Robson is a good call but he has a bit of the Jefferies about him

Robson has too much of the Jefferies about him for me

Bryan Robson is the new City boss and he is a good City boss I’m not sure I’d have picked him if I were Gordon Gibb.

Robson is a good boss. He did some good stuff and some bad stuff at Middlesbrough and he assistant Terry Venebles at England during Euro96. He got Middlesbrough to Wembley and the Premiership twice and more amazingly he managed to get some of the World’s most impressive players to the grotty Hell hole of Middlesbrough. If Luis Figo ended up in Manningham I would not be at all surprised. Robson must have used the Jedi mind trick when he convince Christian and Adriana Karembeu to live in the dark smog City.

If Bryan Robson comes to City in the save tidal wave of euphoria he had at the start of his Boro career and at the start of his first season in the Premiership with Boro we will be doing great.

If he does not, that is another matter.

Robson is more than a chequebook manager but he used the Boro chequebook to get himself out of trouble more than once and he is, after all, the man who signed Alan Boksic for for £63,000 a week. Likewise Robson is more than just a sick them on the field boss. His tactics at Boro were much more flexible than churning out the same 442 every week in an attempt to copy what goes on at Old Trafford.

On all these points Robson is good. What he lacks, for me at least, is the drive. He doesn’t need this.

Nicky Law needed to stay at City, how else would he get £210,000 a year. Ditto Chris Hutchings, Chris Kamara, Paul Jewell etc…

Robson, like Jim Jefferies, can walk away. Robson is a millionaire, he wants to show what he can do as a manager again and I want him to be great but when the going gets tough Robson, like Jefferies before him, can get going. I’m not saying he will I just think that every day he manages will be one fewer on the golf course for him. I compare that to the managers we have had who really had something to prove: The Chris Kamaras and the Paul Jewells and I know which one I prefer.

That aside Robson is the most qualified and experienced man to ever manager this club and let’s make him welcome by making some noise at Valley Parade for a change and show him the good parts of what he has taken on.

The Law debate and polishing the brass on the Titanic

Back in the Geoffrey Richmond: Saint or sinner debate a phrase used to be used. It was sometimes RTG but could be RTS. The final character was not that important, the other two stood for rose-tinted.

The rose-tinted debate raged on the Internet Bantams mailing list and around Bradford for a few years and still bubbles under in all those places now. The idea was that one could look at City two ways. Firstly you could ignore the perceived pillage of Valley Parade and the club’s short route to the dump chute of administration by believing that everything would be all alright and the club was experiencing a dip in form. These people were ostensibly the rose-tinteds.

In opposition them in this sub cultural battle were the self-titled realists who saw everything going to Hell in a handcart and would countenance no call that anything at the club was anything other than incorrigible. These people had seen the future, and it was black.

Post-administration realists departed the field and claimed victory and it was hard to argue that on the whole they had been right about the future of the club come the slide from the Premiership. The club had gone bad and they had said it would. The fact that other developments which flourished were talked on with the same grim attitude mattered not, the prediction was for financial woe and so realists won, even if in the scattershot of the argument phrases like “This club will never produce a good player” were used at a time when Lewis Emanuel and Danny Forrest were pushing into the reserves.

Now the debate on the Clayton Omnibus as well as online is the future of Nicky Law, that he has none specifically, sides are drawn once more down similar lines but – and tellingly – they have swapped sides.

The rose-tinted have looked at Nicky Law and with a gulp of the realism they were encouraged to encompass they state that the problems at City are more than just to do with a manager who has the capacity to cock up tactically and see a shrinking gate, falling sponsorship and the trend of football to hogging the money at the top table of the Premiership and suggest, not unreasonably perhaps, that the last thing we want to do now is rid ourselves of a manager who while curious in some areas has strengths in others in favour of the lucky dip of the positions wanted adds and considering the bad experiences with bosses we have had in the past few years it’s no surprise they have that opinion. It’s realism of a sort.

The other voice coming up is from that camp that used the word realist as a badge. The “realists”, the same people who decried Geoffrey Richmond and called all bad have taken a leap away from reality. To “The Realists” the universal cure all is that once a P45 with the name Nicolas Ulysses Law on it is drawn up then City begin a new, that the weight of football and financial problems pushing down on Valley Parade are lifted by getting a guy who throws on more men fifteen minutes from time. The notion, when said out loud, is almost a definition of looking at a situation with a rose-tint.

