The type of creativity Phil Parkinson wants as Bradford City start 2015/2016 beating Farsley 3-0

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity” – Charles Mingus

Bradford City’s 3-0 win over neighbours Farsley was a given but the players in the first half who ran up a three goal lead through two James Hanson headers and a low finish by trialist Sanchez Watt deserve credit for starting the 2015/2016 season with good tempo but the theme of the afternoon was how this new generation of Phil Parkinson’s side was to do with the team’s syncopation.

Within thirty minutes James Hanson had shown that his much converted prowess in the air would figure heavily in Bradford City’s arsenal this season with Phil Parkinson having spend both forty five minute periods playing the 442 with a withdrawn striker which had seemed to be his modus operandi in his first few years at City. Full backs were instructed to go beyond wingers – which they did resulting in a third goal – and a thin slice of the performance suggests that next season will see the tactics of simplicity at Valley Parade.

Which is to say that most of the afternoon in West Leeds was spent wondering how creative this version of Bradford City would be and how important creativity is to a football team.

“Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas” – Donatella Versace

The head of Hanson is a tried and tested route to goal for Bradford City. Hanson flicks on, Hanson heads in, let us take it as read that Rory McArdle – not playing today but wandering the stands – will be hitting diagonal balls towards Big Jim all season long.

This presents two problems. What is Big Jim is not there? There is an argument that the main problem with the now departed Andrew Davies was not that he suffered injury and suspension is was the impact on the team in his absence. Take out Andrew Davies and the rest of the squad would be given am excuse for defeat. Of course we got beat by Preston North End and Bristol City – the mental process goes – we did not have Davies in the side.

This is the idea that a player is almost “too good” for the team he is in and that removing him improves the team. It is counter-intuitive and often seeps into debate as justification for making a team worse and one could dismiss it for that if it were not for the occasions when it is accurate. Chris Kamara’s Bradford City with Chris Waddle beat Everton, and Waddle was the best player by a country mile, but the team lost and drew a lot and only when Waddle exited for Sunderland to be replaced by Shaun Murray, Tommy Wright and other inauspicious names did staying in the division look possible.

The best player left but because the team had to do more than just giving the ball to Chris Waddle and seeing the outcome then there was a general improvement. Without Andrew Davies will the rest of the players be unable to use the excuse – and I use the term in the context of mental reasoning and not about what is said in the T&A – of Andrew Davies’ absence? We shall see.

And we shall also see if the same is true of James Hanson. Steve Davies sat out Farsley too and he may be a Hanson in waiting but none of the other forwards looked capable of replacing Hanson. Those forwards included Billy Clarke who picks up this season where he left off last as prolific but probably not prolific enough and Luke James who caused some problems with his energy but suffered in comparison to Sanchez Watt who enjoyed the forty five minutes before him.

Watt scored and showed a left footed touch to play the sort of ball which will be useful to overlapping players. He slowly got into the game and started to demand the ball more than wait for it. He looks every inch a confidence player who has not got confidence, or at least not where he needs it. Parkinson has a few weeks to decide if he and Steve Parkin can get into Watt’s head and press the right buttons. If they can Sanchez Watt would be a real asset. If not he floats away as it seems he will do.

(If he does though he will still give me this Abbott and Costello moment for the ages heard from two men over my right shoulder.)

Man One: “Who is that?”
Man Two: “Sanchez Watt.”
Man One: “I don’t know what?”
Man Two: “That’s his name.”
Man One: “What?”
What Two: “Watt.”
Man One: “That’s what I’m asking?”
Man Two: “Watt’s his name.”
Man One: “Yes.”

(Humour like that – and I swear that is verbatim – is worth ten pounds of anyone’s money.)

That aside aside there is an obvious problem with Hanson being a single point of failure within the team which was auditioning central defenders with the ability to play a long pass. Gary Liddle best asset as a defender is his abilities in midfield and Alan Sheehan took the second half in the middle of a back four with Greg Leigh playing left back for a half in which he registered nothing of note.

More impressive was the six foot five Jamie McCombe who seemed to quickly find a place in the Bantams side. McCombe is thirty two and has had his own injury hell but I would be very surprised if he were not a City player next season.

Which is not to say that he was especially good against the limited opposition – he was serviceable – but he fit into the role Parkinson has for him so well. Tall enough to offer a threat from set plays, comfortable on the ball enough to play it with control, and massive. Youth player Kesi Omolokun was the fourth central defender on show. He was untroubled during the second half.

