Nicky Law with a wry smile

For as long as there has been a BfB Bradford City has been a club about balance between three elements: The Chairman, The Manager and the Players.

The Chairman is and always has been Geoffrey Richmond. For a time he held total power over the club. The Summer of 2000 saw Richmond virtually in total control at Valley Parade with a manager who seemed uninterested in signing players following one who simply did not want to add to his squad, honourable intentions for Mr Jewell back then who, unlike Jim Jefferies, did not want to bring a player in only to bog off a month later.

The manager’s at VP in recent years have varied in power. Chris Kamara’s grew too much and it is rumoured that that is why he got the chop. Paul Jewell had some but failed to use it. Chris Hutchings was powerless, Jim Jefferies seemed to think he should be given power over the entire club, something that no team allows its manager in this day and age.

Nicky Law will enjoy the sort of power that Paul Jewell started with at Valley Parade. His is Richmond’s anointed son and like Jewell he is one that not many in Bradford would have selected but like Jewell he has impressed when working in difficult conditions. Chesterfield won promotion twice last season following the nine point deductions and sanctions just as PJ showed his metal at City in the weeks after the league had been given up and he would now allow the players to coast out the fixtures.

In selecting Law Geoffrey Richmond has reverted to his post-Lennie Lawrence philosophy on football managers, that there importance is limited. Without wanted to play down the involvement of Jewell and Kamara in there successes too much it would seem that Richmond believes that a successful manager is only successful because of a wider achievement by the club at all levels. Jim Jeffries, it would seem, was no more needed in the First Division than Benito Carbone was. If the club is going in the right direction then all involved: players and manager, seem to perform well. If not then they become expensive luxuries.

It is an open secret that the feeling at VP toward Jim Jefferies is one of great disappointment. They believed that in appointing a “proper” manager who had experience at a higher level and “the nouse” in the game they would get something approaching a Carbone on the bench, someone who could add a little spice to turn draws into wins and would get a little extra from there charges. What they got was Carbone on the bench. It does not take a highly paid manager with respect in the game to tell you that the expensive Romanian on the wing who does nothing is not worth keeping and if that is going to be the sum positive of his involvement then why not go for another cheaper man who will be able to do lat least that.

Jim Jefferies looked on City as a curse, Nicky Law sees us as a God send. Perhaps after a 0-0 draw with Coventry we would not have to suffer Nicky Law downbeat on Five Live sounding like his car has a flat tyre Jefferies style. Perhaps Law will have the enthusiasm of a man with a chance to better himself, not one who is slumming it, which was the vibe that Jeffries exuded.

Perhaps in final reckoning of Jim Jefferies and as a way t point to why Nicky Law if not a better football manager, may be a better City manager, was that Jefferies attitude to the job transferred itself to the pitch. If Jim had an escape route planned, as he seemed to think he had and hinted at once or twice, then the players could follow. If Nicky Law messes this up the only way is down.

In other managers in the same situation as laws, those elevated from the lower leagues, there is hope. John Gregory was doing nothing at Wycombe when Doug Ellis swooped to take him to Villa where he seemed to perform minor miracles considering the apathy of the west midland’s crowd. Sam Ayladyce has learnt his lessons in football the hard way, one doubts that any Bolton programme would include directions to Wembley during a semi final now, but wins over Liverpool and at Old Trafford suggest that he has learnt those lessons well. George Burley at Colchester, Glenn Roeder at Gillingham. Dave Jones at Stockport and Stan Ternant all over the place. All are doing well and suggest that to a certain level the need for former Internationals who have never dirtied their hands in the lower leagues might be alive. How Law will motivate a Lee Sharpe or should he come back a Benito Carbone is anyone’s guess, but if Glenn Roeder can get a team with Paulo Di Canio and Freddy Kannute playing then anything is possible. John Gregory’s treatment of the once great Frenchman David Ginola may be a better indication of the future under Nicky Law. Shape up or ship out, not a message that will be disheartening to city fans, who are especially distasteful of players who do not give there all.

The third in the triumberate of the Bantams is the players. For a time the players power manifested itself in Benito Carbone, but for the main Stuart McCall lead those who wear the claret and amber. McCall flexed his muscles of later and Jim Jefferies seemed to pay the price. It would never be easy for the Scots manager to carry on after the McCall bust up and Nicky Law would be well advised to make sure that Stuart is kept sweet. Aside from the fact that any team picked from the City squad that does not include McCall is plain wrong, the skipper is more than worth his place in the side on his own performances, the extra he adds to those around him being a superb bonus and the model for all captains, the supporters would prefer to see McCall kicking a ball for the Bantams as long as he wants to and not have his career cut short by a manager.