So what is the point of all this? The point, dear reader, is this. The state that City are in now is bigger than Nicky Law, Gordon Gibb, the tactics on the field or the fans in the stadium and a change of manager would be largely cosmetic at this point. If changing manager after 18-30 months was the path to success then there would be European Cups at Valley Parade. It never worked in the past, why should it work now?

To use a popular metaphor City are a ship that hit and iceberg in administration and now we are sailing away from it bailing out water for all we are worth. Getting in a new manager would be polishing the brass as we sink.

Why you could stick Law’s contract up your nose

Sacking a manager is the football club equivalent of snorting coke. It’s the instant rush. It’s the adrenaline kick. When you sack a manager you feel like a million bucks.

You get the old gaffer get out of the office he has been stinking up with recent performances and you get to command the back pages. You get to be the man doing things. This is not an attack on Gordon Gibb or any other chairman we have had. When I talk about us sacking a manager I mean everyone at the club from supporter to squad member, from chairman to char lady.

Everyone feels great because you get the heady rush of limitlessness. Show Nicky Law the door and who comes to replace him? The answer is limitless.

Recall sacking Chris Hutchings. Who could replace the manager? We heard Kevin Keegan and we know that Berti Voghts came in for the job and in the end we were all pleased with the top notch Scot Jim Jefferies who would lead us into the thick of the Premiership action with spirit and steel. Reality showed differently but such is the giddy rush of the sack. You got from our own limited manager, and all managers are limited in some way, to having not one but a million potential bosses all of which will deliver the goods if you give them the chance.

Sack Jim Jefferies and Stan Collymore could do great things for you and when Nicky Law was appointed no one really got excited but then again, every one got optimistic.

A new manager will bring in new players of course and they have the same effect as a new manager. Everything will be ok when the new players settle in. Remember how Juanjo was going to turn this club around? This is the come down.

The come down where you can convince yourself that the snort of the sack was ok because everything will be fine once the new manager beds in. In truth we are just blind to our new man’s failings for this come down – or honeymoon if you want – period. After all who had a go at Nicky Law for picking Andrew Not really a striker Tod over Beni Carbone then?

Sacking the manager gives us all a holiday from realism. It makes us all potential champions, the Premiership is always just a sacking away and of course such assumptions have no basis in reality.

With a huge debt still looming over the club we can not afford to deal in fancifulness and fantasy. We need reality.

A good case can be made that Nicky Law is not doing a good job at City but as with the excitement that greeted the flurry of signings in the Summer the replacement for Law will not be able to make a march for the Premiership.

The new players off the Summer we being made as World Beaters before anyone had seen them play – in a way BfB loves to do the same to kids like Danny Forrest, Kevin Sanasy and Peter Folkes – but in the end they were Luke Cornwall and Robert Wolleaston.

Likewise the new manager will not be a tactical genius of the man who makes silk purses out of so many sow’s ears that the club picked up. He will not crank up the production line of kids through the club and he will not be able to spin a multi-million pound transfer to clear the debuts from the club that struggled to get more than two million for Andy O’Brien from famously wasteful Newcastle United but for a time it will seem like he will do all these things and more and if that is what you want from your football, the quick rush without a thought for reality, then that’s what you can have.

You just get the manager’s contract, tear it up and stick it up your nose.

What price will football pay for these allegations?

Bradford City fan’s will always fondly remember the football boom years. The time that the Premiership broke away saw us make a march out of the trenches of the lower leagues and a push through into glory. We took the hits for it and are suffering now but in our private moments we all know that even these times, bad as they are, are worth the slump for the glory of that 1-0 win over Liverpool. We were not the biggest benefactors of football’s boom years, but we shared in the good times.

Some people put the boom down to England’s performance in the 1990 World Cup and one moment specifically when Paul Gascoigne turned the watching million’s perception of footballers on it’s head.

Post Gascoigne footballer’s were not – as Wor Jackie Milburn called it – “chasing a bit of leather around the field” they were emotional. They were artisans, perhaps artists. They cared about the game and invited you to to. In that moment of Geordie tears footballers changed and football changed with it.

Gascoigne was only half of the whole though. Like the semi-final in Italy, the semi final at Hillsbrough that proceeded it by fourteen months was watched by millions and was a theatre of tears and like Gascoigne the visuals changed perceptions. Footballer’s may have waited a year and a bit for the populous to look at them differently but in the hours, days and weeks that followed Hillsbrough football supporters stopped being the scarf round face thugs of Millwall or menace of The Leeds United Service Crew and started being victims. These people were not coming to smash up your town centre any more, they were burying their friends.

