Ben, Muirhead Leave City

Ben Muirhead has been released by Bradford City bringing to an end a turbulent five year connection between player and club that say him signed, released, signed again and go from favourite to failure to favourite to great white hope before his career with the club petered out.

Muirhead was signed from Manchester United and wasted no time in impressing with his right wing play that recalled the buccaneering style of Jamie Lawrence. At Turf Moor he ripped Burnley apart in a 2-1 win and he looked a huge threat for Nicky Law’s team.

However for all his exciting front foot play Ben had a number of flaws in his game – he would give the ball away when charging forward rather than win continued possession, he would try the impossible cross rather than winning the odd throw in – and these problems soon saw him benched as Law’s team struggled and Nicky Summerbee offered more crossing.

Nevertheless his flair cameos made sure he stayed popular and under Bryan Robson one Manchester United number seven told another how to play and he returned a Ben all about the end product.

He was the Ben Muirhead of forcing corners and tidy football and for a while that seemed to impress some however as his game improved the tide seemed to turn and – as famously identified by The City Gent’s John Watmough – “Ben” left and was replaced by “Muirhead”.

“Muirhead” was released as the club’s money problem mounted and Bryan Robson exited – he seemed to show most improvement under the famously good coach/bad manager that was Robson – only to be signed again as the club exited administration and start the next season well loved for his loyalty.

However while Muirhead was a better player for the team he seemed to lack the excitement of the flying winger Ben and he was not a regular feature in Colin Todd’s teams. By the time Jermaine Johnson and Omar Daley – both of whom could stand accused of all the worst and best points of Ben’s early play – arrived at the club the sun had set on Ben’s career at City and he was loaned to Rochdale.

His release from Bradford City comes at the end of that season and no doubt Rochdale will be interested in signing him – he scored three in nine games – after which we will no doubt see him again next year.

At such point – with the distance of opposition – we may discover if that winger is “Muirhead” or “Ben” after all.

City Offer Deals To Ainge, Penford, Colbeck and Bentham

The need for Bradford City to change focus from a club that buys to a club that produces players has been obvious at Valley Parade for some time and the fruits of that policy – first voiced by Gordon Gibb but continued through the investment in the youth set up – are becoming apprarant as the Bantams offered new deals to Tom Penford, Simon Ainge, Joe Colbeck and Craig Bentham.

The four – who all featured in David Wetherall or Colin Todd’s selections last season – are offered new deals while cohorts Joe Brown, Patrick McGuire, Nick Smith and John Swift are released.

The mystery of the stunted development of John Swift will remain at Valley Parade. Impressive in the first team on his debut under Colin Todd and a mouth on committed leader of the juniors who played well in the reserves something – and one doubts is was the performances of Richard Edghill – stood in Swift’s way.

Joe Brown’s release comes after his shined as a bright young thing but failed to nail down a place in the first team squad. Both Brown and Nick Smith are released to allow a more clear path through the ranks for seventeen year old Leon Osborne who featured in the last game of the year. Such a process – of setting a bar for the young players to beat and backing them when they do – replacing them should they not – maintains a healthy demand for continued improvement in the ranks.

Of the retained players Ainge looks ready for a place in the starting eleven next term and Bentham and Colbeck are already considered squad players. Penford has ability to spare as a succession of managers have believed and one hopes that with the exits of Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and perhaps Steven Schumacher he can turn that ability into performance.

Bridge-Wilkinson, Schumacher, Richard Edghill and Xavier Barrau are waiting for a new manager to be installed – something expected within two weeks – before being offered deal. Schumacher and Barrau are thought to be ready to sign, Edghill to be thinking over an offer from Macclesfield and Bridge-Wilkinson to be Port Vale bound.

Russell Howarth has also been released with Ben Saynor stepping up to number two goalkeeper.

We will always have Barrau

There was something refreshingly ecstatic about Xaviar Barrau’s reaction to both his goals at Valley Parade in this 2-2 draw with Millwall on the final day of League One for Bradford City for a year at least. Barrau wheeled away twice in delight after twice giving the Bantams the lead in a game which could not have had less meaning had it been played as a friendly but still seemed to warm the heart.

Heart warming first was the immaculate silence for the 56 supporters of 11th of May, 1985 observed at both ends of the ground. Whatever reputation Millwall supporters have they got some marks in the plus column at 2:58 on Saturday afternoon.

David Wetherall’s reputation seems to have survived his first spell in management. In the post game walk around he is applauded for his efforts over the past fourteen games and the past seven years and should this be his final game in management at this club then one hopes he can get a go elsewhere at some point. Wetherall is backing his predecessor as captain to be his follower as manager saying

“I would be absolutely delighted if we got Stuart McCall here as manager. I haven’t got a clue if it is going to happen, but I think that it would create such an interest in the club and around the city that it could only be good for Bradford City. With Stuart McCall in charge we could get the club going in the right direction and I could play a part in that on the pitch and not from the dugout.”

Wetherall’s last act as City gaffer was to use a 433 formation – unseen since the days of Jim Jefferies and Bryan Robson – to make up for the holes left in the side when Wetherall calmed down following last week’s fury following the Chesterfield capitulation. Billy Paynter and Spencer Weir-Daley were absent leaving a forward line of Joe Colbeck, Omar Daley and Barrau in front of a midfield of Steven Schumacher and Tom Penford sitting atop Craig Bentham who protected a back four of Edghill, Mark Bower out of sorts and position on what could be his final game for the club, Matthew Clarke and Ben Parker. Donovan Ricketts kept goal.

The result was a City team more capable going forward than has been seen in recent weeks but susceptible at the back. Twice Barrau gave the Bantams a lead which was pegged back in short time by the visitors who punch for punch looked no better than the team that will start life as a League Two club next term.

None of which is to suggest that City unveiled a prototype for promotion next term but rather that given the chance and without the pressure it could at least be enjoyable to watch the Bantams again. The first half was satisfying until Joe Colbeck knocked in a low cross just before half time that Barrau muscled a defender for and blasted into the bottom corner. Barrau charged to the bench to celebrate with David Wetherall and as he ran a season of frustrations seemed to drift away behind him.

At some point we have to zero the clock on this club and start from even. Let it be now.

Millwall equalised a minute after half time after making a sly substitution and slipping on an extra forward without telling anyone. The extra man snuck in behind Mark Bower as the left footer played on the right hand side and the annoying but reasonabiliy ammusing Darren Byfield beat Donovan Ricketts.

Nevertheless City had a sort of dominance attacking with some flair down the right and pace down the centre. Omar Daley charged at centrebacks all afternoon and at one point freed Joe Colbeck who slipped the ball into the path of Barrau for the Frenchman to fire into the top corner and celebrate equally exuberantly as Lenny Pidgely in the visitor’s goal blasted a poor linesman suspecting offside. Within two minutes Millwall were level following a cheap free kick poorly defended and a low shot by Tony Craig.

City had the chances to win the game notably when Steven Schumacher – more on whom later – blasted over following good work and when Barrau was felled in the box sparking a scuffle that saw the Frenchman booked and butted by goalscorer Craig. Wetherall gave sixteen-year-old Leon Osborne a debut in the place of Daley and withdrew an injured Joe Colbeck who despite setting up both goals was lightly booed by a section of supporters than shall henceforth be know in a knowingly supercilious manner as “The Idiots”.

“The Idiots” will always have a voice at City – the have not learned after forcing Dean Windass on his way – but hopefully the more bums on seats Julian Rhodes and his cheap seats can get next term the more they will be marginalised to a point where their voices are counter-productive whimpers not destructive shouts. “The Overtly Sensitive” can join them for all I care. Yes Steven Schumacher used some shop floor language to City fans last week but having been in football crowds for the last twenty five years I can guarantee he has had worse said to him and frankly to use his slip into effing and jeffing as a stick to beat him is the worst kind of politicking.

