From December, 2010
Bradford City play Lincoln City At Sincil Bank in League Two, 2010/2011
It will be away at New Douglas Park, Hamilton that Stuart McCall starts his career post-Bradford City as manager of Motherwell and as the Bantams start 2011 with his replacement Peter Taylor at the helm one could be excused for wondering where the current incumbent of the City job may be in twelve months time.
At Valley Parade in League One would seem to be the most preferable answer but one that seems remote. One can cheerily look back to Chris Kamara’s promotion side of 1996 and recall how over the festive period they looked as unlikely to be upwardly mobile as Taylor’s team but something shifted and Wembley awaited.
This though is the most wishful of thinking and the vast majority of sides who look like they are going nowhere at Christmas end up at that very destination come May, a notable exception being Colin Todd’s City side of four years ago who looked set to sail of to not much until “improvements” were made that relegated the side.
Todd’s sacking is a cautionary tale for the season, Mark Lawn’s Ghost of Christmas past.
Probably not up, probably not down it seems that City are going to bob around until the end of the season when Taylor’s contract is up and in all likelihood so will his time at Valley Parade be. One can assume at this point the same arguments for the sake of continuity and stability on behalf of Taylor as were voiced for McCall and probably the same arguments against it.
For me the key benefit of stability at this time is that the club would save the money spent bringing in staff, new players and new ideas with every change of manager which in the end so often result in so very little.
But Taylor was not hired to build on what is in place at Valley Parade and his remit is not the long term progress of the club it is the short term need for promotion and with that in mind it is almost impossible to imagine him staying if that aim is not reached, and entirely impossible to imagine it under the terms laid out by the joint chairman who appointed him.
So one wonders where Taylor will be this time next season, and suspects it will not be at Valley Parade. Hope springs eternal though and despite the dispiriting 4-0 defeat City go into the new year but six points off the play-offs.
Using last season’s table as an example City would need a points average of 1.56 a game to reach the play-offs and currently we score 1.2 which means that to get to last season’s seventh place total we would need 48 points from 26 games or 1.84 a game which – if extrapolated over a season – would give a club 85 points.
85 last season would have placed a team second above AFC Bournemouth and so the task for the second half of the season is set. City have to do as well as AFC Bournemouth did last season to get into the play-offs. To get to an automatic spot City would need 2.23 points a game which is akin to finishing a season with over 100 points.
One can be one’s own judge on how reasonable an idea that is.
City face Lincoln City with a team as mutable as any. After a 4-0 spanking in which only Gareth Evans seemed to come out with any credit there seems to be not a single place in the side not up for grabs and so predicting who is in the side is predicting which of the players Peter Taylor feels have done least poorly.
A host of faces may be exiting Valley Parade in the next month with Lenny Pidgeley having not shown so much as to suggest that he was worth bringing in over Jon McLaughlin. Richard Eckersley will go back to Burnley to a new boss – Brain Laws having left this week – but Simon Ramsden hopes to be fit again soon to take his place.
Also hoping to be fit to replace loanee Rob Kiernan are Shane Duff and Steve Williams, both of whom may play on New Years Day, and Michael Flynn’s return could see the end of the hot and cold blowing Tom Ademeyi. Lee Hendrie’s contract is up, and he was sitting on the bench for forty five minutes on the 28th which captain Jason Price should be heading back to Cumbria before too long with Evans returning to the squad.
City face a Lincoln City team bolstered by the return of Scott Kerr – former City man who played a blinder in the Bantams 8-2 win over Darlington eleven years ago – but low on points having sacked Peter Jackson to improve the club and then spent a year trying to get Chris Sutton to improve them and failing. No matter what Lincoln do they seem to be a team mired in the lower half of league two.
One wonders if – after his first three games none of which are at Fir Park – Stuart McCall might be tempted to test City’s resolve for players like Flynn, Ramsden or Lee Bullock hoping that they could play a role in an SPL side. More so if McCall has money to spend in Scotland would either of the pair he found in non-league football Steve Williams and James Hanson fancy a move up North? Certainly if I was the manager of Motherwell I’d be looking at both those young players as being able to make that step up.
January will see changes in playing squad, managers changing later no doubt. Improvements to either not necessarily following.
the coming season will be my 30th as a season ticket holder and I can honestly say that never have I been so reluctant to renew. In recent seasons It has been in hope more than expectation but this time even the hope is fading into a sea of despondency.
I’ve finally been to renew. when I got home I asked myself “Why so low this time?”
I wrote a list when I got home of all the “Problems” at my club. it was quite a long list so I crossed out all the minor grumbles and grouses.
I wasn’t entirely in agreement with McCall’s departure but was open to being convinced by his replacement when I heard it was Peter Taylor who is a man with an unblemished record in the lower divisions. Surely such a man could succeed at City?
This man, with his vast experience and respect in the game. Surely, after half a season he should know by now what his best eleven is! Instead the team is chopped and changed every game: win, lose or draw;
The joint chairmen Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn. I have sadly concluded that they are unable to bring success to the club. Like surgeons at a hospital who, when faced with a seriously injured patient, don’t know how to heal the man so they have him put on life support where he stays for years while all they can do is hope that something will turn up.
We will always be grateful to Julian that we still have a club, but surely the time is long since past when we should have begun making progress. Unfortunately, in the Rhodes family it’s the father who is the captain of industry. nice guy though he is, it’s not the son! Similarly Mark Lawn, a man who had one good idea that made him a millionaire. After that, the cupboard is bare!
To use modern parlance, neither man seems able to think outside the box. there are no big ideas forthcoming. All we can expect is more of the same!
Now to the club itself. In the past it has been said to me on more than one occasion (admittedly by non City fans) that by comparison with clubs from similar sized cities (Leicester, Hull, Nottingham, Wolverhampton etc.) City’s worst is worse than their worst and lasts much longer. This is hard to refute. in the 80′s Hull, Wolves and Bristol City all plunged to the bottom division while in dire financial straits and with the all too realistic threat of extinction. All 3 stayed only 2 seasons in the basement before starting the long road back. City have done 4 with the 5th already looking a certainty.
So there you have it.
Like a drowning man clinging to a bit of wreckage, the only thing I cling to is the memory of the last time things seemed dire under the Dave Simpson board. Skint with debts piling up. Geoffrey Richmond, the good one before he succumbed to megalomania and his self confessed period of madness, was just around the corner, about to come in and galvanise the club, setting us on the upward path.
There can’t be many, if any, Bradford City supporters who aren’t cheered by the news Stuart McCall is to become the new manager of Motherwell. The Scottish Premier League outfit are set to officially confirm McCall as the new gaffer on Thursday, ending a 10-month gap from managing for McCall after he departed the Valley Parade hotseat last February. In the interim, he’s been scouting for Norwich City and helping coach one of the Bantams’ youth teams; but his appointment at Fir Park is another chance to prove himself a number one.
A return to a country and league where he enjoyed so much success as a Rangers player represents a terrific opportunity for McCall. The only other British club other than City to wear Claret and Amber, Well are lodged in midtable of Scotland’s top flight and have the small matter of a Co-operative Insurance Cup semi final clash with his old club at the end of January. Unlike managing Bradford City, there should be less pressure to deliver instant success. Motherwell are not stuck in a lower division they believe they are too big for, and the realistic best that McCall can be expected to achieve, in time, is a third place finish behind Rangers and Celtic, some cup silverware and/or European qualification.
Like any manager, he will have expectations to cope with. But with Fir Park average attendances half of that at Valley Parade, the pressure may not be as intense.
McCall’s biggest strength when managing City arguably turned out to be his biggest weakness. He cared passionately about the club, defeat hurt him as much as any of the rest of us. When things were going wrong, he didn’t come across as the inspirational leader we remember so fondly on the pitch. It would cause a snowball affect, with a couple of bad defeats turning into numerous bad defeats and, while no one can question how committed his players were to him right to the end, one was left wondering whether he was the positive leader in the dressing room they needed him to be in difficult times.
But at Motherwell, the lack of previous history with the club should allow McCall to be more dispassionate. Of course it will hurt him when Motherwell lose, but he will be less inclined to take it personally or readily believe those who jump to criticise him. That means his judgment is less likely to be clouded, faith in his own ability much stronger, skin much thicker.
That McCall has secured another job is an impressive achievement in itself. Lower league football managers rarely get second opportunities and the fact that, on paper at least, McCall’s record in charge of City doesn’t look great suggested he was destined for the comfort of TV studios for the rest of his working life. That lower league managers are generally thrown out on the scrapheap in this manner seems wrong, as managing clubs with fewer resources appears much more challenging.
One of the quotes of 2010 was then-Blackburn manager Sam Alladyce’s assertion that he could manage Real Madrid. But beyond the ridicule this sparked, he had a valid point. It is easier to manage a club with vast resources to buy the best players like Madrid than it is to be in charge of a small fish like Blackburn. The likes of Jose Mourinho deserve their place in Madrid’s dugout, they are the best, but why do managers who fail at bigger clubs and earn the sack then get another job ahead of those who have failed at smaller outfits?
McCall’s three spells at City – particularly his two as a player – mean he will always be held in the highest regard by 99.9% of Bantams supporters. Indeed, after the pressure he came under during his final few weeks and continued civil war among fans over the rights and wrongs of driving a legend out of the club for much of 2010, a warmer front from all sides seems to be developing. There was even a poll on the Official Message Board over whether he should be brought back as City boss now (a small majority saying yes). That wouldn’t have happened even before McCall’s new job was sealed, given he and Mark Lawn fell out weeks before he departed.
