From October, 2010
- Lenny Pidgeley | Zesh Rehman, Steve Williams, Luke Oliver, Luke O'Brien | Leon Osborne, Tommy Doherty, Tom Adeyemi, Lee Hendrie | James Hanson, Omar Daley | Jason Price, David Syers, Lewis Moult
Bradford City 5 Oxford United 0 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
For the second home game running I’ve walked away from Valley Parade with that feeling that can only be brought on by a convincing home performance and three points to go with it. The little details being a five goals for, none conceded and a climb up the table and the ‘big picture’ looking rosy. Although at one point it felt like that feeling could well have been overshadowed by a very questionable refereeing performance.
I must admit with news of Jake Speight going out on loan to Port Vale I was beginning to question Peter Taylor’s grasp on ‘The big picture’ and the hopeful long term progression of the club; Speight being a player Taylor actually paid for only to send him away in favour of a loan signing. But what can we expect from a club that frequently shows a tendency towards the short term fix.
City fielding short-term keeper Lenny Pidgely over first choice stopper Jon McLaughlan also struck of the short-term approach. Strange again I thought. The big picture was looking blurred.
If the little details can be qualified as today’s game then they in contrast seem to be in sharp focus.
City showed in the second half what they have been lacking for the majority of the season, a killer instinct needed to finish a team off and a real confidence when playing at home. Second half goals from an impressive Omar Daley (who my dad said should’ve been subbed at half time – shows what he knows!), Hendrie, Syers and Moult led to City’s biggest win since the 5-0 defeat of Aldershot just prior to the season implosion of two years ago.
The first half actually passed without too much footballing incident, both sides worked hard but the ball often found itself bogged down in the midfield. City occasionally showed glimpses of good play through Doherty and Hendrie, the latter I feel was sorely missed last week at Burton, but neither keeper was really troubled.
The locus of attention was instead focussed on diminutive referee Mr. Webb (not Howard…) who, along with his assistants, made several confusing decisions throughout.
Notably, in the first half there was a decision where James Hanson was played in behind the Oxford backline; admittedly I initially thought that Hanson was offside, however it appeared to me (in the Midland Road stand) that the linesman held down his flag to indicate that Hanson was in fact onside, only to then raise it seconds later. Confusing.
Unfortunately, this type of inconsistency continued.
Take for example when Daley put City in the lead minutes after half time. A flick back from Hanson saw the Jamaican fire low past Oxford keeper Clarke; obviously overjoyed at finding the net Daley firstly shook hands with a fan and then jumped over the advertising boards to celebrate with a number of the disabled fans at the front of the Midland Road stand.
The ref went straight to his pocket to show Daley the yellow card, much to the home fans’ dismay; it appeared that Daley then talked some sense into Mr. Webb by explaining his actions, a point which most thought the ref accepted until he then pulled out the card anyway, cue loud booing.
Some might argue the ref was only applying the law, but this summed up the over zealous official who seemed more concerned ‘the little details’ such as free-kicks being taken within an inch of the foul than with the overall picture of the game. More on the ref later.
Daley doubled City’s lead in the 56th minute with an emphatic left foot strike beating Clarke at his near post, top corner.
This brought about a big turning point in the match in terms of the home teams’ confidence as City became much bolder with their play, utilising the midfield which had been relatively by-passed in the first half. It was encouraging to see Tommy Doherty put in a good performance, once a gain showing several class touches and vision that we were told to expect at the beginning of the season.
Added confidence arguably led to the tireless James Hanson chasing down a relatively lost cause only to out jump Oxford left-back Tonkin (apt name given the score line), drive into the box, cut inside centre half Creighton who then dropped him. Penalty.
The first spot-kick was well saved by Clarke… but hold on the officials had seen something – Clarke had been adjudged to have been off his line when the kick was taken – the second penalty was rolled home to put City in a very commanding position.
City’s play then proceeded to flow, neat one touch football brought several ‘Ollaaayys’ from the obviously delighted crowd and it was from one of these ‘give and go’ passing moves that the major flashpoint of the second half occurred.
Back to the ref.
Hendrie laid a shortish ball to Osbourne who was hacked by already booked centre back Creighton – Second yellow, straight forward decision where the ref really didn’t have much of an option.
Following the decision a mass brawl erupted between both sides, with even the Oxford keeper getting involved. The initial source of the fight was unclear to me, but something obviously wound up former City youth player, Jake Wright, who made a forgettable return to his former club.
What followed was much conversation between the referee and his two assistants, the up shot saw Hanson given a straight red card along with Wright for what one can only assume was for violent conduct – the fact that neither side really came to blows other than the usual football handbags, again seemed fairly irrelevant to the ‘zero-tolerance’ ref.
Hanson was applauded by fans when exiting the pitch, actions of a guilty man? The ref could have quite easily booked both players and allowed the game to continue, but now it looks like City will be without Hanson for two league games and the FA cup trip to Colchester next week.
With the pitch looking a lot larger following the player cull, City found plenty of space in the Oxford half.
They played with a belief that has seemed so lacking at times this season and were rewarded twice more with a net busting volley from David Syers, following a good run and cross from Mr. Consistency Luke O’Brien; then a late solo effort from fellow sub Louis Moult who curled in an effort from 25 yards.
It seems that the little details are coming together for Peter Taylor, his decisions to replace McLaughlan and favour loan players over Speight appear to be fully justified following such a brilliant result, but it is how he decides to bring these details together to make the big picture that will determine whether he creates a master piece or one to be glossed over.
So to high flying Bury on Tuesday night – a personal derby for myself as my girlfriend writes the match reports for The Shakers – with confidence high. I am looking forward to a really entertaining game as I know that Bury play a good brand of attacking football which we can hopefully emulate in our continued quest for the big picture coming together.
- Lenny Pidgeley | Zesh Rehman, Steve Williams, Luke Oliver, Luke O'Brien | Leon Osborne, Tommy Doherty, Tom Adeyemi, Lee Hendrie | James Hanson, Omar Daley | Jason Price, David Syers, Lewis Moult
Mary Needham the granddaughter of Bradford City’s first chairman (Alfred Ayrton) will be an invited guest at Valley Parade for Bradford City versus Oxford Utd on Sat 30th Oct. At age 79 years this will be Mary’s first ever visit to a football match.
Mary recently donated a magnificent illuminated silver presentation case to Bradford Museums and Galleries. This presentation case was given to her grandfather when he retired as Bradford City chairman in 1907 along with his portrait in oils. The solid silver case was made by Fattorini’s of Bradford and was signed by board members at the time including Harry Jowett (chairman), A Fattorini, A Lancaster and others.
David Pendleton will give a talk on Alfred Ayrton’s significance to the club before the game in the Bantamspast museum at 2pm. Mary will be in attendance between 1:30 and 2:30pm to meet fans and hear the talk on her Grandfather. Alfred saved Manningham Rugby Club from closure when he became their president in 1900.
He later drove through the conversion of Manningham Rugby Club to football and the birth of Bradford City. The illuminated case was given to Alfred Ayrton on his retirement as the Chairman of Bradford City on January 29th 1907.
Mary Needham will then be watching her first football match and meeting the present chairman, directors and fans.
Jake Speight’s exit from Bradford City on a loan deal to Port Vale late on Friday after might have caused raised hackles and eyebrows amongst City fans but for Peter Taylor it represents something of a rubicon moment in his time at Bradford City.
Speight signed for the club and took a sojourn at Her Majesty’s Pleasure before impressing at the start of the season. He rose into the team and fell as Taylor favoured other players. His exit is, one assumes, approved by the manager and is done entirely within his sphere of influence. Paying off players the previous manager had is one thing but Speight is the first high profile Taylor signing to leave.
He leaves, on a loan deal, with much confusion. The player has impressed at any chance he has been given but for whatever reason those chances have been limited. If he is so superfluous to requirements that he can be allowed a loan deal one has to wonder why Taylor signed him at all, especially considering a transfer fee was paid.
The player’s hustling style has proved popular drawing comparison to Robbie Blake but seemingly Taylor prefers the physical play of Jason Price or even Luke Oliver to partner James Hanson. Speight not having shrunk in the last three months one puzzles as to why he arrived at all.
It is hard to say the player will be missed so infrequently did he start games but the idea of a City side with the kind of craft Speight suggested will be, especially when the prospect of football played via target men line has so frequently disappointed this year.
What this says about Taylor plans for the rest of the season is the subject of some debate. Speight’s place is most often on the bench, but it seems that the manager has started to rethink and rebuild the squad that he started the season with.
Not an admission of failure, but a statement that what he had brought to the club was not working. Along with the arrival of new keeper Lenny Pidgeley it seems that Peter Taylor has decided that it is not the team he inherited which was the problem so much as the one he has built.
Bradford City play Oxford United At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
It’s 10-and-a-half-years since Oxford United last visited Valley Parade – but the remarkable period in City’s history which that end-of-season game was part of ensures the memories remain vivid.
Oxford home was Bradford City’s penultimate fixture of a Division One campaign on the brink of ending in glory. A week earlier, the Bantams had defeated QPR 3-1 at Loftus Road while promotion rivals Ipswich Town incredibly lost at home to bottom-placed Crewe. Fantastic news for City – lifting them into the second automatic promotion spot on Goals For with two games to go – but the Portman Road result was not so good for Oxford, who were battling with Crewe and five other clubs to avoid the drop.
With City facing Oxford at Valley Parade a day before Ipswich’s tough away encounter at 4th-placed Birmingham, there was genuine optimism this was going to be the weekend that City – with a far superior Goals For total (Goal Difference wasn’t used back then) – would seal promotion to the Premier League. The easy part of the bargain seemed an inevitable victory over a struggling Oxford who hadn’t won in five. What could possibly go wrong?
That day was almost a living nightmare. I still have video highlights of the disappointing 0-0 draw, taped from Yorkshire TV’s Goals on Sunday, and even watching years on you can still feel the tension that was rife among the sell-out home crowd. City struggled to rise to the occasion, Oxford refused to lie down. They even created the better chances, forcing Gary Walsh into a couple of superb saves.
The Valley Parade clock seemed to tick by worryingly fast, the atmosphere was flat – we all just seemed too nervous to even attempt a chant. I felt sick in my stomach as the growing sense of realisation we weren’t going to win – and therefore might have messed up our promotion chances – sank in.
In a cruel and horrible twist, deep in stoppage time Stuart McCall was presented with the easiest of chances right in front of us in the Kop. He headed the ball over the bar, and the split-second we allowed ourselves to believe we’d got out of jail gave way to crushing misery. McCall was inconsolable as he left the field – the TV highlights capturing a shot of a ball boy attempting to hug him, only for the skipper to brush him off.
It all worked out wonderfully in the end of course: Birmingham beat Ipswich the following day to leave the Tractor Boys a point behind. A week later came that stunning victory over Wolves, which sealed City’s promotion and lead to wild scenes of jubilation in the away end and back in Bradford. And in hindsight we could look back on the Oxford draw and feel glad we didn’t win, so we got this never-to-be-forgotten moment at Molineux. Oxford were relegated, despite winning 5-0 against Stockport in their final game.
Although I still look back on that afternoon against Oxford and feel sick at the despair we endured, with each passing year of disappointment there’s part of me that longs to experience such disappointment again. True we’ve had some truly miserable times over the past decade, but for City to be up their fighting for promotion and to have some many sleepless nights hoping they could cross the finishing line is a different kind of emotion – and one we’ve struggled to come close to experiencing since.
It’s impossible to find the words that do justice to just how much promotion meant to us that year, but perhaps things have now become so bad that, if and when success does return to this club, we’ll feel just as happy as we did then.
For much of the club’s subsequent fall, there’s been a feeling promotion should be our right rather than the astonishing achievement 1999 was. As such, if we had achieved promotion from League One in 2006 or League Two in 2009, the celebrations would have probably felt more reserved. A sense of entitlement that we were simply fulfilling our right, rather than delirium that our lives could be blessed with something so remarkable.
Perhaps the ongoing frustrations of League Two life and never-ending despair that we can’t seem to bottom out now mean that a promotion from League Two would leave us feeling just as happy as Wolves 99. While the twists and turns leading up to it would at times leave us as emotionally-traumatised as the last time we played Oxford.
All of which seems a long distance away as City welcome Oxford tomorrow while 20th in League Two. Wins over Barnet and Cheltenham lifted spirits and breathed new hope into a season heading down the pan, but the setback at Burton last week has again dampened the mood. There’s less anger than post-Morecambe, but things still feel very on edge. Another defeat tomorrow – or even a repeat of the outcome when City last played the Us – and the pressure will rise again.
The task in hand is far from easy – the Oxford of 2010 do not represent anything like the home banker to City that the 1999 match-up suggested. Like City the last decade has been hugely difficult for United, with the 1999 relegation quickly followed by demotions to League Two in 2001 and out of the Football League in 2006. For three seasons the club enjoyed the highest gates in the Conference but failed to climb out of a division they appeared too big for – sound familiar, eh? – before beating York in the play off final last May.
