bar and in off the keeper’s back (Not entirely sure as I haven’t seen the replay). The away fan’s erupted with delight with noise that nearly tore the roof of the stadium off.
The home side looked to hit straight back and a close range effort from Dagnall was well saved by Glennon. City again played on the break and a floated ball from mid-way inside the Dale half by Threlfall was nodded down by James Hanson to an on-rushing Evans, the shot was suitably smashed home by his left boot from the edge of the box giving the player a much deserved reward for his awesome, tireless performance.
Jubilation again amongst the City fans who could not believe the transformation from their side of a few days ago to now. The fans stayed standing until the full-time whistle as choruses of ‘City till I Die’ pulsed around Spotland.
At full-time, most notably, Michael Flynn ran over to City fans to celebrate this was in stark contrast to the disgusting abuse he had unduly received at Acrrington. Simon Ramsden also joined in as did the rest of the team in the celebrations so that the City players and manager left the field buzzing.
I couldn’t help but walk out of the ground with a massive grin on my face, shared with other fans, with a reminder that this is the reason why we put up with all the upset and the heartache for days and occasions just like this.
So now we look to Saturday and Darlington coming to VP. With a bit of luck, word of mouth should spread to those that didn’t make it to Spotland about the fantastic display and the renewed confidence. I hope now that we can really build on this and carry on the excellent work come the weekend. It just goes to show that as a City fan you can go from despair to delight in just a few short days.
What we can all take with us on Saturday is the desire to get right behind the team and push them on to more great performances like this one. Then who knows where we might be come what May?
We’ve gotta fight (fight, fight, fight, fight) fight for this love as Bradford City travel to leaders Rochdale
I always look forward to Rochdale away. In a division largely filled with run-down dumps or B&Q-purchased new flat pack stadiums, the compact and tidy Spotland ground is one of the most charming. Its size is suited for a fanbase lacking in number but not passion. Visiting supporters are allocated a full stand that runs lengthways down the pitch. With a low roof, the acoustics are excellent for generating a cracking atmosphere. And while you wait for kick off, the PA announcer treats you to an enjoyable trip through recent indie music history, with a distinctive Mad-chester twist.
I’ve always enjoyed Spotland – and I thought, no assumed, that it would be us one day leaving it behind as the reversal back up the leagues finally began. But instead, it is Rochdale set to instigate the goodbyes and leave us. And by us, that’s League Two, which like it or not we are now firmly part of the furniture of.
Dale go into tonight’s fixture top of the league and eight points clear of 4th-placed Chesterfield, with a game in hand. And though the weight of history may yet spark some late-season jitters – Dale have famously being in England’s bottom division since 1974, so no pressure then – it seems highly likely visiting supporters of League One clubs will next season be enjoying Spotland’s delights.
All of which puts the Bantams in the most rarest of positions, at least in our own eyes – second favourites. Since demotion to League Two in 2007, a belief City are too big for this league has been maintained. No matter the respective league position of the opposition, each league fixture has been approached with the supporters’ mindset we should win it, causing more frustration when we don’t.
With recent form so disastrous and Dale’s progress since thrashing City 3-0 at Valley Parade continuing in terms of results if not performances, no City supporter will harbour any expectations of an away win this evening. Cup ties apart, the Bantams have not got into a game with such little hope since the League One trip to second-place Bristol City in March 2007 – a repeat of that night’s scoreline would do nicely.
But the underdogs tag is something which personally excites me rather than has me searching for the nearest cliff or message board to mutter “look how far we’ve fallen.” For the majority of my City-supporting life, we’ve been just that – underdogs. The small team from the big City who battled against larger clubs and often won. As supporters we would get behind the team in a way which has rarely happened at Valley Parade since the turn of the century. We’d understand the difference we could make, and our players’ mistakes would prompt groans but not boos.
Filling out Accrington’s away end may be heart-warming, but I’m not sure I necessarily like us being considered a big club. It brings expectations that the wage and transfer budgets can hardly hope to match. It has lead to delusions of grandeur which see our fantastic stadium no longer as homely and intimidating as it was pre-1998, due to ultimately pointless and financially-suicidal development work. We congratulate ourselves on having the biggest crowds in the League, but we still have thousands of empty seats on match days. Rochdale may be small, but they are comfortable in their own Spotland skin.
It’s not that there’s an identity crisis, but my hope in Bradford City ‘rightfully’ climbing up the leagues is not so we can be big again, but small. I see our natural position at bottom half Championship/top half League One. Should we reach such heights again, no one will go on about us as a big club, no one will rave on about our big gates, no City supporter will think we should win every game. We’ll be more understanding in defeat, and more jubilant in victory.
But such hopes, no matter how seemingly-modest for a club with Premier League history, are far removed from the current, grim reality City find themselves in. The debacle at Accrington on Saturday firmly punctured the mood of optimism triggered by Peter Taylor’s appointment and the pressure is growing on the team to pick up. Taylor could not have had a more dismal start to what may yet be a short time in charge, his most realistic objective tonight is damage limitation.
Changes will be made, particularly to a backline bolstered by the curious loan signing of Robbie Threlfall from Liverpool. While the prospect of the 19-year-old replacing Luke O’Brien will be relished from a section of support who don’t rate last season’s fans player of the season, one might question the long-term value of allowing another team’s youth player to take the place of a City one unless he has a Valley Parade future beyond the one month deal signed.
However, with a lack of wingers at the club, Taylor may have signed up Threlfall with the intention of pushing O’Brien to left winger. Certainly O’Brien has hardly been the main problem of a defence which has wilted too often all season, and it’s unlikely Taylor will view a swap of left backs as the solution.
In the centre Zesh Rehman, hauled off at Accrington for tactical reasons but also because he was simply awful, is likely to be on the bench. Former Dale player Simon Ramsden may be moved over to the centre to partner Matt Clarke with Jonathan Bateson recalled to right back, or the forgotten Steve Williams may get a chance.
Credence to the theory Taylor may push O’Brien into midfield comes from the unconvincing displays from Gareth Evans outwide, who may be pushed up front or start from the bench. Lee Bullock and Michael Flynn impressed Taylor when far from their best, and will continue in the middle despite the competition from Steve O’Leary.
Omar Daley is not expected to be fit so Chris Brandon, Leon Osborne or Scott Neilson will battle for the other spot. The latter’s early season form is increasingly a distant memory – against Notts County in the JPT last October, Neilson impressed Sven Goran Eriksson enough for the Swede to make a serious inquiry about him (see a special edition of City Gent, available on Saturday, for an exclusive interview with Stuart McCall revealing this and more).
There is some confusion over where City played 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 at Accrington, but so isolated was James Hanson it seemed clear to me and everyone near me he was playing a lone striker role. Taylor may choose to go with Michael Boulding and Peter Thorne, or trust the advice of assistant Wayne Jacobs that Hanson is a much better player than Saturday’s tame showing and at least grant him a partner.
Rochdale have survived the January transfer window with most of their stars not snapped up, save for the excellent, Paul Arnison-thrashing Will Buckley, who signed for Watford. This transfer was rumoured to have caused friction between Keith Hill and his chairman Chris Dunphy, but for now the manager remains despite Dunphy fearing he’s already “outgrown” the club.
At Valley Parade they produced a level of performance not witnessed by City fans in our near three-year stay at this level, it would not be an exaggeration to say that, on the night, a Championship club would have struggled to live with them. Despite the pre-season loss of Adam Le Fondre, the two Chris’ partnership of Dagnall and O’Grady has blossomed. In a team of outstanding players for this level, special mention should go to 19-year-old defender Craig Dawson – who has attracted interest from Spurs and Blackburn.
Their team sheet offers City little hope, but cast into the role of second favourites should be a cue to turn up the noise instead of despair. Yet again City are drifting and, as familiarly depressing as this is, now should be the time to do something about it. Those of us going tonight should loudly back the team like we haven’t done all season. We should be chanting at 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, whatever. We should be leading the fight for our cause – even if we’re not sure what the cause is.
This is our football club, and we’re allowing it to fall into further decline by standing their muted at Accrington and booing the players. They didn’t deserve their bus ride home on Saturday, but if someone’s going to inject some passion into their boots and make them remember what an important cause playing for Bradford City is, well it’s got to be us.
So tonight we sing, tonight we support our team in defiance and tonight we hope to begin the path that means we’ll shortly catch up with the tiny Lancashire club which has overtaken us through getting things right on the pitch, instead of bragging about how wonderful they are off it. Tonight we sing about how we’re City till we die, before the club itself really does.
Peter Taylor’s first signing as Bradford City manager is Liverpool full-back Robbie Threlfall on an initial month-long loan.
Left back Threlfall has previously played for Northampton Town, Hereford and Stockport County as well as representing England at u19 level.
The player turned down a loan move to Darlington at the end of last year and comes to City looking for first team games. He is expected to make his debut on Tuesday at Rochdale in the place of Luke O’Brien.
Accrington Stanley 2 Bradford City 0 At The Crown Ground in League Two, 2009/2010
After a week of rising excitement and gushing praise towards new Bradford City manager Peter Taylor – sobriety.
Optimism filled the air, and the away end, as the 15-week spell under Taylor’s tutelage kicked off, but the crashing-to-earth realisation there is no magic wand came long before the final whistle. If he didn’t know it already, the size of the task was coldly presented to the one-time England boss during this weak surrender.
If there’s a consolation to take, it’s that things really could have been worse. As Accrington’s John Miles was allowed to run clear on goal and slot home the first of two goals at 4.09pm, the bottom two clubs – Grimsby and Darlington – were both in winning positions and gaining ground. In the end Grimsby drew and Darlington blew an 80th minute 2-0 home lead to lose 3-2, meaning the Bantams retain a cushion barrier from the relegation scrap.
But there was little hope of an away team recovery in East Lancashire. Starting the game in a 4-5-1 formation – gasp, remember when Stuart McCall was widely criticised for being so ‘negative’ in playing like this? - Taylor’s City struggled to make any impression on a dreary game. James Hanson was the sole forward of the set up, but was so effectively marked out of the game by the hugely impressive Darran Kempson it would be no surprise if the home defender only took his sights off the former Guiseley striker as he boarded back onto the team bus.
Sure Kempson pushed his luck, shoving Hanson in the back and not being afraid to lead with elbows, but the weak manner in which Hanson allowed himself to be bullied out of the game shows how far he has to go before he can realistically hope for higher league interest to turn serious.
Yet as has been typical of City in recent weeks, when Hanson does play the over-used tactic is to hit the ball long towards his head. The midfield five were presumably instructed to read Hanson’s flick ons, but his low success ratio and poor movement from behind meant possession was regularly gifted back to the home team. And when City did play through the middle they found eager red shirts snapping at their heels, giving them little time on the ball. Such work rate simply wasn’t matched by those wearing black.
Scott Neilson and Gareth Evans were the more forward-intended players of the midfield five; but both lack in confidence which meant that, despite them notably trying harder than others, little went right. That’s not to say they ran themselves into the ground, certainly Neilson was often guilty of strolling, instead of racing, back to track runners. But if Taylor was able to avoid covering his eyes, he may seem some hope in the pair provided he can install some belief.
