When giants walked the Earth

You could hardly escape Andy Carroll this weekend. He was on the front page of The News of the World on Sunday morning when someone mixed up the phrases “In the public interest” and “interesting to the public” and by the next morning he was on the back too.

The target man Newcastle United forward is expected to feature in Fabio Capello’s England squad for the friendly with France which represents something of an “uppy downy” kind of time for the forward who quiet out shined opposite attacker Marouane Chamakh.

The French forward Chamakh is a strange sight. Tall and strong but able to take the ball into his body the 26 year old is something of a French Alan Shearer – we have heard that phrase before – and is there to add a bit of muscle to Arsene’s Arsenal.

Meanwhile, at Valley Parade, we have James Hanson who scored twice in the weekend cup defeat having come back from an injury which hampered the start of the season with a point to prove. Hanson is able in the air and gives defenders little chance to settle – his red card was rescinded after the Burton Albion win but he was in the think of the action all afternoon – but his hammered strike against Cheltenham showed his talents.

One has to wonder what Huddersfield Town – the club he was associated with as a youngster – did not see in Hanson although City’s neighbours have passed up on previous Bantam forwards. They had seven games out of Bobby Campbell and got three goals out of him.

Bobby Campbell was a centreforward more of legend than fact but looking past the stories for a second – and only a second because the stories are wonderful – then Campbell was a muscle striker who could hit a ball with what seemed to be immeasurable power.

Legend has it that Campbell’s time at Huddersfield was ended when he took the junior squad for a jog as a part of a punishment in training and – in true Campbell style – that jog included each player getting into the driver’s side of the manager’s Ford Anglia and dragging muddy boots out of the passenger side.

One doubts Hanson was involved in anything such as that before his time in the Co-op between The Terriers and The Bantams and obviously when City came to offer a second chance he took that with two hands but one doubts his style of play has changed. It has, one might say, come back into fashion.

Ten years ago football’s forward lines seemed to have lost their big men. Dean Windass – City’s forward of the day – had Campbell’s gruffness but not his style of play and he was partnered with the slight Benito Carbone. The Premier League was won by Dwight Yorke and Andrew Cole and there was not a target man in sight. Niall Quinn went out to pasture at Sunderland and Kevin Phillips new partner was a more able footballer, and certainly not a big fella.

The big forward at the top level had dropped out of fashion. Of course there were Jon Mackins, Drew Broughtons and Shequi Kuqis wandering around the game but often they were considered classless – Broughton still is – and soon dropped in favour of a forward with a little more guile. Naturally a big lad who has that guile prospers but how many Didier Drogbas are there? Not enough for everyone to have one although in League Two every team seemed to have someone who was six foot eight and it took the Bantams some time to realise that a Matthew Clarke or a Luke Oliver was needed to keep the defensive line strong.

So defenders became used not to battles in the air and trying to win the ball but to trying to anticipate and steal by stealth. Defending at the top level – and further down – has become a more intelligent affair about second guessing the path of play and about anticipation.

Enter Hanson, enter Carroll, enter Chamakh. They play a game that says to defenders “you know where the ball is going, I know where the ball is going, now lets see who gets it” and because – in words that would be used in comparison to Bobby Campbell – defenders have gone soft the cannot defend against the new generation of target man.

Hanson battles the beefiest of League Two defenders and comes out on top which Carroll will be facing the French back four soon. For a time these target men rip through defences like giants stalking the Earth.

As for the progress of James Hanson, Bobby Campbell would be impressed, and so am I.

As Taylor fumes about the OMB will Lawn and Rhodes take action?

A month ago Peter Taylor set himself at loggerheads with the joint chairmen of Bradford City in a demand to be given full throated backing but today the City manager has taken on the people who really decide if he has a job.

Peter Taylor told the users of City’s Official Message Board who started rumours that James Hanson had been left out of the City team for the game with Bury because he has been out drinking that they should “got to go and get a life” and branded them with the damning phrase of “Not Bradford City fans.”

In taking on a section of the club’s official message board Taylor takes on the people who – with systematic campaigns – were able to unseat the previous two Bradford City managers. With the club seemingly using the Official Message Board as a barometer of the mood of supporters in a very real way Taylor is taking on the decision makers of Bradford City.

Taylor denies that Hanson was dropped for going out drinking. The City manager said

I picked Jason Price and Omar Daley for that game because that’s what we wanted against two centre halves who don’t like playing against that type of player. I don’t go on these websites but somebody drew my attention to this one. Because I’ve had to look at it, I’ve read certain other things. I’m not convinced these people are Bradford City fans. They will just drive players away. They can’t be proper fans to talk about things like that. It’s unbelievable, really.

Unbelievable to Taylor perhaps but often believed and certainly given some regard by the club by virtue of the name. That the club run an “Official” message board is no bad thing, that it is so loosely policed is astonishing. When Rochdale FC took legal action against this website their complaint covered only one comment on the article and four in the comments which BfB was liable for publishing (Two from Rochdale supporters, incidentally). The club sits in a similar position and the laissez faire attitude towards moderation allows for some remarkable statements that emanate.

Indeed the club’s own moderator Jon Pollard was attacked with some horrible allegations on the Official Message Board and at the time one had to wonder how the club could maintain a system so often used against it. Taylor has brought attention to this problem once more, but no one at the club could say they are not aware of it.

So if one assumes that the club are aware of the problems of the Official Message Board – and it should be said that for all the ills of the OMB it played a key part in the attempts to save the club in 2004 and is most often used for what one would want it to be, fans talking football with fans – then perhaps they do not believe it has much impact other than being an indication of what supporters think. That one can take the temperature of the support from the OMB, but that the individual aliments are of no importance.

Peter Taylor, the man at the club who knows the most about football, disagrees and with the club returfing the pitch and looking for new facilities to keep the manager one wonders what they will do to follow the manager’s recommendation as to another way to improve the club.

In the short term now the man they pay to tell them how to make the best football club is telling them that some people on the OMB are harming that club will they take action or choose to ignore the manager? Tell him he can make do with the situation on the club’s own website like he as to make do with Apperley Bridge. The club dragged in The City Gent to talk about a preview they found too negative, yet the pay for the Official Messageboard.

Moreover though Taylor is saying that the club that they need to work on redefining being a Bradford City fan. There was an agitated argument in the Kop in the Oxford game when James Constable waved an imagined yellow card to suggest Luke Oliver should be booked – an action which is mandated as a caution in the Laws of the game – with one side being chastised for bias for demanding the official take action. The current definition of bias at Bradford City – for some fans – is to want City treated even handledly under the rules of the game.

The culture of the Bradford City Official Messageboard – with its anonymity and one user/multiple name – is often similarly negative as it the mood on a match day. Not a question of rose tinted glasses or optimism but rather allowing the negative – no, the destructive, to be unopposed.

Having taken on Lawn demanding backing and not blinked Taylor will hope for a similar result. In seven months the manager’s contract will be up or renewal. One doubts he will receive much backing from the people he has criticised today, should he not be unseated before, leaving Lawn and Rhodes to decide how much credence to give to the Official Message Board and how much they should listen to Taylor’s recommendations on how to take Bradford City forward.

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