The manager is another reason to look in the past. Chris Wilder played 45 times for City during the 1997-98 season, before moving to hometown club Sheffield United on transfer deadline day.
After impressing as manager at Halifax, Wilder guided Oxford back to the Football League and is a name who often crops up when debating a managerial change at Valley Parade. Wilder and Oxford have started well and lie in 11th place ahead of their trip to West Yorkshire – though their recent league form is just as inconsistent as the Bantams.
Jon McLaughlin will continue in goal for City – despite another bout of public criticism from his manager after Burton last week and the added pressure of Lenny Pidgeley arriving on trial. The defence will see two changes as the departing Man United loanees Reece Brown and Oliver Gill leave gaps that will be taken by Zesh Rehman and Luke Oliver.
Steve Williams and Luke O’Brien will keep their places, but the disruption to back four selection throws questions over the value in signing the two youngsters for a month and looking to build with them. Or to quote Rehman, “No disrespect to the two lads coming in (on loan), but I don’t think they did anything that I felt I couldn’t do.”
Lee Hendrie is fighting to be fit after missing last week, with Tom Adeyemi set to return and battle with David Syers to play alongside Tommy Doherty. The early signs are that Syers provides the midfield with greater balance, and his last two performances make him difficult to leave out. Leon Osborne is slowly developing into a decent player, but continues to be the target of some supporters.
Up front, it’s hoped Omar Daley will be trusted to return to the free role position he was performing so well, with Jason Price and James Hanson vying to start alongside him and the other making a very good sub. Price has so far won plenty of praise, but Hanson’s return makes him less needed than he was a few weeks earlier when Oliver had to play up front. Timing is everything in football, and it remains regrettable Taylor couldn’t have signed a loan striker earlier than he managed.
Jake Speight, Louis Moult, Robbie Threlfall and Lee Bullock are all battling to return to the side, and could yet play a significant role in the season. And as the visitors remind us of our enjoyable past, it’s perhaps the last trip City made to Oxford which should provide the greatest inspiration.
City won 1-0 in December 1998, to reverse a two-game losing run. That paved the way for a superb run of form – eight wins from the next nine matches – and solved the final piece of then-manager Paul Jewell’s promotion squad conundrum which had seen the team selection evolve after a dreadful start. Robbie Blake was switched from right winger to partner Lee Mills, it all fell beautifully into place. The immediate challenge for Taylor is to shape his squad in a similar fashion and unearth the right formula that will turn an under-achieving team into promotion contenders.
Tomorrow will hopefully see another positive step towards fulfilling that aim – so in time we can party like it’s 1999.
- Jon McLaughlin | Reece Brown, Oliver Gill, Steve Williams, Luke O'Brien | Leon Osborne, Tommy Doherty, David Syers, Omar Daley | James Hanson, Jason Price | Moult (for Daley), Speight (for Price)
Burton Albion 3 Bradford City 0 At Pirelli Stadium in League Two, 2010/2011
The stretch of the M1 we followed to get down to Burton today was fraught with spells of heavy rain and high levels of spray, which made driving hazardous. And then three junctions before our turn off, traffic came to a complete standstill as an accident still some 10 miles ahead left everyone stationed.
In many ways it symbolised the year 2010 for Bradford City.
Faced with little to no movement on the motorway and with the clock ticking to kick off at the Pirelli Stadium, the atlas was hastily opened and an alternative route was worked out by getting off two junctions early. Abandon plan A, see you later non-moving traffic.
But what looked a good idea on paper proved to be almost as big a nightmare. The A roads we plotted as our short-cut were filled with heavy traffic, roadworks and over-used junctions through small towns which caused colossal tailbacks and took over 20 minutes a time to get through. Stress levels through the roof, but in the end we got into the ground just as the players came out for the game.
Perhaps if we’d waited on the M1 while the accident was cleared up we might have missed kick off, just like several City fans and even Burton’s planned starting player, Nathan Stanton, who had to be dropped to the bench. But as alluring and promising as the short-cut appeared to be in solving our immediate problems, the subsequent unexpected twists and troubles with plan B made it difficult to argue we had made the right decision.
Last February, Stuart McCall was forced out of the club he enjoyed highly distinguished spells of success with as a player – and who he still cares so much about he’s now even helping out the under 14s team – because it seemed his progress as manager was too slow and City were at a standstill. He’d made mistakes for sure; but after the majority of fans held up SOS banners begging him to stay in April 2009, he set about building a young hungry team which was just two or three players short of taking City into the direction we wanted to go.
Yet a few defeats around Christmas last year, and the impatience of many fans and members of the board became too strong and all of it was torn up. There had to be another, quicker path to realising the success we craved, it was felt; and rather like the alternative route devised from our road atlas this afternoon, his replacement Peter Taylor looked good on paper.
Ten months on, the evidence is mounting that getting rid of McCall as manager has proven a backwards step for this club. Sure, I know and understand the arguments about how McCall had been given almost three years and the lack of progress was there for all to see. I also agree he had sizeable transfer budgets and failed to make the most of them. But after he offered to quit in Spring 2009 and after many of us begged him to stay, we saw tangible evidence of him learning from past mistakes which deserved more time to see through. After trying the short-cut approach of throwing money at people like Paul McLaren, he was building a team with great potential that could grow and take the club forwards over the next few years.
Taylor was an outstanding appointment for sure, but as City slumped to a seventh defeat in 13 league games this afternoon the reasons to believe he is the man to revive this ailing club are few beyond those that were apparent last February. The league position, the results, the performances and the level of passion have all declined since McCall fell on his sword.
For a week since the brilliant victory over Cheltenham Town, we’ve all basked in that warm glow of happiness and the positive mood was prevalent in the Burton away end at kick off and even through to half time, with City unfortunate to be a goal down after Jon McLaughlin brought down Lewis Young in the area and was unable to keep out Shaun Harrod’s spot kick on 31 minutes.
And though Burton had played well and hit the woodwork twice, City had been equally impressive and regularly cut through the Brewers’ defence during an exciting opening 45 minutes. Omar Daley, moved to left wing as Lee Hendrie was absent, twice cut inside and forced saves out of keeper Adam Legzdins. The hard-working David Syers had a long range effort tipped wide of the post. Then Daley produced a stunning run from the wing that saw him beat defenders for fun, before wildly blasting over from six yards.
The players were backed strongly by an enthusiastic away following. Confidence was high that we would come back in the second half.
But then, inexplicably, Taylor switched tactics and pushed Daley up front in a 4-3-3 formation, and the players changed from passing the ball around the pitch to direct balls to James Hanson and Jason Price. I remember McCall was often heavily criticised for not changing tactics or making subs early enough in games, but all season long Taylor has chopped and changed early and not for the first time it had a negative effect.
Why ditch a 4-4-2 formation that was working well in all but the scoreline? It sums up the lack of trust Taylor seems to have in his own players and over-dependence on functionality over style. City became one-dimensional, predictable and easy to defend against. Burton grew stronger and James Collins headed home former Bantam Adam Bolder’s cross to make it 2-0, after Luke O’Brien had made one excellent tackle but couldn’t get his bearings in time to stop the cross.
And therein lies the other downside to 4-3-3, which we often saw under McCall last season. By going so narrow in shape, the opposition have extra space to run at isolated full backs, often doubling up on them. Burton’s speedy wingers Young and Jacques Maghoma terrorised O’Brien and Reece Brown, the former at least standing up to the challenge admirably. Meanwhile when City had the ball they had no-one in wide areas to stretch the game, and moves kept ending with Brown crossing from deep and Burton’s defence – superbly marshalled by former promotion hero Darren Moore – easily clearing.
Just like the M1/A road dilemma, switching to plan B so quickly had not worked out as hoped. What of Plan C? Well when your subs bench contains three strikers, a defensive midfielder and two defenders, there isn’t one. With City struggling to provide the forwards any service, all Taylor could do was swap the front three and hope the ball fell kindly in the box. Daley was taken off, a bizarre decision but sadly typical of the level of faith shown in the Jamaican all season. With it, the opportunity to go back to using width was lost.
Burton’s third came after another successful charge down Brown’s part of the pitch – the shell-shocked youngster almost begging for the final whistle by this stage – and Russell Penn tapped home. City’s direct 4-3-3 approach failed to create a single noteworthy chance until a 93rd-minute header from Syers. The pre-match positivity had long since drained to silence and resignation, but not anger.
All of which leaves City having gone two steps forward and taken one step back over the past fortnight, and the longer-term outlook returns back into focus. This writer saw City director Roger Owen in a service station on the way home (but lacked the courage to ask one of McCall’s loudest critics what he now thought of Taylor and the results of the actions he was calling for last January). The two recent wins shield Taylor from the Board sacking him and the recent improvement should not be dismissed readily, but this week the pressure is on again.
The dilemma is whether Taylor’s ways will prove a success in the long-term and to keep patient as it stalls again, or whether it’s best to find a different route. Whatever the future holds, the current problems raise suspicions that, last February, the club took a wrong turn and is now struggling to work out which way up the map is supposed to be.
Perhaps it’s time to face facts, I think we’re lost.
- Jon McLaughlin | Reece Brown, Oliver Gill, Steve Williams, Luke O'Brien | Leon Osborne, Tommy Doherty, David Syers, Omar Daley | James Hanson, Jason Price | Moult (for Daley), Speight (for Price)
You will have noted, dear reader, that BfB has a new design. It is an evolution of the current design to update a few elements and (hopefully) make the website better for more modern browsers and for mobile phones.
If you are one of the one in ten who use BfB on IE6 then I’ve kept some support but you need to tell whoever controls your computer that it is not 2001 any more and things change. Jim Jefferies was manager when your browser was launched!
Things that you will note, should you be of a mind to, is that the detail on archive pages is improved, that there is a menu at the top of the page, that each article has more information (and some of it is hidden behind a tabbed interface) and the comments interface has been altered. Good web design always evolves and things may come and go in the next few weeks.
If you have any bug reports, comments of the like then add them to this message unless – of course – it is that the comments do not work in which case I guess we shall never know.
Reading something on the official City website warmed my heart. The weeks top news has to be Wayne Rooney and his disgraceful attitude towards his current employers, and so my thoughts turned to players who really did put their employers before their own personal greed.
Take a bow Omar Daley.
Not everyone’s favourite player at City granted, but there are very few players at VP who can play with the pace of Omar. Peter Taylor has made no bones about it; a fully fit Omar contributing the way we know he can is a cert on the team sheet and rightly so. But whilst many City fans have given him stick in the past, no-one can doubt his loyalty to the clubs cause this time.
In the article Omar states how he has pulled out of international duty to play for the Bantams. This comes from his gratitude at the club sticking by him through last seasons injury nightmare, for not consoling him to the scrap heap, for committing to him like we hope he commits to us. And this refreshing attitude coming from a player we would probably least expect it from based on some of the body language he sometimes portrays.
This says a couple of things about City’s current situation; when your winning everyone wants to play, everyone wants the ball and everyone enjoys training. Is it the winning feeling that has ironed out the early season dross from our memories? Or is Mr Taylor finally getting through to his players as to what he expects and them all getting used to each other.
I haven’t been at any of the last 3 games due to family commitments, but from what I hear we look more attacking. Is this because Taylor has had attack minded players fit enough to play, or is it because he has decided that offence is the best form of defence?
Whichever of the 2 this is, Omar deserves a good reception at the next home game for his commitment to the cause. I for one applaud you sir.
If you had a desire to you could have carpeted from one side of Manchester to the other with the column inches of talk about Wayne Rooney that accused the player of lacking loyalty to Manchester United before he his signed the five year deal this week.
It was not that the likes of Mark Lawrenson when taking a side swipe Rooney failed to see the irony in suggesting that a player who was signed from Everton in a transfer that gazumpt another club’s bid should be subject to loyalty it is that the notion of loyalty in football is evoked at all.
There is a harking back to some bygone age where it is supposed this loyalty in which players would remain with clubs for reasons of gratitude existed – it did not but pre-Bosman players had fewer mechanisms for exiting contracts – but even if that were the case it would be at most half of the story.
The loyalty demanded of players to clubs is seldom returned. At every level of a football club loyalty is demanded but not given. Chairmen, managers, fans. They all want a player to be loyal to them but rarely give that loyalty back.
Not given to the ageing pro who wants a contract to take him to 36 but is offered two years left. Not offered to the player who breaks a leg and comes back gingerly judged to have “lost it” and moved on. Not offered to the player going through poor form or poor performances on the field. The bellowing of “get rid of him” is heard up and down the land and has little to do with the loyalty which is demanded if Rooney now.
The brother’s Boulding
Take, if you will, the Brothers Boulding who left Valley Parade after a change of manager. Michael Boulding had taken a pay cut to remain with City at one point yet as the two faced up to a new face in the dressing room they were soon shown the door.
Whatever one thinks of the players as players would could not argue that that was a football club showing loyalty. Not the sort of loyalty which is wistfully discussed when talking about Rooney. That one side should ignore the financial implications and the transient nature of the player joining a club and carry on.
