From March, 2010
There is a story of a French Revolutionary watching an angry mob run past the saloon he is in and saying “There go my people, I must find out where they are going so I can lead them there.”
Long awaited news has started emerging from Bradford City over the past few days. Strange news and news that is long overdue but no less welcome.
We are told that new training facilities are being planned for the first time in years – the last plan was a custom built facility just off the roundabout at the top of the M606 which bit the dust when the money ran out creating a great illustration of how the club frittered away the golden years of English football. We are not alone, almost every other club has too.
Now we hear that Mark Lawn is looking at bringing in turf experts to find how the Valley Parade pitch can be improved.
These efforts are long overdue – the pitch itself is not as bad in most years as it looks at the moment following the harsh winter and more fool the clubs that react to a harsh winter by adapting the pitch for such circumstances in a world where the words “global warming” feature so often.
These changes are aimed at wooing Peter Taylor to the manager’s seat at Valley Parade. They are what the interim manager considers to be the minimum requirement for a football club that wants to progress and if he is going to commit himself to Bradford City then Taylor wants Bradford City to commit to doing the basics right at least.
Lawn is keen to be heard to be making the right noises although sometimes his approval of the manager’s methods and techniques ring hollow. Hopefully he has realised that in Taylor he has by far the best candidate for the job and that he is trying to do all he can to keep him is a good thing.
One has to wonder though as Lawn tells all about how we need to move to better facilities where this thinking was two years ago when the club had over a half a million pounds to spend? Indeed where was it two and a half years ago when the chairman was chasing the signature of Chilean players?
Even if we assume that Stuart McCall rose on his haunches and demanded with fury that he be given transfer funds why did Lawn – if the benefits of the changes he current outlines are so obvious – tell the manager that the club’s funds would be going on infrastructure improvements and not paying Paul McLaren or signing Willy Topp?
If he went along with the idea of spending money on players then why – when Peter Taylor told him that he wanted training pitches and weight rooms – did he not point him to a map of South America and ask him where to find a great striker who could train at Applely Bridge? Why not tell Taylor that all he needs is to find the players and that the training facilities are up to snuff?
When Mark Lawn started looking for a replacement for Stuart McCall I worried that rather than outline a plan and a vision to a candidate and asking how that candidate would fit into it he would be sat on the other side of a desk asking the man who could be his next manager what the plan is to make the club better. As much as I welcome – at last – the club looking at improving the basic infrastructure needed to get on in the game one cannot help be struck by the idea that whatever the current plan for making a better Bradford City is it has not come from the boardroom.
It is said that the difference between American Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton is that Bush – rightly or wrongly – had certainty in what he did and that Clinton would change his mind on the basis of the last expert he met. That is how Lawn comes over at the moment. He blows in the wind and – with news the the club is to get further investments and without knowledge of if these investments will be capital funds or loans – ready to put gamble on the last expert he talked to being the right one.
Why worry though is one agrees with what is happening at City? Taylor is a near peerless manager at this level and very much the best we have available to us and the improvements to the club’s infrastructure are long overdue. Does it matter that Mark Lawn has been led to these realisations by Peter Taylor rather than outlined them to him?
One might worry that because the plan to improve the club starts with the manager then that plan would leave with him should he exit, also that manager’s have more of a vested interest in promotion rather than the continuity of the club and if Taylor were to not look beyond two years in his planning then few would blame him. To expect a Bradford City manager to enter a third year of management has been unrealistic.
That aside the original of City’s plans does not at all, on one proviso.
That Lawn recognises that it is the manager’s job to run the football club and his to provide resources and get out of the way and let him do it in the long term.
If he can do that without talking to another expert that changes him mind then we might start to improve.
The end to another English football season is approaching, and it promises to be a very exciting period.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are battling fiercely for the Premier League title, the race for the final Champions League is as un-tedious as it’s ever been, the battle to stay in the top flight is thrilling. In the Football League, the fights for automatic promotion, the play offs and to avoid relegation are still largely wide open. With the conclusions of the Champions League and FA Cup and the lottery of the play offs to look forward to, many fantastic stories are waiting to be written ahead of a World Cup summer.
The English football season is set for an exciting conclusion, but few people beyond Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore are still oblivious to its long term problems. Debts continue to rise throughout the leagues, many supporters are waking up and protesting at the way their club is being run.
Manchester United may celebrate a fourth successive league title in a few weeks, but the heavy debts are going to remain a burden long after the problem of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson becomes a headache. As well as a season of great entertainment in the Premier League, it was also the first time a current member, Portsmouth, has fallen into administration. Points deductions are now par for the cause in any Football League campaign and it’s a question of who – rather than if anyone - will follow Southend and Crystal Palace’s woes next season.
The UK recession has so far largely unaffected the football industry, but the signs suggest it could be the next victim. In a period where the top clubs have been able to generate billions of pounds, it seems criminal there is so little to show for it with almost all of it been thrown on players’ wages. Despite so many clubs badly hurt by over-ambition, others continue to believe it’s clever to live the dream.
Away from the excitement elsewhere, Bradford City’s season is understatedly coming to a forgettable conclusion and the focus is already shifting to the next one. Manager Peter Taylor’s contract talks appear to be progressing positively, and it now seems a formality that he will become the permanent Bantams manager. Yet the sticking points to solve are apparently not weekly wages or the size of the transfer budget, but the facilities to prepare.
Joint Chairmen Mark Lawn has revealed the club is in talks about renting new training facilities in order to meet the demands of Taylor, an unusual and unexpected occurrence from a man who it might have been considered wouldn’t be too concerned with the long-term interests of the club. Yet Taylor is prioritising a problem so many others have either not been allowed to address, or not been bothered about.
As I understand the training situation, and please correct me if wrong, City’s players are currently required to drive to Valley Parade for training, where they use the changing rooms to get ready before having to drive to and from Appleby Bridge in their training gear. It seems a somewhat amateurish way for a professional football club to operate, yet this arrangement dates back before even the Premier League years.
Some players from that time, notably Stan Collymore and Lee Sharpe, have used their autobiographies to bemoan these facilities when they were at the club, and it seems incredible City were spending big money bringing such exotic names as Benito Carbone and Dan Petrescu, and expecting them to train in this way. Sharpe claimed the squad of the time labelled our beloved club “the Dog and Duck” for being so poorly-run.
And the subsequent managers have made do too. Perhaps Stuart McCall, a player who got used to these facilities, considered it unimportant towards building the club when he took over, and was too inexperienced to question such matters. Colin Todd took over in 2004 with the club in dire straits, so stood no chance of arguing for better facilities. It’s unknown if the likes of Bryan Robson, Nicky Law and Jim Jefferies found it frustrating, or even cared.
But Taylor does, and so would appear to be happy with resources diverted away from signing players in order to develop a better workplace. With his trial having gone well and with City in a position where they need him more than he needs the club, Taylor is perhaps in the strongest of bargaining positions of any manager in modern times. He can make such demands, and the club is willing to meet them. It’s a long way from the situation McCall found himself in a year ago, where a promotion failure led to his coaching staff having to take a 20% pay cut and the playing budget slashed by a third.
Taylor is in a position to do more in his time as manager than just battle for a promotion; his methodical approach has the potential to leave a lasting legacy off the field, which his successors can also benefit from. It also has the potential to attract later criticism – a couple of early season home defeats next year, and expect message board users to be ridiculing the wasting of money on training facilities that are “making no difference”, which could have been used to sign a couple more players. Few of us will ever see the new training ground, only the fruits of hours of labour during the week on a Saturday afternoon.
Compare Taylor’s potential promotion challenge with McCall’s attempt last season – and if Taylor’s McLaren doesn’t work out he probably won’t have the spare money to sign a Dean Furman and Nicky Law on loan instead. It’s a long term approach, not putting all the eggs into a playing budget basket; long-term is usually only tolerated by City fans if the progress is visible on the field.
Put it another way – Taylor has not made next season promotion or bust, but expectations elsewhere may not quite fall the same way.
And as Lawn excitedly talks about the new training facilities, he has also revealed he and the Rhodes family will be investing more money into the club for next season. It’s been a difficult period for Lawn, with a huge amount of criticism aimed at him in the light of how McCall’s exit was managed, but he has shown broad shoulders to largely accept it without going to war. City remain fortunate to have Lawn and the Rhodeses willing to fund the club, but the question of the terms of this additional investment is worth pondering.
Most investors expect a return, particularly in football. Is this new investment adding to the loans which the two parties have already provided to the club, or is it money that they don’t expect to recuperate? They certainly have every right to get it back, but if so when? Would it be due back in a year or two? Or is it just added to the tab to be returned at a later point?
For the reality of these loans is they are debts City will one day repay, and though it’s not on the same scale as almost every Premier League club at the moment, another round of strong criticism towards either Rhodes or Lawn could push patience to the limit and cause those debts to be more hurriedly demanded back. City have plenty of other bills to pay, which appears to discourage potential other investors. So the Bantams need Lawn and Rhodes, but they also need to be self-sufficient in their development.
The 2008-09 promotion bid was a gamble that failed, and City had to cut their cloth accordingly this season which has led to steps been taken backwards on the pitch and the challenge of getting out of this division seemingly more difficult than ever. Increased investment next season can also be considered a gamble, and it’s to be hoped lessons are learned so it doesn’t cause subsequent difficulties if it fails.
Away from the excitement of an English football season coming to a conclusion, City are quietly drawing up plans towards being involved in a nerve-wracking end to the next one. Taylor is charged with getting it right on the field, the Chairmen are providing him the tools off it. It all looks sensible, so long as it’s not based on the kind of madness that has taken hold elsewhere.
Bradford City 3 Dagenham & Redbridge 3 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
Peter Taylor’s contract talks hinge on having the resources to make Bradford City a more organised, methodical and professional outfit both on and off the field – but until the future is truly resolved, old habits die hard.
Valley Parade has been home to farce and blunder for several years, and the comedy of errors which saw the Bantams blow 2-0 and 3-2 leads this afternoon prompted the sort of groans and boos from the crowd that are as seemingly traditional as a Billy Pearce pantomime up the road.
With the fourth official about to indicate four minutes of injury time and City’s defence having just snuffed out a dangerous Dagenham attack, Adam Bolder and Robbie Threlfall casually knocked the ball back and forth by the edge of their own penalty area in almost comical fashion. Before supporters’ could scream “it’s behind you”, Bolder was predictability robbed of possession by the Dagger’s sub John Nurse, and the resulting cross spectacularly headed by Luke Oliver into his own net.
Two points criminally dropped, and that after City had already allowed a seemingly comfortable two-goal cushion to be wiped out – Oliver’s partner Steve Williams also netting an own goal to make it 2-2. Taylor has sufficiently impressed enough during his short trial for results to now almost become irrelevant in the longer contract negotiations, but the late relinquishing of control of the game offered another wearisome reminder of the amount of assembly his squad requires.
All of which diverted the focus from what should have been an afternoon about James Hanson. City’s top scorer scored twice in one game for the first time to take his season’s tally to 14 goals. After a mid-season dip, the 22-year-old has netted five in eight games. Should he manage another four in the final eight matches, he’ll have scored more goals in a season than any City player since Dean Windass in the 2005-06 season. A remarkable achievement for a player Stuart McCall signed from non-league Guiseley as a back-up striker last summer.
Hanson got the afternoon rolling with a close range header from Threlfall’s corner in the second minute to put City into a lead they looked comfortable holding on to for much of the afternoon. Dagenham, who arrived with realistic play off aspirations, looked surprisingly lacklustre and barely threatened but for the long throws and dribbling skills of Danny Green. It was a typical route one approach from the London outfit, which with Hanson’s defensive support on set pieces was largely neutralised.
The first half chances almost completely fell City’s way. Omar Daley, back on form after a tough Tuesday evening against Notts County, was a menace on the right and from one counter attack forced a great save from Tony Roberts. Soon after the Jamaican was leading defenders a merry dance in the penalty area, but took too long to shoot and saw his effort blocked. Gareth Evans, continuing up front, had two efforts at goal which caused Roberts concern. Soon after half time Hanson struck the post with a towering header from Daley’s cross and the on-form Luke O’Brien’s long range effort was unconvincingly half-blocked by Roberts and almost sneaked in.
But the momentum was shifting and the disruption caused by changes to City’s midfield helped Dagenham to gain control. First Daley, trying to bring the ball forwards on the counter attack, pulled up in obvious pain and a suspected hamstring injury that saw him hobble off to the changing room and out of service for at least a fortnight. Then the all-action running of Michael Flynn, another player back on form after an early-year dip, was surprisingly withdrawn for the more static Steve O’Leary.
At first this didn’t matter, as seconds after O’Leary came on City were celebrating when Hanson again got on the end of a Threlfall dead-ball and expertly planted a header into the bottom corner. But the obvious sighs of relief caused from seemingly putting the game out of sight proved costly when Nurse fired home from an angle following good work from an otherwise subdued Paul Benson just two minutes later.
Dagenham suddenly exploded into life.
Josh Scott wasted a glorious chance to level, but soon after Nurse cleverly peeled away from Williams from a free kick, which gave him space to head the ball into the net via the City defender’s thigh. Dagenham were swarming all over City, who couldn’t seem to keep hold of possession and regain control of the midfield, with O’Leary looking rusty and Bolder afforded little time. Aside from a big penalty appeal when substitute Ryan Kendall – who replaced Daley – hit a low cross towards Hanson that seemed to hit the hand of a grounded visiting defender, the pressure was mainly on Glennon’s goal.
But then Kendall, who’d struggled to time his runs and get close enough to Hanson to read his flick ons, suddenly got both right and was played in by his partner to lob the ball beautifully over Roberts, putting City back in front and triggering wild celebrations that, at the front of the Kop, spilled onto the pitch. When Dagenham had made it 2-2, the celebrations at the other end by eccentric old-timer Roberts caused outrage. Roberts pulled up his shorts comically and began pretending to fire a bow and arrow. While no one enjoys seeing opposition players celebrate, the humour failure of those with a close-up view in the Kop was disappointing. Still at least we had our panto villain.
Meanwhile the referee was booking Kendall for taking his shirt off and the young striker, borrowed from Hull, was finally impressing by sitting on the shoulder of the last man and making darting runs, just as the mutterings of “he’s not up to this level” were starting to become audible. And City should have seen the game out, and looked set to see the game out, before the madness of City’s comedy duo gifted the equaliser and prompted more Roberts’ celebrations. Dagenham might even have won it 4-3, but Benson headed a presentable opportunity over.
