Wednesday 25th May, 2011

Lawn and Rhodes earn the right to repeat in optimism

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It was a busy time for Bradford City as the domino topple began.

First City were assured of staying at Valley Parade, then the talk was of having one of the bigger wage budgets. The wonderfully enthusiastic Ross Hannah – a man who could teach the club a thing or two about PR even if he does not get goals – started talking about the new training facilities before Peter Jackson was finally nailed down with a one year contract.

Breathless, and then some, for City fans who seem to have had a summer of worry lifted. In its place came flooding a sense of optimism.

How appropriate that optimism is is questionable.

Peter Jackson arrived at City taking over from Peter Taylor who saw his side picking up 1.16 points per game. Jackson took over and achieved 1.08. This is mitigated by the idea that Jackson was using Taylor’s team just as Taylor was using Stuart McCall’s. The horror of repetition comes when one notes that both Peters had one year deals.

Jackson does not have time to shape and build a squad. Like the man before him he has to – because of his one year deal – make a winning team from day one.

As another Peter (Cook) said we have learnt from our mistakes and can repeat them exactly.

Mark Lawn told us that Peter Taylor’s one year deal was all the club could afford but – unless Jackson has managed to increase his week to week wages pro rata by over 500% – this is not the case with the new boss.

It is no negative reaction to Jackson to say that he will be as subject to winds and ghosts and outrageous fortune as his predecessor. I would love to be celebrating promotion in May next year but I’d prefer that at that time I was following a club that was following a plan for progress than one which was changing everything once again to rush a promotion campaign and the chances of that are once again left in the lap of what happens on the field.

Jackson needs to get lucky. Lucky with injuries, lucky with his team blending together, lucky with the players he can sign, lucky with the run of the ball in August to start building belief. Personally when it comes to luck in sport I’m with golfer Gary Player – the harder you work, the more lucky you get – and in Jackson I see a man who will work harder than most.

Still Jackson and the season offer little reason to assume that this year will be better than last. The budget is big, so it was last year, the manager has had experience, so was it last year. I have hope that Jackson’s 442 is a much better week to week formation for a League Two campaign and the new facilities are a reason to be cheerful.

However with the fear of financial oblivion gone and the worries over Odsal removed Bradford City have been able to perform the slight of hand of putting together – more or less – the same proposition as last season and having everyone excited about it. It is selling your 10p each lighter as ten for a pound, and yes it is the sort of trick that man used to pull.

It remains to be seen though if this time the promotion push – rather than the club building – will bear fruit because every year in which the push to get out of League Two goes ahead of improving the club the gap between City and the League One and higher clubs we aspire to join increases.

Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes deserve the optimism though having backed up their ownership of the club financially once more and shown some innovative smarts while doing so. There are few reasons to believe that next season can be any worse than last and a couple of reasons to believe that it will be better, foremost amongst those being the brush with oblivion in the summer may have focused the mind of all at the club be their directors or supporters away from the ideas of inter-fighting and towards what we want for the future of the club.

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  1. Paul Ward says:

    The argument that Taylor failed to perform with ‘McCalls players’ because they were poor, and consequently Jackson failed to perform with ‘Taylors players’ because they were poor bemuses me.

    If the latter replacement manager gets less out of the same set of players surely that means the new manager is of a lower standard. To argue that players recruited by the purchasing manager will only play for him is naive. At any other club, and even historically at BCFC, players always tend to turn on the form when a new manager arrives as he motivates them, so to get less than a predecessor is unacceptable.

    And for Jackson saying he has had the longest job interview in football history (T and A), I think he should be greatful because no other manager in football history would have got the job on that performance.

    I hope like everyone else that this time next year everything is rosey at VP, we are all sporting PJ style greasey wigs and we are 4th Div champs but I doubt it. For me a clean slate and fresh start is (was) needed. The news about the shop and VP tenancy (albeit very flakey and vague) is positive, as well as the new training facility however a new regime needs to be built and started from the bottom up, which is where we are hopefully. I do not understand the 1 year deal for PJ either. If we are at our lowest ebb and can afford his terms for the next 12 months, surely we can afford these for 2 or 3 years to come. If necessery, insert a clause, e.g whereby lack of promotion = 10pc pay cut (like the T’s and C’s we should have put on the VP rent in relation to relegation!). More short term, must win promotion pressure applied by the board from the off. Excellent stuff.

    PJ it is though so lets get behind him and hopefully move forward.

    1. Ben Blyth says:

      I’m not sure if it is just me that spots the irony in the last line of this comment!

      To me this sums up some of the issues we have as a club. Before we even start ‘supporters’ are already criticizing the club .

      We have all had to sit through the last 10 years of misery, it hasn’t been special to some people. Hopefully we can see the start of the new season without every signing, missed signing and every other off field move being criticised or ridiculed. Here’s to a good season next year. Not great, or promotion, just a good season and see where we go.

