Timeline / Reboot

There is a difference between you and me. We both looked into the abyss, but when it looked back at us, you blinked – Bruce Wayne, Crisis

There was a point in the history of Bradford City where the club took one turn, and could have taken another.

To be more accurate these points happen all the time but watching Stuart McCall take a Bradford City through pre-season at Guiseley I ended up thinking back to the days of January and February 2007 when Dean Windass was allowed to leave City and join Hull, and Colin Todd was sacked.

Todd’s contract was up at the end of the season and it was an open secret that Julian Rhodes wanted McCall to replace him. The need for totemic best player Windass seemed to be over with Rhodes convinced that the Bantams had enough points that David Wetherall could not possibly get them relegated in his time as manager (which he did) and had he not Rhodes might have used – not certainly not needed – an investment from then supporter Mark Lawn.

And had Rhodes excersized restraint and kept Todd, or Windass, or both, or taken another option then McCall may well have arrived in June 2007 to the very type of situation he found himself in some nine years later.

But these things happen all the time. Had Notts County’s one yarder in the first round of the League Cup 2011/2012 gone a foot lower then there would not be a Phil Parkinson legacy – such as it is – for McCall to adopt.

That legacy is not to be understated either. Parkinson has left City in rude health. The leanness of the squad in summer which caused so much consternation is purposeful and a feature of the majority of clubs outside the higher reaches of the game where lengthy deals on players are more often liabilities than assets. Only the foundations are secured in League One football these days.

And the foundations off the field are secured.

Parkinson – as far as the story is told – never walked into the boardroom and demanded money the club could not afford for players and given how easily led the boardroom seemed to be that is a good thing. That the squad last season was patched with loan players rather than panic purchases says a lot.

List the players from last season who City owned to still be at the club this season and names like Rory McArdle and Stephen Darby – both absent today and for the start of the season following operations – would be iterated through. Ben Williams and Jamie Proctor would not.

“The owl of Athena spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk” – as Hegel should have said – and it seems that dusk has not come yet for Parkinson.

Rather than a reboot of 2007/2008 and McCall’s first time as Bradford City manager in League Two it seemed that the manager was on the road not travelled, and playing in what could have been.

What was was an entertaining encounter. It would be wrong to talk about Guiseley as more than an extended and expensive training session and so to pick out specifics rather than trends seems to miss the point of the exercise.

Those trends though seemed positive.

The young players who stepped up from the lower ranks which Parkinson ignored and played with the élan of The Lisbon Girls allowed out to party for the first time. Daniel Devine’s name suggests itself.

The trialists looked lively in a way that seemed different to those Parkinson brought in. All looked capable and some looked impressive. The wheat from the chaff comes in spending time with the characters and seeing how they fit into a unit which is what games like this are all about.

It was good to see George Green make a long awaited debut. George Green and the subject of paths not taken is interesting assuming you remember the name.

And of the new signings Nathaniel Knight-Percival did not have much to do while Nicky Law Jnr set up an equalising goal for Tom Hateley (trialist) to score from. That moment when Hateley equalised revealed the game for what it was. The Bantams were happy to kick the ball around but would not go home in a defeat. The gears shifted up after falling behind showed a team working fitness rather than working to win.

And all seemed new. Parkinson has left something good at Bradford City but his exit seems to have taken with it some of the stolid tenancies which mired City’s thinking. All that was good seems good and all that was not seems new.

Which is not something that one would have expected.

Why I was glad to see the back of Mark Yeates after Bradford City beat Crawley Town 1-0

Mark Stephen Anthony Yeates walked up to the three official who had been in charge of the game between Bradford City Football Club and Crawley Town Football Club in the game which Bradford City Football Club had won by one goal to nil and Mark Stephen Anthony Yeates put his hand out. Mark Stephen Anthony Yeates of Bradford City Football Club shook the hand of one assistant referees. Then Mark Stephen Anthony Yeates shook the hand of the second assistant referee. Mark Stephen Anthony Yeates did not shake the hand of the Referee. Mark Stephen Anthony Yeates turned his back on the Referee and walked away without shaking his hand.

Jordan Pickford did not shake the hand of the Referee Darren Drysdale. Stephen Mark Darby did not shake his hand. James Meredith did not shake Mr Drysdale’s hand after the game and Rory Alexander McArdle did not shake Mr Drysdale’s hand. Alan Sheehan did not shake the Referee Darren Drysdale’s hand and Billy Knott did not shake the Referee Darren Drysdale’s hand. James Robert Hanson did not shake the Referee’s hand and Jonathan Graeme Stead did not shake the Referee’s hand. Bernard François Dassise Zoko scored the winning goal early in the game and he returned to the field at the end to walk around the field with his team mates but Bernard François Dassise Zoko did not shake the Referee Darren Drysdale’s hand.

In 2008 Darren Drysdale said that Dean Windass had sworn at him in the car park after a game. Bradford City complained and Windass insisted that Drysdale was lying but the FA backed their Referee at the time. It is seven years on and Drysdale is still refereeing in League One.

After watching Bradford City Football Club play Crawley Town Football Club in April 2012 Philip John Parkinson watched the players of Bradford City Football Club brawl with the players of Crawley Town Football Club. He watched Crawley Town Football Club win promotion while he continued to assemble a team at Bradford City Football Club that would gain honours for Bradford City Football Club.

It is said by the people who say things that Philip John Parkinson was very close to being dismissed from his role at Bradford City Football Club following that brawl but that Philip John Parkinson continued and Philip John Parkinson created a team that beat Arsenal Football Club and Aston Villa Football Club and Wigan Athletic Football Club as well as Burton Albion Football Club and Torquay United Football Club and Northampton Town Football Club.

Philip John Parkinson made a team which won games by small margins because Philip John Parkinson had a belief in how football should be played and who should be playing it. Football, Philip John Parkinson believed, should be played by people who believed in their team mates and battled for their team mates and who believed in Philip John Parkinson and who battled for Philip John Parkinson.

City won by a single goal in a tough game against Crawley. The number of changes to the side caused by injury, suspension, and the saving players for the Reading FA Cup tie put out a disrupted team but even with changes the work ethic of the team remained.

The only goal of the game came eight minutes in when a deep cross should have been caught by Crawley keeper Lewis Price but his positioning suggested he thought the ball would clear François Zoko. It did not, and Zoko headed in.

Then City contained rather than pressed. Crawley were poor – they seem set for a first Football League relegation this summer – but since Parkinson arrived the frequency which other teams are made to look poor by a City team prepared to close down quickly and apply spoiling pressure has increased. City scored, and then made sure they would not concede, and won the game.

But that win was a battle on a heavy pitch with a curious referee and a broken up team. In many ways it was the game which City fans say they want: a hard battle that is won by graft;

Odd that it was not better supported in a quiet Valley Parade.

I want you to hit me as hard as you can

Bradford City think that Kyle Bennett’s should not be banned for three games for hitting another footballer in the neck in Tuesday night’s game with Preston North End and the crazy thing is that the Football Association agree.

In the video of Bennett’s clash with Neil Kilkenny – the less said about his actions the better but nothing he doe impacts that Bennett has done – the Bradford City player very clearly strikes Kilkenny. If you can’t see it watch it again until you do and you will.

He does not strike him hard, he does not wound or injury him but he does strike him and that is the violent conduct that the player was dismissed for. This is as open and shut a case as you could expect to see in football and referee Stuart Attwell has rightly sent him off.

But the FA have decided that Bennett should serve only a one match and not a three match ban and the indication from the Bradford City website is that that is because he made “limited” contact or – if you will – he hit him that hard.

Consider that again for a moment.

Bennett hit Kilkenny (again, I’m not talking about Kilkenny’s antics) which was judged and rejudged as violent conduct and no one contests that yet the FA have decided that it is not the absolute of violent conduct that he is punished for but rather the effectiveness of it.

In April this year the same FA banned Liverpool striker Luis Suarez for 10 games for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. Ivanovic suffered no lasting effects from the nibble and I have deeper cuts on my arm from my kitten Leo but nevertheless that was judged on the violence of the action not the result.

Which is not to say I’m not glad that Bennett has only got a one game and not a three game ban but I would be incensed if this ruling went the other way and someone were allowed to get a lesser ban for hitting a City player softly.

In fact I recall Etienne Verveer playing for City at Huddersfield Town and taking a dive after Tom Cowan swung a fist at at him. The referee saw the dive but sent Cowan off because you are not allowed to throw punches even if they miss.

Both John Finnigan of Cheltenham and Ívar Ingimarsson of Reading were left complaining that Dean Windass had done something unspeakable to them that provoked red cards they got for hitting the City player but provocation is not a defence against a charge of violent conduct either.

Those were good decisions based on the clear statement in football that for all the wrongs you may perceive the game is a game and it is not for players to hand out justice with violence. We are not talking about questionable elbows or hard tackles. We are talking arms and hands striking above the shoulder. We are talking hitting someone else.

If – in football – you have to resort to throwing fists during a game then you get sent off and you get punished with severity. The action is punitive – not something I always like – and is their to tell the player not to start fighting while playing a game.

The FA have undermined what should be a clear statement but the FA’s approach to discipline is to underline strange and unusual punishments.

I’m glad Bennett will be back sooner but I cannot agree with the idea that obvious violent conduct can be downgraded for how poor it was carried out or how little damage was done.

Candidate Two: Dean Windass, an old school manager

Football used to have a place for people like Dean Windass who – talking on Radio Leeds – declared his interest in taking over at Valley Parade. He is expected to be interviewed next week.

After a long career and a good deal of highs and lows some club in the lower leagues would take the journeyman player and welcome him into their club, showing him to the manager’s office, and seeing what happened.

And often it was not much.

Sir Bobby Moore turned up at Southend United as a reward for a career well done, Sir Bobby Charlton did the same at Preston North End. Sir Bobby’s uncle “Wor” Jackie Milburn was Ipswich Town manager for a year and a bit. These were big names. Lower down the ladder of football the jobbing player got given a chance just as England stars did. Football tends to like to look after its own and any player who has been heard of got given a club to manage for a brief spell before ended up running a pub.

Reputation was the key of course. When Sir Bobby Moore walked into Roots Hall he brought a dash of World Cup magic with him. Forever painted in red and gold on a sunny day in ’66 he must have dazzled in interview and the supporters no doubt welcomed him with the same awe. Aside from the odd quote in a newspaper – tidied up by a friendly editor – footballers seldom talked about football so the idea that the England skipper might not be that clued up on running a team never seemed to occur.

And then came BSkyB. Twenty four hour non-stop talking about football from anyone and everyone who can string a sentence together, and often those who cannot.

Which brings us to Dean Windass who is exactly that sort of player who would have been given a chance by some chairman who held him in high esteem and supporters would have been impressed by his reputation. Not now though with Windass having spent the last few years struggling to be coherent in front of camera for Sky TV.

Not that I would criticise him for struggling with that job – on the hoof football analysis is tough – but the fact that his abilities thinking on his feet has been exposed means that rather than his arrival being treated with he surprise of the new Windass has already been revealed.

He is what he is. Gruff, passionate, seemingly not especially bright (again, one would hate to conclude that on the basis of doing a tough job on Sky) and hardly the stuff of the modern tactical manager. A million miles away from Mourinho.

How close to Trevor Cherry? How close to Roy McFarland? Two of City’s successful managers of the 1980s got the job on the basis of England credentials and their own reputations. When appointed no supporter could say if Cherry or McFarland talked a good game, both played one, and that was enough.

So Windass represents a kind of old school approach to appointments. The guy who gets the job because of his reputation and a good feel that they chairman gets from him and – if he does well – gets to keep it.

It seems doubtful that City are prepared to turn the clock back.

Another search for a manager begins

Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes will be used to looking for a new manager and – after three appointments two of which lasted less than a year and a bit – they show no signs of having a grasp of the right criteria to make those appointments.

When Stuart McCall “resigned” from the club the question we asked was what the plan was for the recruitment of his replacement was. A lot of these questions have been answered with the move to new facilities at Woodhouse Grove and the appointment of Archie Christie as Chief Scout and Director of Football Development.

There is a plan at the club which Christie was brought in to implement to develop players for the first team – and to provide more players for the manager with a more extensive scouting network – which aims to take some of the onus of recruitment from the manager and have a retention of knowledge beyond the man in the dug out. Unlike the situation where Peter Taylor left and his backroom staff were sent away with him Jackson having left yesterday the players have familiar faces around them.

It is this type of system which saw an end to Kevin Keegan’s second spell at Newcastle United and – in a way – Alan Curbishley at West Ham but is increasingly common in football. Indeed on Jackson’s last day at Valley Parade Michael Flynn told Radio Leeds that Colin Cooper took the players through their paces while the manager spent the morning on the phone to football managers trying to find a striker on loan. The team and manager lunched and went over the plan for the Barnet game, then resigned.

(It should be noted, and as an aside, that Keegan’s contracted stated that he would have the final say over players brought into the club and when the club’s Director of Football Recruitment Dennis Wise signed Xisco – the issue which Keegan resigned over – Newcastle United were in breach of that contract and while Keegan resigned he later successfully sued the club for constructive dismissal. One wonders what the detail of Jackson’s contract was.)

The manager’s remit is the first team and the requirement is not for an holistic club builder but rather for a game winner, and someone who with coaching and deployment can edge a performance an inch or two better. There is a list of managers who were considered to replace Stuart McCall (now Motherwell): Peter Taylor (now Bahrain), Steve Cotterill (now Portsmouth), Russell Slade (now Leyton Orient), Peter Jackson, Lawrie Sanchez (now Barnet), Jim Magilton (now caretaker assistant manager Shamrock Rovers), Dean Windass (working for BSKYB), John Coleman (still Accrington), Iain Dowie (no club), Martin Allen (now Notts County) and Wayne Jacobs. Six months ago John Hughes (no club) declared an interest in joining City and John Still (still Dagenham) interviewed for the position.

How many of these fulfil the remit which Jackson was being asked to work within? Certainly John Still – the victorious Dagenham manager of last week – would do having worked with Christie before but one has to wonder how much of an appreciation of what skills the next manager needs to have, and how those skills are distinct from those which were required when looking for McCall or Taylor.

Having appointed a big personality in Jackson – and perhaps had personality clashes – Lawn and Rhodes may be tempted to opt to bring in a younger manager who is more malleable, less set in his ways of how to run a club, and able to work within the current structure. They would do well to avoid “Yes” men.

The aim of the club is to have an appointment before next week’s trip to Morecambe which suggests that there is someone in mind – probably someone who has talked to the club six or eighteen months ago – but that Lawn and Rhodes do not have the clarity to bring someone in immediately. Were John Still to be the choice then one imagines a call would be made, a resignation drafted, and the new man revealed on Monday. The fact that there is a week until appointment suggests that there are discussions to be had and a choice to be made. There is a suggestion that three interviews will be held this week. One has to wonder what Lawn and Rhodes think they will hear in those interviews which they had not heard in the last two rounds, and how they will be able to sift the answers to get the right man. We are to assume that Jackson and Taylor were both the most impressive people in interview.

The early runners

The link to John Still – who talked about how he would have joined City were it not for the uncertainty over the future of Valley Parade – is a strong one with the Dagenham manager being in the final two of the club’s thoughts when Jackson was appointed. The club would – not doubt – have to pay Dagenham to free Still from his contract.

Impressive in the last round of interviews was former Hibs and Falkirk manager John Hughes who is out of work at the moment and could come in without any compensation payable. Hughes is a strong candidate for the job but one might expect him to be appointed this morning rather than next week if he is the chosen one.

Former players Peter Beagrie and Dean Windass have their name’s mentioned often in connection with the job. Beagrie has shown no interest in moving into management thus far but Windass has made his desire to take over the club known – Terry Dolan as his assistant – and could fit in as the type of rookie manager who may appeal to the board who have had problems dealing with experienced number ones.

Former Barnsley manager and City man of the 1980s John Hendrie is also an option although one might wonder how many conversations Hendrie has had with Stuart McCall about the board at Bradford City and how that would colour his view of the job were it offered.

City have always been fond a bit of fashionability and so perhaps Jim Magilton – who is working as caretaker assistant at Shamrock Rovers who qualified for the Europa League with this superb strike last night may be an outside bet having talked to the club previously.

Other names work mentioning include Colin Cooper the current caretaker manager and former player and Farsley manager Lee Sinnott. Paul Ince has been mentioned – his promotion with MK Dons would impress the board almost as much as his collection of shiny medals but his track record is patchy.

Finally John Coleman has interested City in the past.

In praise of Bradford City 1998/99

This article first appeared in the excellent football website The Two Unfortunates in February 2011.

The Crumbling Terrace: Pre-amble One
Towards the end of the 2008/9 season

There we are, on the crumbling terrace of Morecambe’s old Christie Park ground,, watching Bradford City and wondering how it all came to this.

It turns out in the game that City will be robbed a winning goal when Peter Thorne bundles in from close range and that a line’s flag twitch – the doubt going to Morecombe’s on loan Rene Howe – will bring defeat and more so bring to an end Stuart McCall’s expensively assembled side’s promotion push. Those things are for the future though because the more pressing problem is that the police are taping up a barrier in front of us telling us that we can’t lean on it because “a bit or pressure and it will be over.”

How did it come to this? Why did it come to this?

The Man Who Would Not Walk Again Takes Flight: Pre-amble Two
Late 1998

Ashley Ward has scored for Barnsley – recently of the Premier League – and they are going to sneak a 1-0 win at Valley Parade despite having only ten men but something in the Bantams psyche seems to struggle. Let us not kid ourselves, we have watched Bradford City team edged out of games, losing 1-0 and being a dash unlucky about it, for decades now.

There is something in Paul Jewell’s side which seems to denounce that idea. Jewell is a rookie, younger than his captain McCall at 32, but he seems to have built a team which has the character and desire that was sadly lacking from the man as a player.

Two goals were scored in injury time, both by Gordon Watson a player who 18 months early had almost lost his leg after a tackle described as “The worst I have ever seen in football” by Chris Waddle. This is his comeback game.

Watson had been taken from the pitch to hospital where he had almost lost his leg to a tackled six minutes into a local derby with Huddersfield Town. Kevin Grey’s “tackle” came when City were already one down and while an equaliser was scored the whole game was overshadowed by an horrific injury. Then manager Chris Kamara had burst onto the field in anger, his face turning sickly on seeing the wound. Everything was overshadowed.

Now he was back and in five minutes Gordon Watson scored two goals and turned a blank return into two points. Moreover though he maintained the belief that seemed to have dripped into the club under Paul Jewell. The manager from nowhere brought a belief from somewhere, and it had changed the club.

Two goals in five minutes. It seemed fated, everything seemed fated.

The Promise

May 1999

On the 9th of May at around 2:17 on a bright May afternoon Bradford City were promoted to the Premier Division of English football as runners up to Sunderland following a season which had threatened nothing at all.

The opening day – a defeat to Stockport – saw returning club legend Stuart McCall injured and was followed by two points in six games and suddenly it seemed that the team that cost a staggering £3.5m to build and included City’s first two £1m plus signings in Issiah Rankin and Lee Mills was going to achieve very little.

