From August, 2011
No disrespect to the competition or Bradford – it’s fantastic that Johnstone’s Paint sponsor the competition – but we have to do what is right for Sheffield Wednesday.
Which is to say losing matches. Gary Megson’s actions in the defeat on penalties to Bradford City seemed to make that more likely and while I’m not expert on the amount of effort put in by a custodian in a Tuesday night match and how it would tire him out for Saturday if I were facing a penalty shoot out I’d be glad to have Nicky Weaver in goal.
If I were a Sheffield Wednesday fan I’d probably wish the Megson did the kind of unexpected exit which our own Peter Jackson performed last week and not because of the idea that he has shamed the club, or disgraced the competition or anything so emotive but because in two ways Megson indicated that he failed to grasp the task in hand managing a club like the Owls in League One.
Bradford City are not a club the size of Wednesday, but we are big guns in these lower leagues and have been there to have had pot shots taken at us for the best part of a decade now. For a time there was a hushed aware when teams visited Valley Parade – the kind that comes when a player who is used to 3,000 capacity stadiums visits a proper ground – but that did not last long. Bit by bit the reputation City had of a top club at the bottom was chipped away by the odd home defeat here, the weakness shown there and by season after season of being knocked out of competitions like the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy by teams from further down the football pyramid.
Under Colin Todd’s management a lot of the things he was doing in the league were undermined by constant defeat to the likes of Accrington Stanley – then a non-league outfit – and Notts County before the fraud. For a half decade City were ground out of cup competitions at the first time of asking and – in retrospect – the sight of “Premier League Bradford City” going out to Acky Stanley chipped away at any fear factor we had.
So players of other clubs reading this morning that Sheffield Wednesday lost to Bradford City will see Megson’s Owls as a little less than they were, a little bit more beatable. Likewise the players on the field – struggling to maintain the idea that they are not League One players but rather Championship players waiting for re-promotion – have a niggling doubt that something at Wednesday is not what it was.
Understanding how cup form sabotaged the long league seasons has come through hindsight mostly, but as a manager who is going to get promotion Megson should understand the perils mentally of losing to a club in the leagues below you.
And lose they did. The other strike against Megson for a Wednesday fan is that they team he put out against City were ill prepared and it showed. Luke Oliver hit the bar in the last minute but more importantly he converted a header which was nodded away from what looked to be behind the line. There was no bad luck in the game, Wednesday got what they deserved, nothing.
The players oozed a mentality that they had been sent out as second class citizens at the club. They did not play like the people who would be expected to be dropped into a League One game next week, they played like they were the off cuts. Many a manager had challenged his
fridge players to “show me what you can do” but Megson seemed to say “Show me what you can’t.”
At any level of football a manager should not send a team out with that attitude. Tell a team that they are second best and they will prove it on the pitch. Take Arsene Wenger’s 8-2 reversal at Manchester United. As two midfielder’s exited Arsene told Arsenal’s players that they were not good enough – certainly not as good as the guys who had left – and his players showed that at Old Trafford. Imagine – if you will – had Arsenal played that game with Ces Fabregas suspended and Sami Nasri injured. Would the attitude of the Arsenal players been the same or would they have pulled together to cover the missing men? Had Sheffield Wednesday gone into last night as the young heroes being called on in an injury crisis then would they have walked taller, won more tackles, felt better?
Not only is preparing players as Megson did unprofessional but it is avoidable. Clinton Morrison screaming his head off at team mates is not a way to prepare footballers. A young kid making his debut at the back deserves more than his team mates being told that they have to play. Tell the seniors that they are there to help the juniors, tell the juniors that you need a performance from them.
The next time one of the players who finished the game for Sheffield Wednesday is called on by Gary Megson how is the feeling of knowing they are part of the cut offs team going to effect them. Megson might be schooled in 38 games of a Premier League season with Bolton Wanderers but the demands of the game lower down are that the division between first team and reserves is much finer, and the need to have a squad all pulling in the same direction has been aptly illustrated by the last three years at Bradford City.
So, while one means no disrespect to Sheffield Wednesday or their manager my experience of watching a team in similar circumstances suggests that the manager lacks what is needed to take a big club back up.
When the fear factor goes, much goes with it, and Megson chipped away at that last night.
Duke, 34, made 23 appearances for Hull City last season and is reported to have turned down Rochdale to join the Bantams. Duke has signed a two year deal. He played for Burton Albion 112 times scoring once and Hull City 50 times. While at Hull in January 2008 Duke had an operation to remove a testicular tumour.
Joining from Hull is winger Jamie Devitt who is on loan until January. 21, he joins City as the latest loan club following spells at Grimsby Town, Darlington and Shrewsbury Town.
Overson has spend sometime on the sidelines at Burnley with director of youth Martin Dobson wishing the right back well.
Injury-wise he has been unlucky at this club but we are delighted he has got a two-year contract at Bradford with everything to play for. We wish him well – Martin Dobson
Born in Stoke when Vinny was at that club Overson was brought up in Burnley.
In a world of Kyels and Nakhis Bradford City signed the fantastically dull named Terry Dixon to join the Development Squad.
21 year old Dixon had been on loan at City early in the month having previously played for Spurs, West Ham, Stevenage and non-league side Ware, and Tooting & Mitcham.
Irish Londoner Dixon has represented Eire at u21 level. He joins City on a one year contract on this transfer deadline day which has seen Phil Parkinson try sign Paul Benson.
It was close at one point, but we couldn’t quite agree to certain criteria in the deal, I felt we put in a reasonable offer to him, but unfortunately at the moment it doesn’t seem like it is going to get us over the line with that one – Phil Parkinson
Later in the day Dixon signed on loan for Halifax Town.
- Oscar Jansson | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver, Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Chris Mitchell, Richie Jones, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Mark Stewart | Ross Hannah, Michael Bryan, Luke O'Brien
Bradford City 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (City win 3-1 on penalties) At Valley Parade in Football League Trophy, 2011/2012
Tomorrow morning City’s new boss Phil Parkinson is due to discuss the futures of the backroom staff and that namely of Colin Cooper. Cooper took the helm to guide City to a second impressive display in four days, that saw the Bantams go through to the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, via penalties, at the expense of League 1 opposition. On this evidence it must surely be highly tempting for Parkinson to keep him on as his number two.
That is to say if Cooper wishes to remain in the role, because on the back of these two games he has done himself no harm if he was to go looking for a number one spot elsewhere.
His mantra seems to be to get the team passing, using the flanks effectively and pressing teams into their own half. It would be nice to see this ethos continued under the new boss as not only is it pleasing to watch, it has also yielded two positive results in as many games.
Whilst the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy offers an unhelpful distraction from the league to some, it offers others the chance of a cup run with a trip to Wembley at the end of it. City set up with the latter in mind and named an unchanged starting line-up from Saturday’s victory against Barnet. Megson’s team selection seemed to apply to the former, choosing to blood a sixteen year-old centre back, but nonetheless offered the Owls a chance to pick up their first away victory of the season.
Megson’s clear scepticism towards the tournament was further confirmed only minutes into the game when first choice Wednesday keeper, Nicky Weaver, was replaced by second choice stopper Richard O’Donnell. A slight bending of the rules perhaps, which stipulate that six first team players must be included in the starting line-up, and not, one would argue, in the spirit of the game or competition.
To add to this early surprise, after only fifteen minutes Megson made more changes, sacrificing former Leeds midfielder David Prutton and defender Jose Vitor Semedo. The sentiment that you can only beat who is put in front of you seemed to echo around Valley Parade and did not deter City, but surely spurred them on sensing a higher opposition scalp.
With these distractions aside, Bradford started the game brightly and looked to play a passing game through the midfield, feeding the wide men Compton and Mitchell. Compton particularly looked dangerous and increasingly demonstrated the confidence to go beyond his full back, this led to an early pull back for Mark Stewart who had the ball nicked off his toes just before connecting with his shot.
Continuity in selection seemed to be paying off for City as Michael Flynn and Ritchie Jones struck up a decent understanding that saw Flynn playing the aggressor, whilst Jones showed finesse to find a yard of space to push the Bantams forward. Indeed this was a refreshing sight following the midfield being by-passed far too often in recent memory.
Despite early amounts of possession and positive play, the Bantams rarely tested the Wednesday keeper and as the half wore on the Owls seemed to settle into the game and gain more possession themselves, but likewise, without every really threatening Oscar Jansson’s goal.
As the half drew to a close, the tenacity of Mark Stewart carved half a chance for the Scottish striker, his shot ballooned up into the air and straight into the path of James Hanson who could only managed to knock his header into the ground and agonisingly wide of the far post.
Despite the miss the near chance seemed to send the Bantams into the break with positive intent and left Wednesday looking vulnerable at the back.
Vulnerability that nearly proved costly only seconds into the second half, when a loose pass back to his keeper by sixteen year old Ayo Obileye, was nearly seized upon by the alert Compton, who saw his effort deflected wide by the keeper’s legs.
The City forwards continued to hustle the inexperienced Owls backline, Hanson using his brute strength and Stewart his guile to carve out more chances; Stewart’s best effort was pushed wide by keeper O’Donnell, whilst Hanson dragged his late effort wide.
Midway through the second half, City introduced boyhood Wednesday fan Ross Hannah who continued where Stewart left off and continued to pressurise the Wednesday defence. Mitchell was then also replaced by winger Michael Bryan, who again looked a little lightweight when up against opposition fullbacks.
Wednesday continued to pass the ball effectively through the midfield carving few chances on goal and never really testing Jansson, but as the half went on, it was City who finished the stronger.
Firstly, a Luke Oliver header that was cleared on the line (following a watch of the replay on TV it certainly looked over the line), the resultant clearance came to Flynn who volleyed an effort that was effectively saved once more by O’Donnell. Then Compton curled a vicious free kick just wide of the far post; Hannah tried to scramble a shot in on the turn following a Hanson knock down and Jones also had a powerful volleyed effort saved.
With the game drawing towards the last five minutes City introduced prodigal son Luke O’Brien for Compton. Early link up between O’B and Robbie Threlfall saw the Bantams force a free kick on the left flank; the ball was swung across into a dangerous area by Threlfall and was met again by the consistently impressive Oliver, whose header struck the bar and bounced to safety.
It seemed that it was going to be one of those nights for the Bantams, who’s endeavours went unrewarded. With the game finishing level, the lottery of penalties ensued and saw City keeper Jansson come into his own.
Sheffield Wednesday started the spot kick proceedings at the Bradford End, Clinton Morrison blasting his effort way over the bar. Ritchie Jones then stepped up and made it 1-0 with a coolly taken spot-kick. The Owls’ second penalty saw Jansson dive athletically to his right to push the effort wide, then Flynn doubled City’s lead with another well taken effort. Wednesday’s third effort saw the visitors get on the board, only for Ross Hannah to smash City’s third into the top corner. As Wednesday’s fourth taker stepped up, it felt amongst the crowd that the superior City performance was about to be rewarded and duly it was as Jansson dived low to his left to push the shot around the post.
If this is seen as a lesser competition then nobody told the Bantams’ players whose reaction was one of delirium as the arm-linked Claret and Amber stripes stampeded towards Jansson for a good old-fashioned pile on, topped off by a Guy Branston Swan dive (Ouch!). The team spirit was clear to see and it is hoped that Parkinson will now look to continue this in order to build on the confidence gained in the last two games.
The two victories represent a massive step forward for the squad and Cooper’s influence cannot be ignored. So it is hoped that Phil Parkinson’s observatory role tonight has shown him enough to know a good thing when he sees it and does all within his power to keep Cooper on. This will surely aid the transition and maintain continuity, whilst hopefully demonstrating to the new boss, cited in previous articles for favouring a tight 451 formation, that playing an attacking 442 formation can merit its own rewards and do it in style.
It will be interesting now to see how many new recruits Parkinson decides to bring in, as it would be a shame to oust the promising talent that has been on show in the last two games, without first giving it a chance. An experienced striker is still an attractive prospect, but the players handed over by Cooper must at least leave the new man thinking hard before spending Mark Lawn’s newly available funds.
- Oscar Jansson | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver, Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Chris Mitchell, Richie Jones, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Mark Stewart | Ross Hannah, Michael Bryan, Luke O'Brien
As Phil Parkinson sits down to watch his first Bradford City game as manager already he will have made a signing and put in approaches for others with Charlton’s Paul Benson having talked to City as one of three clubs he is expected to consider joining before tomorrow’s transfer deadline.
Parkinson is unequivocal. He wants to add players to the squad and he wants to do it before Wednesday. This time last week the current squad were Peter Jackson’s team, his lads, hand-picked and with some security. Now some of them are looking at a long time on the sidelines.
Jack Compton is first with his neck on the block. A player on loan from Falkirk having not parted on the best of terms with his manager he worries that he might be sent back to Scotland but the arrival of Kyel Reid casts a shadow over his future. For sure Parkinson might have watched Compton for a couple of games, but he knows Reid from old.
Compton though is a loanee, and such is the life, but what the likes of Nialle Rodney, Nakhi Wells and Ross Hannah will make of Paul Benson’s arrival should it is a little more significant. These players might all have a future at City, but that future is pushed further away when the club start bringing in senior players over your head. Hannah might look at Benson’s record at Dagenham and Redbridge and think that he could do now what Benson did then, but that he might not get the chance to now.