The other three in midfield were simply woeful, and would struggle to argue their efforts deserve anything better than relegation to the bench. Michael Flynn’s dipping of form in recent weeks is alarming and today he looked disinterested and out of ideas when in possession. The ability to ping a cross-field ball and make forceful runs – illustrated so regularly prior to Christmas – was hidden behind illogical passes and tame shots. He is supposed to be City’s general, but is going increasingly awol.
Lee Bullock was also uninvolved while Chris Brandon’s maddening tendency to drift all around the pitch and take up ineffective positions was yet again to the detriment of the shape of the team. It can be argued McCall failed to make the most of Brandon’s undoubted talent and we might expect Taylor to do better in the coming weeks, but much should come from the player himself and the impression all season is City fan Brandon lacks the commitment to be successful.
And if Taylor inherits some significant problems in midfield, the defence will surely contribute to some sleepless nights too. Zesh Rehman has struggled for form during most of the campaign, but this was perhaps his worst game yet for the Bantams. He looked panicky every time the ball came nearby. When he wasn’t hoofing the ball aimlessly forwards he was struggling to control it. He continued to lose his man when Accrington attacked and, when he did have time on the ball, often chose the wrong passing option. He was sacrificed in the closing stages as Taylor brought on Peter Thorne, a move which triggered cheers from an strangely muted travelling support.
Luke O’Brien also struggled, how he must long for the club to sign a left winger he can link up with or at least for Omar Daley to remain fit. So often the ball was played to O’Brien near the back without a single black shirt nearby to present a passing option. He had to keep taking the ball forwards only to be closed down and concede possession.
City’s five-man midfield should have meant one of Bullock or Flynn could drop deep to help, while Brandon or Evans should have drifted over more to the left flank to partner up with him. Matt Clarke and Simon Ramsden hardly enjoyed good games themselves, but at least showed more composure and urgency to do the right things.
After a dull goalless first half in which a tame shot from Brandon was the closest City came to scoring, Miles opened the scoring on 54 minutes with Clarke and Rehman having switched off. Hanson had minutes earlier fired City’s best chance over the bar from Ramsden’s free kick, but despite having 36 minutes to come back the Bantams rarely looked capable.
The introductions of Michael Boulding for Brandon, Leon Osborne for Neilson and Thorne for Rehman made little difference, and Miles sealed a deserved Stanley victory with four minutes to go after former City striker Michael Symes crossed the ball into his path. That might have been his hat trick goal, but minutes earlier Matt Glennon had denied the former-Liverpool trainee with a decent save.
The final whistle was met with loud boos and, disappointingly, some fans chose to give Flynn some distasteful abuse when he came over to applaud the away end. For the moment no blame will be attached to Taylor, which means the players will have to get used to being on the receiving end of fans’ anger.
Which won’t help their clearly dipping confidence. It’s hard to believe these players were at least putting in some strong performances only weeks ago – usually not getting the rewards or the correct refereeing decisions. Now they seem to have little trust in themselves or each other to do the right things, and many are shying away from taking responsibility.
Even in a campaign which has featured the heavy defeats to Notts County and Rochdale, I would argue this performance and last week’s against Grimsby are the worst of the season. In fact it’s difficult for those of us who’ve being watching the Bantams for less than 20 years to recall performances as wretchedly-clueless as these.
All of which leaves Taylor with a huge amount of work to do. City have dropped to 18th, and the 14-point gap to the play offs firmly shelves any talk of a Chris Kamara-style late surge. The season cannot be allowed to drift into nothingness. The miserable outlook which has engulfed the club since Rochdale triumphed 3-0 at Valley Parade in December has to be shifted. The future has to look bright again.
The fantastic Accrington fans – who put on a magnificent home atmosphere which should shame most City supporters – regularly sang how we’d f**ked up the Premier League, the Championship and League One. The big question is whether this defeat represents a low point, or is the low point. Can it really get any worse for City than it is right now? We’ve asked that question often in recent years and later found the answer to be yes. Taylor’s task over the next three months is to at least ensure we supporters can one day look back on this afternoon and answer no, it couldn’t and it didn’t.
But with a daunting trip to leaders Rochdale on Tuesday night, the doom and gloom is unlikely to shift quickly. It threatens to be a very long night and, on the back of this sobering afternoon, heavy drinking beforehand is strongly advised.
The game with Accrington Stanley is under threat as the pitch at The Crown Ground cuts up under wintery conditions leaving Bradford City fans with wondering if they shall see the debut of new manager Peter Taylor.
Taylor’s arrival sees City on the road at Accrington and Rochdale on Tuesday night before his home bow at Valley Parade when Darlington arrive on Saturday leaving the City interim manager a couple of matches to see his new charges in action before unveiling his albeit short term revolution.
In the week when Notts County started to make players available for loan having once again proved the idea that budget does not make a successful team Taylor gets to grips with a Bantams squad the quality of which seems to have become oft debated in the two weeks since Stuart McCall left the club.
Some say the squad is good enough for the play-offs and that McCall held it back, others that the squad is all but useless. If County’s season proves anything it is that having the “best” players does not make the “best” team. We face them on Tuesday night.
I would suggest that the most useful piece of experience the new City manager has when it comes to dealing with the Bantams squad came not when taking clubs to promotion but when he was in charge of England’s under 21 side.
Taylor gets the players he is given and save the odd obvious talent most of them are no better or no worse than the players they come up against on a weekly basis. The England u21s of Taylor and the likes of Keiron Dyer were no better, no worse than those of France or Italy or Spain and the majority of the players in all those squads could have been interchanged with no real benefit.
The same is true of the City squad. The majority of the players are typical “Lower League players” who when trained, motivated and given the correct environment could be good enough for any team up to the bottom half of the Championship if not higher. It is getting improved performances from those players – rather than bringing in obvious talent – which defines how well the Bradford City manager does.
Taylor starts with a blank slate although one would no doubt note that many of the names line up in the same places they had previously.
Matt Glennon will play in goal and with the new manager well versed in League Two football one can expect him to have either Zesh Rehman or Matt Clarke at the back to provide physical power alongside a player who can clean up behind like Simon Ramsden or Steve Williams. Ramsden, if not in the middle, will be right back which otherwise would go to Jonathan Bateson. Luke O’Brien at left back. So far, so familiar.
Taylor is known as a tactical pragmatist and one could only guess if he will field the 442 he used at many clubs or the 433 that Mark Lawn is suggesting he should – one hopes that Taylor can have a word in the chairman’s ear that it is inappropriate for chairman to pre-empt tactics.
Taylor likes a target man and so James Hanson will probably feature while a fit again Peter Thorne would make a good partner. Michael Boulding, Gareth Evans or Omar Daley could be added if Taylor wants a three up front.
The new City manager is known to favour a firm midfield but will almost certainly use Stuart McCall’s pairing of Lee Bullock and Michael Flynn. In a three the likes of Chris Brandon, Omar Daley and Scott Neilson have proved themselves to be too weak for a dogged midfield although all three could be used in a four. James O’Brien (longer term) and Stephen O’Leary might hope to add the steel to Taylor’s middle three but expect the Bantams boss to look at that position for strengthening first.
Accrington Stanley’s John Coleman was quick to distance himself from the then vacant (and soon to be vacant again) Bradford City job. Coleman has taken Stanley up to the middle of League Two which is a huge achievement but having taken eleven years to do it one could not imagine a less apt choice for City manager in these times of seeming short-term thinking.
Coleman’s side took a 1-1 draw from Valley Parade earlier in the season and pushed for the play-offs but such a challenge has since fallen off and one might consider that Coleman truly has taken The Reds as far as it is possible.
Peter Taylor, starting life as Bradford City manager, hopes that he has picked up City as low as we can go. One hopes that he is correct in this and many things.
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis believes that the antics at his former club Portsmouth prove that the fit and proper test in English football his broken and the speculation that Notts County might be but two weeks away from administration comes as no surprise following the slow unravelling of the season they have had off the field.
At the top of Pulis’s league Manchester United and Liverpool have huge debts secured against the clubs by owners who did not make the dial twitch on the FA’s fit and proper test. Up and down the game clubs are bought and sold and as yet the fit and proper persons test has – as yet – has flagged very few people.
Is it broken? Well, no but it is inadequate for the job which people would have it perform which is protecting the future of football clubs from unscrupulous owners who put those clubs at risk.
The fit and proper test has no powers of prediction and on the whole the people who have run clubs into trouble have done so with no indicators to suggest they will. Aside from a little mild xenophobia there was no reason to believe that any of the owners of Portsmouth FC would be any worse for the club than the years of local businessman ownership.
There was plenty of reason to believe that Manchester United’s Glazier Family were going to saddle the clubs with massive debts – they made no secret of that fact – but it was decided by football’s authorities that they should steer clear of making that call. Certainly nothing in Glazer’s past flagged the fit and proper test which is not designed to ask chairman what the intentions they have when buying the club are.
Not designed to but perhaps it should be.
“Franchise” is a dirty word in English football after the Wimbledon/MK Dons saga but some of the elements of a franchise system could be brought to the English game for the betterment of teams and supporters.
The American franchise system is a way of laying out to the owners of one of the shares of a professional sporting league what they can and cannot do and in the land of the free the owners are free to move clubs hundreds of miles and generally treat the supporters not very well. The fact that the word is used to describe the Wimbledon/MK Dons action is because such an uprooting is not uncommon in American sports.
This, however, is a failure of the implementation of the system, rather than the system itself. At its core the system is about how much control of a club, a club’s finances, assets and its future an owner can expect to have which at the moment in English football is near total.
Imagine a Bradford City Franchise which had a specific remit: that the club played at Valley Parade, that the club wore claret and amber striped shirts, that the club would never trade at a loss and so on; and that these were the conditions of the Football League share some being changeable by a majority vote of season ticket holders such as switching ground and some being conditions of the league such as the trading concerns.
The owners of that club would be told they were to behave within a certain way and were they not to then the club’s share could be – effectively – removed from that business which had run the club and passed on. The club would be more healthy because it would be forced to be more healthy and the supporters would be more integral because they would ultimately be written into the constitution of the club.
There are many drawbacks with this idea some significant, some subjective (is it a drawback the it would make clubs less attractive investment possibilities if that means the Glazers of this world ignore it?) and some which could be worked out in the implementation.
Football needs to look at reassigning the weight of responsibility away from the idea that owners will be fit and proper towards giving the owners a remit they must stay within.
Whatever our thoughts regarding the departure of Stuart McCall, the arrival of Peter Taylor offers the opportunity of a fresh start at Valley Parade. As ever with the arrival of a new manager there is a new impetus among supporters.
As a business Bradford City have a window of opportunity when their core customers are in a positive mood. They should cash in on this golden opportunity, it is time for bold and radical action. In particular the coming days offer Mark Lawn a chance to put the last few weeks, when his stock among supporters fell alarmingly, firmly behind him. To pinch a quote from Tony Blair, City’s joint chairman are ‘at their best when at their boldest’.