How does football reward loyalty anyway? The games does not even have the equivalent of a carriage clock that the player being put out to pasture could tell his former employers to take and shove it.
Off the field a reading of statistics makes a lie of the idea of loyal supporters who come season in season out. Statistician Simon Kuper illustrates that each season at a typical ground half the supporters will not have been at the equivalent game the season before.
Indeed when one looks at the millions of pounds that are put into Old Trafford by supporters and taken out by the Glazier family one could make an argument that Rooney done United fans a favour. Reports have it that Rooney talked to Joel Glazier before his Roo-Turn and got promises about how much money would go into the team and how much would flow into his chairman’s pocket. Manchester United – remember – have not stopped making money they have just started to give it to the family of American who own them rather than spend it on the squad.
At all clubs – and certainly at Bradford City – there are moments when one wishes a player or manager would have stood up to those who owned the club in this way. The £8m paid out in dividends at the start of the Premiership first season to the Rhodes and Richmond families has always been controversial at City. If manager Paul Jewell or captain Stuart McCall had told Richmond that they money goes back into the club or they walk would they have been doing supporters a disservice? Would that have been loyalty?
The myth of loyalty
Football loves the myth of loyalty, but it is a myth and it is so not because of the players but to suit the needs of clubs which are at the behest of the whims of supporters who demand action for improvement.
Changing players, or managers, gives the appearance of action but is seldom it. Where is the loyalty to Jon Bateson who puts in a good first season and then is cast aside in favour of a player the (new) manager has worked with before?
Few would say Lewis Hunt represents an improvement on Bateson so for the disregarding of loyalty – such as it is – what improvement is there? Is it change or the appearance of change?
Football has no loyalty and clubs want it that way. The ability to sack a manager or bring in new faces are – and always have been – a slight of hand that clubs employ to distract from the lack if a broader improvement.
Occasionally a Rooney is the focus, showing a disregard for what we would like to see as loyalty, but most often the players are cast away by clubs who consider that loyalty a disadvantage.
Bradford City play Burton Albion At Pirelli Stadium in League Two, 2010/2011
It is hard to write a 9,000 word user testing report on a website without the W key on your keyboard but nevertheless that was the situation your humble writer found himself in this week.
More of that later. Wayne Rooney, one time England and Manchester United star who has seen his stock and status fall to the level of simply “player” is angling for a move away from Old Trafford. Words like “betrayal” are floating around with United suggesting it had been harbouring – a curious choice of words – Rooney from many a storm for years and his exit is an act of disloyalty.
It is not know which of the Bradford City players stayed loyal in their hearts to Peter Taylor during the long weeks of defeat but a five o’clock last Saturday the team exited the field as one.
The 3-1 win over Cheltenham Town was as impressive as the plaudits suggested. One swallow, it is said, does not make a summer but to extend the adage when you start seeing the swallows you get a feeling the sunshine is not far behind.
There is a magic to football that is impossible to quantify but that was seen at City over the last two weeks. Players meshed together into the team that they could not have looked further from being in the 1-0 defeat to Morecambe.
What had Peter Taylor done on the training ground to take the hapless and bring back the, well, hap? What was the difference in those two weeks?
Over in Manchester Sir Ferguson has a similar problem with his want-away forward who for all his talk of million pound a month contracts has looked slovenly since the end of last season. The kind of turn around City have managed in performance is very much the one which Rooney and his England colleagues failed to manifest. Rooney, the Luke Oliver of the piece, is still in the hangover.
Ferguson’s talk of disloyalty from a player who was famous once a blue and thus always a blue falls on deaf ears. Rooney might have been marketed as Manchester United but like the vast majority of players up and down the land he is a hired hand.
United pay him, he puts in his effort. An amicable exchange and what can be expected perhaps. To care, not just work but care, instantly for a club simply because they pay your wages: only Jason Price can do that.
Which is not to say that players are not invested emotionally, Price’s roar as Lee Hendrie scored City’s second last week was heartfelt and perhaps he of the hair is on a mission to move The Bantams up League Two, but that the gap between what is expected from those who are hired and delivered by those people in situ is the stuff of management, or magic, or both.
Indeed the broken W key is not the stuff of motivation and, as a contractor and being the loan player of the web design world, one was left with the idea that money is paid on bringing one into an organisation but that that money is not most efficiently spent owing to a saving elsewhere.
Perhaps Jason Price felt the same looking at the training ground at Apperly Bridge and perhaps the small fix – I got a new keyboard for the not too shabby iMac – was heading for match day and a Valley Parade in impressive voice.
Certainly little has changed with these events over time. Rooney is neither a better nor worse equipped mammal for kicking a ball about and City’s training pitch is no better or worse than it was before the Morecambe game.
Nevertheless changes have been afoot and Peter Taylor will hope they are long lasting.
Taylor takes the team to Burton Albion in good form. Jon McLaughlin keeps goal, Burton have a keeper in Kevin Poole who is over twice City’s stoppers age.
Reece Brown is expected to carry on at right back while Oliver Gill and Steve Williams played well enough to suggest that that partnership will not be broken up. Luke O’Brien at left back enjoys a rare support for a hometown player, a stark contrast to the unfounded criticisms of last season.
Both Gill and Brown are due to return to Manchester after this game and while Peter Taylor has indicated that he would like another month from both should they go back they would to a changed Old Trafford. Brown’s brother Wes was considered a United stalwart but in the last month has fallen out with Alex Ferguson while Oliver Gill’s father David is facing increasing pressure because of the situation with Rooney. Gill Senior is seen fronting up the board who are using money which could keep Wayne to pay the interest on their own loans.
The midfield of Tommy Doherty and David Syers had guile and enthusiasm and keeps Lee Bullock and Tom Ademeyi out of the side for now.
Taylor drew Doherty to him at the start of the season with the same kind of loyalty which is talked about as being lacking with Rooney. The midfielder struggles through injury for his manager, does not let him down.
Doherty seemed to be City skipper in waiting but despite the armband floating around the dressing room freely the Ulsterman has yet to take it up. Rather Lee Hendrie wears it and performs in a way that befits previous owners Luke David Wetherall and (shhhh!) Stuart McCall. Hendrie’s goal last season was celebrated for many reasons one of which must have been the idea that the player who has lost years to injury would never enjoy that feeling again.
As Hendrie impressed on the left Leon Osbourne continued to be useful on the right. Osborne’s emergence as a reasonably exciting player pre-dated him as a useful one and Taylor, who seems to take a special interest in the winger, will be pleased the faith shown in him is being repaid with practical displays. Osbourne, more than any City player, seems to do what he is told most often.
A settled midfield four seems set to stay as is which a few weeks ago seemed a remote prospect as did the return of James Hanson – brilliant last week – who is likely to be paired with loan signing Jason Price.
The impact of Price is hard to understand. As a player he performed well but not so much to suggest he would establish near instant cult hero status. Expect to see a wig on every third fan soon and why not? Too often City fans allow the negative side to outweigh the positive and allow the fun to seep out of the game. City fans are not alone in that as the growling Manchester United supporters are testament too.
Sometimes you have to appreciate what you have and ignore, if you can, a broken W key.
The players are working ever so hard; the manager wants to build long term success; the fans are great; it’s a wonderful club; there are no problems with the chairman … fans’ forums with the manager follow a certain script. From Paul Jewell to Lennie Lawrence; Terry Yorath to Stuart McCall; the personalities change, but the message remains fairly constant.
However, what I have never seen before was, at the evening’s end, the manager standing at the exit shaking every supporters hand and thanking them for their attendance. Here was the former England international and Premier League manager firmly closing the gap between supporter and manager. As we read this morning of Wayne Rooney’s transfer speculation, and view endless replays of Champions League matches, the contrast with Peter Taylor standing at the door of Bradford’s Irish Club shaking hands with the supporters of his fourth tier club is all the more remarkable.
We will return to this theme, because it emerged as the key moment of the night. However, first let’s cover the usual business discussed when a football manager meets the fans. The Supporters’ Trust organised a fans’ forum to coincide with its AGM (which I will cover in another piece as it deserves a stand alone report). Peter Taylor, Wayne Jacobs and Luke O’Brien (one of the Trust sponsored players) were our panel.
The evening opened with Peter Taylor laughing at the suggestion that he might have been glad that the forum did not take place two weeks ago. He revealed that his daughter had joked that had he been sacked at Barnet at least it was close to his family home. Peter Taylor said there was no real issue with Mark Lawn and that both of them were men who ‘said it like it was’ and that any disagreements were quickly put behind them.
In response to a question about the T&A headline that suggested that Peter Taylor was seeking reassurance from the board about his position, he said he had merely told the paper that if he were the chairman of a football club he would immediately clear the issue up and go public. It wasn’t meant as anything else other than a general observation, but that had been changed into a managerial crisis. He did mention a story that Paul Jewell had relaid to him. When Jewell was under pressure at Wigan Dave Whelan, the chairman, had asked permission to go into the dressing room. When he got here he told the players that Jewell was his manager, he wasn’t going to be sacked and of they didn’t like playing for him they could leave immediately. Decisive action that completely cleared the air.
A question was asked about the inclusion of the Manchester United loan players in the team the lost to Morecambe. Peter Taylor said that at Northampton Hunt was injured, on top of Ramsden’s longer injury, it left him perilously short of cover in defence. He had already been talking to Manchester United and both players were signed on the morning of the Rotherham game. He could not play them at the Don Valley because both had played for United’s reserves the previous evening. Of course, City gained a morale boosting point at Rotherham and kept a clean sheet. However, the loan deal stipulated that both players had to play in their first available match – which was Morecambe – but after that the decision is solely Peter Taylor’s as to whether they play or not.
It was touch and go as to whether they will remain at the club, Manchester United play Wolves in the League Cup and they may be recalled to appear in that match. Peter Taylor said that the loan players were costing the club less than Luke O’Brien’s basic wage and that bringing them to the club had not hit his budget.
Tactics are always an area of discussion, particularly in this era of Championship Manager games where everyone is an instant expert, one fan caused amusement by suggesting a 4-4-3 formation, the manager said yes please if he could get away with it, but the real discussion focused on the merits of 4-4-2 and 4-3-3. Most fans seemed to be supporters of 4-4-2 but as Peter Taylor pointed out we lost using that formation against Southend and had played 4-3-3 in the League Cup matches against Forest and PNE. The manager said that the players should not hide behind a system, it was possible to play well and badly using either formation. He did mention the frustration of opposing teams coming to Valley Parade and playing 4-5-1. A tactic designed to frustrate and get the big crowd on the home players’ backs. Wayne Jacobs mentioned that he had seen one team play two up front at the then divisional leaders Rochdale and then come to Valley Parade and play five in midfield.
We had to have a Luke Oliver question. Peter Taylor said he thought that Oliver had done a great job for the club and he had decided to play him there as the team were short on confidence and, at that time, needed the easy ball for the big target man. He didn’t think that Evans, Moult or Speight had held the ball up well enough (and he had told them as much) and after the Stockport game he decided that it was time for a change.
With James Hanson now fit he didn’t envisage playing Oliver up front again – at least on a regular basis. Luke O’Brien was asked what his favourite position was. He initially gave the party answer of being happy to play anywhere, but did say that he had begun his career as a left winger, he had later modified to left back and that was now his preferred position. Peter Taylor said he thought that OB was a better player than OB thought he was and that he was very effective going forward. He needed more belief in himself when attacking.
On training facilities OB said it was a pain to get changed and travel in their cars to Apperley Bridge, but once there, at least at this time of the year, the pitches were fine. Wayne Jacobs said that the facilities desperately need upgrading, he had been to non-league clubs with better facilities. He said some of the big signings City made in the summer of 2000 could not believe their eyes when they saw Apperley Bridge. Apparently, people from opposition clubs have been known to come and watch City train.
Peter Taylor also appealed for the City fan who had been posting on the internet the formation City had been training with to stop doing so as the only people it aided was the opposition. Dave Baldwin was actively looking for other options and the club may spend some money on new facilities in the future. Of course, City were going to Weetwood, part of Leeds University’s campus, but talks broke down at the eleventh hour when the university revealed that the lady who would have the ultimate say on which part of the facilities City could use was rarely on the campus. Suddenly there was the possibility of restrictions on certain days and even a suggestion that on some days they would not be able to use the goalmouths.
Peter Taylor said he had come to Bradford City because he thought that City were a wonderful football club and one that would be amazing if it was turned around. He said the reaction to Cheltenham’s goal was unbelievable. He did admit that a small section of the support can make it hard for the players, particularly the younger ones. Luke O’Brien reminded us that many of the players were simply not used to the big crowds at Valley Parade. Many of them had signed from the non-league or other lower league clubs where crowds numbered in the hundreds or low thousands. However, following the Cheltenham game the players couldn’t wait for the Oxford game to come around.