If a person does not care for the way Schumacher players or the performances he has then say it. Anything else I pretty much could not care less about.

Next season will be different. Different team, different manager, different supporters, different atmosphere hopefully – more like the backing off the post lobbing a ball around ten minutes at VP today please – and different heroes and favourites. Exuberant knack for goal scoring and joy at getting a goal? Different Dean Windass too by the look of things, and this one is a Frenchman.

Into The Darkness as City Face the Last Day of League One

We always worried that the final day of the League One season this year woudl have City having nothing to play for but I doubt we ever thought it would be like this.

Colin Todd’s team is going to end up in mid-table mediocrity I recall people saying. Perhaps Todd put that on his CV as a plus point judging by how we have plummeted since he left.

To be fair to David Wetherall and Julian Rhodes it would seem that City – Todd and all – have been dodging bullets for years and failed to this term. We start in League Two next year because that is the way that we are being pushed and yes that is down to finance and yes that is boring to read and only half of the truth but there it is.

So news this week that Julian Rhodes is talking to investors is music to the ears. The scale and feasibility of investment in the past nine years – since The Rhodes Family in fact – has been risible so a measured approach would probably be best. If someone wants to help with the rent then that is cool but if someone is coming to buy players then let us not fall for it again. It is a year since Peter Etherington was going to put us in the Championship. Look what happened.

Rhodes wants a new manager in place within three weeks and will be talking to Stuart McCall about the job so this could be David Wetherall’s final game as gaffer. He has Donovan Ricketts in goal and Ricketts had made enough mistakes this term to suggest he will still be around next. Richard Edghill is probably going to get a final game although John Swift would be – in my humble opinion – a better option. Wetherall’s mistake is fielding too many players who have no investment in the future of the club. He needs to start to look at the players who will be around next season so like Swift Simon Ainge should play and probably will in place of Wetherall who will step down to sub.

This could be his last game at Valley Parade – he deserves a rapture of applause when he appears.

Mark Bower is fancied by Burnley so this could be his final game. Ben Parker at left back will return to Leeds but may be back as they lose players. He his a decent player and would be welcome.

Omar Daley, Joe Colbeck or Ben Muirhead have the two flanks – perm any two from three they all have their merits. Steven Schumacher is forgiven for swearing at City fans last week – tempers were frayed – so take the midfield role with Tom Penford. I’m a confirmed fan of Penford’s cool midfield calm and believe he should have been considered long before this stage of the season. Eddie Johnson is out injured.

Billy Paynter and Joe Brown are expected to start up front with Spencer Weir-Daley returning to Nottingham Forest. Weir-Daley may return next season – rumour has it we have offered him a two year deal – and should Paynter be kicking his heels should he be released from Southend then he would be welcome too.

Billy Paynter and Spencer Weir-Daley are expected to start up front with Joe Brown and Nick Smith standing by in case Weir-Daley’s injury problems continue. Weir-Daley may return next season – rumour has it we have offered him a two year deal – and should Paynter be kicking his heels should he be released from Southend then he would be welcome too.

Welcome too no doubt is the break. Next season needs to be so much better.

A Day of Gloom, A Lifetime of Joy

With around 10 minutes to go at Saltergate on Saturday, I looked around the pitch at our players and began to feel a huge sense of relief.

Part of this relief was because the game was almost over and I could stop watching this wretched, gutless City display. Part of the relief was also because I knew I would soon be leaving the ground and my backside could recover from the numbness of sitting on an uncomfortable wooden bench for three hours. But the main reason for feeling relieved was because City’s outcome had finally been decided and I could stop fretting about their frankly feeble fight to avoid the drop to basement league football.

Of course we were hoping to leave Saltergate in celebratory mood. Two weeks ago that seemed a huge possibility after City’s welcome three points at Brighton. Last Saturday’s home defeat to Leyton Orient had killed off any realisitic hope and if anyone still felt we could do it, to many of our players clearly didn’t and failed to put up a fight. Each of the three goals conceded had an air of comedy about them as the players put in a performance as poor as anything they have managed all season.

With hope over long before the final whistle, it was easier to stop feeling gloomy and relax instead of worrying about whether Rotherham, Forest, Gillingham or Oldham could do us a favour by beating sides above us. We can now stop spending hours carefully studying the league table and trying to predict other teams results. All that’s left is a carefree, meaningless home game with Millwall next Saturday and then we can all take a break from City and come back refreshed for a League Two campaign in August.

And that is why I don’t feel too sad about the relegation at this moment. It just seems to have been inevitable and watching our players raise hopes and then fail miserably over the last few weeks has been deperessing enough. It’s often said that it’s the hope that kills you and it has been so frustrating to watch the team fail to make a better fist on avoiding relegation. It looked straightforward enough weeks ago, just a few more wins and the odd draw. At half time against Orient last week, survival seemed within touching distance. Frankly I have had enough of walking to work on a Monday morning feeling anxious/worried/depressed at City’s plight and I aim to go in with a smile on my face this Monday (especially as a couple of my colleagues support a certain Yorkshire club who have also had a bad weekend!).

After Saturday’s despair turned to relief at Saltergate, I joined in with other City supporters in singing away during the closing stages. The atmosphere became fantastic as everyone seemed to join in. Deep in stoppage time, “City till I die” boomed out of our end of the ground. It was a hugely uplifting moment that reminded me no matter how bad things get, there is always next season. This won’t be the last time I see City relegated, but I also haven’t witnessed my last City promotion.

During the last few years supporting City I have seen us get relegated from the Premiership to League One, suffer two periods of adminstration and watch countless decent players depart to be replaced by inferior ones. I’ve seen us lose woefully home and away on too many occasions to think about, watched other teams turn up at Valley Parade and win crucial games that left their fans going crazy in celebration. I’ve watched us concede a glut of horror goals through bad defending or goalkeeping, I’ve seen our strikers miss chances that even I could have scored, I’ve seen referee’s get decisions badly wrong and loads of injury time winning goals for the opposing team. Saturday’s defeat can be added to this list, but misery and City have gone hand in hand in recent years so it hardly comes as a shock.

As I looked down at the away terrace at the end of the game, I recognised a couple of City fans who I have known/seen around Valley Parade for many years. Almost 2,000 City fans had decended on Saltergate, a sizeable following that will dwarf many of our new rivals. We will all be back in August, whether it’s Accrington and Macclesfield gracing our turf. Most of the current bunch of players will have left, new players and a new manager will be in place. That old killer, hope, will return. Hopefully this time our particular hopes will finally be realised.

Despite the misery, going to watch City has given me hours of joy that I wouldn’t swap for anything. I love our club with a passion and know I will be supporting them until my dying day. Many of us feel the same and, with our continuing support, our club will turn it round and earn success. Eventually City will win a promotion, go on a good cup run and rise back up the leagues. In the not to distant future, our players will be pararding silverware around the pitch and the open top bus will come out of its garage.

It might take years but it will happen and, when it does, the memories and pain of occasions like Saturday will seem distant. We’re City till we die and we will all be there celebrate our club rising again.

League Two is a Series of Bad Decisions

Donovan Ricketts let the ball go through his legs after Jamie Ward hit the ball at goal. Slowly it squirmed over the line. So slowly, so slowly.