Hannah is bubbling under, and so are James Hanson and Mark Stewart. Performances like Saturday and momentum builds and careers come from that. Sitting on the bench watching players signed over your head is a route back to non-league.
As Benson would probably testify to League Two is a league that makes players and as Stuart McCall would note bringing in the big names often does not work. Watching Saturday’s performance one might conclude that if you put eleven men on the field and got them playing the right way then you have eleven good players.
Nevertheless manager’s want to change things and while three months ago Peter Jackson was feathering his nest with his own squad so Phil Parkinson will do the same. Players come in with signing on fees, players go out with contract termination agreements. It is not cheap and the three rebuilding jobs of the last few season suggest it is not effective either. Peter Taylor’s self assembled team did no better than Stuart McCall’s.
There is scope for improvement at any time of course. The squad needs more wide men and has very limited resources in the holding midfield area. There is also an argument that when the right player becomes available then you add him to the squad. The right player is an example to the younger players in the squad, someone who trains and plays in the right way and with the right professional attitude. A Stuart McCall if you will, a Peter Beagrie. Paul Benson might be that kind of player.
Ultimately Bradford City, once again, pick up the price of changing the squad once more but there is a different cost an a more human one. Peter Jackson went to people like Hannah, Wells, Rodney et al and – on behalf of the club – told them that Bradford City was a way to start your career. The cost of changing managers may end up being those careers.
Bradford City play Sheffield Wednesday At Valley Parade in Football League Trophy, 2011/2012
Colin Cooper is expected to take a hand in selecting the team for Bradford City’s game with Sheffield Wednesday but when looking back the history books will ready that Phil Parkinson took over at Bradford City on the 29th of August 2011 and that Colin Cooper managed the club for one game.
One game, one win, no draws, no defeats, four goals and – for relish although it will not be recorded – a great performance. When looking at Phil Parkinson’s profile the mind boils everything down to win percentages. Cooper will forever top such a list for Bradford City: 100%.
That Cooper reverts to assistant if he is lucky – or like Wayne Jacobs before him – ends up being told to leave is a little saddening. Two cheers for the club for making decisive action after Jackson’s departure, and a note of sadness that Cooper has not had the chance to show what he can do in the job.
Show what he could do like Terry Dolan who took the club to a height after being given the job until Martin O’Neill’s contract details were sorted out. Dolan was caretaker who made himself unignorable and got the job but it seems that the die was cast in favour of Parkinson before Cooper’s team started. It is a shame, but one game should not chance long term planning.
So Cooper takes his place in history and points a way forward for Phil Parkinson. The Bradford City team which beat Barnet is a team of promise who can play a bit of football and Parkinson may do well to notice that. The team can play a bit, and does not need to be shoehorned into a style which does not suit it.
Much is made of Parkinson’s direct playing style but – until Pat Rice decided he would extend his contract this season – he was to be Arsene Wenger’s number two at Arsenal running a team famous for trying to pass and walk the ball into the goal.
If the criticism of Peter Jackson was that he was not using the resources as well as he should then one should expect his replacement to do things differently and arriving at Valley Parade, watching Saturday’s performance, and decides that they would be better served whacking the ball long would be to fritter away the resources for the sake of enforcing a style of play.
Such discussions are for the future. Parkinson will set out his team and hope to be as effective as Colin Copper’s side was.
Oscar Jansson will keep his place in the side and the back four of Liam Moore, Guy Branston, Luke Oliver and Robbie Threlfall are expected to stay in place although Steve Williams hopes to be fit soon and Luke O’Brien’s place on the bench signals that he is coming in from the cold. When Peter Jackson tells his side of the story of why he left Bradford City one hopes that someone asks him what he was doing with O’Brien.
The midfield four of Chris Mitchell, Richie Jones, Michael Flynn and Jack Compton will stay in place having got everything very right but with Kyel Reid having joined the club Compton may face some competition for his place. Parkinson would do well to have watched Saturday’s performance and decided that the route to improvement was to replace any of those four.
Likewise James Hanson and Mark Stewart will be wondering which of them will be standing down to allow Paul Benson to be give a place in the forward line. Cooper’s single game as City manager shows everything anyone needs to know about the striking pair and – were Benson to join – one would think less of Parkinson if he were to make changes without giving the current side a chance.
That is if the current side are deployed in the Associate Members Cup rather than the development team. This competition has given many a young player a run out in the past and brought very little success for the Bantams on the way.
Sheffield Wednesday arrive at Valley Parade sitting ninth in League One and with their own new manager – Gary Megson – still looking for his first win on the road. Wilson’s trips away have included a visit to Alfreton Town in which the Owls XI lost 14-0. One wonders how many of the starting side from Saturday will be played if the XI side gets results like that.
Then again, what can one read from a single result in isolation?
Phil Parkinson’s arrival at Bradford City might be the repetition of the familiar sight of the club unveiling a new manager but for Mark Lawn his appointment represents a chance to revisit the most decisive moment he had taken as The Bantams chairman, and to try put right what went wrong.
Parkinson replaces former City captain turned manager Peter Jackson coming to the club with a CV that suggests that one should not expect expansive, attacking football. When City team drew 1-1 with Parkinson’s Colchester United in 2006 City boss Colin Todd called the man who now takes his seat “the death of football.”
It is fair to say that Parkinson is a footballing pragmatist although how this pragmatism will impact his City team is debatable. Having spent the summer talking about replacing Pat Rice as Arsene Wenger’s number two at Arsenal perhaps the negative football that raised Todd’s anger so was the best he could get out of his Colchester side, and that at Arsenal he would had done things differently. At City it might be worth seeing what practicalities he puts in place.
Nevertheless it is the icon replaced by the pragmatist. It is hard to not cast the decision as Mark Lawn’s chance to revisit the change he made at the club in 2010 when Stuart McCall was replaced by Peter Taylor. Lawn proudly stood alongside Taylor and there was a suggestion that amateur hour was over and a “proper manager” had taken over. Twelve months later and Lawn was recruiting again. Parkinson was interviewed for that position but Peter Jackson favoured.
Even in retrospect it is hard to piece together what went wrong with Lawn’s appointment of Taylor. He was welcomed to the club on the strength of his reputation for winning promotion – his CV is more impressive than Parkinson’s – and he pointed the club in the direction of the improvements which are now trumpeted. The new and better facilities were a demand of Taylor’s which were promised, then said to be not required, and then given to Peter Jackson.
But things went wrong – very obviously – and Taylor left after twelve months. Mark Lawn was the last of the board to agree on appointing Taylor but agree he did and he spent the summer pumping up City as promotion favourites.
When talking about Taylor’s team as being on the way out of football saved by Peter Jackson Lawn might deal in exaggeration but he also exonerates himself of any responsibility in the failure of the club to challenge for promotion that year. Lawn made his move in replacing the manager, his move failed, and Parkinson offers a chance to revisit that.
One wonders though is Lawn has learnt from the mistakes made with Taylor as he takes the chance to relive them?
Back when there was talk about Colin Todd being sacked as he approached 100 games in charge of City his record split pretty evenly down in thirds between wins, defeats and losses but – at the time – it was a better record that Parkinson (his Colchester team were top of League One at the time) had after the same number of games. In other words two years plus change into Todd’s contract he was doing better than Parkinson, when Parkinson got to three years his team were well on the way to promotion.
Parkinson’s old boss Alan Pardew has been given a five year deal at Newcastle United – a club no stranger to replacing gaffers – as an indication of how much the chairman believes in the decision he had made. One year, two years, the indication is still that the club is going to see how things go.
The club have stated that there is an aim to reach the Championship in five years time. If Parkinson is the man to start that process off then are we to take it he is not the man to finish it? If he is worth giving being trusted with the first two years of that process why not all five? Obviously his contract would be extended were he to do well but once again we are in the process not of finding the man we want for our future but rather auditioning managers on a short term basis to see if they are worth keeping in the long term.
This season is for building, and in the last year of his contract Parkinson must follow that the next is for promotion and should he achieve that the he will have earned himself the chance to be the club’s long term manager.
So Mark Lawn gives a manager a remit to get promotion next season – which is what he did with Taylor – and hopes that things go better than they did last time.
One hopes that Lawn has learnt more from his mistakes than the ability to repeat them.
In what must be the quickest ever first signing by a Bantams manager, Kyel Reid has this afternoon signed a two year contract with Bradford City.
Reid, who played under new boss Phil Parkinson at Charlton, is a 23-year-old left winger and his arrival would appear to place Jack Compton’s future in doubt. The on-loan Falkirk winger is here until January and has impressed, but Reid’s quick arrival is a statement of intent.
I watched some of our games over the weekend and I just felt another attacking threat was needed, especially in wide areas. Kyel certainly fits that bit, he’s like an old-fashioned wide player. He’ll attack the full back and get balls into the box.
Reid could make his debut in tomorrow’s JPT game, subject to Football League clearance. He began his career at West Ham, making just three appearances after emerging through the youth ranks. He chose to leave Upton Park in search of first team football, moving to Sheffield United in 2009. However, he only made seven appearances for the Blades and joined Parkinson at Charlton, initially on loan. He has also had loan spells at Barnsley, Crystal Palace and Blackpool.
Meanwhile Parkinson has confirmed assistant manager Colin Cooper will play a big part in plans for the Sheffield Wednesday tie. Parkinson told the official site:
Just to keep the continuity going from Saturday, he has taken training this morning and he will be sorting out all the organisational stuff for tomorrow. I will also be seeking his advice when it comes to the team selection. I think that is the best thing to do for tomorrow and then we will take it from there.
On Wednesday the pair will sit down and discuss Cooper’s future. It would appear up to Cooper – who has ambitions of becoming a manager himself – whether he stays.
City have made a bid for Paul Benson but have yet to be given permission to speak to the Charlton striker. The transfer window closes on Wednesday.
Bradford City have today confirmed that Phil Parkinson is to become the new manager, after agreeing a two year contract. The Bantams have already made a sizeable bid for striker Paul Benson, a fan of Parkinson, and are said to be chasing out of contract winger Kyel Reid.
Who is he?
43-year-old Parkinson has been out of work since been sacked as Charlton manager in January. Having taken over the South London club when it was clear they were already doomed to relegation from the Championship in 2009, Parkinson led the Addicks to a play off semi final – which they lost on penalties to Swindon – in his first full season in charge, before losing his job last season due to a poor run of form but with Charlton still fifth in League One and only three points off the top two.
Parkinson was previously given just 24 games as manager of Hull – making way for Phil Brown, which didn’t work out too badly for the Tigers. He built his reputation as a bright young manager by guiding Colchester to the Championship despite the Essex club having one of the lowest budgets and smallest gates in a League One that included Colin Todd’s Bradford City. He had been appointed United boss in 2003, steering them clear of relegation in that first season.
In 2007 Parkinson was set to take over as Huddersfield manager before making a last-minute u-turn and choosing to remain assistant to Alan Pardew at Charlton – prompting this memorable press conference.
As impressive as promotion for Colchester was, it needs noting that it took him three and a half seasons to achieve it – demonstrating once again the importance of giving a manager time. Rightly or wrongly he will probably not get such patience at City unless progress is swift in these next two seasons.
Since leaving Charlton, Parkinson has been assisting Arsenal with scouting work and is said to have turned down a position within their coaching staff.
What sort of football can we expect?
Parkinson rocks up to Valley Parade with accusations of playing dour football that echo Peter Taylor, the man he once succeeded at Hull. His successful promotion at Colchester saw his tough to beat side concede just 40 goals – less than a goal per game, making it the best defensive record in the division – and score only 58. At Charlton he endured criticism for negative football, though the play off finish season featured the Addicks scoring 71 and conceding 48.
That said what classes as dour football isn’t always truly the case. Todd’s City were routinely criticised as boring to watch, yet the former England centre half maintained a passing philosophy and usually played two out-and-out wingers, which made this common complaint somewhat dubious in truth. Relatively speaking, no recent City manager has managed to get his side as defensively strong as Todd did; but flair was not exactly short either in the likes of Nicky Summerbee, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and Jermaine Johnson.
As Jackson began to lose his way in his final two games, the level of organisation Parkinson’s methods would appear to offer might prove beneficial to a team clearly bursting with enthusiasm but so far lacking League Two know-how.
What about the club’s long-term Development Squad initiative?
Parkinson has a decent reputation for giving opportunities to and improving young players – his Colchester team included Greg Halford, Chris Iwelumo, Neil Danns and Wayne Brown.
At Charlton Parkinson was said to have been given less money to spend than any previous manager since Lennie Lawrence in the 1980s. This meant he had to partly rely on young players and loans from clubs in lower leagues.
While forging a positive relationship with Archie Christie would seem to be key, there is every reason to be confident Parkinson has the experience to thrive in this environment. He seems unlikely to be diving into the loan market as often as Taylor did last season, which was to the detriment of the squad and to results.
What will change from Jackson?
Not much one would think. Unlike many of his predecessors in the Valley Parade dugout, Parkinson takes over with the squad in a relatively strong position and no great need to make wholesale changes other than the two signings already lined up. While he probably won’t be entirely happy with the squad he inherits and there will be winners and losers to this change of management, Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes are likely to have told him all about the summer recruiting and the path started by Jackson should be continued.
What is expected of Parkinson?