Hope came after a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United where the Bantams looked more than capable and belief came from that, or so it seemed, and that belief was cemented by the return of skipper McCall and a gradual climb up the table that included Barnsley, 2-1, and Gordon Watson.

Watson’s story seemed to typify the playing squad who had all come back from some kind of injury or – in the case of McCall – exile. A key figure in the club’s failed push for promotion in 1988 McCall always had “unfinished business” with City and so as he anchored the side using the wealth of experience that comes from an FA Cup final, World Cup goals, multiple titles with Rangers he made good on that promise.

When City were promoted – a 3-2 win at Wolves on the final day of the season securing it – it was very much McCall’s promise manifest. Certainly a season of performances represents something precious to any football supporter. We know, as supporters, that players are more mercenary than we would like to admit and when a player seems to match us for how much he cares we cherish that player.

And that group of players, in this case. Players who seemed invested in the outcome of the season which offered a deliverance for many. Watson from injury and the ghost that haunted him, McCall from the previous failure.

Peter Beargie had arrived a summer before under allegations – and later convictions – to do with a sexual assault while he was at Manchester City. Beagrie faced prison when he arrived in his first, ineffectual, season but the change of manager from Kamara to Jewell seemed to have focused the mind. Everything Beagrie did seemed to have a point to it, every cross made to perfection, hanging impressively for Lee Mills to arrive onto. At the end of the season three quarters of the club’s goals came from Beagrie, Mills or fellow striker Robbie Blake.

If Beagrie had faced prison then fellow winger Jamie Lawrence had been there. A convicted bank robber Lawrence had been something of a novelty on his release signing for Sunderland and then Leicester City but that novelty had faded and Lawrence wound his way to Valley Parade which seemed to be another step in a career of wandering but once again Jewell seemed to focus the mind, tell the player that his achievements were limited only by his belief.

This became Jewell’s hallmark with Bradford City and was a trick he repeated at Wigan Athletic. His ability to take a player and make him perform seemed to border on the magical and no more was this true than with idling forward Robbie Blake.

Blake was a bit part player transfer listed for being pulled over for drink driving in the week Diana died and incapable of nailing down a place in the starting line up despite the odd impressive performance. He was a slow right winger, able to show tricks but without the traction to stick in the team, until Jewell’s intervention.

Jewell got under Blake’s skin – famously they used to have bust ups with Jewell offering him nowhere to hide and dubbing him a “sulker” – but whatever the means the ends were impressive. Direct, skilful and cunning Blake formed a partnership with Lee Mills which tormented the division.

Blake’s anticipation allowed him to feed off the £1m costing target man Mills and grow into the type of player the manager himself felt he could have been had he had the application. The man who used to lay out Kenny Dalglish’s shorts Jewell’s playing career was a cautionary tale used to motivate the strikers he managed.

As a signing Mills – sadly – turned out to be a one season wonder after problems with drink cost him his place in the Premier League but for that season he represented some canny business for the club. Chris Kamara had been keen on Mills while the player was at Port Vale but it took Jewell’s determination to put in the £1m bid and secure the player. Belief, it seemed, was the watchword.

Another player who suggested much for some season and was anointed by Jewell’s belief was midfielder Gareth Whalley. Whalley, a £650,000 recruit from Crewe, became a midfield partner for McCall adding a sly pass to the captains driving heart. Darren Moore seemed too big, too cumbersome, to be a Premiership player but Jewell made him the defensive rock partnering him with one of Jon Dreyer, Andy O’Brien or Ashley Westwood on the basis of the opposition.

Gary Walsh, veteran of the Manchester United bench was as sure as one could imagine between the posts. He had a calm confidence about him that seemed to exude throughout the team. Walsh had left Old Trafford after collecting a lot of medals while hardly getting his kit dirty and ended up at Middlesbrough where he had been a small part of Bryan Robson’s Teeside revolution but in Bradford City he seemed to have found a place where his achievements would be recognised on the merit they had.

As a keeper Walsh was something to behold. Possessed of an unerring sense of positioning Walsh was the type of goalkeeper who seemed to suck the ball into his hands. Not for Walsh the need for acrobatics but rather a calm sense of seeming to play the next few second of an attack out and conclude where the best place to be to gather the ball at the end of it would be. A belief, if you will.

Late on in the season £1m brought Dean Windass to the club – a perfect match or player and team – but Windass’s contribution was minor although not insignificant. One bank holiday Monday at Bury with the team running on empty it was Windass who – like Watson before him – pulled three points out of seemingly nowhere.

Not that every signing Jewell made worked well. Full back Lee Todd was signed to replace club man Wayne Jacobs but Jacobs – as he would do all his career – saw off the challenge to win back his place. More obvious though was the £1.3m spent on Arsenal’s young prospect Issiah Rankin – a player of whom Jim Jefferies remarked “could not finish a bowl of cornflakes”- which proved profligate in excess.

A player with lighting quickness Rankin struggled for goals and after a fruitless pair of games at Huddersfield and at home to QPR was dropped for Blake to shift from the right hand side and Lawrence to join the team. Rankin never looked forward again.

Belief, it seemed, was lacking.

And It Was About Belief, Of Course
May 1999 and onwards

All these things eclipsed: The players, the manager, the belief; and they eclipsed in a game at Wolves that lead to two seasons in the Premiership, Benito Carbone, Stan Collymore and the story which is too often told. The first season in the top flight continued much of what had been good about promotion but the sense of hunger that Jewell used to feed the belief had gone. Within a month Watson was gone, Blake and Moore on the transfer list, and slowly things fell apart.

Those years continue to define the club – the financial fallout ruins the club to this day, we are the footnote in discussions about a Paul Scholes wonder goal – but seldom is the making of those days, how we got to a point where we could throw it all away, considered.

So a crumbling terrace in Morecambe and the failing of a promotion campaign and everything seems so far away now. Much further than the positions in the league and the comparison of Christie Park to Old Trafford or Anfield.

The reality of football is that most Autumns turn into hard Winters and joyless Springs. Most players want to achieve but fall short, most teams lack collective belief. This is not the game’s tragedy, the tragedy are those years having seen such a thing, and the wanderer waiting for its return.

Taylor gets a final chance to write his history

Peter Taylor exits Bradford City after Saturday’s game with Stockport County which is described by joint chairman Julian Rhodes as “possibly one of the biggest in the club’s history” but the judgement on his time at the club will not follow until the end of the season.

Taylor’s time at City has been marked with upset over negative play and managerial mistakes as well as the manager criticising supporters who he revealed today were the cause of his decision to leave but his position in City’s history will be written in May when he is either written off as an experiment gone wrong or written in stone as the man who had Bradford City relegated out of the Football League after 106.

An assessment which would be harsh for sure – you do not go from the Premiership to the Football Conference in just over a decade because of the guy who got the job twelve months ago – but one which will no doubt be made. Taylor’s only input into this writing of history is the tone he sets in his final game.

The final game with Stockport who – in something of a minor irony – have helped to seal the manager’s early exit. Mark Lawn and Rhodes talked about their requirements for the medium and long term when thinking about the next appointment but it cannot have escaped their notice that by changing manager Lincoln City and Saturday’s opponents have turned seemingly moribund seasons around with revivals.

There is something to be said for that approach too. It is football in the ludicrously short term – the financial position being what it is and relegation hovering City may only have a short term left – but increasingly it seemed as if the players had lost belief in Taylor and that they might benefit from another voice in the dressing room.

Be it David Syers and Tom Ademeyi being given the midfield roles against five Lincoln players, Scott Dobie being given the job of chasing high balls or Luke O’Brien and Lewis Hunt playing full back without anyone supporting them when they are doubled up on the players are coming under criticism for decisions made by Taylor, and on occasion that criticism comes from Taylor.

That they stop thinking that following the manager will lead to success is a problem addressed by Taylor’s exit, although after that one suspects the problems will begin and that chief amongst those problems will be finding a new manager who has the same effect on City which Steve Tilson has had on Lincoln to some degree or another.

If the benefit of Taylor’s exit is a change of voice in the dressing room then there seems little benefit in appointing Wayne Jacobs until the end of the season but the assistant manager has twice taken control of the club as caretaker in the past. The two week gap that follows the Stockport game suggests City will have time to bring in short-term appointment and that a caretaker taker will probably not be needed.

Names suggest themselves: Phil Parkinson and Brian Laws mentioned in one breath, Dean Windass and Terry Dolan in another. Martin Allen has previously impresses Mark Lawn and could get a chance to do again but those problems are for Monday. Saturday is more pressing.

The effect of Taylor’s departure on that game is hard to measure. The City players responded to Stuart McCall’s departure with a loathsome display at Accrington Stanley in Peter Taylor first game. In his last one might expect the squad to be equally nervous although perhaps they will feel they have something to prove to the outgoing manager. If they spot a trenchcoat in the main stand they may feel they have something to prove to the incoming manager too.

Taylor is likely to stand by the players who have figured in the majority of his squad although there is a sneaking feeling that he may employ a 235 1911 style in a final flash of “attacking football.”

Assuming he does not Lenny Pidgeley will keep goal behind Lewis Hunt, Steve Williams, Luke Oliver who more than most will be effected by Taylor’s departure one suspects and Luke O’Brien. A middle three of Michael Flynn, Lee Bullock and Tom Adeyemi seems set to continue – one has to wonder why Jon Worthington was brought in – while the forward three could feature a return for James Hanson alongside one of Scott Dobie or Gareth Evans, and Kevin Ellison.

These players are tasked with winning the game – an everyone in for a pound offer which sadly was not extended to the visitors should see a few more bums on seats – and starting writing what could prove to the the last chapter in the 58 year old manager’s career.

A win and graceful retirement to Newcastle United’s backroom awaits, a defeat and he starts to become the man who killed a club.

Omar Daley out, Kevin Ellison in – Taylor’s football intentions become ever-clearer

Surprise news emerged yesterday evening that Omar Daley is heading on loan to Rotherham United with Kevin Ellison swapping places and joining the Bantams.

Daley, who is out of contract at the end of the season, was just over a week ago substituted in the final stages of the Lincoln City defeat to some people booing. The Jamaican international had endured a difficult evening where he appeared reluctant to follow his manager’s instructions, and perhaps his ineffective performance has lead Taylor to accepting an offer from a Rotherham United outfit desperate for new players to maintain a faltering promotion bid.

Yet still this is a hugely controversial decision by Taylor – and one that I personally struggle to agree with him on. After a slow start to the season, Daley showed some superb form in late autumn/winter that helped to lift the Bantams up the table following an appalling start. Indeed the free role Daley was entrusted with seemed to be proof Taylor does not always favour negative football. Who can forget the way Daley tore Oxford apart and scored two stunning goals at the end of October? Nor should we discount the fact that City’s last win, over a month ago now, was delivered by an outstanding Daley volley.

Is the relegation battle we are now embroiled in all about backs to the walls and grinding out results, or should there be room for the sort of creative spark Daley delivers? I’m sure that City’s new relegation ‘rivals’ would certainly kill to be able to call upon a player capable of proving a devastating match winner, rather than packing him off.

Daley though is inconsistent and does not always deliver but the moments of brilliance that are in his locker often trigger a level of joy that makes watching football so worthwhile. Daley might have days where you’d love to strangle him – and he might have them a bit too often – but the moments of jubilation he has provided us since joining the club four years ago will stay with us for many years.

If this is Taylor’s intentions – getting rid of the flair – let us look forward to his departure this summer and let us find a manager who will be willing to get the most out of the gifts he has got; rather than force them to play in a way that is not natural to them and leaves them subject to booing from their own fans.

All of which hugely overshadows the arrival of Kevin Ellison, who has been linked with a move to Valley Parade in the past. Ellison has featured against City many times – not just for Rotherham, but previous clubs Stockport, Tranmere and Chester City – and worked under Taylor at Hull in 2005-06. Able to play out wide or as a striker, he is probably seen as Taylor as more willing to play the wide striker position of the recently-preferred 4-3-3.

Ellison offers great consistency if nothing else. And with Taylor having maximised his playing budget, it has to be acknowledged that he must wheel and deal in order to improve the squad. If, in his opinion, Ellison offers more than Daley he is within his rights to effectively end the Jamaican’s time at City. However Ellison is more workmanlike, and Daley’s exit suggests much about the type of football we are likely to endure over the coming weeks

Ellison has been a regular for Rotherham this season, so his release would suggest manager Ronnie Moore sees him worth letting go in order to secure the services of Daley.

Taylor, on the other hand, looks to use Ellison to guide the Bantams away from same relegation which the player suffered in the Summer of 2009 with Chester City and in doing so takes the same gamble which Colin Todd did in allowing Dean Windass to leave the club on loan four years ago.

The result of that action was relegation, Taylor will hope that history does not repeat itself.

The goalscoring problem as City travel to Oxford

Tom Adeyemi’s season-opener at Shrewsbury; David Syers’ tap in at Stockport; Leon Osborne and Adeyemi’s crucial strikes at Barnet; Omar Daley’s clinical penalty at Bury; James Hanson’s tap-in and Gareth Evans’ belter at Lincoln.

And that’s it for Bradford City’s league goals on the road so far this season.

After 11 away matches the Bantams have netted a meagre seven times. That’s the worst record in the entire division, and says a great deal about why City are struggling to position themselves as promotion candidates. To put the goal-shy exploits into perspective, the last time the first 11 away matches of a City season saw less goals was the year we quickly drowned in the Premiership (2000-01).

With four of City’s next five taking place away from Valley Parade, a continuation of the improvement in the last away match is needed to ensure play off hopes remain alive following this crucial part of the season. Three of those four away trips – starting at Oxford tomorrow – are against teams currently above City in the league. Now is not the time to be affording more opposition goalkeepers clean sheets.

The fact Syers and Daley are joint top league scorers with four apiece underlines the lack of goals in City’s forward line. Last season’s top scorer Hanson (13) has struggled to recapture his form of a year ago, with just two of his five goals to date coming in the league. Evans (11 last season) has endured a difficult campaign due to injury and also has two in the league.

Jake Speight (one Carling cup goal), Louis Moult (one league strike) and Chib Chilaka (yet to score) had limited opportunities in the first half of the season. Daley has often played up front to largely positive effect, but will never be a great goalscorer. Luke Oliver’s brief spell as target man in early autumn featured no goals, Jason Price’s late autumn loan spell saw him net only once.

At the start of the season, manager Peter Taylor declared that he was lacking a striker with that extra know-how, and he must surely be wishing for a clinical forward who can sniff out half-chances and net regularly. Such players are always difficult to find, and City have been fortunate in recent years to have first Dean Windass and then Peter Thorne scoring goals for fun. It could be a while before we see a striker as prolific, leaving City’s Goals For column lagging behind others.

It would be wrong to solely blame the lack of goals on the strikers, as the service to the front players has been limited all season. We can quickly point to the lack of wingers in Taylor’s squad, which has resulted in a lower number of crosses from the touchline. City appear to favour working the ball into the box or direct passes for the forwards to attempt to make the most of. The crosses are largely supplied by full backs.

Years of inconsistent wingers hardly provide a convincing argument that Taylor is wrong in his alternative approach; but the fact City have failed to score in 10 of the 23 league games to date, and have only scored more than one goal in a game on four occasions, simply has to be improved on during the second half of the season.

It’s largely a question of balance. We know that under Taylor City will play more conservatively, but the priority seemingly given towards making City difficult to break down rather than taking the attacking initiative is placing a huge amount of emphasis on the first goal in every match. On more than one occasion when the opposition have scored it, City have collapsed as they get caught between suddenly requiring urgency to chase the game and maintaining cover at the back.

Witness the dismal displays at Burton and Cheltenham, or even the way City reacted to conceding to Barnet on Saturday. Perhaps the unfamiliarity of suddenly having to display attacking urgency is causing too many players to forget the defensive basics. When it’s a time for cool heads, City are consistently losing theirs.

Only three times this season have City overcome conceding first to get something from a game – the Carling Cup win over Notts Forest, the thrilling victory over Cheltenham and the disappointing 1-1 draw with Accrington. We go behind, and it seems to be curtains.

So not exactly a winning combination – struggling to score goals and reacting poorly to conceding first. Overcome these two problems, and City might still be capable of ending the season in the play offs. But it’s a question of talent,  it’s a question of spirit and it’s a question of confidence – all difficult for the manager to magically instil in his players.

Nevertheless City travel to an in-form Oxford with the play off spots still in sight and a week of feeling frustrated about slipping up to Barnet to get out of the system. Lenny Pidgley will keep goal having in recent days received criticism from a section of supporters over his recent form. In front of him will probably be Richard Eckersley, Shane Duff, Oliver and Luke O’Brien. Duff went off injured last week and struggled during the first half. As we saw in his first few appearances for City, it seems he is a player who takes time to recapture his rhythm after a lengthy lay off.

The biggest questions over Taylor’s selection lie in midfield. Tommy Doherty has been left out the last three games, the first two of which saw victories. Lee Bullock has performed well in his place, but City lack guile without the Doc’s impressive passing ability – not to mention the high reliance other team-mates place on him. Syers dropped below his usual high standards last week and, with two games in quick succession, may be rested for at least one. Daley will probably continue on the left wing, despite making a greater impression up front this season.

Then we come to Adeyemi, who had his loan extended until the end of the season this week. It’s perhaps unfair to bring up the giddy predictions of pre-season during cold nights of January, but all season long the confident proclamation of a supporter sat behind me at Rochdale in July – that Adeyemi could be the Patrick Viera of League Two – has stayed in my thoughts. Adeyemi has had limited opportunities in his preferred central midfield role – he was outstanding performing it alongside Doherty during the win at Barnet last October – but overall his displays have been frustratingly erratic.

Adeyemi is performing a wide midfield role, but not one where Taylor demands he races down the wing and fires in crosses. He is asked to help the central midfielders, especially when City don’t have the ball, so they are not outgunned in the middle of the park. He is asked to show discipline in maintaining his position, winning back possession and quickly releasing the ball.

He is doing the same role Paul Jewell asked of Windass during the first few games of the 1999/2000 Premier League adventure, and like Dean at the time he is heavily criticised for it by supporters who fail to understand what he is being instructed to do.

But that said, his performances haven’t been great and the decision to re-sign him poses a question – “is he really the best we can do?”. Yet perhaps the bigger point is that, very soon, Michael Flynn should be back and Adeyemi dropped to the bench in a reshuffle. Why bring in a better player – especially if it’s on higher wages – if the inspirational Flynn will be back in two weeks and in need of that starting place?

Up front expect Hanson and Evans to start with Mark Cullen on the bench. Perhaps he will provide the goals that are badly missing – his youth record is good – or perhaps Speight can make an impact as he returns to first-team consideration following his unsuccessful loan at Port Vale.

Will a real goalscorer please stand up. Hurry.

Where does one see Bradford?

A view which normally shows Bradford, but is foggy, taken this morning on 8th of October 2010Waking this morning in Bradford and looking out over the City one could not notice – as the photo shows – that something was missing. Indeed Bradford, it seemed, had gone.