The arrival of Peter Taylor nicely dovetails with the reopening of season ticket sales. Though the first offer was taken up in large numbers, and was touted as being only available in its pre-Christmas timeframe, the change of manager has radically altered the outlook of the club and crucially its fans.
Some may well have declined to take up the offer because of Stuart McCall’s position as manager. That has changed, so why not reopen the offer until May and reopen it at exactly the same price as previously offered? Radical times call for radical measures, an opportunity exists to push season ticket sales over well over 10,000 and the club should take it.
Undoubtedly, the club would receive complaints from those who feel aggrieved by the reopening of the offer at the same price, but given the altered landscape in the wake of Taylor’s appointment they should be ignored.
Similarly, an opportunity exists to address the matchday admission prices. Whatever we hear regarding similar prices elsewhere in the division, the fact remains that they are way too high to attract floating supporters.
On an average matchday there are around 13,000 empty seats. The revenue from an empty seat is nil. As companies such as Easyjet have illustrated gaining any revenue from an otherwise empty seat is better than nothing at all.
Of course, with the massive £1.2m overheads to pay each year the club has to juggle affordability and protecting its income, but can it afford ignore the lost income 13,000 empty seats represent? With this season all but dead, why not slash admission prices in half? Offer family tickets (2 adults and 2 children) for £20?
All too often I’ve heard the size of Valley Parade used as a negative, turn the logic around and use the spare capacity to the club’s advantage. The time for bold action has arrived, let’s drive this club forward once more.
Mark Lawn, January 2009:
Bradford City have had enough turmoil and non-stability at this club.
Thirteen months ago Mark Lawn had decided that Bradford City have “had enough of turmoil and non-stability” and gave Stuart McCall a new contract to manage Bradford City until June 2012. Now Bradford City go into the latter half a season with a manager who no one is sure will be around in June 2010. How did City go from the one position to the other?
In February 2010 Lawn confirmed that City’s replacement for McCall is not viewed as a long term appointment saying
The three-month spell gives us the chance to look at each other so it’s good for both parties. If Peter proves himself, I’m sure we will be talking about a longer-term contract. But it does mean we can look at others.
The former comment endorses the idea of a manager as the keystone of a stable football club, the second suggests that this view is no longer holding sway at Valley Parade in either that the manager does not offer stability or that stability in itself is worthless. How have the club gone from believing stability is the way forward to abandoning it as a policy altogether?
There is a theme of commentary – or perhaps just dissent, the two merged sometime ago – which has it that City have had stability over the previous few years with Stuart McCall and Colin Todd both enjoying around 135 games in charge of the Bantams – but I would suggest that around two and a half years as a manager is nothing of the sort.
It is the start of stability, the point in which stability begins. Where you make it known to all that you do not believe a manager’s position is mutable with the form of the club. Where players begin to get confidence that the man they sign a contract to play for will be at the club when it comes to an end. When supporters get to feel that the player name their child gets on the back of their shirt for their birthday will not have left the club by Christmas.
Stability is one way of running a club but not the only way, and one could argue – with limited success in my opinion – that it is not the best way. But most importantly it is the way that Bradford City were following a little over a year ago and have now abandoned.
Retaining institutional knowledge – that is the point of stability at a club – is something Peter Taylor seems to value more than his employers. Wayne Jacobs is retained as assistant manager and on his first day in Bradford the new City boss started talking about [para] “building something not over fifteen weeks but three years and fifteen weeks.”
Peter Taylor is a man much more worth listening to when it comes to questions of how to make a successful football club than City’s joint chairmen. He is talking about years, Lawn is talking about weeks.
The short term deal, Taylor’s talk of loan players, the interviewing candidates to replace Taylor in the summer, the idea of judging the new manager over the next fifteen weeks. City have moved a long way in a short space of time away from the one position and, if the Bantams are no longer following a plan of stability bringing success, what plan are we following?
What is the club’s plan to bring success and advancement to Bradford City? How will Peter Taylor be given the scope to achieve more than Stuart McCall and Colin Todd did?
There are many things which could augment the club that Taylor now manages. The club’s training facilities are notoriously poor and in bad weather the players have no full sized pitch to use; the club’s scouting needs attention (if not expansion, if a James Hanson can be plucked from the non-league of West Yorkshire why not see what pickings can be had on the other side of the Pennines?); the academy could be raised in standard to match those at Huddersfield and Leeds.
Then in a wider sense there is the problem with ground ownership – which costs £600k of the clubs budget – and the rental of equipment within Valley Parade which costs the same figure again. The issue of City’s 107-year-old home is oft talked about and Bradford Bulls chairman Peter Hood – a man with whom Lawn should take care in his dealings with for Hood is a canny and will eat he City chairman for breakfast – is holding a suspiciously open door to the idea of City moving to Odsal.
What are our plans for the future location of Bradford City? Stability says stay where you are, the three month appointment says why not say we will move into Odsal but tell Gordon Gibb we might return to Valley Parade should he make a better offer on the rent.
The price of tickets at Valley Parade and the free tickets given out to youngsters are about building a stable and constant tradition of support. Is that plan to follow the way of stability past? A policy of maximising transient support is more in keeping with the idea of short-term thinking. The club is shortly due to announce 2010/11 season ticket prices for those unable to afford to purchase one last December, potentially as soon as next week, so we may know more then.
More than these things – and already I can hear someone tapping the words “BfB blames the fans again” – the atmosphere at Valley Parade on a match day and around the club in general is bad to the point of being poisonous and, as Taylor picks for him number two a man who some have spent the best part of two years saying could not coach, is the new gaffer’s first choice at the club going to come under the same abuse as the last few have?
So many things could be done which would help the attitude around the club and thus help the manager from not being made to look stupid on Sky TV after we lambaste a kid who gets a ball full in the face for being “in the wrong area” to addressing the situation that Lawn believes has emerged around the club’s official message board.
Is there a plan to achieve any of these things which would mean that Peter Taylor had more resources at his disposal than Stuart McCall? That means that, aside from his innate abilities, Taylor has more to do to suggest he can achieve with City what many, many managers have failed to do.
In the space of a year, Lawn and Julian Rhodes have left behind the idea of stability and gone to one of fixed term appointments. Is this the new view of the club? Are we as fans to get no more connected to our managers than we do the people who run our phone companies or banks? Are we Peter Taylor’s Bradford Army, or is Taylor just an acting sergeant in someone else’s platoon?
All of which is not to say that the Bantams chairmen do not have a plan for taking the club forwards, nor is it inherently a criticism of the club for changing its mind on how it operates. Just that, having binned one plan, the appearance to supporters even on the broadest most meta level is that one set of ideas have been ditched in favour of a total opposite set.
The supporters of Bradford City are the people who pick up the pieces when the chairmen fail in the plans they have for our club – the last twenty five years have told us that much – so, as those supporters, is it not reasonable that we ask, after such an obviously and publicly move away from one position, we are told what the club stands for now?
The appointment of a new manager is almost always a time for optimism; but despite today’s confirmation Peter Taylor is to succeed Stuart McCall in the Valley Parade hotseat, I’m left with some uneasy feelings.
It’s not that I didn’t want Taylor to get the job. In an encouragingly strong shortlist, he stood out as the most capable candidate. Instead, it’s the length of contract he’s signed - until the end of the season – and the short and long term question marks which it raises. Just what are Taylor’s targets between now and then? What are his ambitions beyond this summer? There’s a danger the 18 remaining games this season could be among the most irrelevant in the club’s history.
Imagine the scenario of Taylor managing to turn around the recent poor form. City accelerate up the league table and threaten a play off spot, but the season’s end comes too early and they narrowly miss out. In between agonising over the what ifs, there would be loud calls for Taylor to be awarded a longer deal. Yet other clubs – in a division above and closer to his southern base - show interest too. Taylor leaves, City are back to square one.
Or, imagine the scenario of Taylor doing nothing to improve on what’s so far been a disappointing campaign. The Bantams finish little higher than they are now, or even drop lower. There are few fans willing for him to be given a new contract and so Taylor departs. Again, City are back to square one.
If there’s another managerial vacancy advertised at Valley Parade this summer, the eventual appointment would find out of contract players - Matt Glennon, Simon Ramsden, Luke O’Brien, Michael Flynn, Matt Clarke, Lee Bullock, Peter Thorne, Chris Brandon, Steve Williams, Jon McLaughlin, Michael and Rory Boulding, Jon Bateson, Leon Osborne, Luke Sharry and Steve O’Leary - had all probably departed, or Taylor had made a decision for them. Even if these players were still around hoping for a deal, would the new manager be able to adequately judge which ones to keep with no competitive action?
In the meantime there’s also the uncertain future of the existing coaching staff, the potential for the youth set up to be ignored, the threat that loan signings Taylor may make quickly departing having done little but block City’s fringe players from the opportunity to step up. The brief for Taylor seems to be little beyond steadying the ship, but does that mean we suspend considering the ship’s ultimate course?
Perhaps this is a clever approach. If Taylor doesn’t impress during his initial contract, we may be thankful the club is not committed to entrusting him for longer and having to consider an expensive sacking. It may be also be Taylor isn’t 100% sure about committing himself to the Bantams, and so working at the club for a few weeks wins him over and he becomes eager to sign up for longer.
The other consideration is whether the club has a long-term successor to McCall and Taylor firmly in mind, who isn’t available until the summer. BfB has previously reported how Paul Jewell is still being paid by Derby County, but come the summer he is more likely to be in need of work and may relish a return to City.
Joint Chairmen Mark Lawn has also been quoted on a number of occasions recently about a current League Two manager they wanted to speak to, but were denied permission. The smart money is this being Accrington’s John Coleman, and perhaps the club are prepared to hold out until the summer in order to get their man.
Whether Jewell or Coleman are in the long-term sights or not, Taylor’s arrival is at least reassurance the club isn’t repeating old mistakes. Three years ago last weekend, Colin Todd had been sacked and it was no secret Chairman Julian Rhodes was holding out to get McCall. With the City legend making it clear he was to see out his contract as assistant at Sheffield United so wouldn’t join until the summer, Rhodes resorted to David Wetherall as caretaker and the club slid to relegation. Handing the role to the City captain was not only costly for his inexperience, it meant one of the key players had their mind occupied on far more than his own game.
By appointing Taylor this time, the chairmen should have ensured a short-term boost of the team delivering at least the 10 more points needed to avoid relegation – but this is not a time for the pair to relax. There has to be a plan that goes beyond the final game of the season at Crewe, and then there has to be a plan B and a plan C. They simply cannot allow the club to be in a position of not knowing what to do if Taylor doesn’t work out, or they risk next season as well as this one being wasted.
The worry I have with Taylor coming in is the chairmen might increasingly look at managers as easily expendable and believe that, just because their mailbox was jammed with managerial CVs this time around, there’ll be as big a queue next time.
If they consider Taylor to be the man to guide the club over the next few months, what about the next few years? If they consider Taylor to be a stop gap, the search for a new manager must begin now.
Peter Taylor is an outstanding appointment as the next Bradford City manager and over the next four months of the interim contract he is to sign at the club on Wednesday the former England manager will be trying out the Bantams just as much as the Bantams are trying out him.
