Taylor hopes to start as low as City go

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.

The fit and proper fit and proper test

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.

Time for Bold Action at Valley Parade

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.

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