Bradford City and Brazil

In 107 years Bradford City have won one major trophy and have spent 16 years in the top division. For a brief period in the years leading up to the Great War City did establish themselves as one of the leading sides in the country, but following the tragedy of the war a place among the top five proved to be unsustainable. As Accrington Stanley passed the ball around neatly during Tuesday nights match I pondered what it was all about – i.e. the point of having a football club that will probably never repeat its all too brief moment in the sun.

If we take it as read that City, barring an unlikely and unforeseeable set of circumstances, are highly unlikely to win another major trophy, then what is our aim as a football club? The consensus view appears to be a place in the Championship. If, and it’s a big if given our current position, we achieved Championship status what then? Would our supporters, and chairmen, be content once the novelty wore off? Of course not, the bar would be raised, we would yearn for a season or two in the Premier League to grab the enormous cash windfall. Is that what it is all about – money?

Back to reality. As Accrington Stanley passed the ball neatly about some City supporters screamed at our players to ‘get stuck in’. When we had the ball, if more than two passes were exchanged, particularly in defence, the players were abused ‘stop fucking about’, ‘get it forward’. In an opposite, but parallel, universe, Accrington Stanley, putting aside their later time wasting antics, seem to be a club enjoying themselves. Their Ultras sing merrily away throughout games and it seems a happy ship. Perhaps they are content to be playing in the Football League and are celebrating that fact every Saturday. It’s an attitude far removed from some of our supporters to whom the word enjoyment is an alien concept.

If we accept that City are unlikely to win anything of importance in the world of football should we move our eyes to something else? Should the club reposition itself to become one committed to attractive attacking football, whatever the consequences? By that I do not mean the relentless passing style of Spain, which at times was frankly boring, as it was often passing merely to retain possession. I mean a commitment to pace and first time passing used to attack teams.

I once spoke to Julian Rhodes about such an approach and told him about the Middlesbrough supporter Simon Clifford who was achieving incredible results with his fledgling Futebol de Salão Brazilian style football coaching. Small scale training methods with heavier than usual balls was beginning to produce players with high levels of ball skills and his boys teams had beaten domestic and even one international team. Unfortunately, Julian had the very survival of Bradford City on his mind when I mentioned Futebol de Salão.

My point wasn’t, and isn’t, about which method City adopt, it is about a vibrant club that dares to be different. I wince at the mention of percentage balls and working the channels. It smacks, to me at least, of joyless professionalism. The Charles Hughes school of direct football. Is our future effectively gambling on the one in a million chance of City finding success, or do we accept that our dreams are false and follow another path?

It might not bring success any closer, but at least it could remind us that professional football is supposed to be entertainment and we are allowed to enjoy it.

Taylor goes for a hat-trick at Aldershot

Peter Taylor’s Bradford City team take a long trip to Hampshire to start clearing up the unfinished business of Stuart McCall’s era at the club.

McCall’s side twice tried to get a game at the Recreation Ground but snow blighted both attempts leaving phrases like “not won since…” painting half truths about the end of the former manager’s time at the club. Football is a results based business, fill in the next half of the sentence about how not playing effects those results.

The oft repeated mantra about the “results based business” is something of a watchword for Taylor’s career which has shown an allegiance to the ideas of Charles Reep and later Charles Hughes and his brand of direct football as seen at VP on Saturday when Mark McCammon and James Hanson provided twin battering rams to beat a spirited Darlington side.

Which is not to suggest that Taylor’s tactics were over much like his name sake and fellow Reep schooled manager Graham just that the new Bantams play the ball quickly and directly into the danger area. Michael Flynn might have been moaned at by supporters for his attempts to spring low passes to Michael Boulding but one doubts that the principal would have upset Taylor, even if the practise did.

The results based business, the end justifying the means and credit where it is due as in a very real sense City spent the time since last week removing the possibilities of relegation that followed Stuart McCall’s departure. The six points picked up since last week mean that the Grimsby Town would have to perform in a manner which nothing this season suggests they can to even reach the Bantams current points total and with fifteen games left City need only find a couple of wins to ensure survival – or even press on from that. “The risk” has not backfired.

Taylor’s team’s play-off aspirations – aspirations which would have been helped by two or three more points that could have been picked up against Grimsby and Accrington – would be greatly enhanced by a return of more than three points form the triple away trip that City now face. Aldershot, Rotherham and Port Vale all host City before the Bantams head back to Valley Parade for the home game with The Shots.

The play-offs are perhaps out of reach for Taylor’s side but perhaps a more realistic aspiration – and one which would be admirable – would be if this year’s Bantams could finish above 9th (which is, I guess, meaning 8th) to continue the improvement of position started last year under McCall. The last time the Bantams finished consecutive season with improvements in the same division was following by Paul Jewell taking the Bantams to the Premiership.

Taylor’s pragmatists are bolstered by new arrival Gavin Grant who has been out of football since leaving the manager’s Wycombe Wanderers admit a court case in which he was acquitted and sparked some rather bizarre commentary from lawyers.

Grant is a speedy winger and his role in the squad is unknown however he may give an option to replace Gareth Evans or Luke O’Brien on the flanks with a more natural winger, although Omar Daley would seem to offer that too.

The City team is expected to be much the same as that which started the weekend game with Darlington with Matt Glennon behind Simon Ramsden, Steve Williams, the resurgent Matthew Clarke and Robbie Threlfall. Zesh Rehman remains injured – although is said to have not at all impressed Taylor in contrast to Steve Williams who the boss believes has great potential. Taylor is also impressed with Lewis Horne who will get a place on the bench.

Michael Flynn and Lee Bullock will continue in the middle of the midfield and Evans and O’Brien may feature on the flanks. Chris Brandon does not travel with the Bantams and is not expected to for the remainder of his time at City. Depending on which rumour you believe Brandon is either left out in the cold to allow his appearance fee to be spent on loan players or he is out because he is a game or two away from activating a clause in his contract that gives him a new deal next season.

It seems that Brandon’s contract was offered by Stuart McCall but negotiated by Mark Lawn with the eventual details – be it appearance fee or new contract clause – not known by the manager which gives an interesting insight into the involvement of Lawn and the way club operate.

The pair of roped in wingers are proving their worth although on away trips it is likely that the home sides will play high lines and that the pace of a Daley or Grant might be used to get behind defences. Likewise Michael Boulding’s pace could feature although the success of the bruising McCannon and Hanson pair would seem to suit Taylor’s needs.

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