Searching for answers

Following a short journey from Chesterfield to Matlock with my wife’s uncle, I parked the car and was greeted by a friend who I’d agreed to meet up with for this pre-season friendly game. The three of us walked through a tranquil park towards a fish and chip shop that my friend had spotted. As myself and my wife’s uncle had eaten before we’d set off, we watched my friend tuck into Britain’s favourite takeaway meal of white flaky fish and chunky potato chips.

Upon entering the three-sided Causeway Lane ground, I was greeted by an elderly gentleman selling programmes. The programme which I purchased contained some interesting information including the fact that Matlock Town are due to play either Huchnall (although I think they mean Hucknall), Holbeach or Lincoln Moorlands Railway at home on 17 September in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup. My wife’s uncle also spotted the name of Vince Adams in the Looking Back article. Adams joined Matlock Town from Worksop 44 years ago. Apparently the significance of this is the fact that my wife’s uncle went to school with Vince Adams.

We make our way to the main stand and took our seats as the players warmed up in front of us. As I’m trying to make out who our new signings and trialists are, Peter Jackson and David Baldwin are deep in conversation by the dugouts. Who knows what they are chatting about? The tannoy announcer presents the two teams to us although it’s difficult to hear what he is saying. However we make out the name of Nathan Joynes in the Matlock Town side who played a couple of games for Bradford City a few seasons ago, whilst on loan from Barnsley. In the starting side for Bradford City is ex-Matlock Town player Ross Hannah who is also our captain for the evening.

The game kicks off and Hannah produces an early left foot right wing cross which unfortunately doesn’t reach Hanson in the six yard box. Hanson is then found in his own penalty area heading clear an early Matlock corner. The Matlock Town supporter sat next to my wife’s uncle informs us that Ian Holmes, the Matlock Town number 9, has re-joined them from Glapwell FC and is the one to watch in the Matlock side. Holmes is soon in the thick of the action and is brought down by Guy Branston. However, the resulting free kick is cleared by Steve Williams.

After the early exchanges City come more into the game with Lee Bullock passing to Hanson who shoots high and wide of the target. Luke O’Brien and young Dominic Rowe link up well down the left flank and from Rowe’s cross David Syers heads the ball into the back of a Matlock player. Holmes then shoots from long range but his shot goes wide of Rhys Evans’ goal. Evans is on trial looking to earn himself a contract with the club who he played for during the 2008-09 season. However, it’s not long before Holmes is on the score sheet as he thumps a header past him from a Bettney cross.

The first half continues with Joynes attempting a lob which goes over the cross bar. This proves to be his last action in the game as he is substituted shortly afterwards. Hanson then goes foraging down City’s left flank and shrugs off the attentions of Featherstone to create a shooting opportunity which hits a post and bounces out too quickly for Hannah to convert into a goal. It is then Branston’s turn to attack at the central defender goes on one of those runs that excite supporters. His left wing cross goes just over Hannah’s head.

With City gaining more possession, Chris Mitchell crosses from the right for Hanson to head City’s equaliser. That’s a headed goal for each number nine. Shortly afterwards, Matlock are presented with a chance to take the lead following a wayward pass from Branston. However, Ryan Mallon shoots wide. As the first half draws to a conclusion Branston, for reasons unknown to me, hurls some verbal abuse to O’Brien. Branston then sprays a forward pass which is nowhere near to a Bradford City player. O’Brien. The ultimate professional, however, doesn’t retaliate and tell Branston what he thinks of that pass.

The second half commences with Mark Stewart replacing Hanson. Stewart is soon into the action as he shoots just wide after collecting a pass from O’Brien. Rowe then pulls the ball back for Stewart but his side footed shot is saved by Kennedy in the Matlock goal. Mitchell produces another telling cross which Syers heads over the crossbar. City are dominating the early exchanges of the second half and Stewart shoots again, but this time Kennedy palms the shot away. Matlock then make a plethora of substitutions and have their first corner of the second half. Thankfully, Rowe is stood by one post and is able to prevent Matlock from taking the lead again. This shows the importance of having men by each post when defending a corner.

Midway through the second half Jackson decides it time for a few substitutions. Recent signing Ritchie Jones makes a surprise, but welcome, appearance following his transfer from Oldham Athletic. Jones slots into central midfield with Bullock reverting to centre back as Branston leaves the field. Trialist Nahki Wells replaces local hero Ross Hannah, who receives warm applause from the home supporters. City have another corner which Williams heads over before Jones tries his luck from distance with a long range effort which narrowly flies wide of Kennedy’s right hand post.