Eight years ago I felt sick with anticipation. It was barely something I could understand and certainly was something that while I hoped for it I never thought it would happen. City – my team – were in a two way shoot out with Ipswich Town for a place in the Premiership. For sure we had lost to Huddersfield Town but as our form started to stumble so did the East Anglians. Eight years ago I could hardly believe it. It was hard to form in my mind.

But it was formed in my mind. It was believable.

Six months earlier City had played Sheffield United – who themselves were chasing promotion – and then Paul Jewell’s Bantams were second bottom and people were saying that Geoffrey Richmond was frittering away the talents of the recently returned Stuart McCall by allowing him to be managed by the Scouser. The game ended 2-2 but the way the Bantams organised themselves that day convinced me we would be in the play-offs at least.

So eight years ago I could believe it was us or Ipswich to follow Sunderland into the Premiership because on the field and off it we were a superbly run club. Jewell had a team that played effective, percentage football and Richmond – turning a profit every year – led a tightly run ship.

I could believe it because we were a well run club at (the vast majority of) levels and perhaps it was naive but my sense of social justice tells me that when you do things right good things happen. Not that the cream rises to the top but rather that the top is layered with people that do things in the right way.

I could believe it.

I guess the second goal was unlucky. A shot cannoned off the post and Ward was the first to react it it. Ricketts did well and shot glances around the area as if to ask Am I playing on my own here. Rebounds always seem to fall to them when you are at the bottom don’t they? We never seem to get there first. Bad luck.

Move forward a few years and I’m standing on the pitch with a dozen other City fans watching Geoffrey Richmond argue with Matthew Ward a Daily Express journalist – about the merits of the Italian footballer he had unveiled as a new signing half an hour ago. We stood in the centre circle watching Richmond ebulliently wag his finger in Ward’s face as Ward impressively went toe-to-toe with the powerful figure of the Bradford City chairman.

The sun beat down on Richmond as he told Ward that Bradford City would no longer be considered a small club and as he said it from the corner of my eye I noticed recently installed manager Chris Hutchings wandering the full length of the field untroubled by press men or supporters and in retrospect Richmond’s ebullience was his bullish attempts to keep the club together following the departure of Paul Jewell.

For the first time Richmond was putting his not inconsiderable efforts into the wrong area so badly and it bore such consequences. Richmond was no longer running the club well and the club was running away and the debate on the scale of Richmonds (mis)management and the effects of external elements in football will go on forever but unequivocally in the Summer of 2000 with Richmond out of control and Hutchings a shadow Bradford City were a badly run club and a year later we deserved relegation.

It was irritating to see a team show so little fight. Bill Shankley said that he preferred to use the language of the people and that he would not call a player lackadaisical when he could call him lazy. Omar Daley is a lazy footballer and he while he is not alone today there are too many players on the field for City who are not invested in the future of the club. Too many loan players so do not need to perform and too many last year of contract players who can see the exit door. How have we got to a position where you can write the names of the starting eleven down and you cross off the ones you think you will see next season rather than the ones you thing will go: Ricketts, Edghill, Wetherall Will he stay not being manager?, Bower Better than Div 4, Clarke , Daley, Johnson, Schumacher Out of contract, would be good to get him to stay, Parker, Paynter, Weir-Daley Rumoured to have a two year deal on the table – who offered him it?

How can a team play well when so few of the players have anything invested in the future of the club?

I stood outside Valley Parade – this was three years ago – with Bradford City Supporters Trust chair (and the reason we still have a Bradford City, but that is another point) Mark Boocock and we waited for administrator Kroll to get an agreement on the CVA document that would end City’s second spell of administration which had come about after Gordon Gibb and Julian Rhodes had fallen out and the club had slipped into League One.

Gordon Gibb would not agree to the terms of the CVA which left the one hundred year old club waiting for one of our former players – Ashley Ward – to agree to drop his objection and take the club over the needed percentage of agreed creditors but Ward was out on the training field and could not be reached and so we sat in the Banqueting Suite which stands above a place were 56 people died and in a location where professional football had been played for a century waiting for a guy who did very little for his £18,000 a week to get out of the shower and decide if the club would continue or if it would be liquidated.

So we waited and we talked to one of the officials of Kroll the administrator and asked him about the future of the club and he saw reason for optimism because unlike the rest of League One we would not be riddled with debt so “all” we had to do was to get income over expenditure and we would be debt free. We pondered as Ward finished his shower and told us we could continue to be a City with a football club and I walked away thinking that this surely, surely is not how a football club should be run.

Jamie Ward ran fifty yards pretty such unchecked before putting in a shot which Mark Bower turned into his own net. 3-0 and all the booing to date – the chiding of good players and the atmosphere of poison – has cheapened the criticism given out to some players who are not even going through the motions.

Six months ago Colin Todd was not sacked not as a solution to get the playing side back on track or to flood the club with new ideas on how to play the game or even to change the focus of the system to a more or less direct game but as a punishment because results were bad and as a sop to the fans who wanted rid of him. Sacking a manager is a way to effect a change to bring improvement but it is not a change in itself. Julian Rhodes is a good man, a good fan and he is applauded for his innovations but decisions often outside his control have been poor. The debts we have no are caused by bad decisions, the way we ended up paying rent of our own ground was a bad decision and yes changing managers without ever effecting a change on the field was a string of bad decisions.

So slowly the ball crept over the line. So slow the decline of this club but along the way bad decisions have been made metronomically – from the boardroom to the pitch to the stands – and this is by no means the lowest Bradford City can sink.

League Two? Can I believe it? Of course. Seven years of bad decisions should result in this.

So This Is It. City Doing Bad Doing Good

In a nutshell anything other than a win for Bradford City at Chesterfield will see the Bantams relegated.

David Wetherall’s side go into the game without Kelly Youga who joins Mose Ashikodi and injured back to the Premiership following his stay at Valley Parade and looking for results and miracles. If wishing made it so City would stay up but football is hard and our own mistakes have been compounded by refereeing point stealing leaving us where we are now.

Should the worst have happened at five on Saturday then City will not go into administration but will be starting next season with the cheapest season tickets in football after Julian Rhodes decided to honour the pledge for the 7,000 fans who have applied. City fans will pay £136 next term. One can only hope that this signals a turn around in the fortunes and atmosphere at VP. Julian Rhodes deserves it to – his actions today should be followed throughout football. As City falter on the field the ideas off it are laudable.

Rhodes says

As I keep stressing, the club’s future depends so much on the backing from the fans.

That is laudable too.

Also worth backing is City fan Nick Kitchen’s campaign to Bradford Council to get them to financially help City out. The title of the campaign is “Campaign Backing For The Bradford District Council To Help Support City Financially” and already over 600 Signatures.

If you see Nick collecting signatures around Keighley shopping centre, in the Bantams Bar, at the club shop before a game or in Chesterfield then give them a sign if you agree. If you get doorstepped in election week next week then you might wants to ask red, blue, yellow or “other” what they think before voting.

Rhodes: I Did What I Had To To Keep The Club Going

Some years ago while Bradford City were parking next to extinction I managed to see a copy of the financial reports for the failing business that was Bradford City AFC. It did not make good reading, in fact I had to hold back a tear. If people knew some of the things that had gone on not to put the future of this club in jeopardy but afterwards and by some of the people who came to refinance us then…

Well then people would be marching on a local theme parks demanding answers.

To be honest Bradford City fans do deserve answers about what has gone on with the money at Valley Parade and they deserve the truth. Mouth shut agreements on some parties and a fear of litigation on mine prevent this truth from fully being told and perhaps that is a good thing because to paraphrase Aaron Sorkin’s play We can’t handle the truth

Or at least some people cannot and so Julian Rhodes is set on the defensive talking about being insulted by comments that money had been taken out of the coffers and defending sanctioning the departures of Dean Windass and Jermaine Johnson.