Taylor’s appointment represents the pinnacle of what could be expected from the joint chairman who have brought in perhaps the only replacement for Stuart McCall who could be said to near guarantee an improvement on the field.
The former Spurs player turned manager’s track record is one of often repeated success showing an appreciation from Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes of the quality that Taylor offers. Taylor has taken Dartford, Gillingham, Brighton & Hove Albion, Hull City and Wycombe Wanderers to promotions in varied situations. He has failures in his career for sure but his ability to create and replicate success puts him head and shoulders above all other managers who the club could have appointed.
All of which is not to say that this is an appointment without danger – it is possible that Taylor will record the kind of performance in the next ten games as he did in his last for the Chairboys that saw him fired – but in terms of minimising the risk Lawn and Rhodes could not have made a better choice.
Not only that but a usefulness is given to the four month interim period as Essex boy Taylor tries out life in West Yorkshire.
The Southend born Taylor will spend four months at Valley Parade in which we will audition him for the job of permanent manager – with the exception of the perhaps available Paul Jewell one would struggle to think of a better candidate who might be available in the summer – and he will get to know us.
While manager of Hull City – a job that saw him take the Tigers to two promotions – he spent three days a week at his home in the South of England and perhaps he will do the same at Valley Parade. Certainly in the next four months Taylor will be given a chance to decide if he wants the Bantams job on a full time basis.
One can only imagine what will add to that decision to be taken in four months time. Geography is certainly a factor for the 57 year old but one wonders what the effect of the notorious Bradford City support will have on the man who represents by far the best man available? Four months of the sort of treatment that Colin Todd and Stuart McCall suffered at the hands of some “supporters” and Mark Lawn need not even bother offering a contract in four months.
Nevertheless credit the joint chairman with offering one now. Some would say that this deal could have been struck in the hours following the Bury game – certainly this website said that Taylor or Jewell were the only two acceptable appointments – and thus the new manager would have had a start at home to Grimsby Town but let us celebrate the offer at all and reflect that something approaching due process has been carried out.
Despite the delay that saw the Grimsby game frittered away Lawn is in the rare position of having appointed the consolidation candidate who commands more instant respect that perhaps any other option. One can only hope that this top quality manager – the man who picked out David Beckham as England captain – will be given the chance to build something at the club and not be judged on short term results and win percentages. Now Lawn has got the manager – and hoping the manager enjoys dating us enough to marry us – then the joint chairman needs to ensure the whole club is dedicated to creating a position where the manager can succeed.
Since McCall’s departure one game of nineteen is gone, are two points in fifty-seven and Taylor starts away at Accrington Stanley on Saturday. His style of football is practical, his manner is intelligent and considered and he always, always signs Junior Lewis.
Welcome to Bradford City Peter Taylor. You are the best choice, you have some good tools to work with and I hope you stay for a long, long time.
Peter Taylor has been named as the new Bradford City manager starting an interim contract that will take him until the end of the season.
Taylor – who the club interviewed on Thursday last week – is to be unveiled as the Bantams new boss on Wedneday afternoon and joins the club after four months out of the game following his dismissal from Wycombe Wanderers on 9th October 2009. He has previously managed Dartford, Southend United, Dover Athletic, Gillingham, Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Hull City, Crystal Palace, Stevenage Borough and England at both u21 and full level.
Taylor replaces Stuart McCall as the City manager.
A few months ago Mark Lawn dressed as Father Christmas to launch Bradford City’s season ticket appeal, not long later the joint chairman of the club is playing the role of Santa to an excited fanbase.
For all the criticisms of the way that Staurt McCall left the club, the way that the club abandoned its laudable policy of stability, the way that Wayne Jacobs the assistant manager was treated, the way that the club decided to only appoint an Interim Manager, the way that the interview list leaked out so easily, the way that a woeful Grimsby Town side got a draw as almost a direct result of the paralytic inaction that followed McCall’s departure. Despite all those things and many, many more there is an excitement that comes with a new manager.
Managers at Bradford City are football’s equivalent of the teenage girlfriend: They are fun and exciting at first but in a while you go off them and despite all the promises you made you move onto someone else because – well – they are fun and exciting.
It looks like tomorrow’s darling will be Peter Taylor although some say that he has already ruled himself out of the race after wanting to spend more days that the club would like a week in Essex. That is just speculation but it might be that Peter wants a more open relationship and that would only break our hearts.
So if it is not Peter Taylor can we hope it will be the bright eyed young thing that is Steve Cotterill? Perhaps. He was not on the original interview list but space emerged on Tuesday – should the BfB source be good – for two exra interview slots one of whom would seem to be Martin Allen – he flirted with us like crazy on Saturday – and the other is rumoured to be already in a relationship but on the look out.
John Coleman has changed his relationship status with Accrington Stanley FC to it’s complicated.
So perhaps it is not Cotterill. Allen’s touchline antics are unfashionable but hopefully
Peter Taylor was appointed Bradford City manager as I typed. Not much point in carrying on with the article but I thought I’d include it anyway. Michael Wood
Michael Flynn has spoken about how he believes that the new Bradford City manager needs to put some rockets up backsides at the club. Flynn said
We need somebody with a big character who won’t take any messing. Some of the lads might feel a bit too comfortable and a few need a rocket up their backside.
Comfortable is a curious thing at a football club. One the one hand one wants the players to feel relaxed and at ease to allow themselves the freedom to express, to make mistakes without being pilloried, to be able to minimise defeats and move on from them however when the players slide too far along this scale of comfortability then they become complacent and defeats are not felt as keenly as they should be. If the blame for a loss can be put elsewhere – Referees, pitches, the quality of the opposition, injures – then it allows the players who retain self-belief but should that blame be constantly deflected then the players will no longer behave as if they are responsible for the performances.
Certainly Stuart McCall favoured the pattern of giving his players he room to breathe and could oft be heard criticising officials for the plight of his players. For what it is worth I agree with McCall that it was – in no small way – the fault of Referees making a string of atrocious decisions the apologies for which must have rung in Stuart’s ears when he heard them from men in the middle the Monday he left the club but I doubt that were I Bradford City manager I would have allowed the players to be left off the hook so easily.
Paul Buckle – the manager of Torquay United – would have the same thought. After his side had out-played City but lost two two late and unlucky goals from the Bantams he offered his players no place to hide saying that they should have done more to win the game. Since then results have not improved – one draw and three defeats from four – and Buckle’s position at the club is questioned. The response he was looking for from his players in not engaging in what could be called “excuse culture” he has not had.
A trip up to Cardiff sees Dave Jones and his team sitting in fifth place in the Championship despite a trip to Newcastle’s St James Park which saw the Bluebird beat 5-1. After the game Jones would hear not a word against his players talking about long trips, injuries and suspensions having taken a chunk out of his side who lost to a great Magpie’s performance. Jones would not allow his players to take any responsibility and a few days later they were back to winning ways 2-0 over Peterborough United.
Two managers, two approaches and the converse which one might expect with Jones’s side doggedly in the promotion hunt and Buckle under pressure. If City were in the position Jones’s has Cardiff in would excuses be a problem? We are in the position Buckle’s side is in, would we accept his strident denials of any external responsibilities? Would Michael Flynn’s kick up the arse aimed at Torquay not be seen just as kicking the players when they are down? Perhaps.
Famously after Wigan Athletic’s opening day defeat to one squeaked goal to nil against Chelsea Jose Mourinho shook Paul Jewell’s hand and said to him “I hope you stay up.” Jewell firmly returned the shake and replied “Yeah, I hope you do too.”
Jewell would not allow his Wigan players to consider themselves on a different level to any of the other teams in the top flight but when Arsenal stole a win from the Latics Jewell was quick to blame the officials. Jewell understood that “excuse culture” is nothing of the sort. Excusing the players – or not doing – is a tool to keep the pressure off the squad when one wants it to be and not in other times.
Sven Goran Erikkson revitalised Ruud Gullit’s career by accusing the midfielder of having “glass knees” during their time together at Sampdoria. Gullit’s parting shot at Sven as he left to return to AC Milan went along the lines of “I showed you” to which the Swede explained his admiration of the Dutchman and his desires to be showed up by eight superb months of football. Excuses are a way of balancing the responsibilities a player takes and good manager’s know when to use them and when not to.
Who knows what approach the next manager of Bradford City will take towards the linguist tools of his role. Perhaps he will be like Buckle in reaction to Stuart’s excessive excuses and perhaps he will get the same results as the Torquay boss or perhaps he will strike a perfect balance letting his players feel they can control their football destinies but shielding them from outrageous misfortune.
Either way it is worth remembering that these “excuses” are tools of the manager and when employed by a Jewell giving his players the belief that they can compete with anyone or a Jones telling his players to move onto the next game without worry are at least as much about the mentality inside the club as outside it.
By the end of this week we should know Bradford City’s new caretaker manager until at least the end of the season, but who is in contention? Here’s the who-what-why-when-where-how of the reported candidates.
Why might he be interested? Having guided Wycombe Wanderers to promotion from League Two last season, Taylor was surprisingly given the boot last October as the club struggled to come to terms with League One life. That his successor Gary Waddock has done little to improve the Chairboys survival hopes once again underlines the futility of changing managers. Taylor has also been linked with the vacant Notts County position.
What’s he achieved? A lot in a lengthy career which beginnings included non-league Dartford and Dover Athletic. He rose to fame after then-England manager Glenn Hoddle asked him to manage the England U21′s in 1996. He also took over at Gillingham in 1999, guiding the Kent club to promotion from Division Two, via the play offs.
Taylor had one game in charge of England as caretaker in 2000, a 1-0 defeat to Italy. It’s well documented he handed David Beckham the England captaincy, but he also helped to bring in the new generation of England players in place of the aging ones which had failed dismally at Euro 2000.
After guiding Brighton to the Division Two Championship in 2002, Taylor left for Hull and lifted the historically-underachieving Tigers from the bottom division to the Championship thanks to back-to-back promotions. He again managed the England U21s at the same time.
Where has it not gone so well? In between Taylor’s successes has been some notable failures. Following Martin O’Neill at Premiership Leicester in 2000 was always going to be a tough act. At Filbert Street he spent a whopping £23million in 18 months, and was sacked as they headed to relegation.
After the success at Hull, Taylor took charge of Crystal Palace but failed to lift the Championship club towards promotion and was sacked after 16 months, with the Eagles languishing in the bottom three.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? At Gillingham, Taylor’s side caused an FA Cup shock when they defeated Paul Jewell’s Premiership City 3-1 in 2000.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? City’s four ex-non-league players might welcome him here because of his non-league background.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Well Taylor has a similar persona to Colin Todd (four years younger). So you could try labelling him a miserable old man and claim his team talks must be very uninspiring.
Why might he be interested? Cotterill has been without a club since leaving Burnley in 2007. He has been linked with the VP position, though BfB understands he wasn’t interviewed prior to the weekend. He may be one of at least two interviewees lined up for Tuesday, and has recently been linked with vacant positions at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday.