In the second half midfield Christopher Routis epitomised Mingus’ point about being weird not being the same as being creative. Routis continues to be an impressive physical kicker of a ball but one who seems to lack a position. We know he is not a central defender in League One and as a midfielder he tackles sometimes and uses the ball badly. I want so much to be proved wrong about Routis because if his abilities to kick a ball could be put into a position then he would be very useful but I cannot see how it will happen.

And trying to force Routis into central midfield makes that a player like Sam Wright – full of energy for the first half and able to take responsibility for the ball – would have his development curtailed. A product of the youth set up Wright burnt himself out after a half hour but he showed his willingness to take positions and offer options to team mates as well as his control of the ball. It is not to damn him with faint praise to say that he could be a man to take a space on the bench this season but rather to suggest that doing so would bring better results than constantly trying to shoehorn Routis into positions he does not show the discipline to play.

Discipline being a key for Parkinson. Routis winning the ball in midfield and having options in front of him – only to see him smash a ball high and wide – is no more useful at Farsley than it would be at Wembley. Routis has a choice between trying to score blistering goals against weak opposition and trying to show how he can perform in a team. He makes his choices, Sam Wright made his, and I know who I believe the club should reward with first team football.

Josh Morris looked able next to Wright in central midfield although one might think that he is best used on the left flank with James Meredith going past him. Morris run and shot off the bar showed a player who enjoyed having the ball but most of his play focused on usefulness and that was a good start. Daniel Devine took a role in the second half but would need to do more to commend himself.

At full back Tony McMahon returned and Luke Hendrie – son of John (although I shall try to not hold that against him) – played at right back with McMahon strolling through the second forty five minutes and Hendrie overlapping well but defending poorly in the first half. Hendrie has spent much of his career to date as an attacking midfilder – a position which borders on fiction – and that showed but there seemed to be some potential going forward but a lot of work to be done as a right back.

Sons of Fathers include Harrison Gilkes – the son of Michael – who was generally unimpressive in the first half on the left flank running at players and losing the ball. Dylan Mottley-Henry and Joe Brennan took the second half wide positions and both looked eager. A note too on Filipe Morais who showed accuracy which gave a second route to the head of Hanson. Increasingly Morais looks key to Parkinson’s plans.

In goal Ben Williams causes me worries, and Joe Cracknell has nothing to do.

“Creativity is the thing that everybody wants and nobody wants to pay for” – Me, this week

And so considering the game the questions arise around how creativity should function in Phil Parkinson’s side. We have always known that Parkinson as a manager wants a controlled, dependable creativity. The Versace idea of creativity as being a clash of ideas is something which City tried last season and got success at but that success was limited. It game us – one could argue – the greatest season to support Bradford City we’ve ever known: Chelsea, Sunderland, Leeds; and it saw an improvement in the League One position but it saw fluctuating results.

Players have come available this close season – players like George Green – who represent that idea of idea clash creativity. The Gascoigne figure bewitches the mind but Parkinson wants the Mingus idea of creativity. He wants a lex parsimoniae creativity of simple football played in small, well practised units.

Parkinson wants the creativity of dependability, metronomic in making chances. To get this he needs reliable routes to goal. That Morais will find Hanson from dead balls is already obvious as is Rory McArdle hitting Hanson long but Parkinson wants Meredith opening the same path, he wants a player entering in the second phase of attacks, he wants full backs able to go past wider players. He wants to collect a team or reliable attacking routes to goal and he is building that from his 442 formation.

At the moment he has James Hanson’s head. It is not wonder he did not want the striker to go.

As Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football?

This week we have seen our neighbours Bradford (Park Avenue) beat the much trumpeted FC United of Manchester 5-1 as they look to get into the Blue Square North. They were also the subject of a cheer leading article in The Independent. In our debates over the future of Bradford’s sporting grounds the idea of including Park Avenue in the future of Valley Parade and Odsal has come up.

With the decline of Farsley Celtic and Halifax Town and as Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football? Will it be good for Bradford, for sport in Bradford and for Bradford City to have Park Avenue back up football or would it divide the City, damage both clubs and hamper the Bantams?

So the question is…

As Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football?

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

To any City supporter under the age of 40, the thought of Bradford being home to two professional football clubs is as whimsical as completed shopping centres and thriving music scenes. It happens in other cities, but somehow we always seem to end up worse off.

It’s easy to feel envious of the derbies cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Sheffield enjoy, though so often in football local rivalries are unbalanced with one enjoying more success and so caring less about outdoing the other. Should Bradford (Park Avenue) continue their rise back up the pyramid and return to the Football League, it’s hard to imagine any City fan born after their neighbours’ demise in 1974, at least, not sharing in their joy.

