Bradford City are to beat Rotherham United tonight

On attending a game, and when asked the question “Who will win today?” veteran commentator Barry Davies used to retort that if he had known that piece of information he would have no need to be at the match.

Indeed it was a point of some conviction for the Valley voiced microphone man that the joy of football – the thing that made it worth watching – was the competition within a single game. If Davies could have predicted the result of matches with accuracy he would have lost interest and I echo his thoughts.

In May 1981 it will be thirty years since I went to my first Bradford City game – a 1-0 reversal to Hereford United – and in the years between then and now the only thing I’ve been convinced by when it comes to predictions is that they play out over the long term and not that short.

I can predict, dear reader, that over the course of two or three seasons any given team will win over half the home games it plays, and that when that team goes away it will win less often, but these predictions (which, in truth, are more statements of eventualities) are possible because of the length of time of the sample. Given two or three years anomalies are ironed out and the data can be made lore and conclusions drawn.

A glance over the win ratios of the various names suggested as the next Bradford City manager reveal that the difference between the good and the rest is often within a deviation of around 10%. A good win percentage is 45%, a poor one 35% but most managers are in the middle. Roy McFarland – whom wikipedia tells us is the most successful City manager – has too small a sample for this statistic to be meaningful and an indicator of ability as noted by Paul Jewell’s lowly figure as a result of the season in the Premiership which saw view victories but a great result.

The object point being that it is only over time that conclusions based on statistical data – results in other words – can be drawn.

Which brings us to Peter Jackson – one game into what is rumoured to be three in which the former skipper can prove himself the man for the full time manager’s job – and his claim for the role which man press his claim for.

Jackson’s first time out as City manager saw an improvement of sorts. Losing while playing well (or at least excitingly) is better than losing while playing negative football or at least it is said to be although those who took Stuart McCall to task on the idea that emotion (rather than pure results) might be important are no doubt sharpening whatever implements one sharpens when one wants to cut a manager away from a club.

Having had one of his three games Jackson is looking back on Saturday as a good start and something to build on. Certainly he will have learnt much about his charges at Valley Parade from the ninety minutes although if he had said on day one that they team was not winning because a player very like (or very actually) Jon Worthington was not anchoring the midfield then for all the jibes that might of produced he would probably have been right.

Shod of a holding midfielder for most of the season Worthington’s exit to injury on Saturday weakened City’s centre and the Bantams boss will hope that he can call upon the player’s services in Tuesday night’s visit of Rotherham United. Worthington and Flynn – as a midfield – seems to have a good balance and the fact that Jackson picked that on his first day in the job saw me warm to him immeasurably. Indeed it is fair to say that from the days of often odd choices of players under Peter Taylor Peter Jackson’s first team – a 442 with a big man and a crunching midfielder – was very much template I would use.

(I make no apologies, by the way, for waiting for Jackson to do something other than walk through the front door to begin to comment on him in a positive way. At the start of the season The City Gent’s Mike Harrison was hauled down to Valley Parade for daring to suggest that Peter Taylor’s team might finish 8th. Demanding a huge positive reaction to the appointment of a paid caretaker manager sits alongside those early season antics in demanding fealty.)

The template perhaps but just as Taylor had struggled to assemble a squad to play his way so Jackson is left with the team bent out of shape. If when Kevin Ellison was swapped for Omar Daley between these two clubs a few weeks ago it suited Taylor it does not suit Jackson, and rumours have already started that City are looking at ways to undo the deal.

Not that either player will take a part in this match leaving Jackson looking at who he can deploy on the left hand side of midfield. James Hanson will start up front and Jake Speight may get the nod alongside him although Scott Dobie is pressing for a place if only because of Speight’s showing on Saturday. The loser of that could end up on the left wing. Failing that Leon Osborne, Tom Ademyei and David Syers might all want to play on the flank.