    2. Paul Ward says:

      Put simply, I do not think PJ showed the motivational or tactical abilities required during his reasonably short tenure albeit with the very limited resources available, to provide optimism and encouragement for next season(s). For a long or even medium term strategy I also believe a 1 year contract shows little confidence in the board’s conviction and smacks of more short term, quick fix demands on PJ.

      I doffed my cap at the club for the shop and ground acquisition deals however a few more details of what these entail financially would have cleared things up and shown transparency, which is something the City have never been good at and never will.

      These comments may be deemed as critical however I think they are reasonable and justified in my opinion. They are my views and I am happy to air them in a semi articulate manner based on the fact that this is a comments page and I believe my criticism is constructive. Screaming and shouting at city players after every mistake during matches is completely different and not something I do. And I would not deem constructive criticism followed by final sentence of support as ironic.

      We have all suffered the last 10 years of decline. Seeing SM nearly in tears at Dagenham away has only been surpassed by the recent Southend away match when I wanted to hide under my seat during some of the chanting and the awkward post match stand-off.

      I am all for optimism and support as berating the club achieves nothing and I would say our glass is definitely now at least a third full and I sincerely hope PJ proves me completely wrong. Just because I raise the fact that I disagree with some of the decisions made by the board on a day when some good news has been revealed, does not mean I will be on here moaning from now to eternity regardless of what happens or that I am no longer to be included in the select band of elite few who can call themselves a ‘supporter’. My missus reminds me of that every time she rubs my arm with a wet finger and says ‘Don’t you wish you could wipe that silly picture off!’. No.

    3. Adam Smith says:

      Firstly I’d like to say that your comments are much more than semi-articulate and I have enjoyed reading them.

      I agree with you that on the pitch PJ hasn’t given us much to induce optimism. However, I feel there are three major things in his favour when compared with the outgoing manager. 1. a supporter-like love and passion for the club and seems to be looking for players with a similar attitude. 2. He wants to play simple and attractive 4-4-2 football. 3. He sees the importance of youth players and is willing to give them a shot.
      On top of this, in contrast to PT’s aloof relationship with supporters PJ seems to me like the kind of guy we can all get behind.

      I can see your point about the 1 year contract although I can also understand what I imagine to be the board’s reason for this. In Leauge 2 it’s unwise to offer anybody more than a 1 year contract to a new manager because of the uncertainty about how they will get on. After PT’s performance in the close of the 09/10 season if we could have afforded it I’m sure the supporters would have been calling for a 3 year contract which would mean we’d be in big trouble now. With PJ I think there should be a clause that his contract can be extended for another year at any time by either party based on results this year. I’d like to see that become the norm for managers and players. 1 year contracts with options to extend based on performance. I see the 1 year contract as a sensible move by a board keen not to repeat past mistakes where we have had managers on long contracts who haven’t performed and we’ve had to keep paying them long after they’ve been sacked.

      I don’t see your comments as critical, more as sceptical which is perfectly understandable based on our beloved club’s past 10 year history. I’m optimistic due to what I see as a gradual shifting in mindset for the club. There seems to be a fresh focus on sorting out the off the pitch side to the club i.e. the youth team, the pitch, the training facilities, the financial structure, etc. So much money has been wasted in the past due to the ‘throw money at it’ mentality. I know we haven’t had a lot of money for a long time but the money we have had has been wasted on the high wages of individuals. One thing I like about PT was the non-league players he brought in and their attitude on the pitch. I hope Jackson will get us back to having a team of grafters who are willing to run until they feel like they want to puke their guts up like the teams of 98/99 and 99/00. We need some McCalls, Halles, Wetheralls, Blakes, Beagries, etc. Obviously we can’t afford players with their ability but we need players with the same attitude. I think PJ could be the right man to build us a team with a good fighting ‘doing it for the team, club, fans and city’ attitude as long as the board and fans are patient with him. I feel optimistic about the direction we look to be heading I just hope that I haven’t read too much into recent events and won’t end up disappointed again in a year’s time.

    4. Steve Benson says:

      “If the latter replacement manager gets less out of the same set of players surely that means the new manager is of a lower standard”.
      I don’t buy this argument at all. It depends on a lot of things that the new manager inherits from the previous incumbent, not just the individual players. Peter Taylor inherited an (admittedly underperforming) squad from SM, that was balanced, scoring goals, in the top half of the table and in a reasonable state of morale. He could reasonably have been expected to build on that squad to produce better results with the budget and contacts at his disposal but failed to do so.

