That charming man

If football has a charm – and this week the charmlessness of the game was brought front and centre – then it could be seen in the last seven minutes in Torquay last weekend.

The two close ranged finishes that Gareth Evans scored might have totalled less than five yards in distance but they seemed to make The Bantams feel miles better. If Stuart McCall came ten minutes from the sack then his glass was near empty but now – 20 games from glory – it is to be considered one percent full.

City have twenty games left in the season and sixty points to play for which equates to a good chunk of football to be played between now and the end of the year and the news that Peter Thorne – who is probably playing the last twenty games of career – will be taking part in those could be significant.

Thorne’s late entrance at Torquay did much to turn that game around and his absence this season has been keenly felt across the entire City side. His return give City more options than perhaps any other plater in the squad.

City face Bury at Valley Parade n Saturday – the second game with the in form Shakers in the last month which ended in controversy and a 2-1 reversal – and strikers (which is to say finishers) have been in short supply at the Bantams this year bring a problem which has shaped the season.

Without the finishing of Thorne Stuart McCall has looked to his striking ranks and found two fantastic workers and a player who is great on the counter attack but no fox in t’ box – so to speak – and rather than continue to plug away with two men up front, and considering the manager lost two right wingers from last year, a switch to 433 was made.

The idea being that 433 would address the lack of fire power with additional numbers and sometimes it works but more often – and increasingly of late – it has left the defensive side of the team undermanned. A 433 gives a back four with three midfielders to protect and – if they work insanely hard – two wide strikers to come back when full backs break forward.

In practice this does not occur and often City have been using a 433 and defending with seven men, although they attack with more numbers.

This is a contrast to the 442 which gives the back four, two midfielders and two wide men to cover full backs and allows a team to defend with eight men although they attack with fewer and poise less of a problem.

Peter Thorne addresses that problem if he can start finding the net as he did over the previous two seasons and in allowing a switch to a 442 he plugs the holes at the back.

I’m not in agreement with the idea that the Bantams defence make too many mistakes – although at Lincoln two weeks ago individual and selection errors were plentiful – just that they make the number forced by the weaknesses of defending as a team with seven men. Luke O’Brien – for example – has started to be criticised for his performances this season but often he is forced into defending against an overlapping fullback only with support from a midfielder who is co-occupied with another man.

Detail a wide man to track the full back and allow O’Brien to concentrate on a man. The two central defenders face similar problems with exposure coming most often when the ball is driven in at feet or by a pass not in the column directly between them but from the inner flanks.

This is why 433 is good at winning games but bad at winning promotions. If you match it to the right opposition then 433 can stack a game in one’s favour but in the week-in-week-out of League Two the 442 is most suitable, most often.

My hope is that McCall will return to a 442 with Matt Glennon behind Simon Ramsden, Zesh Rehman, Steve Williams and Luke O’Brien with Scott Neilson, Michael Flynn, Lee Bullock and Omar Daley in the midfield and Gareth Evans and Peter Thorne up front but you, dear reader, will have your own selections.

Stephen O’Leary is hovering around the squad, Michael Boulding has his fans and some believe that Matthew Clarke should be in, others that Chris Brandon needs a place. Of the eleven mentioned James Hanson would be worth a place up front for Evans if fit and I have a preference for a tight three of a midfield which would include James O’Brien and only one flank man but feel McCall would be best served by going for the jugular with a pair of wingers.

I could be wrong, football is a game where wrong is more common than right, but the charm of football is in the things which go unexpectedly right.

Two close range finishes and a hope that springs eternal.

The whispers around Notts County and the volume they might reach

The bump to Earth of the opening day of the season 5-0 defeat to Notts County may have shaped the Bantams season but in eighteen days time the result may be wiped off the records.

The saga at Meadow Lane has rumbled all season with some great results on the field not being matched off it. The Munto Group turn out to be smoke and mirrors, Sol Campbell making a cameo, Peter Trembling buying the club for £1 and promising funding which never appeared.

Trips to the County Court to avoid winding up orders are far more common than one might have thought for a club that cherry picked the quality of the division at the start of the season and at the moment the club are subject to a HMRC 28 day settlement requirement. Ten days in and the proposed investments are still ethereal appearing in the mist but vaporising when attempted to be grasped.

Trembling – who now has eighteen days to find enough money to pay the debt to the Tax man as well as pay the £300,000 monthly wage bill – seems no different to most lower league chairmen running from pillar to post to try make ends meet – however – unlike his peers in Leagues One & Two the amounts talked of at County are needlessly large and inflated by greed.

Greed in the form of the way that players were recruited to “the project” – as Sven Goran Erikkson calls it – with Campbell’s recruitment seen as a poster boy for the needless expense. County’s progress to fifth in League Two from that 5-0 is eclipsed by Rochdale’s reported thrifty accent to the top of the division and a reminder to clubs like City who wanted last season to spend big for promotion that gestated teams more than expensive shopping is the better way to progress.

If County cannot find money for the Tax Man in just over two weeks they will apply for administration. A judge will sit and decide if creditors are better served by keeping the club going as an existing concern or if that protection would be a waste of resources. Typically the latter would happen if the cost of running the business – at least £300,000 a month for player wages in The Magpies case – are higher than the revenues which could be raised for creditors. Should it come to that day then Trembling will be hoping that player wages of £1.2m before a player can be sold in the transfer window can be realistically offset by a sale of the assets.

The near 150 year history of a club could come to an end if that judgement goes the wrong way, City’s defeat removed from the records, and football will once again face calls for credible regulation of the game, the owners and the finances.

And those calls will be whispers compared to the screams of this week, and no one will hear them.

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