These turbulent days have not exactly centered around expectations being or not being met, and so the remit that this is a building season with promotion welcomed but not expected will be the same. An improvement on last season is the minimum, and Parkinson has the time and the resources already available to attempt to make that happen.
The two-year deal is interesting given Taylor and Jackson were not awarded such long contracts, and City will probably need to finish in the top seven next season for it to be extended.
What about Lawn and the Board?
Even allowing for the fact the last managerial recruitment process of assessing candidates will have been fresh in the memory from last time, there is an impressiveness about the speed and manner the club has sought to replace Jackson. Compared to the uncertainty in way the manager situation was handled towards the end of last season, which must have played a part in the club’s poor form and near-miss with relegation, the transition has been relatively smooth.
The Board claim to have been stunned by the resignation of Jackson, but what could have proved a turbulent time has in fact gone relatively smoothly with a badly needed win followed by proactive action recruiting Parkinson. The long-term plan could easily have been ripped apart, but Lawn and the Board have maintained their conviction in the summer’s approach and moved sharply to ensure it should be continued.
Colin Cooper is expected to remain in charge of the team for Tuesday’s game with Sheffield Wednesday; so the new manager should lead his team for the first time at Morecambe on Saturday.
- Oscar Jansson | Liam Moore, Guy Branston, Luke Oliver, Robbie Threlfall | Chris Mitchell, Ritchie Jones, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Mark Stewart | Nahki Wells
Bradford City 4 Barnet 2 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2011/12
Perhaps Mark Lawn is being economical with the truth over the degree of influence and pressure he and his Boardroom colleagues placed upon Peter Jackson. But as it became obvious it was entirely the departed manager’s decision to quit, uneasy questions began to surface over the squad building he has overseen.
Just how bad were these players, to prompt someone apparently proud to manage them to quit after just five games in charge? Had he detected the ship is sinking and so clambered aboard the first lifeboat available before anyone seriously questions his leadership? When Barnet disrupted 15 minutes of promising home play by taking the lead this afternoon, the despair that flooded across Valley Parade weighed heavily.
Although at least the gloom didn’t last long, because James Hanson headed home an immediate equaliser that – in time – could be looked back upon as the crucial moment in City’s campaign. However, even during such a short period of time losing, the cracks of implosion could be heard. Barnet’s opener was almost an exact replica of Aldershot’s first in the opening day 2-1 defeat of the Bantams, with Guy Branston inexplicably allowing Ricky Holmes time and space to charge into the box and send a low cross that Izale McLeod couldn’t miss from. As the game restarted Branston’s next touch was greeted by a smattering of boos. The team was being turned upon by the loud minority. Yet again. Sigh.
Hanson’s goal halted the boos and frustration in the stands, while on the pitch it breathed belated confidence into a young side that in the past five games had simply been on the wrong side of narrow margins rather than humiliated. It was a goal of genuine quality, with Mark Stewart receiving the ball in the final third and expertly laying the ball off to wide man Chris Mitchell. His cross was superb, allowing Hanson to glance the ball into the net. From seemingly on the brink of panic, the corner was being turned.
In a match up between two teams better going forward then defending, City gradually began to take control with so many of the new faces in particular enjoying a season’s best performance. Stewart looked easily-bullied and weak in his two previous league starts; today he ran Barnet ragged with intelligent running and far greater strength on the ball. Liam Moore recovered from a poor start to enjoy a storming second half at right back. Ritchie Jones linked defence and attack up nicely, while Jack Compton was always a threat on the ball.
Ironically this was the same team set up and almost identical line up to the one which begun the season losing to Aldershot. Mitchell looked lost as wide right midfielder that day, but on his recall gave City the balance in midfield needed to allow them to increasingly dominate. He tucked in alongside Jones and the energetic Michael Flynn when an extra body was needed in the centre, and tracked back well to support Moore at moments Barnet tried going down the flanks. When City attacked, he popped up in different areas that included providing width on the right hand side. On this form he is the answer to a midfield conundrum that has plagued the club since dropping into League Two.
And there were his deliveries. His cross for Hanson’s equaliser was breathtaking. Early in the second half, Hanson’s excellent persistence earned City a free kick out wide which Mitchell delivered perfectly onto Branston’s head for 2-1. (And at this point let us say those who booed Branston had no right to cheer this goal.) Five minutes later Mitchell pick pocketed the full back for possession before firing across another glorious cross that Hanson tapped home for 3-1. It was a genuine surprise he wasn’t involved in the fourth goal that occurred early in stoppage time.
But Hanson was. All four of the goals included him. Substitute Nahki Wells may have robbed a defender, dribbled past another and slammed the ball home for a mightily impressive first senior goal, but Hanson’s bullying of his marker enabled it to happen. It was the kind of low-key contribution many fail to recognise the importance of as they slate target men like Hanson.
It’s hard to remember the last time the former shelf-stacker played as brilliantly as he did this afternoon. Yet still, at 3-1 up, numerous fans continued to get on his back and slag him off in the most derogatory of terms. It should leave every right-minded City fan angry enough to march over to the booers and rip their season tickets out their hand.
If you thought Hanson was poor today and so criticised him – you are a moron. End of. If you don’t like being labelled a moron, don’t read this site. I’m sick of people like you ruining the matchday experience and confidence of players for no obvious reasons other than selfish. The people who booed Branston today – who admittedly was at fault for both Barnet goals, that’s hardly the point – deserve to feel very stupid tonight too.
Back on the pitch, the difference in the players from kick off to full time was colossal. The Leeds game had showed the potential offered by the new-look squad, but doubts over where it really matters were finally eased by the way everyone grew in stature and confidence. Against such a turbulent backdrop in the immediate build up, caretaker manager Colin Cooper deserves immense credit for maintaining the players focus and should now figure in the Board’s thoughts if they haven’t already decided who will be next manager. In Jackson’s final two games he was apparently losing his way in team selection and tactics, Cooper brought back a level of organisation that laid the groundwork to an excellent performance.
A performance that could easily have included more goals. In the first half Compton, Stewart and Mitchell both came close with decent shots that flew just wide, while Hanson should have scored (boo!) from a looping Compton cross. Once 3-1 up in the second half City sat back more, but before Wells’ fourth Mitchell forced a smart save from long distance. The inside of the post was also rattled by Wells a minute after his goal.
Defensively there remain concerns with crosses into the box not dealt with well, though even in this area there was improvement as the game went on. Oscar Jansson made a solid home debut that included three excellent saves, but he was beaten by Mcleod for a second time deep in stoppage time to put a slight dampener on the afternoon.
Though the atmosphere – which grew positive from the moment Hanson equalised – remained stirring to the end. The minority digs at Flynn, Branston and Hanson drowned out by enthusiastic chanting. I can only speak for myself, but after the Leeds game and the brave way the players had attacked our bitter rivals I fell in love with this team. I struggle to recall a more honest, hard-working group of players since those halcyon days of 1998/99. For sure ability wise they are not the best, but for effort and determination I am desperate to see them succeed. We’ve had too many false dawns to get excited yet, but this really could be the start of something special.
Which makes the decision of Jackson to walk out all the more baffling. One wonders how he spent this afternoon and if he now regrets not giving it one more week. But most of all – as we enjoyed Stewart, Mitchell and others prosper instead of being replaced in the team by loan signings – one wonders whether Jackson falling on his sword might prove to be a blessing in disguise.
- Oscar Jansson | Liam Moore, Guy Branston, Luke Oliver, Robbie Threlfall | Chris Mitchell, Ritchie Jones, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Mark Stewart | Nahki Wells
The mark of excellence in management is not success but repeating success and as brightly as Bradford born Aidy Boothroyd shone in his first appointment where he took Watford to a 3-0 play-off final win over Leeds in 2007 so has the rest of his career been cast in the shade.
Boothroyd’s career ended at 26 owing to injury and and worked his way through youth teams and coaching positions to to becoming first team coach at Elland Road and then manager at Vicarage Road. His year in the Premier League with the Hornets impressed some but his story of relegation and then fading away is not uncommon amongst those who take a club up.
So spells at Colchester United and Coventry City showed signs of being on the brink of blossoming again but never did. He is out of work, looking for a job, and his home town club could offer something.
Which is – perhaps – the nub of the problem with considering Boothroyd as the next City boss. Were he not born in Bradford, and were he not a City fan in his youth, then would he be considered at all? Without “Born in Bradford” on his CV it would not be dissimilar to dozens of other candidates.
However writing Boothroyd off could be a mistake. Looking into his past, and how he talks about his career, the noises he makes have a ring of familiarity.
Professional footballers should be professional. They have a responsibility to come in, listen and learn, watch their performances, analyse where they went wrong and improve. Not to come in, have a five-a-side, bugger off and play golf. I get quite passionate because I was that person. I was a mercenary who went from club to club on a free transfer and, really, that’s not how football should be – Aidy Boothroyd
Boothroyd’s words recall Paul Jewell’s summation on his playing career and his motivation to move into management. Boothroyd talks about football as a mental game and underlines the importance of modern training methods, empowering player’s to take charge of their own performance. He is analytical, business-like, and at times can come off cold. A leap from the emotional whirl of Peter Jackson.
At forty Boothroyd has experience and youth – he took Watford up aged 34 – and there is talk that he is on the shortlist of three for the City job. If the convenience of the appointment can be overlooked, the merits of it might emerge.
Had Gordon Gibb’s Family Pension Fund been more obliging when Bradford City approached them in their hour of need, it is entirely plausible that John Still would have been installed as Bantams manager during this summer.
The battle to ultimately succeed Peter Taylor had become a straight fight between Still and Peter Jackson. Having achieved five promotions in an 18-year career as manager – including taking Dagenham & Redbridge into League One in 2010 – Still was a strong candidate who ticked many of the right boxes for Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn. His great skill had been in unearthing hidden talent in non-leagues and selling them on for profit – while the Daggers prospered on the field.
Perhaps City’s Board would have gone on to choose Jackson over Still, but when the Londoner ruled himself out of the reckoning on account of the uncertainty over City’s future at Valley Parade, the options were suddenly reduced.
Five games into this season, would Still be willing to change his mind? As Lawn today revealed that City’s three-person shortlist includes a candidate already managing a club, it appears highly likely the Dagenham boss remains strongly in the Joint Chairmen’s thoughts. The fact his more street-wise side were able to win at Valley Parade less than a week ago may have further strengthened his appeal – particularly as the Board can be confident he would get on well with the other key appointment they made last summer.
As the debate and gossip over Jackson’s shock departure rages on, extremely credible claims that he did not get on with chief scout Archie Christie continue to surface (though it should be noted other equally reliable sources have provided other reasons for Jackson’s departure). It’s speculated bad blood between the pair had influenced Jackson’s team selection, while Christie is said to have been critical of the tactics employed by the first team manager. Christie, of course, rocked up at Valley Parade this summer after moving from Dagenham. It is said he and Still were interviewed for the City job together, presented as a team; and – although Still ruled himself out of the running – Christie was snatched to revamp the scouting network and implement the Development Squad initiative.
Quite who appointed Christie is unclear, with sources close to the club claiming it was Jackson’s decision to select him. Certainly Jackson was responsible for the other coaching staff who were brought in this summer – including Wayne Allison, who has a key role with Christie’s Development Squad. Many of the summer signings were presented as influenced by Christie, but with Jackson having the final decision.
It’s clear that, for the Development Squad idea to work, the first team manager and Christie need to be working closely together. Both have differing goals, but are working for the same cause. Whether Lawn and Rhodes decide to appoint Phil Parkinson, Dean Windass, Still or someone else, the relationship with Christie is going to be a crucial consideration. In this area at least, Still is the frontrunner.
Beyond that, is Still the right man for City? His track record of buying cheap and improving players is one that will be welcomed at Valley Parade with money likely to remain tight for the rest of this season and next. The fact he has proven he can get a club promoted from this league is an achievement that commands great respect. However the success he has delivered didn’t happen over night – and the instability of the City hotseat may prove extremely off-putting.
Still took over Dagenham in April 2004 and in his first two seasons the club finished mid-table, but he was afforded time to get it right. To put that time into perspective, Bryan Robson was City’s manager when Still took over and five gaffers have followed him in and out of the Bantams. Jackson was only offered a one-year contract at City – just like his predecessor Taylor – Still is unlikely to accept such a short-term deal in return for giving up what’s he built.
Then there’s the style of play Still has instilled at Dagenham. While some criticised the direct football employed by Jackson and Taylor, Still takes it to another level. I still recall – with shivers – the physical, long-ball style Still had his side following in a 1-1 draw with City back in December 2008. Other visits to Valley Parade saw similar crude football. Far be it from me to cast an opinion on the reasons behind Dagenham’s relegation from League One last season, but the direct football Still coaches is clearly limited and will only get any club so far.
Still can bring peace and harmony behind the scenes at City; he can coach current players to produce far better than they have offered to date. Yet with the club’s long-term focus firmly in Lawn and Rhodes’ minds – on BBC Radio Leeds today Lawn reiterated the aim vocalised by Christie in the summer that the club aim to be in the Championship in five years – there must be serious doubts over how capable Still would be at fulfilling that journey.
Peter Taylor is a hard act to follow, or so it proved for Peter Jackson at Bradford City and Phil Parkinson the man who replaced him at Hull City and today emerged as the man seemingly most likely to take on the role of Bradford City manager next.