What’s he achieved? Cotterill is best known for his success at Cheltenham Town at the turn of the millennium. He guided the Robins from the Conference to Division Two. In 2002 he left to manage Stoke and then, after just 13 games in charge, went to Sunderland as assistant to Howard Wilkinson. Cotterill is Burnley’s longest serving manager and in his time took the Clarets to the FA Cup fifth round.
Where has it not gone so well? His decision to move to Sunderland in 2002 was a disaster, as he and Wilkinson oversaw a dismal relegation campaign and won just two games. Cotterill was clearly lined up to be Wilkinson’s long-term successor, but was sacked with the former Leeds boss before the season ended.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? One of his 13 games in charge of Stoke included a 2-1 success over City. A Gary Walsh miskick allowed future Bantams’ striker Andy Cooke to score a tap in, which sadly spelt the end of arguably City’s finest modern-day keeper.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? At Burnley, Cotterill earned the nickname “Cotterball” for his long ball tactics; so our centre backs, who seem to love hoofing the ball aimlessly forwards, would presumably welcome carrying this on.
How should message board users go about abusing him? His quick departure from Stoke and fact he left Cheltenham suggests he uses clubs as stepping stones, so you’ll be able to say he doesn’t care about City.
Why might he be interested? Sacked as Brighton manager in November, Slade has managed several lower league clubs and will be attracted to the Bantams, as arguably the biggest club he’ll have managed.
What’s he achieved? Not a lot really. His arrival at clubs has often caused the short-term effect of strong winning runs and he’s guided Scarborough and Brighton away from relegation troubles. Slade has also reached two play off finals – with Grimsby and Yeovil – but lost both times.
Where has it not gone so well? Over a longer period Slade has been unable to significantly take any club forwards and has been known to walk away. He was sacked at Yeovil last season for ‘gross misconduct’.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Just ask Gordon Gibb. In 2003 Slade had apparently all but agreed to become City’s youth team manager, but changed his mind to the clear annoyance of the former chairman.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Simon Ramsden played under Slade at Grimsby.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Slade was said to be interested in returning to Grimsby when there was a vacancy at Blundell Park late last year. Fans didn’t want him, and that the man who got it instead hasn’t won a game yet means you can justifiably moan, “even bloody Grimsby didn’t want him!”
Why might he be interested? Sacked by Lincoln City last September, Jacko would apparently love to take over at his former club.
What’s he achieved? Became Town manager in 1997 with the Terriers bottom of the league, managed to pull it around so they beat the drop but, despite a flying start to the season after, he could only lead them to a midtable finish and was sacked the day after City were promoted to the Premiership. Returning in 2003 with Town languishing in the bottom division and just coming out of administration, Jackson guided Huddersfield to promotion via the play offs. He took over at Lincoln in 2007 when the Imps were in the relegation zone and lifted them up the league.
Where has it not gone so well? He was sacked twice by Huddersfield and at Lincoln, and his boastful nature can count against him in the long term. For me though, the usual style of football he plays – defensive-minded and all about the counter attack, time wasting and fouling – has limited his progress. Not pretty to watch.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Jacko obviously has a long history with City and fans’ attitudes towards him generally differ by age. In recent years the dislike towards him has softened and, when Jacko was receiving treatment for throat cancer two years ago, he revealed he’d received more letters of support from City fans than any other club.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Chris Brandon and Matt Glennon played under Jackson at Town and would presumably welcome him.
How should message board users go about abusing him? You don’t need my help on this one.
Why might he be interested? Like Cotterill, Sanchez has been out the management game for a few years. He was last at Fulham.
What’s he achieved? Starting at Wycombe, he guided the club to the FA Cup semi finals in 2001 (beating Peter Taylor’s Leicester along the way). His achievements at Northern Ireland were highly impressive. Taking over with the country winless in three years, he guided them to famous wins over Spain and England as they climbed from 124th to 27th in the FIFA rankings.
Where has it not gone so well? Away from the cup exploits at Wycombe, league form wasn’t great and he was sacked. Sanchez must surely regret leaving Northern Ireland for Fulham, where he signed some of his star Irish players but couldn’t lift the club upwards. He earned the boot after just 24 games in charge (four wins).
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Just before he became Northern Ireland manager, Sanchez expressed his interest in the managerial vacancy at City that was eventually filled by Bryan Robson, saying it was an attractive job as there would be “money to spend”. Hopefully Sanchez did his homework when applying this time.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? At Wycombe Sanchez was criticised for sticking with aging players, so any City player the wrong side of 30 might hope he persists with this approach.
How should message board users go about abusing him? The style of football he introduced at Fulham was widely derided, so expect similar moans about “hoof ball” if he got the job.
Why might he be interested? Sacked from QPR before Christmas due to an alleged bust up with a player, the Irishman will probably be hoping for a Championship job but might see a spell at City as an opportunity to be in the shop window.
What’s he achieved? A popular player at Ipswich, Magilton was handed the reins in 2006 after Joe Royle left. He twice came close to finishing in the play offs but after his second failure was sacked to make way for Roy Keane. In his second of three seasons at Ipswich, Magilton turned Portman Road into a fortress (they lost just once at home). Appointed QPR manager this summer, the club had started this season well.
Where has it not gone so well? At both Ipswich and QPR Magilton had sizable transfer funds, but he couldn’t take Ipswich up. How would he do on a shoestring budget?
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? As a player, Magilton greatly impressed City fans during a 0-0 draw with Ipswich in the 1998-99 promotion battle between the two clubs.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Michael Flynn, Lee Bullock, Steve O’Leary and Luke Sharry would surely learn a few pointers from a brilliant midfielder. The attractive passing football he introduced at QPR would also see City’s midfield be given greater responsibility.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Unproven, fights with players (allegedly), only here until he gets a better job, etc.
Why might he be interested? The former City striker hung up the boots earlier this season after a brief spell as player-assistant under Colin Todd at Darlington. He’s making an impression as pundit on Sky Sports, but is said to be desperate to become a manager.
What’s he achieved? With no previous managerial experience, nothing yet. However his exploits at City – 216 games, 76 goals – demand respect.
Where has it not gone so well? Both spells at City ended less happily with Deano typically shooting his mouth off. His second exit, on loan to Hull, was particularly unhappy with rumours I couldn’t repeat here.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? See above.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Only Matt Clarke and Luke O’Brien were at the club when he departed. In his autobiography Windass praises Todd for allowing him to solely focus on getting on the end of chances rather than dropping deep to help the team, Peter Thorne may welcome a manager asking him to do something similar.
How should message board users go about abusing him? When playing for City message board users poured some frightful and at times disgusting abuse towards Deano, expect that to continue if he takes over and doesn’t do well.
Why might he be interested? Accrington manager, the third longest serving in the top four divisions. It seems unlikely he would give that up for a few months at City, but he has yet to sign a new contract at Stanley and keeps been linked. Perhaps he’s sick of people going on about the milk advert.
What’s he achieved? Since taking over at Stanley in 1999, Coleman has lifted the famous club back into the Football League via three promotions. Despite very low gates and financial worries, Coleman has kept Stanley away from the relegation trap door and, even with recent form dipping, they still retain an outside chance of the play offs.
Where has it not gone so well? Nowhere yet, perhaps he wants to keep it that way by staying put.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? The shock 3-0 success of Stanley at Valley Parade in October 2007 was described by Coleman at the time as the best performance of his time at Accrington.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? His career rejuvenated by Coleman, former City striker Michael Symes might relish following his boss to BD8 to show what we missed when he was here.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Coleman would quickly be labelled ‘out of his depth’. Those who pretend to be wiser would also go back to last season’s 3-2 City triumph at Stanley – where Accrington blew a 2-0 lead – as an example of his lack of tactical know-how in not seeing out the game. “I knew after that day he should never become our manager” you might claim.
Why might he be interested? Other than the odd appearance on BBC’s final score, Dowie was last seen assisting Alan Shearer at Newcastle United. After a very promising start to his managerial career, Dowie’s stock has fallen in recent years and he might see this as his route back.
What’s he achieved? After starting at Oldham, Dowie became Crystal Palace manager in December 2003 with the club 19th in Division One. His objective was to keep Palace up, he ended the season taking the Eagles to the Premiership via the play offs. Despite a good fight, Palace went down and the following season Dowie’s team lost in the play offs.
Where has it not gone so well? Everywhere since. He left Palace for Charlton and was sacked after 12 games, did little at Coventry and managed only 15 games at the trigger-happy QPR.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Guided Palace to a 2-1 win at Valley Parade in January 2004, as the Eagles headed to promotion and City headed to relegation.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Not Zesh Rehman, who was at Loftus Road when Dowie took over. Zesh was instantly loaned out to Blackpool.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Dowie’s usually had plenty of money to spend, but his record in the transfer market isn’t great. Expect him to make a couple of dodgy loan signings and be written off there and then.
Why might he be interested? Having left Cheltenham under something of a cloud earlier this season, Allen is looking to restore a battered reputation.
What’s he achieved? Allen made his managerial name at Brentford where he saved the Bees from relegation from League One in his first season before steering them to successive play off semi finals. He also oversaw some memorable FA cup exploits, which included him swimming in the river solent ahead of a tie at Southampton.
After resigning due to lack of investment in the team, Allen helped to turn the MK Dons tide by taking the relegated League Two club to the play offs. The defeat to Shrewsbury was widely cheered given the MK Dons unethical emergence.
Where has it not gone so well? He left the Dons for Leicester and was sacked after just four games due to not getting on with chairman Milan Mandaric. He emerged at Cheltenham last season, but couldn’t save them from the drop to League Two.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? He was of course the opposition manager for City’s remarkable 5-4 win over Cheltenham earlier this season.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? The much-loved City supporter, ‘Charlie’. When Allen’s Brentford side were being well beaten by City in 2005, Allen left the dugout to sit and talk to Charlie in the stand. He later remarked on how Bradford City fans “know their football.”
How should message board users go about abusing him? Allen was a popular in The Game a few years ago when passionate managers screaming on the touchline was in fashion. Widely-viewed as nutters these days, Allen at City would be slated for getting worked up during games.
Why might he be interested? Just like McCall, Jacobs cares passionately about Bradford City and is said to not be able to imagine being anywhere else.
What’s he achieved? As assistant at Halifax, he helped Chris Wilder guide the club to the Conference play offs.
Where has it not gone so well? His caretaker record at City now reads P 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 F 0 A 1.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? No explanation needed, Jacobs proved himself a true City legend during his 11-year spell as left back.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? It’s been suggested the players are very disappointed McCall has left, so they may welcome Jacobs taking the step up.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Already some OMB users have threatened to chuck away their season tickets if Jakes is appointed, which is a shame. As assistant, some fans moaned he clapped too much; expect close scrutiny over his touchline routine which will of course be considered wrong.
Bradford City 0 Grimsby Town 0 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
A banner was unfurled over the edge of the Main Stand top tier as the players came out for kick off which seemed to be in support of Stuart McCall; but before we’d had chance to read what it said, it had been removed.