This unpredictable ending was untypical of Taylor’s reign so far, and as his influence continues to grow it is unlikely to be witnessed too often. Composure gave way to panic, confidence replaced by fluster. City’s previously compact and on-form midfield meant the long balls towards a fragile backline were less threatening and at times Dagenham couldn’t get near Bolder and Flynn. But the changes saw City lose their authority leaving lessons to learn and conundrums to solve.
Oliver and Williams had impressed as a centre half pairing on Tuesday, but both suffer from lapses in concentration and after the game Taylor revealed he’s ordered them to improve their communication. Matt Clarke was again left out of the 18-man squad while Zesh Rehman began to redeem himself with an improved performance at right back. All season long the question of what is City’s best back four has gone unanswered. Consistency in all but the injured Simon Ramsden is lacking.
Daley’s absence should now open the door for Scott Neilson – who’s one-month loan at Cambridge United is due to expire – to be tried out by Taylor during the next few weeks. Lee Bullock’s calming presence was missed during the latter stages, and if Taylor can sign up Bolder, Bullock and Flynn for next season the Bantams should be very strong in the middle of the park. Luke O’Brien’s recent form is so good it now poses the question over whether he could be considered first choice left winger for a full campaign, should Threlfall’s loan move be made permanent.
Hanson may be on a two-year contract, but an improved deal might be worth proposing to him with the likelihood of higher league interest this summer. A deciding factor of a successful promotion campaign next season may be finding a strike partner who can score as regularly. Despite the excellent goal, Kendall needs to show more to demonstrate his worthiness of a permanent offer. Evans may be lacking goals, but offers the versatility and work rate Taylor will continue to rely on.
With the contract negotiations expected to be concluded positively within three weeks, Taylor’s blueprint can be properly implemented and the future of players permanent and temporary can start to be resolved. That the plans are based around greater organisation and more conservative tactics might suggest an end to unpredictability and excitement that days like these exemplify.
But after years of failure – for City, the meanings of ‘unpredictability’ and ‘excitement’ could be redefined as actually succeeding.
I couldn’t help noticing that the last couple of match day programmes, produced for the games against Aldershot and Notts County, have each had a new development. The regular feature ‘From the Boardroom’, for so long written alternately by the joint chairmen, has in those two programmes been written by Alan Biggin and Steve Longbottom. While each is a director of the club and can therefore quite properly speak from the boardroom, I just found it interesting that the fans have not heard from Julian Rhodes since the Grimsby game back on 13th February.
Mark Lawn’s last contribution was for the Darlington game and included the news that, as a result of abuse at Accrington, he ‘explained (to Julian Rhodes) that I felt like taking my money – including my loan – out of the football club.’ That comment attracted a certain level of response from some fans, most of whom, thankfully, voiced their abhorrence of the abuse, while some wondered about the wisdom of Mr Lawn’s reaction or at least his revelation of that reaction.
Of course, earlier in the season Roger Owen wrote a piece in the programme, which was said to have caused something of an upset for Stuart McCall, since it may have contained implied criticism of the team or individual players or tactics. Mr Owen is still on the board. Stuart McCall is no longer manager. Any number of conclusions could be drawn from those two facts.
But then today I read the comments of another chairman and joint owner. No, not a new investor at Bradford City, but a recent investor at West Ham United, David Sullivan. Let me quote a few phrases from a letter to the West Ham fans that Mr Sullivan has posted on the club website. I hope I do not quote him out of context. The italics are mine.
‘I had no sleep last night, having watched the shambolic performance by the team against Wolves.’
‘I was as angry and upset as every supporter in the stadium at the disorganised way we played.’
‘This was the culmination of five defeats in a row, including an appalling performance against Bolton.’
‘Individually we have some very good players, but this is not being converted into a good team performance. Nobody at the club should delude themselves that we are a good team.’
‘It’s hard being an owner. I’m finding it’s harder being an owner who is a supporter.’
And then, after going through an enviable list of West Ham stars from 1966 onwards, Mr Sullivan looks forward to the next home game and says ‘Now we need new heroes.’ He’s going the right way about finding them.
BfB has spoken many times about the implausibility of encouraging players to perform better by booing them, especially when the booing started as soon as one player stepped on to the pitch as a substitute, the manager having presumably decided that such a move would improve the chances of winning the game. If such criticism from fans has its effect on players – and Mr Lawn seems to believe it does, if his previous references to message board comments are accurately reported – how much greater must be the effect on players and coaches alike of the chairman’s public criticism, no matter how justified or accurate those comments may be?
Julian Rhodes is well known for keeping out of the limelight. Mark Lawn would never properly be described as a shrinking violet. Steve Longbottom chose to use his notes to praise the award won by Zesh Rehman, to emphasise the hard work put in by fellow directors and to remind us all that Stuart McCall leaves as he came – a legend.
It is a great privilege being given the opportunity every other game to have your words read by the club’s fans, whether it be in the printed programme or on the website. But, like all other privileges, it is accompanied by a responsibility. It is not enough to say that the privilege was earned or even paid for. It remains a privilege and it remains a responsibility.
As in many businesses, there are things that need to be said privately. Not all of them need repeating in public. Sometimes the public pronouncements may have to be more upbeat than the private statements. A moment’s reflection can be worth a lifetime’s regret.
I thought all Yorkshiremen knew that the best policy, as far as can be allowed, is to see all, hear all and say nowt. Or, if you prefer Mark Twain – for he is the favourite source of this quotation – ‘It is better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.’
Time to close my mouth.
Bradford City play Dagenham & Redbridge At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
Grey haired man outlines the options of the future in a time of growing austerity not knowing if he is going to have a job in a couple of months Peter Taylor did not come out of his contract negotiations holding a red box aloft but his discussions with Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes are all about cuts and spending.
The two sides have the same aim – promotion – and Taylor’s discussions on the role centre around his judgement on if that aim can be achieved with the resources the club can make available to him.
The wages given to Chris Brandon, Michael Boulding and Peter Thorne – Brandon never have taken a pay cut from the £1,500 a week he signed for City on – are freed up giving Taylor wiggle room but he would struggle to do as Tuesday night’s opponant’s Notts County did and assemble an expensive squad that trundles on to promotion.
The fact that Taylor’s City players went toe-to-toe with the likes of Kasper Schmeichel and Luke Rodgers and got a creditable draw shows the belief that the new manager is building in his team. Belief is everything in football at this level and while Rodger’s looked like – perhaps – the best player to appear at VP this season has as much to do with his confidence as it does his abilities on the ball.
Taylor’s job is to try build similar confidence into the likes of Gareth Evans and – when he returns – Scott Neilson it is a tough job. County seemed to improve the performances of their squad using the tried and tested Clough/Francis (see below) method of telling the players who did not cost a lot that they are as good as those who did by virtue of being in the same team as players who are used to operating at a higher level.
Taylor – looking at the scouting network, the current squad, the money available in the summer – has to decide if he can do something similar without the ability to bring in the headline grabbing players. If anyone can, he can, but it is an ask.
John Still – manager of Dagenham and Redbridge – is not so much used to making silk purses from sows ears but the sows ears he stitched are very effective with the Daggers hanging just outside the play-offs having just beaten Macclesfield 3-1. Still’s teams are known for the willingness to play the ball long and Saturday should illustrate the difference between Taylor’s directness and the long ball game.
Matt Glennon plays for a contract and did well on Tuesday. Simon Ramsden hopes to be at right back although Jonathan Bateson looks to fill in with Zesh Rehman not impressing during the week. Luke Oliver and Steve Williams have both impressed and should retain their places with Robbie Threlfall at left back behind Luke O’Brien on the left side of midfield.
O’Brien’s future at City is on an edge at the moment. Does he revert to left back next season or keep in his midfield role? Certainly his time out of the backline seems to have allowed him to rebuild his confidence and built a stronger flank – the oddity of League Two is that good left footed attacking players tend to get snapped up to move to a higher division sharply so one ends up with right hand side’s being attacking and lefts being defensive.
Lee Bullock is still suspended leaving Adam Bolder and Michael Flynn in the middle. Omar Daley found it hard to put a foot right on Tuesday night but his effort and heart was in the right place and to build his confidence he needs to be played through bad games.
Mark McCammon has gone home so James Hanson will start and Ryan Kendall may get a start over Gareth Evans if only to allow the manager to have a look at him as he assesses if he, Bolder, Glennon and others are part of his budget for next season.
Perhaps we had hoped that with the exit of Stuart McCall City might get a change in fortunes from Referees but the Gareth Evans shirt tug penalty decision – or lack of one – at Hereford and some strangely one sided bookings in the game with Notts County put pay to those thoughts and we were left talking about the quality of officials once more and returned to the old chestnut of the game: Did the ref make a mistake or is something more sinister going on?
Meanwhile at the top level of club football John Terry stopped only an inch short of saying that European Referees conspired against the Chelsea team he captains after another European exit.
And so The Barry Articles continue with the question:
“Do City – or does any club – really get victimised, picked on or given the rough end of the stick by the officials?”
Alan Carling Chair of the Bradford City Supporters Trust
I do not know whether City or any other club has suffered more than its fair share of appalling decisions by match officials, but I can imagine how to find out. Most of the worst errors can now be spotted by TV replays, so we should be able to work out whether these mistakes average out over the season or not. This will identify biased officials, if there are any. And this also means that we should be able to work out what the league table should look like without the mistakes.
FIFA says that it does not want football matches at different levels to be subject to different types of refereeing, so football has lagged behind other sports in the use of instant replays, even though the stakes are much higher. I cannot see the argument for this. It is no use saying that refereeing mistakes are just part of the game that we have to accept. They are not part of the game, but they are part of the bad refereeing of the game. We should use all the technology we can to rule out these bad decisions. Then we can talk about the game, not the referees.
When Morecambe visit Valley Parade later this season, I for one will be booing Shrimpers goalkeeper Barry Roche.
It was last September, when City played out a goalless draw at Christie Park, where Roche feigned injury after a fair challenge for the ball from Gareth Evans – resulting in referee Stuart Attwell ridiculously issuing a red card for the Bantams’ number nine. Then-manager Stuart McCall complained angrily after the game, but City decided not to appeal the decision.
It seemed a mistake not to at the time and, in the subsequent weeks where a high number of poor refereeing decisions went against City, it suggested a pre-judgement was formed by officials which has victimised the club. It’s unlikely any ref would enjoy hearing of another receiving criticism from a manager; and, though City didn’t appeal against Attwell’s decision because of having no faith in the review system, to others it might looked as though McCall was slamming an official to cover his own team’s failures, as he hadn’t backed up his words with actions.
Certainly the manner in which referees then officiated Bantams’ games gave credence to pre-conceptions been formed well before kick off. The wrongly-awarded free kick that allowed Northampton to snatch a point three days after, the Crewe handball in the area where a free kick outside the box was awarded, Lee Bullock’s sending off against Hereford, a disallowed late goal against Accrington, Lee Probert’s entire performance against Rotherham. And that was all before three controversial sendings off in three games over Christmas and Bury’s Stephen Dawson diving for a penalty in the New Year. City have only been awarded two spot kicks all season.
And with each bad decision, further complaining from McCall may have only increased the next referee’s resolve. Perhaps McCall contributed to this by complaining so often; but as his job became increasing under pressure and poor refereeing decisions added to it, he surely had the right to defend his team.
Whatever, it’s surely more than a coincidence that loudly complaining about a referee was followed by even more poor decisions in the next game. But for Roche getting away with that play-acting, the officiating all season could have been very different. Please join me in welcoming him warmly on Tuesday 13 April.
Derm Tanner BBC Radio Leeds Commentator/Presenter
I would hate to think that officials had it in for Bradford City and to be honest I don’t believe that to be the case. Even if a certain referee took it upon himself to be harsher against City than another club, he could not hope to escape the ‘all seeing’ assessor in the stand.
Referees are closely watched and every decision is graded. Following the match there is a conversation between assessor and referee and afterwards a report is filed. You would like to think that any trends would be spotted.
That said, Terry Yorath told me a story some time ago about refereeing when City were in the Premiership. Yorath and complained to this individual official (he didn’t tell me his name) about his performance the last time he had visited VP. During the game Bradford did seem to get the majority of the decisions, some a little questionable, so Terry told me. After the match the referee went up to Terry and said to him….”Was that better?”
I was horrified at that story and hoped that it had been tweaked over the months of telling, but if true then what are we to make of it all?
There’s no doubt some referees like to be the centre of attention and arrogance is perhaps necessary when dealing with 22 pumped up footballers and 2 managers week in week out. But systematic bias against certain clubs? I really hope not.
Chris Brandon has fired the parting shot that everyone was expecting after his exit from Valley Parade that was – ultimately – the only thing that City’s former manager Stuart McCall and chairman Mark Lawn agreed on – that Brandon was a crashing disappointment.
Signed in a fanfare and talking about playing for his home club Chris Brandon seemed like a great signing although supporters of Huddersfield Town sounded a note of caution saying that the player who served them against City on numerous occasions was a football nearly man – nearly beating the defender, nearly bending a shot into the far corner, nearly looking great.
Certainly once Brandon had started playing one could empathise with such a view. Brandon was unlucky during his time at the club with injury – he spent much of his first season in the treatment room following an injury pre-season – but once he did start playing then he very much fitted that description given by the supporters to the West. Brandon was a great player on paper, a great player when drawing up team sheets and thinking about football but the practice of having him on the field disappointed. His skills never did result in the defence splitting pass, the chance created, and often he would be left marooned in claret on the left wing.
It was this left wing position which seems to have irked Brandon during his time at the club. Said Brandon
I don’t think the club knew where my best position was and didn’t know my best attributes. I was on the left, on the right, in a three or playing off the front man. I can play all those positions and was happy to do so but it’s not easy when you’re being switched around all the time.
One can only imagine that Brandon would like to play those positions but his ability to be useful in any of them is questionable. As a flank player he neither plays an an orthodox wide man beating players nor does he contribute massively defensively drifting inside far too often to little effect. Likewise when deployed in a central midfield role Brandon’s inability to cope with the physical demands of the role exposed City’s midfield badly.
Of course he can play off a front man – a position that requires next to nothing in terms of defensive discipline – but again his effectiveness there was questionable. If you struggle to recall the moment Brandon latched onto the nod down or made the incisive run from deep to pop up in the box it is because it never occurred. Brandon’s upset seems to come from the idea that he is a bit of a passenger in a team and that Stuart McCall – and later Peter Taylor – should have put together a side that carried him.