Parkinson has already interviewed for the role of City manager as a part of the last two rounds of interviews having been out of work since leaving Charlton Athletic in January this year. He is expected to talk to Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes next week, this has been enough to have Sky Bet suspend betting on the next arrival at Valley Parade.
Parkinson followed Taylor at Hull City unsuccessfully having taken the job following his work at Colchester United which saw him take the club to The Championship despite having the lowest attendance in League One that year.
At Charlton big things were expected but did not materialise with the London club bobbing along in League One under his stewardship losing in the play off semi-final to Swindon Town. Parkinson, who lives in the North and is from Chorley, had been offered the job at Huddersfield Town but knocked it back to stay at The Valley.
Replacing Peter Taylor, three stints in management, one promotion and knocking back a club in West Yorkshire. Seven years Jackson’s junior Parkinson has a similar CV to the outgoing manager.
Parkinson is the kind of manager that causes concern for chairmen. Having achieved at his first post he has not been able to replicate that success and one would worry that he had no plan to work from to remake what he had.
As a candidate there is no reason to believe he would be any better than Jackson, nor that he would be any worse but he would not have the baggage that Jackson carried. Parkinson’s blood might be blue and white, but it is the blue and white of Reading.
He is an outsider – like Taylor – not involved in the personalities of West Yorkshire football. Perhaps an outsider can sit in the now vacant manager’s office at Woodhouse Grove and take care of business there without the need to involve himself with toppling the fiefdoms at Valley Parade and attempting to stand tallest amongst people who own stepladders.
A manager smaller than the club perhaps, and perhaps that is no bad thing.
Football used to have a place for people like Dean Windass who – talking on Radio Leeds – declared his interest in taking over at Valley Parade. He is expected to be interviewed next week.
After a long career and a good deal of highs and lows some club in the lower leagues would take the journeyman player and welcome him into their club, showing him to the manager’s office, and seeing what happened.
And often it was not much.
Sir Bobby Moore turned up at Southend United as a reward for a career well done, Sir Bobby Charlton did the same at Preston North End. Sir Bobby’s uncle “Wor” Jackie Milburn was Ipswich Town manager for a year and a bit. These were big names. Lower down the ladder of football the jobbing player got given a chance just as England stars did. Football tends to like to look after its own and any player who has been heard of got given a club to manage for a brief spell before ended up running a pub.
Reputation was the key of course. When Sir Bobby Moore walked into Roots Hall he brought a dash of World Cup magic with him. Forever painted in red and gold on a sunny day in ’66 he must have dazzled in interview and the supporters no doubt welcomed him with the same awe. Aside from the odd quote in a newspaper – tidied up by a friendly editor – footballers seldom talked about football so the idea that the England skipper might not be that clued up on running a team never seemed to occur.
And then came BSkyB. Twenty four hour non-stop talking about football from anyone and everyone who can string a sentence together, and often those who cannot.
Which brings us to Dean Windass who is exactly that sort of player who would have been given a chance by some chairman who held him in high esteem and supporters would have been impressed by his reputation. Not now though with Windass having spent the last few years struggling to be coherent in front of camera for Sky TV.
Not that I would criticise him for struggling with that job – on the hoof football analysis is tough – but the fact that his abilities thinking on his feet has been exposed means that rather than his arrival being treated with he surprise of the new Windass has already been revealed.
He is what he is. Gruff, passionate, seemingly not especially bright (again, one would hate to conclude that on the basis of doing a tough job on Sky) and hardly the stuff of the modern tactical manager. A million miles away from Mourinho.
How close to Trevor Cherry? How close to Roy McFarland? Two of City’s successful managers of the 1980s got the job on the basis of England credentials and their own reputations. When appointed no supporter could say if Cherry or McFarland talked a good game, both played one, and that was enough.
So Windass represents a kind of old school approach to appointments. The guy who gets the job because of his reputation and a good feel that they chairman gets from him and – if he does well – gets to keep it.
It seems doubtful that City are prepared to turn the clock back.
Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes will be used to looking for a new manager and – after three appointments two of which lasted less than a year and a bit – they show no signs of having a grasp of the right criteria to make those appointments.
When Stuart McCall “resigned” from the club the question we asked was what the plan was for the recruitment of his replacement was. A lot of these questions have been answered with the move to new facilities at Woodhouse Grove and the appointment of Archie Christie as Chief Scout and Director of Football Development.
There is a plan at the club which Christie was brought in to implement to develop players for the first team – and to provide more players for the manager with a more extensive scouting network – which aims to take some of the onus of recruitment from the manager and have a retention of knowledge beyond the man in the dug out. Unlike the situation where Peter Taylor left and his backroom staff were sent away with him Jackson having left yesterday the players have familiar faces around them.
It is this type of system which saw an end to Kevin Keegan’s second spell at Newcastle United and – in a way – Alan Curbishley at West Ham but is increasingly common in football. Indeed on Jackson’s last day at Valley Parade Michael Flynn told Radio Leeds that Colin Cooper took the players through their paces while the manager spent the morning on the phone to football managers trying to find a striker on loan. The team and manager lunched and went over the plan for the Barnet game, then resigned.
(It should be noted, and as an aside, that Keegan’s contracted stated that he would have the final say over players brought into the club and when the club’s Director of Football Recruitment Dennis Wise signed Xisco – the issue which Keegan resigned over – Newcastle United were in breach of that contract and while Keegan resigned he later successfully sued the club for constructive dismissal. One wonders what the detail of Jackson’s contract was.)
The manager’s remit is the first team and the requirement is not for an holistic club builder but rather for a game winner, and someone who with coaching and deployment can edge a performance an inch or two better. There is a list of managers who were considered to replace Stuart McCall (now Motherwell): Peter Taylor (now Bahrain), Steve Cotterill (now Portsmouth), Russell Slade (now Leyton Orient), Peter Jackson, Lawrie Sanchez (now Barnet), Jim Magilton (now caretaker assistant manager Shamrock Rovers), Dean Windass (working for BSKYB), John Coleman (still Accrington), Iain Dowie (no club), Martin Allen (now Notts County) and Wayne Jacobs. Six months ago John Hughes (no club) declared an interest in joining City and John Still (still Dagenham) interviewed for the position.
How many of these fulfil the remit which Jackson was being asked to work within? Certainly John Still – the victorious Dagenham manager of last week – would do having worked with Christie before but one has to wonder how much of an appreciation of what skills the next manager needs to have, and how those skills are distinct from those which were required when looking for McCall or Taylor.
Having appointed a big personality in Jackson – and perhaps had personality clashes – Lawn and Rhodes may be tempted to opt to bring in a younger manager who is more malleable, less set in his ways of how to run a club, and able to work within the current structure. They would do well to avoid “Yes” men.
The aim of the club is to have an appointment before next week’s trip to Morecambe which suggests that there is someone in mind – probably someone who has talked to the club six or eighteen months ago – but that Lawn and Rhodes do not have the clarity to bring someone in immediately. Were John Still to be the choice then one imagines a call would be made, a resignation drafted, and the new man revealed on Monday. The fact that there is a week until appointment suggests that there are discussions to be had and a choice to be made. There is a suggestion that three interviews will be held this week. One has to wonder what Lawn and Rhodes think they will hear in those interviews which they had not heard in the last two rounds, and how they will be able to sift the answers to get the right man. We are to assume that Jackson and Taylor were both the most impressive people in interview.
The early runners
The link to John Still – who talked about how he would have joined City were it not for the uncertainty over the future of Valley Parade – is a strong one with the Dagenham manager being in the final two of the club’s thoughts when Jackson was appointed. The club would – not doubt – have to pay Dagenham to free Still from his contract.
Impressive in the last round of interviews was former Hibs and Falkirk manager John Hughes who is out of work at the moment and could come in without any compensation payable. Hughes is a strong candidate for the job but one might expect him to be appointed this morning rather than next week if he is the chosen one.
Former players Peter Beagrie and Dean Windass have their name’s mentioned often in connection with the job. Beagrie has shown no interest in moving into management thus far but Windass has made his desire to take over the club known – Terry Dolan as his assistant – and could fit in as the type of rookie manager who may appeal to the board who have had problems dealing with experienced number ones.
Former Barnsley manager and City man of the 1980s John Hendrie is also an option although one might wonder how many conversations Hendrie has had with Stuart McCall about the board at Bradford City and how that would colour his view of the job were it offered.
City have always been fond a bit of fashionability and so perhaps Jim Magilton – who is working as caretaker assistant at Shamrock Rovers who qualified for the Europa League with this superb strike last night may be an outside bet having talked to the club previously.
Other names work mentioning include Colin Cooper the current caretaker manager and former player and Farsley manager Lee Sinnott. Paul Ince has been mentioned – his promotion with MK Dons would impress the board almost as much as his collection of shiny medals but his track record is patchy.
Finally John Coleman has interested City in the past.
In what is no doubt side one of the story of why Peter Jackson has left Bradford City Mark Lawn empathetically denied that the board had forced their manager to leave the club.
Speaking to the Telegraph and Argus Lawn said:
I think stunned would be the response by the board. It wasn’t the case (that we were pushing him out). We were talking about expanding budgets to bring in experienced players and to try and attract them but sometimes you can’t control circumstances. When someone resigns, you can’t control that – Mark Lawn
Lawn continued to confirm that City had people they wanted to talk to about the manager’s job and that they were not looking for more applications.
Lawn’s comments do little to enlighten supporters as to why Jackson has left the club and – perhaps more importantly – why the club having had Jackson’s resignation were so quick to agree to it that the news was reported before the meeting in question had finished.
Had there been a will to have Jackson stay then one might have expected Jackson to be asked to consider his position over the weekend or have a final game as Peter Taylor had done.
Lawn thanked Jackson for his time at the club suggesting that City were going out of the league until his appointment which – while sounding like a description of positive action by both manager and chairmen – is not backed up looking at Jackson’s record which was poorer than his predecessor.
Perhaps that record of four wins in eighteen games is what saw Jackson’s resignation accepted. One awaits Jackson’s side of the story but if yesterday’s board meeting did result in brinksmanship then Jackson would have done well to do so from a stronger position.
Bradford City play Barnet At Valley Parade in League Two, 2011/2012
It was always coming – the loss of patience that has fractured Valley Parade this week – but the surprise was not that it has arrived in such a short space of time but that the harbinger of trouble came from a sight thought consigned to City’s history. Luke Oliver in attack.
Oliver lumbered into the forward line and five days later Peter Jackson – the man who called the job as Bradford City his dream come true – was walking out of the club leaving a stunned playing squad and a lot of questions.
Questions that everyone – including Jackson – will struggle to find answer to. As he woke up this morning the former Huddersfield Town, Lincoln City and Bradford City manager is no longer a football manager. The Bantams pulled Jackson out of retirement – he was literally in a nursing home – and gave him one of 92 jobs in professional football.
And, Jackson said, the job he really wanted over all others. Think about that for a moment. Right up until – as Michael Flynn testified to – Jackson put on his suit and headed to the board meeting at Valley Parade Jackson was a man (according to himself) doing the job he had always wanted. Two hours later he became a former professional football manager now. Before City no one wanted him, and his experience of the last six months will do nothing to add to his employability.
What could have happened in that boardroom which would make a man inflict such a destiny on himself?
Retracing the steps following the defeat to Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday it is hard to say. During the week Peter Jackson went back on his ideas of building a squad – a squad we are told has been bolstered by additional funding – after a game which had seen his side booed off.
Jackson talked about how great the supporters had been to him, how they had stuck by the team, and in doing so drew a line between the malcontent and those who did get behind his side. There are people who use Valley Parade as a place to vent their spleens and I have made my thoughts on those people known but there are more people who have turned up to Valley Parade regularly over the past decade through some pretty thin thin. Ten years without much manifest progress.
Those people – who Jackson credited as sticking by his team – are wondering what must have happened in that two hour board meeting that means that Jackson lasts only six months compared to the years they put in.
The Daggers game saw patience levels tested. It was the second home defeat of the season in only two games which levelled the number of home defeats which Stuart McCall’s side suffered in the 2008/2009 season, the point being illustrated not being about managers but rather about promotion prospects. For those who – with levels of optimism unjustified – thought that City were in the title hunt this season that was enough to see them lose patience. Perhaps Jackson – or members of the board – were amongst them.
It is said that in one board meeting former manager McCall threw a DVD of a game at a board member after a badgering session. Perhaps there was nothing for Jackson to throw. McCall carried on that season until he felt that promotion could not be achieved, Jackson had 42 games left but – we are told – believed that the club could do better with someone else at the helm.
For Peter Jackson it seemed that his patience with his four strikers was at an end and he declared that he would be bringing in an experienced striker. Jackson’s decision had some logic to it – a team that is not winning because it is not scoring will do no good to the education of any of the squad – but even were one to accept Jackson’s analysis that the problem City are facing is to do with not having enough smarts in the forward line his solution was by no means foolproof.
Recall – if you will – Peter Taylor’s signing of Jason Price – a player who has since moved on to today’s opposition Barnet – who was very much the type of experienced striker that Jackson talked about bringing in. The thirty year old Price looked good at Valley Parade but his presence did not spark a turn around in Taylor’s side’s fortunes and on his exit we were left with the same squad of players we had before his signing, although their noses had been put slightly more out of joint by having someone brought in over their heads.