The warmer front is there because of the managerial unrest brewing at City. The morale-smashing 4-0 defeat to Cheltenham has seen Peter Taylor’s popularity reach new lows. At the turn of the year, City are six points off the play offs – exactly where they were a year ago under an increasingly under pressure McCall. When you remember Taylor benefited from an increased budget during the summer, it underlines how little progress has been made and, once again, the futility of changing managers.
Let us not enter into another debate about the rights and wrongs of forcing McCall out a year ago – BfB usually gets a stack of hate mail for even daring to mention it – but let’s agree it hasn’t worked in the way it was expected. So the question is, will it the next time?
Taylor was handed a one-year contract, which in my opinion has negatively influenced the way he has attempted to manage the club. As things stand, it’s implausible to believe he will be handed another contract in May – if he makes it that long. But whatever the next few weeks and months might hold, it’s to be hoped the joint Chairmen are carefully evaluating the situation now.
It may not be a time for drawing up a managerial shortlist for replacing Taylor, but if things stay as they are and he is destined to leave, what happens next? Can the club afford to keep making each season promotion or bust, when such a short-term approach is routinely being proven to fail? Do we keep handing out one year manager contracts until someone finally gets it right? We can’t stay in this division for long, it’s said. But then we were saying that four years ago and here we still are.
We need a long-term strategy, and personally I believe us supporters should have more insight and a say into what that strategy should be.
We can continue to dispute whether it was right McCall was pushed out of the door, but we can probably all agree that not having a plan beyond his removal is looking a major mistake. The vacancy advert went out and Taylor was eventually judged the best candidate a year ago, and for a time the club bowed to his every whim. If Lawn and Julian Rhodes still believe Taylor is the best man, the opportunity is there to back him in the transfer market this January – providing the club can afford to. Without a significant boost to the quality of the squad, it’s highly unlikely Taylor will be able to fire City into League One next season.
Meanwhile McCall has a fresh opportunity, and what probably helped to persuade his new employers to give him the job was the record of the guy who replaced him at Valley Parade.
- Lenny Pidgeley | Richard Eckersley, Rob Kiernan, Luke Oliver, Luke O'Brien | Tom Adeyemi, Tommy Doherty, David Syers | Jason Price, James Hanson, Gareth Evans | Lee Hendrie
Cheltenham Town 4 Bradford City 0 At Whaddon Road in League Two, 2010/2011
“He came at noon, asking for water.
There is a tipping point in most everything which convinces all that hope and expectation are to be dashed and it seems that that Peter Taylor’s Bradford City career reached that point in a 4-0 defeat at Cheltenham.
It would be wrong to say that the defeat saw the Bantams bested with ease but to suggest that the resistance to the home side was especially dogged or passionate would not paint a true picture either. For a half hour City exchanged blows as one would expect a team on the road to do – a three man forward line hinted at but dragged out of position and Jason Price oddly named captain in what would seem to be one of his final games of a loan spell – but as soon as Marlon Pack scored the home side’s second so rapidly after Jeff Goulding’s first the game was over, and it seemed the tipping point reached.
It has been noted before that Peter Taylor’s the Bantams have a habit of being second by a centimetre that in the end might as well be a mile and at times that was true today although as the second half wore on it seemed that that centimetre had increased to more and so the chasm between what is and what is expected became obvious.
There is a level of commitment required by any team to win any football match and for sure Peter Taylor knows that – the fact that his post-match comments deftly describe the issues which resolved the game so firmly in Cheltenham’s favours serves to frustrate – but his inability to get this group of players to produce that level is the defining principal of the season.
There are times that City have looked impressive this season, indeed when David Syers put the ball in (ruled out for offside) and when Luke O’Brien showed a quickness of foot and guile down the left it was shown today, but looking impressive in spells is common to all clubs, and to all managers at this club, and has never been the stuff of promotion.
Wes Thomas’s fine finish towards the end – the result of a midfield which simply watched the ball rather than fight for it – seemed to push minds further over the brink. City, it seems, are going nowhere and not especially fast.
Which is not prediction (nor indeed a prediction I would make, because I do not deal in them) but rather the opinion crystallised in defeat. It seems that there is too much not right in the Bantams at the moment to imagine enough going right to suggest promotion. Many, perhaps most, over the past month have been optimistic that Taylor’s team would come good when the likes of Simon Ramsden and Michael Flynn return and the loan players are swapped around but those ideas seemed to melt like the snow today.
So there is blame – there is always blame – and it is shared liberally around. Peter Taylor stands looking clueless it is said (although I suspect he knows more than most what is going wrong, and probably how to fix it, but struggles to get that fix in place) and it is hard to imagine Mark Lawn giving him a new contract at the end of the season. The merits of changing manager – or should that be the lack of merits – have been discussed at length but probably the most troubling thing is that six months ago Lawn jumped through hoops backwards for this manager and in six months time one worries what the next incumbent will be being given.
Certainly the players take criticism and rightly so – today few of them will have been proud and when one struggles to put in League Two performances one is not far from no longer being a professional footballer – but Bradford City’s solution is not to replace one group of League Two players with another and never has been.
The deterioration of the club over this season is illustrated in Robbie Threlfall. Signed and lauded as superb after some opening displays Threlfall has not lost a leg nor has he suddenly become less able to kick a football in the past nine months. Replacing Threlfall would be punitive on the basis of performances but there is no reason to believe the next man would be better. At some point the hand becomes the wrist and a player like Threlfall is no longer the talent he was, and is replaced, to little or no effect.
At Bradford City ultimately the manager is given the responsibility for the failings. One can create a list as long as your arm of things which Peter Taylor is doing wrong at City and in all likelihood the opposite of them would have been used as a criticism of his predecessor Stuart McCall. Taylor’s team are too regimented, it was said today, and as a result have no camaraderie but McCall’s were too casual and lax not wearing suits. Defeat does not seem to hurt Taylor, but it seemed to hurt McCall too much and cloud his judgement.
So the criticism that Taylor changes his team and his captain seemingly at random with Lee Hendrie having been dropped from both roles despite seemingly performing well in them is valid but no one would thank him for having a settled team if it lost. I am struck by the feeling though that they would lose less often if that were the case.
Indeed my personal gripes with Taylor are common to many a manager. Too many loan players who never give enough to the cause coupled with a tendency to drift away from the tried and tested especially in the four-four-two.
The achieving results in football matches are all that matters and today it seems that there was a swing in belief that Peter Taylor does not know how to achieve in football matches.
And Peter Taylor knows more about in achieving results in football matches than anyone else in a decision making role at the club does. One has to wonder when Taylor looks at this season and decides that while he has done what he can – indeed that he has done what he does to achieve promotion at other clubs – things have not gone as he would have liked. Building winning teams is not making sorbet, sometimes you follow the same recipe and the outcome is different.
But when does Taylor stop believing that City will go up? Does he believe we will?
I mention this for a good reason.”
- Lenny Pidgeley | Richard Eckersley, Rob Kiernan, Luke Oliver, Luke O'Brien | Tom Adeyemi, Tommy Doherty, David Syers | Jason Price, James Hanson, Gareth Evans | Lee Hendrie
Bradford City play Cheltenham Town At Whaddon Road in League Two, 2010/2011
Watch a game, mull over a game, talk about a game, argue about a game, mentally bet that something different next game, watch a game…
Thus the goes football feedback cycle.
One week you watch a player stroll around the field and spend the drive home wishing him gone, you post your views, you get into a bit of banter about it and next game when that player gets a hat-trick you are proved wrong. It is feedback.
You watch a manager’s team one week and think it will never get better and next week the team has turned things around, or the team has not and the feedback you get is that you were right all along. That is feedback and football thrives on it in these days.
Twelve years ago when BfB started brewing I made two assumptions both of which turned out to be massively untrue. Firstly that the close season period would amount to three months off and secondly that people would be logging on at six or seven on a Saturday night to read about City games.
Both these ideas were untrue. BfB’s biggest days have all come in the close season: signing Carbone, almost going out of business, appointing Stuart McCall as manager; and Saturday and Sunday are the quietest time of the week, nothing compared to Monday morning.
Supporters of all stripe love to talk about things because of the feedback cycle. It keeps everything interesting and dynamic. In the close season a signing is considered a result – Liverpool fans looked at Joe Cole signing the club as a similar kind of sign of progress as winning at Old Trafford – but during the weeks of the season it is the metronomic ticking of results which completes the cycle.
So in a situation where City have played one game in thirty five days – and that game was overshadowed – the feedback cycle becomes broken. Propositions and hypothesises are put forward but never tested, thoughts are expressed but never tried out. There is talk but without anything to inform the talk then much talk just becomes hot air.
Hot air being the problem of late. Frozen pitches have been calling off football matches up and down the country and less than a half dozen games in the bottom two divisions have been played in the last few weeks. The games that have been played have been changed – perhaps – by the weather enforced break. Two of League One’s promotion chasers have been the only match on days and both Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday have been unexpectedly beaten as pattens are broken and rhythms hard to rebuild.
The Bantams go into the game – and we assume that Cheltenham’s promises that the pitch will be playable will ensure there is one – with a few players coming back from injury although with usable training facilities being limited recovery might have been hampered. Rob Kiernan and Luke Oliver were both struggling to be fit for Boxing Day but should play. Shane Duff and Steve Williams are all suggesting themselves for a return while Simon Ramsden and Michael Flynn are both hoping to return early in the new year.