Michael Flynn plays off the front man with zeal and commitment, Luke O’Brien’s play at left back has been superb, Omar Daley on the right is obviously and constantly better than Brandon’s while the central two of Adam Bolder and Lee Bullock. One would love to know which of these hard working professionals Brandon believed he should have strolled into the team past.
Brandon’s two years at Bradford City were characterised by this attitude in which the player seemed to have an inflated idea of his own position in the club. A player who having failed to show a consistent usefulness in the positions he was played in and then blamed the club – both managers he played under – for not creating a position for him.
As Peter Taylor starts to build a team he would look to do so with players who are made of sterner stuff than the outgoing midfielder. Players who will take responsibility for the side rather than wish for it to carry them.
Brandon will crop up again. Some other side will sign him and he will turn a boot impressively on TV, making a great looking pass or a fine finish and for a moment, dear reader, you will miss him but do not be fooled.
A player who got to play for the club he supported – sadly – seemed to want that club to support him. McCall, Lawn and Taylor all took objection to that and – after his parting shot – so do I.
Bradford City 0 Notts County 0 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
As the interesting encounter that ended goalless the Notts County fans sung that they were going up and while they are almost certainly correct the health that their club find themselves in at the end that process is debatable.
The debate centres not around the usefulness of the County side – without the risible Lee Hughes in the side the Magpies are an easier team to judge objectively and they have few flaws – but rather the effects of assembling that side.
£20,000 a week gets – in Kasper Schmeichel – a keeper who was capable of pulling of two super saves with the Mancdanian pushing away a Michael Flynn power at goal in the first half and diving headlong to push away Gareth Evans’s inventive attempt from range and angle but Matt Glennon also enjoyed a clean sheet, also made a decent save or two but set back his club a twentieth of the price.
Indeed as City look at next season and how to start looking at a team that can compete under Peter Taylor who most would agree can be trusted to do that then it is worth noting that the cost of Notts County’s keeper for a season is more than the Bantams pay for Valley Parade while Meadow Lane costs the same for a season as the custodian does a week.
County’s side brims with confidence after a mid-season wobble and this is typified in Luke Rodgers – playing today after an eleventh hour reprieve of his red card on Saturday – who played as well as anyone who has visited Valley Parade this season and it is credit to Luke Oliver and Steve Williams who were partnered in the defence for a first time that the lively striker was kept down to a single headed chance which flashed wide.
Chances were thin on the ground, mud was thick and it got the better of Omar Daley who struggled manfully trying the things he tries but having little effect. County’s passing game through midfield never seemed to get going and again that was credit to some excellent work by the Bantams with Adam Bolder and Flynn creating a midfield pairing that showed no ill effect for the loss of suspended Lee Bullock. Perhaps there is a message for Taylor and the Bantams next season that in having these three quality midfielder – and as Bolder settles it becomes clear he offers a similar (and high) quality as Bullock and Flynn – allows the team to play the same dug in performance even when one of the core players is out.
Can City afford to pay three players for two positions? Perhaps not. Certainly County have done that this season and try trundle on to promotion and the uncertain future because of such extravagance.
Taylor’s resource management – should he accept the club’s offer of a contract – needs to be more parsimonious. The eye he has cast over the City squad and assembled loanees seems to have suggested that what was at City on his arrival needs augmentation and not overhaul. Loanees Mark McCammon and Gavin Grant would seem to have failed to impress while Oliver, Bolder and Robbie Threlfall have shown well. Ryan Kendal made but a cameo but certainly the likes of James Hanson, Luke O’Brien, Gareth Evans have all risen to the challenge that Taylor’s new faces suggested.
How to turn results like this – and it was a good result and could have been better with the Bantams always looking within a chance of taking a win – into a promotion campaign is a matter of much discussion, not least of which will be between Taylor, Rhodes and Lawn as the three month manager winds down one season are – perhaps – prepares for another.
The Telegraph & Argus is this morning reporting that a funding crisis has all but ended Bradford Council’s Odsal Sporting Village Plans. The proposed £75 million development was to include facilities for all types of sports, plus a new stadium for the Bradford Bulls and, possibly, Bradford City to play in. A hotel was also mooted.
But the Learning and Skills Council has frozen funding to refurbish Bradford College’s campus, so one of the sporting village’s main funders now has their own unexpected extra costs to meet and cannot support Bradford Council. The gap in funding has left the Council investigating scaled down Osdal revamp plans, with an urgency needed given Bradford Bulls may lose their Super League licence if their stadium stays in its current state for much longer.
It might be premature to write off Odsal as an option for the Bantams – the problems of high rent payments to meet at Valley Parade which led City to even consider moving have not gone away, and a solution of sorts needs to be found. The eventual revamped Odsal project may centre on just producing a new stadium for the Bulls that City could also use; although it seems wrong to move away from supporting other sports who more urgently need top facilities and just build a new rugby ground, when the Bulls could easily move into Valley Parade instead.
What it does show is that City cannot realistically wait around for a realistic vision of Odsal to be agreed and built – history of failed redevelopment plans and the recent obvious vanity of Odsal Sporting Village offer no confidence they will get it right this time. The Council has just short of £20m committed to the village, perhaps some of this money could now be used to purchase Valley Parade for City and the Bulls and use the rest of the budget making Odsal a home for other sports? Perhaps a deal can be struck so City and the Bulls pay rent to the Council, which directly goes to funding the other sporting projects?
With a General Election approaching, it will be interesting to see what political statements are made about the situation over the coming weeks. Bradford has two well-supported and worthwhile professional sporting clubs which help to raise the city’s profile – it’s time to take a firm grasp of reality and work out a solution that best meets everyone’s interests.
Bradford City play Notts County At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
Bradford City lose a game under Peter Taylor – and the general outlook is that the season just needs to be seen out, with the focus quickly moved onto getting it right for the next one. But then Bradford City win a game under Peter Taylor, and the urge to check the League Two table and remaining fixtures becomes strong enough to leave you wondering whether the club could still make the play offs. Then Bradford City lose a game, then win again, then lose again. A constant swapping of hope and realism that you know will probably result in disappointment but you can’t help but wistfully daydream might still end in glorious celebrations.
The Bantams go into this evening’s home game with Notts County back in downbeat mood; and though Saturday’s defeat at Hereford isn’t the final nail in the promotion bid coffin, there aren’t too many left until its firmly closed. Tonight is City’s game in hand and a victory would push them up to 15th and close the gap to the play offs to nine, with nine games to play – back to looking up those remaining fixtures?
Realistically the ghost has been given up by all but some supporters, but the reluctance to fully let go stems from the alternative monotonous reality of a meaningless end to the season.
We have all summer to feel bored and do other things with our weekends, wishing we could go to Valley Parade. And while City going into the final few weeks with nothing to play is a familiar reality, there’s a growing feeling at this time of year that we have make the most of what’s left of the season. We only get to go to Valley Parade six more times between now and early May. We only get to go to Valley Parade six more times between now and the middle of July.
Which means until it’s no longer mathematically – or at least tediously – possible, our time is wasted contemplating the form guide of League Two’s play off contenders and filling in the excellent BBC predictor as optimistically as possible. If City can win tonight and on Saturday and if Bury can continue to implode and if Northampton collapse and if everyone stops winning and if, if, if.
Stupid. Pointless. But what else is there?
For Taylor at least, making sure the last few games are meaningful is his most realistic goal. Joint-Chairman Mark Lawn has begun initial talks over a longer contract, and the results and performances over the eight games Taylor has been in charge of have provided plenty of reasons to support extending the relationship. After tonight he will be half way through his initial 18-game deal, but with the new contract far from sealed, he can’t allow his players to drop standards in the run-up to the summer break.
Saturday’s defeat has dampened the mood and even lead to a small number of City fans questioning whether another deal should be offered to the interim manager. Every City fan who’s had a go at the BBC predictor over the last few weeks would have calculated a Bantams win from the trip to Hereford. And though the recent defeats at Aldershot and Port Vale could be excused given their higher league positions, losing to a side on a terrible run of form and near the relegation zone is rightly criticised. Just think of Stuart McCall still in charge and imagine the reaction.
A win might have set up a realistic late promotion push, but instead the changing of a winning side – perhaps motivated by Taylor’s desire to evaluate his players and with a busy week of games in mind – backfired dismally. The likelihood that Hereford’s sinking position meant their players wanted it more must not become regular, with seven of City’s last 10 games against opposition going for promotion or battling to avoid relegation. Taylor has to instill greater desire and work rate; he only has six more games at Valley Parade on his initial deal, he may yet only have six more games at Valley Parade as City manager.
Huge game for visitors Notts County
Notts County certainty rock up to Valley Parade with the kind of butterflies-in-the-stomach and sweating-over-the-league-table outlook absent from City’s run-in. So much has been written about County’s eventful season – on this site and elsewhere – but whatever the rights and mostly wrongs of their approach, the world’s oldest professional football league club have been left with a very capable squad which may end the season lifting the League Two title.
The size of the task for City tonight is huge. County are unbeaten in the league since Tuesday 9 February – eight games ago. Since the JPT penalty shootout defeat at Valley Parade in early October, they have lost only four of the 29 matches they’ve played. If they win their two games in hand they will be within three points of Rochdale, with the Spotland club yet to travel to Meadow Lane. They’ve dominated the headlines, for largely the wrong reasons, all season – but there’s an increasingly strong chance they will attract some positive exposure too, for a short while at least.
For while the outcome of entrusting mysterious owners and their lofty ambitions of Premier League football has so far been self-inflicted damage – the new owners have inherited an initial £6m worth of debts from the publicity-shy Munto Finance and narrowly avoided going into administration last month – if and when those debts do catch up with the club, there will be others angrily demanding justice. Under Munto County signed up a playing squad they couldn’t afford, under new owners County are using a playing squad they can’t afford.
If Notts gain automatic promotion and then fall into administration, how will the club who finishes fourth feel? County are effectively cheating their way to a place in League One and no one in an authoritative position seems to care.
Yet with all this turmoil and high turnover of managers, that County have kept it together on the field is somewhat remarkable. Tonight they are robbed of the services of their top and third highest scorers – lookalikes Lee Hughes and Luke Rodgers – due to suspension. This leaves County relying on strikers Karl Hawley (four goals), Delroy Facey (one goal) and Ade Akinbiyi (no goals) to lead the line, though a potent midfield which includes goalscoring midfielders Ben Davies (ten goals) and Craig Westcarr (nine goals) carry a clear threat.
Since Steve Cotterill took over as manager, County have five clean sheets from six games and former Bantam captain Graeme Lee has become a key figure of a defence backed up by the reputed £15k-per-week keeper Kasper Schmeichel – rumoured to be entitled to a £200k bonus if Notts are promoted. Kasper is said to have impressed onlookers this season, though his bizarre appeals for a foul when missing a cross that allowed the tiny Chris Brandon to head home an equaliser, smashing up of a corner flag and then punching of a hole in the dressing room wall, during the City-County JPT tie, means few connected with City hold him in such high regard. Expect boos for him tonight.
Bully’s suspension and mis-firing loanees offer Taylor food for thought
Hoping to score past Schmeichel will probably be a strike partnership of James Hanson and Mark McCammon/Ryan Kendall, with midfielder Lee Bullock’s two-game suspension forcing Taylor to contemplate moving Michael Flynn back to the middle of the park alongside Adam Bolder. Another option is the under-used Steve O’Leary or even returning skipper Simon Ramsden in the holding role and Jonathan Bateson continuing at right back.
Robbie Threfall plays at left back after his loan deal was extended, while a weak performance from Luke Oliver at Hereford leaves Taylor with a familiar problem of who to play in the centre of defence. Matt Clarke is quietly winning appreciation from fans. Zesh Rehman is nearing full fitness and might be given another go alongside him, or Steve Williams – star of a two-page article in this month’s Four Four Two magazine – may be recalled.
Out wide Omar Daley was likely left out of the starting line up at Hereford in order to be fresh to start this game in front of the usual mixture of Daley fans and haters arguing it over in the stands. For some reason Daley’s match-winning contribution against Aldershot has attracted a hostile reaction from those who point to his lack of consistency; but, if Taylor can coach higher standards into the Jamaican, City have a superb player who can make a difference. It was sad to see Luke O’Brien dropped at the weekend and he will battle with Gavin Grant and City’s own Dirk Kuyt, Gareth Evans, for the other wide berth. Matt Glennon keeps goal.
Taylor is making City more organised and disciplined, but his reign has so far produced unpredictable results. Tonight should be a great atmosphere as County bring a good following up the M1 in confident and vociferous mood. Tonight City play a team desperate for the three points and uber-confident of getting them. Tonight City’s players have limited motivations and ambitions, and probably could shrug off a defeat as expected.
But tonight should be about those players showing character and demonstrating a willingness to take up the fight of next season leading City towards the type of promotion push County are mounting. Tonight should be about giving everything, because it’s not acceptable to believe there is nothing to play for. And tonight should be about City fans responding to the away atmosphere by outsinging them and supporting their players in winning every tackle and completing every pass.
After all, we’ll be wishing we could do so come the summer.
The first act of a football manager in the early days of the game was not to pick a team or make a transfer. It was to be sacked.
Not only was the first act of what we would recognise to be the emerging figure of “football manager” to be sacked it was to be sacked to carrying the can for the failures of a group of directors who acted as the Selection Committee and picked the team.
Before The Major and Herbert Chapman started to define the manager’s role as we know it now the job was split between Club Secretaries, Trainers and these men in the boardroom who made up the selection committees. Selection committees picked the teams and made the transfers leaving players to decide the rudimentary tactics – such as they were – and eventually as the Football League grew and supporters vented anger they vented that anger in the direction of the men who made the decisions.
And so a decision was made and that decision was – in most cases – that either the club secretary or (more often) the trainer should be held responsible, and so he was fired. So was born the football manager not out of a need for new ideas or new direction but rather in order to distract, to shift attention. The sleight of hand of the boardroom and perhaps if on binning that first trainer – the hapless soul who took his squad on jogs and ensured they were banned from having a ball until the weekend to make them “more hungry” for it – had not caused eyes to move away from the problems that those club failed to conquer then perhaps the culture of the game would have been different.
Alas it did not and in the hundred odd years since the manager has assumed more control of footballing matters at a club and emerged as the figure we recognise today but still he is haunted by that first sacking. Hunched on the touchline, shouting until he is horse, the manager knows that the heart of his job is not the teams he picks or the transfers he makes but rather it is the responsibility he carries.
