The spotlight falls on Lawn as the short search for new manager should have begun

If one were to believe the rumours heard then Lawn has been keen to replace McCall since the start of the season – certainly McCall’s exit can not have come as a surprise to him although reports in the T&A say the two were not speaking – and so one must assume that the joint chairman has a successor in mind. Indeed the same T&A article suggests that Lawn has been pressuring for a management change for some time.

Reading that article – the talk of a rift between manager and chairman, the talk of a suggestion of bringing in a “senior man” – Lawn sounds no different to the OMB supporters he criticised recently. Indeed for strong leadership to be shown in this situation were the exit of the manager has been brewing for so long Lawn needs to have the successor in place on Saturday, and he needs to select wisely.

Distressingly Lawn is talking about appointing an interim manager until the end of the season which calls into question any idea of the joint chairman having a plan for City’s future post-McCall.

There is no reason why – should Lawn think that Stuart McCall should have been challenging for promotion with this squad of players why supporters should accept anything other than a team that can amass (circa) 37 points or more in the next 19 games.

Without putting too fine a point on events Lawn must have thought about a new manager who he believes is an improvement and a continued spell without that man needlessly exposes the club to risk. Lawn talked about the club’s need for stability in the past yet seems to have decided against continuing that policy now.

A manager who offers obvious improvement is needed and the position Mark Lawn has City in forgoes the idea of any risk in this appointment.

The next City manager should not be a repeat failure so people like Peter Jackson – sacked twice in his career – need not apply and should not be considered if they do. What is the point of replacing a manager who you do not think will succeed with one who is proven to fail?

The list of two and three time failures who would love the chance of eighteen months getting paid at City is long. Everyone on it should be ignored.

Likewise hundreds of players who are approaching the late thirties and fancy a player/manager job will be keen to apply and City have had success down this route in the past with Roy McFarland and Trevor Cherry but the risks of appointing a rookie to a role to gain the experience you have just lost by allowing someone who has been doing that job for years to depart is far too great. The unproven, like the proven failures, should not be considered by Mark Lawn.

Lawn needs to look at the pile of CVs that will arrive on his desk and ask the question what is a good football manager? How does one decide that one is better than the other? How can one guarantee that this manager is better than the last?

Certainly that does not come with someone else’s cast off who has never succeeded nor does it come with a new appointment. It comes from finding a manager who has not only had success – Mike Walker had success at Norwich but had no idea how he had achieved it let alone how to recreate it at Everton – but had multiple successes in disparate situations, perhaps situations which are applicable to the one the Bantams offer.

Again Jackson’s name should be struck off. A manager who once got it right as Jackson could point to in his second spell at Huddersfield Town does not offer the risk free promise of improvement but rather the chance that the success he had may not be repeatable.

There is a great example in City’s own history. Paul Jewell was able to create success at City but he is not alone in coming through the ranks at a club and taking them to glory – Walker followed that route Norwich City – but tellingly Jewell was able to do it again at Wigan Athletic unlike Walker who spend eleven months on Merseyside before getting the boot. Similarly Chris Kamara brought success at Bradford City but failed at Stoke City.

A manager is not a proven success if he has only achieved once and similarly CVs that show single achievements should be put in the bin next to the unproven and the proven failures. Lawn will already no this because he will have already gone through this process in consideration of the manager he would replace McCall with.

Jewell is an outstanding candidate for the job and while he still talks in terms of Premier League he said of City after his departure while on a visit to Valley Parade “This is still my club.” Lawn could do must to restore some faith in the idea that he has an idea on how he will improve City should he state on Monday that Jewell is his number one target and that he wants to speak to him about the job.

Jewell aside very few candidates suggest themselves although another is Peter Taylor who has taken Wycombe Wanderers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Gilligham and Hull City to promotions in the past showing his ability to reproduce success. Both would be good appointments but both have done their best work when funded handsomely and both have patches of failure in their careers.

To be honest if the rumours that Lawn has been keen to replace McCall since the start of the season are the case then he should have already have had that conversation with Jewell or Taylor someone of that ilk and calibre and have him ready to take charge for the game with Grimsby at the weekend.

