Issue Peter Taylor offers a bright future, but suggests the recent past wasn’t so bad

As told by Jason Mckeown

In the seven short weeks Peter Taylor has been at the club, the interim manager has shown enough to suggest he is capable of leading Bradford City back up the football pyramid – but he has not shown up predecessor Stuart McCall as doing a bad job.

Taylor’s record of 17 points from 11 games is only marginally higher than then 13 points McCall delivered in his final 11 matches in charge. The league position has remained largely unaltered and, while there are plenty of reasons beyond Taylor’s control for why there has been no significant improvement, not least the fact he inherited players signed by McCall, the failure to deliver a tangible upturn demonstrates yet again the limited impact changing managers really has.

For while Taylor would have signed different players last summer had he been in charge, he would have been working with the same reduced budget and sniffing out similar types of bargain players as McCall. It is clear the defining moment of this season was the failure of the last one.  City underperformed then with a relatively large budget, but its reduction by a third has pushed City a third of the way down the league – and means they are now underperforming with a reduced budget.

Back during the final few weeks of McCall’s reign, and the intense pressure for a change from many fans was driven by theories that City had a good team hindered by a clueless manager who couldn’t get his tactics right. The sometimes mitigating contributory circumstances to defeats, such as harsh sendings off or inept refereeing, were angrily dismissed as McCall’s ‘excuses’. It would all be okay as soon as he left, we were told.

As I walked along the midland road after the end of Monday’s defeat to Macclesfield, a supporter nearby summed up the situation better than I could. “Under McCall we had no shape but the players gave everything,” he began, “Under Taylor we have shape but now the players don’t care.” Every year we see the form of teams with nothing to play for drift away, often past Bantams sides have been guilty; but with apparent unresolved futures to fight for, it shouldn’t be unrealistic to expect more.

All season long this team has shown it can perform to a high standard, under both McCall and Taylor, but they lack consistency and only seem capable of winning games if every player is on top of their game. Taylor has changed the system and improved the form of some, but it hasn’t made such a big impact as to suggest McCall was getting it all wrong. Taylor has been no better at getting consistency from the players, his half time team talks have had no greater effect than those from McCall – despite the ignorant claims at the time that the former manager wasn’t capable of motivating the players. 

And as injuries rob Taylor of the spine of a side, many of the loanees he has signed to help bolster numbers have looked inadequate or uncommitted. Taylor’s success has been based on keeping the core of McCall’s team and only supplementing it with one or two loan players at a time. The balance has now shifted too much, but this not just down to a crowded treatment room – it is sat at home with feet up, contemplating retirement; it is strutting up and down the Abbey stadium for a non-league team drifting in its own midtable mediocrity.

Which isn’t to suggest City should abandon preparing that longer contract offer and look elsewhere for a permanent manager, but that the impact any manager can make is so often limited by the resources at their disposal. In time the removal of McCall will hopefully be looked back on as a good thing – because in order to be, City will have significantly improved and gained at least a promotion – but in the short term it has made very little difference, and those who felt it would need to realise this.

So while the future does looks bright under Taylor, the past under McCall wasn’t as bad as others made out. I personally believe McCall did a decent job at City – failing to meet what were massive expectations, but building a club and shaping a vision. That didn’t work out fast enough and, with City a level below what is considered acceptable, time was always a commodity no matter the legend status. But if McCall really was as poor a manager as some continue to argue, his departure should have resulted in a bigger impact on City’s league position two months on.

The board are busy implementing better training facilities and finalising a more competitive playing budget for Taylor, his experience and track record suggests he will use it well and push City forwards. These supporting factors matter, and their neglect could go down as the biggest lesson to learn from this disappointing season.

But past history shows that typically it will soon be forgotten by some and, in time, Taylor will face similar pressure to McCall. Right now the manager is no longer the problem, but time will soon probably see to that.