Gareth Evans will be on the right – I long to see Evans though the middle once more – with Worthington and Flynn in the middle. The back four of Lewis Hunt, Steve Williams, Luke Oliver and Luke O’Brien seems to pick itself although O’Brien may be called to go forward. Lenny Pidgeley will – no doubt – remain in goal although Jackson might fancy giving Jon McLaughlin a game.

All of which details a team which will beat Rotherham United, of that there can be little doubt. It may seem a curious and bold claim but were I to engage in the relatively pointless process of prediction it is one I would make but make without confidence. Predicting the outcome of single matches is guess work, predicting the patterns over long periods is more possible.

Understanding that begs the question as to how – for the second time in a year – Bradford City are left looking at such short term indicators as if they dictate a long term significance.

There will be a moment in the game tonight where a bobble of a ball robs a chance which robs a victory, or brings a defeat perhaps, and that will dictate (so rumour has it) if Peter Jackson or John Hughes becomes out manager.

If one can make a long term judgement on the basis of such a twist then – unlike Barry Davies and myself – perhaps one can find out if Bradford City to beat Rotherham United tonight.

Why Barry Davies should not come to Valley Parade any time soon

I never really cared for the commentary of Barry Davies preferring the more factual style of The Motson but Davies has one riposte that comes to mind in City’s current situation.

When asked who he thought would win a match Davies would give the same cheery reply of “If I knew that I would not be here.”

Davies believed that the beauty in the game was the inherent unpredictably. The fact that anyone could win a game was – for Davies – the game.

He would have a shock at Valley Parade where the Bantams chances have been declared done.

All over Bradford the defeat to Darlington has seen City’s hopes for the year consigned to history as if the season had already been played out and this were just a rerun. As if from these past six games a season could be extrapolated.

Perhaps such a bit of sooth-saying is possible but my quarter of a century plus watching City has told me otherwise. I’ve seen City roar to the top of Leagues which they later finished 17th in – 2001 under Jim Jefferies springs to mind – and I’ve seen City get two points from the first seven games in 1998/1999 and we all know how that ended up don’t we?

The Bantams have played a dozen games which at the moment seem to be split between the good half dozen and the bad ones – although at BfB we call them the pre and post-Paul Arnison eras – and it seems to have crystallised in many supporters conciousness that the poorer games are some how more of a representation of the players true abilities than those good ones were.

All of which requires you to believe in the idea that teams and players are either “good” or “bad” as if they could be given numerical ratings and quantified. Teams either play well or they do not. There is nothing else. The City team that celebrated at Wolves in May 1999 were no better footballers than the one that kicked off the season at home to Stockport County they just played better and by that one could qualify with the words got better results.

Today phrases like “dire” are being thrown at City – nothing is ever as bad or as good as reactionary opinion says – but after the round of League Two matches on the evening the Bantams sit in a play-off place in seventh four points off the lead and two off an automatic promotion slot while some supporters are saying that the Bantams are doomed to another season in this bottom division. One doubts that Gillingham and Darlington fans – whom have both got results from City in the last four days – are considering all to be lost and they fill the two positions below us.

Like the team of 1998/1999 Stuart McCall’s team need to build the confidence to minimise defeats and the mental strength to move on to the next three points which are no less available the next time the team takes they field as a second head is on a coin that has just flipped a first.

It is somewhat upsetting though that those players have to build that confidence without the assistance of supporters who are so used to negativity that they look at a play-off place as being an indication that the team will not be promoted. Perhaps it is a self-fulfilling prophecy? Certainly no one could accuse you of looking at the situation with rose tinted glasses if you suggested that a team that is in the play-offs might get promoted.

Why predict at all? Barry Davies would not have because the game is at its heart unpredictable – yes Hull City we mean you – and to be honest saying that a club will not get promoted is a little like betting that any given horse will not win the Grand National. It sounds smarter than it is.

Where did this negativity come from? Why has it taken a grip at Valley Parade and all over football? Moreover though why is it that when given to predictions supporters indulge in this negativity?

Why not look at these six games as the blip and the six before as common form?

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