Peter Taylor then made probably the most telling intervention of the evening. He said when he first came he thought of the fans ’crickey these lot are a bit impatient’. But he now understood that a lot of that frustration was born by ten years of decline and possibly the worst home record in the entire Football League over that period. His attitude has changed and he is trying to build a positive relationship between the players and the fans.
He has seen opposition clubs come and use the Valley Parade crowd as a weapon against their own team. He said we all have to change and muck in together. It was the only way forward. He accepted it is difficult at times, but it was vital. There is still a long way to go this season and with Hanson and Price up front our squad is as strong as anyones.
The panel were unanimous (as you would expect) in their belief that City would be promoted this season despite the poor start. At the conclusion of the evening, Peter Taylor shook hands with each individual, it was evident that the manager had identified one of City’s biggest strengths and weaknesses - its fans. Of course, there may well be an element of self-preservation in this approach, but perhaps when the fans roared their support in the wake of the Cheltenham goal it was the moment Bradford City hit rock bottom and bounced?
To all Football League supporters but Preston fans, the performance and strategy adopted by newly-promoted Blackpool in the Premier League this season is something we should take pride in. True they’ve had a couple of heavy beatings, but their unwillingness to compromise on their attacking principles and refusal to break the bank on star players is a highly commendable approach that it would be heart-warming to see succeed – especially with all the usual pundits ridiculing them for it.
But as manager Ian Holloway snarled into the interviewer’s microphone after refereeing decisions contributed to a 3-2 home defeat to Man City, it suddenly became difficult to muster sympathy or retain the fantasy that this was one of us sticking it to the Premier League elite.
Holloway called for the introduction of video technology, citing that three crucial decisions which went against his team – a disallowed Blackpool goal at 0-0, a borderline offside Man City opener and a foul in the build up to City’s second – would have otherwise been correctly called by the officials. He pointed out the ludicrousness of the fact TV viewers around the world had access to TV replays in seconds, while the referee has no such help in evaluating whether his decisions might be correct.
But he called for video technology to be introduced to the Premier League, and perhaps the Championship, only. He said, “It doesn’t have to go down to every bit of football, it doesn’t, just the top flight. If you can’t afford it for everywhere else it doesn’t matter…it won’t matter about the 1st division 2nd division, non-league, it won’t matter.”
Given this was only Blackpool’s eighth top flight match, it was disappointing to see how quickly the club appears to be turning it’s back on the lower leagues which have been the Tangerines home for the previous 29 years. Sure, the Premier League has the resources and the TV technology to implement the use of video evidence, but what about the rest of us? Are our games less significant? Is it right we play to a different set of rules?
As I’ve argued previously, to me it seems wrong that similar incidents in a game between two Premier League teams and two Football League teams could be subject to a different set of rules simply because one league is more prosperous. Contrary to popular belief, this sport is not all about 20 clubs and the actions taken over the past 18 years in pushing the focus so heavily onto the top flight has had damaging consequences in the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Other sports like Rugby League have been happy to operate under different rules; with Super League employing video technology during televised games and the National Divisions below it having no such support Super League and National Division games shown live on TV employing video technology, but non-televised fixtures having no extra support, but in many ways this is a sport which has had to sell out its core values in order to increase its popularity. There is not even promotion and relegation to and from the Super League anymore.
But above all that, the argument that Holloway made shows exactly why introducing technology could prove a bad mistake for the sport. Once the tap is turned slightly, it will be difficult to switch off.
The main argument put forward by the advocates of technology is to use it purely for settling debates over whether the ball crossed the line. But on Sunday Holloway was arguing technology should be used to settle offside calls. Fine, add that to the new rules too. But wait, he’s also upset that there was a foul in the build up to the second Man City goal, which TV replays could have highlighted to the referee. So do we allow technology to be used for such incidents too?
And it goes on and on. Because if technology is used for one aspect of the game, pretty soon every wronged manager will be telling the press it’s a disgrace if technology isn’t used to settle the type of controversy their team has just suffered from too. Suddenly the game is in chaos and the line between what is fair and not fair is blurred completely. The tap can’t be stopped.
Equally, both the glorious and worst thing about football is its subjectivity. I bet Man City fans would argue Carlos Tevez didn’t foul the Blackpool player in the build-up to the second goal, would video replays have changed the referee’s mind? We can all hold our own opinion over whether the goal should have been allowed or disallowed, but I bet we all wouldn’t universally agree.
How long, after technology had been introduced in this way, would it take for a losing manager to question the validity of the judgement? “I don’t care what the video referee says, that was never a foul. He’s clearly never played the game before.”
Finally, there’s the potential use of video technology in teams’ tactics, which could be to the detriment of the spectacle. If, say, managers were allowed to call for a video replay of a disputed decision, a team defending a lead could make it part of their time-wasting tactics which are aimed at disrupting the flow of the opposition and preventing them building attacking momentum. You’re 1-0 up in the 89th minute and you get a chance to stop the game by asking the officials to review a trivial decision, thereby disrupting the match. Imagine how frustrating that would be as a supporter.
We can all feel sympathy for how Holloway and Blackpool fans felt after their team was robbed of a credible point or even a famous victory, and we all know how horrible that feeling of injustice can be when our team is on the wrong end of bad refereeing decisions – goal line technology at Morecambe’s Christie Park in April 2009 when Peter Thorne’s effort appeared to cross the line, for example, and Bradford City might have achieved promotion. But video technology has assumed some form of idealistic solution in the minds of too many people, as though it would instantly solve all of the game’s problems and football would always be fair because of its deployment.
There has to be other solutions to the problems, such as more officials and closer alignment between the training of footballers and referees. Sure decisions will still be wrong, but this is a game played by humans not robots and if standards could be significantly improved it would be easier to accept fewer occasions where costly mistakes are made.
Bring in the technology for the Premier League only, and it’s almost as though football operates under two codes. It wouldn’t take long for a Football League manager to blame a defeat on the lack of technology, citing that, “if we were in the Premier League that decision wouldn’t have happened, how is that fair?”
And given the historic difficulties newly-promoted clubs have in staying up in England’s top flight for more than a couple of seasons, what price for that lower league manager complaining to one day be Ian Holloway?
One time Bradford City player of the season Nathan Doyle will not face changes after his arrest two months ago.
Derbyshire Police concluded their investigation with a spokesperson confirming that Nathan has been released from his bail and no further action will be taken.
Doyle is currently playing for Barnsley and scored his first senior goal on Saturday in a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest.
It’s claimed there are only seven basic plotlines for every film every created. The unpredictable nature of football is such there’s rarely any regular narrative to how 3-5pm on a Saturday afternoon will go, but there was undoubtedly a feel-good factor and Hollywood ambiance to Bradford City’s weekend win over Cheltenham.
In hindsight, come-from-behind victories provide the greatest feeling in football. Like any regular film there’s a spell where it seems all hope is slipping away and that the heroes of the tale will fail, but then they show great reserve and style to triumph in the end. When Cheltenham went a goal up after seven minutes on Saturday, it was easy to believe we were going to endure another miserable afternoon. Instead there was a happy ending, which everyone can claim they played their part in realising.
Often in recent years, when City have conceded the opening goal my thoughts of gloom has quickly shifted to fear. Very often we fans will rally behind the players in the seconds that follow the visitors scoring, but as soon as the next attack breaks down or misplaced pass goes out of play the groans will begin and very soon we’ll be in booing territory – which helps no one least of all the players.
Yet on Saturday, in a rare and quite brilliantly-unexpected twist, there were no boos or groans – just continuous support. The players had started the game well, and although there was a slightly rocky feeling during the minutes that followed going a goal down they quickly picked themselves up and continued doing the right things.
And we fans continued to back them, even those who usually start up with their moaning half an hour before kick off. There’s no doubt this widespread bout of positivity will have helped the players – for once the opposition manager’s tactics of turning City fans against their team had failed – who came roaring back to win the game.
Perhaps you’ll have your own reference points as to what made Saturday seem almost surreal. For me it was observing a loud mouth moaner a few rows in front of me actually leading the rest of us in awarding James Hanson a standing ovation when he was subbed towards the end. I couldn’t believe my eyes, this was a guy who normally spends the full 90 minutes slagging off each player one-by-one and never gets out of his seat when City score. The number of times he and others have spoiled my afternoon by polluting the air with boos and complaints, on Saturday I almost wanted to hug him such was his refreshed attitude.
Welcome aboard everyone, to singing from the same hymn sheet – now can we do it like this more often?
Like any good film where the main characters overcome the odds to succeed, it was the quality on display that provided the greatest enjoyment of the afternoon. Cheltenham looked a well-drilled side early on. Keeping everyone behind the ball, then breaking forwards when in possession and passing the ball around very impressively. But our players finally stopped lumping it forward from the back and began passing it too. Another unexpected joy.
Jon McLaughlin rolled the ball out to Oliver Gill or Steve Williams; they passed it backwards and forwards between themselves and Reece Brown and Luke O’Brien. Tommy Doherty and David Syers dropped back to then take on possession, Leon Osborne and Lee Hendrie worked hard to find space. Omar Daley’s free role in the first half showed real promise at times, and he caused all kinds of problems as he popped up all over the park. Even James Hanson showed great movement in the positions he took.
The visiting defenders were dragged here and there by on-and-off the ball running, the passing from almost everyone was exceptional and I can’t remember the last time I felt so gutted to see the half time whistle arrive. I bet Cheltenham were mightily relived.
The style of football was brilliant to watch. Let’s face it, we’ve seen some crap this season and at times we’ve been lucky if we’ve gone home having seen a credible shot on target. But here was City playing football in the style we’d like them to, with top quality players like Hendrie and Doherty pulling the strings and reminding us of how beautiful this sport can be to watch. And as we continue pressing with the ball on the deck I found myself wishing everyone in my life who regularly tells me Bradford City are crap and that lower league football is a dreadful standard could be sat next to me for this one afternoon, to be proven wrong.
It was only fitting that, on such a superb day, the two goals which clinched the win were stunning efforts. It capped a memorable day that can not only provide everyone renewed confidence that the season isn’t a dead loss yet – but that Taylor is the right man for the job and that under him results don’t have to take precedence over style.
It all came together at last – the fans, the players, the management. It was glorious and it was memorable and it will hopefully become the norm as everyone finds their form and belief.
A happy ending to a great afternoon – providing tangible belief that Bradford City’s season could still have it’s own Hollywood ending too.
- Jon McLaughlin | Reece Brown, Steve Williams, Oliver Gill, Luke O'Brien | Leon Osborne, David Syers, Tommy Doherty, Lee Hendrie | James Hanson, Omar Daley | Jason Price for Daley, Lee Bullock for Doherty, Lewis Moult for Hanson.
Bradford City 3 Cheltenham Town 1 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
In the week in which is was invited – but declined the opportunity – to give his manager Peter Taylor a statement of public backing a new public persona for City chairman Mark Lawn emerged: The man who can’t do anything right.
As Peter Taylor – buoyed from a 2-0 win at Barnet last weekend but thought to be a defeat away from being fired – seemed to rearrange the deck chairs bringing in striker Jason Price who on arrival was pronounced not fit enough to play Lawn was stuck between the rock of delivering the ringing but seemingly hollow “vote of confidence” in his manager or putting forward a more honest and realistic assessment of the situation at the club.
He gave the latter and in doing so perhaps he wondered how he had ended up in the situation he is. Taylor – a fine appointment the arrival of whom appeased those critical at the exit of Stuart McCall – had become a political millstone around the chairman’s neck. Even when he did the right thing, Lawn perhaps concluded, he could not do the right thing.
These thoughts evaporated over the course of an afternoon which proved only the old adage that there is almost nothing in football that cannot be mended with a cracking home win.
Building on last week’s victory at Barnet and a return to a 442 Taylor sent out a side that saw Omar Daley playing off James Hanson as last season’s player of the season returned from his time out injured with the type of performance that justified the anticipation of his return.
Hanson rounded off an afternoon that saw City enjoy long and deserved periods of control with a low, powerful strike from outside that box that arrowed past goalkeeper Scott P Brown beating him at his front post owing to the pace with which the striker leathered the frustrations of a spell on the sidelines with.
Hanson’s goal came as another fruitful combination with loanee Jason Price came to fruition the half time substitute taking a ball in with the defenders seemingly incapable of getting near the man mountain of a striker who is deceptively mobile and wonderfully haired.
Indeed it was Price’s head – not merely a housing for that impressive hair – which figured in the decisive goal of the afternoon as the Bantams pressured Cheltenham’s defence. The left hand side combination of Luke O’Brien and Lee Hendrie enjoyed much joy all afternoon and it was that axis which saw a cross to Price who powerfully returned the ball across the box to Hendrie who performed a close range overhead kick to give City the lead.
As good a goal as it was – and it was with the style of the finish equalled in impressiveness by Price’s strength at the far post standing as powerfully and solid as the Colossus of Rhodes at the far post and celebrating not with the players who had peeling away in front of the kop but with the Midland Road which has – with the rest of the fans – taken the boisterous forward to heart.