Lenny Pidgley – who is out of contract soon – keepers goal behind Richard Eckersley, two of Duff, Williams, Kiernan, and Oliver and at left back Luke O’Brien will play.
The midfield sees Tom Adeyemi approaching the end of his loan spell at Valley Parade which has been a mixed while Lee Hendrie also has the chance to exit. The midfield at Cheltenham is expected to line up Adeyemi, Tommy Doherty, David Syers and Hendrie while Omar Daley and James Hanson will be the forward pair – although the option from drop Daley back to make a five in the middle is always there.
Last season City went to Cheltenham without a goal and ended up being the better half of a nine goal thriller which turned around the start to the season. After thirty five days of thinking City boss Peter Taylor must be hoping for a similar impact as he mulls over his squad and the changes he may make to it in January. At least, after tomorrow, he will have something to add to the feedback cycle.
The Bantam’s game with Chesterfield on Boxing Day has been called off because of a frozen pitch by local Referee’s Assessor Graham Atkins.
Only light snow is expected between now and the start of the game but temperatures are not expected to go above freezing and the VP pitch is said to be rock solid.
City’s next game is to be the match at Cheltenham on the 28th which would be City’s first match in 17 days should it go ahead, which seems unlikely, offering up Lincoln City away on the first day of 2011 as the Bantams next match.
Is it simply because of the stop-start schedule of games over the past month, or is it something deeper?
Should Bradford City’s boxing day clash with Chesterfield beat the weather, it will only be the second time in 33 days the players will be in action. The season has been frozen by the late 2010 big freeze, not much is happening and it all feels a bit tedious.
But even when City were able to get on some green grass and beat Hereford a week last Saturday, enjoyment was in short supply. Far from it satisfying an itch, it seemed an occasion to get over and done with. In general the mood among supporters – as measured in many different ways, not least the number of message board postings, next year’s season tickets sold so far (according to the guy serving me when I renewed mine yesterday), and even hits to this site – appears flat. The news coming out of the club in recent weeks generally dull.
It’s all very quiet, it’s all a bit disengaging.
Supporting the Bantams usually comes with a feeling of frustration rather than constant happiness, and there’s no doubt things could certainly be a lot worse than they are right now. Yet still this is the most ordinary season I can remember in a long while. The football has been enthralling on occasions, but mundane more often. We’re not on the edge of our seats as often as we’d like, nor are we on our feet cheering uplifting goals as regularly as we’d expect.
It’s difficult to look forward to the second half of the season and feel the buzz of anticipation that a narrow gap to the play off positions should offer. It’s not that City aren’t capable of going onto finish in the top seven come May and thus fulfill our hopes, but more the probable manner in which any success will be achieved.
This is an efficient Bradford City side which is conservative and guarded. Wins are laboured. Flair is constrained by structure. Defence is the best form of attack.
We knew it was going to be like this, really. The February exit of Stuart McCall left a managerial opening that placed winning football matches as the top quality when choosing from a lengthy shortlist of applicants. Peter Taylor was the outstanding candidate, but behind his unquestionable achievements were loud warnings that style would give way to organisation. Years of failure left us wanting this winning-above-all approach; hard luck stories of good performances going unrewarded were tedious. Winning is all that matters; so Peter, do whatever it takes to get us out of this league.
We knew what we were getting with Taylor, and those expectations have been realised. McCall’s teams had heart and commitment, but naivety and disorganisation undermined their high levels of effort. City appear much more prepared under Taylor; they go onto the pitch with a more impassioned outlook which is about following a carefully laid out strategy.
If City were laying in the top three places, or even in the top seven, Taylor’s ways would be more enthusiastically backed. But even if the promotion places are still well within touching distance, the 14th-place position City currently occupy and fact the highest league placing of the season, so far, is only 10th leaves Taylor’s ways open to question and doubt. The sacrificing of as high of a level of entertainment could be more accepted if the league table made better reading. It seems were not quite getting the best of either world.
Which leaves afternoons like the recent one against Hereford endorsed but not enjoyed. City’s first half display had merited more than the one goal, but the second half defensive retreat in holding the narrow lead against a team at the bottom of the league was uninspiring and difficult to watch. It would be wrong to say that it was the performance Taylor had wanted to see from his players too – he admitted it was a poor second half display after the game – but such afternoons are becoming a regular occurrence.
And that’s where it’s becoming a bit disengaging to many supporters. If more regular defensive-minded wins like we saw against Hereford and at Bury will take City into League One next season we’ll all be delighted, but that doesn’t mean we’ll fully-enjoy the journey. And if we can’t enjoy winning games of football, what is the point of it all?
When Taylor’s City have been good they’ve been great to watch. The Cheltenham home win was the season’s high-water mark in quality of performance, the Oxford thrashing that followed two weeks later was more memorable and left us all feeling rather giddy with excitement. But with more games like Hereford and even the frustrating defeats to Wycombe and Macclesfield, it suggests the Cheltenham and Oxford wins were Taylor’s City on very top form rather than playing a level they can achieve on a regular basis.
Winning is important, but another key aspect of football supporting is the bond you have with your team. This season there are certainly plenty of players I admire – Tommy Doherty is a joy to watch, while Lee Hendrie and Omar Daley have put in some superb displays. I also have strong affection for the former non-league players – James Hanson, David Syers, Steve Williams and Jon McLaughlin – plus our homegrown talent Luke O’Brien. But in general, the relationship between supporter and other players is more distant and cool.
I write this having only missed two league games this season (plus I didn’t see two of City’s four cup games) and I am used to feeling ‘close’ to the players, through travelling up and down the country to cheer them on. But that affection between players and supporters which was so evident in recent seasons seems less to me this season. It doesn’t help that there are so many loan players who form part of the starting eleven each week, but sometimes in away games you’d like to see the players look a bit happier to see us before kick off and be a bit more prepared to applaud us at full time; rather than a half-heartededly clap from the half way line, like we received at Wycombe in our last away game. Michael Flynn is missed in so many ways.
The four wins out of five undoubtedly recaptured that missing enthusiasm and showed what this team is capable of, and it’s not just for the health of City’s league position that we all hope such heights can be realised on a more regular basis. For now, it’s hoped that the eventual resuming of City’s season will thaw out current levels of cynicism and restore that joy of following the Bantams, which is felt even in difficult times.
Because personally I want to care more about City’s season than I do right now. I want the highs to feel better, even if it means the lows have to be greater too. I want to load up the Telegraph & Argus website on a Monday morning and feel connected by what’s going on at the club, rather than experiencing bordom at reading another interview from an underachieving loan player unsure about his long-term future.
I want this mission of getting promoted out of League Two to be enjoyable and engaging, rather than feeling like a task that has to be completed before the fun can resume again.
City’s game with Crewe has been called off owing to the snow falls over night but – credit where it is due – Referee Kevin Wright has taken the time to explain his decision to supporters and the clubs.
The referee said “Once we took back the covers in the morning, it was clear that bits of frost and ice had already crept in. We left it for a bit to expose the pitch to the temperatures and it already began to go hard relatively quickly. Even if we had started the game, we would have barely got through 20 minutes of the match before it became unsafe.”
After heavy snow and a frost last night no League Two games will be played today.
Bradford City play Crewe Alexandra At Gresty Road in League Two, 2010/2011
Peter Taylor takes his Bradford City time into the definitive Christmas period with a string of defensive injuries and a decision to make over Zesh Rehman.
An injury to Rob Kiernan stretched Taylor’s defensive resources seeing the Bantams manager push striker Jason Price into the back four while Rehman – disciplined by the club – sat in the stands.
Simon Ramsden is expected to miss the entire Christmas programme but Steve Williams, Lewis Hunt and Shane Duff could all feature at some point but the City boss has thin ranks for five games in two weeks. Three full backs are fit in Richard Eckersley, Luke O’Brien and Robbie Threlfall and three central defenders in Kiernan, Luke Oliver and – should be be brought back into the fold, the transfer listed Rehman.
Rehman’s possible exit aside Taylor’s squad is enter a period of flux. Keeper Lenny Pidgeley, David Syers, sometimes skipper Lee Hendrie and a host of loan players may all leave the club leaving the 2011 Bradford City that Taylor attempts to push to promotion much different to the late 2010 version.
Hendrie, Syers, who it is believed has attracted interest from up the leagues after his first four months in professional football, and Tom Ademeyi could all leave following the Christmas period and – to strengthen City’s appeal to those players – five good results would no doubt strengthen the Bantam’s case to those they wish to keep. All three players are expected to make a midfield with Tommy Doherty.
There is no indication that James Hanson will leave City although it was thought that Coventry City were watching the striker before they signed Marlon King. Hanson strikes one as the kind of player who will have convinced the entire City crowd on his exit. Like Ron Futcher, Dean Windass and a host of other players before him once Hanson is gone and City return to seeing the ball cleared with some ease when put towards the strikers then Hanson’s critics will see their error.
And formally apologise to the rest of us, just like the people who jeered Dean Windass provoking his exit, and our relegation.
Hanson will line up with Omar Daley in the forward line at Crewe.
Crewe – who are making much of Clayton Donaldson in their forward line – sit two points off the play offs in 9th having come off a 3-3 draw with Stockport last time out.