So Peter Taylor sits at his desk – well – at Stuart McCall or Colin Todd or Paul Jewell’s desk probably and in front of him he has a contract to become the manager of Bradford City on a full-time basis which Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes are offering.
Taylor is in contract talks with the two employers over a deal which is rumoured to take him to the summer of 2012. Another two year deal and one which would take the manager to his 59th year. Considering that Taylor is without a doubt the best candidate the club could attract then why that deal would not be longer one can only speculate on. No mistake should be made about Taylor’s suitability for the role. He is achieved success repeatedly using pattens which he is able to replicate. The attractiveness of his football – and it is not the most pretty – counts for him in the end as much as it has counted for his predecessors which is to say not one bit. By virtue of what directly proceeded him Taylor is on a remit not to be liked and try play football but to get promoted.
He might look over that desk he sits at and notice the odd indentation – a fist slammed down in anger – or a nick out of the wood which could be the result of a telephone slammed down. He might look over that desk and wonder.
Mark Lawn talked about opening contract negotiations with Taylor saying
Talks have started about player budgets, not about his wages. He’s coming back to us with what he thinks would be a realistic figure to help us get promotion.
Rumour has it that Taylor has a list of wants and needs before he takes control of the club for keeps. Some say he wants the pitch to be re-laid while others that he wants better training facilities. Some talk about how much Taylor would want to spend on players and others that the manager is concerned over the long term future of the club that is hobbled by the rent it has to pay on the ground and has a chairman who threatened it with being put into administration.
Certainly Taylor might note other comments Lawn makes about the nature of his teams – the old Selection Committee thinking; That directors know enough about football to talk to the “trainer” about it – and his contacts which he hears are “immense” and “willing to help.”
Perhaps Taylor has a longer list of friends who will play for him for free as Gavin Grant does but when it comes to signing a long term deal maybe the manager does not want to rely on his friend’s help. Contacts are valuable in all walks of life but they should not be used to make up for a failure to provide adequate resources to build a team to match the aims the boardroom lay out.
When Stuart McCall left the questions start and perhaps those are the questions which Taylor asks now as he considers putting ink on paper. What is Mark Lawn’s plan for improving the club, if he he has one?
What is the plan for giving more resources to Taylor? For stopping the haemorrhaging of money on renting Valley Parade? For improving the training facilities so they represent more than a school playing field? For building on the work done which has seen the number of young players coming out of the ranks and into the first team squad?
Taylor will be asking all these questions and perhaps he will be hearing the answers he likes or perhaps he will hear a call from the midst of time and the collective psyche of the football manager born from those first days of being called to book for the failures of others. The raison d’être of the role being to distract the supporters.
The role of football manager is on a timeline of attempts to gather a level of responsibility that matches accountability they hold.
I hope that Peter Taylor will sign the contract not only because he is by far the best candidate the club could attract to the role at the moment but also because should he do so one might assume that Taylor has received answers to the questions he asks and that he might be able to hold his employers to those promises.
Hereford United 2 Bradford City 0 At Edgar Street in League Two, 2009/2010
As the 332 City faithful were making their way into the Edgar Street ground, you could hear the grumbling voices. The turnstiles were decidedly narrow; the facilities were poor; one end of the ground hasn’t got a safety certificate; even on the front row of the seated area it was impossible to see the whole pitch. It was, by common agreement, like going back to the old days. And so it would turn out for the rest of the afternoon.
I should say at this early stage that Hereford United are in the bottom third of this league for a reason. Nothing I saw today persuaded me that they deserve to be much higher. And nothing I saw today persuaded me that they deserved to lose this game. City may well have had the worst of the elements in the second half, with the rain that stayed away until half-time suddenly driving into their faces, but there was nothing lucky about the two goals that the home team scored.
The first, a header from Manset, came after City had failed dismally to deal with a corner, despite leaving no one upfield. The second, a well hit shot from Hereford debutant Jake Jervis, came as a direct result of a woeful header from Luke Oliver, leaving Matt Glennon hoping only for another of the mishit shots that littered the game.
I write this without having seen any statistics from other sites. My guess is that, apart from the goals, Glennon made perhaps two saves and his defenders produced about the same number of blocks, so few real chances did Hereford create. Bartlett, in the Hereford goal was certainly the busier keeper in the first half. One save from a Gareth Evans header, firmly struck from a flick on from James Hanson, was quite brilliant.
In the early minutes a Robbie Threlfall corner was headed narrowly wide by James Hanson and Gavin Grant forced a save with a shot from a through ball from Michael Flynn. Grant also had another shot well saved before the game turned on the half hour mark. The visiting fans had an excellent view of the blatant shirt pulling that brought Gareth Evans to the ground on the penalty spot. Why the referee and his non-assistant did not have the same view will forever remain a mystery. Within two minutes Hereford scored, totally against the run of play, and the rest we all know.
This was Peter Taylor’s eighth game in the City dug out. From the other side of the ground it was impossible to tell why the fourth official and the referee objected to what he was doing there. It looked as though he was giving some of his players the sharp words they deserved, but somehow he was upsetting the officials. He was also upsetting some of the supporters, not least your reporter.
At the kick off it looked briefly as if City were playing a 4-4-2, with Flynn supporting Hanson. If that was Plan A, the infamous Plan B (Stuart McCall contrasts are inescapable) was a 4-2-3-1, with Hanson becoming increasingly isolated and City playing more and more on the break. We all know that being organised and solid is a prerequisite of not losing, but it’s less valuable once the opposition have scored. It took until the 77th minute debut of Ryan Kendall before the City fans could even risk the thought that you might as well lose 2-0 as 1-0.
Peter Taylor’s Bradford City either wins or loses. Stuart McCall’s teams drew too many games, especially at home. In the last few days this site has embarked on a new venture, the Barry Debate. The first question to be discussed was whether football was primarily a results based business. We may soon be asking whether there is, within that business, room for the stylish defeat. Are Arsenal the only team who can win friends without winning trophies? The blunt question that has to be answered is whether Bradford City can win-one-lose-one without any ‘style’ and still sell season tickets.
This was a City team full of functionality, organised almost to the point of rigidity, clearly with a plan (or perhaps two plans). But, not for the first time under their new manager, they came close to being dull. And the longer the game lasted, the closer to dullness they came, as the bright sparks of the first half were put out by the rain and the home keeper had just one decent second half save to make, tipping round a low shot from James Hanson.
We were too often back to the dark days of the high ball up the middle for Hanson to compete against two or three defenders and with no claret shirt within reach. In the first half those flicks had found a team mate. Omar Daley, an early second half arrival, had limited impact and the lumbering Mark McCammon must surely be near the end of his days in claret and amber. A half-fit Peter Thorne could not have contributed less.
Had McCall still been in charge, many of the familiar questions could have been asked. Why did the one big decision go against City yet again? Why do we always seem to have the referee whom Sir Alex would declare unfit, noting how many lectures he gave to win a breather or two? And why were even the elements against us? But it was Stuart McCall who was the unlucky manager, not Peter Taylor. Peter Taylor has to make his own luck. He has to win games – wasn’t there a comment on his first day about winning more than he lost? – or at least get the team to play well. ‘Play well’, even in the fourth division, must include some entertainment, the feeling (even if it is slightly biased) that we were the better side or, best of all, the question we were all asking after the Crewe game – how did we lose that one?
When organisation and the ability to keep the opposition to a minimal number of chances is the best you have to offer, you had better win a lot more than you lose. When the fans go away simply telling each other that we deserved exactly what we got – and two consecutive away games have brought exactly that response – you need hero status to keep selling tickets. Just in case the new manager doesn’t know, the City ‘faithful’ can be an unforgiving lot. Winning or losing with style are about the only options. It’s a good job the home record is 100% so far.
Bradford City play Hereford United At Edgar Street in League Two, 2009/2010
Hereford United sit below Bradford City in the football pyramid at the moment – that is not that easy – and dismissed manager John Trewick who himself had taken over from Graham Turner, the manager who guided the club to promotions from the Football Conference and League Two two years ago.
The Hereford side mugged Bradford City in the first season under Stuart McCall were a big bunch of guys who assembled by Turner at the cost of only half of City’s purchase that year Willy Topp. Ben Smith who was signed from Weymouth for £20,000 in January 2007 and the rest of the squad were either picked up for free – or – in the case of nine of them including Robbie Threlfall they were brought in on loan.
Turner tried the same policy the season after with less success. The team that finished the previous season third and included the likes of Theo Robinson who now impresses for Huddersfield Town and Peterborough’s Toumani Diagouraga ended up bottom of League One with seventeen loanees coming and going in the season including once again Threlfall and former Bantam and, erm, “team mate” of Mark McCammon Moses Ashikodi.
Not that one should dismiss Turner’s methods for taking a team from the non-league to the division above City but the whole story of the rise and fall of Hereford United in the last three years is illustrative of the perils of building teams of loan players. Any progress made is done so on foundations of sand. The players brought in that brought success one year are gone the next and the manager is left scrabbling to find players of a similar or higher quality.
Loan players are a fact of life in all the leagues of English football outside of the Premiership and the odd additional face can help a club, get the mix wrong and the team is full of players who have an eye on the way back to their parent clubs. It is a mix that more often fails than succeeds, but it does sometimes succeed as Hereford prove.
Peter Taylor’s approach to loanees underlines his abilities as a manager. He has brought a half dozen new faces to the squad but few of them have gone straight into the team. Gavin Grant has not been put in over Omar Daley, Mark McCammon has not gone in over James Hanson, Luke Oliver had to bide his time rather than being put in over Steve Williams.
As with his retention of Wayne Jacobs and his keenness to sign Peter Thorne up as a coach Taylor values stability and knows how to maintain and maximise it.
The Bantams are in exceptional form having taken twelve points in the seven games Peter Taylor has managed (two home, five away) and now are looking up the table to climb towards a play off target that most think is unreachable. Other aspirations have been established: to finish in a higher place than last season, to end with a positive goal difference, to maintain a two points a game average over the next two months.
The Bantams continue with Matt Glennon in goal although Simon Ramsden will miss the game injured at right back so Jonathan Bateson is expected to fill in. Luke Oliver and Matthew Clarke continue in central defence and Robbie Threlfall stays at left back behind Luke O’Brien who is on the left flank.
Lee Bullock and Adam Bolder are building a partnership in the middle with both given a ball winning remit while Omar Daley may make the right hand side despite an injury last weekend. Should Omar fail a fitness test Gareth Evans may return or Gavin Grant could be given a chance to make his first start for the Bantams.
New face Ryan Kendall will probably start on the bench with Michael Flynn continuing up front alongside James Hanson.
Hereford’s aims are to stay in the division which – thanks to Grimsby Town’s continued inability to make a fist of staying in the league – seems likely to be achieved. The Bulls are looking to put a wretched year behind them and come back stronger next season.
They may do, they have before..
Chris Brandon has left Bradford City bringing to an end a disappointing two years for the Tong born City fan in which injuries hampered his chances of making an impression at the club.
Signed by Stuart McCall two summers ago Brandon was the first of many expensive new arrivals but – more than any other – he failed to fulfil his promise with injury and an attitude which seemed uncharacteristic of a player pulling on the shirt of his home City club.
While many of the players signed in the summer exited or took pay reductions last summer Brandon did not. He was at loggerheads with management about his best position – it would appear that if Stuart McCall and Mark Lawn were united on one thing it was the relative merits of Brandon – which he believed to be central midfield.
Brandon is believed to have been a single game away from triggering the offer of a new contract – a deal negotiated by Mark Lawn without the knowledge of the manager it is said – and so exits to avoid that.
We have heard the phrase “Football is a results based business” a lot at Valley Parade in the last decade with it being brought up on Nicky Law exit, with Stuart McCall speaking the words as he left and Peter Taylor – who is enjoying mixed results on his fist half dozen games five of which were away from home – accepting the idea on arriving at the club. BfB starts The Barry Articles with the the question:
“Is Football Really a Results Based Business?”
Dave Pendleton Bantamspast Curator & Former City Gent Editor
During the heady days of Bradford City’s Premier League sojourn I remember thinking that hanging on for grim death in the lower reaches of the top flight was about the best a club of City’s stature could hope for in the unequal modern game. Even a fluky cup final appearance was off the agenda as the manager was likely to ignore the temptations of cup glory and commit all to remaining in the lucrative Premier League.
Although our expectations have been lowered quite dramatically during the last decade, the brutal truth is that success is likely to be just as fleeting in the lower reaches. The odd promotion, perhaps wild eyed we might dream of re-establishing ourselves in the Championship. Trophies? Think Johnstone’s Paint. So, in truth do the results really matter that much? Our support base, and TV income relevant to which ever division we find ourselves in, dictate that we can never compete with the majority of Premier League clubs and a fair number of Championship clubs.
If we accept that we have a level, then surely it is performances and entertainment that matter and not results? City do have a minor footballing tradition. Remember the chants of ‘we want football’ when John Docherty tried to introduce direct football to Valley Parade? Perhaps a certain style is the best we can achieve. But, I’ll guarantee that some of our fans would be enraged by neat passing, they would scream at the players to ‘get stuck in’ and ‘get it forward’. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, so yes results do matter, particularly if Mark Lawn continues to read the official message board.
Steve Baker Stalwart City fan and Bantams Bar regular
Yes of course it is. Any team, player, manager, chairman, fan or neutral wants to see football teams win football matches. Without that people wont watch games and the commercial aspect to the game falls flat. If this doesn’t exist then you would probably have 1 league in the country – what do all the non-league teams strive for? Existence yes, but you cant argue that they wouldn’t love to be in the 3rd round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford or Anfield. People will watch this, follow it with interest, drive commercial revenues which helps the club out – but all in all they are looking for a win.
We have seen in some circumstances in the last few seasons teams who don’t set-up to win, or who come for a 0-0. But that is the result they are looking for – Grimsby’s nil nil draw with City earlier in the season was a good example. That was the result they were after and its what they got. Result.
If your winning, then things seem easier. If your losing and your backs are against the wall, its tougher. Look at Rafa Bentiez’s current predicament.
Peter Taylor has done enough in my view to warrant a longer contract. He has got results that have seen us gain points, although in some circumstances, the players have let him down. I believe with a full pre-season and a few signings of his choice will make a world of difference. Winning football matches makes people (fans, players, commercial investors) interested in football.
So how can we argue its about anything else?