For McCall the position seems clear. He must play out the last months of his City contract and then find a club to manage. In a year’s time after that Nicky Law will have either succeeded or failed with the Bantams, GR’s fuse running to 18 months at best, and McCall can send a justifiable application for the role. If Law is successful, and here is hoping he will be, then McCall will have to wait longer but no doubt the chance will come and Stuart had better be ready.

Nicky Law said the Bradford City job was a chance that he feared would never come. He has served an apprenticeship garnered enough respect to bring him to the notice of a bigger club. If Stuart McCall has hopes of managing the Bantams he must do the same.

Not that this should affect Law any. His role at City now is clear. He must spend the next four months getting to know the players, he is spoil for quality at this club and is right when he talks of underachievement, and he must get them playing attacking football, not leaking goals and towards the top ten of the division. Should he do that the Winter War Chest that Jim Jefferies could not find the keys to will be opened for him to make a small signing or two to make a play off push for the Bantams.

If not then Mr Richmond has proved that a manager is replaceable.

Something Sharpey stirs

When I was a kid, I mean a younger kid, I wanted to be Lee Sharpe.

Not that I was a Man U fan or anything, I started at the Bantams at 1991 and cemented myself as a City fan after following from Grandstand’s vidiprinter before that, but there was something about the way the young Sharpe went from Torquay to whooping Arsenal in the League Cup for the that appealled to me. I’d try mimic his tucked in run and sidestep, to some effect.

That all faded with the onset of puberty and the transfer to Leeds but I still have a glint of affection for Sharpe, affection that colours my view of someone who has been a poor performer for the Bantams for the past few years. I stuck up for him because of old loyalties.

But something is happening to Sharpey, something strange.

After three years of in out displays, or patchy football, of promising (me only perhaps) much but delivering next to nothing, Lee Sharpe is looking good.

Not good in the same way Benito Carbone looks good, just because he is, but good as in focused, good as in like he gives a damn.

Sharpe is eyeing Gareth Whalley’s place on the inside of midfield, left hand side. Like John Barnes he wants to turn his leftwingism into a more solid role anchoring, spraying a pass, feeding the ball. People who have only been watching Lee in claret and amber would rule out any chance of him converting from ineffectual shurker to quality and quantity ball player but those who saw him terrorise right backs in the early 90s might pause and think.

Lee Sharpe was brilliant, and not just in a City way but in a good enough to play for England way. If that talent comes back, and perhaps Jim Jefferies is the man to dredge it back out, then the final chapter in the career of Lee Sharpe may not have been written and City may have found a cracking player where previously there had been a crack.

And at least one City fan will be able to say that they never gave up on the guy.

Are City the real deal?

The papers were full of it, “OK 4-0, but don’t think this makes you any good”.

It seems that the boys of the press are sticking by the mid-table, 10th, bottom half, probably not go down predictions that they had tagged City with despite the thumping of Barnsley on the first day. No surprises there. The paper don’t need a memory, if they had one they might ask why the man who they said would not be at the club at Christmas if things were going bad scored an overhead kick for us in division one.

But the question remains. Are City the real deal or is this just opening day delight before the averageness that awaits?

Personally I thought City looked a class above Barnsley and I did not think Barnsley looked that bad. The discipline that saw Gareth Whalley on the goal line to clear Kevin Gallen’s shot just after Ashley Ward had scored his first penalty was the best example of what City have got and the other sides have not. Barnsley attacked pretty well, but defensively they and a lot of other teams in the division are a shambles.

David Wetherall, Robert Molenaar and on his day Andy Myers are good enough to get into any back four in this league but there is more to it than that. City are post-war London. The blitz has gone but the spirit is still there. The oneness that repelled some very good teams for the past two years is a sponge for the Nationwide league’s better forwards.

Whoever the members of the back four are, now that the cursed Ian Nolan has gone, will not matter because the motto and the mindset will be the same. For all the headlines of Benito Carbone’s overheads or Ash Ward’s Man of the Match display, its at the back that City separated themselves from Barnsley.

So if you are going to stay strong at the back and your forwards are likely to create you something, and lets face it Carbone, Ward, Blake, Jess et al are all creative Peter Beardsleys before they are deadly Gary Linekers.

The next 45 games are going to tell us if City are the real deal or not, but yesterday should have seen the guys at the papers reassessing the Bantams. They have us pegged as a Watford, bounced out of the Premiership with tails between our legs, but we had confidence build up by the solid back end to the season (Leeds excepted). It will take winning until March before they sit up and take notice of us on Fleet Street.

Recent Posts