Joe Colbeck is Barack Obama – Luton Town vs Bradford City – League Two Preview

I didn’t hear the snap of Joe Colbeck’s foot over at Grimsby and I could not tell who was down at first but I know he is coming back.

My mate Russ came back to City last year some time. He has been off in Siberia or somewhere and was not a massive follower of City anyway but we had a ticket free and along he came and during this game he looked out at City’s ginger right winger who became player of the season later that year but wasn’t then and he said “Is that that piece of [something] Colbeck.”

Russ was filled in with what had happened in his absence and that Colbeck was now considered to be something of a tidy player and I pointed out that some of us thought he was all along that day the lad had a stormer and all was good in the world.

So if during Russ’s absence Joe Colbeck went from popular boo boy to glorious hero what has happened during Colbeck’s break? Well he has become so important to City that you could be excused for mistaking him for a second coming.

Colbeck is great and everyone cannot wait for his return to Valley Parade and that surge of good feeling is important just as all the Obamamania is great just because it makes everyone so damn happy but unlike Barack Obama Colbeck faces a trip to Luton and a game with Bury before his inauguration [But who is to say the American political process would be worse if all candidates had a final hurdle of having to impress on a Tuesday night at Gigg Lane before being sworn in? – Ed]

Colbeck will probably be on bench duty for the Luton game and return for Bury on Tuesday night leaving Steve Jones to carry on his weird wing play where he never seems to do enough, tackle enough, get stuck in enough but seems to have played well at the end. The Burnley winger started his City career as Stevie, Jonesey or Jonesio and now is just Jones which says a lot about him. He flatters to deceive.

Jonesinho will play right wing to Omar Daley’s left and Paul McLaren, who used to play for Luton and feels some sympathy for them apparently, and Nicky Law will play in the middle. Now stay with me on this one but I think that Law should be dropped for Dean Furman who wins the ball better and winning the ball gives us more possession and that leads to more chances. I know Law has some of the same magic as Colbeck about him but tough calls have got to be made to get four or six points on the road before we get back to Drawey Parade and it is time for a change and that would be the one I make.

That said Lee Bullock might get back in the side. Why not? We won all the time when he was playing.

Paul Arnison, Graeme Lee, Matt Clarke and Luke O’Brien are a mean defence and Rhys Evans tends to look bored during most games so little has he to do so that end of the park is going well. Up front City need to give Chris O’Grady a try out.

Just kidding.

O’Grady is in the last week of his loan and it looks like Leeds are not going to be giving us tonnes of money so either the Oldham man will be going back to be one half of this scrap or Stuart McCall will confound us all by giving him a longer contract. Until that he is a not that important bench sitter.

Being fair to O’Grady he has hardly had a chance at City featuring off the bench for fifteen minutes at a time but then again Billy Topp never got a chance and that was cause he did knackers all in training to impress the boss. If the mark of a striker out the door at City is that they do nothing when coming off the bench Toppy style then O’Grady is not around for long and Stuart will be looking at signing a new loan player until the end of the season. In a way O’Grady has been the perfect replacement for Topp. The net effect of having him on the field is the same but he has none of the thrills of Toppy because he is not from Temuco City hes from Roverrum.

That or Rory Boulding will get a chance to do nothing from the bench, but probably not. The only player in the last few years to do anything from the bench is Barry Conlon who will probably be back to sitting on his backside to watch Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding. City’s strikers are my worry at the moment. All three of them score goals but at the moment I find myself lacking confidence that any of them will find the net.

It is not that logical I know cause only two years ago we had one source of goals in Deano Windass and nothing else but at the moment we are lacking the fox in the box who scores with every touch or we are lacking Peter Thorne firing on all cylinders.

Luton have zero points but should have thirty apparently. Either way they are a mid-table outfit who think that they have been hard done to and have great vengeance and furious anger which they aim at anyone who doesn’t feel they have been badly treated. If Leeds last season is anything to go by the slog to zero points will signal a general foot off the gas-ness and last week’s 5-1 drubbling by Darlington could have been just that. They have Lewis Emanuel, who I always liked as left back, but he is out injured.

It doesn’t matter anyway cause whoever is right back I hear will be torn apart by Joe Colbeck anyway, just for a change.

Topp exits Valley Parade

Willy Topp was not the player we thought he was when he signed. Being fair he was never going to be.

Aside from the obvious difference when he arrived he changed his name from Billy because, well, because he though Willy Topp and Dick Head were a little too close together the Chilean who promised goals delivered none.

Topp was to be the new Robbie Blake. He was to be the tricks and the flicks that lifted Stuart McCall’s first generation of Bradford City out of League Two. One good turn against Shrewsbury Town deserved another but did not get one and an impressive goal in the reserves apart Topp hardly even registered on the Bantams radar.