Dario Grady says that Crewe are looking for new defenders. Aren’t we all?
Saturday and Joe Colbeck’s return to Valley Parade in a Hereford United shirt saw abuse to a level of vitriol which was shocking in its ferocity even to seasoned Bradford City supporters.
The debate panned out over that abuse: that it had stopped Colbeck playing well, that is was deserved, that it could never be justified; and each has their own judgement on reasons for and effect of that abuse. Ultimately in most circumstances each will keep his own council and decide for themselves if grown men screaming and swearing at footballers is something they wish to endorse or not but in other circumstances – and in this situation – a personal opinion is secondary to the law of the land.
Offensiveness becomes an offence
On Saturday there was a crime committed at Valley Parade in full knowledge of the entire attendance and that crime went unpunished.
The Public Order Act 1986 sets out the law of the land on this subject (and you will excuse the paraphrasing for length) in that (Section 4a) a person is guilty of intentional harassment, alarm or distress if he uses towards another person threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against him or another by any person, or to provoke the immediate use of unlawful violence by that person or another, or whereby that person is likely to believe that such violence will be used or it is likely that such violence will be provoked.
Colbeck – a veteran of many an abusive Valley Parade crowd – could probably not be said to have felt that he would be the subject of immediate unlawful violence. Section 4a (and Section 4, which governs the fear or provocation of violence) carry prison sentences and seem governed by context. Colbeck only has no reason to fear that being sworn at on the field will lead to violence because he has been the subject to it in the past but, then again, he has also seen the Bradford City crowd lob bottles and other items onto the field and so perhaps we would be wrong to not link the two together.
Nevertheless we can fairly clearly say that Section 5 of The Public Order Act 1986 is relevant: A person is guilty of an offence of harassment, alarm or distress if they use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby. The act details that a person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine….
The act details the laws governing rioting, array when offences are done in collectives of people and creative readings of the Act could very well see them become relevant. It would – however – be impossible to suggest that Section 5 was not broken at Valley Parade on Saturday. There is a distinction for sure between those who boo and jeer and those would would have committed an offence as detailed in this Act and the one group is a subset of the other.
One could seek to dress these offences in any number of ways: using the term football culture would be one, that players are “paid enough”, suggesting that there was a crowd rather than an individual; but as we have seen previously convictions for taking an individual part in a crowd activity have happened at football matches and that with criminal convictions come football banning orders.
Which is not to suggest that I would like to see half the Bradford City crowd on Saturday banned from football and convicted but that they should be, should the law be pursued and applied with vigour. The club have banned supports in the past for racist abuse and brought all the power it could muster down on the pitch invaders after the Northampton Town game at the end of last season. That those people are generally held in low regard and are smaller in number than those who abused Colbeck in a way which broke the law.
Offences were committed but neither the Police or – judging by the speed of their reaction to the Northampton game – the club felt that those offence were worth pursuing legally.
Can football take its own action?
In 2005 a Dutch game between Ajax and ADO Den Haag was halted by the referee. There were no safety problems in the stadium, there was no pitch invasion, there was no dangerous playing conditions but the game shuddered to a halt and the teams were taken from the field as if there were.
The cause was a song, and not a very nice song, about MTV Europe VJ Sylvie Meis. Meis, now better known as Mrs Rafael van der Vaart, was to Dutch football what Victoria Beckham was to British. Well known and well commented on.
But not to be commented on in this way – nor should anyone be – decided the Dutch FA who gave an instruction to officials sometime before that targeted abuse would result in a halt in the game, and then if it continued an abandonment. The instruction was designed to protect officials themselves but deployed to protect the virtues of Ms Meis.
There is a logic to the Dutch FA’s position. Why should a Referee (or the girlfriend of a player) be the subject to a crime on a continued basis. If bottles were flying onto the field or if the players or officials feared a physical assault then the game would be suspended so (and remembering the difference in the laws of the countries) why should they tolerate a sustained verbal abuse? If it is said that players are paid enough money to take in good nature any abuse thrown at them (and I would disagree with that idea) then are Referees? What about other spectators like Sylvie Meis?
The Dutch action is notable for its scarcity. Italian games feature booing of black players – Mario Balotelli was told by banner recently that “an ‘African’ can never be an Italian” – and all will hope that the situation in Russian football improves in the next eight years. England’s players Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were abused in Spain. Sol Campbell -infamously – is the subject to a disgusting song sung from Spurs fans.
One can only imagine the effects of a repeat of the Dutch action would be in those cases and hope that it happens.
The foolishness of crowds
It is preached (although seldom practised) that one should never say behind the back of a person what would would not say to their face and while Joe Colbeck – or Sylvie Meis – could hardly have said that things were not said to their faces but there is a certain cowardliness to the football supporter’s mass abuse.
In fact even in our use of words around the subject we describe a holistic idea of a mass of people making a single statement rather than considering that collective as a group of individuals. Ask some of who swore violently at Joe Colbeck on Saturday and they may tell you that they would be prepared to say word for word what they sang as a part of a crowd directly to the man’s face but should they do that, should anyone shout abuse at you in any situation, then one are afford some protection in law.
The behaviour of crowds is the behaviour of those within them and while a person might be be happy to behave in a given way within that crowd there are rights – rights asserted in Dutch football – which protect the individual from abuse. These were not afforded to Joe Colbeck on Saturday.
Should they have been? Free speech, and the concept of free speech, is a valuable thing but is now and always has been balanced agianst the rights of the individual.
The Referee’s parents were not married, and he enjoys himself on his own a bit too much
The football supporter has long since mastered the art – such as it is – of personal abuse to such an extent that it has become cliché. The Referee’s parents were not married, and he enjoys himself on his own a bit too much or so the songs go and rarely does anyone consider this to be offensive. Indeed to football’s officials this kind of abuse comes over as static. When Wendy Toms, the first female linesman, completed her first Football League game she was asked how the crowd were and replied “The same as always, abusive.” Too much of the criticism of officials is conducted – and thus ignored – in this way.
Some players have played entire careers as the subject of abuse in one way or another. Some thrive on it – Robbie Savage talks about how he is fired up by being fired at – while others shrink under it as some say Colbeck did on Saturday but to allow the individual to ignore an offence – and, dear reader, you are reminded that this article discusses the section five abuse – as it that denies that the offence has taken place is beside the point. That Savage might be man enough to take the stick does not help the other players (and referees) who are not and who have career’s blighted by section five offences (and, in addition, those players in situations such as Balotelli’s). It is a part and parcel of football, it is said, but need it be?
Separating the part from the parcel
Take someone to a football match who has never been before and different things strike them. For me, back in 1981 at my first game, it was the lack of a live commentary track over the public address and I know people who have said that they were shocked by the amount of mucus left on the grass, on the viciousness of every single tackle (“even the soft ones would leave you crying”) and on the suddenness of the action. For my Mum, on taking her to a game in the Premiership years, it was the swearing and the negativity.
We take it as a given that football supporters will be offensive and abusive in the way that twenty years ago it was a given that supporters would be violent and aggressive – indeed it is difficult not to see the verbal abuse heard on Saturday as the last vestiges of the physical violence that marred the game – but it need not be so. Screaming at Joe Colbeck that he is a “wanker” is no more hard coded into the DNA of football supporters than booing black players or throwing seats onto the field was. It is a behaviour and one which – with the right will from the right people – could be removed from that game.
It is far from a desirable element of the football. Footballer supporters are painted by a mass perception that they are vulgar, yobbish and offensive and this makes us easy to ignore. The fact that it is common does not mean that it is set in stone nor does that fact that it might be cathartic or enjoyable.
Indeed the idea that the football supporter cannot help but be abusive – that it is part of our nature – is in itself an insult to everyone of us.
Would anyone’s enjoyment of Saturday afternoon have been ruined without the abuse screamed at Joe Colbeck? If you answer yes, that you revelled in hearing grown men screaming abuse at Colbeck, then I can only hope that you do not sit anywhere near me and certainly would like you not to.
But would we change it?
There were offences caused at Valley Parade but – as Paul Firth the writer and former judge who provided much of the legal research for this article attests to – most of the time the police at the most would slap a £50 ticket on the offender and call it that. The law is not especially interested in actively enforcing this issue for now and nor are football law makers.
Football is sanitised – or so the thought goes – and grounds lack atmosphere with the sad reflection being that often the most notable chants are the negative ones. Sunderland fans who wrote the genuinely charming “Cheer Up Peter Reid” song but were noted on Saturday for singing “One Mike Ashley” to taunt their rivals. If all there is to celebrate is the perceived failure of others then what is there left to support? You do not need to go stand in Valley Parade to giggle every time Leeds United lose.
A person might want to vent their spleen while at the football but surely would have to do so within the law of the land – some people on Saturday did not but there is no will from police, football or Joe Colbeck to go any further with that – but accepting that and extrapolating it forward one has to wonder what sort of football we are creating, and passing on.
We have a football of negativity. Booing is the lingua franca of the game, cheering being punctuation to goals and little more. Away followings are known to offer more volume but not an especially different type of support. Even the modern examples held up of great support like The Accrington Stanley Ultras are as versed in poking at the failures of others than the unfettered support of their own (“Premier League, you flipped it up…”)
Does it matter? Perhaps not. Time will tell and it will tell in twenty five years time when one looks around the grounds and sees if the generation of kids who have more things to do with their time and money than any other chooses to spend that on the game we pass on. I have had wonderful days supporting Bradford City, utterly unforgettable days, but would I tell my son or daughter that they should involve themselves in something as negative as manifest on Saturday?
