Issue Taylor’s arrival sparks more questions than answers

As told by Jason Mckeown

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.