Rhodes never says that Windass’s departure could have been brought about by the vague campaign of criticism which lead to hate mail and death threats the player suffered nor does he say that the £500,000 for Jermaine Johnson was ridiculously good money for a player who would be publicly balled out on the field for his selfish play.

Rhodes makes it clear that selling Johnson allowed the club to continue trading. That is a no brainer. Rhodes says

The facts of the matter are I had to do what I had to do to keep the club going.

Rhodes has been in charge at Valley Parade for seven years and faces his second relegation in that time. He faced a shrinking income stream which has been turned around and a climate in football where the kids of Bradford no longer sport Manchester United shirts but increasingly don the colours of Barcelona and LA Galaxy and football is followed from an armchair.

He faces a football world in which money is poured into the top level and the trickle down is pitiful. He faces hyper-inflation at the top level dragging wages up for all and he faces that with his own failing laid bare.

For Rhodes has made mistakes in running the club but like Joe Colbeck, Valley Parade and the claret and amber striped shirts it is not a case that as Bradford City fans it is our job to find these faults and magnify them but rather accept them, hopefully guide and try minimise where they occur. Selling 25 year season tickets (Not something Julian Rhodes did, a Geoffrey Richmond innovation) was a mistake but it has been accepted, representation was made and a solution found that all were as happy as could be with.

The truth that the 5% of City fans who Rhodes accuses of shouting loudest against him cannot handle is that as good or bad as Rhodes may be he is the only option to manage and own a terminally holed business that continues to trade at a loss long after any normal business would have been liquidated.

The truth is that Julian Rhodes has not sucked the money out of City – City have sucked the money out of him.

This is not sycophancy or obsequiousness, it is honesty based on having seen on paper the facts that stare Julian Rhodes in the face on a daily basis. The man has failings and I would run the club differently perhaps but make no mistake that without him Valley Parade would look like The Odeon in Bradford City Centre and Bradford City would be out of business.

So It Has Come To This

I’m still not really sure how this happened this relegation thing.

I remember having an argument with a few people about how City were going to grind away to mid-table mediocrity under Colin Todd and I was saying that we should give the guy time cause he was doing a good job just having us in League One and then I was told that sacking him we could get promoted.

It was like a promise that getting rid of Todd would make things better. Someone must have believed it. I wish this was me being wise after the event but I said it at the time.

I remember that we had a guy up front called Dean Windass who could do some stupid stuff but was the best striker in the league and people were telling me we shouldn’t play him to teach him a lesson or punish him for getting sent off and then someone said he should not even play for us again and now it looks like he won’t.

I’m pretty sure that things were not perfect and that basically things have been wrong at City since Richmond’s summer of madness but it struck me on Saturday that this club has a load of problems caused by Richmond and a load of problems caused by the way that big football screws over little football and a lot of problems caused by rubbish refereeing but we also had a load of problems caused by us.

The booing, the insisting that the gaffer is sacked, the guys who pick on one player be it Deano or Ben Parker or Billy Paynter or anyone, the mood at VP that is so negative. All stopping people coming to Valley Parade. All real problems.

So I remembered that City had loads of problems outside the camp and then it struck me as I watched half a team playing out the end of League One football that we should sort out the problems inside the ground and inside us fans first.

The Aftermath

The eyes clear on a Monday morning and the table at the foot of League One does not make good read as it suddenly becomes apparent that just as with a different set of result on Saturday city could be out of the drop zone wins for other clubs that afternoon could have cut the Bantams adrift permanently.

Next week the Bantams face Chesterfield and even a win could see us drop out of the divisions. This is the edge of the edge.

David Wetherall is trying to rally the troops with his call to not give up until the Maths says so – Professor Wetherall’s last act is scientific – but the body language after Leyton Orient’s two goals on Saturday said it all. Prepare for a trip to Rochdale, to Accrington, to Dagenham.

Yet before the last clarion call is made after a look at the table it is worth recalling how David Wetherall – seven years ago The reason we stayed up (In The Premiership)” – approached and won the last day game with Liverpool that saw City retain a place in the top division.

On the way to Sunderland that year the talk was all of the inevitability of relegation, approaching the last game it was of how Wimbledon would win at Southampton. Neither happened and City that year approached every game, kicked every ball, knowing that it is the points missed and not those won which governed who would go down.

Chesterfield away is where The Bantams will probably fail but to paraphrase Thomas – The Bantams can rage, rage against relegation – and leave the division with the kind of pride lacking from displays too often this season.

As for restoring that pride the job would seem set to fall to Peter Beagrie with reports that McCall’s interest in City only streches as far as League One and not below. Passion, willingness, character. All characteristics that Beagrie shows, surprising that in what is a real hour of need these characteristics could be found wanting in our former number four. Say it ain’t so.

For Those Who Care To Know

And for a while everything seemed to be going to plan. Spencer Weir-Daley was putting the Leyton Orient defence under huge pressure, Omar Daley looked likely to waltz to glory should his running with the ball continue and the 10,000 strong support were going to be entertained and take City on to safety and victory.

It was all going to work. It was all going to plan. Bradford City could have had three or four in the first half when Weir-Daley made the home back four – defending high up the field – look flat footed. Just before half time he sprang forward with only the goalkeeper to beat with a chip and agonisingly the ball bounced wide.

Before Omar Daley had surged forward and – after beating enough men to justify not passing – hit a shot saved by Glyn Garner in the visitor’s goal. Garner had stopped Billy Paynter from giving the Bantams a lead earlier on and tonight is the man who won the game for the Londoners.

At half time – or so it seems – Leyton Orient won the game. The Bantams left the field having controlled the game but emerged to a visitors side with more of an eye on nullifying City and whatever it was that Martin Ling said to his charges it worked. Ling’s team got the ball and kept it away from the Bantams pressing down the right flank and troubling Ben Parker or the left where Daley could scarcely be troubled chasing the ball and slowly the game slipped from the Bantams.

And surely the game turned away from The Bantams and fittingly for the season it was more Refereeing nonsense that marked the moment. Ling must have fared the worst when Luke Guttridge – booked for a challenge on Steven Schumacher that was so later it was practically from next season – body checked Kelly Youga as the left back went past him. The Referee ignored Guttridge’s second yellow card offence, Youga went off on a stretcher probably never to return and a minute later Orient’s Gary Alexander had scored.

At this point it is worth thinking of how Joe Colbeck – not the most talented player but no shirkers for sure and someone who would cover every blade of grass for the Bantams every day of the week if asked – watched from the sidelines as Omar Daley ignored a ball running out. Colbeck might have been thinking about how he would – and he would – have surged the ball and he might not have thought he could have done much with it but as Daley’s indolence was punished with the ball in City’s net seconds later he must have wondered and grumbling about Daley’s play was verbalised he must have wondered what City fans want? Colbeck gives his all – gets booed. Daley gives very little effort but has skill and pace if he uses them and increasingly gets the same treatment.

Such thoughts was vanquished by a second Leyton Orient goal leaving City looking at two wins and crossed fingers to stay in League One. Even if we do then things need to change – many things – not least of which is the reliance on loan players and players with short term deals at the club.