      By contrast, Peter Jackson inherited the most unbalanced squad of players I have seen in 30 years of watching City – no fit right back, no wide players, no creativity, no consistent goalscorers; in one game we had five central midfielders playing! The morale of the players was rock bottom, they appeared confused as to how they should be playing and their form (individual and collective) had plummeted. Add to that the extreme pressure of avoiding relegation and a hyper-nervous crowd that would turn on players and manager at the first setback. Additionally there was no money left to fill the holes created by poor form and unwisely-bought aging crocks because Peter Taylor had blown the budget on reserves from Stoke & Hull that never got a game and ineffective gambles like Scott Dobie.
      It is hard to imagine a more difficult position to start from. I suggest that Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho would have struggled to prosper in those conditions. Let’s judge Jacko when he has had a reasonable crack with the team that he puts together. And for goodness sake let’s have reasonable expectations – we need to see progress, not necessarily promotion or playoffs this season. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  2. Eric Thorn says:

    It would be a shame if we were to start a brand new campaign without any enthusiasm, so I think that it’s great news that the owners have created some stability this week to remove to some extent the worries that had City fans anxious about the future. At the same time, as mentioned by others, we need a touch of realism in our expectations, given our recent record of abject failure.

    Fans should not be expecting instant success because we are a ‘big club’ and perhaps next season a top 10 finish would be a healthy improvement and foundation for another improvement the season after. If we do better, then that’s a bonus. What we have really missed for many years now is a good cup run. How much better our finances would be if we could go on a money-spinning cup run – and that may be deemed more successful in the short term than promotion.

    Only this morning I have read in my local paper comments from an ex-Cheltenham player saying how difficult League Two will be next season. He named 15 clubs who he fully expected to be challenging next season (not sure how all 15 could be challenging, but still!!) and surprise, surprise, we were not even in the list! Accrington weren’t either, although reaching the play-offs this time! That’s 16 out of the 24 clubs, so by his reckoning, we would be looking at 17th at best.

    Whilst no one knows what will happen next season – who teams will will acquire in the close season, who has big money and budgets to spend (Crawley?), who will suffer injuries – it’s interesting that outside of Bradford (and probably many within) we are unlikely next season to start off as overwhelming favourites for the first time since relegation and could even be seen as also rans. I think this confirms the level of realism we need to have as City fans going forward and we should adjust our expectations accordingly. What the club, manager and team needs now is solid support, not criticism the first time something isn’t quite right.

    However, as stated earlier, we should start a new season with optimism – it’s a fresh start with a manager with something to prove after this season, players who need to get their careers back on track and redeem themselves with the fans they let down, and some stability off the pitch including remaining at our spiritual home. Let’s get behind our team and give them all our support and hope that we can have a good season – but not get aggressive and offensive if we don’t get instant success. Looking at past history, sometimes it is the teams that sneak through from nowhere towards the end of a season (Accrington/Stevenage this season?) that get the rewards (and, conversely, those that are never in the bottom positions until the last week of the season that get relegated).

    Optimism? Yes, let’s have lots of that and loads of enthusiasm – but let’s also have some patience, understanding and, most of all, realism.

  3. Adam Smith says:

    There are some positives emerging which is really, really nice to see as last season was just horrible. The business deal with regards to the office block is brilliant news and a step towards buying the stadium back in the future I hope. A big well done to the two chairmen for what they’ve done! They have worked hard for the club and put their money into it and we should be grateful that we have two owners who care about the club. I’d much rather have Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes than the Glazers or the Sheikhs at Utd and City respectively.

    I’m probably preaching to the choir here as the people who need to hear this probably don’t see this site but we need to remember what our job is. We are supporters and our job is to support and encourage the team, the manager and the chairmen. Yes we should expect to be entertained but if we have a positive relationship with the players and manager that’s more likely to happen. Last season it was tough but now there’s been a change we need to back Jackson from right now up until the end of the season. He’s a Bradford man and he cares a great deal about the club and that’s something that we should bear in mind even if things get tough again. There should not be a repeat of the way that McCall was treated by some sections of the fans when things got hard.

    I think the chairmen need to break from the current pattern and give Jackson time. His job should be to build a strong team, which cannot be done effectively over a summer. Take the pressure off. He should not be told that his aim is automatic promotion. I don’t think he should even be told that his aim is the playoffs. I think his aim should be a solid mid table finish. Our priority should be a good run in the JPT and depending on how the draw treats us, a couple of rounds through the FA and League Cups. Above all of this though I would like to see him bringing young players into the 1st team and giving them a chance to show what they can do. I do feel positive about the start he’s made with this and at this level that is the way forward. I have faith in Jackson that he will bring in players that care about the club and will work hard. I like the rumours about Donaldson, not just because he’s a goalscorer but because he’s from Bradford. The way to get Bradford City back on track is to bring in people who care about Bradford City and that includes the players.

    This season will be better than last (how can it possibly not be?!?!?!) and we should be hoping that Jackson is at the club for at least 6-7 years because then there’s much more chance that we’ll be moving in the right direction. Let’s get behind him and give him the best possible chance to succeed.

    1. Steve Benson says:

      Here, here. My sentiments entirely.

  4. Adam Hepton says:

    I am not at all being negative when I say this, but I would be very happy if we get more points than we did last season. For me, that’s the realistic aim for the coming season, not the upper reaches of the division.

    1. Chris Newell says:

      Sometimes on this site I wish there was a facebook style “like” button. Exactly what Adam Hepton said.

    2. Michael Wood says:

      I did once code a like button for this website, but disliked it.

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