With a brilliant performance Hendrie’s afternoon as captain could hardly have been better but ended with him limping from a ludicrously heavy foul which seemed to have been prompted by the scoreline – “just because you’re losing” – but resulted in no card from referee Darren Drysdale.
Drysdale is infamous for having Dean Windass banned for five matches for a comment made in the car park and is – perhaps – the weakest referee in the entire Football League. He lacks not common sense but logic giving a series of decisions which seem to mis-assess the servility of offences. What can one say about a referee who thinks that being shouted at in the car park is a massively greater sin than a two footed lunge by a player who is angry because his team is losing?
Drysdale’s linesmen seemed to be penning City in giving James Hanson offside three times – each one controversially – although the flow of the home side’s pressure saw Price break though and Brown make an impressive save when one on one which denied the striker what would have been a deserved debut goal.
That Taylor’s recruitment of Price – the half fit player and all that – gave City purpose in the final third it was his bringing in and finding a place for Oliver Gill that did much to help City at the back. Gill and his fellow Manchester United loanee were impressive with the now centreback Gill combining with Steve Williams in a great defensive display.
Gill’s performance – capped with a superb clearing tackle at 2-1 – was even more impressive considering the character he and the side showed when a nothing of a cross was weakly headed by the loanee defender into a no man’s land between keeper Jon McLaughlin and Cheltenham midfielder (and one time Nicky Law target) Joshua Low who finished tidily.
The collective shrug, the recognition that the Bantams were playing well, and the spirit shown to shake off that error and continue what had been a good start to the game, James Hanson lashing over within the opening minutes. Indeed when Luke O’Brien roasted the Cheltenham full back on the touchline and crossed for David Syers to throw himself at for a diving header it was the least that City deserved.
Perhaps then Lawn might have looked over at noted that Taylor was summoning performances from a team of guys on loan from Old Trafford and guys who last season were playing non-league and working part time. Throw into that the guy who played in Hungary last year – Tommy Doherty was immense putting the the kind of performance that was promised when he arrived – and concluded that if it seemed that he could not do anything right in his back or not of the manager in the week then perhaps he could by simply no doing anything at all.
Indeed perhaps Lawn might conclude that if he can’t do right for doing wrong then perhaps he should try doing nothing at all. Lawn started the season with a plan (and perhaps not one I would have approved of, but that is not the point) that Peter Taylor has the remit of achieving promotion for Bradford City this season and until that is not going to happen (and perhaps after) then he will remain manager.
Football teams are made over time and after two wins on the bounce Taylor’s side starts to find a shape and way of playing which brings the best out of its members Lawn doing nothing is a way of doing something and with more afternoons like the 3-1 win over Cheltenham it may yet prove fruitful.
With Price – and a steady nerve – the man who can’t do anything right might just get what he wants.
- Jon McLaughlin | Reece Brown, Steve Williams, Oliver Gill, Luke O'Brien | Leon Osborne, David Syers, Tommy Doherty, Lee Hendrie | James Hanson, Omar Daley | Jason Price for Daley, Lee Bullock for Doherty, Lewis Moult for Hanson.
Bradford City play Cheltenham Town At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
So this is it then. A week after the must-win game at Barnet, Bradford City manager Peter Taylor takes his side into a game he must not lose – or it appears highly likely he will be asked to pack up his desk on Monday morning.
Earlier in the week Taylor publicly called for his two Chairmen to clarify his position in the wake of mounting speculation. Mark Lawn chose to respond with just 16 words, that fell a long way short of backing his man. It’s not only what those 16 words meant, but the hundreds of other words Lawn opted not to use. Taylor will surely be disappointed by the fact his employer turned down the chance to offer his public support.
It has been argued, and perhaps with good reason, that Taylor’s own comments asking for clarity weren’t the cleverest and that in a sense Lawn was backed into a corner. But if the public face of the Board really still believed in his manager, this was the opportunity to dismiss the speculation as false and reaffirm his commitment to the man he offered a contract too just five months ago. He did neither.
So it all comes down to Cheltenham at home. From the outcome of Saturday’s result it seems we are to determine the entire season’s prospects – and the long-term future of who should be charged with steering this ship. And yes, you can argue that all of the other previous poor results will have contributed significantly to any P45s issued next week, but if that’s the case why not just sack him this week? Why wait and let the outcome of one football match determine the next few months and years?
It is simply ludicrous to apparently be in this position. A win this Saturday does not make Taylor any more suitable to do the job than a defeat would prove he isn’t. But this is where short-term thinking gets us.
Taylor, who signed the one-year contract before Northampton last season, has since taken charge of 16 games – winning six, drawing two and losing eight. It’s true that some of the performances have been amongst the worst we’ve ever seen, and no one could argue he’s so far done a good job. But to hand someone a contract and to then be prepared to tear it up after 16 games, and when asked to defend their choice of manager to be only able to find 16 non-committal words of support?
It is pure madness.
But for now the hope is that last week’s encouraging performance against Barnet will have provided the spark City’s campaign desperately needs. There have been some false dawns of late – Gillingham home and Rotherham away – but the league form guide of won two, drawn two and lost two from the last six matches suggests the club might be slowly turning the corner; particularly when it’s recalled the four prior matches had all ended in defeat.
In order to really get into the groove, it’s hoped there won’t be many changes to Taylor’s team sheet. Jason Price’s arrival on loan and Jame Hanson’s return to fitness mean it’s unlikely Luke Oliver will remain up front, but all eyes will be on whether the back four is also tinkered with. Steve Williams and Luke O’Brien are emerging as the two main contenders for player of the season, but both have been dropped before and could be again if Taylor decides to push Oliver back into the centre of defence.
Oliver Gill, who it’s been suggested has to play every week under the terms of the Man United loan agreement, could be moved to left back again – but it would surely be daft to make any changes at all. Zesh Rehman, an inspirational leader last week, should at least carry on at right back and, with Simon Ramsden and Lewis Hunt out for sometime, plus Reece Brown rumoured to have returned to Old Trafford due to injury, a run in the team surely awaits. Shane Duff will hope to be fit and selected against his former club. Jon McLaughlin keeps goal.
In midfield a week off seemed to have helped Tommy Doherty’s fitness and form at Barnet last week, and he will be counted on for inspiration again. For much of the season the movement in the attacking third has been poor, which has clearly limited the effectiveness of Doherty to produce incisive passes. At Barnet fellow midfielders Leon Osborne, Tom Adeyemi and Lee Hendrie provided that movement and should all continue. Lee Bullock and David Syers wait on the sidelines.
Omar Daley received words of encouragement for his performance up front last week and will probably partner Price, with Hanson starting from the bench. These sudden extra forward options push Chibuzor Chilaka, Louis Moult and Jake Speight further out of the picture; though the latter will hope a scoring performance in the reserves midweek will be rewarded with a starting spot.
There is a long way to go for Chilaka, Moult and Speight to make a bigger impact at City than we’ve seen from them so far. But the 16 words of Lawn suggest it will probably be another manager trying to get it out of them.
Carlisle United frontman Jason Price is reported to be signing for Bradford City on a month’s loan, as Peter Taylor finally manages to capture a frontman.
The 33-year-old Welshman, who only signed for Carlisle permanently this summer, is out of favour at Brunton Park and his switch to West Yorkshire has ironically been triggered by the refusal of another West Yorkshire striker to move to Valley Parade. Leeds’ American forward Mike Grella last month turned down a loan offer to City – which BfB understands was due to concerns that the long ball style he’d been told City play under Taylor would harm his game rather than aid it – and instead he has just signed for Carlisle for a month.
Price began his career at Swansea and has played for a wide range of clubs – including under Taylor at Hull City. From there he moved to Doncaster and then Millwall, with loan moves to Millwall, Oldham and, towards the end of last season, Carlisle, along the way. Oddly for a well-known lower league player (distinctive for his hair style), he has never once played against the Bantams.
The imminent arrival of Price would appear to signal the end of Luke Oliver’s time up front, particularly as James Hanson is returning from injury. That may have interesting connotations at the back, where City have been slowly getting it right in recent weeks and Steve Williams, Shane Duff and – on Saturday – Oliver Gill have played well. Will Taylor move Oliver back at the expense of any of these, or drop Luke O’Brien and push Gill to left back? Or will Oliver have discovered that, by being so willing to help the team by playing out of position, he can no longer command a place in the team?
With an international weekend that didn’t even feature England until Tuesday, it became one of the big media stories of the week.
Struggling, free-falling, inept Bradford City had gone from the Premier League to one place off the bottom of the Football League in 10 years – and Peter Taylor was football’s next managerial sacking. Compare the national media attention before City’s trip to Barnet with the low-key post-match coverage of the 2-0 success, and it was clear the press hadn’t got their story.
But as the journalists switch attention back to Fabio Capello, the immediate future of Bradford City remains decidedly unclear. How true were those various media reports that the Board were going to sack Taylor if he couldn’t pull off victory at Underhill? And what happens if City lose to Cheltenham on Saturday? Or win that, but lose at Burton the Saturday after?
Such thoughts have clearly also been occupying the mind of Taylor, who via the Telegraph & Argus today has called for his joint Chairmen to publicly clarify his position. It is unclear what dialogue has been taking place behind the scenes prior to last Saturday – or what will be said inside the Valley Parade corridors following today’s news reports. But the ball is firmly in the Board’s court to speak or let their continuing silence appear deafening.
No subsequent comment, and the pressure will only build up as the 3pm kick off against Cheltenham approaches. It’s hard to believe Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes will publicly declare that Taylor must win on Saturday or he’ll be sacked – if that’s their intention – but they have now effectively been backed into a corner where it will be easy to assume that’s the case unless they come out and deny it. If this was a game of chess, Taylor would now be saying “Check” to the joint owners.
So what if the press had made the whole thing up to grab attention during a quiet period? The strength of feeling against Taylor from a significant amount of City supporters means public denial of the rumours from Lawn and Rhodes will be heavily criticised by this group.
And let’s not forget that both Taylor’s predecessors, Colin Todd and Stuart McCall, were only occasionally the subject of public comment over their futures despite been under similarly heavy pressure for months. In January 2007, after 18 months of Todd been under pressure from fans, Rhodes finally told the media he might be sacked in the near future (and Rhodes’ dismissed him a month later). McCall was on the receiving end of public criticism from City Director Roger Owen a month before he eventually quit. Meanwhile Lawn had not only stopped speaking to McCall, he refused to speak about his manager’s future publicly.
But that doesn’t make it okay to sit in silence now. Taylor has every right to feel frustrated that he alone is left to carry the can for City’s poor start to the season. At the best of times, managing a football club is a stressful experience which carries a high degree of pressure. For all of the ill-feeling over poor results to rest upon only his shoulders is a huge burden, and he is entitled to believe his employers should be willing to support him through a tough period.
Public backing can ease some of that pressure, enabling Taylor to continue working with greater confidence. Surely this would help him to do a better job, and surely he deserves every ounce of help he can get to turn around this disappointing start.
Some fans have already argued he doesn’t deserve any support, but how would each of us feel in our own lives if you heard a rumour you might be sacked at work this week, and your boss refused to comment? Would that help us to keep our mind on the job? Would it encourage us to offer the same level of commitment we would if we felt settled and happy? Would our performance improve or get worse? Would the whispers of others bother us? It’s a vicious circle, and the current situation appears to have influenced some of Taylor’s decisions.
But above all else, sitting back and saying nothing while Taylor feels the heat is poor leadership and is absolving responsibility. Everyone employed by the football club – not to mention us supporters – should be doing everything they can to haul the club out of this slide. Whether doing everything they can for the Chairmen includes sacking Taylor is another question, but if they continue to employ him they should be supporting him and making sure he has the best available tools and resources to do the best job possible.
And if Taylor is ultimately to be told “Checkmate”, a huge degree of ownership falls onto Rhodes and Lawn’s shoulders too. It was the City Board who decided to appoint Taylor – after sifting through a number of applications and sitting through a series of interviews with the best candidates. It was the City Board who opted to offer Taylor a new contract last April, following a successful trial. It may be the City Board who determine Taylor should be sacked just 12 games into the season.
If Taylor is to blame for the current problems – and that, dear reader, is a matter for debate entirely – then surely they are to blame for appointing him in the first place. So if Rhodes and Lawn still believe they made the right decisions last February and April, the least they can do is call up Simon Parker right now and make it clear they are behind their choice of manager.
- Jon McLaughlin | Zesh Rehman, Oliver Gill, Steve Williams, Luke O'Brien | Leon Osborne, Tommy Doherty, Tom Adeyemi, Lee Hendrie | Omar Daley, Luke Oliver | Jake Speight, David Syers, James Hanson
Barnet 0 Bradford City 2 At Underhill in League Two, 2010/2011
There are few things in life as exhilarating as watching your team win away from home. The likelihood of victory is always far less on the road, and so the extra effort undertaken to attend and number of previous times that effort has gone unrewarded make days like Bradford City’s 2-0 win at Barnet all the more special.