From the back window of Clayton you can normally see Lister’s Chimney and the view over BD8 but not Valley Parade which as the name suggests is under the eye line, hidden from view.

One has to wonder what has been going on hidden from view at Valley Parade this week. A defeat to Hartlepool United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy came almost without a blip so expected was it after the woeful 1-0 loss to Morecambe at the weekend. Peter Taylor was linked to a move for Calvin Zola – Calvin Zola is not coming – and TalkSport and the Daily Mirror both noted that this weekend’s game was win or bust for the City manager of six months.

Despite the board of many and the co-ownership it seems that Mark Lawn will be the one to make that decision. Lawn famously said that he “had 2,000,000 more reasons to be frustrated” than other City fans and if one agrees to the idea that the more you have money the more you can care about your football club then one can only imagine how Lawn feels watching the things he has put into place to replace Stuart McCall that should have worked failing so miserably now.

Say what you want about McCall’s exit – and we have all said lots – but Lawn’s recruitment of Peter Taylor was a clear way forward and an outstanding appointment of a manager with a great track record. One might argue the length of the contract has caused problems or that the failure to get training facilities sorted out are restrictive to what the manager can do but few would say they should be the cause of a woeful run of form.

Would City be in any different position now if Lawn had given Taylor a five year contract not a three month one? Perhaps, but as Lawn – we are told – is considering paying out Taylor’s contract then the brevity of it becomes useful in this situation at least.

Taylor’s team take on Barnet who struggle at the foot of League Two also. Jon McLaughlin has kept goal no better and no worse than Simon Eastwood did but is more favoured and perhaps that says much about the nature of support at City. What is an offence one season may not be the next.

Reece Brown is not expected to return from injury to be right back so Zesh Rehman will continue while Oliver Gill is supposedly enforced at left back. Shane Duff is expected to return from injury to partner Steve Williams in the middle of Taylor’s defence. Lee Bullock will sit on top of them with Tommy Doherty expected to return alongside him.

If it is win of bust for Taylor then he should probably play Doherty. A weak midfield will lose the game and thus his job and so it will hardly matter if Doherty misses the first game of Dean Windass, Peter Jackson or whomever’s time in charge.

Michael Flynn’s recovery from injury came to a grinding halt at Hartlepool United where his hernia which was thought cleared turned out not to be after his substitute appearance. Lee Hendrie will fall in as the left hand midfielder – let us not say “wide man” and Omar Daley is expected to play on the right with Taylor adopting a 4411 as strikers appear at a premium.

Luke O’Brien seemingly is out of both the midfield running and left back. It is said that there are players in the dressing room who would not be upset to see the back of Taylor but that O’Brien is not one of them. Such shows great restraint by a player who has been ousted from the City team so often. Tom Ademeyi seems to float in and out of the side with little reference to his performance. Leon Osbourne and Robbie Threlfall both seem to have had time in the team which has come to an end.

Luke Oliver will no doubt lead the forward line and while I would not concur with the idea that he should not do that because he is “out of position” – few would have complained if midfielder Flynn had been fit enough to take the position in the attack – the fact that Oliver struggles to play the role effectively is a problem. Calvin Zola was rumoured to be arriving and did not and as Peter Taylor looked around the world of football for a striker to borrow his vision was as blank as the fogged look over Bradford this morning.

James Hanson edges closer to fitness and perhaps Taylor might be able to risk him, Gareth Evans is out for three months. Taylor”s inability to get the levels of performance out of Evans that they player is capable of minimises the effect of this – he was not playing well – but as a player he can do and the frustration of watching good players play badly under Taylor is epic.

City have gone four games without a goal and Taylor has a selection of strikers for the the role off the main striker. Louis Moult, Jake Speight, Chib Chilaka. Name the striker and he is not scoring enough goals. The net seemingly fogged for Bradford City.

Peter Taylor will hope to cut through that fog, to get the win, to extend his stay at the club which looks increasingly like it will be coming to an end with the next defeat. Should that be the case then Mark Lawn’s view at the future at Valley Parade would be as fogged as the view from it.

Where would we go next?

A long time watching as City face Rotherham United

We Bradford fans looking ahead to tomorrow’s game evening at the Don Valley Stadium do not have much reason for optimism.

Following the elation of a very good performance and last minute winner against Gillingham many believed a corner had be turned. Unfortunately despite the fact Northampton were supposedly dead on their feet following 120 minutes of midweek cup heroics City could not kick on. Bradford now go into the Rotherham game only two points off the bottom of the football league and could even be bottom before Wednesday comes. Many see tomorrow as a foregone conclusion and it is understandable to see why- Rotherham are yet to lose at home Bradford City are yet to win away.

Having faced my usual lecture following a visit from my grandfather this weekend about how I ‘should be playing football on a Saturday rather than watching that bunch of fairies’ I couldn’t justify it with my usual response that I enjoy watching Bradford too much because currently that is not the case. His favourite catch phrase of ‘you’re a long time watching from the stands but only a short time playing’ may begin to hit home. My feelings towards watching the offerings of the current Bradford side probably sum up the thoughts of many current supporters.

However, at least we can look back to our last outing to Rotherham’s home in Sheffield with happier memories. After thinking we had had the result stolen away from us in injury time we went straight up the other end of the pitch and forced a corner. On that day we managed 5 shots on target 11 in total on Saturday we mustered a measly 1 shot in the whole game.

Also on that day the scorers were, Michael Flynn and James Hanson for a side skippered by Simon Ramsden and how desperately do Bradford need those three back now. Unfortunately none are ready to face Rotherham which must leave Taylor thinking he is not the lucky manager that Stuart McCall suggested we needed during his unofficial radio resignation. And for those already beginning the Taylor out calls we must hold a certain amount of sympathy with regards to this because based on last season’s showing a Bradford City without Michael Flynn, James Hanson and Simon Ramsden is much like Liverpool without Gerrard, Torres and Carragher. On the other hand though Taylor decided to assemble a large squad over the summer and that does not leave him short of options.

Ramden’s absence will be felt even harder following the injury to his understudy Lewis Hunt who is likely to be replaced by centre half Zesh Rehman. The rest of the defence that will have to contain the division’s best striker, Adam Le Fondre, will depend on what system Taylor decides to line up with. Should he go with his favoured 433 then it is likely Luke Oliver will resume his target man role further forward with Williams and Hunt with Luke O’Brien maintaining his place to the left. However following Saturday’s failings at Northampton he may consider 442. In such a system O’Brien may push up to the left wing with Robbie Threlfall returning to left back. It is probable that Williams and Hunt may still keep their places but Oliver is well liked by Taylor and could be considered. The defence will be completed with ever present Jon McLaughlin between the sticks.

Further forward it is anyone’s guess what possible solution Taylor will try and find to cure City’s inability to not only score but also create chances. The midfield will much depend on whether Lee Hendrie is considered to have gained enough match fitness to start. In this case it is likely that David Syers will lose his place if 433 is continued but a 442 could well see Lee Bullock or Tommy Doherty dropping to the bench. Another option that Taylor will no doubt consider if to keep O’Brien at full back with Hendrie out wide a position that in the Bradford side that a certain cousin of his knows very well. This would allow O’Brien a license to roam down the left side and create opportunities on the overlap as Hendrie is likely to tuck in more central. A further option Taylor has available is to make it his set up all about pace on the flanks and although Omar Daley appears to be out of favour- he didn’t even make the bench at the weekend- Leon Osbourne may occupy the opposite flank to Luke O’Brien.

Finally, the most evident problem in the side, who will be chosen as the men who are supposed to score the goals. Unfortunately Bradford don’t boast a Le Fondre in their side. Instead our strikers this season have got a one goal haul between them in the first 8 league games and that was from a Gareth Evans penalty. Unfortunately Evans seems to be lower on confidence than anyone and a ghost of the player who took on James Hanson’s mantle at the end of last season and was at the forefront of Bradford’s good run in the closing games. His replacements in the last 2 games have been Jake Speight and Louis Moult. Speight has worked tirelessly since his introduction to the side and Moult has come with glowing references from his Premier League parent club, Stoke but appears to go missing for large periods of his matches so far. Many fans claim this is because Taylor plays him out of position and perhaps they may get their wish against Rotherham and see him played as a more central striker in a front 2.

One past Bantam declared that the player he would pick as a striker week in week out was Omar Daley. That former Bantam was Dean Windass and although I’m not too sure I agree with his opinion I would certainly give anything to see him lining up in a City shirt again. If that was the case I’m confident that even at 41, he’d have more goals than the 6 strikers we have played so far combined. After all you can guarantee he’d of had his hands on the ball before Gareth Evans for that penalty!

Despite having a few key players missing through injury Taylor still has many options available to him, the majority of which are his signings. We are now 8 games into the league season and Taylor said it may take him ten games to discover his best side, I worry that if things don’t improve in the next two he will be getting very few more.

The shortlist begins to whittle down as City prepare to make a new appointment

By the end of this week we should know Bradford City’s new caretaker manager until at least the end of the season, but who is in contention? Here’s the who-what-why-when-where-how of the reported candidates.

Peter Taylor

Why might he be interested? Having guided Wycombe Wanderers to promotion from League Two last season, Taylor was surprisingly given the boot last October as the club struggled to come to terms with League One life. That his successor Gary Waddock has done little to improve the Chairboys survival hopes once again underlines the futility of changing managers. Taylor has also been linked with the vacant Notts County position.

What’s he achieved? A lot in a lengthy career which beginnings included non-league Dartford and Dover Athletic. He rose to fame after then-England manager Glenn Hoddle asked him to manage the England U21’s in 1996. He also took over at Gillingham in 1999, guiding the Kent club to promotion from Division Two, via the play offs.

Taylor had one game in charge of England as caretaker in 2000, a 1-0 defeat to Italy. It’s well documented he handed David Beckham the England captaincy, but he also helped to bring in the new generation of England players in place of the aging ones which had failed dismally at Euro 2000.

After guiding Brighton to the Division Two Championship in 2002, Taylor left for Hull and lifted the historically-underachieving Tigers from the bottom division to the Championship thanks to back-to-back promotions. He again managed the England U21s at the same time.

Where has it not gone so well? In between Taylor’s successes has been some notable failures. Following Martin O’Neill at Premiership Leicester in 2000 was always going to be a tough act. At Filbert Street he spent a whopping £23million in 18 months, and was sacked as they headed to relegation.

After the success at Hull, Taylor took charge of Crystal Palace but failed to lift the Championship club towards promotion and was sacked after 16 months, with the Eagles languishing in the bottom three.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? At Gillingham, Taylor’s side caused an FA Cup shock when they defeated Paul Jewell’s Premiership City 3-1 in 2000.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? City’s four ex-non-league players might welcome him here because of his non-league background.

How should message board users go about abusing him? Well Taylor has a similar persona to Colin Todd (four years younger). So you could try labelling him a miserable old man and claim his team talks must be very uninspiring.

 

Steve Cotterill

Why might he be interested? Cotterill has been without a club since leaving Burnley in 2007. He has been linked with the VP position, though BfB understands he wasn’t interviewed prior to the weekend. He may be one of at least two interviewees lined up for Tuesday, and has recently been linked with vacant positions at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday.

What’s he achieved? Cotterill is best known for his success at Cheltenham Town at the turn of the millennium. He guided the Robins from the Conference to Division Two. In 2002 he left to manage Stoke and then, after just 13 games in charge, went to Sunderland as assistant to Howard Wilkinson. Cotterill is Burnley’s longest serving manager and in his time took the Clarets to the FA Cup fifth round.

Where has it not gone so well? His decision to move to Sunderland in 2002 was a disaster, as he and Wilkinson oversaw a dismal relegation campaign and won just two games. Cotterill was clearly lined up to be Wilkinson’s long-term successor, but was sacked with the former Leeds boss before the season ended.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? One of his 13 games in charge of Stoke included a 2-1 success over City. A Gary Walsh miskick allowed future Bantams’ striker Andy Cooke to score a tap in, which sadly spelt the end of arguably City’s finest modern-day keeper.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? At Burnley, Cotterill earned the nickname “Cotterball” for his long ball tactics; so our centre backs, who seem to love hoofing the ball aimlessly forwards, would presumably welcome carrying this on.

How should message board users go about abusing him? His quick departure from Stoke and fact he left Cheltenham suggests he uses clubs as stepping stones, so you’ll be able to say he doesn’t care about City.

 

Russell Slade

Why might he be interested? Sacked as Brighton manager in November, Slade has managed several lower league clubs and will be attracted to the Bantams, as arguably the biggest club he’ll have managed.

What’s he achieved? Not a lot really. His arrival at clubs has often caused the short-term effect of strong winning runs and he’s guided Scarborough and Brighton away from relegation troubles. Slade has also reached two play off finals – with Grimsby and Yeovil – but lost both times.

Where has it not gone so well? Over a longer period Slade has been unable to significantly take any club forwards and has been known to walk away. He was sacked at Yeovil last season for ‘gross misconduct’.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Just ask Gordon Gibb. In 2003 Slade had apparently all but agreed to become City’s youth team manager, but changed his mind to the clear annoyance of the former chairman.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Simon Ramsden played under Slade at Grimsby.

How should message board users go about abusing him? Slade was said to be interested in returning to Grimsby when there was a vacancy at Blundell Park late last year. Fans didn’t want him, and that the man who got it instead hasn’t won a game yet means you can justifiably moan, “even bloody Grimsby didn’t want him!”

 

Peter Jackson

Why might he be interested? Sacked by Lincoln City last September, Jacko would apparently love to take over at his former club.

What’s he achieved? Became Town manager in 1997 with the Terriers bottom of the league, managed to pull it around so they beat the drop but, despite a flying start to the season after, he could only lead them to a midtable finish and was sacked the day after City were promoted to the Premiership. Returning in 2003 with Town languishing in the bottom division and just coming out of administration, Jackson guided Huddersfield to promotion via the play offs. He took over at Lincoln in 2007 when the Imps were in the relegation zone and lifted them up the league.

Where has it not gone so well? He was sacked twice by Huddersfield and at Lincoln, and his boastful nature can count against him in the long term. For me though, the usual style of football he plays – defensive-minded and all about the counter attack, time wasting and fouling – has limited his progress. Not pretty to watch.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Jacko obviously has a long history with City and fans’ attitudes towards him generally differ by age. In recent years the dislike towards him has softened and, when Jacko was receiving treatment for throat cancer two years ago, he revealed he’d received more letters of support from City fans than any other club.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Chris Brandon and Matt Glennon played under Jackson at Town and would presumably welcome him.

How should message board users go about abusing him? You don’t need my help on this one.

 

Lawrie Sanchez

Why might he be interested? Like Cotterill, Sanchez has been out the management game for a few years. He was last at Fulham.

What’s he achieved? Starting at Wycombe, he guided the club to the FA Cup semi finals in 2001 (beating Peter Taylor’s Leicester along the way). His achievements at Northern Ireland were highly impressive. Taking over with the country winless in three years, he guided them to famous wins over Spain and England as they climbed from 124th to 27th in the FIFA rankings.

Where has it not gone so well? Away from the cup exploits at Wycombe, league form wasn’t great and he was sacked. Sanchez must surely regret leaving Northern Ireland for Fulham, where he signed some of his star Irish players but couldn’t lift the club upwards. He earned the boot after just 24 games in charge (four wins).

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Just before he became Northern Ireland manager, Sanchez expressed his interest in the managerial vacancy at City that was eventually filled by Bryan Robson, saying it was an attractive job as there would be “money to spend”. Hopefully Sanchez did his homework when applying this time.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? At Wycombe Sanchez was criticised for sticking with aging players, so any City player the wrong side of 30 might hope he persists with this approach.

How should message board users go about abusing him? The style of football he introduced at Fulham was widely derided, so expect similar moans about “hoof ball” if he got the job.

 

Jim Magilton

Why might he be interested? Sacked from QPR before Christmas due to an alleged bust up with a player, the Irishman will probably be hoping for a Championship job but might see a spell at City as an opportunity to be in the shop window.

What’s he achieved? A popular player at Ipswich, Magilton was handed the reins in 2006 after Joe Royle left. He twice came close to finishing in the play offs but after his second failure was sacked to make way for Roy Keane. In his second of three seasons at Ipswich, Magilton turned Portman Road into a fortress (they lost just once at home). Appointed QPR manager this summer, the club had started this season well.

Where has it not gone so well? At both Ipswich and QPR Magilton had sizable transfer funds, but he couldn’t take Ipswich up. How would he do on a shoestring budget?

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? As a player, Magilton greatly impressed City fans during a 0-0 draw with Ipswich in the 1998-99 promotion battle between the two clubs.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Michael Flynn, Lee Bullock, Steve O’Leary and Luke Sharry would surely learn a few pointers from a brilliant midfielder. The attractive passing football he introduced at QPR would also see City’s midfield be given greater responsibility.

How should message board users go about abusing him? Unproven, fights with players (allegedly), only here until he gets a better job, etc.

 

Dean Windass

Why might he be interested? The former City striker hung up the boots earlier this season after a brief spell as player-assistant under Colin Todd at Darlington. He’s making an impression as pundit on Sky Sports, but is said to be desperate to become a manager.

What’s he achieved? With no previous managerial experience, nothing yet. However his exploits at City – 216 games, 76 goals – demand respect.

Where has it not gone so well? Both spells at City ended less happily with Deano typically shooting his mouth off. His second exit, on loan to Hull, was particularly unhappy with rumours I couldn’t repeat here.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? See above.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Only Matt Clarke and Luke O’Brien were at the club when he departed. In his autobiography Windass praises Todd for allowing him to solely focus on getting on the end of chances rather than dropping deep to help the team, Peter Thorne may welcome a manager asking him to do something similar.

How should message board users go about abusing him? When playing for City message board users poured some frightful and at times disgusting abuse towards Deano, expect that to continue if he takes over and doesn’t do well.

 

John Coleman

Why might he be interested? Accrington manager, the third longest serving in the top four divisions. It seems unlikely he would give that up for a few months at City, but he has yet to sign a new contract at Stanley and keeps been linked. Perhaps he’s sick of people going on about the milk advert.

What’s he achieved? Since taking over at Stanley in 1999, Coleman has lifted the famous club back into the Football League via three promotions. Despite very low gates and financial worries, Coleman has kept Stanley away from the relegation trap door and, even with recent form dipping, they still retain an outside chance of the play offs.

Where has it not gone so well? Nowhere yet, perhaps he wants to keep it that way by staying put.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? The shock 3-0 success of Stanley at Valley Parade in October 2007 was described by Coleman at the time as the best performance of his time at Accrington.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? His career rejuvenated by Coleman, former City striker Michael Symes might relish following his boss to BD8 to show what we missed when he was here.

How should message board users go about abusing him? Coleman would quickly be labelled ‘out of his depth’. Those who pretend to be wiser would also go back to last season’s 3-2 City triumph at Stanley – where Accrington blew a 2-0 lead – as an example of his lack of tactical know-how in not seeing out the game. “I knew after that day he should never become our manager” you might claim.