Nevertheless he figured in the minds of many. Topp should be given a chance – we heard and in some cases said – but reports of injuries, returns to his homeland for rumoured curious reasons and poor training seemed to add up to one thing. When put in the squad at Bradford City Topp could not match the efforts of others.

In many ways Topp should be where Barry Conlon is now – Topp started the season as City’s cult hero and Conlon as a boo figure – but the application of the Irishman on the field puts his rival into the shade.

Stuart McCall watches Barry and Billy, Leon Osbourne and The Bouldings and Peter Thorne every day in training and the Chilean has started to figure bottom of that list. Without wanting to suggest a blind faith in McCall’s judgement one has to assume the Topp offered nothing in excess even of the younger players in the squad like Rory Boulding who figured above the Chile man on the bench on Saturday.

Other suggest that Topp was hamstrung by a manager unwilling to try out a formation that would suit him supposing that a 433 would have benefited Topp allowing him more room to show off his skills and this may be true but at what cost to the rest of the squad? Chris Kamara played a team to fit in Chris Waddle but faced relegation until the star man left and he was replaced with more down to Earth football. All of which assumes that if unleashed with a formation change Topp would have been worth the effort. His impressive flashes numbered fewer than those that Kyle Nix produced last season.

On Topp’s exit City are second in League Two and nothing has suggested that that extra place could be earned by bending the team to fit in the Chilean. On the contrary the moral of City’s season to date has been the triumph of effort, believe and the rewards of doing the right things most often rather than hopefully employed low percentage solutions.

In a way that is the lesson that Topp gives us as he leaves. While eyes look at Billy with hope and optimism Michael Boulding – who’s arrival at City was met in places with a grimace rather than the smile of Toppy – was scoring goals and running himself into the ground and has a half dozen goals to his name.

It is impossible to form an argument that Topp should feature above Michael Boulding, Conlon or Thorne and in the end – distressingly – all the man from South America offers is tricks and mirrors while three strikers deliver goals.

Topp may go on to great things – few will wish him bad on the way out – but City have learnt another lesson on going for solid, consistent ability rather than unknown and perhaps talent.

Of course there will persist in the mind the Topp – when “given a chance” – would have been as sublime as Benito Carbone or Peter Beagrie but the reality is the player sitting on his hands while others strive and succeed.

Willy Topp joins a list with Jorge Cadete and Bruno Rodriguez. The players who we thought were going to be.

Stuart goes in without his wingers – Bradford City vs Barnet – League Two Preview

Stuart McCall never got to the by-line.

He never skinned a full back and he never cut inside.

Little legs and a low centre of gravity Stuart McCall would have been a rubbish winger but his City team is all about the men on the flanks.

Omar Daley’s random darts have confused enough defences this year to make him one of City’s most dangerous players and the route of lots of chances but while no one else can understand a word he says Referees can and have booked him enough to suspend him.

Joe Colbeck offers something different but still important for City beating men with accurate crosses but injury at Grimsby has him sidelined and Stuart is left looking for new wingers.

Nicky Law did a reasonable job on Tuesday night but did not give the supply line that Colbeck or Daley does and Kyle Nix might be able to do what Joe does but movie left but only on a good day and the Rothstrailian hasn’t had one of those in a while.

So options like Leon Osbourn and Billy Topp in a wide role are getting talked about. Expect one to sit on the bench but Nix and Law to be the guys next to Paul McLaren and the brilliant Dean Furman.

Similarly up front Barry’s heroic header on Tuesday will bring him a place on the bench behind Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding.

At the back Matt Clarke is back and could replace Tom Clarke which would be harsh on the loan player from Udders who did well alongside Graeme Hammer Boot Lee. Tom Moncur and Luke O’Brien are full backs with Rhys Evans in net.

Barnet are without Jason Puncheon since last year after if wowed then transferred but they do have Luke Medley now which says a lot about where the club seems to be going.

They messed about in the top half of the table for a bit but are bottom half now. Expect a battle but one City can win if the squad can keep in mind the fact that the flying wingers are not replicated.

Not so much Plan B as Style B.

Will-e tough it out?

As Stuart McCall attempts to lift the players’ spirits for Saturday’s trip to Macclesfield, he may take a moment to smile wistfully at reaching another landmark in his managerial career.

After Willy Topp’s omission from the squad in Tuesday’s cup nightmare, Stuart admitted on the radio after the game that the Chilean striker is keen to leave the club. Speculation is rife as to the reason why, with most assuming it’s frustration at the lack of first team action. There are also questions marks over how well he has settled into the area – he is a 24 year old in a foreign country after all – and if the injury problems which have so far dogged his City career are still causing difficulty.