Once Gascoigne cried and a nation of Mother’s who had previously forbade the 2.4 from going to the local ground saw no harm in letting little Chris and Kirsty continue the buzz of the World Cup in the following August and what-the-hey she might as well come herself the boom was inevitable and most of us rode the wave until the summer of 2001.

It was ITV Digital’s demise that gets the blame but in all honesty the whole game was living too fast on too little. One can argue as to why the boom years ended: Chris and Kirsty may have grown up or the processional nature of the Premiership might have made the game less worth emotional investment in. It could be that the high paid footballer doing naff all Alen Boksic style turned off too many people or it may have just been that as the boom put football into pop culture it left it open the the swing away that such any pursuit that goes for fashionability suffers. Pop culture might have started to reinvent itself without football within it. If pop culture lasted for ever the kids would listen to The Beatles not Busted.

Whatever the reason football’s boom slowed and slumped and this is where were until last Sunday morning’s rape allegations against eight Premiership footballers. Now everything could change again.

Without even passing comment on the allegations or possible involvement – in fact in a sense it really does not matter to the game if people are guilty or innocent – the stink from this will make as marked an impact on the game as Gascoigne’s tears did thirteen years ago. Footballer’s will not be artists or artisans, they will be seen as criminals. Come one come all just as the likes of Lee Duxbury and Paul Jewell drew a crowd on the back of Gazza’s emotions so Paul Evans and Ben Muirhead will see audiences dwindle because the same sort of people who were drawn to the game will be repelled. Chris and Kirsty might be called Cosheen and Kris these days but they will not be at the local ground because who’s Mother is going to let them watch footballer’s play in that context?

Who is going to pay money to have their corporate logo’s emblazoned on footballer’s shirts? Who is going to pay money to entertain their clients at a football match in that context? These revenue streams will not go, but the once torrent of money will become a trickle.

Football, the cool sport of the 1990s, will be shunned and financially it will pay the price.

Giving goals where there are no goals – Why Windass should not have walked

Dean Windass’s late lunge that got a red card at Valley Parade on Saturday against Sheffield United was many things – stupidly timed, ill judged and cynical – but it was not a red card offence.

The rules on automatic dismissals, a relatively modern concept in football, are clear. A player can be given a straight red card for two offences: violent conduct or a tackle that denies the opposition of a clear goal scoring opportunity.

The latter first: Windass’s trip was a good seventy yards away from the City goalmouth and in no way could be said to have robbed the Blade’s of a goal scoring chance. I’m not suggesting that they could not have build a decent move out of the fact that almost every Bantam was in their box and they were on the break but I am saying that that chance was a few good passes away and that when Windass intervened it was not a chance. The analogy is Leg Before Wicket in cricket which my understanding is cannot be given on a ball that may have swung back to the stumps. It has to be in line and heading at the stumps when it hits the batsman’s pad. The so-called professional foul rule works in a similar way.

So Windass could not have seen red for that.

Nor could his trip, albeit from a distance and totally stupid, be said to be violent conduct. Violent conduct governs punches and kicks like Kevin Phillips’s ill conceived boot to the backside off Franck Queudrue on Saturday. In the context of tackles it governs two footed lunges and waist high feet, which has nothing to do with Windass on Saturday.

You may have sat appalled by the fact that Windass’s trip robbed the game of open play that could have raised excitement levels or you may have been angered by Windass being so stupid as to put a tackle in in that position that late in the game that could have had this outcome. You may think that a tackle that trips a guy on the break is worth a red card or you may think that Windass lost his head against his former team but none of these points matter.

The rules are stated in black and white, there are no interpretations. Referee’s are not enfranchised to may poetic decisions to round off the story of Dean Windass and Sheffield United nor is he there to decide that Windass has killed a beautiful move that could have been so exciting had it got out of it’s infancy.

He is there to enforce the rules, not make his own. Which of the two infringements for an automatic red card did Dean Windass commit? He may be morally worth a red card and it may be apt punishment for his stupidity but those calls are not for the Referee to make.

What we saw on Saturday was the Referee overreacting to an on field incident and forgetting the rules he is there to enforce. To put it in context it was the Ref deciding on the outcome of an event based not on the event itself and how it should be dealt with in the rules but on the strength of his gut reaction to it.

It’s the equivalent of him seeing a great passing move that resulted in a shot just wide of the post and giving a goal because – hey – it would have been a great goal.

We would not accept that, we should not accept this.