The result on a Saturday afternoon is the most important factor for any club – but it cannot become the be all and end all.
Club strategies have to be built on more solid foundations than the up-and-down nature of a league campaign. There are greater responsibilities and longer-term interests to be mindful of, which Bradford City clearly realise.
Financially sinking in 2002 and 2004, the Bantams fell to the point where it became difficult to feel upset about defeats. The club was on its knees, relying on the community and fanbase it represents to keep going. Was the club saved so every subsequent resource could be piled into buying players more able to win matches, or for the enjoyment fans shared in supporting a football team and the difference it makes to the area? After the rescue in 2004, we fans quickly turned back attention to the joy and despair of results – but we’ve never forgotten what we might have lost.
And in recent years, City has put longer-term interests ahead of short-term results. A season ticket initiative that puts more bums on seats than pennies in the bank; a manager in Stuart McCall who was given time and patience to develop, at the detriment of instant results; a youth set up which is costly to run and has provided only limited returns. These are not quick-fix approaches and may have cost City success, but they matter to its fanbase and community.
The result on a Saturday afternoon is the most important factor for any club – when everything else is competently managed.
David Markham T&A Reporting Legend
Results business has become a football cliché – repeated by directors as their reasons – or should that be excuses – for sacking managers. And not only managers, supporters abuse managers from the stands, write letters to the press or usually nowadays messages on websites to build up pressure and often directors capitulate.
It is true, of course, that managers live or die by results. Think of Stuart McCall, who resigned from City a month ago – another ten points and maybe he would still be at Valley Parade. If only City had converted their two penalties – Michael Flynn missed at home to Lincoln when the score was 0-0 and City went on to lose 2-0 while Gareth Evans missed two minutes from the end of the Accrington match – another two points were dropped. Think also of the needless penalty given away at home to Cheltenham and the last minute equaliser scored by Northampton to realise what a thin dividing line there is between success and failure in management.
Managerial changes are not always the solution to a club’s problems. Think of the managerial changes made in League Two this season – Peter Jackson sacked at Lincoln with the season barely a month old, replaced by a high profile ex-player Chris Sutton and yet the club are still hovering just above the relegation zone. Mike Newell, sacked by Grimsby in November, but the club are still threatened with relegation to the Blue Square Premier League.
Of course, directors would not be human if they were not tempted to make changes to obtain improved results – and it is easier to sack one man – the manager – than get rid of 11 players.
To go back to the original question, as financial pressures increase and media and fans become more and more impatient for success results become more important than ever. Lots of fans would rather see their side play badly and win rather than play well and lose.
Perhaps directors should take more care in choosing their managers and giving them contracts. And then give them more time to develop their plans instead of wielding the axe after two or three bad results or a bad start to the season. It was remarkable how managerial casualties there were in the first couple months of this season. As well as achieving good results at first team level, managers must also be given time to develop youth policies and scouting systems, which are crucial to the long term future of all clubs. Clubs yearn for stability. Few achieve it because of the ‘results business’ syndrome. Think of two of most successful English clubs – Manchester United and Arsenal – and think of how long Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have been in their jobs. Is there a lesson to be learned there?
The Barry Articles – named after the ever divisive figure of City history that is Barry Conlon – are a series of questions asked to people connected to the Bradford City community to stimulate debate and give further breadth of opinion on the site.
We have cast a wide net to find the authors who are writing The Barry Articles – fans, writers, radio people, print journalist and players have been asked if they want to partake – and like the centre forward himself we hope that The Barry Articles will never without something to enjoy.
As Peter Throne, Michael Boulding and his brother Rory leave Valley Parade Peter Taylor has gone back to his former club Hull City to sign Ryan Kendall on a month’s loan.
20 year old Striker Kendall has been tipped for the Tiger’s first team by coach Trevor Morgan and is unsurprisingly for a player signed by Taylor praised for his hard work.
Kendall’s contract that The KC Stadium expires in three months time.
Peter Thorne’s departure from Valley Parade is a sad and unbefitting end for a player whose efforts over the last two-and-half-years have proved so memorable. Although Michael has written an excellent tribute, I’d also like to add my own.
Stuart McCall’s second signing after Barry Conlon, injury prevented Thorne from making an instant impact but, after netting against Chester City in an FA Cup 1st Round tie in November 2007, he played a key part in the team’s revival after a slow start to the campaign. That form continued into the start of the following season at least, though further injuries and loss of form saw him go goalless for three months, before he was the nearly hero of City’s late promotion push collapse – scoring memorably in the last minute against leaders Brentford to earn a draw, and then having perfectly legal goals against Morecambe and Dagenham ruled at pivotal moments in the games. It could have been so different for Thorne and City.
Thorne was a goalscorer and little more, and in the modern era where players’ faults are highlighted to unfair proportions, the fact he did little but tuck away chances was a reason to criticise, especially when he wasn’t tucking away those chances; but such prowess is hard to come by and will be missed. After the huge hole that was Dean Windass leaving in 2007, you feared City might struggle to find a goalscorer to replace him. Thorne took on that role and was widely loved for it. Now we can fear we might struggle to replace him.
Half a chance was often all he needed, bang, goal and the usual understated celebration. He scored many simple goals but he also scored some excellent ones, his high number of goals against Notts County probably standing out most. He netted a hat trick against the Magpies in January 2008 and two on the opening day of the season after, but it probably his effort at Meadow Lane in February 2008 that will go down as my personal favourite Thorne goal. Controlling a long pass from TJ Moncur calmly, he spun into the area and unleashed a powerful shot past Russell Hoult. No wonder Notts County were sick of him.
But they should have to see him one more time. After such heroic efforts Thorne shouldn’t be allowed to exit via the backdoor in this manner. We supporters deserve the chance to say goodbye and to show our appreciation, and Thorne deserves the chance to receive it. Make him the guest of honour at City’s game with Notts County next Tuesday, invite him onto the pitch at half time to meet his public. Let us chant his name one more time and remember the many great moments he provided for City.
We’ll really miss Thorne, please let us at least say goodbye.
Thorne’s record of 31 goals in 73 games made him top scorer although injury curtailed the effectiveness of the former Cardiff striker – who along with Barry Conlon was Stuart McCall’s first signings at the club – in his first and last seasons.
One of McCall’s biggest “if onlys” was that he would have liked the striker fitter for longer and another is that Thorne’s tally of 31 was not increased by the one he poked home at Morecambe only to be waved away by a poorly placed Referee.
At the start of this season Thorne agreed – at McCall’s insistence – a year long extension at a reduced rate despite his worries that his persistent back injury would stop him playing a significant role.
Thorne finishes his City career on 198 goals for all clubs in total and there is a school of thought that says that the club – and Peter Taylor – would have been well advised to allow the supporters a cheery send off of one of the most popular players of the past few years. Perhaps.
Thorne is not only held in high regard by supporters. Stuart McCall made him captain and paid warm tribute to him and the assistance he offered the other forwards in training. This was echoed time and time again by the likes of Gareth Evans who talked about how the senior forward had advised him on how to get through bad patches, how to be a better player.
Should Thorne decide to move from player to management I feel sure that he would have something to offer a club and should he do that I feel sure he would be a success. One club near his North West home could do worse than offering the former Norwich, Cardiff and Bradford City striker a chance to take charge.
One day his path might take him to the Valley Parade – home or away – and when he does he will be given the warm tribute that his smart play and clinical finishing deserves.
After three years of what are called “cheap” season tickets there is talk that Bradford City should abandon the policy and begin to charge comparable prices with the rest of the league for admission to Valley Parade to make the club more able to compete in League Two.
The people putting forward this idea have been following City for a long time – Mike Harrison is editor of The City Gent and he put the opinion forward, Darren Slingsby who made the suggesting in the T&A letters page has been supporting the Bantams longer than I have been alive – and they make fine and valid points.
However, as I lay claim to first mooting the idea back in September 2005, I feel I should speak for the defence and say why I believe that not only is the scheme a good idea but also one that should be extended.
The idea behind the reduction in prices at Valley Parade is a mixture of ethics and the rudiments of supply/demand. The Bantams have a massive supply of seats for football matches at Valley Parade – about 25,000 of them – which outstrips the demand which even at the reduced price only runs to around 11,000. This is not uncommon in football at the level we are at by any stretch of the imagination. Most filled ground in League Two belongs to Burton Albion who cover 62% of seats. City are sixth on this table with just over 45% of seats at VP occupied – or at least paid for.
Rochdale’s 29% and Bury’s 26% come from clubs that are doing well – perhaps speaking to the idea that wins are what puts bums on seats – and Notts County’s 33.5% suggests that simply throwing money at a club does not guarantee packed houses.
Supply is common and demand tends to be low for League Two clubs at least and a look at the league above where Leeds fill fewer seats as a percentage than Burton suggests that this will not change even with promotion.
I come from the position that the status quo at Valley Parade in these terms are very much the one we have to live within. Price elasticity of demand governs how sliding this price up or down will effect that 11,000 and those who believe that increasing the price will give City more ability to compete come from the perspective that should it double then over 5,500 people would renew with similar points on that sliding scale having a similar response. They might be correct, they may not be. The science of economics is much less of a science than one would expect.
The effect of increasing prices would no doubt be fewer people in Valley Parade with the effects that will have on the atmosphere – not necessarily making it worse, but having an effect – but at some point one ends up recalling the Jasper Carrott joke about turning to the guy next to him at half time and say “Oi! You over there? Can you hear me?”
Joking aside the ethics of – while in the worst recession in eighty years – not pricing an afternoon at the local football team as more expensive than one to the cinema are admirable. Both are entertainments that people seek to enjoy on a regular basis and by making football affordable we make it inclusive.
By being more inclusive Bradford City are more relevant. The 11,000 Bradford City supporters have more weight when talking to Bradford Council about why they fund Bradford’s Rugby team rather than the footballers when one looks at how The Bulls pulled in 9,244 for a game with Wigan last week. The fact that City get more Bradfordian bums on seats should not go unnoticed.
Bradford City have supply, I believe that we need to increase demand – which is to say the number of people who come to Valley Parade – to enable us to compete better by virtue of having more funds available.
Away supporters pay £20 a head to come to Valley Parade and casual home fans pay a similar amount. Should we half that price then not only would it fit more easily alongside the season ticket prices but it would perhaps tempt the transient support to give City a try.
The typical family of four can more easily afford a £20 plus pies to go to a game than it can £40 and by welcoming those people – the parents and children – to Valley Parade we move to growing the support.
Few football fans start as season ticket holders and if we are to try grow the support then we cannot expect a person to go from sitting at home watching the results come in or staying in the pub doing the same on a Saturday to holding a season long commitment to the club.
Add to that the idea that by cutting the prices for away supporters the Bantams bring about a situation where more away fans can come to the game. The cost of a coach or car to Bradford for one of our rivals might be £30 – not cheap – but if slicing our prices in half means that that can be offered at £20 and thus get more uptake then let us do that not just because more visitors could increase the atmosphere or because we can guarantee that twice as many would be interested but because it takes a moral lead in the game that says that the very lifeblood of football – people who can be bothered following clubs away from home and could be dubbed “committed fans” – are not ripe to be ripped off.
Following City up and down the country is an expensive business and from Rochdale to Rotherham Bantams fans spend a lot doing it. We should – for the sake of some empathy with other football fans – try to set an example that respects the visitors to Valley Parade and rewards them with a break in the pocket. We can do it, we have the space, and I believe should do it.
Further ways of increasing demand require a longer term effort and I could never promise a reward from them but they are worth investigating.
There is much talk about a safe standing at Valley Parade campaign which is being given just attention. If we could get people back to the club by allowing them to stand then we have a way to increase demand.
My memories of football in the nineties are all about going to games with a number of friends which could be as low as two or three or as many as twelve or thirteen but the season ticket nature of Valley Parade at the moment means that unless one person is not attending then it is impossible to bring someone new to the match.
I have no idea of the legality or safety implication of allowing people to buy a season ticket not for “Seat 82 Row G Block F” of the bottom of the North Stand but rather for “The Bottom of The Kop” but that ability to float around as we used to do in the old days could allow the fan of today to drag a few of his mates enough to get them to come along. Something worth investigating in the name of rolling out further reductions and bringing innovations that might fill empty seats with paying customers rather than adding to the cost of the seats already filled.
We are three years into a revolution in pricing which – I believe – needs to be a permanent commitment to fans to respect them and thank them for the backing they show with affordable prices. There are problems with the model for sure, but rather than having those problems see us step back I would suggest that they are indications that we should push on, learn the lessons and find out how we can grow the support of the club.
Ultimately the problems with the level of competition the Bantams can show would be solved with a far greater change in the status quo at Valley Parade and the ownership and rent situation of the ground. On this subject I note the efforts of The Cambridge United Supporters Trust who are trying to buy back The Abbey Stadium.
The supporters buy the ground and allow the football club business to play there. Sounds like an idea to me.
Michael and Rory Boulding have both left Bradford City by mutual consent after nearly two years with the club.
Michael Boulding’s was signed despite competition from Cheltenham for his signature and scored sixteen in fifty nine games for the Bantams. Boulding’s talent was obvious to all when spinning to finish off chances but his limitations were also all too apparent with the former Mansfield Town striker a great player on the counter attack for a team that seldom got the chance to play in such a manner.
Towards the end of last season The Bantams bested Gillingham 2-0 at Preistfield with Boulding instrumental in the victory that had seen the home side play the kind of high line the striker had face week in week out when a Mansfield player at a team who were sinking out of the league.
Few clubs would come to Valley Parade – or face City at their own grounds – which such a ploy and so Boulding – a player who likes to have pitch to run into – often ended up struggling to retain and maintain possession between two lines of four.
His heading goal against Exeter in a 4-1 win last term and his single in the 2-1 reversal at Lincoln City both proved his ability to get into positions and finish, but such play was not best suited to his game.
Nevertheless Boulding agreed – with other players – to take a wage cut when asked by the Bantams in the previous close season and as a willing worker for the squad.
Peter Taylor’s team does not feature a player in Boulding’s best role and the City gaffer is keen to have big strikers rather than skilful ones. When Michael Flynn is playing up front rather than you then it is – no doubt – time to move on which Michael Boulding does.
Peter Taylor allowing Rory Boulding to leave is a surprise though and one can only imagine the torrent of supporters piling anger and ire onto the manager for ignoring a player of such obvious talent that Taylor’s predecessor ruthlessly refused to give a game to.