Recent signing Andrew Burns joins the action replacing Lewis Hunt and shortly afterwards Luke Dean and Scott Brown replace Syers and Mitchell. Wells then shoots from distance but fails to alter the score line. Hanson can now be seen sat in the main stand with fellow players Flynn and Osborne, who are both rested tonight following their appearances at Silsden two days earlier. With the game approaching the final few minutes, both teams have a chance to win the game. First a Matlock substitute drags his right foot shot wide, then in the final minute Wells is played in by Jones but Kennedy makes another smart save. The game finishes 1-1.

As we make our way towards the exit, Branston is seen having his photograph taken with a City supporter whilst Matlock’s forthcoming fixtures appear on a chalk board on a wall behind one of the goals. Another chalk board next to the turnstiles notes that the attendance was 364. These quirky little things are what I love about pre-season friendly games at non-league grounds.

Whilst Matlock Town gave City a good work out and looked like a team that will do well in this season’s Evo-Stik Premier League, Peter Jackson was left searching for answers as to how Bradford City will be able to break down teams in the forthcoming Division 4 campaign.

Never Forget

About a year ago, John Dewhirst, David Pendleton and John Ashton (apologies if I’ve missed other people out) started to hatch a plan to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Bradford City winning the FA Cup. All of their hard work came to fruition on the exact date 100 years after our most famous victory over Newcastle United in an FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford. Over 200 people packed one of the many function rooms at the Midland Hotel to come together as one. John Dewhirst stressed that this was a supporters evening and the organisers were very aware of the difficult financial pressures faced by many of Bradford City’s supporters today and that they had tried to offer tickets at an affordable price of £25 for the evening which included a three course meal. In my opinion, the evening was worth every penny.

The presentation of the room was classy yet professional with claret and amber very prominent colours throughout the room. The Gawthorpe Brass Band played their instruments to great effect to generate an emotional atmosphere on an emotional night. Apart from the many supporters in the room (many of whom could probably remember games from the 70s and even further back), others present included past players such as Ian Cooper and Joe Cooke, former player and manager Terry Dolan, members of our existing Board and even a descendant of Peter Logan who formed part of the 1911 winning team.

In his opening speech, you could hear the pride in John Dewhirst’s voice as he thanked everyone for attending. He did however pass on apologies from Stuart McCall and Greg Abbott who at the last minute couldn’t attend. However, this didn’t takeaway the gloss from a wonderful evening. It was noticeable however that there were none of the existing team present or interim manager Peter Jackson which I thought was disappointing. A friend of mine who attended the dinner had managed to see the Bradford City juniors draw 2-2 on the same afternoon over in Hull. (Apparently we were 2-0 down with 15 minutes to go but we salvaged a draw through some inspired play from up and coming winger Dominic Rowe.) My friend asked David Wetherall if he had inspired our junior team with a half time team talk highlighting the fact the it was 100 years to the day that our club won the FA Cup.

Unfortunately, Wetherall replied “no” and said that he would have liked to have attended the evening if he’d been aware of it. This says to me that our existing team and management were unaware of the the importance of 26 April 1911 and the event taking place at the Midland Hotel. This notion saddened me and highlighted the poor communication that exists between the players and supporters today.

However, not to paint a gloomy picture of a fabulous evening, we tucked into our three course meal with many of us enjoying the fine Glorious1911 Ale brewed by the Saltaire brewery with sales from the ale being donated to the Bradford Burns Unit. During the meal it was great to talk to fellow Bradford City supporters about all things City related. A couple on our table now lived in Kendal but still have season tickets to attend games at Valley Parade and also told tales of their away game experiences. I got the feeling that those of us who were fortunate enough to pay for a ticket all hold Bradford City close to our hearts and wanted to ensure that our FA Cup victory should not be forgotten. History is important. It was great to see die hards like Mike Harrison, Mark Neale and Board members of the Bradford City Supporters’ Trust in attendance.

The meal over and David Pendleton, author of the superb book Glorious 1911 explained some of the tales behind our famous victory like how the replay was played only four days after the final at Crystal Palace so only about 10,000 Bradford City supporters travelled to Manchester for the replay owing to financial constraints placed on supporters (sound familiar?). Also, owing to the fact that there were no floodlights meant that the replay kicked off mid-afternoon. The victorious team, thanks to Jimmy Speirs goal after 15 minutes, arrived back into Bradford in the evening to be greeted by about 100,000 Bradfordians. This represented about a third of the City’s population and it took the team about 45 minutes to cross the city and finally end up at the Midland Hotel. John Ashton replicated speeches that were made on that evening of 100 years ago and you could hear the sportsmanship that existed in the speeches that by and large is no longer in our game.

