Issue The clip show

As told by Jason Mckeown, Richard Wardell and Michael Wood

Don’t you just hate it when a sitcom resorts to doing a clips episode? A tedious plot which somehow requires the main characters to spend half an hour looking back on the funniest moments of the past, so the majority of the episode is just about re-living past highlights. It suggests laziness – or a lack of ideas – on the writers’ part. And it should be redundant in these days of DVD boxsets.

Well we at BfB are not lazy – or at least not being any more lazy than we usually are – and we’d like to think we’ve still got plenty of ideas; but with recent events feeling something like Groundhog Day, a step into the archives is an interesting way of placing some perspective on our current woes.

So here goes

Let’s begin in April 2009 and an article written by former BCST man and much-valued BfB contributor Richard Wardell. With Stuart McCall on the brink of leaving as a promotion bid collapsed, Richard argued against those calling for Dave Penny to be installed as manager by offering a vision of the future.

It was a warm Tuesday evening in late September 2009 and as the City supporters trudged away from Valley Parade, there was much talk about whether the appointment of Dave Penney in the summer had been the right move by Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn following Stuart McCall’s exitNow that Penney and City had suffered their third consecutive home defeat, this time to league newcomers Burton Albion which left them in the bottom half of Division 4, many City supporters were questioning Penney’s appointment.

What’s so astonishing about these words is how close to the truth they are now, in September 2010. Replace Burton with Port Vale and Penny with Taylor, and the words pretty much describe the current reality. So far the decision to replace McCall has not worked out in the way some fans argued it would, and that has to register with people who are already beginning to tell the rest of us that Taylor’s removal is now the answer.

Taylor arrived last February to widespread acclaim. Everyone was pleased he was to become our manager this season, including a minority who are now slating Lawn and Rhodes for appointing him.

Let’s go to the Official Message Board – so often the platform for supporters’ views the club pays a lot of attention – to remind ourselves. A poll of who should be next manager saw Taylor come out on top with 53% of the votes, with the second highest votes coming for Martin Allen with 22%. 116  supporters voted, a decent representative of City fans. The day Taylor was confirmed to widespread joy, one fan commented, “I would love Taylor to bring [Tommy Doherty] into strengthen the midfield!”

The point of digging up such old comments and poll results is to highlight how everyone has a responsibility in the views they air. The changing of managers allows every one of us the chance to put ourselves in the position of the owners and decide who we’d like to see installed in the dugout. The fact the majority of fans clearly voted for Taylor in February – and voted he remained when a new contract was discussed last April – means we must take some responsibility for his appointment.

It’s therefore deeply wrong to so readily drop that support and pretend you never wanted him – and to blame Lawn and Rhodes for making a decision you had called for. And if supporters are going to ignore their old views or pretend they never aired them, how are there opinions now in anyway credible? Like Lawn and Rhodes, we need to be giving the manager support during this difficult time, because the majority of us appointed him believing he was the man for the job.

There’s also a big question mark about where calls for Taylor lead us. The club have only been prepared to back him for a short time, how long will the next guy get? Suddenly the club is not been run on the basis of a long-term plan, but on the form guide. It’s a highly unlikely-route to success that will only succeed in ensuring an increasingly regular vacancy is unattractive to sane managers.

Or as Michael excellently put last February:

For as long as BfB has been going I’ve been hoping that the correlation between often changing managers and a lack of success might be grasped by all at, and who watch from the stands at, Valley Parade. Alas it seems not to have been and the virtues of sticking with a manager – any manager – and allowing them to build a club and a dynasty rather than a single team are lost.

Taylor, with his training ground demands, perhaps represented one last chance to allow long-term thinking to work. An alternative strategy has yet to be aired – or perhaps even considered – by anyone.

An increasing criticism of Taylor in recent days has been his TV commitments. Over the last fortnight Taylor has appeared on the BBC, Sky and ESPN – usually offering punditry on the England national team. The complainers argue he does not have his mind on the City job and is failing to manage the players – he should after all have them in for 25 hours a day training. But if City were winning no one would bat an eyelid over his TV work.

So the question is does it make a difference? Let’s go back to Taylor’s track record for our next clip. To May 2005, when Hull were celebrating a second successive promotion. Or to May 2006, when Hull were celebrating staying up in the Championship. Taylor was the manager who oversaw this memorable chapter in the club’s history – but that wasn’t all he did. He was also England U21 manager.

That’s right, Taylor managed two football teams at the same time, and was hugely successful in the club one. Suddenly spending an evening in a Sky TV studio doesn’t quite seem so disgraceful, does it?

Let’s fast forward a little bit, back to McCall as manager. We all dreamed his appointment would lead to instant glory, but only three months into the job there was a crisis as City suffered eight winless matches and fell to fourth bottom of the Football League. Eventually results improved, and although the damage to City’s promotion bid was already done for that season at least, the turnaround in form was impressive. City finished 9th, thinking “if only” about that poor autumn run of form.

There are obvious similarities to the current poor run of form Taylor is trying to turn around. Let’s recall how bad it was in the autumn of 2007:

Ultimately, too many had an off night. What we were left was a displayed blighted by defensive howlers, woeful passing and players with heads down. Free kicks, corners and crosses were truly appalling. On a night full of frustration, the…final 20 minutes were perhaps the most telling. During these periods, the players had clearly given up, were shying away from touching the ball and were just waiting for the referee to blow his whistle. As supporters we can forgive players having an off night, they’re only human. But when we see players clearly not trying and giving up so feebly, it really hurts.

That was describing the infamous 3-0 defeat to Accrington, but it could equally have been an account of the recent 2-0 defeat to Southend. The point of looking back on this miserable time is that we know City were able to turn it around, just like they can this time. And unlike in 2007, if the turnaround can occur soon there will be much more of the season left to climb up the league. Back in 2007 the players looked hopeless and you couldn’t see us scoring a goal, but hard work and determination saw them eventually turn it around and show how good they were.

The current crop of players are capable of doing the same.

Finally let’s look back to the even more recent past – Taylor’s arrival. That too coincided with a shocking performance against Accrington, and as the club’s poor form under McCall continued it was difficult to see where the next win would come from. The fact City’s next match was away at leaders Rochdale meant we all certainly knew it wouldn’t be anytime soon. How wrong we were.

The players were brilliant that night – so too were the fans. Non-stop chanting that began well before kick off and only ended when we’d finished applauding Taylor and his players off the pitch. It was a reaction to the dismal form and the woeful atmosphere, which had been especially dreadful at Accrington. And it clearly made a difference to the players.

So I’d like to end by looking back on my own words ahead of traveling to that ‘inevitable’ defeat because I think they are as prevalent now as they were then.

Yet again City are drifting and, as familiarly depressing as this is, now should be the time to do something about it. Those of us going tonight should loudly back the team like we haven’t done all season. We should be chanting at 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, whatever. We should be leading the fight for our cause – even if we’re not sure what the cause is.

This is our football club, and we’re allowing it to fall into further decline by standing their muted at Accrington and booing the players. They didn’t deserve their bus ride home on Saturday, but if someone’s going to inject some passion into their boots and make them remember what an important cause playing for Bradford City is, well it’s got to be us.

So tonight we sing, tonight we support our team in defiance…Tonight we sing about how we’re City till we die, before the club itself really does.

See you at Stockport.