It is hardly the stuff of an enriched and full life.
So now then
Football’s authorities at almost all levels are prepared to leave atmosphere at football in the lap of the Gods while clubs do what they can to stop racism but feel without a remit to do anything else. The law of the land is happy to ignore the vast majority of offences committed in stadiums up and down the country while FIFA’s attitude towards supporters is curious at best.
Ultimately football is ours and it is ours to change in the way we want it. We – as football supporters – need to decide what sort of football we want today, and to pass on to the future.
The book that tells the story of the FA Cup winning season and the era when City were one of the top clubs in England. Available online from www.paraders.co.uk or www.bantamspast.co.uk or from Waterstones, Wool Exchange (price £12).
Glorious 1911 Retro Scarves
Available online through ebay (seller: PARADERS) or from Waterstones, Wool Exchange (price £6). As worn by Lenny, The City Gent at the Hereford game. Few remaining.
Paraders Retro Badges
The range includes reproduction historic crests, classic kits, City Gents, reproduction badges from before the war, City’s original bantam characters and badges to commemorate each of the club’s promotion seasons. The memorable seasons badges are available now to buy individually with no commitment to have to buy the full set. Unlike other badges on offer around Valley Parade these are UK manufactured and excellent quality. Historical authenticity guaranteed. Display frames available. Visit www.paraders.co.uk for details. (On display in bantamspast above the club shop before kick-off on match days.)
Replica 1911 Jimmy Speirs’ FA Cup winner’s Medal
A choice gift which is available online through Parader’s ebay shop, price £30 incl p&p. Few remaining.
1911 FA Cup Centenary dinner ticket
26 April, 2011 at Midland Hotel
Price £25 each. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org A dinner to celebrate the FA Cup triumph at which the FA Cup will be present and ex-players in attendance. The cost of the dinner has been made as low as possible to make it accessible to supporters on lower incomes.
All profits from the sale of books and badges will be used to invest in new display features in the bantamspast museum above the club shop and also make a donation to the Burns Unit. Additionally £1 from each book sold will be donated.
- Lenny Pidgley | Richard Eckersley, Rob Kiernan, Luke Oliver, Luke O'Brien | Tom Adeyemi, Tommy Doherty, David Syers, Lee Hendrie | Omar Daley, James Hanson | Price (for Daley), Osborne (for Hendrie), Bullock (for Kiernan)
Bradford City 1 Hereford United 0 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
Over the years supporting Bradford City, I’ve always taken greater pleasure in those occasions where we get one over someone or something. A cocky set of opposition supporters; a petty referee; a manager who made derogatory pre-match remarks; Rodney Marsh.
But rarely has putting someone in their place felt so unenjoyable as City supporters ‘victory’ over Joe Colbeck today.
That was the sideshow which overshadowed a reasonable contest that saw the Bantams gain a precious victory over bottom-club Hereford to move back into the play off hunt. David Syers’ eighth-minute belting shot ultimately proved decisive. It was a nice moment for the early player of the season frontrunner given the frustration of missing numerous chances in his last outing against Macclesfield, three weeks ago.
And though it was hardly a sparkling team performance and offered little evidence that City are good enough to be successful this season, it was the sort of result that promotion-winning sides routinely grind out. That was the most important aspect.
But the joy of victory was tempered by the unpleasant atmosphere in which it was played in, and the specific targeting of one man. Colbeck’s first return to Bradford since departing 16 months ago was always going to prompt a mixed reception, but the lengths taken by those keen to register their dislike of a player who rose through the ranks – playing over 100 times in Claret and Amber – was nothing short of disgusting.
“Colbeck is a wanker!” chanted the Bradford End for most of the first half, and before long fans in all four stands were joining in the jeering. Jeering a 24-year-old lad who joined the club when he was 16, with his family and friends watching in the crowd.
It seemed as though the game itself was the sideshow, as such strong focus was placed on barracking the former City youngster. Every time he picked up possession he was booed; when he failed to stop straightaway following an offside flag there was outrage at his cockiness; when an inaccurate pass towards Joe caused him to stretch and fall over he was laughed at. Even after City scored the first subsequent chant was “Colbeck, Colbeck what’s the score?”
And after pausing from calling him a wanker, the Bradford End chanted “Greedy Bastard” and then “Judas”; and then a “City reject.” So hang on a minute, he’s a Judas for betraying us and we rejected him anyway – Judas the reject, an interesting concept.
Let me pause by saying that I appreciate not everyone likes Colbeck and those who have feelings of disapproval towards him will have valid reasons. In the group of people I go to watch City with, opinions on him were mixed and it was mentioned that his attitude during his final few weeks at the club was poor. Me, I’ve got a lot of time for a young lad I watched try to make it at City and who provided me with some happy memories, so I personally wanted to applaud him. But if others want to boo him, that’s fair enough.
Yet the chanting, the abuse and the negativity that perpetrated from the Bradford End and spread around the four sides was too much. If you were one of the people who thinks you have the right to call Joe Colbeck a wanker, please can you explain what he has done to justify this personal abuse. Yes, we know he had a contract dispute and that made him “greedy” in some people’s eyes. Though Colbeck’s reminder of what happened – which was confirmed by Stuart McCall at the time – is hardly up there with the great contract disputes we’ve seen over the years at City.
So what else? Oh yeah, he was crap. Apparently. Funny as I remember the fantastic performances he put in for City during the 2007/08 season, especially in away games, that was appreciated by enough City fans for him to be voted player of the season. The following year he started slow and then got injured for four months. As he returned to fitness, the holes in City’s promotion bid were getting larger and Colbeck was a scapegoat as the season collapsed.
Then came the contract dispute in the summer of 2009, and I remember going to the York pre-season friendly and hearing a group of fans boo his every touch and chant about how he is a “druggy” (no evidence was offered to back this up). Then at Bradford Park Avenue, where Oldham manager Dave Penny attended as he considered signing him and some fans were urging him to do so, telling Penny we didn’t want Joe. Then he left. Driven out the club. And don’t come back.
I can only assume those who wanted him gone were leading the abuse today, but the wanker chants were aired so loud it was like they were speaking for the rest of us too. And the messages they sent both on and off the field were disturbing. Looking through my old programmes from Joe’s time at City, it’s interesting how many of the ‘Today’s Mascot’s’ rated him as their favourite player. I also remember lots of kids with Colbeck on their shirts. And why not? Here was a young lad who’d made it to the first team, an inspiration to young supporters and juniors at the club.
What’s the message these kids are supposed to take from the actions of the boo-boys today? Don’t bother following that dream of one day playing for the club you love, because these lot will rip you apart. Just look at Leon Osborne.
The one saving grace of the whole affair was Hereford manager Jamie Pitman’s decision to sub Colbeck after an hour, so at least the rest of us who’d had our views drowned out could award Colbeck the warm applause we wanted to give him. And then when he’d been subbed perhaps we could concentrate on the game, trying to ignore the fact that a poor bit of play from the other Hereford winger soon after sparked a chant of “Are you Colbeck in disguise?”
By that stage City were beginning to be pegged back by a spirited Hereford side who looked short on quality but good enough to climb out of the bottom two before May. Syers’ early strike smashed any hopes the visitors had of sitting back and frustrating City. Instead it triggered a first half of numerous chances which should have seen City go in more than 1-0 up at the break.
The outstanding Luke O’Brien’s long-range pile driver was pushed away by the erratic Bulls keeper Adam Bartlett; Tom Adeyemi’s through ball to Omar Daley was just behind the Jamaican’s feet, spoiling a one-on-one chance; Adeyemi himself should have scored when played through with just the keeper to beat.
The one-touch attacking football from City was impressive, if conservative in its frequency. Tommy Doherty and Syers were running the show and masterful to watch. Lee Hendrie, this week’s captain, also played well.
Hereford had sporadic bursts of pressure and exposed some uncertain decision-making from Lenny Pidgley in claiming crosses. One flapped corner saw a powerful Hereford effort strike a City body and bounce over the bar, although later a brilliant cross by Colbeck saw the lively Guillem Bauza’s header superbly tipped over.
After James Hanson and Syers both had opportunities early in the second half, Hereford began to threaten more and Nicky Featherstone saw a shot come back off the post, while the veteran Kenny Lunt and striker Mathieu Manset looked busy and purposeful. For City, Daley’s long range effort deflected and looped onto the post; but as the minutes past the involvement of either keeper became less frequent.
For despite Hereford exerting strong pressure in the final 20 minutes, in truth they didn’t look like scoring and struggled to create clear-cut chances. City’s back four defended well with Rob Kiernan showing the form he’d displayed on his debut at Wycombe and Luke Oliver’s head a magnetic presence to high, dangerous balls. Kiernan had to go off injured and Peter Taylor, who rather foolishly had not even afforded Zesh Rehman a place on the bench, was forced to play Jason Price as emergency centre half.
The final whistle eventually came but the joy was limited and glum faces surrounded me on the journey out through the Midland Road concourse. That, as much as the Joe-bashing, was the downer of the day. In the final 20 minutes City were on the backfoot, but holding on – and the lack of support from fans was baffling. Moans and groans filled the air and every mistake and poor touch was met with anger and swearing.