No unproven, no proven failures, no flash in the pan single success managers if Lawn is to convince anyone that he has a plan to improve the club.

A common phrase heard of late is that football is a results business and should that be the case then the smart football chairman looks for a manager with manifest repeated results to reduce the risk to the club.

That is if the idea in the Bradford City boardroom is about trying to make low risk improvements and not just of appeasement and getting one’s own way

If Lawn is even seen standing next to Dean Windass, Peter Jackson, Peter Beagrie, Simon Davey, Brendan Rodgers, Russell Slade, Martin Allen, Mike Newell, Gareth Southgate, Ian McParland or any of the other managers who fall into these three catagories where risk is attached to the appointment then one has to wonder what the net benefit of this process will be other than the history of the club being bent in a way that simply lets the chairman get his own way.

Where is the plan as the search for a new manager starts?

As Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes start to look for a new manager for Bradford City they no doubt have talked a few things over – assuming they do still talk – about what they want from this change they are presiding over at Valley Parade.

Perhaps they think they are about to kick start a revolution. They are not. The search for a new manager after less than 150 games – around three seasons of matches – is the status quo at the club. Since Trevor Cherry’s sacking in January 1987 no manager has been in charge of the club for longer than two and a bit seasons and City have had far more failure than they have success.

As they start looking for a replacement for Stuart McCall it might be worth Mark Lawn reflecting what what he is doing is not looking for new ideas and a new direction for the club but rather staying with the tried and tested methods of failure. Perhaps Julian Rhodes could point that out to him having been an advocate of keeping managers to an extent where two of his – McCall and Todd – are the two longest serving gaffers since Cherry.

Naturally it would be wrong to suggest that changing a manager cannot have success – although anyone who points to the changes at this club that brought us Chris Kamara and Paul Jewell should today be demanding Wayne Jacobs accent to the manager’s job – but given the period since Cherry and how frequently these changes have not brought success one could hardly call it a way to guarantee success.

More often than not in the recent history of the club changing manager has resulted in a worse finish in the league this season than it has last. Curiously the only two times in the last two years that the club’s manager on the first day of the previous season was the manager on the last day of the next the the club did not suffer this decline.

Nevertheless Geoff Twentyman, Tim Ward and Allan Brown are only remembered as the men who proceeded Brian Clough at clubs none of those clubs would think they made the wrong decision in replacing a manager. It works sometimes.

Then again not paying your mortgage and spending the money on lottery tickets might make you a millionaire, but will probably leave you homeless.

The problem with most football clubs – and with Bradford City – is that they crave success but try to cut corners to achieve it. They have no plan worth the paper it is written on.

The last three years at City are a great example of this. The middle season of McCall’s three saw him given a huge chunk of money to spend – against a transfer fee from another club – and a few months in whch to spend it requiring a revolution in the squad. When that failed a second revolution was needed to put back what was previously there and once again – in common with all football clubs in England in the last two decades – have once again found riches and frittered them away for the want of a plan.

Bradford City need better training facilities, we need better scouting, we need a better youth set up and the people who run these things at City need more backing in what they do. These are what a club can plan for and what increases the quality of the club.

One has to wonder what Mark Lawn’s plan for improving the club is? Does he have one? When he sits opposite people at interview is he going to be outlining the ways he is going to be improving Bradford City and looking for a man who can serve those aims or is he going to be looking for that potiential manager to bring the plan with him?

How is next season going to be better than this considering that the pointers of our recent history are that changing managers results in a deterioration in performance?

Where is the plan for improving the club? If it is simply changing the manager then that plan is a tried and tested failure and in backing it Lawn is taking a massive gamble not just with his money, but with our club.

Any new manager who arrives at Valley Parade will want money to spend to change the squad and aside from allowing dead wood like Chris Brandon to leave there is no increased revenue stream coming in so the club will have to borrow – Lawn has made it clear when he gave the club an advance on the Fabian Delph cash and not a gift of money – against the idea of increased revenues in the future.

So the club will end up spending money on players it cannot afford with the need for success which – should it not follow – will put the very future of the club at risk.

If Lawn has a plan to improve the club which is not just changing the manager then now might be the time to share it because failing that he cuts a figure of someone who believes they are innovating and pushing the club forward as he marches relentlessly down the path of failure.