More seriously Rory Boulding leaves with a whimper having never done enough to suggest he was capable of stepping up to the first team. He played twice with little effect but – not four months ago – a refusal to play Rory Boulding was a damning indictment of a manager’s ability.
Peter Taylor obviously agrees with Stuart McCall’s assessment of the player who – should he want to continue his career as a professional footballer – needs to apply himself so much more.
Bradford City 2 Aldershot Town 1 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
City earned a hard fought victory against playoff contenders Aldershot, as Peter Taylor’s influence on the club continues to yield positive results.
The manner of the defeat to Port Vale in midweek was disappointing given recent progress – and Taylor was quick to admit the City players had not lived up to the standards that he expected in the Vale game.
But it was the reaction to that defeat that was the question this afternoon – and City didn’t disappoint despite a bumpy start.
Matt Glennon disappointingly split a long range shot – only able to palm the ball into harms way – which allowed Anthony Straker the chance to nip in and slot home the opener as Aldershot took the lead.
But City did not let the goal affect their confidence. Within five minutes, they had drawn level and produced a goal of real quality.
Michael Flynn, again playing in a more advanced role compared to his usual central midfield position, chased a long ball on the right and shielded the ball away from the Aldershot left back Charles. He then turned and produced a perfectly flighted cross with his left foot from the right wing, which top scorer James Hanson brilliantly headed home to level things up.
Hanson has had a dream first season at City – his first in League football. Combining hard work up front with some quite superb finishes – he has proved he can finish in the air (as you would expect), but he also has got some great finishes up his sleeve with his feet (remember that bicycle kick against Crewe at home?!).
And in this game, he was everywhere. Defensively clearing crosses from corners, and tracking back to defend like I have seen no City centre forward do in many, many years. It all seems to be part of Taylor’s ethos of “not letting any player neglect their defensive duties” and not allowing any player to cruise through games, regardless of their position, which Omar Daley confirmed in his post match interview.
After the equaliser, City had their tails up and produced another fine goal, which proved to be decisive. A very good run and cross from Luke O’Brien on the left ended with Omar Daley taking possession. After feigning to shoot once, he then turned and produced a rocket of a strike with his left foot that sent the Kop wild.
City then engaged in a tight contest for the remainder of the game, with the emphasis being on defending and trying to stop the opposition from scoring rather than adding to the lead.
Glennon redeemed himself for his earlier error with an excellent save from a first half Aldershot effort, and the City keeper commanded his area brilliantly and caught every cross in the second half.
City had a real let off with 15 minutes to go when substitute “Marvellous” Marvin Morgan took on debutant City defender Luke Oliver, beat him, and whipped in a perfect cross onto the head of Marlon Jackson, who astonishingly missed his header from 5 yards when it looked harder to miss than score.
But the Aldershot defence were certainly not immune to mistakes, – in particular second choice keeper Venezuelan Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, and the concession of a third goal could easily have happened. In particular with two very strong penalty shouts. Omar Daley went one on one with a defender, and with Daley leaving the defender in his wake, he was clean through before he appeared to be impeded before trying to finish off the move with a goal. But the post match interview with Aldershot manager Kevin Dillon told a different story – with Dillon angrily suggesting that he thought that Daley took a blatant dive that would apparently be shown on “Soccer AM” next week. Surely they are not that short of material? I suppose only a replay will settle that score.
The strong shout for a penalty for City late in the second half. Debutant Gavin Grant, only for Omar Daley with 25 minutes to go, produced a strong run and seemed to be felled in the area when surrounded by two Aldershot defenders. The penalty shouts were waived away by the referee but City hung on to clinch all three points.
There is a definite improvement in this City side with Taylor in the managerial hotseat, and his record now reads four wins from seven games, including highly impressive away victories at top three sides Rochdale and Rotherham.
Admittedly, he has brought in players on short term deals until the end of the season, but there is no reason why any of the players he has brought in (expect for Robbie Threlfall, who might go a League or two above) could be playing for Bradford City next season. Adam Bolder in particular has impressed, and did again today, breaking up play, playing simple balls well and having an influence on the game.
For me, Peter Taylor needs to be handed a new deal as soon as possible. His positive vibes around the club, about how he is enjoying it and has caught the “Bradford Bug” is very pleasing to read. He is and was an outstanding appointment, and if he is enjoying it that much, then lets hold up our end of the deal and give Taylor this chance to finally get Bradford City out of this awful league next season.
But to leave the much discussed managerial debate behind, wont it be interesting to see which of the current crop of players will be with us next season? For me, I’m afraid Peter Thorne’s time at the club looks to be over. Thorne has been brilliant and prolific for City in previous seasons, but I don’t think he fits into Taylors ethos of “a striker that is willing to put in the work defensively”.
Equally, the expensive and underperforming Chris Brandon looks to have been given the boot by Taylor. And James O’Brien, Michael Boulding, Zesh Rehman and Scott Neilson look to be players that Taylor doesn’t seem to rate as the “right” kind of players to get us promoted from League Two. I trust his judgement and that seems to point towards us having an almost completely new squad once again next season. How many times will we need to rebuild the squad before we get it right?
Bradford City play Aldershot Town At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
It was 53 short weeks ago that Bradford City crushed Aldershot Town on their last visit to Valley Parade. Two goals from the returning-to-form Peter Thorne, a beauty of an effort from the edge of the box by Dean Furman, a tap in for Barry Conlon and a comical own-goal set up by Joe Colbeck. 5-0, City fourth in the league with 11 games to go. The excitement was growing at the prospect of ending the season with the glory of promotion.
As we all know, it ended miserably with the platform that victory had laid on for City proving something of a peak to the second half of the season at least. The next nine of those remaining 11 were winless as the Bantams fell out of the promotion picture, the ending of the season with back-to-back victories thus meaningless. The backwards steps have continued into this season.
City now have a long way to go just to get to where they were after that Spring demolition of the Shots. The up and down nature of results since Peter Taylor took over the reins has at times given hope of a late play off push this time around, but the slip ups and barely decreasing distance from the top seven has all but extinguished such faint chances. After Saturday’s clash with Aldershot is over, there will again be 11 games to go – even a complete reversal of results compared to those nine games at the end of last season probably wouldn’t be enough.
If we could turn the clocks back to the final whistle a year ago and apply hindsight, what warnings would we now offer and to whom? Perhaps the most obvious would seem to be changing Stuart McCall’s u-turn over his threat to quit. As Taylor impresses for the composure and organisation he has brought to the team, the growing temptation is to look back over McCall’s final season and dismiss it a waste of time. If only Taylor had taken over sooner, it can be argued, the club might still be approaching the final section of the season with promotion hopes.
The ‘SOS’ demonstration at the end of the last season might be something we’d go back and urge the organisers to cancel. The holding up of banners in support of McCall has caused widespread debate even during this season, with the number of supporters willing to admit they displayed a sign surprisingly few.
Where I sit in the Midland Road Stand, a previously quiet and pleasant woman suddenly can’t stop ranting, during the last few months, about how poor a manager McCall is/was, and inadvertently slamming those who backed him. Prior to the start of recent homes games she’s repeatedly uttered, “Do you know who I blame for this season? All those supporters who held up signs supporting him at the last home game” out loud to everyone around her, the majority of whom did hold up signs. Sorry lady, it’s all my fault.
But perhaps we’d take a different approach if we could go back, considering where City might be today but for that late season collapse. If City have gone onto earn promotion during those final 11 games a year ago, there would have been no need to reduce the transfer and wage budgets by a third for this campaign – an action which has undoubtedly undermined efforts.
Instead we might warn McCall where it would all go wrong - to be mindful of defending set pieces at Spotland a few days later, to make sure Barry Conlon and Matt Clarke are behaving while staying in Devon prior to the Exeter game, how tinkering with the team too much leads to the inconsistent form, how a linesman will rob the team at Morecambe, not to sign Paul chuffin Mullin, that certain players cannot be counted on when the chips are down, and why it’s so important he doesn’t let it all get him down too much.
Perhaps most of all we’d warn him not to publicly threaten to quit in the manner he did after losing to Bournemouth, because it seemed to only breed instability and nervousness in the team rather than help it. The decline was already starting and he needed to be more positive in addressing it. The Bournemouth defeat was the third in a row; worrying form – but it needn’t have turned into the disastrous form that would continue another six games.
Mistakes were made, as McCall himself readily admits, and they soon added up to something far bigger. Ultimately City’s failure this season is due to the failure of the one before, and the immediate challenge remains reversing those backward steps. 53 weeks after thrashing Aldershot 5-0, it is now the visitors who harbour the promotion hopes. They, and so many other clubs, have been able to catch up and overtake City over the last 12 months, it’s already going to be a long road back.
But like in any aspect of life – it’s not how many mistakes are made, but how quickly they are learned from. Sometimes it’s a torturous and miserable path, but if the resultant lessons can be applied positively it will be a journey worth taking. If we had not put up our SOS posters and if McCall had departed during the summer, it’s highly unlikely City would be currently employing Taylor. Someone else would have come in and, with the same budget constraints, may have done no better.
The lessons McCall learned from his first two seasons would not have been applied, the new guy may have repeated the City legend’s mistakes of hiring players not up to this level or lacking in desire. However well it can be judged McCall performed this season, there’s little doubt Taylor has inherited a squad to build on rather than start all over again – due to McCall targeting the right kind of players within the budget constraints.
And if the short-term deal works out and Taylor can replicate the kind of success he enjoyed at Hull, the misery of the last 12 months and the refusal of McCall to quit last summer will ultimately have been worth it. Life doesn’t allow you to turn back the clock, mistakes cannot be undone. City have had 53 weeks of regrets and now more than ever is the time to apply those lessons. Taylor is impressing in both victory and defeat. We know he has the experience, he’s proving he has the knowledge, the main question mark is that of his own appetite – and that of the Chairmen – to make it work.
53 weeks on Taylor has so far used only seven players from the sixteen involved against the Shots last season – only three of which have started the last four games. Luke O’Brien, Lee Bullock and Matt Clarke have themselves been the subject of healthy debates for much of this season, but all appear to be impressing Taylor. Meanwhile the futures of the other four – Thorne, Michael Boulding, Zesh Rehman and Chris Brandon – look decidedly shaky. Taylor vowed to give everyone a go and would seem to already be making his mind up over who he would offer a City future too and who he’d move on.
Two of his own short-term recruits have yet to really feature but, after a disappointing performance in losing to Port Vale, may now get their chance. Little is known of Luke Oliver, other than his height, but he could make his debut alongside Clarke in the centre of defence. Gavin Grant has arrived on a pay-as-you-play basis and in need of building fitness. With Gareth Evans having a poor game at Vale Park, that fitness might be tested from the start tomorrow. Omar Daley too will be vying for only a fourth start in a year.
Daley is one of the few players not out of contract this summer and Taylor’s ability to judge the Jamaican is hampered by his understandable lack of fitness. So far Taylor has gone for the workrate of Evans and O’Brien on the flanks to start and, if Daley watched AC Milan’s pathetic surrender at Old Trafford this week largely due to widemen not bothering to track back and Manchester United murdering the Italians down the flanks, he will have some idea of what he needs to do to fit in with the new-look City.
Elsewhere Mark McCammon will have arrived for a month at City with greater ambition than swapping one sub bench for another, and Taylor may consider him to start ahead of James Hanson or Michael Flynn, the latter moving back to midfield. The arrival of Adam Bolder sees greater competition in the centre of midfield, with Steve O’Leary still on the fringes, but Taylor would surely be reluctant to leave out either Bolder or the in-form Bullock.
Matt Glennon keeps goal, having been faintly criticised in public by Taylor for not stopping Vale’s winning goal on Tuesday. Glennon’s spell at City has been curious for its lack of incident. He has made some good saves, but nothing too noteworthy. He has also conceded a few goals he might have been expected to save. He has impressed in the command of his penalty area, but the long-term custodian he may not be. Having played only seven games for Bristol Rovers, a third return of Rhys Evans this summer would be widely cheered by fans.
Simon Ramsden and Robbie Threlfall retain the full back slots; Steve Williams may face the axe for Oliver; Jon Bateson, Michael Boulding and Thorne wait impatiently for rare opportunities.
Chester City were wound up in the high court bringing to an end a four year shame of an existence the 126 year club have gone through while Farsley Celtic were incapable of being accepted into administration and were liquidated.
For the better part of the last decade Chester City were struggling with financial problems partly caused by an underweaning lack of ambition but mostly by the actions of the owners of the club – The Vaughan family – who would make Richmond, Richardson and Risdale look like paragons of virtue and models of sturdy custodianship. I am no expert on the Vaughan family and so shall make no further comment on them other than to echo the comments discussed by Chester fans elsewhere. It was an horrifically drawn out demise, but it is not the end.
The 126 years of Chester City may have been pillaged by the Vaughan ownership but it is far from the end for the football club.
Chester City Fans United are already planning a new club – the popular AFC route as it is dubbed – and more power to their elbow. The rise of the AFC movement which started with the unloved and notoriously weakest fans in football who followed Wimbledon becoming the robust supporters of AFC Wimbledon dragging their clubs up from literally nothing.
The end of our neighbour Farsley Celtic is massively upsetting and to paraphrase “There, but for the Grace of God goes (John) Bradford (City)“.
Farsley Celtic‘s problems seem to have come from over-reaching to try grow a club to be bigger than would be sustained by the size of the current number of supporters but are not helped by the fact that the people who should have been looking out for a club founded in 1908 were – it is suggested – looking with envious eyes at the patch of prime Leeds land that Throstle’s Nest sits on.
Telford United and Halifax Town followed the AFC route and revivals for Bradford (Park Avenue) and Accrington Stanley while different in nature have drawn a new pattern of football. A map which separates the football club from the football business that operates it. The Farsley Celtic supporters who today look for something new to do with Saturday afternoon would do well to look at the AFC route which promises much reward.
The disgruntled Manchester United supporters who formed the ludicrously named FC United of Manchester – Newton Heath would have been so much better – have done similar and illustrate the practical successes of the supporter-centric approach. That FC United songs are now sung by clubs up and down the leagues says much about the impact that club is having and the growing protests of gold and green at Old Trafford shows a rising upset with the owners of the parent club.
The business of a football club can be owned by anyone who passes the much discussed fit and proper test – or in the case of Chester City and the Vaughan family people who do not – but the football club is not included in that business entity. The football club – being the historic traditions, the support, the icons, the status – is made up of the things around a club which cannot be bought and sold.