 

Iain Dowie

Why might he be interested? Other than the odd appearance on BBC’s final score, Dowie was last seen assisting Alan Shearer at Newcastle United. After a very promising start to his managerial career, Dowie’s stock has fallen in recent years and he might see this as his route back.

What’s he achieved? After starting at Oldham, Dowie became Crystal Palace manager in December 2003 with the club 19th in Division One. His objective was to keep Palace up, he ended the season taking the Eagles to the Premiership via the play offs. Despite a good fight, Palace went down and the following season Dowie’s team lost in the play offs.

Where has it not gone so well? Everywhere since. He left Palace for Charlton and was sacked after 12 games, did little at Coventry and managed only 15 games at the trigger-happy QPR.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Guided Palace to a 2-1 win at Valley Parade in January 2004, as the Eagles headed to promotion and City headed to relegation.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Not Zesh Rehman, who was at Loftus Road when Dowie took over. Zesh was instantly loaned out to Blackpool.

How should message board users go about abusing him? Dowie’s usually had plenty of money to spend, but his record in the transfer market isn’t great. Expect him to make a couple of dodgy loan signings and be written off there and then.

 

Martin Allen

Why might he be interested? Having left Cheltenham under something of a cloud earlier this season, Allen is looking to restore a battered reputation.

What’s he achieved? Allen made his managerial name at Brentford where he saved the Bees from relegation from League One in his first season before steering them to successive play off semi finals. He also oversaw some memorable FA cup exploits, which included him swimming in the river solent ahead of a tie at Southampton.

After resigning due to lack of investment in the team, Allen helped to turn the MK Dons tide by taking the relegated League Two club to the play offs. The defeat to Shrewsbury was widely cheered given the MK Dons unethical emergence.

Where has it not gone so well? He left the Dons for Leicester and was sacked after just four games due to not getting on with chairman Milan Mandaric. He emerged at Cheltenham last season, but couldn’t save them from the drop to League Two.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? He was of course the opposition manager for City’s remarkable 5-4 win over Cheltenham earlier this season.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? The much-loved City supporter, ‘Charlie’. When Allen’s Brentford side were being well beaten by City in 2005, Allen left the dugout to sit and talk to Charlie in the stand. He later remarked on how Bradford City fans “know their football.”

How should message board users go about abusing him? Allen was a popular in The Game a few years ago when passionate managers screaming on the touchline was in fashion. Widely-viewed as nutters these days, Allen at City would be slated for getting worked up during games.

 

Wayne Jacobs

Why might he be interested? Just like McCall, Jacobs cares passionately about Bradford City and is said to not be able to imagine being anywhere else.

What’s he achieved? As assistant at Halifax, he helped Chris Wilder guide the club to the Conference play offs.

Where has it not gone so well? His caretaker record at City now reads P 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 F 0 A 1.

When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? No explanation needed, Jacobs proved himself a true City legend during his 11-year spell as left back.

Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? It’s been suggested the players are very disappointed McCall has left, so they may welcome Jacobs taking the step up.

How should message board users go about abusing him? Already some OMB users have threatened to chuck away their season tickets if Jakes is appointed, which is a shame. As assistant, some fans moaned he clapped too much; expect close scrutiny over his touchline routine which will of course be considered wrong.

Fun with candidates

Looking at the news banded about as City’s managerial candidates I thought – as a bit of fun – I’d try to score them by what success they’d achieved in their careers and how long they’d been at the sharp end as managers.

I started thinking of a way to judge each of the names and to give them points for what they had done. To be fair to those who began at small clubs I also included years in the Football Conference and any success they had there.

This was not a scientific process. I decided that each would get four points for having guided a club to promotion and a single point for having taken someone to the play-offs but not got promotion.

Dean Windass got no points at all because he has never been a manager. Jim Magilton, Ronnie Jepson and Lawrie Sanchez also scored no points having never gained promotion or a play-off berth during their managerial careers. Sanchez once got to an FA Cup semi-final but one doubts that would sate promotion hungry Bantams fans.

The remainder is interesting. I divided the points totals gained for success by their years in management and came up with these scores:

  1. Peter Taylor – 1.666 points
  2. Steve Cotterill – 1.143 points
  3. John Coleman – 0.666 points
  4. Peter Jackson – 0.625 points
  5. Iain Dowie – 0.571 points
  6. Russell Slade – 0.200 points

As I say, it’s just a bit of fun!

Not surprisingly, by my formula Peter Taylor and Steve Cotterill are the two outstanding candidates.

Despite Taylor topping the list personally I would prefer Cotterill. I’ve got two reasons for this. As well as he has done Taylor always seems to have had a bit of money to spend (in fairness, it might not have been a lot) when he’s achieved success. Secondly is the “home counties factor”. The lads born in the home counties always seem ready to go back there at the drop of a hat. It seems to pull them back like a magnet when located elsewhere the always give me the impression of “just passing through”.

The spotlight falls on Lawn as the short search for new manager should have begun

If one were to believe the rumours heard then Lawn has been keen to replace McCall since the start of the season – certainly McCall’s exit can not have come as a surprise to him although reports in the T&A say the two were not speaking – and so one must assume that the joint chairman has a successor in mind. Indeed the same T&A article suggests that Lawn has been pressuring for a management change for some time.

Reading that article – the talk of a rift between manager and chairman, the talk of a suggestion of bringing in a “senior man” – Lawn sounds no different to the OMB supporters he criticised recently. Indeed for strong leadership to be shown in this situation were the exit of the manager has been brewing for so long Lawn needs to have the successor in place on Saturday, and he needs to select wisely.

Distressingly Lawn is talking about appointing an interim manager until the end of the season which calls into question any idea of the joint chairman having a plan for City’s future post-McCall.

There is no reason why – should Lawn think that Stuart McCall should have been challenging for promotion with this squad of players why supporters should accept anything other than a team that can amass (circa) 37 points or more in the next 19 games.

Without putting too fine a point on events Lawn must have thought about a new manager who he believes is an improvement and a continued spell without that man needlessly exposes the club to risk. Lawn talked about the club’s need for stability in the past yet seems to have decided against continuing that policy now.

A manager who offers obvious improvement is needed and the position Mark Lawn has City in forgoes the idea of any risk in this appointment.

The next City manager should not be a repeat failure so people like Peter Jackson – sacked twice in his career – need not apply and should not be considered if they do. What is the point of replacing a manager who you do not think will succeed with one who is proven to fail?

The list of two and three time failures who would love the chance of eighteen months getting paid at City is long. Everyone on it should be ignored.

Likewise hundreds of players who are approaching the late thirties and fancy a player/manager job will be keen to apply and City have had success down this route in the past with Roy McFarland and Trevor Cherry but the risks of appointing a rookie to a role to gain the experience you have just lost by allowing someone who has been doing that job for years to depart is far too great. The unproven, like the proven failures, should not be considered by Mark Lawn.

Lawn needs to look at the pile of CVs that will arrive on his desk and ask the question what is a good football manager? How does one decide that one is better than the other? How can one guarantee that this manager is better than the last?

Certainly that does not come with someone else’s cast off who has never succeeded nor does it come with a new appointment. It comes from finding a manager who has not only had success – Mike Walker had success at Norwich but had no idea how he had achieved it let alone how to recreate it at Everton – but had multiple successes in disparate situations, perhaps situations which are applicable to the one the Bantams offer.

Again Jackson’s name should be struck off. A manager who once got it right as Jackson could point to in his second spell at Huddersfield Town does not offer the risk free promise of improvement but rather the chance that the success he had may not be repeatable.

There is a great example in City’s own history. Paul Jewell was able to create success at City but he is not alone in coming through the ranks at a club and taking them to glory – Walker followed that route Norwich City – but tellingly Jewell was able to do it again at Wigan Athletic unlike Walker who spend eleven months on Merseyside before getting the boot. Similarly Chris Kamara brought success at Bradford City but failed at Stoke City.

A manager is not a proven success if he has only achieved once and similarly CVs that show single achievements should be put in the bin next to the unproven and the proven failures. Lawn will already no this because he will have already gone through this process in consideration of the manager he would replace McCall with.

Jewell is an outstanding candidate for the job and while he still talks in terms of Premier League he said of City after his departure while on a visit to Valley Parade “This is still my club.” Lawn could do must to restore some faith in the idea that he has an idea on how he will improve City should he state on Monday that Jewell is his number one target and that he wants to speak to him about the job.

Jewell aside very few candidates suggest themselves although another is Peter Taylor who has taken Wycombe Wanderers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Gilligham and Hull City to promotions in the past showing his ability to reproduce success. Both would be good appointments but both have done their best work when funded handsomely and both have patches of failure in their careers.

To be honest if the rumours that Lawn has been keen to replace McCall since the start of the season are the case then he should have already have had that conversation with Jewell or Taylor someone of that ilk and calibre and have him ready to take charge for the game with Grimsby at the weekend.

No unproven, no proven failures, no flash in the pan single success managers if Lawn is to convince anyone that he has a plan to improve the club.

A common phrase heard of late is that football is a results business and should that be the case then the smart football chairman looks for a manager with manifest repeated results to reduce the risk to the club.

That is if the idea in the Bradford City boardroom is about trying to make low risk improvements and not just of appeasement and getting one’s own way

If Lawn is even seen standing next to Dean Windass, Peter Jackson, Peter Beagrie, Simon Davey, Brendan Rodgers, Russell Slade, Martin Allen, Mike Newell, Gareth Southgate, Ian McParland or any of the other managers who fall into these three catagories where risk is attached to the appointment then one has to wonder what the net benefit of this process will be other than the history of the club being bent in a way that simply lets the chairman get his own way.

One Michael Symes

It was in an 8-1 win where I became unimpressed with Michael Symes.

The forward – who returns to Valley Parade on Saturday and has talked about the frustrations he felt at City under Colin Todd who “messed with his head” – was paired in the forward line with Dean Windass in the opening match of pre-season at Farsley Celtic.

Symes scored one, Liam Flynn scored one, Windass got six.

That was impressive about Windass’s doubt hat-trick was the simplicity of the goals he scored. Each one he controlled the ball taking a touch to give him time, aimed for an area of the goal where the keeper was not and placed the ball. He did the same in the Premiership against David Seaman once. Dean was impressive like that.

Symes – on the other hand – fumbled and flustered during the game scrambling home his goal not never showing the composure that hinted he would be the partner for Windass we sought so badly. It is interesting to note that any number of players claim that Colin Todd should have partnered them with Windass during their times at City – Steve Claridge was very vocal on the subject – but for all the talk of Symes, Claridge, Joe Brown who was preferred to Symes at times it was Andy Cooke who did the most to earn the chance.

One wonders what Cooke – who retired in 2008 – thinks of the players so ready to suggest that they deserved his place in the side. Cooke work rate was there for all to see at Valley Parade and his rare goals were celebrated with an added gusto. Symes, on the other hand, was taken off in a game on New Years Day after 38 minutes once cause – well – he just did not look sufficiently interested.

Symes wanted to start games – who wouldn’t? – but as with the talk of Rory Boulding this week did he do enough to merit the chance over Brown or Cooke?

None of which is to suggest that the Stanley man – who the fans rate so high as to suggest he will be sold in the transfer window to balance the books – has not learnt from his experiences at Valley Parade or that his insights are not relevant and interesting just that as City slid down the leagues we left behind us a trail of players who are all too ready to suggest that if things had been done differently – normally including them – that slide could have been halted. This attitude reached its apotheosis at the end of last season when quality players spend three months looking at year other with blame rather than take on responsibility.

Responsibility for performance being one of the key parts of the current City team which while it idles in mid-table is considerably more enjoyable to watch than the teams that Symes featured in.

It is a difference worth appreciating.

A new path for Dean Windass

Dean Windass followed in the footsteps of Bradford City legends Chris Kamara, Paul Jewell and Peter Beagrie at Sheffield Wednesday last night, when reporting on one of his former club’s 2-1 defeat to Preston for Sky Sports News. Carrying out the usual format of hopping from ground to ground to keep tabs on the latest scores, the programme kept handing over to a slightly nervous-looking Windass, who tripped up a couple of times but generally tried to do his best Kamara impression in relaying the excitement of the Championship fixture. Nice work for a retired man.

His playing career is now over, after almost ending in the most fairytale of manners. It’s less than 18 months since Windass fired home a stunning volley for Hull City at Wembley, elevating his home town club to top flight status for the first time in its history. The former brick layer who was once rejected by the Tigers, then awarded a second chance and quickly became a cult hero. Deano moved onto to bigger things, playing in the top division for Aberdeen, Bradford City and Middlesborough, before one day returning to his first love to inspire them to new heights.

Had he known what was to come next, Windass might very well have retired upon the final whistle at Wembley. It was always hard to believe he’d be able to cut it in the Premier League again, now approaching 40, although the lack of first team chances he received during the first half of Hull’s debut top flight season was a surprise. He was then the victim of Phil Brown’s ego self-preservation, publicly taking the rap when the manager chose to berate his players on the pitch at half time of the Tiger’s eventual 5-1 mauling at Man City. Loaned to Oldham where it seemed certain he’d do well, his arrival coincided with a play off bid collapse and disastrous team bust ups that while not named as the cause of was nevertheless associated with Deano’s influence. He ended the season not allowed to play for Oldham or Hull, with Brown ordering him not to come back to the KC.

Taking the first steps of management this summer after new Darlington boss Colin Todd appointed his former player as his number two, the new chapter was beginning before the playing chapter had quite concluded. A few weeks later and after a dreadful start for the Quakers, he and Todd were gone. Despite earlier in the season claiming he wanted to keep playing until 2011, the boots have now been hung up. 

Windass has already confirmed he’s applied for the vacant Grimsby job, though a question mark remains over whether any club chairman would give him such an opportunity. Often compared to Gazza in terms of personality, he will have his work cut out convincing would-be employers that he has the maturity to handle matters such as playing budgets. His infamous bust up with Neil Warnock at Sheff United, when he was dropped for the play off final, also throws up questions about how well he’d be able to manage his own players reacting in such ways.

Hopefully someone will give him a chance though, as his obvious enthusiasm for football would be a great loss to the sport. Surely he can still contribute more to it than patiently waiting for Jeff Stelling to utter the words “and now over to Dean Windass.”

Weekend preview part two – I believe that Northampton vs Southampton is a local derby

Belief is a funny thing.

When I was a kid it was my belief that Northampton and Southampton was a local derby in the same way that Manchester City vs Chester City or West Ham vs West Brom was.

One former footballer – for example – believes that The Queen is secretly a lizard.

It is a curious view point but looking at how this ethereal thing that is belief rules footballers lives it is probably not hard how one could convince himself that what he decides is, is. The Bradford City team that lost 5-0 to Notts County trudged off the pitch believing they were going to struggle – one suspects they did – but that was the last home league reversal because the belief that courses through the veins has come from seven games without defeat.

The belief is now that Bradford City can go to somewhere like Northampton – as we do on Saturday – and win the match. Belief that is distinct from expectation levels. The players believe they are a good team, a team who deserved to win in the week against Morecambe in the week, thus they are a good team.

That is belief in football.

Disbelief in football was Tuesday night’s sending off of Gareth Evans which goes down as one of the poorest decisions in a Bradford City game ever. There are so many reasons why Stuart Attwell got the decisions wrong that to enumerate them is almost cruel – like pointing out the poor quality of a child’s painting compared to Mona Lisa – but while Attwell continues to foul up football matches his misunderstandings rather than his mistakes should be highlighted.

It is not that Attwell just saw the wrong thing – we could argue about what did or did not happen for eon – but it what he choice to do with the offence he perceived. Evans and Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche both contested a ball outside the penalty area. When dealing with goalkeepers the rules of football are based around exceptions so they do not state “A goalkeeper can handle the ball in the box” but rather “no player can handle the ball aside from the goalkeeper in the box”.

They are written this way to ensure that the goalkeeper – once he leaves his box – is not treated any differently from any other player. Watch the Evans/Roche again and imagine the Morecambe player is not a goalkeeper and try picture a situation where it would be a red card.

Evans goes in to the challenge from the front and with a single foot sliding along the floor. It is not violent conduct for sure – that covers punching and headbutting – and it is almost impossible to interpret it as serious foul play which covers things such as two footed tackles. Once again imagine the tackle between outfield players.

So either Stuart Attwell thinks that Evans’s slide was some serious foul play – and if he did then he missed many similar red cards in the game – or he saw that a goalkeeper was involved and decided to ignore the rules of football he is there to apply. Or he did it for some other reason tied into the fact that he is the sort of Referee that gives goals when the ball does not go in the net but he has a belief it did.

The Attwell’s rubbish – which is what the red card incident should be known as – means that Gareth Evans will not be eligible to play against Northampton, Notts County in the Cup or Crewe at home on the following Saturday and frankly the only reason I can see what the club is not screaming to the rafters to have the decision overturned is out of a fear of a Red Riding style corruption that haunts Refereeing.

Jim Gannon said that because his Stockport County side showed up a Referee they were victimised and City’s dealings with Joe Ross seemed to start a good few years of frankly bizarre Refereeing that included a five match ban for Dean Windass for being cheeky. Indeed The Owl and The Badger of the corrupt West Yorkshire Police of Peace’s novels would find it hard to justify that incident where accused was not allowed to speak in his defence and the only witness was the case for the prosecution.

I digress. Maybe appealing is City not making waves and maybe in the long run that is the right thing to do. Certainly I would not trust the FA, the Referees or the appeal process. That is my belief.

I have another belief though which may not be given much regard by most but as Evans sits out and Michael Boulding returns to the side I utter my belief that Boulding is – well – not that useful.

We are told he works tirelessly but Evans and Hanson’s graft put the signing from Mansfield Town to shame. We are told he is a goalscorer but the evidence of last season suggests that Boulding’s big goal tally for Mansfield came from attacking on the break which City seldom get to do with deep sitting defences. If the Bantams play a certain way Boulding will bang them in – or so I’m told – but players who force a single way of playing from the ten men around them always make me think of Ashley Ward and that is never a good thing.

None of which to say that Boulding is not a good player just that he is not as useful as Evans is and as he is paired with James Hanson in the forward line City lose the strength and effort they would have had and gain a forward who occasionally does something superb but often, well, does not. The current Bantams squad is made of consistent performers of which Evans is a leading light.

Also leading is Michael Flynn who with Lee Bullock and James O’Brien form a midfield that protects the defensive line which has not conceded in 180 minutes and as Scott Neilson beds into the side there is a bursting power out of the middle.

The backline sees Jonathan Bateson continue to deputise for Simon Ramsden – no goal past the defence in the 180 minutes Bateson has started says much about the unit Stuart McCall has assembled – while Zesh Rehman, Steve Williams and Luke O’Brien seem to be shaping into the best Bantams defence in ten years.

Goalkeeper Simon Eastwood is improving too. That is belief again.

Reserved judgement

It’s not just the legions of empty seats that invoke feelings of eeriness and suspicion during reserve team fixtures. For the Bradford City and Huddersfield Town players involved in tonight’s West Yorkshire derby reserve match,  the wide range of people stood watching by the side offered different reasons for their attention.

