Silence can be golden

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 I hope I do not quote him out of context.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.

The budget

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.

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