Why we should all feel very sad and also a little ashamed as Wayne Jacobs tends to the garden

Those near enough to see him up close on Saturday said Wayne Jacobs was in tears as he headed down the touchline at the final whistle of Bradford City’s thrilling win over Stockport. He must have known that this was to be the final time he would embark on that familiar walk to the dressing room at quarter to five. A two-year hiatus apart, Jacobs had been making it either as a player or assistant manager since 1994. But, with Peter Jackson watching on from the Main Stand, as of Monday he will be kicking his heels at home.

Whoever ultimately takes over as City manager from Peter Taylor, it seems highly unlikely there will be a role for Jacobs in the next set up. Indeed the fact he has been overlooked for the caretaker position in favour of Jackson – no doubt a costlier arrangement – says much about the opinion the club’s Board hold of him. But if this is the end, it is an ill-fitting way to treat such a loyal club servant.

Wayne Jacobs should be considered a Bradford City legend. Well, he is in the eyes of most supporters who fondly recall the tremendous workrate and commitment to the cause the left back provided during 318 appearances in Claret and Amber. Signed on a free transfer from Rotherham, Jacobs quickly took our club to his heart and was a key component of the Bantams’ rise from Division Two to the Premier League. Many supposedly-better players were left behind by the club during that unforgettable ascent to the top, but Jacobs kept up despite numerous managers signing left back replacements who looked set to take his first team place.

But all the way through his career there was a soundtrack of grumblings. Sometimes they were faint, sometimes they were very loud – but they rarely went away. This soundtrack was provided by a minority of supporters who, obsessed with always finding a weak link in the team, vocally told the rest of us that he wasn’t good enough and we had to get rid. They reacted with glee as the likes of Lee Todd, Andy Myers and Ian Nolan rocked up, and couldn’t understand it when Jacobs fought hard and managed to retain his place. Despite such commendable determination to fight on, Jacobs was always categorised as soft and an easy touch.

And so when Stuart McCall brought him back to the club as his assistant in 2007, many of us knew what would happen next. Sure enough, complaints about Jacobs the hopeless assistant manager began to be aired and grew in volume as City struggled to gain promotion. Rather than attack McCall, many fans shamefully attempted to pin the blame on Jacobs. No one had any idea how good or bad a job he was doing because none of us see him in action in his role, but faceless morons on the T&A website and elsewhere did their best to chiefly pin the blame on his shoulders. It was telling that you could never find anyone who’d admit in person to disliking the assistant manager.

Too much of this unjustified criticism seemed to be little more than playground bullying. Let’s pick on the ginger one, who is religious and was allegedly a hopeless left back. He’ll be going too easy on the players in the dressing room, he’ll be trying to be their mates. He doesn’t have a clue how to coach people, and all the defensive failings on a Saturday must be his fault. Whisper it quietly that the club’s major success of the last few years – Luke O’Brien – plays Jacobs’ position. His superb development probably had nothing to do with his tutelage.

The criticism died down when Taylor took over, kept Jacobs on as assistant and publicly sang his praises. But as soon as results slipped this season, the blame was once again finding its way to Jacobs. Now some say he has to go because he has been part of two failed management structures; now some are delighted that he is departing the club. I guess the fact Jacobs cried at the end shows he really is a “softie”.

Fortunately the vast majority of supporters, albeit the quieter lot, have not treated Jacobs so disgustingly. We loved Jacobs for being part of the club’s rise to the Premier League, we loved the fact that he was marking David Beckham at Valley Parade. Sure he wasn’t the world’s greatest full back and he made mistakes, but his incredible commitment to the club and towards making up for his own slight weaknesses was an inspiration as we climbed into the Premier League.

So we feel sad that Jacobs is set to no longer be around, and sad that someone who cares so much about the Bantams probably isn’t going to be able to channel that commitment towards reviving it. We’ll never forget Jacobs; but when we do recall him with fondness a part of us will also feel guilty – guilty about the way such a City Gent was badly treated by a section of our fellow supporters for reasons we still cannot understand.

Farewell Jacobs, we really will miss you.

Peter Jackson appointed interim manager

Bradford City have named former captain Peter Jackson as the club’s manager until the end of next week replacing Peter Taylor.

Jackson joins City on a week to week basis as caretakers pending the appointment of a manager as assistant manager Wayne Jacobs and first-team coach Junior Lewis “have been placed on gardening leave.” The club with no money having suddenly discovered enough cash to two people to stay at home. David Wetherall takes Jacobs’ place as assistant.

Jackson came through the ranks at Valley Parade in the early 1980s before leaving for Newcastle United only to return to his home town club for two years until 1990 when he was freed and joined Huddersfield Town, then manager John Docherty dismissing Jackson as “too handsome for a central defender.”