John Dewhirst then presented a cheque for £5,000 to Professor Sharpe who has been so instrumental in the development of the Bradford Burns Unit. This money had come from the sales of historical memorabilia including scarfs and badges. Ian Cooper then made a toast to suitably round off a wonderful evening.

Following the formalities, this young(-ish) supporter who only witnessed his first Bradford City game at Valley Parade in 1988 approached some of the former players to sign his copy of Glorious 1911. All who I approached were more than happy to sign and came across as genuine people who still have an affinity with Bradford City Football Club. Many posed for photographs and chatted to supporters which was lovely to see. Once again, a personal thank you from me to all those who put so much unpaid time and effort into a memorable night. We must never forget where this football club has come from.

Not feeling welcome

Who else made the trip to the Weston Homes Community Stadium last Saturday for the FA Cup 1st round game against Colchester United?

I imagine that a large proportion of the people in the away section were southern based Bradford City supporters. Did any of you feel unwelcome at this game? I certainly did. It wasn’t the behaviour of the home supporters or the stewards though.

It was the fact that this newish stadium which was opened in 2008 is very isolated on the northern edge of Colchester. The options that you have are to pre-book a car parking space at the ground for which you pay £6, or you can use a park and ride scheme.

My friend and I arrived in plenty of time and having done our homework on the location of the ground and the facilities. This was essential as we ended up having a 25 minute walk from where we parked the car to get to the ground. I don’t mind walking but it was as we approached the stadium that I felt uneasy and not welcome.

Stewards and notices were located at the end of roads near to the ground making me feel like we shouldn’t have made the long journey from Yorkshire. I can understand the local residents not wanting people parking at the end of their driveways and thus blocking access to their house but the “tactics” used weren’t very hospitable. This 25 minute walk made the walk to the New Meadow in Shrewsbury on the opening day of the season feel like a hop, skip and a jump. (People who have been to the New Meadow will understand what I mean.)

Once at the ground we were then greeted with a barcode operating system to enter the ground; no turnstile operator although the steward on the other side of the turnstile was friendly enough. However, even this faceless barcode entry system niggled me. It reminded me of the self scan checkouts that you now find in a supermarket.

I suppose this is a sign of our ever changing society but what has happened to good old face to face communication? (Do I sound like a grumpy old man?)

Maybe Colchester United should have stayed at their old site at Layer Road? At least you could get a good pint at the nearby CAMRA award winning Donkey & Buskins. As for these new grounds, they just feel lifeless and in some cases unwelcoming.

Perplexed

Picture the scene; it’s 9.45pm on Tuesday 28 September and the game between Rotherham United and Bradford City concludes. The 600 or so City supporters rise to their feet and applaud the Bradford City players despite their team failing to score in yet another league game.

The reality is that Rotherham United are still unbeaten at home in the league this season whilst Bradford City are still to win an away league game this season. So why the applause from the City faithful? Well, going into the game, it was quite possible that our team could be propping up the football league.

However, a determined team performance ensures that City gain a precious point and climb one place to 21st in Division 4. It doesn’t sound glamorous but the City supporters appreciated the effort shown by all of the players who played at the Don Valley Stadium. To me, this shows that at whatever level of football, if the players show effort and commitment, then most supporters will appreciate their efforts.

It was interesting to see that Shane Duff, Steve Williams and Luke O’Brien were three of the City players who walked towards the City faithful at Don Valley after the game to return the applause to the supporters. For me, these three City defenders put in solid performances. O’Brien is enjoying one of his best runs in the first team whilst Duff and Williams are forming a strong partnership at the heart of City’s defence.

Williams was my man of the match and I believe that he has the potential to be as good as Dean Richards. At one point, Williams was beaten in the tackle but did he give up? No – he won the football back and dribbled it out of defence before playing an intelligent but simple pass to a colleague.

So, why am I typing further notes from the away game at Rotherham United when Jason has already produced yet another quality match report? Well, because today I read that our club has signed two Manchester United reserve players on loan for a month. I am perplexed.