If Jackson was under pressure to sign a player and did not want to – and there is no indication that he was not keen on bringing someone in or that he had not attempted to do so – then he certainly toed the party line. If Jackson did try a quarter of the managers in football to try find a new player and drew a blank then the suggestion he resigned on a point of principal of the club recommending via Archie Christie a new forward would paint the City boss in the most churlish light. If you have spent all morning being knocked back for players, why get upset when someone else has helped you out? Upset to the point of leaving your dream job.
Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?
It was a chilling sight when all six foot seven of Luke Oliver lumbered into the attack for the end of the defeat to Dagenham. Not that Oliver cannot be trusted to do whatever job he is given as well as he can but that the situation in which – James Hanson having been removed – there was the requirement for a target man seemed to suggest that having taken off Hanson Jackson had – in effect – changed his mind.
Four games into the league season and it seemed that Peter Jackson was flailing. Pre-season was spent with the players playing a tight passing game which lasted but a half against Aldershot Town. Since then there has been a commitment to putting foot through the ball and trying to win anything from James Hanson’s head. Players like Mark Stewart – signed with one way of playing in mind – are decided to be too lightweight for the hustle of League Two football.
There is an irony in League Two football. The teams in the middle of the division play a big man, hit-and-hope type of game splitting the teams in the league who try to play the game on the ground. Those who play a passing game well are able to beat the lump up merchants and so rise to the top while the bottom of the league is full of teams who get muscled out, fail to press their passing game, and suffer under the strength of players in the division.
The best and the worst teams play football in League Two. Playing a physical, hit-and-hope game practically guarantees a place in the division next season. Get a couple of big lads and ping the ball at them and – like Peter Taylor’s team – you will still be in League Two at the end of the season.
Which sounds a good prospect after four games and one point but – in two years time – when City feel they have developed the development squad to such a degree where a promotion push is needed then a new way of playing the game is needed to get above the morass.
City’s best performance of the season to date – the game with Leeds United – was based around the kind of passing game which Jackson did not deploy against League Two teams for fear that his players will be muscled off the ball.
Looking at City’s four goals in five games this season three of them have come from what could be classed as passing football, the other being a set play flicked on by Luke Oliver at Oxford. Jackson needed to have more faith in the players he had brought to the club – and in his own judgement that he could bring them in and put them into a starting eleven which could work in League Two – and perhaps it was the thought of retrofitting muscle into his side which played on Jackson’s mind during that board meeting.
One wonders what was said and between whom. For sure in the days and weeks to come both the departing manager and the joint-chairman Mark Lawn will speak about their versions of events and probably reality will sit between them.
In the back of a Ford
City face a Barnet side who seemingly had no chance of being in League Two this season. Adrift at the bottom of League Two they looked to be relegated but for a late season push which saw Lincoln City cast out of football once more.
Having had a trip to Burnley in the League Cup in the week Barnet arrive at Valley Parade without a win since the opening day and on the back of two 2-2 draws. They are managed by Lawrie Sanchez who twice wanted the Bradford City job and have the aforementioned Price, Steve Kabba and Izale McLeod as a potent strike force.
With Colin Cooper expected to be put in charge of the team it is hard to say what the side would be. Martin Hansen has returned to Liverpool after a loan spell which – if anything – should teach him of the need to shout more. Jon McLaughlin would hope to return having played in a Reserve game at Rotherham in the week but Jackson did indicate that Oscar Jansson will start and that the club want him to sign for a longer loan deal.
Steve Williams was in line to return to the back four and – on form – Guy Branston would have had to be man to step down for him with Luke Oliver putting in excellent displays however news of Williams’ set back in training questions that. Robbie Threlfall and Liam Moore are expected to continue at full back.
Jack Compton will be wide on the left. Michael Bryan has yet to flatter and at the moment he – like most loan players – stands accused of using up a shirt that one of our squad could have. Not to put too fine a point on it but it is hard to see how picking Dominic Rowe in the three games Bryan has been at the club would have seen things pan out differently and Rowe would have been three games wiser.
None of which is to criticise Bryan just the wisdom of bringing him to the club given the long term aims that Archie Christie’s development project has outlined. Far be it from me to side with Mark Lawn but given a choice between what Christie talks of and the reality of signing more Michael Bryans, Ryan Kendals, or Louis Moults I’d side with the man who said that we should take a longer term view. Chris Mitchell could come in on the right.
Richie Jones and Michael Flynn – when they were not watching the ball sail over their heads – put in a good display against Dagenham and Redbridge. Dagenham, home of Ford, prompts a motor metaphor in most men and in this case it is that the pair represent an engine running away without the driveshafts and gears that connect it to the wheels. With Jackson’s 442 having been so static there was power generated but that goes to waste for the want of connections to the extremities.
Which returns us to the subject of Mark Stewart and how he would provide that connection dropping between the lines and allowing for some interplay between midfield and attack but – in a game of hoof ball – his skills are negated. Ross Hannah probably did enough to secure himself a starting place in the side next to James Hanson in the starting line up although Nialle Rodney might get a chance. All four of the strikers would – in my opinion – do well with good service.
Which is why the sight of a long ball being pumped to Luke Oliver is a good reason to lose one’s patience but probably not the reason that Jackson’s patience for the machinations of working at Valley Parade ran out.
There is a rumour that Peter Jackson wanted to bring in Danny Cadamarteri from Huddersfield for a second spell at City and that Mark Lawn blocked that on the grounds that having seen Cadamarteri he was unimpressed. This lacks the validity of being a good enough reason to quit your dream job, and again what could one say about a manager who thought Cadamarteri was the answer the City’s goalscoring problems?
Perhaps the biggest question of Jackson’s departure is how well he would have done in the fullness of time. He leaves an unimpressive record behind him of four wins, four draws in eighteen. There was a sense though that Jackson was just getting started and that things would improve. Would they have improved on the basis that Danny Cadamarteri was coming in to point us in the right direction? We shall never know.
Mark Lawn is expected to make a statement today about yesterday which was a remarkable day in Bradford City’s history and Peter Jackson is never shy of the media so will be getting his version out. Both will tell a story and it will probably involve an argument which got out of hand and a number of men who would not back down.
Patience, it seems, was in short supply.
Peter told the board that in light of the poor start to the season, he felt that to resign now would give the club the best possible chance for the rest of the season – Club statement.
Bradford City are looking for a new manager for the third time in as many years after Peter Jackson resigned from the club five games into the season at a board meeting on Thursday afternoon. Jackson is the first manager to leave his post in the 2011/2012 season.
Early reports suggest that Jackson’s resignation is prompted by poor results but – with only four games gone – there seems to be little reason that the ebullient Jackson who has talked at great length about the team he has been building as being “his team” would feel that he could not improve results.
Jackson’s managed Bradford City some nineteen times winning four times, drawing four times and losing eleven. One can only speculate on the reasons why he would leave but that speculation would point to the decision not being planned. Up to the news that Jackson was leaving there was not even a hint that the manager would be exiting the club with both manager and chairmen appearing side by side in the decision making.
Jackson had gone back on his stated aim of building and using a squad with the announcement – from both Jackson and joint-chairman Mark Lawn – that the club were looking at signing loan players and one will wonder what the squad which Jackson assembled will make of their manager leaving after less than a month of the season. Certainly the reactions from the squad point to the departure being far from expected.
Player reactions, via Twitter naturally
- Ross Hannah: Gutted about the news that Gaffers gone. He’s a Topman. Didn’t have a clue anything like this was gonna happen…
- Nialle Rodney 19: Can’t believe gaffa has gone!!! :(
- Ryan Harrison: Confusion is not even the wordd ? Were the fuck did that come from ??? #WTF
- Liam Moore: Wow so shocked!! PJ great man gave me my break in pro football. #whathappensnext?
- Jack Compton: OMG… WOW did not see that. Mite be back off the Falkirk! Hope not tho.
- PaddyLacey17: Madness
- Scott Brown: Majorly shocked
- Dominic Rowe: Wtf is going on! :s
- Ross Hannah: Wtf?????????????
The Bantams begin the process – once again – of looking for a new manager with Colin Cooper expected to take over for the game with Barnet on Saturday. Having had Stuart McCall in situ from July 2007 to February 2010 City have employed Peter Taylor for just over a year and Jackson for some six months from February 2011 to August and naturally questions will be asked about the joint chairman’s involvement in the former City captain’s exit which – at this stage – seems eagerly accepted given the early stage of the season.
Lawn and Julian Rhodes have a plan for improving the club – a plan which Archie Christie was hired to create – and that plan seemed in keeping with Jackson’s experience at Huddersfield Town building a young squad and taking it to promotion but friction between that planning and Jackson’s aims could have been the catalyst for today’s decision either to tender a resignation, or to accept that resignation, or both.
“The money has gone.”
It is an old story which has been heard at Bradford City – and at other football clubs – up and down the land for as long as the game has been professional and so as Mark Lawn revealed that cash from the cup ties against Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday, and the monies earned from Tom Cleverley’s contract at Manchester United had all gone it was all supporters could do to not roll their eyes.
The money is always gone, according to chairmen, but there are different levels of gone.
The Carling Cup game with Leeds United is rumoured to have brought the club in £200,000. Any good chairman would immediately put the necessary in a tax account (although not Gordon Gibb, another story) and then Lawn tells us the money was put into the playing budget. Said Lawn “We immediately upped the manager’s (playing) budget by £100,000, so that’s gone.”
City bid £100,000 for Romain Vincelot on the day the club played Silsden. At that time Guy Branston, Mark Stewart, Ritchie Jones, even Scott Brown had already signed for the club and the likes of Nialle Rodney and Nakhi Wells were on trial. There was talk of divesting the club of some players – Michael Flynn used to figure on that list but is in the first team now – and perhaps some of the budget has gone to keeping him. Perhaps too it has gone on retaining Robbie Threlfall rather than playing Luke O’Brien.
It seems impossible to believe that the players brought in since Silsden have represented an excess of £100,000 over the ammount club were planning on spending. Jack Compton does not a £100,000 spend, nor does Martin Hansen, nor does Oscar Jonnson. At least I assume they do not. Perhaps borrowing a Spurs keeper does cost six figures, but I would be very surprised if the money in the player budget is spent.
Not spent but gone from the club’s point of view in that it has been earmarked for spending. In this week that Peter Jackson looks for an experienced striker it will probably be spent this week – or a chunk of it will be – although it seems that City have found that bringing in a good forward on loan in the week before the transfer window closes is not easy. Go figure.
The money is always gone but this time – it seems – that it is gone on bringing in loan players and fresh recruits. It is probably wise to keep a cash reserve for emergencies – had Flynn left City then we would probably be looking at making a signing to cover David Syers – but you will have your own thoughts, dear reader, on if not being able provide supply to four capable forwards constitutes such an emergency.
Peter Jackson’s young Bradford City team are more passionate and hungrier than the squad he inherited from Peter Taylor. Take Guy Branston out the starting eleven and the average age of the players is in the low twenties.
The aims that Jackson – and the club – made clear in the summer is that in putting together a young team the manager is creating a future for the club. The last four season – three under Stuart McCall and one under Taylor – have seen four different teams with a half dozen players changed every time. These “overhauls” were the subject of Jackson’s close season planning. They were to become a thing of the past. That is the plan.
Or was the plan. Today news comes out of the club that City are looking for experienced players. Ignore, for the moment, the idea that the Bantams are talking about breaking the budget offsetting that mentally against the £200,000 raised by playing Leeds United which was offered for Romain Vincelot and consider the sort of signings which Mark Lawn is referring to.
Maybe bringing in a couple more experienced players to help the young kids out will help. That’s what we are trying to search for and do – Mark Lawn
Think back less than twelve months to Lee Hendrie’s short time at Valley Parade. An experienced player, one who performed well, and then vanished leaving us with a few more points that we had before he arrived but nothing we could take forward with us. The point of the plans of the summer was to stop short term recruitment. Has this plan really been reversed after five games?
If – as with Hendrie – bringing in old heads gets a few points what impact will it have on the players who were brought in with the promise that they would play
When some players aren’t performing, I know there’s back-up now. We might bring in a young player and put him out on loan. We can still keep a close check on him and bring him back ready to put in the team – Peter Jackson
Which is to say nothing about the fact that the problems that have caused City’s early season form is not the fault of the players but rather of the way they are playing. We could bring in Wayne Rooney but if we whack the ball at him over sixty yards and expect him to do pinpoint knock downs to a single team mate against six opposition defenders then we would get the same return out of him than we do from James Hanson.
Player for player you could swap out someone, and put in someone experienced and not make a massive difference with the players playing in the way – and in the shape – they were in the previous two 1-0 defeats (or rather at the time of concessions in the previous two 1-0 defeats, Chris Mitchell’s midfield role at Accrington was very useful.)
City’s best performance of the season saw a free interchange of the two midfielders David Syers and Michael Flynn with Jack Compton and Mark Stewart. Much of the play which has resulted in few chances has been static with players lacking any dynamics in their performances. Ross Hannah and James Hanson have been pressed against the back line constantly, the midfield has been a straight line, the full backs never getting past the wide men.
Of course Peter Jackson is not standing on the touchline screaming at Ross Hannah to not drop between the lines or Liam Moore to never go beyond Michael Bryan (we hope) but it is the role of the coaching staff to emphasise that need. Perhaps bringing in an experienced player, putting him on the field for a month, and pointing at him while telling Hannah et al that one should “do that” is a way for Jackson to educate his squad but it seems like a big turn around in a short space of time.