As Chester City Fans United look to follow a path trodden by AFC Wimbledon of taking over the history of the club despite being a different business it is worth reflecting that our football club has been run by the businesses of Bradford City AFC 1983 and Bradford City Football Club 2004 in the last decade. The switch of what is considered to be “Bradford City” from one business to another is done with the permission of the football club and in the case of Wimbledon/Milton Keynes that permission was not given.
So in almost welcomed demise and the instant rise of Chester City the owners of the businesses that run football clubs are given another example of this new pattern for ownership which gives them the power to run the clubs at the behest the supporters and with a remit to serve those supporters.
One can only imagine how horrific it has been to be a Chester City supporter over the last few years but the anticipated rise – and the lessons that illustrates to those people who own football businesses would seek to run clubs for their own benefit, and behave in ways that best suit them and not the supporters – are an example for all.
Football businesses can be owned by anyone, football clubs are always owned by the supporters and business owners would do well to remember this.
Port Vale 2 Bradford City 1 At Vale Park in League Two, 2009/2010
City headed to Stoke with high expectations following a last-gasp James Hanson winner against promotion chasing Rotherham at the weekend. The pre-kick off atmosphere was fairly buoyant in the away end, with the prospect of drawing level on points with the hosts if City came away with maximum points.
As expected Peter Taylor sent out the same side that started against Rotherham with Michael Flynn partnering Hanson up-front; Adam Bolder deputising in midfield alongside Bullock, O’Brien and Evans, with a back four of Ramsden, Clarke, Williams and Threlfall, Glennon in goal.
The opening exchanges were fairly even as both sides showed positive intent. Vale enjoyed an early chance after a miscommunication in the City defence between Williams and Clarke, however in the one on one opportunity with the keeper, Vale forward Richards could only steer his effort wide of Matt Glennon’s far post.
In the eleventh minute City managed to move possession into the Vale half with a few intricate passes through the middle of the field, a far cry from the so-called long ball tactics suggested by Ronnie Moore at the weekend.
The decent move resulted in Lee Bullock being fouled, by hard-tackling midfielder Anthony Griffith, around 30 yards from goal. Flynn lined up to blast an effort but it was Robbie Threlfall who curled a powerful strike into the top left-hand corner of the net; the Liverpool loanee’s second strike for the Bantams and it was even better than his first one against Rochdale.
It could be argued that the goal came slightly against the run of play as prior to the goal Vale had had two or three good opportunities themselves to open the scoring.
Following the goal a similar pattern of play resumed, Vale looked the brighter of the two sides whilst City tried to defend stoutly and attack mainly on the break. As in recent games City defended with resilience, Matt Clarke’s strength, heading and awareness again impressed.
As the half progressed the away defence came under increasing pressure. City rode their luck at times as the Vale front line were left wanting in the finishing department; notably Vale forward Richards spurned several good chances. The notion of City becoming ‘hard to beat’ reared its head as the visitors seemed happy to soak up and deal with the increasing pressure.
That is not to say that it was all one way traffic, City themselves had a few good opportunities to increase their lead. Good link up play between Bolder, Ramsden and Evans down the right flank resulted in an Evans’s cross being headed goal-wards by Flynn with the keeper saving comfortably.
The culmination of the recent congested fixture period for the Bantams seemed to be catching up with them, a few main stays in the team such as O’Brien and Evans appeared a little jaded in comparison to their recent high-tempo performances.
Half-time came at a good time for City as the prolonged threat from the home side was building. With the added pressure came an increase in the number of gaps in the home defence as men were committed forward, City however, didn’t have the pace required to exploit it.
During the break Taylor swapped the tired-looking Luke O’Brien with the pacy Omar Daley; good move everyone agreed with the potential of Daley’s speed creating additional opportunities, for the away side, on the counter-attack.
The second half started much as the first half ended, with the home side enjoying more of the territorial advantage.
Finally in the 49th minute the City defence was breached. Vale played the ball swiftly through the midfield and presented Simon Ramsden with an opportunity to cut out a loose ball that may have a led to a City break away. Ramsden slightly mistimed his interception leaving the space behind him exposed; the ball was quickly played to Richards who finished well to draw the home side level.
It was an example of a really fine margin; if Ramsden had intercepted then City would’ve been away with a man advantage which could’ve put the game beyond the home side.
City responded well following the goal and looked particularly threatening down the left side through Daley. However on occasion the Jamaican was easily bullied and often surrendered possession, resulting in the ball being given away in key areas.
The home side’s energy levels seemed to be a little bit up on City’s and they came back into the game; in particular Griffith showed a real desire to win every loose ball in the midfield. To counter this Taylor introduced Mark McCammon for Gareth Evans moving willing worker Flynn to the right-side of midfield.
McCammon held the ball up well which alleviated a little pressure from City’s two blocks of four but often attacking moves broke down in the final third with no real end product.
City were made to pay for this in the 78th minute. Vale attacked down the left-hand flank and Ramsden did well to hold up the attack and block an in coming cross from the left winger. The ball sat up nicely for Vale left-back Robert Taylor who volleyed a shot goalwards that took a huge deflection off a City defender and cruelly sailed over the top of a fully outstretched Glennon.
It was a cruel goal considering the tireless work that the City defence had put in throughout the game and the keeper can’t really be blamed as the deflection seriously deviated the path of the ball.
Following the goal Michael Boulding was brought on for Boulder to try and salvage a point for the Bantams.
The away side pushed on, but again Daley wasted possession in good areas and attacks frustratingly broke down. Daley still looks rusty in comparison to his form prior to his long-term injury and his second half display will no doubt have frustrated his new manager.
City’s plight was not helped by the referee Mr. Swarbrick who joined a long line of clueless referees. He frequently awarded petty free-kicks for little incidents where play should’ve continued.
Again inconsistency from the officials was displayed throughout, particularly when it came to shirt pulling. Throughout the game James Hanson’s shirt was constantly half way up his back, the City striker was often left on the floor wondering what he needed to do to get a free-kick, where as Williams and Clarke were often penalised for lesser offences.
City continued to attack right to the final whistle but seemed to be running out of ideas and energy needed to snatch an equaliser.
As the final whistle blew the general feeling was that at least a point was deserved as we defended resiliently and went down to a cruel deflected goal.
I know that in recent articles there has been debate surrounding the issue of loan players and current players and who should be playing; based on this performance I think that having the fresher loan players will help as the high number of fixtures seems to have caught up with the likes of Evans, O’Brien and Hanson who could probably do with a short rest to recuperate.
I would expect a few changes to be made for Saturday’s visit of Aldershot to allow the aforementioned players to have a breather.
Any chance of making the play-offs was probably extinguished last night, but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to play for. As we know many players are out of contract at the end of the season and will be looking to impress.
The one contract we do need to sort out is the manager’s. He’s shown us in his short tenure that he can make us tougher to beat and that we are able to compete with and beat the teams near the top of the league. Let’s get the deal set in stone and rid ourselves of the uncertainty, give him a two or three year deal and then we can look forward positively to next year where we can give ourselves a real chance of success.
We may have been running on low last night but now it’s time to top up the tank and make some forward thinking decisions for the long haul trip ahead of us.
Bradford City play Port Vale At Vale Park in League Two, 2009/2010
While James Hanson was the object of a pile-on celebration and City fans were the subject of the attentions of Rotherham supporters with the five minutes overtime goal that gave The Bantams a 2-1 win over Ronnie Moore’s faltering Rotherham side on Saturday I can’t imagine many were watching Peter Taylor’s reaction to the goal.
Indeed of the sights at The Don Valley Stadium: The goalscorer submerged, the tauters dispirited and the oft Bantam critic distraught made for better viewing, but may not have been the more significant.
So we know not if Taylor circled the bench with arms out before grabbing Junior Lewis and Wayne Jacobs for bear hugs in joy or if he simply saw the goal and nodded sagely. While the outcome of a job well done was unknown, the practises of it was evident to all.
If last Tuesday night was about City being a team hard to beat then Saturday was Taylor’s side frustrating to victory. The lines of four – so often seen at Valley Parade as a rearguard action and a million miles away from the 433 City teams of Stuart McCall who seemed to see every minute of the game as a chance to break up the field – saw the Millers incapable of breaking down the Bantams on what was a bog of a pitch and the visitors in black using the space created by a home side’s pressing.
It might not have been the most pleasing thing on the eye – is League Two football ever going to be? – but the sight of City wheeling away in victory was a beautiful thing if only for it’s scarcity. By the time James Hanson had heading in concerns over loan players – too many for some, too few for others such as those who were incensed that Matthew Clarke was included over Luke Oliver – were far from the mind. Football is not a results business, but results are often the outcome of doing other things right.
Three weeks into his job at Valley Parade Taylor deserves credit for his use of the current squad; keeping the best parts of it and augmenting rather than the revolution suggested by the five new players. Excellent performances from Lee Bullock, Michael Flynn, James Hanson and Matthew Clarke all justify the new boys Taylor has brought in cooling heels on the bench. As City fans talked about how the team could be/should be flooded with loanees Taylor used what he wanted from the temporary transfer market and stabled the rest. McCammon’s benching in favour of our boy James Hanson was a welcome surprise and one which paid off.
His football is more direct, but gets better results. He signs up loan players to suggest huge changes, but uses those players sparingly. It seems that Peter Taylor has found a way of pleasing all of the people at City all of the time, at least for now.
Where City and Taylor go from here seems obvious. If the City manager feels he has a good player in Adam Bolder who he can use next season then Bolder could be offered a deal, but without Taylor having signed up for next term then such a deal being offered or signed seems highly unlikely. Likewise when the likes of Flynn and Bullock are putting in good performances and thinking about where their future might lay the assurance of having a gaffer who (as with the previous one) treated them with respect for their achievements would be a significant factor.
If the City players talk like the City fans in recent weeks then they will be talking once again about promotion next term but with the caveat that Taylor remains in charge. Aside from the traditional Bradford City supporting trait of setting a bar as high as possible – can’t we just hope that in Christmas 2010 we have enough point to not be relegated and take it from there? – the manager’s three month deal remains a worry and the spectre of Taylor’s time at the club being all too brief is a troubling one.
City will not find a better manager in the summer – only two candidates suggested themselves – and so a delay in offering the repeatedly successful Taylor a contract only continues to increase the level of uncertainty at the club and make that manager’s job harder.
On the field Taylor could hardly be expected to be doing better. When he arrives at Valley Parade on Saturday following this Tuesday night at Vale Park Taylor will have played five on his travels and one at home which we could expect eight points from on “promotion form” winning at home and drawing away but has at least nine. Not only that but Taylor has not been able to benefit from a new manager effect that comes at many clubs when a gaffer unpopular in the dressing room is swapped for another face. The City squad liked Stuart McCall in most cases – Chris Brandon, we are told, did not and Taylor was quick to ostracise him – and were obviously upset by his departure.
Off the field who knows how Taylor is settling into the culture at Valley Parade. Perhaps he has a way of dealing with “player signing suggestions” from his bosses, with being asked to join discussions on the merits of various squad members and why they should be leaving the club, with contracts being signed without his knowledge and so on. One hopes that these things do not prompt him to look elsewhere should a long term contract be offered.
There has been a lot of talk about Mark Lawn and his motivations and desire to be popular. One might suggest that the best way to do that is to announce on Saturday that a three or four year deal has been offered to Taylor and – should it be signed – to sit back and allow that manager to manage.
Port Vale sit three points above the Bantams but it would take a 5-0 swing in goals to have City move about the home side at the end of the evening. Taylor’s team at Port Vale – and his approach – is unlikely to go chasing goals. The 442 with Michael Flynn in the forward line is likely to continue with Hanson and his new strike partner both nabbing a goal on the road. Flynn’s ability to be dropped back to create a bolstered midfielder plugged any holes which Rotherham attempted to find on Saturday.
Bolder and Bullock showed steel in breaking up a Rotherham midfield but Nicky Law Jnr has never a player for midfield battling while Anthony Griffith of Vale does little other than tackle. Vale’s home form is similar to City’s and both teams have done better on their travels than they have at on their own turf. Gareth Evans and Luke O’Brien are unorthodox flank players but Taylor’s direct play requires not the dribbling and taking on men that Omar Daley provides. One wonders what the future of City’s winger is if Taylor remains.
It would seem that the back four of Simon Ramsden, Steve Williams, Matthew Clarke and Robbie Threlfall continue in front of Matt Glennon with Luke Oliver waiting for his chance to impress as other’s perform well. There was a time when City fans debated if Barry Conlon should be in the side with some saying that the now Chesterfield forward was never going to be good enough and others saying that while he was playing well, he should keep his place. Clarke very much fulfils that criteria with some – including, it is said, those in high places than Peter Taylor at Valley Parade opening voicing the opinion that he is simply not good enough and other’s pointing out that while the defender is putting in good performances he should very much be in the side.
It is hard to argue with that way of thinking and the spirit it engenders within a team. Players respect a manager who rewards good performances with a place in the side while the opposite destroys confidence and starts talk of manager’s having favourites.
In many of the things that he has done since arrival – playing Clarke, allowing Hanson to battle with loan signing McCammon for the starting line up, listening to Wayne Jacobs’s advice on Michael Flynn’s abilities to join the forward line – Taylor has shown a willingness to give a chance to what he has found at Valley Parade to work with. His abilities to appease those who he currently is working for may decide his longer term involvement at the club.
Pleasing all of the people, all of the time.
Rotherham United 1 Bradford City 2 At The Don Valley Stadium in League Two, 2009/2010
Peter Taylor was thrust into unemployment by Wycombe Wanderers last October with accusations of dourness to smart over. But in the three short weeks since becoming Bradford City’s interim manager for the rest of the season, the 57-year-old is proving there’s a far greater edge to his methods.
When Rotherham United’s Adam Le Fondre fired home a stoppage time equaliser from the penalty spot, it appeared a well-deserved victory had been snatched from the Bantams’ grasp and what still looked a credible point in a promotion-chaser’s backyard would be all Taylor would take in support of his case for a longer contract. But heads didn’t drop, and Luke O’Brien charged forwards to earn a corner, which Simon Ramsden planted perfectly onto James Hanson’s forehead to fire home a dramatic winner. Dourness we can all get used to.
It was no more than City deserved for an impressive display which had the influence of Taylor stamped all over it. Organisation and shape have been the two biggest areas of improvement in City since the change of managers, and while both qualities could be filed under the dourness category apparently derided at Adams Park, they’ve helped what has looked an exciting team to watch all season become more focused and effective in its exhibiting of flair.