Today simply wasn’t a nice day to be at Valley Parade, it wasn’t a nice day to be a Bradford City supporter. Because the want of some to be negative overshadowed others efforts to support the team. Yeah it wasn’t a great performance and we expect better, but surely it is occasions like this – rather than 5-0 up over Oxford – where we supporters should be giving our all.
Instead many of us focus on ridiculing a former player who most of us in the crowd are older than, on waiting for Adeyemi’s next mistake, on slating Hanson for daring to believe “he’s already made it”, on moaning about Taylor’s insistence on bringing all 11 players back to defend corners, and then on criticising his choice and timing of subs.
Valley Parade was today a cauldron of negativity, yet again. There’s so much crap going on in the world, there’s plenty of stress and difficulties in our own lives. Supporting your football team is supposed to be a release – a pleasure, not a chore. Days like this should at least leave a smile on the face.
Surely we can all be better than this?
- Lenny Pidgley | Richard Eckersley, Rob Kiernan, Luke Oliver, Luke O'Brien | Tom Adeyemi, Tommy Doherty, David Syers, Lee Hendrie | Omar Daley, James Hanson | Price (for Daley), Osborne (for Hendrie), Bullock (for Kiernan)
Bradford City play Hereford United At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
Roger Owen took a break from writing what will no doubt be lengthy programme notes on the Referee who last took charge of a City home game – more on that later – to tell City fans and those who would come up from Hereford for the game at the weekend that the club are doing everything they can to get the game on.
Indeed Owen’s notes to the website are full of the sort of information which pre-empts the demands of football fans after a game is called off. When looking at the clear piece of driveway in BD14 which my car is parked on I could suggest that it should be easy to host a football match and it would, but the approaching roads.
So Owen strikes a note of justified caution, but hopes to get a game on. Back in December 2003 when City’s game with Crystal Palace at Valley Parade was called off the club nearly went out of business not for the want of a long term strategy or plan but for the need of short term cash flow. Julian Rhodes and Gordon Gibb had to find around half a million pounds to pay the wages and it is said by those who say such a thing that the demands one placed on the other was the fracture of that relationship.
Fractured relationships seem to be the order of the day at Valley Parade. Zesh Rehman and Peter Taylor have seen their relationship fractured and it would be remiss of me at this point to not recall a comment made at the start of the season about the pair.
The judgement of Taylor’s job at Bradford City would be in what he could get out Zesh Rehman – so I said – because in the player City have a footballer with enough talent to convince many to sign him (an a talent which has been demonstrated at City any number of times) but and approach and attitude which wavers.
“An inconstant performer” would seem to sum it up and should Taylor get a player like Zesh Rehman playing more good games than bad then – using Rehman as a sample of the squad – City would no doubt be doing very well.
We are not and Taylor seems set to wash his hands of the player seemingly ready to say that he is not able to get the performances out of him which other managers have. That is a disappointment for all, and a worrying thing from a manager.
Taylor’s relationship with Jake Speight – currently on loan at Port Vale – showed signs of cracks when the player went to prison and when he criticised Taylor’s methods for not including enough fitness training.
Speight was not – unlike Rehman – transfer listed for his outburst which seemed more critical than Rehman’s which was questioning. However letting it be known that player who is on loan is not wanted is no way to run a business and perhaps if the veneer of a business front was wiped away the striker would be just as on his way out as the defender.
These thoughts play in the mind in the weeks after abandoned games. City’s trip to Aldershot was shelved and the club had a blank week owing to an early FA Cup exit leaving Accrington Stanley at home as the last time the Bantams took to the field.
BfB has it from “a good source” (which is not Wikileaks, or Wookieeleaks, and is worth trusting) that following that game Referee Tony Bates rang John Coleman that Accrington Stanley manager and apologised for costing his club the game. On an evening of elbows, pitch invasions and an official who could not bring himself to give the decisions laid out in the laws of the game Mr Bates feels that he should talk for sure but not to apologise to us paying supporters who watched him make a mockery or a match but to the manager who (one assumes) was behind that pantomime football.
Which sums the arrogance of Referees up to a tee. Supporters are but cattle, and are treated with a lack of respect which means that we are not even afforded the decency of an apology after the official feels he has put in a poor performance although apologies are offered even if those apologies would provoke incredulity.
Nevertheless Roger Owen is not known to keep his attitudes about officials and Bradford City to himself – we all recall his reaction to the 3-0 defeat at Carlisle United – and so one can assume that he has spent the last three weeks preparing his thoughts. Certainly it would be interesting to know what City think of the fact that had Mr Bates had not felt he erred that night that the Bantams would have lost the game.
Losing games slipped back into City’s habits, especially at home. Peter Taylor’s side have lost four at home which is twice the number Stuart McCall’s side which finished 9th two season ago ended the season on and a look at last year’s table suggests that over a half dozen home defeats is probative to promotion, to say nothing of season ticket sales.
Taylor’s cause is not helped by a significant injury list which the manager hopes will ease when Shane Duff and Lewis Hunt return to fitness for the Christmas period.
Hunty should be joining in at the end of the week. To me, he’s going to be a couple of weeks after that, which is good news.
“Hunty.” One recalls Roger Owen paying for suits and making a big play of increased professionalism at Valley Parade and I’m not sure how that fits in with one playing being transfer listed for saying he thinks he should be in the side over a player that the manager refers to by nickname. “Hunty”, still, could have been worse.
Should the game go ahead then City are expected to field Lenny Pidgeley in goal. Richard Eckersley at right back, Rob Kiernan and Luke Oliver at centreback, Luke O’Brien at left back. Tommy Doherty and David Syers in the midfield with Lee Hendrie on the left and perhaps Leon Osbourne on the right although Omar Daley is at times deployed there. Daley or Jason Price in the forward line with James Hanson.
It didn’t take long, in the wake of Newcastle United’s shocking decision to sack manager Chris Hughton, for Bradford City’s own managerial situation to be brought up in comparison. Looking ahead to a big month which could determine the Bantams’ season, one message board commenter declared that the club should sack Peter Taylor if results go badly, because (paraphrasing) “If Newcastle are going to sack a manager when 11th in the league, why shouldn’t we also take decisive action?”
And that, above everything, is the real damage of Hughton’s departure.
The world of football is looking at the Newcastle situation with despair. Ever since the knee-jerk decision to sack Sir Bobby Robson just four games into the 2004/05 season, the Magpies have been on a downwards spiral that surely required a revolving door to be installed on the manager’s office – to keep up with the huge turnaround. Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer all arrived and quickly left.
Goodbye Champions League hopes. Hello Championship.
Then by luck rather than judgement, it seemed, the rolling of the dice proved successful for once and the unassuming Houghton led Newcastle to an instant return to the Premier League. And what’s more, they’ve been doing rather well for a newly-promoted side which has barely had any money to spend. Thrashing rivals Sunderland and winning at Arsenal in recent weeks. Hughton’s last home game in charge was a credible 1-1 draw with Champions Chelsea, for goodness sake.
Media rumours of Hughton’s departure have circled for weeks, and the club did a poor job of dismissing those stories. It would seem owner Mike Ashley was simply waiting for an excuse and a run of five games without a win proved to be that window of opportunity. And so the club which seemed to have found stability and prospered is thrown back into turmoil.
But as the outrage and ridicule dies down, it is the ramifications of this sacking to the rest of football that carries the greatest concern. History tells us that – unless Ashley was holding out on Hughton and will give his replacement millions to spend in January – Newcastle will do no better for changing managers mid-season. Those same players will remain good on their day but lacking in other games; those inconsistent results will continue. Newcastle will not be ending the season back up to the late Sir Bobby’s Champions League standards.
Yet even in the high likelihood of this compelling evidence, other managers will find themselves under pressure and their Chairman compared unfavourably to Ashley for not having the balls to get rid of them. That Newcastle can sack a manager when the club are 11th surely means West Ham should dismiss Avram Grant for being bottom, that Wolves should fire Mick McCarthy as the club has been overtaken by the likes of Newcastle, and – yes – that City should ditch Taylor because recent results aren’t good enough for an ambitious club like us.
Because in time some will argue Ashley’s actions in sacking Hughton were not ridiculous, but the mark of an ambitious club owner.
Managers up and down the land must surely now hope that Newcastle are relegated from the Premier League this season, so that the folly of sacking the gaffer on the back of a couple of poor results can be emphatically rammed home. A Newcastle relegation won’t bring an end to unfair managerial sackings, but they could at least lead to a great deal more thought being applied than is often the case now.
Newcastle have raised (or perhaps lowered) the bar for the patience afforded to managers and lack of sentiment over any previous success they may have delivered. Taylor and co will have their own personal reasons for hoping it proves to be a monumental mistake.
In front of me right now, just waiting to be filled in, is my application form for next season’s ticket. It is a form that, despite the poor taste of its promotional pictures, represents positive forward thinking from the club and excellent value for money for the supporters. And yet I am wondering whether I should bother this time.
Now I am well aware that there are those who would never consider giving up City. Those who sing of their lifelong commitment to the club are to be commended but I for one have never joined in that particular song. Maybe it is superstition, tempting fate or just the reality that advancing years brings that is reflected in my reluctance to participate in claiming such allegiance. Whatever the reasons, whether through choice, fate or necessity I am prepared to accept that there will come a time when I will no longer go to Valley Parade.
I know there are those whose commitment to City goes back a lot further than mine but I count my support in decades rather than seasons so there is no short-termism in the decision to question my renewal. So why think what for many would be the unthinkable?
