Issue #90 Aaron McLean and the middle of an Era

As told by Michael Wood

There is an overuse to the term “End of an Era” which has rendered the words almost meaningless.

Steven Gerrard leaving Anfield after nearly two decades, Sir Alex Ferguson leaving Manchester United after nearly three deserve the grand description. Most player comings and goings – and for that matter must manager changes – do not. The previous City managers before Phil Parkinson lasted about seven and eleven months each. No one’s idea of an era.

(This morning I heard that Steve in Accounts is moving to a different floor and thus no longer making the Friday butty run, and that this was the end of an era.)

And do the exit today of Aaron McLean from Bradford City is not the end of the McLean era.

No sun sets as the striker who’s body language seemed to perfectly betray his ambivalence for the club he had joined in January 2014 cancels the last year of his deal. McLean showed the occasional flash of why Phil Parkinson bought him but – more often – why Phil Parkinson should have stayed away from the forward.

For the City manager it was a rare example of confirmation bias. McLean at his best darted around the penalty area beating defenders and finishing with a touch, or moving slick off the ball, or he was a power house on the ball and impossible to knock off, and thinking about him one might remember that more than one remembered his meandering away from play, or his tendency to be static unless the game panned out exactly how he had thought.

If one thought on his signing – and perhaps think now – that McLean was right for City one remembers the good parts of his time in claret and amber and throws away the bad. We all have a tendency to be biased towards the facts which confirm what we want to be the case, rather than what is.

Too often not useful on the field and too often a square peg in a hole that his predecessor fit so roundly in one need to waste too much time on the reasons why Aaron McLean’s attitude did not find a place in Bradford City dressing room other than to suggest that the tight team spirit which pervades the club under Phil Parkinson could have been a hindrance to him.

The day after Nahki Wells left for Huddersfield Town he was playing golf with his former Bradford City team-mates (“Troublemaker” anyone?) who are clearly a close knit group of men. The players who fit in are improved by this – Filipe Morais springs to mind – but those who do not seem to be isolated figures.

Of course this team ethic does more help than harm and one can only feel sorry for a player like McLean if he has arrived to find himself a square peg off the field as well as on it, but not too sorry when one thinks of the wages freed up by his departure. Wages which Phil Parkinson is expected to spend on bringing Jon Stead to the club on a permanent basis.

A high profile signing such as McLean who has not worked out has ended many manager’s careers at clubs and there is a strong argument one could make that had 2015 not opened with Parkinson’s side beating Millwall and Chelsea then McLean’s failure could have had more serious ramifications for the City boss.

That it did not tells us something about where Bradford City are in the maturing middle of the Phil Parkinson era at Bradford City. The manager has had his beginning, and now has made mistakes and is allowed to learn from them rather than be punished for them.

McLean thus is Parkinson’s difficult second album. Learn from it, move on, but come back with something better next time.