Saturday 5th April, 20145 months ago

The worst player on the pitch

The Team

  • Jon McLaughlin | Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies, Adam Drury | Kyle Bennett, Gary Jones, Matty Dolan, Adam Reach | Aaron McLean, Jon Stead | Garry Thompson, Oli McBurnie, Mark Yeates

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Bradford City 2 Oldham Athletic 3 At Valley Parade in League One, 2013/2014

It is decision time for Phil Parkinson as he tries to decide how he will approach next season in League One for Bradford City and what Parkinson does in the next five games will set the tone for next season as surely as Garry Thompson’s blast against Burton Albion in the play-off first leg last season did for this.

Two of those five games are at Valley Parade and that will suit Parkinson fine. Once again Parkinson picked a team to nullify a side and in doing that it seemed he created more problems than he solved. Oldham’s midfield three of James Wesolowski, Korey Smith and Danny Philliskirk did not seem to possess enough to trouble the Bantams yet Gary Jones and Matty Dolan were detailed with stopping Wesolowski and Philliskirk while Jon Stead ended up spending the first half an hour making sure Smith did not create much.

In terms of tactical bargains it is another display of underweaned ambition but last week at Leyton Orient the plan worked well. For all its lack of ambition it may have proved fruitful today but Dolan stopped his job of tracking Wesolowski as Wesolowski went into the area to finish a Jonson Clarke-Harris knock down.

He was not the worst player on the pitch but Dolan added very little to the City cause being neither the defensive break up man which has been lacking in a team without last season’s Nathan Doyle nor especially adapt at going forward although his ball that played in Adam Reach to score City’s equaliser was impressive.

The Bantams had left the 4411 which seemed to directly counter Lee Johnson’s side’s 433 for a flat four at the back, two midfielders behind a row of three supporting the one up front. As fluid as this left the attacking side of City’s game it exposed the backline and City ended up with six players defending all having taken up a man watching Oldham attack with seven.

It was a nice bit of play followed by a powerful finish for Clarke-Harris but Parkinson knows that having four players up field watching an attack is just going to see your team getting beaten. At half time, walking in having nullified, then unbalanced his City team Parkinson probably though that the worst player on the field was probably in the dugout.

And so City reverted to a 442 which pressed onto an Oldham Athletic team but never looked like making a fist of things. There has been a worry that than Bantams lacked a level of commitment and that was manifest today in a performance by Kyle Bennett which fell below the acceptable standard for a player on loan leading me to conclude that the best course of action would be to tell Doncaster Rovers to expect Bennett back in South Yorkshire on Monday.

It was seen when Adam Reach came forward and looked for Bennett ahead of him only to see Bennett hell bent on hiding behind a defender. It was seen in Bennett shoveling the ball off rather than taking responsibility for performance and worst it was seen in the moment when he allowed Jonathan Grounds to take a ball he was favourite for in a City attack and then within five seconds the ball was in City’s goal and as Clarke-Harris took the applause the game was all but over.

I will never criticise a player for getting it wrong, for playing the wrong pass, for missing the goal but for constantly and consistently failing to apply the effort needed culminating in a situation where the Bantams were playing with a liability then I reserve the right to be honest and unmerciful. Playing Kyle Bennett is City wasting playing time as a resource.

I’d rather see Oli McBurnie or Jack Stockdill in the team. McBurnie put his head in where it hurt to get a chance for Mark Yeates to hit the post with and Gray Jones to finish in the last minute of injury time. I’d rather see Garry Thompson in the team. I recall reading that Thompson was the worst player on the pitch in games I thought he played well in and the attempt to replace Thompson has failed.

In fact much of Parkinson’s time now is taken up with looking at how judgement on the quality needed for League One has been wrong. From Jason Kennedy to Bennett there is much to suggest that Parkinson needs to find a better quality of recruit.

Right now he is bringing in players who are the worst player on the pitch.