Ben Parker, Spencer Weir-Daley, Billy Paynter, Kelly Young, Nathan Doyle, Carlos Logan, Moses Ashikodi, Lee Holmes, Bruce Dyer and many more have pulled on the City shirt as loan players and have put in some great, some not so great, performances but a team can not be built around players who have no future with the club. We cannot continue to ask for huge effort for our cause from players who will be at Charlton, at Watford, at Leeds next season. We have to put the future of this club in the hands of player who will be hear in the future of this club. We need to stop letting the tempo of the club be set by players who almost by definition have less passion for Bradford City than those they displace. Nathan Doyle did a great job, Richard Edghill has years of experience in the game as he sits with two haves left on his contract but the energy and effervescence of John Swift should have been rewarded with a place in the team a long time ago. That is a tone to set for this club. That and not the idea that your place will be taken by anyone who comes from a Premiership or Championship reserve side.

Leyton Orient enjoyed a two goal but the Bantams had twenty minutes plus six of injury time to strike back. A look around the field at bowed heads and shoulders slumped and eyes could find no one to drive the Bantams on. There is no Stuart McCall. There needs to be a Stuart McCall if one cares about the club because League Two is by no means as low as a club can go.

Steven Schumacher, Mark Bower, Donovan Ricketts, David Wetherall. The list of players on the field who one could build a team around was woefully short. We need senior players who can and will take responsibility for the team, the game and the ball when on the field and for sure those players can be augmented with a loan signing or two but those players pick up a tempo from the senior members of the squad. One cannot help but think that this season the converse has been true.

All of which is discussion for another time. This game was a must win – a must win – and we did not and we all know what means.

Anticipation Has The Habit To Set You Up For Disappointment

There is something wonderful about the sense of anticipation before a big game. In a good two decades plus change of watching City I’ve seen bigger than Saturday’s relegation crunch against Leyton Orient but the stomach churning wait – the mixture of excitement and dread – is the same this Friday as it was the weekend of the 9th of May, 1999.

Remember that weekend at Wolves I recall a sense of foreboding not at the idea that City might not win the game or might not be promoted but at the idea that a resolution was going to come at all. From the Sunday before when Birmingham beat Ipswich 1-0 to put City in the driving seat for promotion to the kick off at Molineux on Sunday we enjoyed a suspended animation of being on the brink. For seven days the mind buzzed with pleasure delaying thoughts which inexorably drew to a close once the first ball was kicked.

The ninety minutes at Wolves was pretty much Hell but everything up to that was a blast.

Which is how the mood for Saturday’s game is. Right now City are in good form going into a crucial game – we are potentially safe, wonderfully poised and waiting for the swing of genius that will make a crucial difference – but come 15:00 reality will set in and two hours later wonderful poise will be either realised or not. City will either be looking at a win or two from two games to stay up or look at League Two.

Not strictly true. A draw delays things. No one seems to have considered the possibility that City might draw the game despite the fact that Orient will most likely come to Valley Parade to get a point and keep City beneath them.

City go into the game minus Moses Ashikodi following his broken leg at Brighton but with Spencer Weir-Daley – SWD – ready to fill the gap. The striking change aside David Wetherall has picked a settled side in marked contrast to Colin Todd’s later tendency to tinker. That Wetherall has nailed down a best team – even if it is not the best team – has started to bring rewards of which the anticipation is one.

Thumbs Down

It seems to me that booing is the new cheering. I’m old fashioned and I remember a time when a supporter would make good on the term and shout words of encouragement from the sidelines with the hope that a passing player may be effected. Of course I have no idea if whailing “Skin ’em Johnny” to Hendrie caused the dominative Scot to make that one final but perhaps decisive run past a defender or not – one doubts his plan was to do anything else – but I like to feel that he felt inspiration.

I like to think that had someone bellowed at lung limit to Pansear yesterday Stay in for more than three balls and make a hundred run last man stand then he might have at least been inspired to do so.

Nevertheless the chorus of boos has replaced the round of applause at sporting events these days and there is no better example of this than the treatment of Joe Colbeck at Valley Parade. The lad has a few thousand of the worst sort of School game Dad’s berating his every mistake and like a shrinking 12 year old it shows in a lack of confidence.

Booing has replaced cheering because it is easier to do. Destruction has always been easier than creation and recognising the good has always required a little more than pointing to the bad. Especially in situations like City’s were the one so obviously outweighs the other. Of course this is all Thatcher’s fault. The every man for himself model of society clashes with the ethic of team sports as a community representation. Success at all costs, loathing for those without.

Realpolitik aside this is hardly a new phenomenon. In the Coliseum Emperors signaled who was to live and who was to die with the famed thumbs up/thumbs down gesture. It is a curio of history that the with the digit pointing upwards signalled that to the delight of the masses the Gladiator in question would be ripped apart and generally killed which while pleasing for the crowd was so what damaging to the fighter’s career.

We use the thumbs up to mean good things – at least The Fonz did – in recognition of how it means that good things would happen. A thumbs down probably saw the Emperor booed so he will have avoided it. As long as the crowd get what they want everyone is probably happy.

None of which brings us round to Valley Parade on Saturday. It has long been the opinion of many that there is a significant section of City fans who enjoy the moan more than the match and the thumbs up of City getting beaten gives them a focus for their week of conversation.

City’s own Julian Rhodes – and Emperor of sorts – said about the weekend all or nothing game with Leyton Orient

“Saturday is not going to be pretty. It’s all about blood, guts and endeavour. But the pleasing thing is that every player is giving it their all. To see the loanees putting in the kind of effort they are has been a joy to watch.

Me, I’m less keen on the sight of someone being ripped limb from limb and old school enough to cheer or say nothing at all. I was brought up on “Skin ’em Johnny” not skinless Gladiators and I’m happy to stay that way.

How City Fans Get The Last Word, Not The Last Laugh

Do not feel the need to got to www.all4humor.com. The footage of the Bradford fire is not there any more – or at least I’m told and so with it go the lies about City fans watching the game and the pictures of 54 Bradford City fans and 2 Lincoln supporters dying.

Do not go to the site and leave these sick bastards to show videos of footballer’s breaking their necks, of trains crashing, of suicides, of executions, of children being sexually exploited, of guys on the 115th floor of the World Trade Centre.

If they re-post the video – or if it is still there now – then it is probably not worth trying to reason with the people who find some kind of humour in the parade of videos on show. We live in a world – and I’m a liberal sort of guy – where morality is relative but I’m perfectly happy to call this sort of entertainment for people who need mental help.

It is probably not worth trying to get this sort of video removed. YouTube constantly show the footage and someone connected to Yorkshire Television or the Fire Services who used it as training footage but allowed it to escape should take a look at themselves but this constant process of discovery and – one assumes – emotional negotiation to have the footage removed from whichever service or server has it on is becoming far too frequent.

It is never short of amazing the difference between the treatment of the Hillsborough disaster and Liverpool supporters and Bradford City fans and 11th of May, 1985. The combined weight of that club descending is enough of a threat to prevent even the mention of the 95 who died that day yet our tragedy is traded and – by some – enjoyed.

If someone believes that watching 56 people die in a horrible way is amusing, if they want to believe the lies that often accompany it then they can believe that. The people of Bradford – us – should act today as we did on that day and every day since.

Let them amuse themselves as they like, the sick bastards, we will never let them shake the refined dignity that marks Bradford City’s commemorations.

That is the last word.

Ashikodi Returns To Watford As The Anticipation Begins

Moses Ashikodi returned to Watford for a scan on what is a suspected broken leg sustained in the win over Brighton as the anticipation in the run up to City’s biggest game in years began.

The Bantams face Leyton Orient at Valley Parade with the possibility to get out of the League One relegation zone and push towards safety. Orient say that City would rather be in their position than ours and that may be true with 43 games gone. When 44 have been played things could be very different.