The back five last night played well and it’s no coincidence that this good defensive performance occurred with the absence of Hunt, Oliver and Threlfall. (I know, Oliver played up front again and I’ll come to that matter in a bit.) I am all in favour of Peter Taylor remaining as our manager for many seasons to come. But with our poor start to the season I can understand why supporters are muttering that Taylor doesn’t know what he is doing. And I have to agree with that to a degree.

It will be interesting to see who starts at the weekend in the vital game against Morecambe. For me, if Taylor doesn’t start with the same five players who played in defence against Rotherham United, there will be plenty of already frustrated people whispering negative comments inside Valley Parade on Saturday afternoon. I simply do not understand why Brown and Gill have joined us for one month. Surely, if we are going to sign a couple of loan players, we need some forward players who can score goals.

Four goals in our first nine league games does not read well for us City supporters. We all know that Hanson is injured and Evans is lacking in confidence although his second half performance at Don Valley showed some signs of improvement. Speight, for me, despite not scoring yet for us, has been our best striker so far this season.

I’ve read comments both in support and against playing Luke Oliver up front. For me, I do not like playing players out of position and this includes starting with tall defenders playing up front. Maybe if you are chasing the game with 10 minutes to go, take a chance and throw a tall player up front. But, we shouldn’t be starting with Oliver up front. Unfortunately, Oliver is a Taylor signing and I fear that he will continue to start up front until Hanson fit again. And then, when Hanson is fit, do not be surprised if we see Oliver starting in the heart of our defence with one of the two Manchester United loan signings.

I am supportive of both the Bradford City management and players. However, if the Manchester United loan signings start against Morecambe and Oliver starts up front, I will not be happy. However, I will not be booing the players but I will be questioning Taylor’s judgement.

Disillusioned

The World Cup evokes so many happy (and not so happy) memories. Some of my first memories are from the 1982 tournament hosted in Spain. I collected the Panini stickers, remember Bryan Robson (who’d have thought that he’d go on to manage Bradford City?) scoring inside the opening minute against France, my dad telling me that the hosts had been beaten by Northern Ireland, David Narey scoring a belter against Brazil (although Scotland still lost to Brazil) and Italy beating Brazil in an absolute classic game.

Roll on four years to Mexico 1986. England make an awful start and only qualify for the second round following an inspired performance by Peter Beardsley against Poland. Most people will tell you that it was Lineker’s hat-trick against Poland that got us past the first round but Beardsley was superb against Poland. Then we all remember Maradona’s hand of God goal and his amazing goal verses England in the quarter finals.

For me, Italia 1990 brings back the best World Cup memories; probably because we progressed to the semi finals but also because I’d finished my A-levels that year and the summer of 1990 was carefree. I have vivid memories of half dozen school mates piling round to one of my parent’s mates house (I still attend Bradford City games with him after all these years) to watch the second round game verses Belgium. What a nerve wrecker – there we were expecting penalties when up steps Gascoigne and that now famous commentary “…and chipped in and volleyed in and it’s there by David Platt, and England have done it in the last minute of extra time!” Superb! There we all were in a wild heap on the floor hugging each other whilst Waddle (who’d have thought that he’d go on and play for Bradford City?) and Butcher did a dance on the pitch. Then we had Lineker’s two penalties to squeeze past Cameroon in the quarter finals before Pearce and Waddle failed to score against West Germany in the penalty shoot in the semi finals. And all of this backed by, in my opinion, the greatest football anthem “World in Motion” by New Order.

Obviously England didn’t qualify for USA 1994 but I’m sure that we all remember Michael Owen’s wonder goal against Argentina in France 1998 and Beckham’s penalty in the 2002 World Cup to gain sweet revenge against Argentina following his sending off in France 1998 against the same team.

Lots of people are excited about the prospect of the 2010 World Cup commencing this Friday with the hosts South Africa entertaining Mexico in the opening game of the tournament. However, at the moment the prospect of the World Cup isn’t sending me into waves of emotion at all. (My wife thinks that I’m ill.)

Why is this?