Everyone would be a football manager and everyone has their ideas on how a team should play. Mine involve supporting full backs, a drop off striker, one man wide and one tight in the midfield and a holding man to win the ball back. It is that last position – someone to sit deep in the midfield – which Jackson’s side lacks but every other position to play the way I would is covered in the current squad.
The same is true for Jackson. Bringing in Michael Bryan simply duplicated what Dominic Rowe was doing in pre-season. He has four different strikers: One who is superb in the air, one who is rangy and fast, one who drops deep and moves, and one who finishes well and has a stinging shot; but he has no supply to them. Jack Compton could provide that but seldom does he come have options around him when he gets the ball, nor does he get the ball in dangerous positions. Perhaps the players at City could not do the jobs that Jackson wants them to, but they should be given a chance to show what they can do in an organised team.
Poor early season form was expected and the manifestation of that is not especially enjoyable to watch but less enjoyable is the idea that the club is prepared to give up the plans of the summer because of a few bad results.
- Martin Hansen | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver, Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Michael Bryan, Richie Jones, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Ross Hannah | Nialle Rodney, Mark Stewart, Chris Mitchell
Bradford City 0 Dagenham and Redbridge 1 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2011/2012
At the end of a week that promised much after the performance at Leeds United and delivered only a point at Oxford Peter Jackson was left declaring that he felt that his Bradford City team deserved more following the 1-0 defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge.
It was hard to imagine what else Jackson could say. He had seen centre forward Ross Hannah barged over in the penalty area in the last minute which seemed to be as obvious a spot kick as one might imagine and was cursing Daggers keeper Chris Lewington who saved a fine strike by the same man minutes before. At that stage – and a point Jackson might want to avoid – Luke Oliver has been thrown into the attack and City had resorted to throwing the ball forward.
Forward to Nialle Rodney who – for twenty minutes – got to live the life of James Hanson. Rodney had the ball fired at him at various hard to control speeds inaccurately and struggled to even get near to holding play up. Hanson had been withdrawn by Jackson after an afternoon where he won more than his fair share of headers – although struggled to link up with Ross Hannah effectively – and certainly won more than the unfortunate Rodney.
The substitution of Hanson seemed well received and one hopes that Jackson enjoyed the glow that comes from such a sop to popularism but on his exit Jackson’s team continued to lump the ball forward, used neither Rodney or Ross Hannah’s talents and were left resorting to throwing a central defender into the forward line.
Increasingly the story of Peter Jackson’s Bradford City team is that of resources – however limited – being used poorly. The midfield of Michael Flynn and Richie Jones performed well in the middle but far too often were watching the ball go over them. The two widemen Jack Compton and Michael Bryan were all but wasted. Compton found some room later in the game but Bryan saw little of the ball and seemed to request it less.
Ross Hannah and James Hanson – then later Nialle Rodney – had virtually no supply from the flanks either deep or at the by-line and – with Mark Stewart a later comer from the bench – the team ended as a very static 442 with no movement between the lines of players, nothing hard to handle, and little inspiration.
As such – and down to a goal by Jon Nurse after half an hour when a corner came in and seemed to be pushed around the back four like kittens patting a wool ball before the Dagenham striker converted it – it was hard to see the Bantams getting into the game and more worrying it seemed that there was no real understanding on the basis of this game and the previous four about how City should go about their business.
For the odd cat call aimed at Peter Jackson the players are the most common target of the ire of supporters that saw the Bantams booed off but it seems that the City manager is no closer to knowing his best eleven today as he was at the start of pre-season. That is acceptable – a young team is full of inconstancy – but there also seems to be no real idea of how City should be playing.
As Dagenham offered little other than defensive solidity City deployed two wingers but seldom used them, had a pair of midfielders ready to go past the strikers but not strikers who came back to engage in interplay for the ball, a striker who is winning things in the air being given hoofs forward rather than crosses into the box.
So while Jackson can say that his team deserved more he might be correct in that they applied the effort but one struggles to recall the moments where City could have had more. Hannah’s two late surges towards goal aside there was no tempo or flow to the Bantams performance.
That can come. Four league games gone is nothing against a plan that is to develop over years but at the moment the players are being jeered and booed while being thrown onto the field without the organisation needed to win games.
- Martin Hansen | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver, Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Michael Bryan, Richie Jones, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Ross Hannah | Nialle Rodney, Mark Stewart, Chris Mitchell
Bradford City play Dagenham and Redbridge At Valley Parade in League Two, 2011/2012
When the opening weeks of the season were put together by “the fixture computer” – which is to say some ludicrously complex set theory and a few blokes making sure that Hartlepool United get as long a trip away on Boxing day as possible – few people looked at the Bantams’ opening four games with any relish at all.
Aldershot Town looked like they could be tough – they were – and Leeds United away promised little. Following them up with trips on the road to Oxford United and Accrington Stanley and there was a sense that in these opening two weeks it would become apparent if the instant team alchemy which football managers dream of had taken place.
It had not.
Brighton and Hove Albion – now resplendent in a new stadium – and Chesterfield – then resplendent in a new stadium – both seemed to be touched by that alchemy last season with neither favourites for their divisions but both teams clicked quickly and they romped to titles. For everyone else it seemed there was but hard work.
And so there is for Bradford City. As everyone at the club and many in the stands talked about how this season the club would be starting to build long term and to create its own future rather than going all out for promotion. However an unhealthy – but not entirely unforgivable – hope that that future might start with a lightning strike of a team coming together instantly.
The 1-0 reversal at Accrington Stanley confirmed that City have – as was commented within my ear shot on Tuesday night – a long way to go. Having started that “long way” four matches ago that is hardly surprising and is sobering. Those looking at the Stanley team which finished fifth and lost a half dozen players miss the point of what the Bantams – and other clubs – try to build.
A half dozen players leave Stanley but the structures which have had the club progress to the level it enjoys remain, the culture remains, the team spirit remains. In short there is stability which enables Accrington to continue plodding along. This is very much the sort of thing that Bradford City are trying to build.
Bradford City and Archie Christie who arrived at Valley Parade from Dagenham & Redbridge in the Summer as the Bantams interviewed Daggers boss John Still and his backroom team before deciding that Still was the goods in the window and Christie the merchandise out back.
Christie’s plans are the dose of sense which has been missing from Valley Parade for over a decade. The Scot sees City as – perhaps – a better location to repeat what he had done in Dagenham on a bigger scale. The Daggers – fresh from League One – have come far with Still and company at the helm but getting it right at Valley Parade promises more than being a dot on the map of London football.
So Christie builds his development squad with the aim of bringing through three or four players a season who are good enough to press into the City squad. Logic suggests that might have to wait a two or three years to judge such long term plans rather than – as some seem Hell bent on doing – writing them off after that many weeks.
Christie’s work behind the scenes aims to create a stability for City to aid the manager who has struggled in his start to the season. Jackson – the man of Jose Mourinho action at Huddersfield Town – seems a reduced figure in the City dug out at the moment. What – when looking at in the Town dugout – seemed like calculated master strokes (Paul Barnes’ entry in 1998 which turned a 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 jumps to mind) when viewed in the home dug out seem to be random flailings.
Having played a tight passing game in pre-season Jackson’s side too often favour a long punt to James Hanson and while the switches in formation are more noticeable it seems as if Jackson has yet to decide a shape for his midfield.
Consider – if you will – Chris Mitchell who for all the talk of his only being in the team for set plays spend an hour of Tuesday night making sure that when a blue shirt came forward he was standing between ball and goal. He delayed, he stood up, he made sure that Stanley would not get through and all to the tune of people talking about how he should tackle more, even when doing so and failing would have left a bus sized hole in the midfield.
And so it was when Jackson went to a midfield that more evenly distributed the weight between Michael Flynn and Richie Jones rather than had Flynn forward and Mitchell back that Stanley wandered through the middle of the Bantams to get the goal which won the game.
It is hard to find anyone who could say that Mitchell has played well but taking him out of the position he was in brought problems and a pragmatist such as Jewell would see that as justification to have him in the side while the Chris Kamaras – given to flights of fancy – would think that another player who could add more going forward might be trusted to that role on the hope that both could be done. It was such a fancy which Jackson gambled, and lost, on on Tuesday night.
So Jackson flits between: a defensive midfielder behind three more attacking players, a tight three midfield with one winger and the unit of five which worked well at Elland Road; but so far he struggles to maintain a shape in a way which gains the upper hand in games. The first half against Leeds and Jackson had everything going right, when Leeds changed he seemed inactive.
On Tuesday night with scores level Naille Rodney came on for Ross Hannah to play a withdrawn role and the midfield to press on which seemed to leave City with far too many players drifting between the Stanley midfield and defensive lines and no one grabbing the ball. Bit by bit Jackson drifts towards Kamara and his hit and miss deployments of players and tactics and one worries that – like Kamara – it might be possible that Jackson finds the right combination at times and then moves away from it not knowing what is good.
In that one recalls the dogmatic Paul Jewell who stuck with the team he wanted to play after it had returned two points from twenty one in 1998. Jewell had an idea of how he wanted his team to play, and who he wanted in that team, and the same at the moment (and at the time) can not be said about Jackson.
So the City manager goes into the game with injuries ruling out David Syers, Lee Bullock and Simon Ramsden but with pressure to make changes to a team which has but one of the five points Jackson might have targeted.
Jackson is under pressure to drop James Hanson for reasons much discussed but doing so would strike one as popularist rather than practical – especially considering the team’s tendency to hit the ball long. Mark Stewart played no part against Accrington a week after looking superb against Leeds United but Naille Rodney – willing worker – has staked a claim and may get the chance. Ross Hannah was praised for his rewardless efforts on Tuesday but one doubts that he will be selected against Dagenham. Perhaps Jackson will use a 433 having tried it against Carlisle United in pre-season.
The midfield could see Jack Compton on the left and Michael Bryan on the right with Michael Flynn and Chris Mitchell in the middle but Richie Jones looks like a capable player waiting to find a role to fill and should Jackson not want a defensive minded midfielder then he may slot in next to Flynn. Bryan started Accrington well but faded.
At the back Liam Moore and Robbie Threlfall are making good at full back – Luke O’Brien’s continued absence is the stuff of conjecture but it seems that Threlfall has made good his chance and is playing well which is more than can be said for Guy Branston who has struggled to put in consistent ninety minute performances since arriving. He is partnered by Luke Oliver who played a superb game at Stanley and if Steve Williams does return to fitness then dropping Oliver would be a very tough decision, although one Jackson would make if he had a clear back two in his mind the excluded the former Wycombe man.
Martin Hansen continues in goal. He shouted on Tuesday night, a couple of times, and that is an improvement and something the keeper can work on. A young lad Hansen has years of improvement in front of him and should not chuck his gloves over just because he has let in a few goals.
Nor should the rest of us.
- Martin Hansen | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver, Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Michael Bryan, Chris Mitchell, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Ross Hannah | Naille Rodney, Richie Jones
Accrington Stanley 1 Bradford City 0 At The Crown Ground in League Two, 2011/2012
If the trip over the Peninnes to Accrington was to provide City with the barometer test of their season so far it left a prediction of high pressure and potential storms ahead.
Whilst the pre-season emphasis has been on development, consolidation and forward thinking, the general mood of the City fans stood on the terraces prior to kick-off at the Crown Ground, was that of the familiar expectation of a result from a youthful looking Bantams team that featured Ross Hannah, new winger Michael Bryan and a 442 shape, with Mark Stewart and Ritchie Jones making way.
An undertone of negativity seemed to be present in the away as even before a ball was kicked some ‘supporters’ could be heard slating the likes of James Hanson and Mark Stewart for previous performances deemed ‘not good enough’, citing lack of work ethic and ability as the main downfalls. Hanson in particular seemed to attract particularly virile remarks, which set the tone for a testing night for the Bantams.
Both sides went into the match having collected just one point from their first three games and the slight nerves that come with a slow start to the season were evident in both defences early on.
The first defence to flinch was the home side’s, when in the 2nd minute City were almost allowed to grab the initiative when Stanley keeper Sean Murdoch played a sloppy pass out of defence which James Hanson intercepted and laid off to Hannah who cleverly lofted the ball over the onrushing keeper into the net. Unfortunately for City the linesman had already raised the offside flag against Hannah to save Murdoch’s blushes.
Later in the half it was Guy Branston left feeling fortunate when he switched off to allow Stanley winger, Nat Taylor, to sneak into the box unnoticed, only for Luke Oliver to clear his dangerous cut back.
Oliver’s display was excellent throughout the night, both aerially and on the ground, and the fact that he stood out as City’s man-of-the-match, says much about the midfield and forward threat posed by the Bantams in the match.
The majority of City’s attacks in the first half were to aim for James Hanson and hope that Ross Hannah took advantage of any flick-ons and despite early sharpness from Hannah, his confidence took a knock after being flagged up as offside on several occasions. This lead to the strike force drifting further apart as the half went on, leaving both strikers isolated and in need of support.
With a lack of chances the City fans took their frustration out on the linesman and he received a chorus of boos as the teams walked off at half time and when remerging for the second half.