Any win is fantastic of course, and filing out of Valley Parade having seen City collect three points provides a buzz that often lasts for days. But the collective thrill we feel from a home victory and the more exclusiveness of away wins are different types of joy.
Home wins are like being fans of huge bands such as The Beatles and Oasis – we share the music, occasionally in our snobbiness believing others don’t appreciate them in the same way (how can that moaner sat in front really celebrate City’s last minute winner when they spent 89 minutes moaning how bad City are?) and there’s a great feeling when we come together (stadium gigs can be incredible).
Away wins are like following a band with a smaller fanbase which are unnoticed by the masses. It gives us more ownership of their songs, more room at their gigs and a slightly more rewarding feeling when they briefly appear on TV (Jools Holland and the Football League show?).
For those fortunate to be there for an away win, it becomes ours and reward for all those times we endured miserable defeats and a long journey home. In our last promotion year I was one of 200 City fans who attended West Brom away in September. We won 2-0 to get our season going, and for the first time performed like promotion contenders. A week later we beat Barnsley 2-1 with Gordon Watson’s injury time double, and as we celebrated promotion next May many fans pointed to the Barnsley win as the turning point. But those of us at the Hawthorns that day, we knew the truth.
On the Football League Show last night, a City fan texted in to declare they were still very unhappy despite the win. Well no offence to this fan, but you clearly weren’t at Underhill yesterday. It wasn’t that we saw a promotion-standard performance. It’s not as though any of the 424 of us present have extra reason to believe in the manager. But when your team hasn’t scored in four games and for 64 minutes of this must-win game you feel as though we’ll lose, the exuberant celebrations that greeted two goals in four minutes provided such a wonderful feeling that for the next week at least nothing else should matter.
Nothing else should matter – but building on the positives of City’s first away win of the season. In truth it wasn’t a sparkling display – who expected it to be? – and for sections of the first half and just after half time it seemed as though Barnet’s youthful exuberance would break through and score at any time. But if quality is still lacking in the Bantams, the work-rate and solidness which went missing against Morecambe last week had at least returned. It proved to be enough.
At the back City recovered from last week’s wobbles and looked the well-drilled unit that was so impressive at Rotherham 11 days ago. Oliver Gill was moved to centre back in the absence of Shane Duff and was excellent; Steve Williams and Luke O’Brien were their usual impressive selves. Special mention should go to Zesh Rehman, who not only put in a man-of-the-match-contender performance against a tricky winger, but notably led his younger defensive colleagues through the afternoon. How ironic it is that he has found the best form of his City career just as he’s unable to command a regular place. If only he’d been playing like this a year ago.
For the most part City still looked feeble going forwards – though Luke Oliver and Lee Hendrie both came close with headers. Confidence looks so short in some players, and there was a clear reluctance for any one other than Rehman, O’Brien, Williams and Tommy Doherty to take ownership during the first 45 minutes at least. Defender Oliver continued upfront, this time with winger Omar Daley as partner and four strikers sat on the bench. It wasn’t hard to see why fans are so frustrated at Taylor’s approach.
The debate about Oliver rages on, though it must be noted this was his most effective game up front to date. Today he looked like a target man off form, which is a major improvement from not looking like a target man at all. He had a good physical battle with the Barnet defenders, often penalised for fouls and occasionally winning free kicks.
Yet the low confidence in players and Oliver up front are connected, and to me where the frustration lies with Taylor. Yes we were having a poor start and there were loads of injuries, but we don’t have to play a big front man and there was no need to prematurely move to such desperate tactics. Taylor should have had more faith in the quality of his players to pull through. Instead it was too easy to launch it to Oliver and duck responsibility, something Leon Osborne and Daley were especially guilty of.
Taylor’s half-time words seemed to have some effect, and as City kicked up the famous Underhill slope in the second half they survived a couple of scares and began to take control over limited opposition. Still the frustration in the away section over the lack of subs began to grow, and a fierce debate raged over the merits of appointing Peter Jackson as our next manager. It was beginning to feel as though the effort of getting up early on a day off and making a 400 mile-round trip would carry no greater reward than a 0-0, and someone somewhere – Mark Lawn perhaps – was probably drafting Taylor’s last rites.
But then City scored, twice. The frustration of the last few weeks was pushed out to be replaced by giddy excitement and joy. Both goals were remarkably similar, in that Barnet had a corner at the bottom of the slope and City broke up the pitch and netted. Each time Jon McLaughlin had claimed the ball and quickly threw the ball out to charging midfielders. Firstly Tom Adeyemi broke down the flank before cutting the ball back to Doherty. The pass lacked pace and should have been cut out, but the cultured midfielder was able to grab possession and fire a superb through ball to Osborne, who cut inside and finished expertly.
For a second there was silence. It happened right in front of us away fans, but we almost don’t quite believe it had. Then we celebrated wildly.
“Peter Taylor’s Bradford Army” bellowed fans behind me who’d been so vocally critical of him before. In front of me there were angry faces from other fans incredulous that these people could have the nerve to be so two-faced. Football. Fickle. End of.
The second goal, four minutes later, came after McLaughlin’s throw was collected by Daley, who scampered up the field and picked out the run of Adeyemi through the middle. The on-loan midfielder just had the keeper to beat, and coolly slotted the ball into the roof of the net to set up even more frenzied celebrations that for him included hugging the City fans in the seating section. At full time he went over to do it again, and it looked as though his dad was in the front row and that was why he’d raced over.
In those immediate seconds after Adeyemi’s finish, nothing else mattered and for our brain to allow ourselves to feel such unadulterated pleasure without logic or reason is what makes football such a wonderful sport. Back in Bradford I bet some fans felt disappointed, because Taylor would not be packing up his desk on Monday like we all expected. But it didn’t matter who was in the dugout – right now celebrating equally as wildly, and good on you Taylor. All that mattered – and should ever matter, really – was that City were winning.
The joy of the away goal continues as you began to calm down again – and you suddenly realise that, for the last few minutes, three sides of the ground have felt utterly miserable at what your team has just done to them and had little choice but to watch you leaping for joy, with huge envy. Intense pleasure in one corner of the ground, depression for the rest. In truth we’re rude guests, but then we’re usually too kind as hosts and let others behave this way on our own patch.
Not much else happened in truth. McLaughlin almost let a weak shot squeeze in; James Hanson was able to come on as sub, showing in just a few brief touches just how much he’d been missed and inadequate Oliver the striker really is; the Barnet left back made an idiot of himself. The win was never in doubt, we could even have scored again.
But to score twice having only managed four goals all season was beyond expectations, and to be able to drive home knowing this feeling of joy can’t be taken away until Saturday at least was just reward for seven hours in a car. Ultimately this win won’t mean much if City lose at home to 7th-placed Cheltenham next week, as Taylor will be sacked. Like at Torquay last season, it might have just prolonged the inevitable.
Whatever happens, it’s days like this which make enduring all the other crap worthwhile.
- Jon McLaughlin | Zesh Rehman, Oliver Gill, Steve Williams, Luke O'Brien | Leon Osborne, Tommy Doherty, Tom Adeyemi, Lee Hendrie | Omar Daley, Luke Oliver | Jake Speight, David Syers, James Hanson
Bradford City play Barnet At Underhill in League Two, 2010/2011
From the back window of Clayton you can normally see Lister’s Chimney and the view over BD8 but not Valley Parade which as the name suggests is under the eye line, hidden from view.
One has to wonder what has been going on hidden from view at Valley Parade this week. A defeat to Hartlepool United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy came almost without a blip so expected was it after the woeful 1-0 loss to Morecambe at the weekend. Peter Taylor was linked to a move for Calvin Zola – Calvin Zola is not coming – and TalkSport and the Daily Mirror both noted that this weekend’s game was win or bust for the City manager of six months.
Despite the board of many and the co-ownership it seems that Mark Lawn will be the one to make that decision. Lawn famously said that he “had 2,000,000 more reasons to be frustrated” than other City fans and if one agrees to the idea that the more you have money the more you can care about your football club then one can only imagine how Lawn feels watching the things he has put into place to replace Stuart McCall that should have worked failing so miserably now.
Say what you want about McCall’s exit – and we have all said lots – but Lawn’s recruitment of Peter Taylor was a clear way forward and an outstanding appointment of a manager with a great track record. One might argue the length of the contract has caused problems or that the failure to get training facilities sorted out are restrictive to what the manager can do but few would say they should be the cause of a woeful run of form.
Would City be in any different position now if Lawn had given Taylor a five year contract not a three month one? Perhaps, but as Lawn – we are told – is considering paying out Taylor’s contract then the brevity of it becomes useful in this situation at least.
Taylor’s team take on Barnet who struggle at the foot of League Two also. Jon McLaughlin has kept goal no better and no worse than Simon Eastwood did but is more favoured and perhaps that says much about the nature of support at City. What is an offence one season may not be the next.
Reece Brown is not expected to return from injury to be right back so Zesh Rehman will continue while Oliver Gill is supposedly enforced at left back. Shane Duff is expected to return from injury to partner Steve Williams in the middle of Taylor’s defence. Lee Bullock will sit on top of them with Tommy Doherty expected to return alongside him.
If it is win of bust for Taylor then he should probably play Doherty. A weak midfield will lose the game and thus his job and so it will hardly matter if Doherty misses the first game of Dean Windass, Peter Jackson or whomever’s time in charge.
Michael Flynn’s recovery from injury came to a grinding halt at Hartlepool United where his hernia which was thought cleared turned out not to be after his substitute appearance. Lee Hendrie will fall in as the left hand midfielder – let us not say “wide man” and Omar Daley is expected to play on the right with Taylor adopting a 4411 as strikers appear at a premium.
Luke O’Brien seemingly is out of both the midfield running and left back. It is said that there are players in the dressing room who would not be upset to see the back of Taylor but that O’Brien is not one of them. Such shows great restraint by a player who has been ousted from the City team so often. Tom Ademeyi seems to float in and out of the side with little reference to his performance. Leon Osbourne and Robbie Threlfall both seem to have had time in the team which has come to an end.
Luke Oliver will no doubt lead the forward line and while I would not concur with the idea that he should not do that because he is “out of position” – few would have complained if midfielder Flynn had been fit enough to take the position in the attack – the fact that Oliver struggles to play the role effectively is a problem. Calvin Zola was rumoured to be arriving and did not and as Peter Taylor looked around the world of football for a striker to borrow his vision was as blank as the fogged look over Bradford this morning.
James Hanson edges closer to fitness and perhaps Taylor might be able to risk him, Gareth Evans is out for three months. Taylor”s inability to get the levels of performance out of Evans that they player is capable of minimises the effect of this – he was not playing well – but as a player he can do and the frustration of watching good players play badly under Taylor is epic.
City have gone four games without a goal and Taylor has a selection of strikers for the the role off the main striker. Louis Moult, Jake Speight, Chib Chilaka. Name the striker and he is not scoring enough goals. The net seemingly fogged for Bradford City.
Peter Taylor will hope to cut through that fog, to get the win, to extend his stay at the club which looks increasingly like it will be coming to an end with the next defeat. Should that be the case then Mark Lawn’s view at the future at Valley Parade would be as fogged as the view from it.
Where would we go next?
Gareth Evans has been ruled out for three months following Saturday’s intersection with an adversing board leaving Peter Taylor scrambling for attacking options.
James Hanson is thought to be weeks rather than months from fitness while Michael Flynn – often used in an attacking role by Taylor in his early games at the club – played against Hartlepool United in the 1-0 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat last night.
Flynn came on for Omar Daley who adds to the attacking options which also include fit again Leon Osborne, Louis Moult – a player who is said to be enjoying his time at Valley Parade not one bit – and Jake Speight who on arrival at half time on Saturday as a replacement for Luke Oliver to rapturous applause seemed to suggest that the morality issue surrounding him on his signing for the club has now been given a perspective by some City fans.
Recalling the calls for Speight to be sacked at the start of the season the applause perhaps means “Beating up women is bad, but not as bad as being Luke Oliver.”
Oliver – like Flynn – is used nominally out of position as a striker although perhaps it is the success of Flynn’s performances that sees the one criticised and the other not. Either way it seems that Oliver’s time up front is coming to an end with Taylor reported to be signing Crewe’s former Newcastle and Tranmere striker Calvin Zola on loan this week.
Zola has attracted interest from Burton Albion and Southend but is expected to join City. The player cost £200,000 from Tranmere Rovers and was impressive enough last season to see Peterborough United offer £1m for him. Crewe – under the returning manager Dario Gradi – have returned to the passing football which City have turned away from.
Scorer of an impressive goal at Valley Parade last season Zola would seem a perfect fit for a loanee at Valley Parade but – should he be a success – finding the money to sign him would be not only difficult but also a huge backing by the board of manager Peter Taylor.
Should Zola not arrive then David Wetherall’s reserve side offers the sizeable Darren Stephenson who could be asked to step up to the first team. It also offers Chib Chilaka who is raw for sure but has strength. Chilaka’s impact since arriving may perhaps be measured by the fact that the first version of this article simply forgot him.