  1. I’m completely disillusioned with Capello and his team selection. Why did he not pick a naturally left sided midfielder in his 23 man squad? We’ve experienced it before when the left side of midfield has been a problematic position for England. It’s a shame that we don’t have a Waddle or a Barnes. If Capello thinks that he can play Lampard and Gerrard in central midfield together, it won’t win us the World Cup. Erikkson tried the two of them together and it didn’t work then. I hope that I’m wrong about Capello but I don’t think that we will win the World Cup in South Africa. I think that it was Mike Ingham whilst commentating on the recent friendly game against Mexico who said something along the lines of “In Little Britain style, I don’t like it” when referring to Gerrard playing on the left side of midfield.
  2. I’m fed up with players being over paid. Infact, Deloitte has produced a report which shows that Premier League clubs spent £1.3bn on players wages during the 2008/2009 season. This is shocking. I also believe that some players have the wrong attitude and are too arrogant including some of the 23 players who have been picked to play for England in South Africa.
  3. Every advert, whether it’s on television or radio, at the moment is based around football. It drives me crackers.
  4. The hype that surrounds the whole tournament. It’s like Christmas with the event being “bigged up” months before the actual event. It’s all to do with money and is so commercial. The romance seems to be draining away from what is meant to be the biggest and greatest sporting event on earth.

I’m sounding like Victor Meldrew; a grumpy old man. Hopefully, when the tournament finally begins, my cynicism will disappear and my emotions will kick in. But for now, the most important day during the World Cup is 17 June when Bradford City’s fixtures come out and we can plan our trip to the Lamex Stadium!

Good things come to those who wait

Which Bradford City player was never on the losing side during the 2008/2009 season and the 2009/2010 season? I’m sure that plenty of people reading this article will know that the correct answer is Jon McLaughlin.

The former Harrogate Railway Athletic and Harrogate Town goalkeeper was signed by Stuart McCall in the summer of 2008. When he was signed, I imagine that he knew that he wasn’t going to be the first choice keeper. However, at the age of just 17, who wouldn’t take the opportunity to sign for a league club averaging over 11,000 for home games? As the 2008/2009 season drew to a close and it became clearer that Rhys Evans wasn’t going to be a Bradford City player for the 2009/2010 season, McLaughlin was given his league debut at Saltergate. City won the game 2-0 in the Derbyshire sunshine and whilst the City supporters probably knew that day that Rory Boulding wouldn’t become a City legend, McLaughlin gave an assured performance without putting a foot wrong.

Having made a winning start to his Bradford City career and keeping a clean sheet, McLaughlin then played for Great Britain in the World Student Games in Serbia. Although Great Britain didn’t win the tournament, McLaughlin kept three clean sheets in five games. He had now signed another one year deal at Valley Parade but McCall made it clear that McLaughlin wasn’t going to be the first choice keeper again. McCall signed Simon Eastwood on loan from Huddersfield Town and he kept McLaughlin out of the City first team until his loan spell came to an end at the end of 2009. Despite Eastwood being a hero in the JPT victories against Notts County and Port Vale with his heroics in the penalty shoot outs, many City supporters (me included) felt that McCall could have given McLaughlin a chance before Eastwood returned to Huddersfield Town.

McLaughlin had to be patient again and his first start for the 2009/2010 season didn’t arrive until early 2010 when we played Cheltenham Town at home. In a game which we drew 1-1, the Cheltenham goal came from a penalty which McLaughlin almost kept out. City were also down to 10 men in this game after Steve Williams was sent off. Again, McCall raided Huddersfield Town and Matt Glennon arrived on loan. Glennon looked more composed than Eastwood. But again there were mutterings amongst the City supporters asking why we had a goalkeeper on loan when McLaughlin was keeping the substitutes bench very warm.

Fast forward to April 2010, Peter Taylor is now our manager, and imagine my surprise when I arrive at Burton Albion to find Jon McLaughlin starting for City. Burton played very well in that match with their two centre forwards Harrad and Pearson causing the City defence plenty of problems. Indeed, Burton were awarded a penalty in the first half and up steps Pearson. Unlike the Cheltenham game, McLaughlin is able to kept out the penalty and chants of “one Jon McLaughlin” echo from the City supporters stood behind McLaughlin’s goal. The fact that the game finishes 1-1 is largely down to McLaughlin who makes several top class saves.

Peter Taylor shows his faith in the young City stopper and McLaughlin plays again at home to play off chasing Morecambe. Like the away game at Chesterfield last season, City win the game 2-0. However, McLaughlin is busier in this game than the one at Saltergate and more people are asking why didn’t he get his chance earlier on this season when Eastwood appeared to be low on confidence.

McLaughlin ended up playing the final six games of the 2009/2010 season which saw City gain 14 points with four wins and two draws. Like Donovan Ricketts who had to be patient whilst Paul Henderson had his one good season with City, McLaughlin has had to wait for his chance. However, he has grabbed his opportunity with both hands and hopefully will have a long and successful career with Bradford City.