With the exception of Oliver, both defences experienced a shaky opening 45 minutes and it seemed that a defensive mistake would be the decisive factor in the game in the second half.
A factor that was proved correct when in the 77th minute new Accy loan signing, Wes Fletcher, poked the ball under the onrushing Martin Hansen to trickle home the winning goal for the home side. The mistake in this case was made by Branston, who allowed Stanley sub Ian Craney to turn him too easily and provide the assist.
As the second half progressed the strain on City’s midfield seemed to increase with Scottish recruit Chris Mitchell struggling to have an impact; the play passed him by all too often and left the lively Flynn, who again looked solid, over stretched and in need of support to win the midfield battle.
Even when Ritchie Jones was introduced in the 64th minute and Mitchell pushed out to the right, it seemed that City seemed to lack the energy and industry of David Syers, who will be missed over the next three months.
City went in search of an equaliser and Nialle Rodney looked lively after replacing Hannah, but all too often when the ball was rushed forward a lack of passing composure caused play to break down.
And despite a few promising runs and crosses late on in the game from Jack Compton, City failed to register a single shot on target.
On balance, Accy just about deserved the points and displayed a confidence when passing the ball through the midfield that City seemed to be lacking, choosing instead to rush the ball forward and hoping for the best.
As the players trudged off the pitch following the full-time whistle, the object of pre-match hostility, Hanson, seemed to bear most of the brunt from some fans, but to most it seemed that the expectations were those that Lionel Messi would struggle to fulfil. The perception is that because of Hanson’s size he is expected to chase down and over power all those that stand in his way, even though for the majority of these ‘causes’ Usain Bolt would struggle to catch up with them!
For Hanson his expectations for the season have been set, and as the most experienced striker at the club and at this level, it may be a burden that he will need assistance with from a more experienced forward if we are to see the best of him and City this campaign.
Hanson’s plight seems to reflect that of the club’s in general, we are told that we want to see the development of the team and an improvement on last season would be deemed a success, but the high expectation levels of the past few years seem to be proving a hard habit to kick for some supporters, which only leads to added pressure on inexperienced shoulders.
The success of the season will depend on how Peter Jackson and the club go about managing these expectation levels, and it is hard to predict anything other than stormier times ahead, if the confidence of the Bantam’s fledgling side takes too many more knocks.
- Martin Hansen | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver, Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Michael Bryan, Chris Mitchell, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Ross Hannah | Naille Rodney, Richie Jones
Bradford City play Accrington Stanley At The Crown Ground in League Two, 2011/2012
For those seeking a barometer on events at Bradford City’s the club’s trips to Accrington Stanley’s Crown Ground provide just that.
The first meeting between the teams in modern times saw Joe Colbeck – fresh from his return from loan at Darlington – the hero as City ran out 2-0 winners and Omar Daley tore the home side in two. The hard work of striker Barry Conlon brought praise that visit and there was a sense that four months into his time at the club it seemed that Stuart McCall was starting to get the basis of team together.
Three years ago City were outplayed for eighty minutes and then Stuart McCall brought on Barry Conlon and one might riot some how managed to be the catalyst for a stunning turn around that saw City leave Stanley boss John Coleman with a ruined wedding anniversary and City fans happy.
Happy for a time though because it was though that – eventually – City could do better than Conlon and his manager Stuart McCall and so the change was made to Peter Taylor who with huge fanfare took his City team for their first game.
You might remember the wet ground, the late arriving and early departing Mark Lawn with a vandalised car, and the performance that set the tone for Taylor time at Valley Parade. There was a sense of optimism in the air that day that – probably because the display was away from home and followed not long after by a great 3-1 win at Rochdale – which went undented. Recall, if you will, the people who said that Taylor was going to sort out the mess that Stuart McCall had caused. Try not to look at the top of the Scottish Premier Division.
The optimism of Taylor’s arrival was in marked contrast to last season’s trip to The Crown Ground where City were so badly second best that manager Peter Jackson could find not an iota of optimism. Having taken up a team of the Disunited from Taylor Jackson – following Accrington – could not see how the club would claim another point in the season. At that point Peter Jackson thought Bradford City would go out of the Football League.
So Bradford City go West for the fifth time with Jackson having nailed together a team he has more faith in and which built around the optimism which was in such short supply in April’s visit. A team for which improvement is the aim and the assumption that enough improvement will drive promotion. Seeking a first win of the season following Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Oxford and on the last of three trips away from home that started at Leeds the tone for the return to Valley Parade for three back to back home games will be taken from this barometer test.
A device to measure pressure City’s barometer readings have been troubling for some years. This summer – for the first time since relegation from the Premier League – there seems to be a realism in the club’s aims and that has brought with it a sense of optimism that the club is going in the right direction.
There is a question as to how long optimism can be maintained without victories and – along with that – the merits of optimism. Paul Jewell’s side famously gathered two points of the first twenty-one and got promotion at Wolves with many expecting them to fall at the last hurdle. Any optimism garnered on the last four trips to Accrington have done nothing to stop the club going backwards, often by a route of its own choice.
As long as there is progress in the players then – perhaps – there should be an optimism to match.
Jackson goes into the game with Martin Hansen in goal – there is a rumour that the Liverpool loanee is undroppable in his time at City although there is always that rumour about loan players. Jon McLaughlin is working his way through his interrupted pre-season and once again is being viewed as an answer to all problems. Never wanting to disrespect a player who I believe is a good and serviceable goalkeeper worthy of his place in the squad and team but never has a player sat on the bench performing so well. On the bench he is the human traffic light always on red, the unbeatable keeper, the greatest custodian in the club has had.
Three of City’s back four have been unchanged all season – the other position has rotated to three different names. Liam Moore, Guy Branston and Robbie Threlfall are constant, Luke Oliver, Steve Williams and Lee Bullock have changed. Oliver is expected to retain his place having played his part in the build up to Ross Hannah’s equaliser on Saturday. There was speculation that Oliver pushed Duberry, or at least that is what Duberry said, or was told to say by someone at the club, and he is sticking to but he is not doing twenty months for that, no way…
The midfield presents Jackson with options having favoured a five at Leeds and Oxford with Chris Mitchell at the base of Michael Flynn and Richie Jones with Mark Stewart and Jack Compton on the flanks but the improvement seen with Michael Bryan and a 442 might prompt a change in shape that sees one of Flynn and Jones benched. Jones brings a hamstring niggle into the game and perhaps that will see him sitting the match out.
Stewart – a player still finding his feet but showing some nice feet when he does – would then press forward alongside James Hanson who once again showed the limits of his abilities as the only player detailed to attack on Saturday. Given the thankless task as the only pink shirt in the other half at the Kassam Stadium Hanson has an unfruitful afternoon and sure enough garnered criticism for his play in isolation. Conlon used to suffer criticism too, but his replacement was Stanley legend Paul Mullin and soon Barry was missed. An object lesson if ever there was one.
All of which is expected to leave Naille Rodney and Ross Hannah on the bench – impact substitutes in a Conloin stylee perhaps – but gives Peter Jackson the sort of selection problems which Taylor could have only dreamed of where his has a choice of players who all seem to be keen to show how they are improving.
To show a twitch on the barometer, and perhaps a reduction in pressure.
On 24th September when Bradford City play AFC Wimbledon Valley Parade will be exactly 125 years old. Supporters will celebrate the landmark with a birthday party in the cafe and museum. There will be a birthday cake, birthday cards and balloons (claret and amber of course).
During the summer there were fears that Bradford City would leave their historic ground due to on going issues regarding the rental payments made to the ground owner, former chairman Gordon Gibb. Thankfully, Bradford City’s joint chairmen, Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn, purchased the office block alongside the ground which reduced the club’s overheads and allowed Bradford City to remain at Valley Parade.
Valley Parade was built by Bradford City’s predecessors Manningham Rugby Club over the summer of 1886. Manningham’s former ground at Carlisle Road had been compulsory purchased to allow for the construction of Drummond Road School. The rugby club faced the significant challenge of finding a suitable parcel of land and then constructing a ground all in the space of a single summer. Their options were further limited by having to remain in Manningham – where the majority of their support resided – and find a piece of land large enough for a ground in a city that was an economic boom town. When we understand those factors we can begin to realise why Manningham Rugby Club built Valley Parade on a steeply sloping site.
Hemmed in by terraced housing, overlooking railway lines and a heavily industrialised landscape, Valley Parade was quite different from the quintessentially English Park Avenue grounds of their main rivals Bradford Rugby Club (later Bradford Park Avenue AFC). Park Avenue was the civic enclosure, beautifully adorned with a gabled stand and the ‘dolls house’ changing rooms, not to mention the adjacent cricket ground, it was a world away from the smokey, workaday Valley Parade.
However, success came to Valley Parade when Manningham became the first ever champions of the Rugby League in 1896. Even greater prizes awaited when Manningham switched from the then declining Rugby League game and became Bradford City AFC in 1903. With eight years City won the FA Cup in 1911 and established themselves as one of the top five clubs in the country.
Sadly, the glory faded after the Great War and by 1922 City had been relegated from the top division. Valley Parade, which had been completely rebuilt in 1908 following promotion to the first division, began a long decay and by the 1980s its Edwardian splendour was falling apart at the seams. No one needs reminding of the terrible events of 11 May 1985 when 56 fans died and hundreds were injured in the fire that ripped through the ageing main stand in a matter of minutes.
That is where the story of Valley Parade could have ended – one year short of the ground’s centenary. Bradford City were playing at a number of home grounds while the future of Valley Parade was debated. Bradford Council made no secret of its desire to see the club playing at a rebuilt Odsal Stadium, but the City fans themselves mounted a passionate campaign to return to the club’s spiritual home. A rebuilt Valley Parade as a tribute to those who lost their lives became an irresistible cause. In 1986 Jack Tordoff oversaw the rebuilding of Valley Parade and in December of that year City defeated the England national team 2-1 in an emotional home coming.
Since that day Valley Parade has been once again extensively reconstructed into a 25,000 capacity all seater ground. The club has risen to the very heights of the English game and has crashed down to the bottom division in a dramatic decade. Despite that the supporters still flock up Manningham Lane in large numbers, just as they have for 125 years. For thousands Valley Parade is their second home, as important to the club’s identity as its unique claret and amber stripes.
Valley Parade’s birthday party will be held in the cafe and museum above the club shop on 24 September prior to City’s home match against AFC Wimbledon. Festivities commence at 1pm and as usual with all bantamspast museum events admission is free.
A history of the ground, entitled Paraders, the 125 year history of Valley Parade, written by David Pendleton will be on sale in November. The format will be similar to the much acclaimed book Glorious 1911 which was published last year and told the story of our FA Cup victory in 1911 and City’s Golden Era at the top of Division One before the Great War.
Subscribers to the new book Paraders can have their name entered at the back of the book and purchase for a discounted price of £12.50. Order forms are available from the club shop, ticket office or the bantamspast museum at Valley Parade.
Last November we organised a film night at Pictureville featuring film of the first ever Football League game at VP in 1903 and footage from the FA Cup Final. We are planning a repeat film night this November to include more recent footage.
Profits from these projects will be donated to Friends of BCFC. Last season we raised £5,000 for the Burns Unit from the sale of Paraders enamel badges (www.paraders.co.uk).
- Martin Hansen | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver. Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Mark Stewart, Ritchie Jones, Chris Mitchell, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson | Michael Bryan, Nialle Rodney, Ross Hannah
Oxford United 1 Bradford City 1 At Kassam Stadium in League Two, 2011/12
It’s already clear that patience is going to be a key requirement for this longer-term thinking to prove successful. Yet as Bradford City trailed Oxford going into the closing stages this afternoon – thus facing a third defeat in three – it felt as though a tangible positive was quickly needed in order to defer those nagging fears that the club might still be moving backwards.
So when substitute Ross Hannah latched onto Luke Oliver’s flick on to fire home an equaliser that was dubious in both it’s validity and in how deserved it was on the balance of play, joy was supplemented with relief that the season is finally up and running. Hannah is probably the poster boy of City’s revised player recruitment approach, but until now he’s struggled to make an impression even during pre-season. The intelligence in making the run that was rewarded with a goal on his Football League debut indicated that Hannah can enjoy success this season – and so to can his new club.
There is, however, clearly a long way to go. Oxford’s noisy home support at one stage resorted to chanting about how City’s players were “a set of w**kers”; and the way in which the visitors sought to time-waste and defend deep in preservation of a point was probably sensible but hardly commendable. Oxford were the better team – though far from conclusively – and, but for a magnificently well-timed challenge by Oliver in his own box, would have earned a late winner. Too early in the long-term development of these young Bantams to expect dominant away wins, but the level of improvement needed is substantial.
The performance at Leeds on Tuesday will live in the memory for some time, but the team’s ability to cope with the greater physicality of bread and butter League Two football is lacking so far. Just like against Aldershot, the three players signed from Falkirk – Mark Stewart, Chris Mitchell and Jack Compton – in particular struggled to make an impression on opponents who simply refused to provide them with the time and space they appear to expect.
Stewart especially was anonymous today and, but for his outstanding performance at Elland Road, his lack of form would leave him first in line to be dropped and trigger greater concerns over his ability to make the step up. Mitchell had a very ineffective first half but got better as the game went on. The 23-year-old’s dead ball skills are proving more effective at least.