Impressing the two reserve team managers in the dug out might be the obvious priority, but to the wily this was secondary to catching the attention of the more senior personnel watching from further afar.  For Town, that was manager Lee Clark and assistant Terry McDermott, who plonked themselves amongst the spare crowd nine rows back, with a clear focus on events in front. Then there was the various parents who were clearly present, trying to keep warm and concentrating more on their lad impressing than which team would triumph. Finally, and perhaps most hidden of all, were scouts and the like eyeing up potential signings for their club. A certain Darlington Assistant Manager by the name of Dean Windass was sat in the Valley Parade media section for the first half, leaving one to mischievously contemplate whether the player he might be checking out with a view to his boss Colin Todd signing on loan might be Matt Clarke. Imagine Mark Bower’s reaction if the former Quaker defender, brought to Valley Parade by Todd, was to steal his place again!

But if those in the stands and in the dug out had differing focuses to their watching briefs, the agendas of those on the pitch are rarely collectively on their team triumphing. This was a typical Bradford City reserve outfit that can broadly be broken into four groups. There was the trialists, who usually capture the media attention. Tonight Tomi Ameobi played his third reserve game for the Bantams in his bid to earn a contract. Displaying a good show of strength and decent turn of pace, he impressed in small doses but failed to do enough to suggest he’d climb in front of City’s five strikers and play a first team role.

Also making a third trialist appearance was Clive Moyo-Modise, who had previously played for Rochdale and was close to signing for Stockport over the summer. The London-born winger demonstrated some nice skills to beat players, but his final pass was lacking. He kept losing the ball in promising positions and such a performance in a typical City first team game would attract vicious abuse from supporters. Those empty seats can be a forgiving bunch.

Of more interest is another group – those knocking on the door of the first team. Leon Osborne has made three substitute appearances for the first team this season and, with a lack of regular wingers at the club, may continue to receive chances before Omar Daley’s return. In the second half especially tonight, Osborne looked a menace playing down the left flank and a series of threatening crosses deserved more than to fly past some timid attempts of others in getting on the end.

Luke Sharry is a player I’ve enjoyed watching in reserve and pre-season friendly games. Tonight he again suggested he could take control of the midfield for spells, cleverly using the ball and reguarly picking out the right pass. His best moment came when he robbed a Huddersfield midfielder and played the ball to Ameobi, before finding space to receive back possession and hitting a long range lob which bounced off the cross bar.  Something is perhaps still lacking in his game and that may be gathered by the experience of going out on loan, but the day when Luke finally gets to play a first team game at Valley Parade can’t be too distant and, if and when it happens, it won’t just be his parents full of pride.

Jon McLaughlin is also being talked up for the first team with Simon Eastwood continuing to worry. Tonight he made some decent saves and couldn’t really be blamed for the three goals that flew into his net, but he still falls short of presenting a strong enough case for taking the first term jersey other than the fact he’s not Eastwood. With the on-loan Town keeper scheduled to return to Town in January, his chance may soon come.

But if Leon, Luke and Jon are on the way up, the third group would consider themselves on the way down. Not too long ago Michael Boulding and Clarke were first teamers, but having lost their place they face a battle to impress that stretches beyond playing well in a reserve match. Tonight Boulding and Clarke were judged as much for their attitude as their ability to score or keep out goals. Boulding appeared disinterested at first, but  the spark which makes him a good player was reclaimed as the first half wore on and he cancelled out James Berrett’s opener for Huddersfield with a shot that deflected past Matt Glennon. Withdrawn at half time, he will hope to continue where he left off if given the chance to come off the bench against Chesterfield on Saturday – opponents he scored twice past last season.

Clarke also impressed with the way he leaded the back four, barking instructions constantly and notably offering advice to central defensive partner Louis Horne. In the second half an upset Clarke got into an argument with McLaughlin over the keeper’s lack of dominance in his area, invoking memories of the numerous spats Clarke had with Rhys Evans last season.

Which leaves the final group of players – the younger ones, who competed keener than most throughout. 1st year apprentice Alex Flett took Stuart’s coverted number 4 shirt and put in the kind of all action display that suggests he can one day follow in his manager’s footsteps. At left back, Andrew Villermann got forward effectively and stood up well to the dangerous Lionel Ainsworth. With Luke O’Brien the only left back on the books, the scenario of Villermann or Horne getting a first team game before the season is out is far from unlikely. Phil Cutler also looked confident at right back.

Huddersfield took the lead three times – Rory Boulding bundling home City’s second equaliser following a corner after Berrett’s second – with Ameobi having the decisive touch at the wrong end after poking a Town free kick into his own net. Yet Huddersfield fielded a  strong team which included the tough tackling Jim Goodwin and Gary Roberts, who had ran riot against City’s first team in the League Cup tie last year. Midway through the first half Town reserve team manager Paul Stephenson barked instructions at his players, before looking over to Clark in an obvious attempt to seek approval. That’s the suspicion of reserve games, who exactly is trying to impress who?

For City’s four groups of players, their level of success differed.

No football for us but plenty for others

On a day when the team who finished in the top 10 of Division 4 with the worst goal difference gets promoted to Division 3, we, the Bradford City supporters can only think of what might have been if our form had been better in March. Well done to Gillingham for beating Shrewsbury Town 1-0 in the play-off final. We can only think back to 1996 and our 2-0 play-off final victory over Notts County.

At this time of the year when we have no Bradford City matches to go and watch, what else is going on in the world of football? Well, I’m sure that many of you who have taken the effort to read this article will know that our club has offered professional contracts to Rory Carson, Luke Dean and Lewis Horne. I must confess that I know very little about this trio of players but it will be interesting to see if any of them make their first team debut during the 2009/2010 season. Most supporters love to see a home-grown player forcing their way into the first team so lets hope that at least one of these three players can follow the like of Dean Richards, Graeme Tomlinson, Andy O’Brien, Joe Colbeck and Luke O’Brien.

An article has already featured on this website about Colin Todd taking charge at Darlington but now a player who could have been securing Hull City’s Division 1 status tomorrow is now been linked with a move to Darlington. Dean Windass could be a player-coach at Darlington next season. We are all aware of Dean’s love of playing football and following his loan spell at Oldham Athletic earlier on this season and now been unable to play for his beloved Hull City, Windass is looking to continue his playing career else where.

Whilst Windass has the relevant qualifications to manage in Divisions 2, 3 and 4, there will be two unqualified managers tomorrow trying to save their teams from relegation into Division 2. Much has been written about Alan Shearer taking over at Newcastle but why was he allowed to when he doesn’t have the relevant qualifications? I also believe that Gareth Southgate will have completed his relevant coaching qualifications but not until after the season has finished. Why do the supposed people who govern our game allow clubs to break the rules?

Speaking of breaking the rules, I’m sure that there are plenty of Sheffield United supporters who haven’t forgot about Carlos Tevez and West Ham. If Sheffield United can overcome Burnley with former Bantam Robbie Blake, on Bank Holiday Monday, I bet that the first fixtures they will be looking out for are the two against West Ham. But don’t count against our neighbours from over the Pennines. Whatever your thoughts are on Burnley, you have to say that for a town with a population of about 73,000, they attract fantastic support. It’s hard to imagine that this famous Lancashire club nearly slipped out of the football league 22 years ago. But Burnley beat Leyton Orient 2-1 and Lincoln City slipped into non-league football.

So as we, the Bradford City supporters can only watch the various play-off finals, find out if Hull City can preserve their top-flight status at the expense of two North-east clubs and see if David Moyes’s Everton can overcome the cash-rich Chelsea in the FA cup final, other supporters have much to look forward to over the next week or so.

McCall’s next City squad starts to take shape

Pakistan skipper Zesh Rehman has been offered a deal by the Bantams but longest serving player Mark Bower has been freed as Stuart McCall starts building his squad for 2009/2010.

McCall’s side’s failure to make the play offs has led to budget cuts – that is the short and not especially representative version of long story – and as a result four senior players have been freed with Bower joining out on loan Barry Conlon, oft injured Paul Heckingbottom, bit player Keith Gillespie and – surprisingly – Rhys Evans out of Valley Parade with the goalkeeper being rumoured to be interesting League One clubs including Leeds United.

The City boss has also prompted Paul McLaren, Graeme Lee and Michael Boulding to try find other clubs – something they can do owing to oddly one sided clauses in their contracts – but worries that should they not do the wage budget will be restricted. With times tough for many, if not most, clubs at the moment it is hard to see who will take the players on. Michael Boulding was not short of offers this time twelve months ago but traded from a position of being the leading scorer in League Two, likewise Paul McLaren negotiated with City as the most creative man in League One. Now these players go to a depressed market with a line on the CV that is read as a failure to make the top seven in League Two.

Do not be surprised if we have not seen the last of this trio.

Another trio who McCall would like us to see more of are Nicky Law Jnr, Dean Furman and Steve Jones whom the manager is trying to recapture on loan. Matthew Clarke, Lee Bullock, Luke O’Brien, Joe Colbeck, Leon Osborne Jon McLaughlin, Luke Sharry and Matthew Convey have been offered contracts while Kyle Nix is welcome back to preseason one assumes to await news of an exit for Lee, Boulding or McLaren. McCall will talk with Peter Thorne tomorrow.

All of which leave City with a weakened version of this season’s team should these machinations come off. McLaughlin seems to be fancied to be the new keeper having kept a clean sheet in the final game of last term. At 21 he is young but League Two is – increasingly for City – a learner’s league.

Paul Arnison has a two year deal and one assumes will stick at right back although his unwillingness to relocate from the North East is rumoured to have caused problems for McCall. Zesh Rehman and Matthew Clarke in the central defensive roles with Luke O’Brien at left back is an inch worse than Graeme Lee partnering either one – Lee came out of the season with more credit than most in this writer’s opinion – but Rehman is a cultured player and one who one could have confidence in. Clarke will continue to have his critics for both not being able to spray a Glenn Hoddle pass – which defender can? – and for his defensive lapses but since he replaced Bower in the side City have stopped being bullied by the usual big men forward lines we face.

Without wanting to delve into the stats of how many six foot two plus players have won headers in City game against Clarke vs Bower anecdotally one would suggest it is obvious that Clarke has plugged that gap. That he has other failings is a problem but in a League where physical prowess – bigness, if you will – is often the route to goal it is that no being bullied which is important rather than Bower’s more intelligent style of defending.

As with Andrew O’Brien before him Bower’s style suits the club less the further down the leagues we are. O’Brien’s man marking is superb on Thierry Henry but wasted in the Championship and Bower’s foot in play could – and would – do a lot at a Barnsley but does not at Valley Parade. One would have confidence that Bower could nick the ball from big men frequently but McCall obviously worries that the long serving defender would spend the rest of his time on his backside having been flattened and getting little sympathy from Referees.

Hearts are heavy though when a player with a service record like Bower’s leaves a club. He has given the lion’s share of his career to Bradford City having signed up on the 13th of May, 1999 four days after promotion and broken into the side a few years later with honest displays. He did his bit in administration and beyond and few City fans would not hope that he can establish himself somewhere else for the five or six years he could have in the game.

Uniting Dean Furman and Lee Bullock would seem to be the key to McCall’s midfield for next season with the City manager keen to see the Rangers midfielder back in the position he dominated last term – he played few games than Paul McLaren but made a more significant impact and was certainly more memorable – but Ibrox boss Walter Smith may have different ideas. Bullock is a useful player who has only shown his effectiveness in short spells while at Valley Parade. Next season McCall seems set to offer the former Hartlepool United midfielder the chance to make the position his own.

However McCall has struggled thus far in his management career to find a player to fill that number four shirt and role which he himself took at Valley Parade. Furman won the place from Paul McLaren whose season could be described as “middling”. McLaren did not take the mantel of senior professional with enough zeal and as a result on occasion looked a peripheral figure – especially when compared to Furman – just as Paul Evans the season before had failed to make the McCall slot his own.

Returning to Hoddle momentarily it is said that when England manager Glenn was frustrated with the players inability to match the magic feats of his own passing and one can only imagine the frustration that McCall – a player who lived by taking games by the scruff on the neck – has watching two players who have no shortage of talent in Evans and McLaren failing to control matches. Is Furman a better passer of a ball than McLaren or a better tackler than Evans? One could argue not but he has more cunning, more guile and it seems a stronger character that allows him to have more of a constant effect over a ninety minutes.

Defensive midfield – Furman’s nominal position and the one McCall had – is perhaps the most crucial role on the field and Furman represents a safe bet for City. We have seen that he will not shirk in the role unlike the previous two candidates who were on the face of it excellent choices for such a position and thus he is a tried and tested option for a job which I would argue the failure to fill correctly has cost us over the previous two season, and probably longer.

It should be noted that Luke Sharry has had a productive season and while not ready for the number four role should be expecting to feature in a dozen or more games next term.

The scenario on the flanks remains as it was this season: Joe Colbeck, perhaps Chris Brandon, Omar Daley when fit, Nicky Law should he return and Steve Jones if he is interested. Returning Colbeck from the jaws is poor form and the critics that wait for such to attack him is of paramount importance for McCall as establishing Omar Daley as a threat on the left was this term. McCall flits between preferring a pair of wide players such as Daley, Jones and Colbeck and wanting one wide and one more tucked in as Chris Brandon or Law offers and one can expect that method of trying to fill the middle of the midfield to continue.

Brandon has been unable to provide much of an indication as to his effectiveness this season and – based on last season – given a choice between him and Law one would take the younger man from Sheffield United. Should Brandon be edged out of Valley Parade – and indications are that the club would be able to keep him – then Kyle Nix would be an able replacement and I for one am surprised that the young Rotheraussie has not been offered a new deal offering the heart and ability the former of which was often lacking last season.

In August Stuart McCall would hope to line up with Joe Colbeck, Dean Furman, Lee Bullock and Chris Brandon across the middle and few would suggest that represents a major shift away from this term with improvement inferred from consistency with all four players having spent long periods injured. Allowing whoever is in the number four role to build up a relationship with the defenders to feed the ball in ending the long hoof of the end of last term and with the three midfielders around him who would take the ball is crucial and Furman can be trusted to do that. If he is not retained we re-enter the lucky dip of trying to bring in a cog to be the most important part of our machine. Like good goalscorers – they don’t get given away.

Peter Thorne will talk to Stuart McCall in a conversation about “legs” and if the striker still has them and McCall will hope to move Michael Boulding on to no great distress from I. For all his hard work Boulding failed to build a partnership either with the forward he was alongside or the players supplying him from midfield. Barry Conlon officially left the club and Willy Topp is long gone leaving the City boss looking for three or four strikers for next term.

In this respect McCall is in the hands of the trio of players who may leave. Should Lee, McLaren and Michael Boulding all exit then pressure on his budget would be loosened and the City manager could get to looking for a goal getter or two – one would suggest he tries to find a fast one, a skilful one, a big one and one who can finish again but that is how we entered this year – but should this not happen then the Bantams manager will be left looking at scraps to find a feast. The ramification of Barry Conlon and Matthew Clarke’s fall out with McCall obviously preclude Conlon’s return despite a half dozen goals for Grimsby Town and one wonders if allowing the fighting Irish to leave is not going to haunt the Gaffer as he starts looking for players with passion, strength and a good track record and finds that Barry’s name comes top of the searches.

In such a situation Rory Boulding becomes an option although reports on him are mixed on the little brother while Leon Osborne and Sean Taylforth are no one’s idea of the player to lead you out of League Two. All three could be world beaters but the fact that they are – should Thorne not be retained – all that is in the cupboard for next term shows the problem Stuart McCall will have in building a side for next term.

In the season John Hendrie talked about the need for another striker and McCall tried Chris O’Grady and Paul Mullin in that role but ultimately when cutting the cloth to keep the club in business the side suffers and the forward line would seem to be where City are to take the hit.

So McCall is charged with three summer tasks. He must get the players he has offered new deals to to sign – some are given reduced terms – and will use the carrot of a smaller squad and a guaranteed place in the starting eleven achieve that with the likes of Lee Bullock.

Secondly he must work on ensuring he has the right man for the number four role with Dean Furman being nominated as the prefer choice. Filling this position is or paramount importance.

Finally he must find a set of strikers who want to play for the club and who have the ability but for some reason – probably as with Thorne it would be age – are not at a higher level and do not expect massive wages. Rumour has it David Wetherall is being moved to youth team coach. Wetherall never really got on with Dean Windass…

A Question of Belief

In many primitive cultures any type of bad fortune, from earthquake to stomach ache, was explained by saying that “the gods are angry”. This was due to a lack of knowledge and understanding that, in many cases, science and reason now fills.

But the past doesn’t quite go away. The language of primitive belief is still with us in many aspects of popular culture and none more so than football.

The news that Stuart McCall is staying at Bradford City will be welcomed by many (not all) as a victory for reasoned thought over primitive belief.

When Stuart arrived in the manager’s office he brought with him the level of adoration often afforded to a deity based on his reputation as a player and his well-known love for the club. Such was the level of expectation from so many that the status of “messiah” was, unfairly, thrust upon him and we all know the pressures that kind of responsibility can bring.

Hopes started off high and remained so for most of the two seasons he has been in the job. Support both, vocal and financial, was there so all he had to do was “achieve”.

The signs and omens were so good for so long but then came the crisis of confidence that saw the dreams of so many destroyed. Some turned against him as the team and therefore, by association, the manager “failed.” The automatic promotion dream was replaced by the self-imposed target of the play-offs .But that too faded quickly as the promise of the Aldershot victory was followed by a series of results that was devastatingly unpredictable and, more worrying to the City faithful, unexplainable.

The adoration that Stuart carried with him seemed all but lost only to be rekindled in the final home game when the realism of “nothing to play for” became a show of belief in the manager that looked set to leave us.

Whatever the reasons, Stuart changed his mind and remains with us. Science and logic may provide some explanation but, for many fans, Saturday’s show on and off the field appeased their deity. With this came celebration and joy but there was a much greater realisation – the gods were not angry, they were human!

Whatever his status among fans now, Stuart the manager (and by the way how many clubs sing their manager’s praises using his first name?) is now with us in the real world, a world that deals with the contracts and budgets of a 4th. Division football club. Reality has definitely bitten and the expectations for the future should now also be real. Yes we will still be among the favourites for promotion next season but whatever is achieved it will be in a climate of constraint that exists in so many clubs.

Many fans will still choose to live in the world of unconditional belief but reality is no bad thing. I for one still have “idols” but I prefer my idols to be on the pitch.
The Gemini-like twin partnership of Lee Mills and Robbie Blake is gone and the like of it not seen since at V.P.. The former faded fast from view, the latter forced to spend time in the “Underworld” – Ellandworld? – before re-emergence in claret if not amber. Add to these the legendary Bobby Campbell, the iconic Dean Windass, even the totemic Barry Conlon, they are the ones that have been out there on the pitch expected to perform the miracles we have all craved.