As well as showing all the signs of a good goalkeeper, the one thing that sticks in my mind about McLaughlin is the way that he went up to Simon Eastwood at half time in the away match at Shrewsbury Town back in September 2009. Eastwood had played well in that first half making some notable saves but he was also involved in a nasty collision with the then Shrewsbury player Nathan Elder. At half time, as Eastwood was walking across the pitch at the New Meadow, McLaughlin embraced (in a friendly way) Eastwood. I don’t know what was said by McLaughlin to Eastwood, but to me this shows that McLaughlin is a team player. For a person who is still only 19 years old, he shows great maturity. Let’s hope that the 2010/2011 season is a happy and rewarding season for Jon McLaughlin.

Square pegs in round holes

Just as Fabio Capello faces the decision about playing Frank Lampard in the England midfield with Steven Gerrard, Peter Taylor faces the decision of who to play up front for Bradford City. With the recent departures of Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding along with James Hanson being injured, this task has been made harder. Today at Burton Albion, he opted to play the lanky defender Luke Oliver up front on his own. He was occasionally joined by the hard working Gareth Evans and Gavin Grant. But this for me was the wrong choice as the first half produced very few attacking moves from Bradford City with too many long hopeful balls pumped forward which the Burton defence dealt with easily. Infact the home defence was superbly marshalled by their centre back James. With Bradford playing a 4-5-1 formation, we had an extra man in midfield but both Bolder and O’Leary sat too deep (a role performed well by Bullock) whilst the Burton midfield passed the football well. The former Scunthorpe winger Cleveland Taylor was a constant menace to Threlfall who was eventually booked in the second half.

The fact that the half time score was 0-0 was largely down to the excellent display by Jon McLaughlin who was making only his third appearance for Bradford City. He made several good saves including one from the Burton striker Harrad. After O’Leary tripped a Burton player, McLaughlin then guessed correctly diving to his left to keep out Pearson’s penalty. Chants of “one Jon McLaughlin” echoed from the away supporters. How nice to hear for a player who has had to be patient for his opportunities.

McLaughlin continued his fine display in the second half keeping the score at 0-0. Then on the hour mark, the ineffective Grant produced his one moment of decent play and following his mazy dribble the ball eventually found it’s way to Oliver’s head and he calmly looped the ball over Krysiak and into the Burton goal. So Bradford led 1-0 which was an injustice on the Burton side who had been the better team.

However, with time running out, the Burton left back and former Derby player, Boertien (who was named man of the match by the Burton stadium announcer) broke down their left and crossed for the impressive Harrad to score a deserved equaliser.

By this time, Luke O’Brien had replaced the ineffective O’Leary and Jamie O’Brien had replaced the poor performing Grant. The two O’Brien’s added more purpose to the City midfield. Indeed Jamie O’Brien showed his battling qualities by chasing down what seemed like a lost cause in the closing minutes of the game. This resulted in him dispossessing a Burton defender and delivering a cross which unfortunately went over Oliver’s head. And so the game finished 1-1.

A special mention goes to Zesh Rehman for a better display from him although he was playing in his more familiar role of centre back today rather than right back. However, an improved performance in the second half by Bradford City could not hide the fact of how poor we were in the first half. It’s not Luke Oliver’s fault that he is being asked to play up front. However, I hope that Taylor, who apparently mingled with the City supporters an hour before the game which is nice to hear, opts for a 4-4-2 formation on Tuesday night against Morecambe with a recognised striker operating alongside Gareth Evans. Maybe we might even see Oliver Forsyth who has been scoring plenty of goals for the youth team this season under the watchful eye of David Wetherall.

Now there’s another round peg for a round hole!

Smash and grab at Torquay

When the fixtures for the 2009/2010 season were published last June, myself and some fellow Bradford City supporters highlighted Torquay away on 30 January 2010 as a game that we’d go as Plainmoor was a ground that none of us had visited before. So the 30th January started at 7am with myself and three friends leaving West Yorkshire to travel south towards Devon. It was nice that one of the other three lads offered to drive as I’d driven us to Exeter last season. By 9.15am we were in a Tesco cafe, just off the M42, eating an eight item English breakfast with free toast. Our driver was happy as he was the only one with a Tesco Clubcard so he collected all of the points (which is was what we were hoping for come 4.55pm that afternoon).