Homeless, or a winning lottery ticket. What do you do with your mortgage payments?

Stuart McCall’s exit from Bradford City confirmed

Bradford City have confirmed the exit of manager Stuart McCall from the club.

He is a man who has put everything into three spells at Bradford City and we have shared the rewards with him. I’m proud to say I cheered him as a young man in the claret and amber of the eighties and that ten years later I cheered him to the Premiership and into Europe. I’m proud to say that I stood behind him in his third spell where as manager things were not going as well as he hoped.

McCall leaves City and has options on his future. Do not be suprised if his coaching skills are requested at Rangers some time soon.

He gave everything, every time and that is all I’ve every asked for from anyone at the club at any level. I can put hand on heart and say that I did not desert him when success did. I wonder what the measure of a fan or a man is if it is not how he responds to bad times as well as good.

Early reports suggest that the Bantams are looking for short term management with a belief that the club is going neither up nor down in Valley Parade in a manner which is scarily reminiscent of the thinking that saw David Wetherall replace Colin Todd only to glide down a division.

Such talk defies logic. If the current City team is not good enough to make a fist of a promotion campaign with 19 games left then why unseat McCall? Not expecting results starting Saturday is a tacit statement that it is the players and not the management that is the problem and in that situation why work towards a change of management?

57 points are available and to justify the pursuit of a management change as is reported to have been common at City then three from every home and one from all away games is expected starting on Saturday against Grimsby Town.

Anything less than a full throated attempt at that puts a question mark over the motivations for the club allow McCall to leave.

The club’s new moves are very significant ones indeed.

Me, I’m waiting for the fourth coming.

Farewell to Stuart

A decade that began with Stuart McCall captaining Bradford City in the Premier League ended with Stuart McCall managing Bradford City in the bottom division of English football. As I watched Stuart McCall walking around the pitch applauding the supporters at the end of the Bury game, and what turned out to be his last game as manager of his beloved Bantams, I reflected on a traumatic decade which could have barely been more disastrous for the club. I say barely, because the one positive to be taken is that there is still a club to support and that has been a huge achievement by any standards.

The departure of Stuart McCall could be viewed as the moment when we begin to look forward and not back to the wreckage, albeit fleetingly glorious wreckage, of our Premier League adventure and its sad aftermath. As Stuart McCall walked slowly around Valley Parade there was the odd shout of anger, but in the main the fans either returned the applause or watched in sad, but affectionate, silence. This was the man who personified an era at Valley Parade, from the fire to the Premier League and beyond. How could we turn on him? It would have been akin to screaming at ourselves in the mirror.

As we begin to emerge from the long shadow of the Premier League, quite how the club evolves lies largely with two factors. One is the continued support of the fans in large numbers. Given the encouraging take up of the season ticket offer that seems assured, at least in the short term. The second, and arguably the crucial factor, is resolving the issue surrounding the ownership of Valley Parade itself. Heaping abuse on our former chairman Gordon Gibb will achieve nothing – other than further cementing the already strained relationship between the Gibb family and the club. In buying Valley Parade Gibb secured the short term future of the club, his pension fund has already profited from the sale and our best, and probably only hope, is that he realises that the existing agreement is damaging the entire viability of the club. The futures of the Gibb family and Bradford City are joined at the hip. The prosperity of both, albeit one is much more vulnerable than the other, will require both compromise and a dash of humility. If an agreement really is being held back by personalities, and I have my doubts, then the individuals concerned should reconsider their stances, or even positions, for the greater good. The sacrifices that have been made over the last decade have been enormous, but if the club stagnates, or worse, then those sacrifices were made in vain. That’s the brutal truth.

Gordon Gibb has to understand that the current agreement will either result in the long slow strangulation of Bradford City, or an unwanted move to Odsal Stadium via a spell of voluntary administration. The status quo is clearly unsustainable. Until the ownership of the ground is resolved, or the lease payments reduced, there seems to be no way this club can escape its current malaise and the future appears to one of constant struggle resulting in the eventual death of the club.

As we wave a fond farewell to Stuart McCall, we move into a new era and one in which the fight for the very existence of Bradford City AFC is about to begin.

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