Stuart as a player will always be revered. But Stuart the manager has chosen to stay and live among us in the world of men (and women).For that I am thankful. He may have arrived in a blaze of glory but I feared that his loss and the inevitable period of chaos that would follow would have been epitomised in his departure in a big yellow taxi. (Forgive the mixed metaphor.)

The legend on the pitch remains but surely we all now see the man in the manager – not a superior being. I am glad we still have Stuart McCall as manager, even if he has now lost his divinity!

The Most Important Man

Stuart McCall and Peter Jackson – two big figures in the recovery from the fire of 1985 in a game between these two teams – joined the silence honouring the departed.

McCall manages Bradford City taking the opportunity to when offered two years ago while Jackson is in charge of Lincoln City having knocked back the job at Valley Parade on Boxing Day 2001 having agreed to be our on Christmas Day. McCall would spend this anniversary or sorts with boos directed at him by some.

Some would have Jackson as Bradford City manager rather than McCall and others would not. Those in the latter camp could point to McCall’s match changing substitutions which brought about the aforementioned jeers at the time but were vindicated. Are these two thus the most important men?

The jeering for McCall came after substituting Michael Boulding and Joe Colbeck. Boulding had a game not atypical for him running into channels and working hard while never gelling with strike partner Peter Thorne. One could not fault Boulding’s work rate but would could take issue on how much of that hard work goes into the squad and how much goes into making sure that Michael Boulding has a good game? His impressive goal tally for Mansfield Town which made him League Two top scorer last season came when The Stags were relegated.

None of which is to say that Boulding is not a good player but rather than he is not foremost a good team player and – frankly – Bradford City are not foremost a good football team but rather a collection of good footballers. Does this make the job of managing the side into the job of getting Michael Boulding to play in a more knitted up way? Is Michael Boulding the most important man?

That City are good footballers would be debated only by dullards and that Joe Colbeck is a talented footballer would equally only be opposed by those who lacked wits. Colbeck has managed to return to being the target of Valley Parade’s defining characteristic – the vitriol heaped onto individuals – after being last season’s Player of the Season.

I have no respect for someone who will stay silent when a Colbeck is being cheered laying in wait for an opportunity to continue a campaign against him. Colbeck this season has cut defences apart yet he is booed today not for not making effort but for those efforts not having results. There is no doubt in my mind that Colbeck will go on to be a very good player at this level and at levels above but there is significant doubt that he will do that at Valley Parade.

After being player of the season Joe Colbeck is not the most important man.

One would think for all the attention given to Matthew Clarke that he was the most important man – one would think that Peace in the Middle East would emerge on the news he was dropped so dedicated are some against him – but it was telling that as some City fans sung “One Mark Bower” to criticise Clarke following Andrew Hutchinson opener for Lincoln.

Clarke was wrestled by Geoff Horsfield as a nothing ball that was hastily cleared by relieved Imps defenders who had worried that a clip of Boulding’s heels would result in a free kick and near 21 players on the field stopped – indeed when Hutchinson put the ball in it seemed to be more an act of time wasting than goalscoring – but the game continued and the visitors had their goal.

Five minutes into the second half “One Mark Bower” sang some City fans to chastise Clarke. “1-0 to The Referee” retorted the Lincoln fans to make some things clear.

City’s equaliser came when Peter Thorne was able to stand strong in the penalty area and work a ball on to Lee Bullock who finished from close range. Peter Thorne and Lee Bullock could be the most important men. Keeping Thorne fit all season has proved to be impossible and sure enough City have suffered when the switched on striker was not playing but Bullock – my man of the match today – has been a mystery in and out of the team all season and hardly ever allowed to continue the relationship he started with Paul McLaren at the start of the season.

As an engine room Bullock and McLaren are useful only if they have outlets for their possession and too often they do not. Steve Jones had a lively display – especially following McCall’s switch to a 433 which put him in the forward line alongside Paul Mullin who simply never loses an aerial ball – but this team has not been the same since an injury on a Tuesday night two months ago.

Omar Daley – in the stands and out until Christmas – is not the most important man but sometimes when City huff and puff and want for his creativity it is difficult to remember that.

Daley though – like McCall with his substitutions, Colbeck showing the nerve to difficult things even if they might make him look foolish rather than shovelling the ball off sideways and saving any blushes, Clarke in the side to stand up to a Horsfield who would have eaten Mark Bower for breakfast – split opinion with those against jeering.

Perhaps those who jeer are the most important men. They certainly seem to hold the power at Valley Parade grumbling away to get their way they are the exiled Cubans of Bradford City and Mark Lawn needs to convince Stuart McCall, and himself, that their is a future for a club when with twenty minutes left of a game at 1-1 three games off the play-offs which even after this draw there to be scrapped for the loudest sounds at City are the negatives and the jeers.

Which is not to say that they are the only sound, that they are the only fans, that they are people who need to be pleased but the voice that comes from Valley Parade is an overtly negative one and until this issue is tackled and resolved then the club is hobbled.

Certainly that negativity has taken chunks out of the club. Dean Windass – here today to watch the game after reports that he would bend transfer deadlines and return to the field – suffered untold abuse and his exit and the clubs relegation to this level were not unlinked. Windass is at Valley Parade and Paul Jewell has started to crop up in the media more and more.

Maybe they are the next most important men but they are not today.

For today this is League Two football and at the end of the game with three very clear incidents when crosses or shots hit hands of Lincoln City defenders in the penalty area and a goal caused by being the only man in the stadium who did not see the foul of course the most important man was Fred Graham the referee.

Depressingly, in League Two the most important man is always the Referee.

What kind of year has it been?

Statistics please me not, dear reader, so I have no record for you of how Bradford City have done this calendar year that ends with the Bantams beating Morecambe 4-0 at Valley Parade with goals by Paul McLaren, Michael Boulding, Nicky Law Jnr and Barry Conlon.

I could not tell you how many games have been won or lost or how many goals have gone in one end or another – I’m all about the mood, people – but I can tell you that the spectre of the common home defeat has been banished in 2008. Last time on this turf City were incapable of breaking down a defensive Chester City side while today the Bantams got the breakthrough that is so often needed against negative sides and went on to win the match.

That crucial first goal came when Barry Conlon jostled in the air with former Town man Danny Adams and all were looking at the Referee save Paul McLaren who wandered nonchalantly – showing a head as cool as the air that Conlon’s hands were still in – into the area with ball to poke past advancing keeper Barry Roche.

McLaren’s role at the back of any attack that had Conlon on the floor was a result of Stuart McCall’s 433 formation which – in turn – was a result of the combination of return to fitness of Dean Furman and the fact that, well, it just suited the opposition so well.

Morecambe’s plan was not unique – the close down City’s defenders and sit deep themselves – but it was countered with confidence from McCall who placed faith in the back four to have the ball played short to draw out the opposition and make gaps where they were none for the last few years in the sides who come to Valley Parade with two lines of defenders. This is a difference between the start of 2008 and the end in that Stuart McCall has devised this plan but the fact that it sees the player accused of “pissing about” is slightly curious. McCall’s teams play some lovely football at times but none of it comes from Rhys Evans putting his laces through it and hoping Barry Conlon can be under it.

Much of that lovely stuff, any plans and the options that saw Stuart capable of playing a three man midfield comes from the midfield’s return to fitness with Furman quickly back into the fray and McLaren now fully up to speed. Combined with Nicky Law – who is certainly worth bringing in if Sheffield United will allow him to leave during the transfer window – the three did not enjoy dominance but created the chances that made this win.

The stats will tell you that City and Morecambe had similar shot counts but as I say I do not do stats because they do not tell the difference between Conlon striking the bar and a throw your cap on it dribbler. Morecambe might be worried about having lost 4-0 and they might curse their luck that they had one cleared off the line at the end of the first half but spawn many great chances they did not and the fact that City’s creation was finished off is another curio of 2008.

Michael Boulding’s run to meet up the end of Barry Conlon’s intelligent take down and through ball deserved the kind of quality finish which the striker provided cooly putting over Roche’s shoulder as if he had the freedom of Valley Parade rather than a couple of bruisers from the Bay breathing down his neck.

On exit of Dean Windass – chased off to the Premiership – City spent 2007 without a scorer worthy or the name. Peter Thorne’s return to fitness has seen him bag an Indian Summer’s worth of goals and Boulding’s first half a season has seen him get ten goals while Barry Conlon had a half dozen. 2008 seems to have been the year when City’s strikers started scoring.

What good is scoring goals though, if your defence is a shambles? City’s defence is a shambles though – it must be cause I read it on the Internet – but it is also three games since we conceded a goal and as a rule we do tend to concede fewer than we score. One thing that has not changed in 2008 is the level of expectation which have gone over the border of ludicrous.

A third goal came from Nicky Law Jnr who drove forward with the ball and lobbed Roche from range and sealed the victory for City. A fourth came when Steve Jones tried to finish off a ball to the back post by Omar Daley – a late sub – and Danny Adams got his hand between ball and goal to lead to a penalty.

One thing that changed in 2008 was the addition of the word “Deliberate” to the handball law (Law 12 – Direct Free Kick). If Adams handled the ball to have a penalty given against him then he did it deliberately – otherwise the Referee should not give an offence against him – so he has to send the player off for deliberately stopping a shot from going into the net with his hands.

Barry Conlon slammed in the penalty and still had time to set up further chances for Daley and Jones erasing what had been a quiet first half for the Irishman and all departed the field in the knowledge of a job well done and probably a year well spent.

Stuart McCall looks at his squad – we have a chance of keeping Nicky Law but little of signing Furman, Steve Jones is not the fourth goalscorer the Bantams are looking for, Luke O’Brien stands up in the first team – and perhaps tinkers in the days leading up to the Shrewsbury game when the transfer window opens but the return of players like Joe Colbeck to fitness will allow the manager more of a palette.

For it was options – options to shape a team on a game by game basis – that brought about a good win at the end of 2008 and a good 2008.

The clouds that form over us – Shrewsbury vs Bradford City – League Two Preview

Once again one could be forgiven for thinking that Bradford City were going into a weekend fixture with the heaviest of black clouds over the club rather than playing the team a place below in a game in which the winners end up in the promotion area.

Having heard from various sources that City’s manager was inept, that the assistant was ruining what the manager did and that some of the players were simply good good enough and need to be got rid of it would be interesting to see what reaction a good result at Shrewsbury would have.

By reaction of course I talk about supporters. Within the club Stuart McCall’s job is to minimise defeats and keep player grounded in wins. A reaction in the dressing room akin to that in the stadium and we really are in trouble.

As it is by five we could be top again. Rhys Evans keeps goal but his back four is changed with TJ Moncur coming in for the injured Paul Arnison. Matthew Clarke and Graeme Lee are in the middle with Paul Heckingbottom on the left.

Omar Daley continues in front of Heckingbottom as Chris Brandon recovers and Joe Colbeck will look to continue his impressive form on the right.

Dean Furman – rested from the reserves – may make a first start with one of Lee Bullock or Paul MaLaren stepping down, probably the former as McCall feels the need to add steel to his midfield for the visit to the other highly fancied club in League Two.

Shrewsbury have spent the money raised when Joe Hart made his England debut triggering a half million release clause in the deal that took him to Manchester City on Grant Holt who is am impressively troublesome striker but with the likes of Michael Symes and David Hibbert to pair him with the onus seems to fall on City to snuff out the expensive man in the way clubs would mark tight Dean Windass and not be troubled by whomever was alongside him – a role both Hibbert and Symes took.

Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding would both have been better partners for Windass – who is rumoured to be thinking over an offer to manage Grimsby Town – and both are in the same bracket as Holt entitled feared strikers.

Come five one of there teams will have laid down a marker for promotion. Come next season the bookies expect both to be in League One.

Doyle should be Stuart McCall’s Stuart McCall

I’ll admit it. I never saw it in Nathan Doyle.

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know what you are all thinking. Here comes Harris trying to be all controversial again but as honestly as we all realised it wasn’t in Bruno Rodriguez or Ashley Ward and just did not see what Doyle had that made him player of the season.

He was a right back and a decent enough one but he looked raw around the edges and it seemed that his greatest attribute was not being Darren Holloway and when he left around the same time as Dean Windass the Bantams had a massive down turn but it was more to do with losing Deano than Doyle and I think the way their Hull City careers have gone have proven that.

Doyle was very good but player-of-the-season reason-we-got-relegated? Not so much.

But Doyle did have some talent. He could use a ball for sure but he could use his body too and he had some positional sense although that needed a bit of experience. He had a cool head under pressure and he passed the ball using his brain as much as his feet. None of these skills were as polished as they should have been but he was learning and in his months at Valley Parade he showed visible improvement.

The longer he was in the side for City the more assured he looked as well and the more he looked like he was wasted at right back. Most good right backs look like they are wasted in that position on the fringes of the action.

Hull City’s reserves are the fringes of the action for sure. They are nowhere for a player who had looked like he was going somewhere. City’s moves in the Premiership transfer market don’t suggest that a place will be opening up for Doyle soon. The guy needs to get back to first team football.

And City have a place for him but not at right back where Paul Arnison has been signed but back in the number four shirt and in the number four role. Doyle has the attributes needed to be Stuart McCall’s Stuart McCall.

He can win a ball and uses it smartly. He gets struck in but is not dirty. His instinct is to attack when defending is done and not leave his back door unlocked just like Stuart did. He has all the attributes needed to take games in League Two by the scruff of the neck and be the main man in a City team that aims for promotion. Throw in the fact that he is a popular player and he could be a summer headline signing for City.

And then he might do something that makes you see why he is player of the season.

The odds on City

William Hill are offering Bradford City at 10/1 to win League Two next season. After Darlington, perpetual four tier club Rochdale and relegated Gillingham we are the shortest odds in the division as the bookmakers take a look at the Bantams and see potential.

Stuart McCall is – we believe – abut to make Chris Brandon a Bantam at last as he rounds on ten players to increase the quality of the squad at Valley Parade. Brandon might be followed by Luke Beckett of Huddersfield Town, by Alan Marriott of Lincoln City and by Darren Moore of Derby County or all these players may never set foot in BD8 but it would seem that City are making a noise.

Mark Lawn is optimistic that the Bantams will make the 9,000 adult season ticket marker he has set down and should ticket sales be akin to last season then the Bantams would be the 20th best supported club in the Football League.

A further look at those figures tells you that only Leeds United and Nottingham Forest have bigger attendance in the bottom two divisions and that City’s average bums on seats is bigger than at least one club in the Scots, German, French and Italian top divisions.

Add to that the rumoured £250,000 coming City’s way following Dean Windass’s guiding Hull City to the Premiership then it is not hard to see why the bookies are starting to take notice. Lawn, Julian Rhodes and McCall must ensure that the momentum is built on in the coming weeks and month.

Perhaps though we should not pay much attention to bookmakers. Hull City are 5,000/1 to win the Premiership, Stoke 2,000/1. Bono of U2 is 1,000/1 to be the next Pope. These 1,000/1 Papal odds are the same price should one want to bet on Father Dougal Maguire of Father Ted to become the Holy Father.

I’m on my feet cheering Hull City…

I’m on my feet cheering Hull City on a Saturday afternoon and I’ve got two fists in the air and I’m watching the Tigers win promotion and I’m happy.

Hull City really hate Bradford City but I don’t know why and no one I know does. I guess they don’t like the way we went off to the Premiership after nicking their stand that time but whatever it is they hate us and we are a bit confused as to why. I have the same thing with a guy called Tim Johnson and I think me and Tim could get along well if only he got over the wanting to punch my face in thing. We are the same with Hull.

Especially because Hull have got Dean Windass leading them.

I always feel like Dean Windass was robbed from me. I loved having Dean Windass up front for City and from the minute he left for Hull I knew we were in trouble that season. Deano was the only player who had a club where the net was and he worked hard and he was smart as anything on the football field and without any of those things we were never going to win many. It would be like City now letting the goals of Peter Thorne, the work of Barry Conlon and the tricks of Billy Topp go on the same day.

But the worst thing about Deano leaving was that it was a self inflicted wound. Deano left and at the time he was getting death threats from a hand full of idiots who call themselves City fans but are really just sad cases. We ignore them cause they really are a minority.

But these guys were fed by the fact that we never appreciated Deano. All through his City career the boos were not far away. He was booed when we signed him for getting into the team over Robbie Blake and in the Premiership for not being Blake and the people who booed him when he played for us booed him when he came back for other clubs and scored against us.

Then when he returned to City the boos were not far away and some fans were so quick to get on his back. Deano was never perfect and his sending off against Bournemouth was stupid but he played with passion and he won matches for City and he did it time and time again.

But he could do ten things right and one thing wrong and some people would ignore the ten and jump on him for the one. Some people just enjoyed getting on Deano’s back cause they thought that being able to criticise Deano meant they were smarter football fans. It was personal abuse and nothing to do with what Deano did on the field which was head and shoulders above Eddie Johnson, Andy Cooke, Spencer Weir-Daley, Moses Ashikodi, Danny Cadamarteri, Michael Branch or any the other partners Deano had.

So when he had an offer from Hull City on the table alongside the death threats he probably looked at the team he has keeping up on his own and compared them to the club where he is a legend and thought why does he need to play for a team who boo him and moan about him. If he had thought “Lets see what they can do without me” then he would have been right. Letting Dean Windass go got us relegated and the people who made the climate that made him want to leave should know that they are responsible for that.

So I’m cheering Dean Windass’s brilliant twenty yarder at Wembley and thinking how that could have been a goal for us cause Deano would have stuck at VP for the rest of his career had it not been for some so-called fans driving him out. I hope Hull City do ok in the Premiership and I’m not jealous cause they will have thier Rodney Marsh.

But I am jealous of them for having Deano because he should be out player and some of us threw him away.

Make Sure You Talk To The Referee

Omar Daley must have been mystified about his red card against Rotherham that saw him putting hands on the Referee following a clash with the home side’s defender. Of course Omar will know if he did kick out at the defender and of course he will know how deliberate that is but what will mystify the City winger is just how as the spotlight turns onto Respecting The Referee the man in the middle Mike Thorpe is allowed to wade in between him and a member of the opposition side and start physically pushing the two apart.

At Old Trafford Javier Mascherano is sent off for dissent which seems to consist of questioning a referee’s decision. Mascherano faces a five game ban for this “crime” if one could call a grown man talking to another in what no one has suggested is anything other than a civil tongue.

During his City Dean Windass was banned for five games for – as a Referee attests to – swearing at him in the car park and against Wrexham he was famously sent off for effing andjeffing at the man in black. Windass is out of line we are told – although I’m not sure about making rules to govern the language of players and think it has worrying overtones about the class of those allowed to play the game – but surely Mascherano is not unless we are in a situation where it has become impossible to even speak with a Referee during a game.

Is the Refereeing authority of a football game so weak – so feeble – that we cannot even allow a single question to be asked? Are they that incapable of justifying their decisions that they are to be shrouded totally from question in all circumstances?

Referees in March 2008 seem convinced that they should take the form of Headmasters with an iron rule of pupils they have no reason to answer to rather than facilitators of a game between adults. Rather than hiding from public comment why not give Referee’s the right – or perhaps the requirement – to talk in public about their decisions? Why not have referee’s reports posted online for paying supporters and players alike to get clarity on why decisions were made?