After a relatively easy journey down the M5, we arrived in Torquay just after 12.30pm. After checking into our accommodation, the four of us met the fifth member of our group who had travelled by train from Maidenhead. We headed towards the town centre but after speaking with other City supporters and some of the locals, we decided to get a taxi to the ground. As we had to wait 20 minutes for a taxi, it was into The Clocktower pub for a swift pint. So, onto Plainmoor and after visiting their excellent social bar, Boots and Laces, we finally went through the turnstile at about 2.59pm. My initial estimation for the away following was about 300 although I’d not realised until the final whistle that there were some City supporters sat in a small section of the main stand.

So we all started to point out who was in the staring eleven and it soon came to light that McCall had decided to opt for a 4-5-1 formation with Michael Boulding as the lone striker. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Torquay scored following a corner which was only half cleared to the Torquay defender Robertson who struck a neat right foot shot to the delight of the home supporters. The remainder of the first half seemed to go very quickly and we played far too many long balls which were the wrong tactics with such a small man playing upfront on his own.

Credit to McCall and Jacobs though as the ineffective Brandon was taken off along with the unsure looking Williams (I have to say that I thought that Williams was brilliant when he first came into the team and I hope that he can re-discover his early season form) at half time and they were replaced by Gareth Evans and Zesh Rehman. We reverted to a 4-4-2 formation and although Torquay started the second half brightly with captain for the day Ramsden clearing off the line, we slowly began to get a foothold in the game. Daley started to get more possession of the ball and as a team we started to realise that we had to get the ball into wide positions if we were going to cause the Torquay defence any problems. A point should be made about the referee, Mr East, who seemed to get numerous decisions wrong. An example for me was when he booked the Torquay striker Zebroski for time wasting when he infact passed the ball back to Luke O’Brien for a throw in.

With about 15 minutes remaining, McCall finally brought Thorne on who had been warming up for about 20 minutes. Off went Neilson so we now had Thorne, Evans, Boulding and Daley on the pitch. And about five minutes after Thorne coming on, we equalised when Evans scored his first goal since November following a corner taken by Ramsden. At this point in the match, I think that most City supporters would have settled for a point which was probably slightly harsh on Torquay. However, there was one final sting in the tale in the four minutes of added on time when Thorne flicked on a Ramsden free kick and there was Evans from about three yards out to score his second goal of the match and send the City supporters inside the ground into ecstasy!

When Mr East blew his whistle to indicate the end of the match myself and four friends were shell-shocked. I don’t think that any of us could believe that we had actually won the match having played so poorly in the first half and been outplayed for the first part of the second half. We just stood on the mini terrace applauding the players and then watched as the City supporters exited the ground. McLaughlan and a couple of the other subs were now on the otherwise empty pitch going through their exercises so I decided to chant “there’s only one John McLaughlan” much to the amusement of my four friends and I think to McLaughlan himself.

So, an evening was spent in Torquay consuming a curry in the rather good Maha-Bharat and talking about how we got three points over a pint or two of the excellent Otter beer in the recommended Hole in the Wall pub.

Togetherness

The six minutes of injury time at the end of the second half seemed to last forever but when the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the game there was much relief in the away end where about 500 Bradford City supporters had cheered their team on to their fourth consecutive victory. The players and management team approached the City faithful and responded to the applauds from their supporters at the end of the game. Michael Flynn, scorer of City’s second goal even had a kiss for his good lady (I assume it was his wife) who was in the away end.

The key characteristic to this fine 2-1 win was the togetherness shown by the City team. This was especially displayed by substitute goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin who put his arm around current first choice keeper Simon Eastwood as he walked off at half time following a nasty collision with ex-Brentford striker Nathan Elder. Indeed there were chants of “there’s only one Simon Eastwood” from the away supporters which has certainly not been heard at Valley Parade yet following his loan move from Huddersfield Town. However, Eastwood produced a couple of excellent saves in the first half including one in the opening few minutes from an Elder header, when the home team started strongly.

City scored with virtually their first attack of the game on the quarter hour mark and it owed alot to the impressive Flynn who out fought Shrewsbury captain and ex-Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday player Graham Coughlan to the ball. Flynn having won the ball crossed from the right and Gareth Evans was there to produce a clinical finish to put Bradford one up. This goal seemed to settle the Bradford players down with Jamie O’Brien and Lee Bullock playing well in midfield. With about ten minutes of the first half remaining, City doubled their lead thanks to a wonder strike from Flynn. He was about 25 yards out when he unleashed a long range shot which gave the Shrewsbury goalkeeper, Phillips who was making his home debut, no chance with a goal that would have been shown a dozen times on Match of the Day if it had been scored in the top flight. This goal will hopefully banish those memories of the saved penalty kick in the Lincoln home game.