The problem with Nicky Law and why Geoffrey Richmond never managed England

Back when the Premiership turned sour there was more than a hint of a suggestion that Geoffrey Richmond picked the Bradford City team. Now most people look back at such reporting and scoff at it’s faintly ludicrous nature but at the time it sold a few newspapers and made a bit of a splash.

Geoff was a great publicist, he whipped up a frenzy and put ambitions higher and he also ran the club into the ground and nearly buried us. Your view of Richmond depends largely on which side your bread is butter and that’s fine with me but regardless of the merits of the man very few people, in fact no one, would say that he had the talent or knowledge to manage a football club into the Premiership.

People have skills in some areas and are weaker in others. As my erstwhile colleague Roland Harris pointed out if Richmond had done what everyone had said then he should be England manager but Richmond’s skills laid elsewhere.

As do Nicky Law’s.

Do not misunderstand me, Law is a decent team manager despite dropping the ball against Darlington and generally not showing much in the way of tactical acumen, and he is a step above the majority of voices that call out for a team of entirely attacking players in the midfield but his real skils are in evidence before the team takes the field.

Law is a man motivator for one, he gees up the City team like I have never seen and builds team with real character. The 2-2 draw with Norwich City was the latest in many examples of this never say die City attitude that Law has engendered and if you want to know what a football team is like without that thing back to Nicky Law’s predecessor Jim Jefferies.

Law, and by extension Law’s backroom team, have a good eye for players. Simon Francis is attracting interest from other clubs and while I would never sell him if he did go on the market one would expect a couple of million at least for him. This would be revenue generated by Nicky Law just as the bad midfield that cost us a place in the next round of the League Cup was money lost by Law.

Of the players Law has brought into the club the likes of Francis, Tom Kearney, Ben Muirhead et al look like quality and cost nothing. Compare that to the £1.3m that Paul Jewell flushed down the toilet for Isaiah Rankin or Chris Kamara’s criminal waste on John McGinlay. Paul Evans has done little to impress since his early burst at Valley Parade but unlike Kamara’s folly from Bolton it is not for the want on effort. He picks out a good player and has never, ever gone anywhere near as low as previously managers who brought us a return of Peter Jackson, Darren Morgan, Darren Tearcy, Steve Gardener, Robert Zabica, Lee Todd, Bruno Rodriguez, Ashley Ward and on and on…

Nicky Law is focused on youth and there is a feeling under Law that the likes of Tom Penford, Kevin Sanasy, Jake Wright and Peter Folkes will not only get a chance but will be some good. The emergence of Simon Francis and Danny Forrest defined last season, compare that to signing Neil Redfearn and Dean Saunders while never giving games to Scott Kerr and Gareth Grant. Kerr and Grant both faded away but then again so would Mark Bower if Law had not blooded him at the end of the season before last and now Bower is regarded as worth a first team place and perhaps Scott and Gareth might have been the same. They might not have been but because the will and the structure to blood them was not there we never found out. As sure as Nicky Law could not see the problems on Tuesday night is the fact that the reforging of the club as a youth team is in no small part down to him.

These are Nicky Law’s skills just like tactics are his weakness.

I mention this because talk has started against Nicky Law and while these are not a defence of the manager, they serve to create a context in which to talk about axing the former Chesterfield boss in. If, as some chatter in pubs would have it, we do get rid of the manager then we might get someone who can pick a more balanced midfield but fields a team of quitters (Jim Jefferies), wastes money on bad players (Chris Kamara) or ignores the youth of the club (Paul Jewell) or perhaps all three.

Aside from the obvious, that the culture of sacking managers every couple of years at Valley Parade has brought us very little success in the past 100 years, for my money at the moment Law brings more to the club than is lost with dodgy team issues and those problems are far from intractable. We could sign up a good coach or we could just do for Law what Law does for the likes of Francis and Forrest; acknowledge he is learning his trade and allow him to make mistakes on the way. This is not a 55 year old set in his way Jim Jefferies with whom the best thing to do was to cut our losses, this is a guy who engages everything for his role at Valley Parade and his failures are caused by personal limits, not as in the case of Jefferies, cause he can not be bothered doing things properly.

This could all change, Law could so no progress and in six months or six weeks time it might be clear, as it was with Jefferies, that things are not going to change at which time we have to look at what we would be throwing away in the name of improving the tactical abilities in the dug out but I hope that day does not come because I’m tired of watching managers struggle with other manager’s teams and want to see City commit to something for a change.

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