The Team

  • Jon McLaughlin | Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies, Adam Drury | Kyle Bennett, Gary Jones, Matty Dolan, Adam Reach | Aaron McLean, Jon Stead | Garry Thompson, Oli McBurnie, Mark Yeates

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8 Comments

  1. David says:

    All that you see is what there is. Kyle Bennett, the *loan* player. One of five in the starting line-up on Saturday, so statistically one of them was quite likely to be the worst. If picking the ‘worst’ is what we must do. If he reads this review, which he may, then he might be a tad upset. The truth I think – yet more behavioural economics – is that the entire collection of players, and that is what they are currently, failed miserably, collectively, as a whole, the lot of them, without exception. Managerial tactics were pathetic too, and this after a week of media reports from the manager (whom I support) that Oldham would play 4.5.1, and we would have to be patient, break them down. Loan players become scape-goats once again, after a small squad is bereft of a number of key personnel through injury, and when our so-called leaders were completely absent on the day: Jones (oh dear), Davies (ditto), Darby (surprisingly poor), McLaughlin (groan)…… Bennett, the loan player, was used by Parkinson to try and make something happen; and Bennett, the loan player, was the only one who did try, hence his visibility. The rest of the team was just trying to get rid of the ball as soon as possible. And the other players had only the one position to play, and yet they still failed. But Parkinson had Bennett on the right, and then on the left, and then in the middle in place of the completely ineffectual non-loan McLean. If there was a worst player, whatever worst actually means, then surely it was McLean, whose inflexibility to join in with the team led to Bennett being shuffled around the front line in an attempt to make something happen, and then Bennett becomes the one who is seen and then blamed, rather than the one who should have been seen up front but who was not: viz McLean. I rather like the look of Bennett. I hope we sign him, I think he’s got something about him.

    1. Michael Wood says:

      First I object to the idea that the loan players have been scapegoated in this article and think it is not justified. Bennett is criticised for Bennett’s performance. Stead is not because of his. To suggest that I have singled out loan players is a mischaracterisation of the article.

      Second and just to be clear this article uses the notion of “the worst” to talking about Parkinson, Bennett and Thompson amongst others and if that is not clear then I’d suggest re-reading it.

      Third if Kyle Bennett is upset reading this (and I have no reason to believe he would read it) then I could not offer him further sympathy. I feel that he is worthy of criticism although that criticism is not, by mean, solely placed at his door but a good deal of it is and deservedly so. I would say that if one were to say that Kyle Bennett showed an acceptable level of effort (or that he put in more than another player on the field) then one would convict one’s self of having incredibly low standards of what one finds acceptable.

      Finally I do not think it was Bennett’s effort that made him visible, it was his lack of effort.

  2. David says:

    Michael, your response raises a couple of issues that I would like to clarify. First of all, I read your piece more than once anyway, and responded to it because I just did not see things the way you did. Additionally, I don’t like the idea of singling out someone as being ‘the worst’ – just my opinion, that’s all. It wasn’t my intention to characterise your report as bashing all loan players, and so I apologise for it seeming that way. What I was actually referring to is a pervading air of this sort of sentiment that is around generally at the moment – you hear it and see it on noticeboards all the time. Loans are of course far from ideal usually, but we find ourselves in a situation – and we could debate the reasons for that, and how necessary it is for us to be using loans – of relying on loan players. My main point remains, however, in that I believe Bennett struggled because of how he was used, and because of the way other players, most notably McLean, performed (the latter you could of course say about other players too). But ultimately, the entire team was just terrible in terms of its commitment and work-rate, and so to identify one player as being the worst isn’t, I believe, the main point anyway.

    1. Michael Wood says:

      It is not that you and I disagree – this concerns me not – it is the potential for misreading of a narrative device which is applied to Parkinson, Bennett and Thompson being stated as being applied to Bennett alone that I’m keen to ensure is understood. If you really think that the phrase “At half time, walking in having nullified, then unbalanced his City team Parkinson probably though that the worst player on the field was probably in the dugout.” points at Bennett then I have to ask you to read the article again. It clearly does not.

      Bennett may have struggled because of how he was used on Saturday but Saturday was not his first game nor was it the first time he has struggled but to be honest his struggling does not concern me until he stops caring, and stops playing, which he did. I’m not picking out poor performance, just very poor attitude.

      If your contention is that the reason he gave up on the ball on Saturday in the build up to the third Oldham goal was because he was upset at being played “out of position” then I might agree with that but I’d prefer a player who does not give away goals because he is sulking at having been played somewhere he would rather not previously. In fact I think that a player who behaves like that is toxic to the squad.

      On the entire team I point you to today’s missive.

  3. David says:

    Michael, these are the last things things I am going to say on this matter. First of all, I too don’t care that we differ, I never have, it’s not the issue. I also despise people playing for my team who do not commit to it 100% (and that just did not include Bennett only on Saturday).