City went in at half time 2-0 up and although we had played some good football, we were probably fortunate to be two goals up. Like the first half, Shrewsbury started the second half stronger although Flynn produced another long range effort which Phillips was equal to this time and tipped the ball over for a corner. Shrewsbury continued to press forward and hit the woodwork. However, just when you thought that it could be City’s day, up popped ex-City loanee striker Hibbert who scored with a glancing header to reduce the arrears. At this point, there were mutterings in the away end and you thought that City might throw away a two goal lead. However, the defence stood firm with Rehman, who was injured in a clash of heads with Hibbert, continuing to develop his partnership with Steve Williams. The former non-league player is getting better with every game that he plays and although it is still very early on in his City career, Williams is looking very assured in his play and reminds me of Dean Richards.

As the game progressed in to the final stages, Simpson saw his shot hit the woodwork as the City goal led a charmed life. However, it would have been harsh on the Bradford players who showed plenty of determination and periods of neat passing to come away with only a point. We’re only six games into this season but who would have predicted that a City team without Thorne, Michael Boulding and Brandon would come away from the New Meadow with three points?

The Bradford City management team deserve a lot of credit for spotting the potential in players such as Ramsden, Williams, Neilson, Flynn, Jamie O’Brien, Hanson and Evans. I’m not getting carried away, indeed I predicted a mid-table finish for us this season before a ball had been kicked, but it’s so good to see these young and hungry players starting to form a strong unit.

No football for us but plenty for others

On a day when the team who finished in the top 10 of Division 4 with the worst goal difference gets promoted to Division 3, we, the Bradford City supporters can only think of what might have been if our form had been better in March. Well done to Gillingham for beating Shrewsbury Town 1-0 in the play-off final. We can only think back to 1996 and our 2-0 play-off final victory over Notts County.

At this time of the year when we have no Bradford City matches to go and watch, what else is going on in the world of football? Well, I’m sure that many of you who have taken the effort to read this article will know that our club has offered professional contracts to Rory Carson, Luke Dean and Lewis Horne. I must confess that I know very little about this trio of players but it will be interesting to see if any of them make their first team debut during the 2009/2010 season. Most supporters love to see a home-grown player forcing their way into the first team so lets hope that at least one of these three players can follow the like of Dean Richards, Graeme Tomlinson, Andy O’Brien, Joe Colbeck and Luke O’Brien.

An article has already featured on this website about Colin Todd taking charge at Darlington but now a player who could have been securing Hull City’s Division 1 status tomorrow is now been linked with a move to Darlington. Dean Windass could be a player-coach at Darlington next season. We are all aware of Dean’s love of playing football and following his loan spell at Oldham Athletic earlier on this season and now been unable to play for his beloved Hull City, Windass is looking to continue his playing career else where.

Whilst Windass has the relevant qualifications to manage in Divisions 2, 3 and 4, there will be two unqualified managers tomorrow trying to save their teams from relegation into Division 2. Much has been written about Alan Shearer taking over at Newcastle but why was he allowed to when he doesn’t have the relevant qualifications? I also believe that Gareth Southgate will have completed his relevant coaching qualifications but not until after the season has finished. Why do the supposed people who govern our game allow clubs to break the rules?

Speaking of breaking the rules, I’m sure that there are plenty of Sheffield United supporters who haven’t forgot about Carlos Tevez and West Ham. If Sheffield United can overcome Burnley with former Bantam Robbie Blake, on Bank Holiday Monday, I bet that the first fixtures they will be looking out for are the two against West Ham. But don’t count against our neighbours from over the Pennines. Whatever your thoughts are on Burnley, you have to say that for a town with a population of about 73,000, they attract fantastic support. It’s hard to imagine that this famous Lancashire club nearly slipped out of the football league 22 years ago. But Burnley beat Leyton Orient 2-1 and Lincoln City slipped into non-league football.

So as we, the Bradford City supporters can only watch the various play-off finals, find out if Hull City can preserve their top-flight status at the expense of two North-east clubs and see if David Moyes’s Everton can overcome the cash-rich Chelsea in the FA cup final, other supporters have much to look forward to over the next week or so.

Recent Posts