Well to put it bluntly, I am finding it less and less enjoyable turning up and not recognising so many of “our” team. I am finding it more and more difficult to rationalise the thinking behind the team selection and then the unforced changes within games.
I am at a loss to explain what appears to be favouritism shown to some players and the dismissal of others regardless of their on-field performances. And any justification or explanations that do come from those in charge seem to have a hollow and inconsistent tone.
Now this is nothing unusual in football – we all know you can’t please all the people all the time – but the uncertainty of my renewal is not based on results but on my perceived attitudes of those making crucial decisions. And the trouble is that once you get to feeling this way there seems to be so many more decisions that add to the sense of irritation.
As supporters we all like to feel that we have some kind of ownership through our involvement with the club. Our contributions – both vocal and financial – to what happens at the club are, in principle at least, united in a common cause. But this is becoming more of a delusion that we literally and all too readily buy into and right now I am not sure I want it to continue. So what would it take to get me to sign up for another year?
Well, to put it bluntly once again, it would take something that would make me feel that my support mattered. Rightly or wrongly, I need to identify with the players that make up “my” team as well as the team itself. I find it difficult to do this with the manager’s involvement of so many loan players, especially when it is in preference to fit, contracted players.
If roles were reversed and the players had to sing to us about their commitment to the club then reality says that we wouldn’t expect “City ‘till I die” because players – no matter how popular – move (or are moved) on. Their on field commitment whilst playing for the club that signed them is enough for most of us. But too many of the “City” players of Peter Taylor’s managerial tenure would struggle to sing more than “City ‘till next month” Loan players have their uses but the quality and quantity used by P.T. has not been good for the club. (Is there anyone out there who can tell me exactly how many have been and gone and how long they were with us?) If this is what is felt is needed to bring about “success” I do not share that view.
Commitment whether from supporters, players or managers is a reciprocal thing and the lack of this from those making these decisions is what prompts me to consider my commitment. Questioning these decisions, whether by commentators, writers, supporters and now players is given short shrift. It has the ring of dictatorship rather than discipline, of confrontation rather than cooperation.
I hope I am not alone when I look for a team I can identify with. Right now I feel that as a supporter I am being taken more and more for granted. The management and the supporters need to reconnect and do so round a shared view of progress that makes sense to players and fans alike. Maybe then those that sing of a lifelong commitment will be rewarded and those of us who have kept up our support despite so much disappointment will feel we are getting our team back and will commit once again.
“This could be the last time, Maybe the last time, I don’t know.”
Bradford City play Aldershot Town At The Recreation Ground in League Two, 2010/2011
The game at Aldershot Town’s Recreation Ground hosting Bradford City this weekend is off with the snow down there being worse than it is up here – and the BfB back garden test shows a foot of winter – and s the fact that the Shots are coming off the back of an FA Cup defeat to Dover, that they have signed the promising Wesley Ngo Bahang on loan from Newcastle United and the fact that they are 12th in League Two three places above City probably do not matter.
Indeed by the time this game is played – and we have been in the cancelled Aldershot trip trap before – the returning to fitness Gareth Evans may have been joined by the likes of Lewis Hunt, Simon Ramsden, Steve Williams, Michael Flynn or Shane Duff who could have crawled from the fitness room and burst back into action.
Likewise – depending on when the rearranged game is played – the likes of Tom Adeyemi, Louis Moult, Richard Eckersley, Jason Price and Rob Kiernan may have returned to their parent clubs while Lenny Pidgeley’s contract has expired. Such is the nature of modern football with the possibility that half the players on one side might no longer be at a club after the hand of nature intervenes.
The hand of nature intercedes in football increasingly commonly – it is to do with the effects of Global Warming moving the Gulf Stream – and clubs now switch to an orange ball in the winter months without even waiting for the snow. Ipswich Town added the blues lines to the orange ball in the interests of clarity. We get blasé about the orange ball but in the past it was the source of much mystery.
How many orange balls did each club have? What happened if during a snow game all the orange balls burst? Would a white one be used or would a game really by abandoned because the ball was the wrong colour? Perhaps most importantly why in July 1966 was an orange ball used for the blisteringly sunny World Cup final?
If we get blasé about the orange ball that is nothing compared to the tedium we have to the foreign player and his attitude to snow. There was a time when on the sight of snow a local paper would hightail it down to the training ground to find whichever South American or African player was employed by the club and would look suitability fascinated by the snow.
“He’s never seen the stuff,” the manager would say, “but he’s getting used to it.” The freezing player would be pictured in high jinx with his local team mates.
Most famously one of Wesley Ngo Bahang’s predecessors at Newcastle United Mirandinha was pictured messing around in the white stuff with team mate Paul Gascoigne. For reasons lost in the midst of time The Magpies Willie McFaul seemed to think that Gascoigne would be perfect for giving the Brazilian an introduction to the North East.
So Gazza and Mirandinha were thick as thieves with the Gateshead midfielder teaching the man from Brasilia about life in England. How to say Hello, how to say thank you and – infamously – how to say sorry.
The Gazza and Mirandinha combination came to Valley Parade for a Simod Cup match in 1988 where Stuart McCall played one of his two games against Gascoigne (the other being in Euro 1996, and after many glories at Rangers and Gascoigne dubbing the City man “the first name on his team sheet”, and each missed the games in the Premier League) and City were victorious 2-1. Mirandinha missed an open goal from six yards and Gascoigne looked good.
Mirandinha was an interesting player. Selfish, of course, and like our own Brazilian Edinho he seemed to keep a loose definition of tackling sliding in on defenders a little too often. One time early in his career at St James’ Park ‘dinha slid in clattering a defender to the ground as he tried to clear it. The Referee trotted over to have a word with the striker using the international language of the yellow card only for the striker to approach him with an apology in the words of English Gascoigne had taught him.
“Referee,” said the Brazilian his hands probably clasped together, “Fuck off.”
Which is probably why successful clubs employ people to settle players into their new environs and seldom allow the likes of Paul Gascoigne to do the job.
Willy Topp has gone, and it is to the sadness of all that he will not be photographed having a snowball fight with James Hanson or getting up to high jinx with Lee Bullock. There is Omar Daley of course, but for Daley the snow is the skiddy top that allowed Kevin Austin of Darlington rob him of a year of his career with the kind of horror tackle which has also mostly receded into football history but was – at the time – put down to the conditions.
A good reason why we are not going to be going to Aldershot.
I’ve always been the type of supporter who takes the manager’s side in public fall outs with players.
Paul Jewell v Lee Mills, Jim Jefferies v Stuart McCall, Colin Todd v Lee Crooks, Stuart McCall v Chris Brandon. Sure, I often understood the player’s grievance, but the way the would have behaved or lack of acknowledgement of the bigger picture left me ultimately agreeing with the manager’s point of view.
But when it comes to Zesh Rehman’s falling out with Peter Taylor, I have to stick my flag firmly in the middle.
This evening on BBC Radio Leeds, Taylor confirmed that Rehman has been transfer listed and stripped of the captaincy due to comments he made in an interview for the same station on Monday. Rehman had spoken out about how unhappy he is to have been dropped on more than one occasion to make way for inexperienced loan players, despite playing very well for the team and helping City achieve some good results. Rehman’s comments can be read here, but in summary he stated:
I’m not going to lie, it’s left a bad taste in my mouth having to watch the last few games from the bench. I’ve led the team to good results and performances and then I’ve had four young loan defenders, with 10 league games between them, come in and play ahead of me. Now, no disrespect to them, but at times like this I think you need experience. I’m club captain, have played over 200 games in my career so far and I think my experience could help the team right now.
“It’s not just me that’s baffled as to why I’m not playing, but my team-mates as well and I’ve been stopped by a number of fans too. But, at the end of the day, the manager has to pick the team that he thinks can win and you have to respect that and get on with it.”
Rehman’s comments are far from out of the blue, a month ago he expressed similar comments to the Telegraph & Argus, after Reece Brown and Oliver Gill’s time on loan had come to an end and the Pakistan international recalled. Last week, a triumphant piece of reporting of Rehman’s Downing Street meeting with David Cameron on City’s official website initially included reference to the Prime Minister expressing his confusion of why he kept getting dropped – only for the offending paragraph to be removed from the page hours later.
Rehman was probably warned about his public comments, and one can understand why Taylor would be angry at having his authority questioned in this manner again. With his unusual background in football, Zesh is regularly sought out for interviews in the national media and has more opportunities than others to express his views. His latest public utterances appear very ill-judged.
On Radio Leeds tonight, Taylor, who had had been listening to Radio Leeds at home when Rehman spoke, explained:
There’s been a couple of situations recently he should have been disciplined for but didn’t. I think I’ve been very open…to say he’s very unlucky to be left out. Every time I’ve made a decision it’s been an honest one. I felt listening to him on your programme Monday night, that was very unnecessary…I think as a club captain he’s let himself down. The timing is poor, and I think he knows what he is doing.
But if it’s difficult to sympathise with Rehman’s actions, it is very easy to understand them. Of course Rehman’s City career has not been the success we hoped when he signed in January 2009. Last season the list of poor performances from City’s number 5 was disappointingly high. He was at times fortunate to retain a place in the starting eleven. But his end of season form was good under Taylor, and the manager could have easily got rid of him during the summer. We can all argue whether he deserved another chance this season, but in been given one he is surely then entitled to a fair crack of the whip.