Nevertheless Ashikodi – who has built and impressive partnership with Billy Paynter – will not take part in the run in. The striker’s return will allow Spencer Weir-Daley a crack at the cult hero status Mozza was cementing.

Weir-Daley is a good match for Ashikodi – both offer pace and finishing – but perhaps lacks the aggression that the Watford man brought to the forward line. How curious that the future of this club sits in the partnerships and fitness of a Watford, a Southend and a Nottingham Forest player. How ironic that out man with the most bottle is off saving a different club from relegation.

One wonders if Windass is keeping an eye on events at Valley Parade. One wonders if he is feeling the anticipation.

Game On

Football is great in the sun. At least it is for Bradford City fans. I think it goes back to wins over Wolves and Liverpool and the bright sun that those games were played in. When the sun comes out and spring is in the air City seem to start the good stuff.

The good stuff being Billy Paynter’s goal in the first half that gave the Bantams a life-saving 1-0 win at Brighton.

Paynter struggled all afternoon after getting clattered in the first minute and stooped in to score after Kelly Youga had heading against the bar. Moses Ashikodi ended the game on a stretcher and the fact that both City’s borrowed forwards could end up out for next week’s massive game with Layton Orient is worrying but the fact that next week means something is down to a dogged display from the Dave Wetherall men today.

Watching Young and Ashikodi and Paynter today got the mind racing to what City will be like as a team next season. We have no idea what division we will be in, who the manager will be and we don’t know if any of these guys sweating and running in claret and amber will ever set foot in Bradford again after the end of the season.

City were lucky for sure with Brighton three times pinging the bar and posts and for long periods we lacked real firepower but doggedness saw us though. Stand in outstanding midfielder Eddie Johnson take a bow after a quality performance that suggests City might have an inbuilt replacement once Marc Bridge-Wilkinson returns to Port Vale in the summer.

So games 44 and 45 of the season see the Bantams facing Leyton Orient and Chesterfield with Leyton promising a place out of the relegation zone for the winner and Chesterfield after that perhaps sending them down should results go the way. One note on the fixture list if Leyton Orient’s last day meeting with Huddersfield Town, an easy three points should Town not need them, and the fact the Londoners have to entertain to Nottingham Forest. Chesterfield have play off chasing Oldham on the last day and Northampton next week. They will see a win agianst us as crucial.

City face Leyton Orient at VP, away to Chesterfield and then finally at home to Millwall. Game is most definitely on.

An Oily Stage

As I wandered to work listening to the odd tune it struck me that this weekend at Brighton Bradford City’s time in out of the basement of English football could – for all intents – come to an end.

Having only briefly gone to City in the early 1980s Division Four period I shuddered at the idea that having started this decade in the Premiership City could end up playing at a level of football so low that a large chunk of the Bantams support were probably not born when last it was seen at Valley Parade.

What does League Two/Division Four football look like? Is it entertaining? Is it bullish? Which skills are required to win in a league that is one step off not being professional? Is the gap between here and there similar in scope to the Premiership/Championship jump?

One hopes we do not have to find out but should we lose at Brighton’s Withdean Stadium it will be likely we will.

If it does all but mathematically end on Saturday then what better place than the athletic track stadium which most ironically represents the problems of the majority of modern football clubs.

Brighton and Hove Albion have some passionate supporters who struggle manfully to try get the club into a new stadium in the City. At the moment attendences average at around 6,200 in a City of 155,919 people and an area of just under half a million.

The 6,200 of Brighton struggle against the same sort of massive disinterest in the struggling club that most fans find. The majority of people in places like Brighton and Bradford do not give much of a damn about the football club and certainly are not about to pay taxes to support it or see it given preferential treatment for planning applications and the like.

Of course were Brighton and Hove Albion to get to Wembley – or as we did up the Leagues – one can be sure that more than 6,200 would be in attendance.

The Brighton stadium plans are a microcosm of most of footballs problems. A small passionate group looking to enhance something that when working well is a massive civic institution – and when badly still a significant one – against a face of at best indifference and at worse nimby hostility.

Ben Back As Wetherall Looks For the Answer In The Most Obvious Place

The answer to all football’s problems is the next manager away.

Either that or it is the guy on the bench, or the guy coming back from injury, from suspension or – in the case of Bradford City at the moment – the guy coming back from loan.

Ben Muirhead is returning from Rochdale to cover the suspended Joe Colbeck and immediately the hopes of a City – well 1% of a City – are heaped on his shoulders.

I find Muirhead a curious player. Initially his brand of blind alley run with no end product drove me mad but everyone else seemed to love Ben!!. When Bryan Robson and Colin Todd had had a word with the former Manchester United winger he seemed to rid his game of some of the more wasteful parts and began to realise that charging at the full back and losing the ball might look good but winning a throw seventy yards from goal with infinitely preferable and so he did that.
Ben Muirhead got some end product to his game and was all the better for it but at this time Ben!! was replaced to Grrr Ben and finally Muirhead and his popularity wained. Loan at Rochdale was assumed to be the last we would see of the quiet Doncaster lad.

But now he is back and charged with the job of contending with the hot and cold blowing Omar Daley for the right wing role in four games that could shape the future of the club. Absence has made the heart grow fonder of Muirhead and big things are expected.

And at once one recalls the player ripping through defences a league above and looking oh so impressive. When Chris Waddle left Valley Parade City were in relegation trouble despite his entertaining play but it was Shaun Murray – the oft forgotten mid-1990s midfielder – who took the role that Waddle enjoyed and made it matter to the team. Sometimes – and David Wetherall will hope this time – it is about the shape of the peg rather than quality.

Let The Lessons Of Todd Point The Way For The Next City Boss

Colin Todd has until the summer to watch the Bradford City team that sacked him struggle to maintain a place in League One and then the former Bantams boss has agreed to join Danish club Randers FC as their new manager. Good luck to him.

I doubt that history will record that Colin Todd did a good job at Valley Parade – history is so often formed by ill feeling – indeed he will probably be ranked alongside the likes of Jack Napier and John Docherty as one of the club’s most unpopular ergo worst bosses but as David Wetherall’s struggle to get winning ways back attests to if Todd was the great problem at the club sacking him has been far from the great solution.

Appointed by administrators Todd’s job at Valley Parade was done with one hand tied behind his back but in the interests of not giving whichever players he could afford to bring to Bradford City the kind of negativity complex that so often takes hold at clubs this fact which was never really discussed above a murmur.

Indeed more than once BfB heard suggestions that the club was “sorted”, “fixed”, “ok now” and generally had “put all that financial business behind them”. Having looked at the books I can tell you, dear reader, that this is far from the case.

So Todd manfully brought in players and some worked out well and other did not and he bolstered the team with loan players and some worked out well and some did not and he looked for all the world like a man pushing to keep his head above water in a job he could not do. Without wanting to dismiss David Wetherall’s efforts as gaffer it is increasingly clear that the good job was keeping City bubbling under.

And they said

Another season of mid-table mediocrity under Todd.

If only.

Todd’s failing as a manager at Bradford City was not results – his record is much better than Bryan Robson’s who is rarely reguarded as lowly – but rather public relations. While a genuinely pleasent guy to be in the company of Todd appeared truculent and obtusely defensive when speaking about his team. He famously fell out with The Pulse’s commentators on a weekly basis when questioned about the style of his results. One can only imagine how much he would have wanted to grab the mic from Tim and Sticks and state as clear as a bell These are the best players we can bring in with the pitiful resources the club has. Boo Dean Windass if you want but if you drive him away then you will go down. The other strike against Todd is that – that Bradford City were you and not us for the hired hand.

