Issue Stuart McCall becomes Motherwell boss as managerial unrest again grows at Valley Parade

As told by Jason Mckeown

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.