This didn’t appear to be an act of boardroom concealing, more concern from stewards that the banner was covering up advertising hoardings. Though it was a shame the supporter’s home-made effort wasn’t allowed to be draped over some of the thousands of empty seats.
It was not meant to be, and perhaps the same can be said of Wayne Jacobs as Bradford City manager. Having requested to Mark Lawn that he is interviewed for the vacant position during the week, this disappointing draw with second-bottom Grimsby was hardly the commendation he needed ahead of Monday’s meeting. Already an outsider for the position, his chances seemingly reduced with each passing minute of goalless action.
Apart from Jacobs patrolling the dugout in suit rather tracksuit, it was difficult to recognise much different. For 90 minutes City huffed and puffed, but the well-organised visitors defended in numbers and carried a threat on the break. Oliver Lancashire and Joe Widdowson were outstanding at the back and, although the Bantams spent long spells camped out in the opposition half, clear cut chances were at a premium.
Robbed of injury to Omar Daley, Jacobs’ team selection could easily have been that of McCall’s. Though Gareth Evans was moved to the left instead of part of a front three, bringing more balance to the side than for last week’s defeat to Bury. Scott Neilson was recalled on the right and improved on a tentative start to produce an impressive second half display which was aided by Jacobs’ switching Simon Ramsden back to right back at half time, as City’s captain was more supportive going forward than Zesh Rehman in the first half.
But elsewhere confidence was obviously lacking. For much of this season City have been too desperate to get the ball forwards quickly instead of showing composure; and though midfield pair Lee Bullock and Michael Flynn impressed in patches, the middlemen were often cut out in favour of a long ball from the back towards James Hanson.
With Grimsby playing a higher backline in the first half, passes in behind the strikers from midfield was an effective option, but when Town dropped deeper it was back to route one. Initial panic was often caused from Hanson’s flick ons, but Town always seemed to have more numbers back to snuff out the danger.
Evans had the best chance of the first half when a good pass had set Hanson clear before he pulled the ball back to City’s number nine. But Evans’ confidence seems to have been unaffected by his double at Torquay two weeks ago and he fired over. It’s now three months since he scored at Valley Parade.
And it’s nine months since Peter Thorne - making his first start since going off injured against Rochdale in the JPT last September - scored anywhere. The top scorer of the past two seasons was effective in holding up the ball, but inside the area the sort of half chances he sniffs out seemed to allude him. Michael Boulding was introduced on 65 minutes and wasted a decent opportunity when shooting straight at Nick Colgan. Hanson and Neilson also fired over from promising positions, but the 0-0 looked inevitable long before the assistant referee signalled four minutes of injury time.
Matt Glennon was a virtual spectator, other than an important save from a well-worked Grimsby corner just after the break. Despite the visitors’ relegation worries, they seemed content with a point and made few efforts to push forwards in numbers during the final 20 minutes. It was an afternoon to forget.
Which quickly pushes the focus back onto the managerial situation and, with Martin Allen and Russell Slade watching from the stands, they and others would seem to be in a better position than Jacobs after he oversaw this mediocre display. Jacobs’ best hope of earning the job would surely have lied in truly differentiating himself from his former manager, given Lawn’s rather tactless hint McCall would have been pushed had he not jumped.
In time, Jacobs would surely stamp his own mark on the club. But his chance always lied in the short term and this City display was much of the same and therefore makes it more difficult for him to convince Lawn and Julian Rhodes he could do a better job than McCall.
But whoever does come in has a job to do in quickly building up confidence and belief in a team which has become too used to feeling hard done by. Not losing today means the spectre of falling into a relegation battle remains distant, but with two tricky trips to Lancashire to come before a visit from a Darlington side showing faint signs of improvement - however futile - the urgency for improved results is increasing.
Like this drab draw which was seemingly decided long before the end, City’s season seems to be drifting to an inevitable mundane mid-table conclusion. That Jacobs was unable to make an impact means it will surely now be an outsider entrusted with shaking things up.
Looking at the news banded about as City’s managerial candidates I thought – as a bit of fun – I’d try to score them by what success they’d achieved in their careers and how long they’d been at the sharp end as managers.
I started thinking of a way to judge each of the names and to give them points for what they had done. To be fair to those who began at small clubs I also included years in the Football Conference and any success they had there.
This was not a scientific process. I decided that each would get four points for having guided a club to promotion and a single point for having taken someone to the play-offs but not got promotion.
Dean Windass got no points at all because he has never been a manager. Jim Magilton, Ronnie Jepson and Lawrie Sanchez also scored no points having never gained promotion or a play-off berth during their managerial careers. Sanchez once got to an FA Cup semi-final but one doubts that would sate promotion hungry Bantams fans.
The remainder is interesting. I divided the points totals gained for success by their years in management and came up with these scores:
- Peter Taylor – 1.666 points
- Steve Cotterill – 1.143 points
- John Coleman – 0.666 points
- Peter Jackson – 0.625 points
- Iain Dowie – 0.571 points
- Russell Slade – 0.200 points
As I say, it’s just a bit of fun!
Not surprisingly, by my formula Peter Taylor and Steve Cotterill are the two outstanding candidates.
Despite Taylor topping the list personally I would prefer Cotterill. I’ve got two reasons for this. As well as he has done Taylor always seems to have had a bit of money to spend (in fairness, it might not have been a lot) when he’s achieved success. Secondly is the “home counties factor”. The lads born in the home counties always seem ready to go back there at the drop of a hat. It seems to pull them back like a magnet when located elsewhere the always give me the impression of “just passing through”.
The next Bradford City manager will face criticism from day one and unless he achieves unprecidented levels of success he will be subject to calls from him to resign or be sacked.
Paul Jewell – who took Bradford City to the Premiership – was subject to massive criticism from some City fans in the 1999/2000 season and Geoffrey Richmond was certainly not the only person who would have said that if the manager was out of contract he would not get another one.
Stuart McCall offered his resignation after failing to reach the play-offs last season and has arguably done the same this. One must wonder if without McCall’s offers and the subsequent appeal for him to stay would he have been fired last year?
It is impossible to say conclusively, to do so would be to try read the minds of the chairmen of the club.
Moving away from Bradford City to the now infamous John Terry meeting with Fabio Capello a week of discussion and debate over what might happen was quickly ended by what did happen. Were we able to read the mind of Capello we would have known his views but as the man responsible was charged with setting the tariff of punishment uncertainly was the way of the week.
Excluding matters of misconduct would it be possible to end some of the uncertainty that Bradford City managers such as Stuart McCall face? There had been an agreement of sorts that McCall would be given until the end of this season made at the end of last but that agreement has not been honoured causing a lack of stability at the club which hampered the progress this season.
This lack of stability is not helped by the fact that supporters have such a wild variety of expectations for the club. Some look at the league and say that Bradford City have no right to beat anyone and that considering the £1m which is paid out to play at Valley Parade before a ball is kicked they are happy to maintain a competitive place in the division, others say that the club is massively under performing and believe the club should be in the Championship and that anything other than that or the progression to that is unacceptable.
More uncertainly where one side believes that a performance is acceptable while another that it is not. This situation was accurately felt when one group of supporters believed that Colin Todd was performing well, another that he was under performing. Any debate on the club fell into a depressing series of lies and abuse. I was accused of closing BfB down as a protest at the continued management of Colin Todd, nothing could have been further from the truth.
One might recall the effects of acting in that swirl of uncertainty and to have a mature debate as to what the next manager is expected to achieve at Bradford City and when he is expected to achieve it.
With debate done, enshrine those requirements within the contract of the next manager and end that uncertainty.
If the next manager is required to get a play-off place at the very minimum then write into his contract that should he not achieve this then his contract is nullified, if it is promotion that is required then include that. If there is a fear that we could end up breaking up something that is being built then write into the contract a number of wins which must be reached so as to not tie our managers to the performance of others?
If the number of home defeats is unacceptable then stipulate that the manager’s deal will be renewed at the end of the season should he have won a number of these games and not otherwise. If the development of young players is important then write in that he has to have given a number of players under a specific age débuts or once again his contract is not renewed.
At the start of the season give the manager not a vague idea of what might be nice to achieve but a set of black and white rules that govern his earning a new deal. The club – in turn – agree to a set of punitive clauses in the contract that ensure the manager is not dismissed outside of these renewal periods.
The problems with this system are potientally plentiful should the requirements be poorly set but the benefits for the incumbant of the job are equally significant chief amougst them being the end of the uncertainty that has dogged McCall this season and dogged Colin Todd, Paul Jewell and many other managers previously.
With a set of aims agreed and obvious to all the need for the kind of blowhards to mount thier campaigns to unseat managers is gone. BantamCook98 need not think up as many alaiases as he needs to seem legion in his criticism of the management he need only wait until the end of the season when the renewal assessment is made on the basis of targets achieved rather than the mood and whim of the boardroom which seems over interested in winning favour with the very people they should be ignoring.
If the bar is set at a point that BantamCook98 does not like then his beef is with the board, not the manager and as a result the manager is allowed to get on with his job concentraing on what he needs to achieve rather than which collection of agitators he needs to keep happy.
A system like this should not be need – I would not favour it over one of strong planning in the boardroom – but it is significantly better than the free for all of aggression and appeasement that has become supporting Bradford City in 2010 and is a much better situation to put the next manager into.
When Stuart McCall left Bradford City in February he walked away with a huge push he was given on his way from some supporters and from within the club. At the end of last season there was a will displayed by a majority of the supporters that McCall be given this season and almost from day one that will has been undermined in the stands and – if rumours are to be believed – within the club.
That is what the thoughts of the majority of the supporters are worth. Football supportting as a community at Bradford City simply does not exist.
Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes move on to looking for the next man and should do so with trepidation. The bar set for the new manager now excludes anything other than constant, unprecedented, relentless success.
Finding someone who can deliver that is impossible and by the yardsticks created in the aggressive pursuit of McCall are unattainable. The list of criticisms that McCall faced as brickbats preclude a manager changing his tactics, although he must have a “Plan B”. He must give players a chance, but should pick a consistent team. He must play attractive football, but results are all important. He will not have patience or time to build a squad, Mark Lawn’s talk of stability turned out to be just talk.
The next man cannot afford to have a season without promotion. Not only that he cannot afford to spend any time where a mass of supporters do not think that promotion can be achieved. Not only that but – as Stuart McCall found – even should the next manager be top of the league then he will still have critics working against him.
These critics may be amassed in the next few days as runners and riders appear for the vacant management chair. The next man will not be a unanimous choice and as a result a section of people who would vocally put forward the opinion that things would be better with someone else will appear.
Every defeat will start to amass critics, any selection decision which is not approved of will too, any transfer whim that is not acted on will be made into a case against. Should the next man take a chance on a player that chance has to work out, or he faces the criticisms McCall did for signing Simon Eastwood.
Some supporters will simply make things up about the next man twisting half truths and telling lies to mount attacks. They will no nothing about what make successful coaching but they will attack his backroom staff for not being good at it.
Stuart McCall was criticised for not trying to sign Lee Hughes at the start of the season and Scott Loach in the middle of it. These may seem flippant but they added to an increasing sound of discontent.