Whatever the reason it represents Stuart’s first – publicly at least – falling out with a player. A quick look through City’s previous managers shows it’s an inevitable occurrence that a player dispute would flare up at some point, Paul Jewell and Lee Mills and Colin Todd and Lee Crooks just two examples, rather than a negative indication of Stuart’s man-management skills. Nevertheless it leaves him with plenty to ponder as he attempts to get his new-look squad challenging for promotion.

The recent history of management-player disputes demonstrate that the majority of supporters will typically back the player in such situations, something Stuart himself will be well aware of after his bust up with Jim Jefferies in December 2001. It’s rarely as black and white to be able to lay the blame on one party, but a quick scan of the City message boards shows next to no criticism of Topp and plenty of Stuart for not picking him enough. If he leaves, a black mark will be put next to Stuart’s name by some.

Without knowing the full story there’s little to be done but speculate, too. If Topp’s reason for wanting out is lack of chances questions should be raised at him first. Topp’s introduction to English football last season was hindered by a muscle-tightening condition which prevented him completing a full 90 minute match. We saw glimpses of the player he could be, but at times, particularly in away games, he struggled to make an impact. He had plenty of tricks in his locker, but moves would often break down by his unwillingness to play the simple ball quickly. All of this wasn’t helped by those fitness problems and, when his season was ended early so he could have an operation, it was hoped we’d see the best of him this season.

Topp has been involved in pre-season and managed to complete his first 90 minutes in the Burnley friendly but, with competition for places up front increased following the arrival of Michael Boulding, it was obvious Topp faced a fight to become a regular. After just one game into the season, where he was an unused sub, the problems have emerged. It’s to be hoped Topp wasn’t truly upset to be left out Saturday – however much criticism Barry Conlon is currently getting it shouldn’t be forgotten he enjoyed an impressive pre-season – as no one has the divine right to be in the team or should be throwing in the towel so quickly.

It’s unfortunate Topp wasn’t in the squad on Tuesday as he would most likely have seen some match action. Indeed with Stuart wanting to rest Peter Thorne and Boulding not fully fit, who’s to say he wouldn’t have started the game alongside Conlon? In an evening where City were so painfully second best the failings were largely up front. Conlon and Boulding both struggled and when they were switched for Omar Daley and Thorne it wasn’t much better. Topp might have been more effective, but whatever has gone on behind the scenes meant we couldn’t find out.

If it’s homesickness it is something difficult to cure, but rather than fall out it’s an opportunity for Stuart to put an arm around Topp’s shoulder. There is something in the Chilean which suggests he can be an asset to the club, and giving up quickly on the first player City have paid a fee for in six years would be a great shame. Stuart has proved in the past, notably with Daley, that he is a manager who displays sympathy, rather than anger, when players are going through difficult times.

But ultimately it’s down to Topp. Playing in the 4th tier of English football is hardly what he grew up dreaming of, but if he is to leave because he can’t get in the team it doesn’t bode brilliantly for the rest of his career. He can go places with this club – or at least use it as a stepping stone. He might not have been in the team on day one but it’s a long campaign and he can work his way into it. A loan move has been suggested by some supporters and the examples of what such moves did for Jermaine Beckford’s and our own Joe Colbeck’s careers show it may not be a bad idea – as long as he is prepared to come back and prove his worth.

Stuart’s job is to get City promoted this season and in his judgement we must trust. Willy can play a big part but it’s down to his attitude and resilience to make that happen.

Make Topp happy – take the wrapper off him

Billy Topp is not happy at City and some say he wants to go. I’m not surprised is his not that keen. No one comes all the way from Chile to sit on thier backside.

Toppy came over this time last year and took ages to sign. He spent ages on the injury table after that but when he did play he looked the part. The turn against Shrewsbury was a class above and every time he plays he shows a bit of a brain and a lot of a heart. He is Bazza Conlon with flicks and he is ready to go.

So what does he get? He gets to play on the right wing while we go after Luke Beckett and end up with Michael Boulding. He is sitting on the sidelines as we bring players in over his head. No wonder he is unhappy.

So here is a thought. Why not give him a go?

Everyone keeps saying how Boulding is not match fit yet and hasn’t had a proper pre-season so why are we playing him and why aren’t we playing Topp? Topp was good enough to give money for how come he isn’t good enough to play over a guy who is supposed to be half fit?

Players need games and since he came Topp has not had the chance to get a dozen under his belt. If Stuart McCall wants to know why he is unhappy that is probably it. The solution is to give him that chance and show a bit of faith in the skills he showed that made us sign him.

Bump

City’s 4-0 defeat to Motherwell brought us all down to Earth. The signings and a win over Bradford Park Avenue seemed to have got City fans thinking that League Two was in the bag. A trip to a UEFA cup team saw to that and over the weekend Shrewsbury over took us at the favourites to win the league.