So Taylor’s fit options for the role of target man are the raw Chib Chilaka, out of positions Oliver or Flynn, the reserve Stephenson and – should he sign – Zola while his choices for the two play off roles are Daley, Osbourne, Speight, Moult and Lee Hendrie – the midfielder failing to get defensive side of the ball enough to suggest that he might be better dropping back from the attack rather than coming forward from the midfield.
However another defeat without scoring demands a response from Taylor and the exit of Evans helps him not. If a combination is not found soon, and the lack of goals continue, then one would be excused to ask what the much trumpeted management skills of Taylor are for if it is not this problem?
Bradford City play Hartlepool United At The Victoria Ground in Associate Members Trophy, 2010/2011
A lot can happen in three months at a football club.
Three months ago Luke O’Brien faced an uncertain future at Valley Parade when – three months previous – Peter Taylor had arrived at the club and signed a player who had been scouted by Stuart McCall in Robbie Threlfall and the former Liverpool loanee had won his place in the Bradford City team.
The local left back was given a standing ovation for warming up on Saturday – an acknowledgement from supporters who thought his being dropped for Manchester United loanee Oliver Gill – which is a far cry from the criticism that the player was given when Threlfall arrived. O’Brien had – some supporters attested to – been embarrassed by the new signing, probably wished he has a contract and had a future at Guiseley perhaps.
How times have changed.
Indeed three months of loan play at Bradford City and Threlfall was coveted in the Summer but with the rider that City would never be able to land the player from Liverpool. His signing – three months ago – was a part of a series of arrivals that saw City supporters and the wider football public start tagging Peter Taylor’s Bradford City as favourites for League Two.
The past three months have seen Taylor’s stock diminish in a way that few would have thought possible on his arrival but that some worried it would after his initial three months at the club. Taylor’s football at the end of last season was dour but carried on along the same average points achievement as the previous manager had struggled to better and it was assumed that those were the seeds out of which an oak of promotion would grow.
Three months ago Taylor gave Bradford City’s board a list of requirements which could see the club improve on the field. Taylor wanted a flatter pitch, a more professional attitude and new training facilities and while the ground is flat and the players are now wearing very nice suits the plan to move to Weetwood fell through. Three months of the dog poo uneven pitch of Apperley Bridge has perhaps shown that Taylor’s judgement was correct – City did need to sort out the training facilities if they were going to progress.
So perhaps three months down the line of working in a situation which he did not to – Taylor, it is believed, would not have joined City were his demands not met – perhaps the manager will turn to the board in any one of the rumoured “emergency summits” at the club and tell that that he cannot be held liable for failures that he has given the solution for, but that solution has not been put into practice.
What Taylor can be held responsible for is the way that the Bradford City team have been playing which after three months is grinding on the eye. If the first three months at the end of last season seemed like a long time it did – at least – end with decent run that avoided the worst finish for the club since 1966. The fact that this last three months has seen City amass only eight points from ten games with a won one, lost one cup record has caused the time to drag.
The season has seemed a very long time indeed. Taylor was brought into the club not to play pretty football or to be friendly with the players – indeed these were cited as negatives about the previous manager – but to get results.
When people talk about the attractiveness of the football then people speak out of place (although one might agree with them) because the winning side in the argument over Stuart McCall established an idea that “you can’t keep a manager because of sentiment”. That those people will not stand up for Taylor and tell people who go dewy eyed for watching a City team under McCall which tried to play football and did so with vigour and energy is (on the whole) a character flaw on their part but should not count against the manager who has a single remit: promotion; and until that remit it unachievable should carry on with the full backing of all.
You, or indeed I, might not like that idea but such is the non-sentimental view that was allowed to take hold at Valley Parade when some fans and some people in the boardroom decided that they wanted to oust Stuart McCall as manager. They won the day (if not the argument) and to them the spoils.
Three months ago saying these thoughts would have provoked the ire of the club. David Baldwin interceded on a Telegraph and Argus message board argument, The City Gent’s Mike Harrison was hauled over the coals for suggesting that the Bantams would finish 8th in the table (one wonders how many in the Valley Parade boardroom would take Mike up on his offer if it could be made so right now) and should you believe the rumours City’s Football in the Community Officer and weekend wireless pundit Ian Ormondroyd was given a forty five minute grilling by his superiors because he was not enthusiastic enough on his radio commentary.
One can imagine Mark Lawn’s frustrations at Ormondroyd, Harrison et al and he is left looking foolish at his insistence that City followers be positive about the football which has seen City in the lowest position many, if not all, can recall and he might ask how was he to know that Taylor’s team would be performing so poorly three months into the season.
Indeed three months previously the appointment of Taylor was heralded by many (including me) as “outstanding.” Indeed were one to line up the runners and riders for the Bradford City job post-Stuart McCall then the pragmatic, experienced Taylor who had significantly achieved success and repeated that success. Would still be the best choice.
Lawn gave Taylor a three month contract and then – after that initial three months – a one year deal which represented promotion or bust for the manager and much has been talked about that in the situation that City currently find themselves in but perhaps it might be worth considering those first three months.
Taylor’s side did not excel at the end of last year and the football was seldom good to watch. The manager was abrasive then and had the same way with the media as he does now. After three months of working with Peter Taylor Mark Lawn decided that he was worth a one year contract.
Consider that for the moment.
Lawn had the longest trial period for a manager in Bradford City’s history on which to judge the replacement for a manager he spend half a season seething about and planning to replace. It was – perhaps – the most considered managerial change the club has ever had and ten league games later we are where we are and – it is said – that “the board” have given Taylor two games/a month to improve or face the sack.
Having had three months working with him, and a good few months thinking about who he would replace Stuart McCall with, sacking Peter Taylor would be the single greatest statement of failure Mark Lawn could make. It would make the most significant act of his joint chairmanship an utter failure, and absolute failure and one which would totally question any qualifications he has to make another similar decision in the future.
If after working with Taylor for three months Lawn offered him a contract (and that is the way it appears externally) and now wants to rip up that contract then how can he be trusted by the rest of the board to be involved in a similar recruitment process again? In three months time if Bradford City do have a new manager then one has to hope that someone else has made the appointment.
However in three months time things might have turned around totally.
Taylor is on the low ebb of a ten game bad run but bad runs are not uncommon in football and had he had won over eighty points and then in the last ten games limped over the line to promotion after eight points in the last ten games then few would suggest he should be sacked (although some, no doubt, would) which is in effect what happened to Keith Hill at Rochdale last season.
Hill’s wheels falling off the wagon at the end of last term was as unexpected as Taylor’s side suddenly getting two points a game or more for the rest of the season but if such a thing happened then both teams would have had losing runs – one at the start of the season and one at the end.
So should the club turn around then perhaps it should do it tonight in the Associate Members Trophy at Hartlepool United where Peter Taylor is expected to field a side which differs from the eleven who started on Saturday – one would struggle to dub that “the first team” – and could give any number of players chances to win back favour.
O’Brien and Threlfall may both hope to be fielded although word has it that Oliver Gill has been guaranteed a place as a part of his loan deal from Manchester United. The same could be true of Reece Brown at right back.
Michael Flynn looks set to play some part although Tommy Doherty – injured but on the bench on Saturday – is not expected to play. Chib Chilaka might hope to replace Luke Oliver in the forward line, one wonders if Oliver’s favours stretch to this competition.
On the whole though City’s problem is not one of personnel – there are very few that would agree with the assessment two sets of three months ago that Stuart McCall’s legacy was a group of poor players when players like Gareth Evans have gone from bulldog exciting to stolid woe under Taylor – but of attitude. Players like Louis Moult are in the running for a place although the Stoke striker is said to be counting the days until he can go home.
The entire squad is peopled with players who could perform better but are not doing. Three months ago I suggested that the mark of Taylor as a manager was in how much of a performance he got from Zesh Rehman. A player with pedigree he represented raw materials which I expected the manager to sculpt in a way that his predecessor could not. To smooth edges and motivate, to bring back to the path of progress and to get the best out of.
Rehman is benched for a Manchester United reserve despite two other right back injuries. Tonight he is the very type of player who might get a chance to show Taylor what he can do and in doing so preserve Taylor’s job and reputation.
Three months ago few would have thought that.
Had Peter Taylor looked to the heavens during the Morecambe debacle, and he had ample reason to do so, he would have seen a flock of pigeons flying in perfect formation over the Bradford End. These birds of little brain easily outperformed their human counterparts a hundred feet below on the Valley Parade pitch.
Those who look for real grit and determination were rewarded when the ball flew into the Kop. Two kids were on the ball in an instant. Suddenly, fists were flying, as well as a cloud of popcorn, as the youngsters fought over the ball. It would be unkind to suggest that it turned physical when one of the boys realised that his protagonist was about to give the ball back to the players…
Just when you thought things could not get worse at Valley Parade? On the Kop we had a light hearted rendition of Yazz’s ‘The Only Way is Up’. By ten to five Bradford City were sitting one place off the bottom of the entire Football League. Suddenly, the dawning realisation is that the only way is not up… baby.
Peter Taylor received some fearful abuse. This was not the usual derision following a defeat. This was raw anger. We are staring into the abyss. Did I really hear Morrissey sing ‘all my hope is gone’ at halftime? The line is from the song is ‘How Soon is Now?’ That sentiment must be hanging over Valley Parade, hanging over the Lawn, Rhodes and Taylor households and hanging over many thousands of City supporters.
Where now? What now?
Changing a defence that had gained a valuable point at Rotherham was criminal. Dropping Luke O’Brien, City’s most heartening performer in the early part of the season, was illogical. Bringing two debutant, on loan, teenagers (yes Man United, blah blah blah) into the defence verged on the suicidal.
As the second half trundled along to its inevitable conclusion some fans sang sarcastically ‘Taylor for England’. A reference to reports that Taylor is (was?) being lined up for a coaching job under Fabio Capello. Quick as a flash another chant began ‘Taylor for Scotland’. People laughed, it was the most dangerous sound of the afternoon. You can lose football matches and recover, but lose credibility and you are finished.
What we lost on Saturday wasn’t just a football match. We lost our hope. A repeat of the infamous ‘We Want Football’ chant that defined John Docherty’s reign at Valley Parade is surely only a matter of time. Under Docherty City were once, even more infamously, booed onto the pitch. We haven’t hit that low point … yet.
When you say it’s gonna happen “now”/well, when exactly do you mean?/see I’ve already waited too long/and all my hope is gone.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – and Saturday’s abysmal defeat to Morecambe makes it hard to believe he won’t shortly be shown the door.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because the timing is wrong. His track record in football is highly impressive. He has elevated under-performing clubs to new heights and awoken sleeping giants. He has managed some of the country’s finest players. His reputation in The Game is undoubtedly high. But such career achievements mean little when you’re overseeing a team which now has 90 professional teams ranked above it.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we are in such dire straits. Our home is the bottom division of the Football League and, no offence to others, we don’t believe we should be slumming it like this. In recent history we tasted the highs of Premier League football. We built up our stadium to a point where it is among the most impressive in the country. At the very least we should be part of the Championship; heck right now mid-table in League One would do just fine. But here, stuck in League Two, playing Barnet this weekend and fearing we will lose – don’t you know who we are?
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we’re in the position where instant success has to occur. Building for the future was yesterday’s idea, where we thought that was the strategy to deliver promotion. But in 2008 we threw a load of money at speeding up the building of a team and invested in players allegedly too good for League Two; gambling on it earning promotion and failing to ponder what would happen if it went wrong. And then it went wrong, and what seemed like a nice diversion to English football’s backwaters has become a painfully long trip. Like being stuck in an airport because all the flights home have been grounded.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we’re panicking. Crowds are dropping every season, and those little clubs we once almost patronisingly believed we only had to turn up and would beat are now considered tough opposition. In 2009, Stuart McCall’s wage budget was slashed by a third and any of the good building work he’d achieved in his first two seasons in charge was thrown out with the bathwater. But he started again, signed decent young players from lesser backgrounds and began to build a squad that could grow and, with the right additions along the way, eventually be good enough to elevate the club. But we didn’t have the patience, and in February 2010 forced him out.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we don’t trust managers. He was the best candidate for the vacancy in February, but we had to trial him for 18 games rather than tell him to get on with doing what he did to Hull. And then in April the City Board sat down with him to offer the job permanently, asking what was required to revive the club. Taylor told them the playing surface needed sorting, and that we require new training facilities. The club delivered on one, and the other demand was quietly forgotten.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we didn’t believe in him. Not only was there no training ground, he was only offered a one-year deal. After this dreadful start there were rumours he’d be sacked at the start of October, or that he may be sacked at the end of this month. Even if that’s not true, his contract has just seven months to run. The club and fans paid lip service to believing he could revive the club, but the backing fell short because deep down getting promoted this season was everyone’s be all and end all. Last March I wrote about Taylor’s training and pitch demands and concluded, “Taylor has not made next season promotion or bust, but expectations elsewhere may not quite fall the same way.”