That sound of malcontent will be the metronome of the next man at Bradford City. It will be the creeping end of his time at the club starting from the moment he arrives. It will not be conducted with dignity or as debate. It will be swearing and abuse and it will attack every part of him from what he wears on a match day to where and how he stands near the dug out to the tone of voice he uses in interviews.
You may think that this can be stopped – this scenario of never ending malcontent – by victories and great football but this season saw the best unbeaten run in City’s post-war history and that did nothing to silence the constant grumbling.
You might think that it can be stopped by a gradual improvement but McCall is the first manager to show a season-on-season improvement and his time at the club has been abruptly ended in this swarm of bad feeling which prompted responses such as this.
The next man will not be protected from anyone who has any complaint with his management of the club and mounting a campaign to get rid of him for whatever trumped up, exaggerated reason they decide.
The community which used to hold a consensus at the club is gone, destroyed by those who decided they would ignore that community in order to get what they wanted and unseat McCall. Any influence supporters have on the boardroom for the next man will not come from support in the stands but from the snipe nameless people on message boards gossiping, rumouring, lying, agitating.
These people have what they want now, but the cost will prove too high. Stuart McCall enjoyed a massive respect at the club which allowed him thirty odd months to do his job, the next man will probably not have that and as Colin Todd found out the levels of abuse quickly ramp up to sickening levels.
The club’s voice is no longer that of the stands but the agitators on message boards and texting Lizzie on The Football League show and the club – in accepting McCall’s resignation which some would suggest they have forced the club have bowed to those people. If previous chairman had run the club at the behest of the loudest noise on the terraces the current chairmen do it at the whim of the malcontent and the faceless, nameless reactionary.
That person – the guy who will not say his name but knows all his sign on handles – is the next man’s new boss.
Stuart McCall is gone and when the people who rounded on him want patience for the next man will it be forthcoming? When next there is an appeal to a minority to respect the will of the majority will it be heard? Why should it be? Bradford City are just another club with no idea how to improve itself but dire need to do so.
The next man will be expected to win constantly and when he does not small groups of people will start trying to get him sacked and – eventually – they will succeed.
The pile of CVs has been sifted through, the initial interviews held. Events are moving quickly and we may have a strong idea of who the Bradford City caretaker manager for the rest of the season is to be before the weekend is over, possibly even before kick off of Saturday’s visit of Grimsby.
For the players especially, it’s a case of who they need to impress. It’s perhaps testament to just how small former manager Stuart McCall’s squad was – or his indecision – that there are no senior players rotting in the reserves. However well or badly they have performed, each player has it all to do all over again. Wayne Jacobs will be in charge from the touchline, but it may be a question of who might be watching from the stands.
And if the caretaker-to-be is able to run the rule over his new charges, he shouldn’t be too disappointed with what he to work with. McCall had to work under tough financial constraints which will have hindered his ability to build the team he wanted, but what the players lack in quality they have almost always compensated by their effort.
I’ve always found that a fair summary of how well a manager did can only be drawn after a lengthy period, and though we may in time label McCall a failed manager it would be premature to do so. Like with Nicky Law and Colin Todd, we may soon discover a change makes no difference, in which case the proportion of blame McCall would be considered to deserve for this season’s under-achievement lessens.
But what we do hope to learn in this season’s squad is that McCall has achieved one of his original stated aims, revealed during his first interview after becoming the manager in May 2007. He said then, “I think back to the first time I was here when we signed people like Greg Abbott, John Hendrie and Chris Withe…they went on to be great servants for the club and loved being part of it…I want to bring in players like that who will hopefully develop and grow with the club.”
McCall’s Monday departure ensured few people were too bothered with talking about the Bury defeat, and the post match comments of defender Simon Ramsden appear to have been widely missed. He told the Telegraph & Argus, “The gaffer has got a history with the club from playing and manager. You can see the club means a lot to him, as it does with all of us. Every time you put on the shirt you should wear it with pride and give 100 per cent.”
If three, four or five of the current crop of players can become entrenched in the hearts of us supporters in the same vein as Abbot, Hendrie, McCall and co, the departing manager can be considered to have delivered some success. If these players can continue their development and lift the club forwards, the foundations can be credited to the biggest legend of them all for rubbing off the passion he had. McCall didn’t view managing City as just any old employment, his legacy may prove to be a playing squad which shares this outlook.
The worry is the eventual long-term successor might rip this work up, rather than build on it. But if the caretaker-to-be is watching and they’re looking to do more over the next three months than merely put themselves in the shop window for a better job, tomorrow could be the day the players start proving themselves as key components of the next chapter.
Quite who’ll be given the chance to impress is another question. This is Jacobs’ second game in charge of the club after acting as caretaker for the then-Division One club’s trip to Stoke back in 2003. He certainly caused an impression that day, consigning Dean Windass to sit amongst us away fans. Second time around, Jacobs will certainly pick Matt Glennon in goal with the experienced stopper having had little to do but conceding six goals in his first four Bantams games.
The passionate Simon Ramsden was outstanding as a centre back last week and will surely continue there alongside an equally impressive Matt Clarke. I didn’t agree with the decision to push Zesh Rehman over to right back, and though Stuart could no doubt explain the logic to me I’m not sure he’d go as far as to claim it worked. The promising-but-raw Jonathan Bateson may be recalled, with Luke O’Brien at left back.
Last week Omar Daley reminded us of his frustrating inconsistency after an ineffective performance as part of a midfield three, which at one stage drew an angry tirade from Michael Flynn. In the second half a Bury breakaway was thwarted by the Jamaican racing back to clear, which emphasises how his patchy form cannot just be labelled as ‘laziness’. He should start in what may instead be a 4-4-2.
Flynn and Lee Bullock will look to continue in the middle, though this writer craves for young Luke Sharry to be given more opportunities before the season ends. Steve O’Leary skippered the reserves to a rare win midweek and may be considered ahead of Bullock. Chris Brandon and Scott Nielson, both struggling for form but not involved with the second string, will hope for a recall. Leon Osborne is back from injury and worth considering for the bench.
Up front Jacobs has the luxury rarely afforded to McCall of having four fit strikers to choose from, though form is another matter. Gareth Evans netted twice at Torquay, but still looks unconfident and is fast-becoming the main target for the boo boys. Michael Boulding flatters to deceive and James Hanson and Peter Thorne’s recent injuries leave them rusty.
Grimsby rock up to Valley Parade deep in relegation mire, winless in 19 and 13 points behind City – but if that gap has decreased come 5pm Saturday, Bantams’ alarm bells will start to ring. The Mariners have not beaten City in 11 attempts and their last win at Valley Parade was back in 1997. They’ve managed just 20 goals in 28 league games this season; if they play half as bad as they did against City at Blundell Park earlier this season, a comfortable home win will be achieved.
Personally I would be sad to see Grimsby go down. Cleethorpes is a pretty ugly place, but there are worse away ends than the one at Blundell Park and the fish & chip shop nearby is astonishingly good. They are six points adrift of safety and former City striker Neil Woods has so far been able to turn the tide.
According to the chairmen City go into this game with nothing to play for; but with such an uncertain future for the players and coaching staff, it’s not a time to be deliberating the summer holidays just yet. McCall’s legacy does not deserve to be players who’d give up trying now, tomorrow is their first chance to honour the former boss.
Tell someone that you have seen the Yeti wandering around Thornton and they will not believe you. Talk about seeing Little Green Men wandering through Idle you will be looked at in a curious manner. Say you saw Spaceships over Shipley you will be considered wrong in the head.
Today – however – if you claim to have seen Sir Alex Ferguson wandering around Manningham you will be believed and you will have started a rumour.
For today is the day that – some days too late in the opinion of this writer – Bradford City step up the search for a replacement for Stuart McCall holding interviews for the position of Interim Manager.
The role is a curious one. It promises “pole position” for the job as it is appointed in the summer but is distinctly a fixed term contract. Achievement is touted as impossible in the role with joint chairman Mark Lawn making it clear that he believes that that club is not going up or down this season. Julian Rhodes – who thought similar when appointing David Wetherall three years ago as a prelude to the sink to League Two – could not have kept a straight face saying the same thing.
If the financial situation at the club did not then the nature of this interim position – as opposed to the caretaker role Wayne Jacobs has presently (he is taking care of the team, that is why they are called caretaker managers) – precludes the idea that one of today’s appointments will be with a manager who currently has a job ruling out swathes of names. Alan Knill, Keith Hill, Fabio Capello; these are just some of the people who despite no doubt frequent sightings in BD8 would almost exclude themselves from the process should they show poor enough judgement to leave one club for such a transient position.
The timing of the change also precludes the idea of bringing in a player manager unless the player with ambitions is currently without club in which case they are probably no longer to be considered player-managers but rather rookies which would not seem to be the type of person the club are looking for. The irony in this is that this would have excluded Roy McFarland, Trevor Cherry, Chris Kamara and Paul Jewell from the job who are the only City managers who have achieved promotion in my life time, and I ain’t as young as I was.
Nevertheless Mark Lawn has talked about bringing in an experience manager and some have suggested that this means Terry Dolan which perhaps is a definition of the word experience which might not be as expected but is accurate. In the same way that when fans talk about a team needing to be consistent they do not desire a side that always lose so when they talk about experience do they mean someone who has failed often and at many levels.
One recalls the words of Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling: “I have learnt from my mistakes and I could repeat them exactly.”
Not that that is to suggest that Dolan is especially worth mentioning as being an poor candidate over and above the no doubt hundreds of names who have failed often at clubs similar to City. Expect Peter Jackson to be sighted around the club looking to bring some of the “magic” that he showed in his previous appointments to Valley Parade. He should be used to the journey by now having been interviewed and accepted the role of Bradford City manager in December 2000 only to decide that he would give backword a day later.
Not that every manager who has been sacked can automatically be assumed to have failed. Mark Cooper – son of Leeds’s Terry – was sacked from Peterborough by an increasingly mad chairman while Gary McAllister’s record at Leeds United of 25 wins in 50 games certainly does not suggest that he should have been put out of work.
Experience managers who are out of work are not uncommon and should they have every worn claret and amber in action then they will probably be mentioned as meandering around Bedlington Terrace sometime this afternoon.
The obsession clubs have with appointing managers who have played for the club is always a curious one. Chris Wilder – the manager of Oxford United who aside from going well in the Conference would also be able to reunite with Jacobs who was his assistant at Halifax Town – played for the club for months more than years but still this promotes his name above Graham Westley or Martin Foyle who manage the clubs above and below the Us.
One would hope – and it seems that these hopes are to be dashed – that Mark Lawn will have looked to low risk appointments of managers who can point to a repeated track record of success such as Peter Taylor or Paul Jewell but were that the decision then there would have been little reason not to appoint the man on Monday. Jewell – incidentally – is still being paid by Derby County as part of his severance from Pride Park a year ago. That contract expires in the summer when Jewell is looking for work.
Expect Jewell and Taylor to be sighted though, and hope that the sightings are true.