Create a culture of openness and the referee – stripped of their aloofness – might start to earn respect for honest endeavor rather than trying to create rules to enforce respect. Where in history has respect even been handed down by rule anyway?

Referees who want respect should earn it with honesty as everyone else has to and who knows with openness there may come a day where the men in the middle are able to say after a game that they have made a mistake or missed an incident rather than maintaining the current high handed approach to talking to the people who pay their wages.

And while we are in discussion on this subject should we as supporters not demand transparency from Referees. These guys are demanding respect but it is not two years since the biggest officials in Italian football were found to be on the take? Justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done.

However we carry on down a route where the Referee is beyond question and above even talking to the players and if that is the case then he has no right putting hands on them as Thorpe did Daley. How can Referee’s – how can anyone – get respected when they will not talk to you but will push you around?

The Thorney issue

A few years ago, a City supporter submitted an article on this website stating that Andy Gray’s ability level was that of a pub footballer. This view came during a period when Gray was struggling to recapture his previous season’s form for City where, converted from a winger to a striker, he had managed a career-changing 15 goals that would belatedly signal the end to the dreaded tag of unfulfilled potential. As part of a City side speedily hurtling towards the relegation trap door in 2003-04, he was unable to match his previous season’s exploits managing just six goals.

Very shortly after this article appeared, Gray was sold to Sheffield United and his career continued to head upwards with a £1 million move to Premiership Sunderland a year after. This proved a step up too far but Gray has since re-established himself as a decent Championship striker with Burnley. Last Saturday he scored twice as Burnley won 3-2 at Colchester. Layer Road is hardly one of British football’s most beautiful stadiums, but it’s still a better level than the local park behind The Queen’s Head.

It’s this sort of striker debate which has been typical with Bradford City in recent years. Finding a pair of decent goalscoring forwards has proved difficult and is ultimately why the Bantams have been unable to climb back towards Championship level. Those that have toiled up front since have nearly all split opinion among supporters. Some arguably should have had more of a chance, others undoubtedly gave everything but came up short, too many rarely looked like scoring and just one player has managed double figures in a season since Gray departed.

Not since the legendary Mills and Blake partnership in 1998/99 have City been fortunate enough to possess two regular goalscorers at the same time. Only Dean Windass has consistently done the business, yet finding a suitable strike partner was a problem never solved while he was banging in all those goals during his second spell at the club. This over dependence meant that City were never able to lift themselves above midtable and, when Deano departed last January, no one was able to fill his void with dire consequences.

Different division, different management, different bunch of players and many more supporters; but so far the familiar problem has remained. In the five games to date, five goals have been scored. Not the worst of records but, when analysing the performances and number of chances the team has created to date, this figure should be at least double. In the home games at least, City have been largely dominant and created a host of chances. Unfortunatley, the strikers in the middle haven’t been able to convert them and, with each miss, have split supporters’ views once again. Perhaps the biggest question hanging over Stuart’s squad as we enter the second month of the season is if there is sufficient firepower to enable City to push for promotion.

Dividing views more than most is Barry Conlon. He arrived at Valley Parade during the summer with a reputation as a decent goalscorer at this level, but with a disconcertingly high number of former clubs. Conlon has so far looked very much your average target man, but unfortunately a little too average. He holds the ball up well and has good awareness at bringing others into play, but he seems to lack the goalscoring prowess and his efforts on goal have been generally tame. Confidence is a big part of this and his previous record suggests he usually manages double figures each season. Yet without a goal so far he looks more likely to match Andy Cooke and Danny Cadamarteri in the regularity of his City goals.

Unsurprisingly he has attracted a lot of criticism. Although, just like Andy Cooke, there seems to be a section of supporters who appreciate the undoubted effort he puts in. One thing is for sure, he’s going to need to improve his performances. With his height and physical ability he should be capable of giving opposition defenders a really hard time and his hold up play should at least allow others to come forward. On occasions Conlon has looked isolated and received the ball too deep. Hopefully as the whole team get to know each other better this will improve and Conlon will receive the ball where he can hurt people.

Very much vying for cult status, Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu has made a decent impression so far. He has a really good touch and is also strong holding the ball up. He has more pace than Conlon and has shown the odd burst of acceleration that’s put the opposition on the back foot. However, just like Conlon, he hasn’t really got into enough good positions to shoot on goal. How many goals he will score, at least until his loan move ends in January, remains questionable. In many ways Guylain and Conlon are very similar players but hopefully they will play together more effectively as they become more familiar with each other’s runs. Hopefully G (or Dave depending on your nickname preference, personally I like Dave!) can add that little bit missing and score a few goals for us.

So far, Nathan Joynes and Luke Medley have played the back up role. Joynes started against Shrewsbury but was unable to make an impression. Meanwhile Luke couldn’t have made a bigger impact with his first touch! The youngster’s wonder strike against Wrexham has made everyone sit up and take notice. There will inevitably be a lot of expectation on the striker’s shoulders, remember Gareth Grant, Danny Forrest, Kevin Sanasy and Joe Brown? Hopefully Luke can build on his superb start and fulfil his potential. While technically not our youth player, its still been a long time since City had a young striker who became a first team regular and scored lots of goals.

At Barnet, Stuart played Omar Daley up front in the second half and the Jamaican international will barely believe he has yet to score this season after hitting the post three times so far. After his much trumpeted arrival in January, Omar has yet to really find his form and, while he was very impressive in pre-season, we all hope he can do better than his displays so far this season. The hope is that Daley can nail that right wing position and consistently deliver there. He has looked reasonably effective when thrown up front, but is arguably needed more out wide. It’s both nice but a little unusual to think Eddie Johnson is our top scorer so far. Despite a slow start, Eddie is looking comfortable in midfield and it would appear that he has waved goodbye to a career as a centre forward.

Which just leaves one more forward on City’s books and one who has yet to play. Peter Thorne’s summer signing felt like a huge coup but it’s been hugely frustrating waiting for him to recover from injury. After suffering two years at Norwich that were dogged by injury, there are some fears over how much we will see him wear Claret and Amber and some of our more lunatic fans are calling for City to get rid of him already. Given the injury problems he has endured, it would seem City are being sensible in not rushing him into first team action.

When he is ready though, he may find expectations are pinned firmly upon him. The more our other strikers fire blanks in front of goal and points are lost as a result, the greater the pressure on Thorne to deliver. It may take him a while to get fully fit, but the signs during his brief reserve and friendly appearances are encouraging and his past goalscoring record suggests he knows where the goal is.

It seems likely that Thorne will figure at some point this week against either Doncaster or Lincoln. As City’s slow start continues, everyone will be keeping fingers crossed he can deliver. Although at the same time we need at least one from Conlon, Dave, Joynes and Medley to be able to consistently deliver alongside him if we’re going to start climbing the table and threaten at the right end.

Otherwise, with a certain East Yorkshire club splashing out £1million on a striker last week, how long will it be before rumours of a former regular City goalscorer returning on loan start up?

I’ll Never See You Later Deano

So Dean Windass has left City and I get the feeling I’m never going to see him play again cause while I think Stuart McCall will get City promoted this season I doubt that ‘ull will go down. Windass signed for Hull for £250,000 finally today.

Deano. I’m going to miss you.

I’m going to miss the enthusiasm that you played every game with. I know that sometime that went a bit over the top and other times it went silly crazy like the sending off against Bournemouth but most of the time Windass just did everything he could to make Bradford City win games.

And everything he could meant he dropped into the midfield when City asked him to and one time he played in goal (At Southend) and when he was there he did everything he could to get City winning games. One Dean Windass was worth a million Bobby Pettas.

I’m going to miss Deano The Wind Up King. I’m going to miss him pulling faces to the crowd and I’m going to miss him getting under the skin of defenders that tried to bully him. I hope that Stuart McCall does not think that people like Michael Symes, Andy Cooke and the countless other players who got pocketed by the bully boy number fives of League One are going to do any better a division below.

Deano used to get under the skins of defenders and they couldn’t deal with him. John Finnigan and Ivar Ingermarson at Reading both punched him cause they found him annoying and he probably was but he was our annoying player and he gave us the advantage. Nice guys, Green Day tell us, Finish Last.

I’m going to miss that knack he had for being where the ball was going to be. I’m sure it is not as easy as all that but he made it seem easy dropping off to where some defender was going to clear it or picking it up from a free kick and hitting it so just right that David Seaman couldn’t stop it. I’m going to miss that.

I’m even going to miss him shouting at referees cause God knows I shout at them often enough and I always think that if I was in that number ten shirt I’d be doing the same when I saw some rubbish decision by some idiot official.

That is why I’ll miss Deano. Cause he played football how I’d like to play football when he showed the passion and the grit and at other times like when he got hat-tricks in the Premiership or bent in goals from nothing he played football like I dreamed of.

Windass Agrees To Go As McCall Starts Work

Dean Windass is having two weeks in Spain after agreeing to re-join Hull City from the Bantams on the day that Stuart McCall returns from his stay in the sun and starts work at Valley Parade.

McCall will be unveiled as Bradford City gaffer on Monday and is already looking at players to signing having moved on £175,000 worth of wages n Windass and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson. Would McCall’s plans have been different with Windass? In truth he has never had much of a chance to retain the services of a guy called back to his hometown club and McCall himself will understand that more than most.

Windass’s exit is reportedly worth £100,000 to City now and £1,000 for every game the 29 year old plays. One can only hope that suspensions count as plays and not sit outs and that the next time Dean has a fall out in a car park City do not end up £5,000 worse off.

I for one will miss Windass from Valley Parade. In final reckoning for all the issues that come with him he was a fantastic footballer with brains in his feet not between his ears. The drop off and volley against Scunthorpe United in a 4-2 win last season was for me the classic Windass goal. Movement in the head making young the legs.

McCall will find him irreplaceable and probably will not try. Colin Todd could never really find a partner for Windass nor could he decide if the striker was a line leader or a drop off man. Windass fitted neither role perfectly and was best left to his own devices to hit goals from where he wanted. McCall’s time at Sheffield United suggests he will favour a big guy/tricky guy combination and be hunting the services of Billy Paynter or someone very much in the Billy Paynter stylee.

McCall finds holes all over his team. The building block in place is a back triangle between Donovan Ricketts, David Wetherall and Mark Bower. Central midfield is the province of the next generation of City player in Craig Bentham and Tom Penford and one suspects that McCall will strengthen that position first but managers are made and broken on the strength of the strikers and Windass – for all his faults – could have been a quick route to the making of McCall.

The Boy Who Never Grew Up

Dean Windass probably likes to think of himself as a footballing Peter Pan. Despite pushing 40, the evergreen striker continues to bang in the goals and shows no sign of winding when so many other players his age have already hung up their boots.

Bradford City fans may be inclined to agree with the Peter Pan comparison, although at this moment not in the same way. Forget playing like a child, he certainly seems to have the mindset of one. Listening to him air his views on Radio Leeds today, you could almost hear the sound of his toys been thrown out of the pram. Windass has spit out the dummy and declared he is taking his ball home as he doesn’t want to play at Valley Parade anymore. Peter Pan is apt; he is certainly the boy who never grew up.

The reason for his outburst? The evil Captain Hook, or Julian Rhodes to us, has demanded a pirates ransom (250K) in return for his freedom. Should Hull not come up with more gold, he will be locked up and forced to spend the rest of his days in the tortuous abyss (League Two). Our hero is trying to escape, screaming for help as loudly into any passing microphone. But with the dastardly Rhodes’ Ginger-haired Smee tying him up harder, he won’t be walking the plank to freedom just yet.

Listening to Deano label City’s demands as ridiculous makes me want City to reject any offer from Hull and force him to rot in our reserves. How can £250k be considered ‘ridiculous’ when City have twice turned down double that offer for him in recent years? After each of Wigan’s failed bids, Deano was offered extended terms as a reward for loyalty. Having been well looked after by the club, he thinks its unfair we are asking so much for a player who has scored 20+ goals three years in a row. Apparently Rhodes agreed he could go, so that’s that. How dare the evil pirate ship Bradford City demand to receive what he’s worth?

The most frustrating thing about the whole episode is why he has felt it necessary to come out and say anything. Listening to his words, he sounds like a sulky Italian or ungrateful young star. You certainly wouldn’t think he was a 39 year old player with a career of almost two decades. Why couldn’t he just stay quiet and wait for the deal to inevitably work itself out? He could have left the club where he has become a hero with most people’s best wishes.

We City fans have a lot to be grateful to Deano for. In two separate spells, he has proved an excellent goalscorer and good figurehead. He is our 4th highest goalscorer of all time and has provided numerous happy memories. His goals have been crucial and plentiful. Windass is very much like Robbie Savage and Paul Dickov in been a player opposition fans love to hate, often with good reason. It was incredible some of the stick he would get, but it made us love him more. As the City Gent’s Mike Harrison once wrote, “he may be an idiot, but he’s our idiot.”

Yet City in turn have been good to him. It was by playing for us that he rose to national fame with his swashbuckling style of play and cheeky chappy media demeanour. After proving himself a Premiership player for us, he got a good move to Middlesbrough. As his career took a dip, he rejoined us and again showed his form and ability after a difficult first season back. It’s not surprising he has such a long list of admirers in other managers and several moves to sign him have been turned down.

He also clearly loved been a big fish at City. He was our hero and lapped up the ‘Deano’ chants. It seems to have gone to his head and his attitude has upset some. I’ve heard stories about Deano’s behaviour last season that cannot be put in the public domain. If true, it’s fair to say the decision to loan him to Hull last January was not completely about the money.

There’s no doubting we missed him and relegation would probably have been avoided had he stayed. There were also some idiots on message boards criticising him unfairly, but it’s fair to say the majority of City fans appreciated our number 10 and still considered him a hero. What a shame he has to act like this and upset his second love.

Last season Colin Todd famously said that Deano considered himself, “bigger than the club.” Those comments may have been tongue in cheek, but they certainly seem very fitting now. He will get his move and one day, as he compiles his inevitable autobiography, he may be ashamed of how he left this club. Although don’t bet on the boy growing up.

Windass Cuts Up Rough About Smooth Move To Hull

It was anticipated that Dean Windass’s move from Bradford City would go without a hitch and it probably would have done but for a missing zero. City want £250,000, Hull have offered £25,000. No one is happy.

Julian Rhodes maintains that City are not going to seel a Championship quality player for a cut down price, Windass complained about City “moving the goalposts” – lovely football metaphor fom the big man – while Hull manager Phil Brown maintains that City suggested that they loan payment the Tigers (Tiger-Ra-Ra-Ra) made for the home town hero should be knocked off the £250,000 tag. Rhodes would probably say it has been. Perhaps Rhodes will suggest Hull take the £25,000 to Milton Keynes Dons and see how close it gets them to signing Izale McLeod who is perhaps the only comparable goalscorer in the league.

Windass is frustrated and calls the price tag an absolute joke but after two administrations and many staff losing jobs few are laughing at Valley Parade when it comes to finance. Windass has two years left on his City contract and the Bantams pay him something around £85,000 a year. Simple maths suggests that any bid less than £170,000 less than the Bantams value the player at – that sort of figure that Windass would be looking at spending if he wanted to buy himself out of his deal at Valley Parade to move abroad – is bound to be rejected but Windass wants age considering and his desire to play at his home town club.

For Hull’s part £250,000 is probably more than they would want to pay for a player with no resale value but resale value on footballers is an increasingly outmoded concept. Reading signed Steve Sidwell from Arsenal for nothing which was exactly how much they got from Chelsea for him when he left having rejected a new contract with the Royals. For the wages they paid him they got a contribution to a promotion and another year the Premiership which represents decent value in anyone’s book. It is this model – not the idea of footballer as resaleable asset – that is taking hold in the game and be is £250,000 or £25,000 that The Tigers spend on Windass they would be advices to spread that cost with the players £1,000 a week as a liability cost of ownership but I’m sure Adam Pearson does not need a lesson in football accounting from me. He was smart enough to get out of Leeds before the money ran out.

Is £250,000 a joke for Windass? Is £25,000? One rumour has it – and we stress that this is little more than idle gossip – that Jan Molby had run up a phone bill of £42,000 in three months when he was fired by Hull City which he expected and got the club to pick up. This is a world where people sweated blood to raise that sort of cash to keep clubs up and down the land in business.

Were the positions reversed and Hull were returning our talisman then no doubt different views would be taken but as it is the men in the East hold all the cards: they are two divisions higher, have more money and have the will to take the player to the KC Stadium. City have Windass and that rules all.

The strikers options are limited should a deal not be struck. He could threaten retirement unless he is allowed to join but such a move would only work as leverage to get the Bantams to allow him to leave for as little as he wants to and while no one has ever accused Deano of having the greatest reason he will at some point begin to wonder what the purpose of his move is if Hull are not prepared to offer the going rate for him? How valued would Dean Windass be at his new club if they only wanted him on the cheap? How many games can he expect to get in the next two years if he is considered a nice-to-have player rather than the first name on Stuart McCall’s team sheet?

One can assume that Windass’s anger at City for demanding big money is equaled by Hull’s instance that he is only worth small potatoes. Without Windass Hull would probably be back in the bottom two divisions – isn’t that worth £225,000?

Or is Windass’s return a sop to supporters who want to see the Lionesque forward reduced to a bit part player poked onto the stage for their amusement. Surely Dean Windass is not going to be reduced to a cameo ten minutes at the end of a Championship game so that the Tigers can applaud their hero but not reward him with the ninety plus games he has left in the next 24 months of his football career.

McCall Escapes Overnight

It escaped sometime overnight and was said to be a leaking of information but one suspect that an inability not to shout from the rooftops has motivated Julian Rhodes as he formally announced

In light of intense media speculation, I’m delighted to say that the new manager is Stuart McCall.

McCall was to be unveiled as part of a three card trick coming at the start of June but idle speculation suggested snags where none existed and to keep momentum on the manager Rhodes opened up for all. He inherited Nicky Law, Gordon Gibb picked Bryan Robson and an administrator promoted Colin Todd. McCall is Rhodes’s first manager and probably the one he has been dreaming about giving the job to.

Tributes for Stuart are plentiful and lead by Walter Smith at Ibrox – the most decorated manager in that club’s history – who says that McCall has all the attribute to make a great boss. McCall seems ready to add Wayne Jacobs to his backroom team as a number two. Jacobs never takes the credited for Darren Moore and Linvoy Primus but both men name Jacobs as the biggest influence on their careers.

Mccall may also have Dean Windass to select after Hull City offered little for a striker whom they credit with a lot. Phil Brown has suggested that Windass’s goals kept them in the Championship but in negotiations he is an 39 year old and not a season-saver and the East Coast side want to pay for him as such. City would rather he be considered similar to Mark Bower – a player capable in The Championship – and paid for accordingly.

Rhodes addresses his opposite number at Hull when he says

The point I made to Adam (Pearson, Hull’s chairman) is that Dean Windass is a striker who could score 30 goals in League Two and what sort of price can you put on that? When Dean went to Hull, and I admit it was at my instigation due to us needing to save money, the understanding was always that the move was temporary. It was not with a view to a permanent deal with the plan always being for Dean to return in the summer.

Windass will not be sold for less than the cost of a thirty goal striking replacement says Rhodes. The inference is there for all. We needed the money before. Do might need it now?

Windass is a man of heart and in McCall in the Premiership he found a kindred spirit. He wants to go back to play for his hometown club but he has done that now and the prospect of giong back into the trenches with McCall may a worthwhile project for the final two years of the lively striker’s career.

McCall will also have the Yang of Windass’s Ying to call on with David Wetherall confirming his intention to step back to playing duties as McCall himself did after a spell in charge. Wetherall hopes to get a chance to run the reserves but seems shell shocked by his time in the big chair and wants to go back and process information on the field until he is ready to take charge again. He will probably be the best – if not the quickest – defender in League Two.

McCall is squad building at the moment. He weighs up options including – BfB understands – reoffering a deal to Steven Schumacher while Marc Bridge-Wilkinson joins Port Vale on a free. There is a calm to follow Rhodes’s confirmation, to precede a storm.

The Real McCall Begins The Third Coming

From The Real McCall which was written in 1998 by by Alan Nixon and Stuart McCall

One day, in the distant future I would love to manage Bradford City. If I had the choice, that would be where I would start. I would like to repay the Bradford fans for all their support and courage for those years ago. There is some unfinished business to be done as far as I’m concerned. I have never meant to put pressure on the manager in charge of Bradford at the time, I am talking down the line…

Andrew Stuart Murray McCall will begin his third spell at Bradford City with a weight of expectation. His first spell saw triumph and tragedy in the same afternoon in 1985. His second saw the hugh achievement of Premiership promotion and the subsequent fall into administration. His path is littered with success.

As the ink dries on the two year deal to manage the Bantams there is no idea of anything other than a replication of those glories.

Julian Rhodes has stood alone over the past few years keeping the club together – let history record that and damn the doubters – but now he is joined and in pursuing McCall so fervently that he was prepared to knock back a job two divisions higher to join City he has made the decision Geoffrey Richmond failed to.

Back in the summer of 2000 when Paul Jewell left the job at Bradford City the invigorating force of McCall should have been employed as manager with Chris Hutchings kept in the role of number two. Bygones. A mistake is only a mistake if it is repeated.

McCall takes over City and immediately has decisions to make. Dean Windass is keen on a transfer to Hull but the return of McCall may see the striker rethink. Windass is McCall’s second call.

McCall’s first call no doubt will be to the man he has in mind to be his assistant. Some think Terry Dolan, others Terry Yorath. Do not be surprised if McCall pulls out a name from his time at Rangers – do be surprised if that name is Paul Gascoigne. Also do not be surprised if David Wetherall’s coaching is rewarded with a place on the staff.

Once his backroom is in place and the Windass situation is resolved McCall will look at the out of contract four of Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Steven Schumacher, Richard Edghill and Xaviar Barrau and make some decisions. No, Yes, No, No.

After that McCall begins to build and he could start that building at Southend United although not (just) for target man Billy Paynter but for former Bantam and Blade Simon Francis.

Lincoln City’s play off defeat means Spencer Weir-Daley favours us over them. It remains to be seen what McCall thinks of him.

Had we been two years ago then McCall’s side would have no doubt included If McCall gets a call from Italy from an excited Benito he should take it. If he gets one from Lancashire from a bloke called Ashley he can hang up. Players want to join clubs where they can see good things happening and this is Bradford City’s Keegan to Newcastle.

Decisions to be made. McCall is understood to have cancelled his family holiday to start work and what glorious, what long awaited, what wonderful work it should be.

Another Barmy City Summer

With events off the field proving far more dramatic than that on it in recent years, it appears we’re all set for yet another summer where we won’t be able to keep our eyes off what’s happening at Valley Parade.

Fortunately this summer is unlikely to be as traumatic as others, but still hints of carrying far too much significance in shaping the season ahead then what goes on during the winter months at Appleby Bridge. And as we supporters prepare to say goodbye to another season on Saturday, it could potentially be a very different Bradford City we welcome back in August.

A change in manager seems highly probable. Julian Rhodes has had to be careful with his words this week, but his hopes of still luring a certain Premiership assistant manager betray any firm belief that caretaker manager David Wetherall is the man to revive this ailing club. Wetherall remains in contention, but his chances depend on others saying “no”. He has already hinted that a full time appointment might lead to him hanging up his boots and, with Mark Bower rumoured to be catching the eye of The Dingles; Wetherall the player might be needed more than Wetherall the gaffer.

What of the chances of Stuart accepting an offer to manage his first love? The story I’ve heard is he was prepared to take the job should City have survived, so it remains unclear what appeal the job now has. Last September, Stuart spoke of his aim to leave Sheffield United at the end of this season and take the plunge into management. No one could argue taking the reigns of City would require his heart to rule his head, although news of potential investment might make his ears prick up.

According to Julian Rhodes, talks are taking place with a few interested parties. It remains to be seen who these people are, but one potential investor could even be prepared to buy out the Rhodes family. Given the never-ending struggle to pay the bills and recent criticism from some supporters, few could begrudge Julian for handing over the reigns and reverting back to being a supporter like the rest of us.

Even if nothing happens, City hardly face the stiffest of opposition next year. Some of the headlines this week have focused that City won’t have much money to mount a promotion bid. Who does at this level? We had a wage bill ranked midtable for League One this season and even a reduction in this area shouldn’t handicap City’s chances too severely. Our ability to attract decent League Two players should also be greater than that of some of our new rivals.

Dean Windass won’t be staying, but City should still be able to command a decent transfer fee for him. There is pressure from the Hull fans for the Championship club to sign up their old favourite and City should enter the negotiating table in a strong position. The only worry is if there are any agreements in place for knocking the original loan fee off any future transfer fee, which we will suddenly get to hear about.

That leaves just six other professionals still in contract, giving the manager plenty of room for manoeuvre. There will be a few goodbyes after Saturday and, given how poor the team has played this season, certain players won’t be missed should they be looking for a new club this summer. The squad that begins life in League Two is likely to be very different, with new heroes and new villains to get used to.

So come August, City could be starting a new season with a vastly revamped squad, a new manager and new owners. Even the crowd won’t feel the same with an extra couple of thousand turning up each week. There’s still one last game to go and it’s not clear who we should be biding farewell to against Millwall. One last singsong, one last dismal defeat (probably), one last flourish of boos or cheers and we will all go our separate ways.

We supporters are the only ones definitely coming back next season. It’s doubtful we will be switching off from events at Valley Parade in the meantime.

There Is No Third Time for Bradford City

News came this morning – if you can call it news – that Julian Rhodes could be forced to put City into administration for the third time should the Bantams be relegated from the league. It comes in the Daily Star – attach to that whatever status you will – and it reads ominously.

Everybody knows that there is no third time for Bradford City. Administration is about settling debts with creditors by allowing them to have faith that they will be paid back better in the long term than they are through a liquidation of assets. Kroll – no one – could make a case that City would pay back this time better than the previous two. Without faith there is no CVA ergo there is no administration. There is only liquidation.

However Julian Rhodes has no immediate reason to seek Administration. The squad at Valley Parade is threadbare to the point that in the summer the Bantams may have only six or so senior professionals in contract and the expenses are transparent. City lost £600,000 last year. £330,000 goes to Gordon Gibb leaving £270,000. Should Dean Windass exit – and he probably will – then City have every right to demand a significant fee for a player wanted for a season in League One so perhaps half if not more of that £270,000 can be wiped away.

A projected loss of £150,000 is not a debt that forces a club into Administration and the loss of £600,000 this season has been offset by the sales of Jermaine Johnson and the loaning of Windass. I may be wrong and I may not be privy to all the information but veteran of two CVAs unless I’m reading this wrong the end of the world is not nigh.

Rhodes for his part is furious saying

It’s utter rubbish and we will be discussing these comments with the club’s lawyers. The stories are so far wide of the mark it’s untrue.

The Daily Star – jumping on Rhodes’s comments in the week and looking for punchy stories – would be better off pointing City fans to Sheffield Wednesday and Hull games for the rest of the year. Should the Tigers stay up City get a slice more cash for Windass and promotion for The Owls – they are pushing for the play-offs – would land the Bantams £150,000.

City need to be on a constant watch against financial problems but part of that watch is being able to control panic that would be sparked by the Daily Star article. It is still worth buying a season ticket; it is still worth caring about the club.

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.

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.

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.

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…

Just who is good enough for Bradford’s Title Challenge 04/05? Part 1 of 2

As we all prepare for the advent of Second Division football, looking ahead to the sheer amount of local derbies (even Huddersfield, please) and the fact that we will not have to pay as much cash for burgers and tickets. The noises coming out of Bradford City are positive: Robson talks of “playing with pride”, Wetherall points to “silly results at this time of the season” (the only silly result that I can see is us actually winning any more than 3 games). This is always to be expected, however the realists have prepared themselves for 2nd Division football next season, where (the way things are looking) we will meet Doncaster who 5 years ago, were in the Conference whilst we watched goggle eyed the slick passing of the Arsenals of this world. 5 years down the line and we are meeting in the same division, if football wanted an example of how it can all go wrong, this is surely it.

The second division is a funny division, there are some cracking teams in there who have spent a few quid strengthening their squads, also there are some awful teams who would struggle in Division 3 should they ever be relegated. The division also has its fair share of “sleeping” giants; Sheffield Wednesday, Q.P.R and Bristol City. All these are big clubs and we could meet a couple of these next season; however we will no doubt be up there in the bookmakers thinking when the Title odds are released. The big question is, do we have a squad worthy of challenging?

The present squad is clearly not good enough to sustain a place in the First Division, bolstered by loan signings which did add some quality to the team, but we always knew that they weren’t actually our players. Obviously this is based upon either Robson or Todd staying with the bantams, and also that Administration is survived and we have funds available (not necessarily transfer fees, wages will do) so that new faces can be brought in:

Goalkeepers
Alan Combe and Mark Paston

The crazy Scottish madman is good enough for Division 1, not shown anywhere near his best form, many sympathize with his rants at the (sometimes) non existent defending that has gone on, on his day the kop will sing “Scotland’s Number one” and he will stop shots that seem destined to go in, however on his frequent days off that Combe has experienced, the Kop will have not even cleared its voice before he is walking down the tunnel after a red card. Paston is a strange one, a big keeper, brings back memories of Schwarzer, in that he’s from Oceania and he’s tall. That’s where the similarities end however, doesn’t command his box as well for someone who is 6″4. Not the greatest kicker either, however he is a challenger to Combe and certainly both of these are good enough for Division 2.

Defenders
Gareth Edds

Don’t want to be too harsh on the lad, but simply Gareth, you just aren’t good enough, you would struggle in the Bradford Sunday League’s Second Division, lack of pace, unconvincing, positional and defensive play poor (Kilbane v Sunderland). You may have a long throw but well, that’s it. And it’s not even that good

Jason Gavin + David Wetherall

I will admit I thought Gavin was abysmal earlier in the season, but just before the ban he received he looked the part playing alongside Wetherall. Any good side that hopes to achieve success has a solid defensive partnership and Gavin and Wetherall would be just that. I still have worries about Gavin especially the fact he makes some awful mistakes and wears ridiculously long shorts. Wetherall is typical club captain material, honest pro and works hard (I’ve seen him at the gym); just a different class, injury free and these two are the rocks that will earn us clean sheets against the lower class forwards that they will face.

Paul Heckingbottom

The best summer signing that Law made, very consistent and surely a likely winner of the Players of the year award. Looking remarkably like Frodo (L.O.T.R) and my mate Tim, he has been impressive and probably the only player we could seriously worry about losing in the summer. Critics would say that perhaps he suffers from a lack of pace but again 2nd Division is a lower standard so good positional play would make up for that weakness.

Wayne Jacobs

“Jakes” a veteran of many a Bradford City season, probably shocked himself at how he is still at Bradford City after 10 seasons. Most fans feel the same; sadly not played much during his testimonial season however was placed at Right Back when Francis left. This proved how poor Edds must be if a left footed, left back, 35 year old can claim a place ahead of him. Probably good enough for the 2nd (just) a lot depends on how much “Father Time” has affected him regarding fitness and pace.

Mark Bower

Jury out for me, I really am not sure, my abiding memory of Bower is him stooping then falling over when he misjudges a horrible bouncing ball, not a bad defender by any means but then again not a world class one. Good cover for Wetherall and Gavin but apart from that he probably has too many weaknesses to be considered for one of the first team berths. Not a bad man marker and often a great bet for the first goal at 50 / 1 or something equally ridiculous.

Midfielders

We are short on the ground for midfielders, this is a massive problem area for us, especially when you consider that we have had loanees (Wallwork and Farrelly) playing in there most of the season.

Peter Atherton

Good old Pete hasn’t had that bad a season, usually injured for 85% of the season he’s done well this season in the holding role. Looked better when having to protect a creative lightweight player (Farrelly), sadly though he has had to run the midfield in recent weeks and therefore his weaknesses have been highlighted especially the fact that 1 ball in 10 that he plays is a good one. A very experienced player that is useful to have in the side. Useful for Division 2.

Tom Kearney

The darling of the kop; embraced because he plays in the same position as Stuart McCall and came from Everton. Sadly the similarities stop there, actually that’s a little harsh. Before his nasty injury against Grimsby, Kearney (like Standing) looked the business. A Cheap and hungry midfielder with talent and age on his side, Fast forward 12 months and he cant even get into a poor midfield, seemingly incapable of playing a 12 yard square ball to a team mate, an example of how injury can change one player so much. I am not too sure whether he is good enough for Division 2, maybe under Law at Grimsby.

Robert Wolleaston

“Afro Man”, well I didn’t even know he was playing against Reading until 20 minutes such was his contribution, however by all accounts he played well against Derby, scored and received the M.O.M from the T+A. Also it shouldn’t be forgotten that he smashed the ball at Combe’s head causing the ball for divert into our goal to cost us the game. Agreeing with Robson about his laziness, if he had that extra yard of thought and pace, well he would be challenging Claudio’s boys for a first team berth, hope for the future though with Rob.

Nicky Summerbee

His pace has gone and he looks as if he really couldn’t care less, but he is slowly but surely changing the masses opinions, he can play a fair bit and true he can’t run but he can spot a pass and has more talent than the rest of our midfield put together. Definitely good enough for Division 2, maybe a swansong season at Division 1 level?

Strikers
Dean Windass

Came back for his swansong 2 years vowing to bang the goals in, has failed in that respect, spent more time getting silly bookings, diving and making silly faces to the crowd. Hasn’t had a bad season, still well worth his place up front because you never quite know how he will play, Deano is the man you need up front for a promotion fight in Division 2, has experience to mix it and likely to get a goal out of nothing.

Danny Cadamarteri

Now is rated as good, before this season he was “waste of space”, “overpaid waste of space” and “fat b*$£*d”. However he is now the darling of the kop, running at defenders like Blake used to. If we had Cadders fit all season we would have been mid table boredom. Sadly though, any sort of good fortune stays well out of City’s way, with this in mind Cadamateri has had more injuries than any other City player I can remember. He is good enough for the 1st Division maybe even higher than that but he must get fit in order to be any use to City or anyone for that matter.

Michael Branch

Never quite there is Branch, always a yard short, misses too many chances to be a 20 goal a season man, then scores to many to be classed as a creative player. A frustrating player but at the same time a crowd favourite, will run all day, force mistakes and scare people with his pace. Good enough for Division 2, any good side will be built on goals from the front two, and I believe that Branch would be a part of that. A very good outside bet for the Divsions top scorer too, should he find his level and also his shooting boots.

Lewis Emanuel

Not utterly sure where the lad should go, he was the great hope at Left Back, I remember watching him out of window when I was in History at Hanson, he was superb. Also on Championship Manager 01/02, he was England’s future Left Back, however with City lacking a wide left midfielder ( Law overlooked when signing the 6 strikers, he forgot about how we would get the ball to them) Lewis (through no fault of his own) found himself playing on the left of midfield. Although he has one trick, cant cross and isn’t the paciest player, however when we were desperate for points he found himself up front as part of a front three. Chips in with the odd goal and still has talent, eventually will reach the top and good enough for the title challenge.

Thus concludes my review of the squad, I am sure that I have missed some of the players that have conspired to get us relegated. In part 2, I will be showing how much of a life I don’t have by scouring the P.F.A’s list of players that currently have no club, indicating who would do us a job or more importantly (using CM as a guide) who we could realistically afford.

Giving goals where there are no goals – Why Windass should not have walked

Dean Windass’s late lunge that got a red card at Valley Parade on Saturday against Sheffield United was many things – stupidly timed, ill judged and cynical – but it was not a red card offence.

The rules on automatic dismissals, a relatively modern concept in football, are clear. A player can be given a straight red card for two offences: violent conduct or a tackle that denies the opposition of a clear goal scoring opportunity.

The latter first: Windass’s trip was a good seventy yards away from the City goalmouth and in no way could be said to have robbed the Blade’s of a goal scoring chance. I’m not suggesting that they could not have build a decent move out of the fact that almost every Bantam was in their box and they were on the break but I am saying that that chance was a few good passes away and that when Windass intervened it was not a chance. The analogy is Leg Before Wicket in cricket which my understanding is cannot be given on a ball that may have swung back to the stumps. It has to be in line and heading at the stumps when it hits the batsman’s pad. The so-called professional foul rule works in a similar way.

So Windass could not have seen red for that.

Nor could his trip, albeit from a distance and totally stupid, be said to be violent conduct. Violent conduct governs punches and kicks like Kevin Phillips’s ill conceived boot to the backside off Franck Queudrue on Saturday. In the context of tackles it governs two footed lunges and waist high feet, which has nothing to do with Windass on Saturday.

You may have sat appalled by the fact that Windass’s trip robbed the game of open play that could have raised excitement levels or you may have been angered by Windass being so stupid as to put a tackle in in that position that late in the game that could have had this outcome. You may think that a tackle that trips a guy on the break is worth a red card or you may think that Windass lost his head against his former team but none of these points matter.

The rules are stated in black and white, there are no interpretations. Referee’s are not enfranchised to may poetic decisions to round off the story of Dean Windass and Sheffield United nor is he there to decide that Windass has killed a beautiful move that could have been so exciting had it got out of it’s infancy.

He is there to enforce the rules, not make his own. Which of the two infringements for an automatic red card did Dean Windass commit? He may be morally worth a red card and it may be apt punishment for his stupidity but those calls are not for the Referee to make.

What we saw on Saturday was the Referee overreacting to an on field incident and forgetting the rules he is there to enforce. To put it in context it was the Ref deciding on the outcome of an event based not on the event itself and how it should be dealt with in the rules but on the strength of his gut reaction to it.

It’s the equivalent of him seeing a great passing move that resulted in a shot just wide of the post and giving a goal because – hey – it would have been a great goal.

We would not accept that, we should not accept this.

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