So management of Bradford City – and in a way of any club – is as much about public relations as it is about results with the good feeling that a popular gaffer can bring begetting improved performances on the field. The club – chairman and all – are pointed in the direction of one man regardless of which league we are in.

Todd will watch that from afar and probably with moderate success and truculence put down to foreignness.

Two Sets Of Rules As City Face The Fall

Ask me about why Bradford City have struggled this season and I have a single, clear , unequivocal answer for you. I look at the goal that was chalked off at Scunthorpe and I remember Steven Schumacher’s red card against Blackpool and I add to that the incongruous decision to send Joe Colbeck off after City took the lead against Oldham at Valley Parade and I say without doubt that the most important factor has been the decisions given by referees.

More of which later. City took a long trip to Bournemouth for what was tagged as a must win and with Eddie Johnson filling in for Mark Bridge-Wilkinson in the midfield it seemed that the Bantams would leave empty handed despite heroics by Donovan Ricketts but a very late header from Spencer Weir-Daley in the 92nd minute left the Bantams with one of the four points many were suggesting City needed from the Easter weekend and hope seemed to return.

Against Oldham that hope was manifested and dashed.

Moses Ashikodi used his pace to get onto the end of a Billy Paynter flick down and lashed a shot in half way through the second half and it should have been enough to give City the win. Of course it was not because as it traditional this season the referee had yet to come into play.

Mr R L Lewis gave City a throw in at the Midland Road/Bradford End of Valley Parade and Oldham’s players grabbed the ball only to throw it away to the corner flag when they saw that the decision had been given the other way. No card was shown despite what it expressly stated in the rules of the game. Ten minutes and one City goal after that Joe Colbeck was given a second yellow card for banging in a cross after taking the ball over the touchline.

Two incidents which are denoted identically in the rules – in fact the are covered under Rule 12 Point Four: Cautionable Offences which says

A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he… delays the restart of play

Both offences denoted the same way in the rules so I am desperate to know why Mr Lewis believes that one results in a yellow card and the other does not? I assume that League One is played the rules of football FIFA set out so why is one offence cautionable and one not?

Without assigning a reason for it – I’m looking for answers not giving them – to give the same offence one punishment for one side and another for the other is bias.

It matters not what the opinions on the players involved are – many said that Colbeck was stupid to get himself sent off and cost us the win – but I believe that considering that this decision, that the Schumacher sending off at Blackpool, that Eddie Johnson’s disallowed effort against Yeovil, that David Wetherall’s goal at Scunthorpe compared to Robbie Williams’s for Blackpool are going to cost us our place in this league then we deserve an explanation why the most simple tenant of the game – that the rules are applied equally for both sides – is not being applied at Valley Parade.

To add insult to the technical offence that Colbeck committed Oldham’s goal scorer Luigi Glombard played the game protected by a yellow card shield recklessly tackling Mark Bower – take a look at Rule 12 again – before finally getting booked for “over celebrating” his goal. The connotation of the rules of football – the spirit of the game – are not that a player can swing wildly for the ball endangering his opponent and not be cautioned then feel the force of the law for being happy to have equalised. The spirit of the rule dubbed “kicking the ball away” is not to punish players who run over the byline in the attacking half and cross the ball to the keeper anyway any more than they are supposed to punish strikers who finish when offside.

The fact that it was Colbeck – so often and so ill a figure of ire at Valley Parade – dulls the edge of comment. Close your eyes and imagine it was St Jermaine Johnson in his final game at the club. Remember the fury and put it behind a player who actually wants to play for this club.

So there it is. The ball game perhaps and with four games left City need three wins from a trip to Brighton, home clash with Leyton Orient, a visit to Chesterfield and the final game of the season at home to Millwall.

Three wins would give 52 points and probably safety. I’d take the points from Blackpool, Yeovil, Scunthorpe and Oldham but it looks like this club is going to take the fall for a serious of Refereeing decisions which the charitable call the utterly poor state of officialdom in football today.

The Thing About Football

One thing I’ve noticed about football is that often I’m right and you are wrong. Maybes not you but other people. Most people. Most people are wrong about football.

It is not most people’s fault. They watch SKY TV and read The Sun and what they read and see must be true cause everyone around them is saying it but a million people can say one thing and still be wrong. Majority might rule but it ain’t always right.

Now I’m not always right either but when I said Colin Todd should not be sacked I was not off the mark. Nothing has improved since the manager got the bullet at Bradford City as we sink down and down the division until we sit in League Two next season.

David Wetherall’s job was to add a short term boost and nothing more and everyone knows that Stuart McCall just has to say the word and he will be gaffer. Wetherall is supposed to be a short term fix but Todd’s team wasn’t in the problems that the skipper finds his in.

Todd was not pulling up trees but he kept things going along and we would have sailed out to close season in a rather dull mid-table place but that was not good enough for some and they demanded and got a change. I think they said something about more excitement. I don’t know if they are happy now.

And of course we miss Deano and JJ and of course that is not Wetherall’s fault cause cash needed to be got in but what we paid to let the gaffer go was wasted.

I’m wrong lots of the time too by the way but I’m not wrong here and I’m not wrong when I say that what we have left after this 2-0 defeat to the league leaders is a lottery numbers chance of staying in the league.

City did well today keeping back a team on the way to promotion for so long but pressure always counts in football and sure enough Billy Sharp looks a striker on his way to bigger and better things. He lashed home and after that City were all but out of it save a Dave Wetherall header that got flagged away for some reason.

I’m losing count of goals chalked off for some reason. One thing we can all agree on is that in football if you don’t score goals you don’t win and Referees are determined to stop City scoring. Not that that seems to be stopping Dean Windass.

I guess it is not worth talking about what might have been and we should look at what is and what is is that we need wins and God knows where we are going to get them from. Easter is moving time Sir Ferguson says. We can only hope.

Given The Choice Of Two Evils

Football at this level needs to do something about the quality of Referees right now or it faces a nothing of a future.

Yes I am furious about the red card for Steven Schumacher which stopped a rampant Bradford City getting a much needed three points from Blackpool who had taken the lead but struggled to keep it following Omar Daley’s superb equalising strike after an hour. I’m furious cause I did not think that Schumacher even committed a foul let alone one worth being booked and I’m furious because Blackpool made the man advantage count to inflict what could be a fatal blow on City’s hopes of staying up.

Yes I’m furious about the fact that Referee let the visitors pass the ball around Donovan Ricketts for a third goal as if the injury time, last ditch goalkeeper out situation meant that the basic rules of the game did not count.

I’m furious about the fact that after a quarter of a century watching football I can still come away from grounds totally clueless as to why things have happened one way and not the other and have no one attempt to clarify things for me. Is it really that hard to have a way of communicating between Referee and supporters? I’m furious about all these things.

However I am more furious about this feeling I have in my stomach that will not accept that today we saw another dodgy Referee.

That is what we are told to accept. That the man in the middle makes a bad call this week against us and one next week for us and while only a fool would suggest that is an acceptable system it is something of a status quo in the game.

I’m no longer able to accept that idea. I’m looking for another explanation and I’m looking in places that I used to think were for raving mad men only.

Biased referees are a part of football at the moment. Referees who have been paid off to make sure one team gets a result are a part of football at the moment and if I’m asked to make a choice between the idea that today’s official Mr Bratt was making his decisions after being paid off or was just so utterly incompetent that he would send of Schumacher, would allow Blackpool’s Robbie Williams to stay on the field following his last warning as he committed offence after offence, would wave such a very off side goal into the net then I’m stuck between two options neither of which are welcome.

I would prefer that Mr Bratt had taken a pile of cash to get the result rather than thinking that he represents the standard of refereeing. One side of that question can be addressed after all. If Bratt really is the standard of refereeing then the game is not worth watching.