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because he’s had to resort to short-termism. Failure to get City into the top ten this season and he won’t be given a new contract. So why on earth should he care about the long-term prospects of the club? Why should he care if there’s no new training ground if it might reduce his playing budget? He has to deliver results now, because we supporters and the Board can’t face the prospect of it taking a couple of years for him to mould that promotion-winning squad. We want short cuts, dammit.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because short-term thinking doesn’t seem to be his forte. Team selections have been bizarre, remedies to address the situation have missed the spot. The two loan players signed from Man United last week have left us all scratching our heads wondering why he’s dismantled the only part of the team which was functioning competently. And what had Luke O’Brien done to deserve getting dropped? He must have been devastated. But then why should Taylor care about the long-term benefits of the best player to emerge from the youth ranks in a decade, if his job is on the line and some apparently better-polished guys from Man U can come in for a month?
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because someone of his calibre is wasted right now. The problem with this football club is not that it is stuck in League Two, but that we leak money at an alarming rate and have to pay Gordon Gibb a massive sum of money for the right to play in our home of 100+ years. During our time in League Two, we’ve had the opportunity to do something about it and perhaps by now have even bought back the ground. But we threw money at players in 2008 when it was unnecessary and ill-thought, and those losses had to be covered by the Fabian Delph windfall. And we’ve made non-committal threats about going to Odsal and, almost a year after the redevelopment of Bulls’ home fell through, there’s being no word of what we’ll now do about the situation. Probably because everyone’s given up.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because the vision is so clouded. We introduced a brilliant season ticket offer to attract floating fans, then convinced ourselves – and them – that League Two was beneath us. So doing reasonably well in this division was considered a disgrace. Instead of being more realistic and focusing on making Valley Parade a wonderful place to be atmosphere-wise, we booed and sat in silence and slagged off hardworking players and drove away a City legend. In time those floaters have gone back to what they used to do on Saturday afternoons, and what in 2007 was a chance to reinvent this club has been almost completely thrown away.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we no longer seem to want to care about the bigger problems. We’re miserable being in this league, and all that matters is getting out of it. Sod your training ground Taylor, just tell your players to run around the dog poo. Sod developing young players like Gareth Evans and James Hanson. Sod playing a style of football we might enjoy. And in the end, sod off. It’s just about getting out of this league, that’s the only problem we want to believe exists.
Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because he’s not a quick fix. So let us find a motivation man who can make the players feel ten foot tall and let the form guide be the deciding factor of the most important position in the club. Perhaps it will work for a bit, short-termism. Perhaps we’ll even get that promotion eventually and get out of this division.
And maybe when we do, we can finally sit down and address the real issues.
- Jon McLaughlin | Reece Brown, Steve Williams, Shane Duff, Oliver Gill | Tom Adeyemi, Lee Bullock, Lee Hendrie | Omar Daley, Luke Oliver, Gareth Evans | Jake Speight, Chib Chilaka, Luke O'Brien
Bradford City 0 Morecambe 1 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
It is an old footballing cliché that you should only start paying attention to the table of the division your team is playing in after ten games.
Now, with ten games played in League Two this season, it is fair to say that from Bradford City’s point of view we are at crisis point – one place away from propping up the entire football league.
Today’s game at Valley Parade was absolutely typical of the home games seen so far. Buoyed by an encouraging, and somewhat surprisingly solid display away at Rotherham, City started well. Omar Daley’s cross-cum-shot hit the post and the rebound fell to Lee Hendrie, making his full debut, but he missed an easy chance from 8 yards out.
At the other end, former Bantam loanee Paul Mullin fired a warning shot when he was kept out well by City keeper Jon McLaughlin. But the decisive moment came on 23 when the tricky winger Mark Duffy fired in a dangerous cross that Mullin met at the far post to volley in for 1-0.
City missed a glorious chance to level ten minutes later when a good run by Gareth Evans afforded an excellent headed opportunity for stop-gap striker Luke Oliver, but the lanky defender could only head wide.
The second half was a complete non-event. City manager Peter Taylor brought on Jake Speight to replace Luke Oliver up front, as well as bringing on Chib Chilaka for his league debut, but no City player created any chances or had the chance to miss any. The game petered out at 1-0 to the visitors, and the despairing home fans knew that no matter how long the game went on, City were incapable of scoring once again at home.
Taylor avoided the abuse coming from the fans in the Sunwin Stand by choosing a route away from the pitch to the dressing room which ensured he didn’t have to look any of the furious fans in the eye.
Make no mistake. Taylor’s position as Bradford City manager appears to be extremely shaky. If you asked the vast majority of the 10,000 City fans inside Valley Parade today whether we should sack Taylor, a huge percentage would say “Yes”. Whether this is the correct decision or not is, of course, massively debatable.
One thing that is not debatable is his inability to find his best starting eleven, and stick with them. When we were all expecting the signing of an experience striker in the week after the Rotherham game, we were shocked to hear the signing of two Manchester United defenders. I can understand perhaps needing cover at right back, but another central defender?
And we were even more shocked when the teams were announced this afternoon when we found out that both Manchester United loanees had got starting places, despite a hugely solid defensive performance in midweek at Rotherham.
Luke O’Brien was excellent at left back at the Don Valley, and yet found himself dropped to the bench in favour of Oliver Gill who does not look even remotely like a player comfortable of playing at left back.
Zesh Rehman also put in a good performance in midweek, but found his place taken by Reece Brown this afternoon. What can this do to the confidence of our full time contracted players? What message does it send? Play well and we will get some kids in from Manchester United who have never played a league game to replace you for a month. Did we have to play them to fulfill contractual obligations with Manchester United? I don’t know. I do hope someone knows the reason why the backline was broken up after such a good performance.
We all know that our biggest problem is up front. Taylor continued to play Oliver as a target man this afternoon, and his post match interview reveals that Oliver is actually “doing us a favour” by playing up there. Well I am most grateful to Luke for taking the time out of his Saturday afternoon to wear the Claret and Amber in a position that is uncomfortable for him. We have three strikers on the bench, but none of them apparently can be as effective as playing a big man up front as Taylor reveals it makes it “more comfortable” for the other players; i.e. they have an option to just hoof the ball up to Oliver, hope he flicks it on or it sticks up there.
If Taylor would prefer not to inconvenience Oliver too much and play him in his normal central defensive position (where he would probably drop our best defender, Steve Williams), maybe we could stick a large object like a dust bin up the field to aim at and hope for similar results.
It is not particularly Oliver’s fault of course. He tries hard, but we all know he is incapable of finishing gilt-edged chances as demonstrated today with his one in the first half.
The fault has to lie at the door of the manager. He is accountable for results and the way we play. This season Taylor doesn’t have any idea what his best eleven or best formation is. To be tinkering so much ten games into the season is extremely worrying.
We all knew that Taylor had the reputation of playing some dire football and grinding out results. I would happily accept any way of playing as long as the results are right. At the moment, the results are nowhere near right, and the style of playing makes even the more die-hard City fans question the reason why they come to watch the team.
Under Stuart McCall, we could never be accused of not entertaining the crowd. McCall didn’t get the results and thus paid the price. At the moment, Taylor is doing neither entertaining nor getting results, and when that happens every managerial decision is questioned. Every one of his criticisms of his own players is blasted by the fans. His lack of encouragement from the sidelines is criticised (all you ever see Taylor doing is barking orders and telling his players off).
Something is not right. These players are not playing for this manager. We don’t seem to have a clue how to score a goal. Confidence is at an all time low. The fans want Taylor out. Would anyone be surprised if he left the club by ‘mutual consent’ on Monday?
- Jon McLaughlin | Reece Brown, Steve Williams, Shane Duff, Oliver Gill | Tom Adeyemi, Lee Bullock, Lee Hendrie | Omar Daley, Luke Oliver, Gareth Evans | Jake Speight, Chib Chilaka, Luke O'Brien
Bradford City play Morecambe At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
The school of thought – pretty much doused after the signings this week of two month long loan players – has it that if Peter Taylor did not get four points from his next two games that finish at home to Morecambe then he would be sacked.
The point at Rotherham United gave him one, anything less than a win would see him out the door. Probably not but that was the rumour which has since been replaced by the idea that if things have not improved for the Bantams by the time that new recruits Oliver Gill and Reece Brown return to Old Trafford then Taylor will be out of the door.
When Taylor became City manager – and let us not speak the name of the man he got it from for fear of offending the delicate ears of some readers who comment whenever it is mentioned – he was trumpeted as an outstanding appointment taking over from “someone” who speculation had it would have been fired could the club afford it.
Indeed at the time whose name I do not wish to recall was leaving this club at Gill and Brown’s good friends down the M62 Liverpool it was said that Rafa Benitez would be given his P45 if only the club had the funds to do so, or if the two owners could make up their collective mind about it. Rafa left that club in the summer about the time Peter Taylor was signing his season long contract with the Bantams and ended up at the San Siro and Inter Milan.
There were many scratched heads at the appointment and predicted a fall from grace for the treble winning Inter side who are now leading Serie A and romped to a 4-0 win over Werder Bremen in the week as Rafa’s replacement Roy Hodgson’s side struggle in the Premier League. Talk to those who concern themselves more with the fortunes of Liverpool FC and they will point the finger of blame at the Americans who own the club rather than the managers.
Nevertheless it is worth considering Benitez’s progress for a moment and comparing it with to events which have unfolded for Peter Taylor. Inter Milan were obviously in rude health having won every competition they entered last season while Liverpool are obviously not and were Hodgson to have returned to the San Siro and Rafa remained where he was one is tempted to suggest that very little would have been different.
So Taylor – a manager with a good track record – struggles at Bradford City and is rumoured to be a draw away from being fired and one wonders how much different things would have been were anyone else rather than Taylor been manager.
None of which is to say that managers have no capability for effecting change but rather that they are not the sole agent of it and – if they are not given the time, resource and remit – they will be as battered along on the winds of fortune as any supporter.
Take, as an example, Chris Sutton who was the manager of Lincoln for a touch under twelve months that ended this week. Sutton inherited his side from former Bantam Peter Jackson when they were placed twentieth and left this week with the Imps placed twentieth. The fact that he was not able to improve or make worse Lincoln in that time suggests that the problem is something other than the manager.
Rafa carries on Inter Milan’s success and looks to continue it, Roy takes on Liverpool’s decline and looks to arrest it while Peter Taylor gets to grips with what is going on at Valley Parade and one hope that he is allowed to fully grasp that task.
Taylor brought in the two defenders from Manchester United with heads scratched as to why they are needed. It seems that Reece Brown will come in at right back to cover injuries and that Oliver Gill might take the other full back slot over Robbie Threlfall leaving Shane Duff and Steve Williams to carry on their partnership at the back in front of Jon McLaughlin.
Such would be harsh on Threlfall who like Taylor impressed in his first three months and then had some tough times. Perhaps Threlfall will be reflecting that he and Taylor are currently enjoying the same fortunes and while Taylor is given a month, he is not. It is said that there are people in the City dressing room who say they would no be upset were Taylor be moved on but these are the kind of rumours that no one could substantiate and few would believe if it were not for the displacement of the team’s performances and the search for reasons for that.
Zesh Rehman – who launched his own foundation this week – is rendered almost obsolete by this decision too. What does one make of a situation when both right backs are injured and a loanee is brought in over the next man. Indeed what does one make of Rehman’s time at City which has seen some good performances, and some good periods of play like the end of last season, but have never seen him cement a place in the side.
A former Premier League player and one with the ability to play well Rehman joins a lengthy list of players signed by the club and later seemingly rendered useless. Supporters and the club have a tendency to lay these failures at the door of the player – be he Dan Petrescu, Michael Boulding, John McGinlay, Paul McLaren or Bruno Rodriguez – but the constancy of this sign and deteriorate through various managers, boards and years is something not to be dismissed so lightly. Rehman is another player that – it seems – the club have failed to get the most out.
The midfield starts to return to a shape that was anticipated at the start of the season with Michael Flynn almost ready to return. Lee Bullock, Tommy Doherty and Tom Ademeyi have struggled from game to game although Ademeyi looked good on his return in the week but it seems that he would be the one to step down when Flynn returns. Lee Hendrie seems to have a long road bad to fitness done in half hour steps from the bench while David Syers deserves much credit for his introduction to League football and as he returns to the bench he should do so with great heart and promise.
Omar Daley returned to the forward line in a swap with Jake Speight and impressed although the idea that Taylor will only play one of the two lively forwards is frustrating. On paper the pair would seem ideal for channel running and getting close to the big striker but – perhaps to avoid predictability – Taylor prefers to have two who might win the ball up front and Gareth Evans and Luke Oliver providing weight to the forward line.
Morecambe sit 22nd in League Two – a place below City – and were bested 4-1 by Bury in their new home this week. They are the sort of team that City are always expected to beat and for once for Peter Taylor the expectations do not outstrip the things in his control, o el control del hombre de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme.