Taylor’s revival avoids a pressing problem

Only a fool would consider sacking Peter Taylor as Bradford City manager now but five games and twelve points ago it seemed that the City boss was a game away from his P45.

The game changes quickly and probably having lived his life in it this comes as no surprise to the 57 year old manager. One has to wonder what he made of the pressure he was coming under and the asked for and not received backing. No matter. For now, Taylor is safe.

Safe because only a fool would sack him now and Mark Lawn is no fool – indeed he did not act when other itched five games ago – but he is also no expert. Indeed looking at Bradford City at the moment and making a list of which person at the club knows enough about football to be qualified to make a call on the job that Taylor is doing and one is forced to conclude that at the head of the list is the manager himself and the gap to the others is startling.

Wayne Jacobs and Junior Lewis – and a few of the players – have some knowledge on the field and Mark Lawn, Julian Rhodes et al have some off it but like the vast majority of football club chairmen they were set the task of assessing the all round performance of the manager without the required domain knowledge to make a decision.

Take as an example Liverpool – a great reference for many things – who when replacing Rafa Benitez with Roy Hodgson did so with the idea that they were replacing a lame duck with a soaring eagle. At the moment Liverpool struggle and it seems not that Hodgson is doing an especially poor job but that Benitez had been doing a rather impressive one taking the team to second place.

In essence there was no one able to tell the difference between a good manager doing well with a bad team and a bad manager hampering a good side or – as is the case with the vast majority of situations a hard working manager doing his best only to be replaced by another hard working manager doing his best.

Indeed the idea of a good manager is questionable. Nigel Clough built Burton a season at a time over ten years and created a strong club which managed his departure without much of a blip. That is to me the measure of a good manager, not a win percentage figure.

Yet chairmen are constantly forced to look at the win percentage, the most recent trophies in the cabinet, the flavour of the month. Hodgson got the Liverpool job for taking Fulham to a cup final, Steve McLaren got the England job for similar. The list of managers sacked from doing the long term job because of poor short term results contains some impressive names.

Sir Bobby Robson – after all – was replaced at Newcastle United by Graeme Souness because he failed to secure Champions League football and Peter Reid was given the boot by Manchester City for not finishing high enough up the Premier League. United spent a year in the second tier, City ended up in the third.

Looking back at the last three decades of City managers and noting the only common factor in success – the two promotion winning managers were appointed from within – and one sees many examples of this practice of a chairman who knows less about football than the man sitting opposite him, trying to make a judgement on the man opposite him.

Gordon Gibb was wowed by Bryan Robson, but how could judge between Robson and Todd the two men in for the job? Gibb had some experience as a junior footballer but how did that qualify him to know which of the two potential gaffers would be the best for the club?

Plenty of people would tell you that Mark Lawn make a mistake when appointing Stuart McCall, or when sacking him, but most would agree that when appointing a replacement and trumpeting that man’s years in the game and experience the joint chairman was basically saying that he did not really know what he was looking for the first time, now he thinks he does.

He is not alone. Most chairmen hire managers on promises and sack them in disappointment that those promises have yet to deliver a promotion or a trophy and at no point are they qualified to judge anything other than what can be seen from the league table. The decision to move on Taylor from Hull City and replace him with Phil Brown ended up in promotion (and relegation) but the club rode on what the current City manager had built and Brown’s magic wore off in the top flight.

Chairmen lack the domain knowledge to make decisions on their managers. They can be unhappy at results but most lack the calibration to know if those are bad results with a good team or good results with a bad one. Lincoln City have replaced Chris Sutton who was gaffer for a year replacing Peter Jackson with almost no net result at all. Sutton’s side did no better than Jackson and – one was forced to conclude – that the factors in play at Sincil bank are deeper than the dug out.

To borrow a phrase Mark Lawn needs an experienced assistant. Someone with football experience at boardroom level. Most chairmen do. They need someone next to them who knows the difference between a manager building something and one who is doing badly. Someone who can tell them that things are going well at the training pitch, that the young players coming through have real potential, that the manager is doing his job well.

They do not have this, and so they sack on form and results.

Only a fool would sack Peter Taylor now, and in retrospect the decision to not make a decision on him five games ago looks a great on indeed but Mark Lawn – in common with a great number of football chairmen – needs to bring in expertise to give him the ability to make that call should it ever arise again.

The one sided derby with Lincoln City

The most damning jibe between modern football fans comes when one declares that having assessed the situation that passed between two once competing clubs that the former now no longer considers the latter a rival.

This happened first at Old Trafford who sneered across to Moss Side at City saying that United’s main rivals were now the likes of Real Madrid and AC Milan and not the Blue half of the City at all. This week might have given cause for redress on that but the insult rankled with those at Maine Road.

Indeed the same was said in the direction of Elland Road a few years later. Manchester United were concerned with putting one over Barca and not with Leeds United the supporters of whom took some delight in mocking this attitude in the recent FA Cup win. Goes the song: “1-0, but it’s only Leeds.”

Sympathy for Leeds in this situation dries up when one recalls how the Whites apply the same thinking to Bradford City – and Huddersfield Town, who join the Bantams in considering Leeds and not each other their closet rivals – with one interesting debate on the subject on a Leeds website featuring our much missed writer Roland Harris in which our boy tried to explain that the reason why City disliked Leeds more than Leeds disliked City was down to the fact the Leeds were simply more obnoxious. Paraphrasing here but Roland’s argument went along the lines that if you go around cutting people up on the motorway then the offended parties will feel more negative to you than you do to them.

Nevertheless the rivalry turn off is the brickbat of the modern game and is liberally thrown around as clubs look to establish a local dominance in what is increasingly a centralised game.

All this said, I don’t consider Lincoln City to be a rival.

It is not because we have outgrown them or gone past them (only to return) or any of those freely and liberally thrown around comments but rather because never in my life have I considered the two clubs to be rivals in any way and considering our shared tragedy in the fire of 1985 I had thought we were – well – friends.

theimp.tk‘s Nathan Jackson would seem to think differently saying to highlight a common theme on his site of antagonism between the Imps and the Bantams

As much as I’d love to beat Bradford at Sincil Bank, I can’t really picture a maximum haul against a side who are fairly decent travellers.

Jackson’s optimism about City’s form is welcome but his distaste is simply curious and goes beyond my comprehension. Answers on a postcard please, for I am none the wiser.

Wisdom, or the lack of it, seemed to be in short supply at Sincil Bank earlier in the season when Peter Jackson was fired seemingly for the crime of not having The Imps competing for the play-offs. The Sincil Bank board had a plan: they were going to hold interviews and ask anyone who came if they had a plan and someone did in the form of one time best pal of Lee Power Chris Sutton who took the management position and within a couple of months was declaring the Lincoln were in a relegation fight.

The stunning thing about this turn around from promotion contenders to best best in a relegation dog fight was the way the degradation has been readily accepted. Sutton’s press is good on the whole – the popular media love a face they recognise from nights at Wembley watching England – but as his team struggle one has ton wonder how a spotlight has not been put on those who made and influenced the decision to remove Jackson from the big seat and replace him with such massive uncertainty which would seem to have the club sailing much closer to the relegation winds than one would have thought possible at the start of the season.

Or, as one Lincoln fan put it recently:

Who’s bright idea was this? And where is that person now to explain just what Jackson was doing wrong that Sutton is doing right?

Indeed.

Naturally the person – and I have no idea who he is – probably heard and used the word “gamble” which is cropping up more often at City than it should do for a club that last gambled on six week of spending in the Premiership and lost the ground as a result. When Jackson was fired there was calls for the same to happen to his former City team mate and current Bantams boss Stuart McCall and naturally the fear for those who nail colours to a mast against such a move is that the Bantams would follow Lincoln’s slump. None of which is to say that Sutton is or will do a poor job, just that those people who suggested that a new man couldn’t do any worse than Jackson seem to have been proved wrong.

As City enter the second half of the season which – should Stuart McCall’s predictions of it all resting on the next four weeks be accurate and should the next four games go the same way as the last four – looks increasingly like resulting in a lack of result then one suspects that the Bantams and the manager might be set for a summer parting of the ways which were it not for the squabbling and back-biting from the terraces could have been dignified. No such luck.

A summer revolution leaving the likes of Coventry City target James Hanson, Scott Neilson and Steve Williams in place presents an attractive proposition for a new gaffer (if we must, I’d rather not but that is another story) but one wonders what the reaction would be if a similar downturn that followed Jackson’s exit came with a new City manager. If within a few months of the mob getting what they want the new manager is – like Sutton – talking about winning a relegation fight.

Do not worry, dear reader, for I’m sure at that point public apologies and remortage funded player investment will follow from people who promise that improvement will follow with come forthwith.

On the pitch City spent so much time off that frankly at BfB we forgot who the players were in some cases and why they might not be playing in others. Who is suspended, who is injured, who has roast beef, who has none. We fail to recall these things with a reliable level of accuracy.

City should start with Matt Glennon in goal following his d├ębut at Bury and Glennon will have the reformed back four of Simon Ramsden, Zesh Rehman, Steve Williams and Luke O’Brien ahead of him following Ramsden’s midfield sojourn at Bury. Ramsden’s return is brought about by the return from injury of Lee Bullock to start another round of being book for having two legs while Michael Flynn partners him in player of the season form. Stuart McCall’s usual 433 vs 442 question arises and in a three one could expect Chris Brandon to play in a forward laying position while in a four Brandon may be left and Omar Daley make a start on the right.

James Hanson – who has not a yellow card to his name this season – may recover from injury to return up front as Gareth Evans struggle for form with one or the other set to partner Michael Boulding.

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