Certainly that is what I concluded at the end of the game as for the first time in my life I left a game early. That was not football it was pantomime. I doubt the best villains worry about being booed and I’m sure they are rewarded handsomely.

Half of Serie A – including the third biggest club in the world Juventus – are under punishment for match fixing and as I type the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal are still sitting round the G18 table with proven cheats. I do not believe it is naive to suggest that if cheating can exist at the very top level then it is possible in the money hungry, paid less world of League One.

Which is not to take anything away from Blackpool who played a good game – but so did the Old Lady of Turin over the last two seasons when they won the league only to have it stripped away. The Juve players and fans were distraught with what they assumed to be steamroller football being found to be Referees moving the obstacles out of the way.

Blackpool played well but they did not deserve the three points that they were gifted when Schumacher was sent off. Take your pick between paid off bias or game perverting incompetence but be sure of this – whichever it is it is killing football at this level and was the only thing that cost City three vital points today.

Last Time On BfB…

Since we last talked, dear reader, things have not gone well at Valley Parade.

You may recall this website being dubbed “pro-Todd” and in the months of our absence he was fired from the club one Monday morning for suggesting to the chairman that he may leave in the Summer. Todd’s replacement – skipper David Wetherall – has struggled to get results and if one were to formulate the opinion that Todd’s management abilities were shown by the fact that he could get the club mid-table not shown up by that then some would not argue.

Nevertheless to suggest that Todd was some kind of miracle worker is off the mark too. It would perhaps be a miracle to get the team we have out of the division the right way and it was certainly something that the former Derby man very rarely like achieving. That Todd’s steady hand on the tiller would is missed should not be mistaken for an idea that he was over-achieving. “Thanks Colin,” we would say, “But we are going to move it on.”

Moving it on to David Wetherall has not reaped results thus far but the skipper turned gaffer is switched onto the sort of ideas that Todd may have needed to listen to. So many of the issues around managers seem to resolve about Craig Bentham or whomever is assigned to play that holding midfield role that has been a problem since Stuart McCall went south. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and Steven Schumacher need a muscle to win the ball but Bentham – as with Crooks, Kearney and other players given the number four role – never seems to be glued into position in the side and always is the first to go in the name of pressing for attacking play.

As this is the new opinion bursting full BfB then unequivocally I’ll say that there is nothing attacking about not possession and too often without Bentham or similar in the side we left with creative players chasing attackers rather than using the ball. Should Stuart McCall end up in the Bradford City job in the summer then one can only hope he knows his own position well enough to cement a ball winner in the middle of the midfield and build out from there.

McCall may or may not return in the summer when season ticket prices may or may not go down depending on the willingness of 10,000 supporters to commit to the club. The old BfB’s pressing for a price revolution is doubly underlined by this new site and Julian Rhodes should be congratulated – and hopefully rewarded – for this innovation.

To be damned are those who drove Dean Windass out of Valley Parade. Death threats to a player who got sent off is appalling, death threats to a player is appalling, death threats to a person is appalling but most appalling is the lack of condemnation for the people who drove away a player who is increasingly looking like the reason we were half way up the league.

For sure Windass may have only received two or three letters but the brickbats and booing that came before those letters set the tone. From a humanistic point of view Windass was pushed towards the door by an ill feeling towards him that was far more common – and totally unjustified – than two or three letters.

Opinions about the man and the way he plays football are valid but the abuse of Windass from a significant section of Bradford City supporters far beyond the two or three letters are tantamount to vandalism of the club and the results are manifest now Windass has gone on loan to Hull.

Of the newer signings – all loan players – Billy Paynter looks impressive and Kelly Youga is starting to be very useful. Loan football – which seems to be on the increase – is not desirable and for every Paynter or Nathan Doyle who comes to the club City end up with a decent young lad playing within his limits. Ben Parker is probably a nice guy and is a decent footballer but that we expect the same level of commitment from him as we do from our own players and I see no reason why he should be able to give it. I would much rather see our young lads given the chance to play week in week out than I would blood someone else’s youth talent. Parker will be back at Valley Parade next season no doubt but probably as a member of the team that replaces the team that they call the worst Leeds side ever so why we expect players who’s futures are so obviously separate from the club to put in the same level of commitment is beyond me.

The young lads need a chance. They need more than the odd sprinkling of games too. They need to be given runs in the side just as Joe Colbeck is being given now. Then they need the understanding that being a young player means being inconsistent and being inconsistent means sometimes having bad games and – and this is the important bit – being a fan of a particular club means supporting your players through bad games.

I’ve not got much of a problem with people booing slackers and shirkers – I doubt it really does any good because and think that booing Lee Sharpe or Nicky Summerbee for not playing hard enough just justified their appalling attitudes – but I have a big problem with people booing players who are trying hard and having a bad game and I have a big problem with people booing the kids that come through the ranks and are trying to make it work in professional football for Bradford City.

At present City face a seven game struggle to start in League One and after that God only knows. That is where we are. Let’s see what happens…

The best losing team always wins the league

Bradford City and Colin Todd took a kicking on Saturday in more ways that one. Fans went to offices to be tormented by Town Terriers and the T&A told a tale of City’s defeat. It was not the worst day to be a Bantam but it was probably the worst we will have this season.

Aside from the losing aspect the Town jeers were all the more sweet because we knew that that knew that they did not deserve the three points they emerged from VP with. For every talk of a one sided games and robberies came the calm smile back that that really was football and teams need to know how to defend as well as attack.

And so it went and so it will go and so it will play on the minds of the City squad and management. Questions will come? Are City that good? Are we that good without Jermaine Johnson? Have we hit a limit when we get towards the top of League One? Questions, questions, questions and all undermining confidence but pointing to a truism of football.

The best team at losing always wins the league.

And there it is. The big secret of football at any level. The champions at every level are always the team that handles the inevitability of losing the best because losing – as much as winning – is the fabric of football and while it is important that a team can get three points on a regular basis it is also crucial that on weekends such as City’s when good runs are halted by frustrating and upsetting defeats that those defeats are not dwelled on, that they dwindle and do not dwarf the achievements.

Bradford City – unbeaten at Valley Parade for thirteen games. Worth remembering.

Bradford City in the play offs for League One after recording impressive wins and putting in good performances. Worth remembering.

Worth remembering and worth bringing to the attention of the players to underline the quality of the season thus far that does not evaporate because game thirteen is a poor display compared to the previous ones. The teams that can lose the best win championships and promotions. If Huddersfield at home is looked on as a defeat in singularity and as different from the rest of the season and if lessons are learned and if we move on then this game becomes a minimised downturn in an otherwise successful season.

If defeat is dwelled on then one risks it becoming endemic at the club. One risks a defeat chipping away at morale and becoming a bad run, becoming poor form.

Let us look, if we will, at the Arsenal team which went 49 games unbeaten but went to Old Trafford and lost one game. One game defeated in fifty is nothing but for Arsene’s men it became all sending them into a downward spiral. Confidence all gone after one defeat in fifty and all because the defeat was handled badly.

Contrast that with Chelsea of now, Manchester United of the 1990s, Liverpool of the 1980s. Teams that took losses in isolation. I only once recall the 1980s Liverpool side losing two games on the bounce and I often remember them roaring back from a defeat to give someone a spanking. Even without impressive returns following defeats the likes of Chelsea stop any rot before it happens and that is what Colin Todd and Bradford City have to do now.

Defeat is bad, Saturday’s defeat worse but in context it is only a single game for a side picking up points on a regular basis.

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