In the first half, City just didn’t look or function like a team. Manager Peter Jackson kept the same 4-5-1/4-3-3 set up that worked so well on Tuesday; but each unit was badly cut off from the other, leading to huge gaps in key areas of the park that Oxford were able to capitalise on. James Hanson looked a lonely figure up front, though his body language and level of effort was not great and, for the first time this season at least, the criticism he attracts from some supporters was justified. Flynn seemed to be under instruction to support Hanson as much as possible, but in general the midfield five were inadequate both going forwards and defending.
It was this isolation problem that led to Simon Heslop being afforded a sizeable amount of space to run at City’s back four and strike Oxford’s goal, 28 minutes in. A long Oxford clearance had been headed powerfully away by Guy Branston but, with every midfielder committed too far forwards, Heslop was able to charge forwards and unleash a low drive into the corner that the recalled Martin Hansen might have made a better job of trying to keep out. All four of City’s defenders had backed off rather than one looking to make a challenge. A poor goal, which so many people shared culpability for.
At that stage City had probably had the better chances, with Flynn’s fiercely-struck free kick forcing an unconvincing save from Ryan Clarke and former Bantam Jake Wright scrambling the loose ball over his own bar as City players rushed in. The Welshman had another shot from distance sail wide, before Robbie Threlfall took the next long-range free kick and fired just over. Oxford soon began to mount periods of strong pressure, which had City’s back four working hard while lacking enough support from midfield. Cue the Oxford goal, which was followed by even greater home territorial advantage and City fortunate to go in at half time just one goal behind.
Jackson sought to address the positional issues, and the cherry shirts seemed more organised and collaborative as the second half wore on. However the team’s insistence on playing direct balls to Hanson was still leading to possession been easily squandered and supported Oxford’s initial focus on finishing off the contest. So, whether to stop his players from taking this easy option or because of disappointment over his target man, Jackson substituted Hanson and switched to 4-4-2. The momentum began to shift.
Nialle Rodney and new loan winger Michael Bryan came on and had a greater impact than the players they replaced, though U’s manager Chris Wilder reacted to City’s new emphasis on wingers by getting his own to double up with their full backs and central midfielders to sit deeper. Finding space in the final third was a real problem for City, so it was probably no surprise that the equaliser came from a set piece. Hannah had only been on the pitch four minutes when he struck, with the excellent Michael Duberry arguing he was fouled. His enthusiastic celebration in front of us away fans was a joy to experience.
The last ten minutes belonged to Oxford, but they failed to create a meaningful chance and City held on with Oliver in particular outstanding and Branston enjoying his best performance so far. Compton might have snatched a winner when he was played through on goal just inside Oxford’s half, but pace is not his strong point and the defence were able to get back and put him off.
So City are off the mark, but so far in the league at least there’s been more nervous questions than positive answers – and the gravity of the development needed is plain. Clearly some good players have been brought into the club this summer, but harnessing their exuberance and building their confidence are the immediate priorities if City are to become more competitive.
It all comes back to patience. If we fans continue backing these players, they can in time translate raw potential into rewarding results. Yet if, as has happened so often in recent years, we snap and angrily turn on them, we could very easily destroy them.
Hannah’s goal helped the new-look team deliver its first repayment of the faith shown in them by everyone, but they will probably need to produce more reasonably quickly if this long-term thinking is to become truly and widely embraced.
- Martin Hansen | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver. Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Mark Stewart, Ritchie Jones, Chris Mitchell, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson | Michael Bryan, Nialle Rodney, Ross Hannah
Bradford City play Oxford United At Kassam Stadium in League Two, 2011/2012
Two years ago to the day on Saturday, a goverment think tank suggested that Bradford, and other northern cities like it, were ‘beyond revival’, and that its residents should move south to places like Oxford, instead. Some people who may or may not be writing this match preview may or may not have had one or two things to say about that. It may have been some time in coming, but it feels like there’s a revival in this part of the city.
Bradford City have lost their first two games of the season. The team have a 0% record in the league, and have been knocked out of the cup by the team most of our supporters can’t even bear to say the name of, at least not without vitriol. In two games, the against column reads five.
I state these facts because, despite these, there is great pride amongst fans about the team — which should not be confused with misplaced optimism. After a shaky first match against Aldershot, the team played against Leeds on Tuesday in the fixture most of the squad had been looking forward to since the draw was made: and their interest in playing the game transferred into a good performance that, rightly, the fans have been proud of. The call of Saturday has returned for fans and players alike, it seems.
And so to this Saturday, where City take on an Oxford side who have likewise had two defeats. As we will hope that City will be galvanised by their spirit against Leeds on Tuesday, the U’s fans will be hoping that their side can also continue with similar spirit to that which saw them bow out in extra time against Cardiff. That town is looking for a revival of its own right about now.
In the preview of the match, this site’s editor spoke of what there was for City to lose out of the match with Leeds, and it seems that the answer to that was the impressive David Syers, down in a heap in the second half at Elland Road, after bossing the midfield, now seeking specialist advice on a knee injury, rather than a trip to the city we should all be living in this weekend. Steve Williams may also lose the chance to continue in a central defence that asks as many questions as it answers, after suffering a problem with his thigh. Ramsden and Bullock complete the list of the maladied.
This leaves Jackson with a choice of Premiership stoppers to stand between the sticks: if Williams makes it, the chances are that he will once again play alongside man-mountain Guy Branston, and it would follow that Jansson would continue alongside them, after their 90 minutes together in Leeds. Should Luke Oliver come in, a new centre-back pairing would give neither Jansson or Hansen the obvious communicative advantage. The impressive Liam Moore, who positionally is probably the most aware defender in a City shirt at the moment, will undoutedly continue at right-back, and it is likely that Robbie Threlfall will default to left-back, continuing to fuel the speculation surrounding Luke O’Brien’s availability and squad status.
On-loan winger Michael Bryan will hope to take a berth on the right-hand side of midfield. Whether he does or not will likely come down to his fitness relative to his new team-mates, as the extra half-hour of football played by on Wednesday by Oxford should be looked to be exploited by Jackson. Likely, Richie Jones will continue exactly where he left off on Tuesday in replacing Syers, and the Oxford midfield should look to bunch up around Michael Flynn, fearful of another strike like the one lashed in against Leeds. Compton will be unlucky to be dropped after putting in some hard work in both matches, and it will boil down to whether the team is to play wide (Bryan) or look for free-kicks (Mitchell).
Up front, neither of the burgeoning partnership of Hanson and Stewart are looking troubled by Hannah, Rodney or Wells, all of which have come on for a few minutes, and none of whom have yet to show their true mettle as yet, although there is a slim chance it could be Nialle Rodney who benefits from Syers’ absence, depending on whether the manager decides to use the impact player early, or late, on. It will be a huge surprise if his pace is not seen at all during the game.
For the yellow side (which means the excellent pink kit gets an airing), three of their employees took the think tank’s advice literally, and now ply their trade there instead of here: the manager, Chris Wilder, was part of the decent City 1997-1998 Championship-level side, as right back. Jake Wright was a youth-team throwaway who now captains the U’s, and Paul McLaren got paid far too much money for delivering far too little, far too recently.
Whether the revival bears fruit on Saturday or not, the change in attitude in City fans is refreshing to see. As with any study, a change in behaviour is only significant if it then goes on to be the norm. The think tank may have written Bradford off: but, despite many times thinking the team is beyond revival, the latest crop are showing that belief, passion, and pride are sometimes formed from more than the mere sum of parts.
Steeton AFC 0 Bradford City Development Squad 3 At Summerhill Lane in Friendly, 2011/12
48 hours on from the red hot away atmosphere at Elland Road on a sunny Yorkshire evening, the quaint surroundings of Steeton AFC’s Summerhill Lane ground and a heavy downpour formed the more grounded backdrop to the Bradford City Development Squad’s place of work.
They were here for a friendly against their West Riding County Amateur Football League counterparts – a derby with none of the intensity of Tuesday but with plenty of meaning for all on the pitch. The serious stuff has got going for City’s first teamers, but for almost everyone wearing the lovely pink kit this evening it was an opportunity to prove they are capable, one day, of promotion to the senior squad.
Much has been said over the summer about the Archie Christie-led initiative of tutoring a group of younger players, so they can potentially be good enough for first team action over the next few years. But as the football season gets into full swing, it’s likely the Development Squad will become largely forgotten. Indeed some of the usual message board trouble makers have already attempted to criticise City devoting a budget to Christie, while hinting at a rift between him and first team manager Peter Jackson.
But if Jackson really doesn’t care for all of this, he must be desperately short of things to do in an evening. Tonight he, joint-Chairmen Mark Lawn and Head of Youth Operations Peter Horne watched from next to the City dugout while Wayne Allison – surely a Jackson appointment – barked instructions at the team alongside a near-silent Christie. Interest within the club for the Development Squad is clearly strong.
The treacherous downpour and lack of team sheet meant this writer struggled through his rain-soaked glasses to identify everyone who was playing for City this evening. From the first team squad there was Jon McLaughlin in goal for the 90 minutes, Leon Osborne leading the attack and – yes, he is still alive – Lewis Hunt at centre back. Meanwhile new loan signing Michael Bryan lined up on the right flank and enjoyed an encouraging evening.
An up-for-it Steeton made the sure game was competitive, but as City got into their passing stride they were clearly a cut above. Scott Brown, who isn’t allowed to play for the first team until he turns 17 in November, was once again utterly masterful in the centre of the park. The Scottish teenager effortlessly sprayed the ball around with great accuracy and confidence, spotting things others don’t see. He is Bradford City’s secret weapon for either later this season or next, and the potential is huge.
Dominic Rowe took a spot on the right wing and drove the team forward well, though his positional awareness still needs some work. Adam Robinson looks a great prospect at centre back, while the number three (who’s name I wasn’t sure of, sadly) was terrific getting up and down as left back. Up front Osborne showed a much greater level of maturity compared to his petulant display at Silsden a month back, and it was great to hear him offering rookie partner Darren Stephenson advice and encouragement throughout.
It was Osborne who put City in front after he was played through on goal and rounded the keeper. Soon after Stephenson – who earlier had missed an open goal, albeit from a tight angle – struck a second from inside the box. The rain was incessant in the first half and my lack of coat or hat soon had me shivering. Suddenly a comforting arm was placed around my shoulder, before I turned round to see who it was and to accept their offer of a handshake. It was Jackson, walking around supporters saying hello. The personable style of this man is hugely impressive, I think I’m developing a man-crush for him.
Shortly after a half time interval made entertaining by ear-wigging Allison’s team talk on the pitch, it was 3-0 when a young substitute – who I believe to be Kieran Djilali, on trial from Crystal Palace and very sharp - finished emphatically from just inside the box, and the rest of the game seemed like a typical second half pre-season friendly where little happens. The cross bar was struck towards the end by City and Steeton’s players looked increasingly agitated with each other; Luke Dean was assured in a less familiar right back position.
A decent evening’s work, though the quality of opposition and basicness of Steeton’s ground symbolised how there is some way to go for the Development Squad strategy to achieve its objectives. This is no overnight route to success, and in things don’t go well on the pitch this season the conviction in maintaining this long-term approach may be tested by some.
But if, as per usual, the first team fails to live up to expectations this campaign, there’s great comfort to be had from knowing that a Plan B is already in operation.
It is hard to not fall into the trap of painting Bradford City’s attempts to claim some of the loan fees paid by clubs to Manchester United from clubs who have borrowed one time City youngster Tom Cleverley as being a kind of cheeky David trying to sneak Goliath’s wallet out of his pocket and in doing so dismiss City’s claim as being opportunistic.
There is something cunning about the Bantams’ claim for slices of the money paid by the likes of Watford and Wigan for the player. It seems that City – bolstered by the player’s move into the England senior squad and Manchester United first team picture – have been alerted to the terms of the deal and almost certainly those terms and the sell on clause in them was nothing at all to do with these loan fees and everything to do with the idea that the midfielder would bubble around at Old Trafford before Gabriel Obertaning his way to Newcastle United to deliver City a slice.
In such a context then Mark Lawn’s professional to professional approach is likely to fall on deaf ears. After all Wayne Rooney’s Gorilla chest vests do not come cheap.
Legally though the claim would depend on the definition of a loan and in that City’s case builds. Loans is a colloquialism for the correct term “temporary transfer.”
The loan system is a pathed cow path that replaced a team making an agreement that they would sell a player and buy him back later. The registration transfer might be temporary but it is a transfer and if money changes hands to enable it then there seems to be a reading of the contract that entitles the Bantams to some of that money.
After all were there no formal loan system and Cleverley had been sold to Wigan with a gentleman’s agreement that he would – if he played well – return to Old Trafford for a similar amount plus a bit for the Latic’s trouble then there would be no question of the Bantams getting a cut.
No doubt this will head to the football authorities. Bradford City – £45,000 a week for Benito Carbone – make poor Davids to anyone’s Goliath and so one wonders how much sympathy would be engendered. A decision in favour of City would help any club who had lost a player to the top flight only to see him loaned around the leagues and there is certainly a claim that the spirit of the agreement is that the Bantams would benefit from any financial gain that comes from the player moving to another club.
Reports suggest that Manchester United have offered to settle for £50,000. City might accept that. How often does any club go up against Manchester United and win off the field let alone on it? Regardless of who is right, often football favours might.