Time for a new deal at City?

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.

The next manager meets his boss

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 legacy of Stuart begins as the Bantams welcome Grimsby Town

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.

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