I liked that rush when Michael Boulding signed and I still feel it now. I’ve looked at the eleven and the sixteen that City can put out next season and the bumps of ability around the squad are impressive.

Take the midfield situation and the players like McLaren and Brandon are in and the likes of Phelan and Eddie Johnson making do are out. Tom Penford was snapped up by non-league clubs wanting to punch above their weight when he left us but we have snapped up players for League Two clubs looking to punch above.

Players like Graeme Lee who would be the most impressive name on someone else’s team are now in our team and we have a collection of these guys. You would have looked and worried cause some visitor had former Premiership players like Boulding or multi-million guys like Peter Thorne. We have a fist full of these guys. We have the best team in League Two next season.

But having the best team and playing the best football are two different things and on Wednesday night we get to see how these Bantams play against Burnley.

Rhys Evans seems to be Stuart’s first call as keeper but I’m not convinced. This is the weakness in the side as every other position fills up.

Paul Arnison at right back with Milton Turner as back up if the Guisley man can be signed. Paul Heckingbottom at left back. Graeme Lee and Matthew Clarke in the middle which is strange cause I would never have thought Mark Bower should be dropped. Clarke is just too impressive and the sort of big man we need.

Joe Colbeck is sitting out the first two games but Omar Daley can and will fill in. Paul McLaren seems a shoe-in for the starting line up with Lee Bullock or Kyle Nix alongside him. I’ve not been impressed with Bullock much but McCall is and those two could be his starting midfield. Nix might be needed on the left with Chris Brandon injured.

Michael Boulding is injured too but Peter Thorne and Willy Topp will be up top on day one and if not then Barry Conlon is scoring freely in pre-season.

The way the names trip off the tongue. The way they fill the starting eleven with quality like Bower, Nix or Topp to spare. That is the indication of the quality Stuart has.

Someone once told me (It was me – Ed.) that to get promoted you get a bunch of players together who are too good for the league you are in and let gravity take you up. Gravity bounced City off the floor of football. Time for the bump back to begin.

Brilliant McCall bounces City into the season to savour

Michael Boulding has signed for City. Graeme Lee has signed for City. Paul McLaren has signed for City. Chris Brandon has signed for City. Paul Arnison has signed for City.

If the Bantams had signed two of these five players then people would have been talking about us as promotion contenders. If we had signed three of them people would be saying we were making moves but we have brought in over the summer five players of massive quality.

Five players who can play in the league above. Five players who most teams in the bottom two divisions would want in their sides.

You can argue about Arnison but he played in the play offs for the Championship last season. Boulding went out of the league but still was wanted by League One where McLaren was the top dog for assists. Lee has turned heads with his signing although Moore would have been more impressive and Brandon started the ball rolling.

Add these to Joe Colbeck ripping teams apart, to Lee Bullock who is league one quality, to Billy Topp and suddenly City have a team that can and I think will murder the rest of this league.

What Stuart has this season that he didn’t have last one is options. He can use Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding but who can say that Barry and Billy would get less goals? He can put Omar Daley down the left or he can use Kyle Nix or Chris Brandon to be tighter. In those last ten minutes that make the difference between teams that go up and those who don’t options to exploit the weaknesses of the opposition win you games.

The squad City have is packed with players who would have been the most impressive guy on most team sheets. Guys like Boulding and Lee who would have raised eyebrows separately are together in a kind of League Two all-stars picking the best of what was on offer.

And making a season to savour.

I’m not losing any sleep over Jon Shaw

City have not gone for Jon Shaw the Halifax striker who ended up going to Rochdale for £60,000 and I’m more than happy about that.

Stuart McCall made it clear that he would have Shaw as a squad man but not for that price and I could not agree more.  For the cost of buying Shaw Rochdale could have paid a good League Two players wage.

That is the reality of football in 2008 in League Two.  You don’t pay transfer fees anymore cause there are loads players who want jobs and at least one of them will be out of contract so rather than giving his club the cash you might as well give some of it to him as a signing on fee.  Football has been like that since Bosman in most divisions.

We all know this so we can ignore the moronic calls that City should have paid for Shaw and that Rochdale are more ambitous than we are.  The £35,000 we paid for Billy Topp might come to something in the future but as a rule if you are paying for players you are wasting money.

It is not amibition that makes a club spend £60,000 on a player it is gambling.  Gambling on promotion, gambling on a resale, gambling that they have found the difference between a good season and a bad one it is a chance that I’m glad that City are not ready to take especially not on a kid forward who despite some noisey City fans saying was a proven goalscorer has only got goals outside the league and was rejected by Sheffield Wednesday.

Good look to Rochdale and that but I’m glad that City are putting the money we have into senior professionals like Graeme Lee and Paul McLaren and not throwing it after the latest kid to bang in a few goals outside the pro-leagues.

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