Rehman would make few supporters’ best City XI when everyone is fit, but with so many defenders on the sidelines he has come in and performed commendably – including playing out of his best position, at right back. And the number of clean sheets and good results his precence in the team helped to earn was evidence of the positive difference he was making.
Then along would come another young loan player, and Rehman was back on the bench.
In such circumstances, who wouldn’t feel frustrated and angry at being forced to make way for young players who were hardly any better or capable? If, in our own jobs and careers, we were giving everything we had to the cause and knew we were making a difference, only for the person above us to decide to bring in someone else to do our job for a few weeks and force us into doing something less, we’d have every right to feel aggrieved. The right way of expressing that anger is a matter of debate, but Rehman’s choices doesn’t make his anger any less valid.
Rehman talks about younger, inexperienced players coming in – and we’ve all seen the struggles Reece Brown, Oliver Gill, Rob Kieran and, to a lesser extent, Rob Eckersley have endured when arriving at Valley Parade. But in some ways this isn’t really the point. Taylor could have brought in Glen Johnson on loan to play right back instead of Rehman, but if the general principle is the loan player is here for just four or five games and then departs back to their club what is the benefit in the medium to longer-term?
City badly need to have a settled team and a settled squad, who are realistically all equal and where the victors of the first team jerseys on a Saturday achieve their places on merit. For sure City have had injuries lately and, after Steve Williams was injured at Colchester last month, Taylor had no choice but to bring in a loan defender with Williams joining Shane Duff, Simon Ramsden and Lewis Hunt on the sidelines. But he did not need to bring in two defenders and drop an in-form Rehman. He could have signed just Kiernan and kept Zesh as right back, he could have signed just Eckersley and moved Rehman to his natural centre back position.
The point is that City’s reserve players should have the clear motivation of a first team opportunity to push for if there are injuries or loss of form; but if Taylor rules those reserve players are not good enough then why have a squad at all? And why the philosophy of having two players for every position if the back up guy can’t be trusted? If Taylor wanted to be so reliant on the loan market, he could have signed fewer players during the summer and targeted higher quality over quantity.
Rehman talked about other players not understanding why he was dropped – a favourite line used by players who speak out against their manager and one which frankly does him no favours. But it is worth pondering what message Rehman’s continuing dropping from the team for young loanees sends to the rest of the squad fighting for opportunities. What if Luke O’Brien was to get injured in training tomorrow, would Taylor bring in Robbie Threlfall or sign a loanee who is better at attacking than the more conservative-natured former Liverpool youngster?
But let us not pin the blame for this situation on Taylor, for it is a deeper issue running through the club which has led to this public bust up. 2010 has been the year of short-termism for City. The dumping of McCall, the trialling of Taylor and, most damaging of all, then only offering him a one-year contract. This season is all about promotion, and as things stand Taylor will be joining Rehman in leaving Valley Parade just a few months later. We had the outstanding candidate, he told the club what was needed to deliver success. That advice was rewarded with just a short-term contract and then failed promises – and it will be Taylor who carries the can for it.
And so Taylor has to focus all efforts on getting the club promoted this season in order to keep his job. So he has no time for short-term poor results and for developing players like Rehman, when his job will likely depend on very thin margins. He has to get a result on a Saturday, and another the Saturday after. If the best chance of doing that is bringing in a kid from Watford for a few games then who can blame him. Worry about a few weeks time, when that kid departs, later.
If Taylor had been handed a two-year deal and the buffer that this season was not promotion or bust, he could have channelled his efforts wider in developing a squad that would grow and improve over time and City would be all the stronger for that, rather than get rid of players who can’t quite do what he wants and needs in an instant. We are, in many ways, wasting Taylor’s talents by the pressure all of us force him to work under.
It is a great shame that Rehman is going to be departing this club. He is a clearly a fantastic person, who has done a great deal for Bradford City, even if you argue most of it has been off the field. He may not have boosted Asian attendances to Valley Parade in the way some hoped, but the manner of his work in the community and in acting as an ambassador for the club have been outstanding and could have significantly born fruit over time.
But sadly we are a club which has turned to quick wins over long-term thinking. And right now it seems nobody wins.
No one in England was going to be happy when it turned out that only two of the twenty two votes needed to bring the World Cup to these shores went to the nation and the accusations of corruption in FIFA and a broken bidding process quickly followed.
England’s bidding team congratulated Russia and Qatar – the host for 2018 and 2022 respectively – but went away cursing the system of handbags and kickbacks the exposure of which seemed to critically hole the attempt to bring the World Cup to the country. It is hard to imagine what more England could have put into a bid and near impossible to excuse every one of the twenty non-voting officials from looking at the facts of the English case and the propositions of others and veering towards the prospective.
So Davids Beckham and Cameron are united in disappointment, and once again Football steadfastly refuses to come home.
But where is it going? And what does the destination say about FIFA?
That Russian society has problems – regarded as a Mafia State Wikileaks tells us – is not a disqualification but the message sent to the supporters who made this farewell for Peter Odemwingie is a curious one.
What commitment to ridding racism from football is there in giving the crown jewel of the World game to such supporters. Will FIFA be left longing for the sound of the Vuvuzela if only to mask the monkey noises and jeering of black players which is heard in Russian stadiums? Indeed the final two in the voting were Russia and the joint Spanish and Portuguese bid with everyone but goldfish recalling the treatment Ashley Cole and other England players received when playing Spain four years ago.
FIFA talks fair play and ridding the game of racism but today’s decision shows that to be just that – talk – and asks questions which will go unanswered.
More serious questions though come from Qatar. A state which puts a five year jail sentence for homosexual men, that legally values a woman’s life as half that of a man’s, that still has on the books of law that converting from the state region is an offence punishable by death.
For FIFA award a World Cup to a country that enshrines intolerance in its laws turns the stomach. FIFA must have a powerful believe in the ability of football to rehabilitate both Russia and Qatar or they are prepared to cherish what others find objectionable.
FIFA head honcho Sepp Blatter told the seven bidding parties who went home empty handed to learn that football is as much about losing as it is about winning. Reflecting on the nature of those who have been so richly rewarded today one is forced to ask if a country that respects human rights, a game that is free of racism and the best footballing infrastructure in the world is not good enough to win the right to host the World Cup then what where criteria for selection anyway?
The Bantams game with Aldershot Town this weekend is off owing to a frozen pitch at The Recreation Ground.
There is no date for the rearranged game as yet.
It was always though that during his career David Beckham would get his hands on the World Cup and today – as he lobbies delegates who will make the decision on England’s bid to host the 2018 competition of what is a very curious decision process – it seems that he may do.
Not – perhaps – something that will make up for the 2006 German summer where so much came to so little or the broken metatarsal in Japan in 2002 which saw England run out of steam against Brazil but an end to a career which may not have redefined football, but has certainly redefined footballers.
Beckham has been the poster boy for many things – Adidas, Sharpie, the 2018 bid – and all along his career he has been sighted as part of the over paid generation of footballers. Guilty often of little more than having a family and not being the sharpest tool in the box he has – as a player and as a personality – make a mountain out of his mount of talents and is as sinned against often as he is sinning.
His red card against Argentina was hardly the stuff of violent conduct, his early career exit from the England side hampered Steve McLaren’s side far more than it did the former captain’s career. His wife annoys a lot of people and his kids have curious names but he comes over with a certain charm and uses that charm to promote the campaign to host 2018 which we should all be behind.
So at some point tomorrow Beckham’s career might have the glorious conclusion suggested all along but Beckham is but the first of the multi-millionaire player to start the sail into the sunset.
If one assumes a player might have a dozen years playing on the sort of big Premier League contracts that the likes of Frank Lampard, Keiron Dyer, Steven Gerrard have – and we read on BfB about Graeme Tomlinson and how he was advised to and looked after his money – then we may start to see players exiting the game who could have earned the thick end of thirty million pounds.
(£50,000 a week, multiply by 52 weeks a year, multiple by 12 and offset the idea of tax and living expenses against the income from investments)
Once a footballer might use his earnings to buy a pub running it for the next thirty years. Robbie Fowler used the money Leeds threw at him to become one of the biggest landlords in Liverpool offering decent housing at good rents. Few players are as in touch with the community they rose from as Fowler.
There have been the odd player who went to the boardroom – Steve McMahon, Derek Doogan, Jimmy Hill, Ray Ranson – they have done so as parts of consortia but with the levels of money being given to players by clubs that need not always be the case.
At the conclusion of his Liverpool contract Steven Gerrard (who would be 34, I believe) could – if he wanted to – wander over the Mersey to Tranmere and easily buy the club lock, stock and barrel. There would be nothing to stop him signing himself to play in midfield either, or making himself manager. A footballing version of the auteur.
Likewise the likes of Frank Lampard could bankroll any League Two club out of the division (if we judge by Notts County’s example last season) and probably (if we look at Dean Hoyle at Huddersfield) challenge for promotion in the league above.
Football people leaving football with a chunk of money and almost anything to spend it on, it seems inevitable that they will come back to what they know and end up back involved in football. A generation of players who don’t have to take coaching badges and then beg the odd fishmonger from Grimsby for a job at the local club. They can give the fishmonger what he wants and buy the boardroom for himself.
Beckham can cap his career tomorrow but he – and the generation he spearheads – may end up with an impact in the game far beyond the day they last pull on their boots.