For while Lawn is confident that the season is done for the Bantams one cannot help but recall Wetherall’s fourteen games at the club and think that how a similar return of one point of every four from the next nineteen games would give City 14 more points to add the the current 33. The aforementioned Cooper got a single win and four draws in thirteen games at The Posh this season despite his being brought not from the dole queue but from a job he was excelling in at Kettering Town and City cannot afford that sort of performance and, as with Peterborough, would find it hard to predict it.
47 points is normally enough to avoid relegation but the whole endeavour seems to pile a level of risk onto the club for little return considering that in four months time the process, the sightings, the looking for a new manager will start all over again.
Only rather than having a manager who knows the players names we will be left hoping that the one sighting that turns out to be accurate can manage to quickly get to the level of being average and stay there for a few months.
So after months or rumours and speculation we now know. The Telegraph & Argus has said it, Stuart McCall tellingly said nothing; but the truth is out that the former manager and joint-chairmen Mark Lawn’s relationship was strained to the point they had “barely communicated in months”.
It seems incredible that a professional football club could operate with two key figures working on such fractured terms. It also raises legitimate concerns over the state of the partnership between Lawn and co-chairman Julian Rhodes, and the damage a clear difference of opinion might have caused in both the short and long term.
Rhodes and Gordon Gibb were widely-stated to have begun their painful fallout because of the decision to sack Nicky Law in 2003, will recent debates over the future of McCall cause history to repeat itself? It’s claimed Rhodes owns 51% of the club to Lawn’s 49%, was the latter willing to accept the former’s wishes to persist with McCall?
McCall’s lack of comment on Lawn, choosing instead only to praise Rhodes as he departed, speaks volumes. Lawn’s weekend quote on McCall’s expected departure that, “Obviously I’ve only heard this through the grapevine. Stuart hasn’t spoken to me,” does him no favours. The last few days has demonstrated just how many supporters still wanted McCall to be manager and, as they come to terms with the departure of a legend, Lawn is becoming an increasingly obvious target for their anger.
Lawn was probably not the only Board member keen for a change. I missed the Christmas games against Shrewsbury and Cheltenham so didn’t get to buy my usual copy of the matchday programme. When in the days after the Cheltenham game McCall publicly declared, “If anyone wants to pack up and clear off, then I don’t want them here. That goes for anybody connected with the club,” the target of the attack was unclear. The City Gent’s John Watmough, via the Official Message Board, suggested Stuart’s anger was aimed at director Roger Owen for comments in the Cheltenham programme. Intrigued, I had a look at the article when visiting the club shop on Saturday, and was as stunned as John by Owen’s words.
Talking about the JPT 3-0 defeat to League One Carlisle, he seemingly dismissed the sending off of Simon Ramsden as having no bearing on the game before bemoaning the so-called gulf in class which showed how far behind City are from their intended target of League One football. City were very unlucky to lose the game, giving everything with 10 men and coming very close to pulling back the tie at 1-0, so it’s understandable if McCall was fuming at reading these criticisms from a member of the Board. It was unfair for any manager to have his team so publicly attacked internally; it also suggests lifelong fan Owen sees things from Lawn’s point of view.
Perhaps this is the downside of the much trumpeted ‘fans running the club’ idea of a couple of seasons ago. No one doubts the huge work rate and commitment of those responsible for running the club, but come 3pm on a Saturday afternoon it seems they are no different to the rest of us in becoming fans, with conflicting views and ideals to others.
With access to bending the manager’s ear and a financial interest in how the club is run, they have greater opportunity to share those views, such as perhaps suggesting a lack of firepower could be rectified by some Chilean flair. But ultimately their views as fans are no more or less insightful than the rest of us, and were probably sometimes unwelcomed by a single-minded manager.
I can’t help but feel Lawn and Owen, like other fans, were of the opinion that the removal of the manager is all that is needed to catapult City up the leagues. A friend of mine used to work under Lawn many years ago, at his driver hire company, and regularly told me how his boss had a box at City and complained all the time about how bad we were. As a supporter, perhaps Lawn has allowed himself to take a regular fan’s view of blaming all faults on the manager, when it’s partly his job to help them find positive solutions.
There’s a sense of irony that, after so many fans moaned McCall had no plan B, we find that, after allowing him to leave, the City board don’t have one either.
But it is Telegraph & Argus’ reporting of the cause of the fall out between McCall and Lawn which troubles me the most – that of the apparent lack of experience in the coaching staff. It’s a well run and frankly boring debate which has been raging amongst City fans ever since Stuart appointed Wayne Jacobs as his assistant. That Jacobs had a few years experience as assistant at Halifax Town seemed to be ignored.
The whole thing never made sense to me, it was as if fans didn’t believe McCall knew what to do so had to have someone older telling him. Surely if people really believed he needed an assistant to make the decisions, he shouldn’t be the manager in the first place?
But it’s really more to do with the fact it’s Jacobs. He spent some 10 years as a player with City, raising from Division Two to the Premiership with the Bantams, yet for almost his whole Bantams career we had to endure supporters at games loudly screaming abuse at him.
Jacobs was the soft target to pick on, the obvious choice for those who like to inflict their football knowledge onto other people to highlight as the cause of all problems. How these people became excited when other left backs were signed to replace Jakes, how disappointed they were after he fought challengers off to keep his place. Jacobs, the worst left back in Division Two back in 1996, marking David Beckham in the Premier League in 2000 – how did that happen?
And as Lawn apparently argued with McCall that he should ditch his ginger friend and bring in someone like Terry Dolan, fairly or unfairly I can’t help but picture Lawn sat a few seats along from me at various games over the years, ready to jump on his feet and scream at Jacobs when he next lost the ball. The fans who were doing this were probably the same ones who shamefully tried to pin the blame for two-and-a-half years of League Two failure on Jacobs, and on McCall for employing him.
And if you believed McCall should have appointed a more experienced number two, but you say it’s nothing personal against Jacobs, please answer me this honestly – would you have been demanding a more experienced number two if McCall had instead recruited Peter Beagrie?
As we say goodbye to McCall, it seems the lesser celebrated legend that is Jacobs will also soon be departing. He seems to have no chance of earning the managers job, those who ridiculed him as assistant are already informing the rest of us on the message boards that they would hurl their season tickets on the floor in disgust if he were appointed.
Personally I think this is really sad, because there’s merit in enabling Stuart’s building work to be continued in the same manner Paul Jewell once continued Chris Kamara’s, rather than ripping everything up. Yet losing a manager is always coupled with an abandoning of the policy which led to their appointment. If Colin Todd was the cheese to the chalk of McCall, it’s likely his ultimate replacement will be the type of experienced man Lawn and others were apparently craving to be his assistant.
So unless the new guy has a need for Jacobs, he will be gone too. Ridiculed by fans and indirectly insulted by the Board, hopefully he’ll at least get to be in charge for Saturday’s game with Grimsby.
If that is the last time he’s employed by Bradford City, let’s make sure he too gets the reception he deserves.
Bradford City will begin to interview managers for the vacant role on Thursday ahead of the Grimsby Town game on Saturday.
Unless an appointment is made on the day it seems that the Bantams will be going into the game with Wayne Jacobs as caretaker manager before the interim manager is found.
Even should a new man be appointed as a result of these interviews then it would be odd for him not to allow someone who knows the players to pick the side and so it would seem Jacobs will get his a chance to manage the side in what is a crucial game.
The day after Stuart McCall left Bradford City and Mark Lawn started the process of looking for a new manager got off to a bad start for the joint chairman. Comments in the T&A over night – which were repeated on City’s own site – saw Lawn practically confirm that if McCall had not gone he would have been sacked.
As a statement it as crass as it gets – imagine Charles saying that if Diana had not died he would have had her bumped off anyway – and added to the anger that is building against the half of the City board who seemed most keen to replace the manager. Lawn no doubt has many reasons he could air why he did not want McCall to remain City manager and no doubt like Vanessa Perroncel will one day spill the beans.
The problem with the McCall debate was – in many ways – McCall himself with the confusion between backing the man and the idea of retaining a manager – be he The Legend or anyone – often muddying the waters. Losing McCall as a man is upsetting for the fans of City but changing the policy of management at the club on the head of a pin is something else.
Lawn will already know this being – it seems – an avid reader of the Official Message Board to a point where he talks on the need to end the anonymity of it. Lawn obviously pays more attention to it than I do and so I cannot imagine if McCall’s exit and talk of Peter Jackson as a short term replacement has gone down well or badly but my post bag has grave concerns.
Concerns about Lawn’s plans for the club. It seems he has been keen to change the manager for some time – correspondents conclude – so why do we now talk about short term appointments? Stuart McCall leaving the club was first put on the agenda by the former manager himself some ten months ago with his promise to leave should the club not reach the play-offs. Why then does it seem to have taken City by surprise to a point where they are waiting for CVs to land on the desk to find the best man rather than locating the best man and – considering Lawn more or less says that Stuart McCall would have been sacked on Monday – appointing him to the job today.
This is a very real problem for City. The nineteen games that remain offer enough points for us to see us trouble the bottom of the play-offs but they offer Grimsby Town enough to see them overhaul us and were we to mount the sort of run we did when Chris Hutchings took over as manager then there is no saying our points tally will be higher than the one amassed at Blundell Park.
Four months of uncertainty for players with a manager who may – or may not – be around next season and in all likelihood has never met them. If Stuart McCall struggled to find his best mix of the four central defenders on offer are we really not scared that someone who has probably never seen them play let alone met them might be picking the team?
City have gone from a point of some stability to an earthquake of randomness and Lawn is doing nothing to steady the club. Indeed the joint chairman himself has gone from that position.
On arriving at City he talked of the need for stability and the noises coming out of the club publicly mocked the number of managers who had been in the big chair in the last decade. Why then has Lawn abandoned that idea of stability – which is in practical definition retaining as much as you can from one time period to the next – and replaced it with an abyss of uncertainty?
What was that talk of stability if Lawn has been leaning towards a new manager for the whole of this season? Anyone who would define stability and backing as keeping the manager until results go against you simply does not understand the concepts involved in it and how they can improve a football club.
The ire directed at Lawn comes from some angry at what they perceive as a disrespectful stance to a man they respect in McCall and those people are significant for sure but in life people come and go and the club will get over the Stuart McCall/Mark Lawn divorce.
In addition to that unease – and perhaps more relevant – there is an idea that in promising stability and removing that in favour of nothingness Lawn has put his desire to remove McCall ahead of the good of the club, that he has no plan in place to improve the club after the obvious exit of McCall and that after promising stability and then working against such an aim a substantial number of Bradford City supporters who were behind Stuart and the club for the long term have been taken for a walk up the garden path.
These people stood on terraces and bought shirts which they wore as they travelled up and down the country behind a team that could be a hard watch for the last three years on the understanding that the club had a long term plan about building a club through determined, albeit slow, methods.
Mark Lawn might have appeased those who wanted rid of Stuart McCall but it is the people who nodded heads at the talk of stability who direct their ire at him now and demand an answer as to why three years of work has been thrown away in favour of what at present promises to be at best a substantial risk and, at worse, is nothing at all.