    What I do care about, however, is that you take the position that you as the writer have the authority to tell me, or anyone, how to interpret your words. You don’t. Interpreting and making ‘a’ sense of them is the reader’s job. Heard of ‘death of the author’, for example? (Rowland Barthes) Secondly, it is very clear to me – my interpretation of your words – (and just out of interest, the four people I straw-polled in my office also, with the question ‘What is this report saying?’) that your piece identifies Bennett as the ‘worst player’. Unfortunately for you as a writer who puts stuff out there, that is something you have no choice other than to accept, that your interpretation of your own words is just that.

    My reading has something to do with this I would suggest: ‘The worst player on the pitch’ + ‘There has been a worry that than Bantams lacked a level of commitment and that was manifest today in a performance by Kyle Bennett which fell below the acceptable standard for a player on loan leading me to conclude that the best course of action would be to tell Doncaster Rovers to expect Bennett back in South Yorkshire on Monday.

    It was seen when Adam Reach came forward and looked for Bennett ahead of him only to see Bennett hell bent on hiding behind a defender. It was seen in Bennett shoveling the ball off rather than taking responsibility for performance and worst it was seen in the moment when he allowed Jonathan Grounds to take a ball he was favourite for in a City attack and then within five seconds the ball was in City’s goal and as Clarke-Harris took the applause the game was all but over.

    I will never criticise a player for getting it wrong, for playing the wrong pass, for missing the goal but for constantly and consistently failing to apply the effort needed culminating in a situation where the Bantams were playing with a liability then I reserve the right to be honest and unmerciful. Playing Kyle Bennett is City wasting playing time as a resource.’

    1. Michael Wood says:

      Yes, I have studied Barthes, and Fish, and Holland who is probably work your considering in this instance. Holland, I feel, would certainly answer some of the vehemence of your statement and the (literally) out of context use of quotations. Holland, for those who know neither he nor Barthes, suggests (and this is a massive paraphrase) that the reader brings an agenda to what they are reading and sees (in this case) the article as an attack on that agenda and responds appropriately. When I was a student I favoured Barthes but years of doing BfB has brought Holland more to the fore.

      I think it is an interesting debate, and it is a shame this is the end of it.

      As this is the closing point let me be crystal clear on this. Kyle Bennett was in my opinion the worst player on the field and in any objective sense of judging football by the result of the game he was the worst player. I see no reason to suggest that any of the other 21 players should be considered as having played worse when they did not and it would be a slight on them to say they have been. If that upsets Bennett or anyone then so be it, it would upset the player who was put in that 22nd position to be wrongly placed there if the statement were altered.

      That said the device I used creates the idea of a moving “worst player”. That that has been missed in the writing in this instance is obvious but that is the construct I’ve elucidated and suggesting that it is not is not accurate. You can say that the article fails to achieve that aim but no one could say that I’m retrofitting a different aim to hide from the assertion that I make above: Namely that Bennett was the worst player on the field.

      Not that I see much point in selecting that worst player nor does the conclusion do that. It states, very clearly, that Parkinson is bringing in players who are the worst (which is to say that they are not better than we have, and so not improving the team), not player. Again you would point to Barthes and I would point to Holland.

      I stand by that comment about wasting development time. Watch the footage of the game and see Oli McBurnie putting his head in in the build up to the third goal. It is a stark contrast to Bennett’s surrender. A team is an agreement. An agreement that if you behave in a certain way then you will be rewarded and the understanding that you sometimes have to wait for those rewards. McBurnie or any player not currently in the City team will look at the team sheet next Saturday and if Bennett’s name is on it and theirs is not they will be forced to question if effort is rewarded.

      If a player will not put in that effort – and Bennett has not – then I reiterate (on closing) that it is a waste of resource giving that player development time.

  4. David says:

    Now then, you’ve been a little bit naughty on two counts. First, my quote of your report was made in response to your quote of your report, to show why I read it has having singled-out Bennett as the worst player, in contrast to yours before which you argued did not. And how you can say it is out of context, when it comprises about 1/3 of the entire piece, in contrast to your quoted single sentence, is way beyond me.

    Secondly, you now come out and say – to be crystal clear – that Bennett WAS the worst player! I think anyone reading your comments could be forgiven for not knowing quite what it is that you actually do think.

    I have watched the footage now for the first time, and Bennett does appear to not commit himself fully, although I think you could argue he may not have been aware of what his job should have been at that particular point (I’m not, but I think one could), he having been shifted around the entire front line by that stage. However, if Oldham had not then gone on to score, would your view be still the same? There were other occasions when different players didn’t commit fully either I seem to recall on the day, and yet those events didn’t lead to a goal (so far as I remember), and hence are not in that short bit of TV footage.

