The supporting act

Sometimes in football you are the centre of attention. Sometimes all eyes are on you. Your game, your result, your players, your Headlines the next day.

You have signed Stanley Victor Collymore and he is making his debut against your local rivals, or you have a goalkeeping crisis and the same match up sees Neville Southall playing.

You have appointing the former England skipper as manager – starting with a TV game – or you are playing in the Sunday sun for a place in the Premier League.

These times you are the subject of attention. The be all, the end all. Leeds United, Millwall or Wolves in these cases are reduced to being a supporting act in your drama.

Jake Robinson played while an unregistered player for Torquay United in a game with Hereford United in February and as a result the Gulls were fined a point.

The South Coast club chase a play-off place and losing points – they will appeal the decision no doubt – is not helping that aim nor is losing games. They arrive at Valley Parade as the main player.

Will they see the world – or the footballing aithorities at least – as against them and compound a bad week with a performance that befits a team in sulk or will they arrive determined to mark back the points lost with a display that turns what would be a creditable draw into a win?

Focus is on them, attention is on them, and we are but a supporting act in their drama.

Which is perhaps no bad thing. City’s season drama seems to be coming to a close. The win over Macclesfield Town has seen the Bantams start looking up the table rather than at the relegation places. City have one of the two games in hand left in the league with the other being Bury’s game with Burton Albion and it would take unprecidented achievement from the bottom half of the division to put the Bantams in trouble now.

The credit for that being laid at Peter Jackson’s door. One can talk all one likes about the fitness of Wayne Jacobs and Junior Lewis to have taken on the caretaker role and one could make a case that they would have done an adiquate job (and cheaper job, that point perhaps being of significance in a week when City negotiated on the basis of having no money) but Jackson has done the job put in front of him and credit is due to him for that.

Credit to him and to the players who responded to him. Jake Speight’s Twitter feed is a curious thing but his statement to Zesh Rehman – that things had improved under the new gaffer – said much about the problems that preceeded Jackson.

Jackson’s successes at City have conincided with his inclusion of Jon Worthington – a former charge at Huddersfield (perhaps they both wear black and white scaves when they are at Town games? Back to Twitter again) – and one who has made himself undropable in the Bantams side.

A ball winner and play stopper a player like Worthington provides a level of double cover for the widemen and full backs able to aniticpate and break up attacking moves on the flanks in addition to the need for wide men to track back. The Bantams struggle for goals but contrary to Paul’s opinions in the week I beieve that if a club are winning matches then they are scoring enough goals.

Worthington is undoubtedly not City’s highest earner and as the Bantams look at negotiations with Gordon Gibb around the cost of Valley Parade it is worth noting that it is not the lack of funds – but rather the inability to make best use of those funds – which have held the club back in the last few years.

City go into the game without James Hanson – injured at Macclesfield – but with the possibility of Tommy Doherty making a return following his operation. Jon McLaughlin should keep goal behind Lewis Hunt, Luke Oliver, Steve Williams and one of Robbie Threllfall and Luke O’Brien. Gareth Evans on the right and one of Leon Osbourne and Kevin Ellison will take the left hand role. Worthington and Doherty or Tom Ademeyi will take central midfield.

Hanson’s injury is expected to give Michael Flynn a role up front with Scott Dobie. Not that the names in City’s side really matter. We are cast in a supporting role on Saturday. The game is Torquay’s win or Torquay’s loss.

The grudge match

When one talks of job ending decisions at Bradford City: Nicky Law’s damning of City fans as being worth a goal for the other side, Paul Jewell taking meetings at Sheffield Wednesday, Colin Todd’s punch up with Lee Crooks; Jim Jefferies made his on a muddy field in Bradford in early December 2001.

No one really knows what exactly the gnarled Scot growled across the training ground to his club captain Stuart McCall as the midfielder tried to get stuck in in a training match but the effect of the words became obvious.

The shouted phrase, and what happened after, started the end of at the club Jefferies and the end of Bradford City’s attempt to return to the Premiership at the first time of asking.

The words were “You’ve lost yer legs” and nothing has been the same since they were uttered.

Hearts vs Motherwell

Hearts face Motherwell in the SPL this weekend bringing into competition for the first time the two men at the centre of that ruckus in Jefferies and Stuart McCall.

McCall’s Motherwell lag behind Hearts in the division but both are expected to make the cut at the top of the league which will pay this game little regard. Hearts look set to claim a Europa League place but in a league dominated by Celtic and Rangers this is exactly the type of SPL march that seems to pass without much notice.

Jefferies path from Valley Parade took him to Kilmarnock where he posted respectable finishes for the modest club before returning to the club he joined City from. His success – it seems – is in making Hearts the best of the rest.

McCall’s Motherwell bubble around the middle of the SPL. His aim is to get into the top six before the league is split in two and in the longer term it is to move the third Glasgow club closer to the other two. It is said that McCall got the Motherwell job after the chairman – who fell out of love with the idea of appointing the former Rangers player after seeing his decline at City – fell back in love after seeing how Peter Taylor struggled with the Bantams.

There is little significance to most in the match up of the teams if the managers, but south of the border in this corner of West Yorkshire a mention is merited.

Folklore

Skip back to the legs comment and a month or so on top of that and – so folklore has it – Jefferies assistant Billy Brown told his boss straight that to get City going in the right direction they had to break the dressing room (one assumes to rebuild it) and that they had to take on McCall to do that.

Nominally McCall was a part of the coaching staff having been assistant manager under Chris Hutchings but the midfielder had long since been excluded in that role. As City sunk on the field the feeling was that the management had to increase that exclusion.

So when the Bantams took the field post-bust up for a televised game against Manchester City they did so with the skipper purposefully missing for the first time since his return to the club three and a half years before.

The game was lost, and not long after Jefferies was resigning and returning to Scotland. McCall carried on playing, moving to Sheffield United, for three years. His final match being a reserve game for the Blades at Valley Parade.

By that time City had become locked in the slump that continues to this day. The defeat to Manchester City and Jefferies departure turned that season from one of instant return – it stated with a 4-0 win over Barnsley – into struggling under Nicky Law to get to safety as quickly as possible. Administration followed.

The merits of the decision are easily criticised in retrospect. McCall provide he had more to give and Gary Locke – Jefferies chosen replacement – found it impossible to match McCall’s abilities on the field.

Perhaps McCall had been a problem for Jefferies to build a new side around the likes of Locke, Andrew Tod, and Juanjo but that aim was to conduct a curious experiment. An experiment in trying to prove SPL players could be transplanted into the English game and play at a high level. Middlesbrough tried the same thing this season, to similar effect.

The grudge?

One wonders what City would have been like without the bust up. Would Jefferies have gone had McCall meekly have accepted his being put out to pasture or would he have stayed at the club and what would the effect of that been? Had McCall allowed Jefferies to make his mistake without an argument – and argument which at the time prompted questions about his appropriateness – then would he have been given his chance to manage City back in 2002? One can but speculate.

Ten years on one wonders how significant the event was. Certainly City were not heading anywhere good under Jefferies but admitting that the Premiership return would not happen is as good a place as any to mark the start of these troubled times.

McCall may credit Jefferies with giving him the motivation to carry on playing. Having been told he could not do something made him want to do it. Perhaps it is that which gives him the motivation to get on in management at Motherwell.

Playing four times a season, every season, and referencing something that is ten years and an era of a different club ago this is no one’s grudge match. McCall tries to prove himself as manager and Jefferies attempts (and succeeds in many respects) to return to the reputation he had before he came to England and Bradford City.

Everything else seems a world away.

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