All afternoon at the Don Valley Stadium, the Bantams attacked with a purpose that caused problems for an oddly-nervous backline, largely lacking in the support of its midfield. A purpose that wasn’t about charging down blind alleys or pushing too many men forward, only to then have problems defending a counter attack. The midfield supported the front two of Hanson and Michael Flynn conservatively but dependably. If and when possession was lost, two organised lines of four were quickly in place to shield home attacks.
There is an element of directness about City’s approach; though with half of the Don Valley turf more closely resembling a beach than a football pitch, the conditions compromised passing football. But the mixing up of targeting the two wide players and passing through the engine room of the again hugely-impressive Lee Bullock and debut signing Adam Bolder ensured there was nothing predictable about the approach.
After former Bantam Nicky Law had forced a good early save from Matt Glennon, the territorial advantage and bulk of the chances were won by City in the first half. A defensive mix up almost saw Steve Williams head home, then a few minutes later Hanson blazed over from inside the penalty area when he should have scored. Rotherham almost struck when a goalmouth scramble saw three stabbed efforts somehow not cross the line – two were blocked on it by City players and the middle attempt hit the crossbar.
But City shaded the first half and continued to press after the interval with O’Brien and Flynn going close before City’s number four scored his first goal since Rotherham came to Valley Parade last December, firing home low and hard after Gareth Evans had charged forwards down the right flank and laid the ball into his path. Flynn again had an impressive afternoon in the unfamiliar striker’s role, before dropping into midfield late on. What Taylor’s use of his central midfielder says of the futures of Michael Boulding and Peter Thorne is becoming increasingly clear.
Evans’ role in the goal too deserved credit. Both he and O’Brien must be fearful of their own futures. Long term solutions for the widemen they probably aren’t, but the pair’s attitude towards making it work is admirable. It isn’t always perfect and both were guilty of losing the ball too often, but their obvious attempts to keep hold of it out wide rather than head-down take players on and risk losing possession is helping City’s midfield to support the front two more effectively and it was fitting the opening goal should be provided by one of them.
With Bullock and Bolder easily winning the midfield battle, the frankly woeful Nicky Law was subbed by Ronnie Moore as the home side pushed to come back. The pressure was sporadic, though crosses into the box did cause panic and Flynn and Robbie Therfall made two goalline blocks from one scramble before Mark Lynch headed off target. Minutes later Daryl Harrison fired wide with the goal gaping after Therfall was beaten too easily out wide. It was a let off which had Taylor screaming at his back four in anger over how they’d switched off, but with the clock running down it looked like City were going to hold out.
But a minute into stoppage time the otherwise impressive Williams handled in the box and the referee gave a penalty – a harsh but probably correct decision – and Le Fondre beat Glennon from 12 yards despite City’s stopper guessing which way he’d go. It seemed a crucial goal for Rotherham in their fight for promotion, but despite looking as though they’d got away with an undeserved draw, the celebrations from the home fans was less concerned with their own team’s joy.
Hundreds of Millers’ supporters swarmed to the front of their stand to taunt the City fans nearby, seemingly having no interest with events on the pitch. Their pathetic reaction was more bizarre for how feeble they had been supporting their own players during the game. It was almost near silence, apart from faint booing of their team’s disjointed play. They also had the humiliation of what looked like a bear mascot banging on a drum at the front of the stand in an attempt to get them chanting. While most Rotherham fans are undoubtedly decent people, one has to wonder about the small-time mentality of those who choose to react to their team’s last gasp equaliser at home to a team in 16th by simply goading opposition fans. Maybe we should be flattered.
But with a rising sense of injustice at the way afternoon was to end, just like Alan Partridge needless to say we had the last laugh. A corner was quickly forced and with the match long past the three allocated minutes of stoppage time and with hundreds of Rotherham fans still watching us and not the game, Hanson powerfully headed home his 10th goal of the season to spark scenes of delirium. For the second season in a row, celebrations spilled out onto the running track between the stands and pitch. It was a goal which hurt Rotherham more than it will alter City’s season, oh the faces of their fans.
And despite what must have felt like a huge kick in the teeth when Rotherham scored and the subsequent obvious madness taking place in the stands which saw police rushing to the front to prevent the possibility of trouble, the players kept their heads and made sure they left the pitch with everything they deserved.
That, above everything else, is what Taylor has brought to City. Under Stuart McCall this season the Bantams were playing some exciting football which was great to watch as the players gave everything to the cause, but the results ultimately illustrated its effectiveness. The football isn’t quite as edgy, but the energy is being used in the right way and City look hard to beat, determined and know what their roles are. There is an air of calmness which is transmitting into confidence and belief. Taylor is instigating that calmness.
It’s felt all season long that the Bantams had a good enough squad to challenge for promotion, results like this and at Rochdale are proving that. It’s surely come too late this campaign, but McCall’s legacy is leaving behind tools which Taylor could effectively use to mount a promotion challenge, if given the chance, next season.
Adam Bolder has signed for City on loan from Millwall as Peter Taylor continues to make changes to the Bantams side.
Bolder – who is expected to make his début for the Bantams in the game against Rotherham United tomorrow – is a central midfielder who played 166 games for Derby County and brings to four the number of loan players the Bantams have at the club with Gavin Grant being a non-contract player and Matt Glennon having signed a short term deal.
Bolder is expected to take the a central midfield role which may see Michael Flynn moved out to a wider position, or dropped and as such one has to wonder what the aim of bringing him to the club is. The central midfield position in any team which is not doing well is always to be questioned but few would suggest that Lee Bullock and Michael Flynn are the reason the Bantams are not doing well.
Indeed the performances of both have been rightly lauded during the season and Bolder’s arrival – should he displace one of them in his month long loan deal – only serves to throw more uncertainty at the City side.
One can understand Taylor’s bringing in players to cover the gaps in the City squad. The strength of Mark McCammon is needed to play Taylor’s direct football and the delivery of Robbie Threlfall adds something to the arsenal that we have struggled with since Paul McLaren’s exit. These signings give the squad added breadth.
As with Grant and the move on of Scott Neilson, Luke Oliver who will displace either the promising Steve Williams or the (frankly) best player on display against Darlington Matthew Clarke new signing Bolder – a central midfielder – seems to offer more of what we have.
A glance through the pedigrees of Bolder, Flynn and Bullock does nothing to suggest that Peter Taylor is bringing in an improvement to the side so much as a different face. Taylor is very pleased with his capture and he is no doubt a good player but once again we see a situation where first team experience is being given to another team’s player rather than our own.
Oliver, Grant, and Bolder could all end up signing for City but what will be achieved by that is debatable. After all Lee Bullock was signed on loan and then full time to replace what we already had and now, two years later, he could end up on the bench watching a loan player in his shirt.
How this plethora of loanees is going to effect the development of the likes of Williams, Neilson, Luke Sharry, Leon Osborne et al is anyone’s guess. How is the harmony of the side helped by having the majority of the starting eleven on short term deals is also a worry. All of the short term players are probably good footballers and Taylor has an eye for a player and a character – one recalls the armband and David Beckham – but the use of so many loan players is perhaps a definitive problem with the short term approach the Bantams seem to be taking at the moment.
Some might say that it is not important to build a team at a club, that players are bounty hunters and collecting enough good players in one place is all that is required. These people would not include Rochdale manager Keith Hill, or Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson.
Perhaps Taylor believes that before he can build a future with City – be it with the squad he inherited, the one he is making from loan players or a third one – he needs to win the “trial” for manager’s job he has in front of him. Wins now mean that relegation is banished and the loan players can go home or become full members of the squad.
One hopes so because switching one set of league two players for another set of league two players is a very curious definition of progress and replacing players signed on loan and then permanently with another set signed on loan and then permanently is no one’s idea of a change.
Bradford City play Rotherham United At The Don Valley Stadium in League Two, 2009/2010
Don’t send me flowers when I’m dead. If you like me, send them while I’m alive – Brian Clough
Search Facebook on Wednesday afternoon and you would find the group We Hate Keith Alexander
Football did not come to a sobering halt with the news of the death at 53 of Macclesfield Town manager Keith Alexander and perhaps did not even skip a beat but rolled on to watching England beat Egypt with the players wearing black armbands and Clive Tyldesley waxing lyrical about a man who’s team one doubts he could place on a map.
The booing of John Terry went on regardless, clubs like Farsley Celtic – the very type of low level club that as a player and manager Alexander served so diligently – continued to struggle to keep going, the people at the “We Hate…” group carried on swearing and being obnoxious. For all the shock and sadness of the death of an iconoclast manager football did not miss a beat, and that is a shame.
Alexander is lauded in death, but hardly appreciated. Tyldesley called him the type of man who is so important to football at the lower levels but is part of the very machine that tries to grind out that level of the game. Alexander’s death is shocking, but his work in life was no doubt sadly frustrating.
A man who gave his life to a the levels of game which seems prepared to allow that level to wither and die. Hardly an appreciation.
Gareth Evans will show appreciation. Evans credits Alexander with helping turn his career around at Macclesfield following his release from Manchester United and indeed it is over a tackle by Evans that the “We Hate…” group emerged.
The group – started by those lovely Notts County supporters – is hardly unique indeed the very discussion of football seems to be conducted by a not insignificant section of fans in this kind of hateful, disturbing way. A search for “Stuart McCall” turns up groups like “stuart mccall’s a ****” and “I HAT (sic) BRADFORD CITY AND STUART MCCALL BUMS DAVID WETHERALL” alongside calls for the former City boss to be given the job of Prime Minister.
Why is it that a section of football is so ready to communicate in such hateful terms? Mark Lawn considers this so much of a problem on Bradford City’s official message board that he wants to take steps against it by removing the anonymity of that site although the Facebook experience suggests that that will not be a total remedy.
Indeed as tributes were pouring in about Alexander some England fans at Wembley were booing and jeering John Terry who has been the subject of shocking abuse as football continues the culture that allows abuse to sit alongside criticism as if the two are natural bedfellows, leading to a suggestion that the one will bleed into the other.
BfB was asked to not criticise Mark Lawn and – when the joint chairman’s car was vandalised after the Accrington Stanley game – there was a suggestion that (what I consider to be very valid) criticism by one person becomes abuse by another that becomes violence.
This week a reader asked that the site not “fall into the trap of criticising Taylor after two weeks” following a news story about Scott Neilson going out on loan while Gavin Grant comes in and in a welcome and friendly exchange I details how Taylor will be criticised when he does things that people do not like – such as bringing in too many loan players, a continued bugbear of mine – and praised when he does things that people consider right such as switching back to 442 or retaining Wayne Jacobs.
No one need create a “We Hate Peter Taylor Group” because of it and no one has to vandalise a car.
Football culture has a continued problem with the inability to separate criticism from abuse and perhaps if we want to pay tribute to the memory of Keith Alexander we might look at how servants of the game such as he are regularly the subject of abuse which is as disturbing when he was alive as it is now he has passed on and see what we can do to change that.
Should the FA want to pay tribute to Alexander they might also look at the state of lower league football and the finances that sees Sheffield Wednesday – no one’s idea of a small fry club – the latest team to be talking about administration. The gold rush of the Premier League seems to be coming to an end and the clubs involved seem to have frittered away that wealth and perhaps there needs to be redress in show the money is distributed that would give managers like Alexander more of an even hand. A wider discussion for another time.
The abuse of managers and the struggles of club’s to stay in business comes to the fore when Bradford City face a team managed by Ronnie Moore. Moore had wanted City to be thrown out of football for going into administration but has since, no doubt, revised a view that would have seen his current club Rotherham United bounced out of the game.
I think Moore’s view was out of touch, unsympathetic and needlessly harsh but I understand the frustrations he had in trying to sign players and being outbid by the Bantams and feel that football could have learnt from that. Indeed City were out-offered by The Millers for Paul Shaw,Pablo Mills and – later – Nicky Law Jnr which suggests that even the smaller points Moore made have been ignored.
Rotherham are smarting from a 4-0 defeat at Rochdale in the week and have slipped to fifth from the lofty position Mark Robbins took the club to at the start of the season. The Miller’s Don Valley Stadium has seen only seven wins this season – two or three fewer than their promotion rivals – and seems to be as unwelcoming for the “home” support as it is for the visitors. The place is bitterly cold and the pitch not good for playing football on.
Not that that will stop Peter Taylor’s strong men at the front with the Bantams playing an increasingly air based game. Mark McCammon – who turned down Rotherham to join City – and James Hanson can expect the ball to come direct and to look for wide men Gareth Evans and Luke O’Brien for lay-offs to allow for delivery. Goals from under five passes are the order of the day, especially on pitches like the Don Valley.
Scott Neilson’s loan move to Cambridge United is a strange one. His replacement – Gavin Grant, who made a debut at Aldershot and was himself subject to abuse from his new supporters – is a non-contract player and should he wish can leave Bradford City whenever he wants. Neilson cannot return to the club for a month regardless and one has to wonder why the experience that is given from playing for the Bantams should be given to Grant and not to Neilson.
Peter Taylor wants Neilson to get some first team games but leaves him out of our first team. As a player he is obviously capable and has shown us such. The instability the club has been put into is underlined by the idea that one of the squad could simply wander away at the drop of a hat.
Michael Flynn and Lee Bullock both had chances to get an equaliser against Aldershot in the week and were unlucky not to do so. The pair can point back to the 4-2 defeat at Valley Parade earlier this season as proof that they have been able to boss a midfield against the Millers – goals scored from wherever you want, or offside, are not proof of a good midfield – and should prepare for battle. For all Nicky Law’s abilities “getting stuck in” was not one of them.
At the back Luke Oliver – all six foot seven of him – is expected to make a debut in the place of Matthew Clarke with Steve Williams retaining his place. Robbie Threlfall and Simon Ramsden continue in front of Matt Glennon.
Former Cambridge City winger Scott Neilson has joined Cambridge United on loan as Peter Taylor continues to make changes to the City squad.
Taylor has brought in Gavin Grant which seems to make Neilson – who Sven Goran Erikkson enquired about earlier in the season – cost City £7,500 earlier this season and replace Joe Colbeck in the side.
The merits of fielding loan players rather than those contracted to City in the long term have been debated before but it seems that with our players going out on loan and the likes of Luke Oliver, Mark McCammon, Robbie Threlfall and Grant all in the City squad it would seem that the approach of not giving experience to another club’s players over our own has changed with the change of manager.
Neilson will be at Cambridge United for a month.