Jackson went on to play for Chester City and Halifax Town before going into management with Huddersfield Town when – in partnership with Terry Yorath – after steering the club away from relegation worries in his first season he took the Town to the brink of the Premier League.

“Brink of” meaning “not into”.

Jackson was somewhat unfairly dismissed as Huddersfield manager when new owner Barry Rubery opted to appoint Steve Bruce over him. He returned to Huddersfield Town in 2003 taking them out of the fourth tier following administration but. In the period between his spells at Huddersfield Jackson accepted Geoffrey Richmond’s offer to manage Bradford City on Christmas day 2000 only to give back word on Boxing Day.

Jackson left Town in March 2007 after failing to make the League One play-offs but returned to football at Lincoln City in the October. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in February 2008 and took time off, returning in January 2009 only to be fired in September 2009.

Jackson returns to City – where he made 330 appearance and led the team to the 1985 Third Division Championship – on a short term basis as the club look for a new manager.

Remembering Our Dean Richards

After his sad death this week it was curious to see the outpouring of football’s grief for Dean Richards with supporters and officials at Southampton, Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur all being rich and fulsome in their praise for the former Rhodesway school boy who started his career at Valley Parade.

Indeed it is rather touching that the reflections of the professionalism, attitude and ability of young man who started his City career in 1990, joined the first team in 1992 and left in 1995 carried on until his retirement in 2005 at Spurs. All three clubs who Dean went on to play for found him to be as he was as an aspiring professional at City. A talented footballer for sure, but a good guy too, at all stages of his career.

So there is talk of why the defender did not get rewarded with England honours – he was the most expensive uncapped player in English history – and reminiscent of his debut at White Hart Lane in a 5-3 defeat to Manchester United which is part of Premier League folk lore but for Bradford City fans Richards was forever the teenager starting off in the game.

Richards joined the squad under John Doherty’s watching defender Phil Babb taking a role in the forward line but it was under Frank Stapleton when he was given a debut. For a brief time he and Babb made a central defensive partnership for Stapleton before the latter’s departure for Coventry City. That the loss of Babb – who had excelled after Stapleton relocated him to the central defensive position – was not felt was largely down the emergence of Richards.

Stapleton’s team prized Richards and his ability. A strong player, capable of playing the ball listen not to those who call him “an old fashioned hard man” for Richards was the depiction of the modern defender that emerged in the 1990s. A Shepparder who would pressure strikers into mistakes rather than dive in to clean the ball there was an obvious difference between Richards and his predecessors’ in City’s defence. Never once can I recall Dean Richards recklessly tackling a striker but frequently I recall his ability to drive opponents into areas of the field he wanted them in, frustrating them.

When Geoffrey Richmond arrived and Lennie Lawrence became manager Richards was the heart of the Bantams defence and my clearest and favourite memory of Richards comes from Lawrence’s first game at Chester City when the Bantam’s defender gave one of the home strikers a six or seven yard head start but effortlessly went through the gears to catch, over take and guide the ball away.

I’ve often talked about that moment since as one of the best examples of a player who knew the reach of his abilities and matched his game to them. It has been my favourite example of a player in control of his own game, taking responsibility for his own performance, and will remain so.

Richards left City when Lawrence’s team’s promotion hunt faltered having spent much of the season injury – a problem exasperated by the manager attempting to bring him back too quickly and Richards breaking down – which robbed City and City fans of too many of the classy defender’s performances. His exit to Wolves was saddening not just because it worsened the side, but because it meant that we would not enjoy watching Dean Richards play again and – and it is a cherished thing in football – Dean Richards was a very enjoyable player to watch.

Heart and soul into his performances for sure, but control and poise too.

As it turned out Richards had a return to City’s history in May 1999 when as a Wolves player he was charged with trying to stop City reaching the Premier League on the final day of the season. His contribution was a battle for pace with Jamie Lawrence which ended in a penalty to make the game 4-1 and allow City to stroll out the remaining time once Beagrie had netted the spot kick.

Plans are seldom that simple and while City held breath following the penalty miss and finally celebrated at the end of the game which concluded 3-2 Richards took applause from his own supporters in what turned out to be his final game for the Midlands club.

On to Southampton and Spurs and then back to City to work with the young players Dean Richards had much to offer the game as a player and a coach and football is the worse for his passing. The tributes to him are as heartfelt and as honest each one of them picking out a part of a broader picture.

And my contribution to that is the sunny day in August 1994 which would end in a 4-1 win at the Deva Stadium and Richards motoring past the opposition striker and taking the ball under control and away with what looked like the ease of a man strolling in the park.

A moment to savour, and never to forget.

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