    Have you seen the WOAP player profile of Bennett? It’s more in line with my view of him, and I think that the comments (at the time I read them) are broadly supportive of my view on him too. I genuinely think he could be worth persevering with, he’s still much to learn, but he has something to offer that is different from anything else we have (especially since the departure of Wells).

    I DO really like reading your posts, they always make me think, and especially when they offer a different view from mine – and if they didn’t I probably wouldn’t want, or feel the need, to read them anyway. To reiterate, my main criticism of the original piece is what I viewed as (unfair) finger-pointing at Bennett, whilst on most of your other points I think we actually agree. And if I feel that you have done something similar again in the future, irrespective of what your intentions are (which I think we broadly agree are irrelevant), then I will continue to criticise you, or anyone else, for it. I just don’t like it, I think it is divisive and potentially damaging for the player concerned, and it is usually based on far too incomplete evidence (just that of your own eyes).

    1. Michael Wood says:

      Quoting a part of my report is taking it out of the context of the article which is available at the top of the page. Taking a third of the article is not the entire article and so by definition it is out of context. This is not semantics either. You picked a massive portion of the article and then jumped to an analysis which was not proven by the quote.

      You could have grabbed any three paragraphs I’d written over the past fifteen years and then – with that mass of sentences – stated that you had proven something.

      That is my thoughts on the subject of quoting. If you are going to take something out of its original context then recontextualise it, do not abuse it.

      My thoughts on if Bennett was the worst are not the same as the discussion of the narrative device as to who the worst was although there is an obvious correlation between the two. I have not changed my view that he was the worst player on the field but identifying that he was not the purpose of the narrative device which discussed Parkinson and Thompson.

      To be clear I defended the narrative device but I’ve not altered by view at all that Bennett was the worst player on the field. That was not my only point in the original article but I do think it.

      I doubt that there is anyone reading this comment who does not know what I think of Bennett. I’ve been clear, you added obfuscation, I was clear again and so on. Continuing with him wastes our development resources.

      I’ve no idea how I could hope to convince you of that though if you believe that his performance on Saturday was acceptable. I do not try to bring any pressure that it was a widely held view but Gary Jones clearly thought the same (and Bennett’s attitude in response was appalling), and Parkinson substituted him shortly after, and my sense of the supporter was that they were of the opinion that his performance was not acceptable. I do not think that that mass of people means that you should agree just that I have no idea how one would convince someone who thought that that was acceptable performance what acceptable performance is.

      If you do not think that ignoring a ball passed to you by a teammate to allow the opposition to score, on top of hiding from the ball etc., are bad football then there is nothing I will be able to say to you to convince you what bad football is.

      If you do not accept that the evidence of watching football matches is sufficient to judge football matches then again I’m not sure I could convince you.

      If making a judgement on football matches requires something other than watching football matches then one would create a situation in which no one was qualified to make a judgement. If Bennett does something great in training then that suggests he might do something impressive in a game. If he does something bad in a game that states that he has done something bad in a game.

      For information I would have still thought the same had it not resulted in a goal. That you will have to take on trust. The article was written before the footage and was not, and could not, have been influenced by it. I have not seen the WOAP profile of Bennett. I appreciate that your thoughts on him are sincere but I do not agree with them.

      I would say that Bennett’s entire performance, his disinterest in the ball leading to the goal, his argument with Gary Jones afterwards, make a rare and strong case against him. I would rank his performance on Saturday as alongside the likes of Darren Morgan at a depth to which I have seen very rarely in thirty years odd of watching City.

      I do not feel that it is unfair to be honest about that performance, nor do I feel the need to say something other than what I saw. I stand by my record as a writer which is not one of isolating players for criticism. It takes a lot to make me. This, I would say, was a lot.

      I do not think I’ve added to anything in that but hopefully that is the points answered. I’ll encapsulate them now.

      First team games are a limited development resource. If you give players first team games they improve from the experience on the whole. Bradford City has 11 a game and six games left. This is a limited resource.

      Kyle Bennett started using these resources a few months ago rather than improving he seems to have idled to a point where he is a liability (literally, he cost us a goal) and I believe that given that the first team shirt (and the experience that comes with it) is a limited resource we would be best advised using that resource elsewhere.

      Why waste a valuable resource on a player who – three months in – has shown that that development is wasted (in that he shows no signs of improving and is, shall we say, disengaged) when would be best used elsewhere?

      Football is about managing limited resources. I will not stop criticising obvious wasting of those resources.

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