The Horsfall Stadium has become a regular pre-season stop off for the Bantams, a number of youth players who never made it beyond a few first team games at Valley Parade have winded up in Avenue’s green and white. They are a club to raise a smile when hearing they’ve won a game or notice they’re higher up the league table when reading the paper. Should that continue, the idea of a Bradford league derby would attract excitement and intrigue – but it’s hard to imagine it would ever generate feelings of hatred from claret and amber.

The only real threat Avenue’s continuing rise could pose to City is to divert floating supporters from Valley Parade, reducing attendances and revenue; but even the thought of that right now seems improbable. Just like Guiseley, Silsden and Thackley, Avenue are non-league friends to cheer from afar. And to us ‘youngsters’ the idea of them as serious rivals belongs in the same history books as Busby’s.

Mike Harrison City Gent Editor

As a City fan and especially one who in my position as editor of The City Gent I am almost wholly occupied about what happens on and off the field for the Bantams. That said I do make a cursory glance at the inner pages of the T&A on a Monday to see how the local non-league sides have done that weekend. If they have done well I think “that’s good for them” or if they haven’t then I think “oh well never mind”. I will readily admit that I am very blinkered in my support of City, but on a certain level of course I wish the nearby non-league clubs well.

The fact that Park Avenue seems to be having a title chasing season is good for all those that support the reformed club. I am just about old enough to have been around for the last league game played between the two sides, at Avenue in January 1969 when I was seven and a half, but all I remember about the 0-0 draw is making my way into their main stand to take my seat and virtually nothing about the match itself. Whilst I am sure there was some cross-town animosity and rivalry, I certainly wasn’t aware of it at that age.

So I have no ill feelings towards Park Avenue and therefore I hope that they gain promotion and win the title. I hope that they don’t fall foul of what has happened at Farsley Celtic, who seemed to progress too far too fast and who have now paid the ultimate price. Park Avenue’s modest support could probably help maintain their club’s position in the conference north, but whether they were ever capable of gaining a further two more promotions to get back into the football league is debatable, but good luck to them I say.

Steve Baker Stalwart City fan and Bantams Bar regular

Personally, I have no issue with BPA doing well. I’m not necessarily going to cheer them on, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t be supporting them in their bid to get back into the league.

There are many rivalries in football, many teams we don’t like either as people or clubs, but very few clubs who we would say we are friends with or who have backed us when we have needed it. As much as rivalry is part of football, the same should be said of friendly relationships between clubs.

It would definitely be good for sport in the city, investment would be encouraged which can only be a positive thing. With the Westfield saga and the will it wont it Odsal project, investment in Bradford can only be seen in a good thing. I very rarely visit the city centre these days, but it is pretty much unrecognisable from when I was a teenager, with the effects of the recent economic downturn evident at every corner.

I don’t see how it would divide the city or supporters either. You are either one or the other, but following another local team is quite normal. My fellow season ticket holder in the Bantams Bar also follows BPA, goes to games and has an interest in them. But he will never chose them over City. And I’m fairly convinced this is what other people feel also from those I have spoken with.

I cant see how BPA doing well would hamper City. The resources we have as a club and the fan base we attract are more than likely going to be superior to Avenue. We are likely to attract better players and coaches, sponsors and investors and much more. To be honest, I’m a great believer in getting your own house in order before worrying about others.

Effectively City need to build on the good work done by McCall and Taylor, and ensure that moving up the leagues is what we do within an acceptable time frame. Taylor is right in asking for things to be improved such as the training facilities, the pitch and other things. This is what will stand the club in good stead beyond this season. If City are getting this right, and the performance on the pitch, then our success will bring more fans, more investment and better players. Its this that is important, not worrying about BPA and what’s happening with them. If City do well then I think its fair to say there is more potential than at BPA, with no disrespect to our neighbours.

One thing both clubs could benefit from is some form of strategic alliance, where City youth team or reserve players are loaned to Avenue to regain fitness and build match experience. I’m sure there are some players who would jump at the chance at first team football amongst City’s youth ranks, and if they are deemed good enough and can help in Avenues plight, I’m all for this. This should be done at the benefit of both clubs though – the youth players should not expect to walk straight into Avenues first team; they must earn the right to pull on the green and white or red, amber and black, whichever you prefer.

Dave Pendleton Bantamspast Curator & Former City Gent Editor

My first ever football match was Avenue v Hartlepool in 1970, incidentally Avenue’s last ever league victory. My dad was an Avenue fan, but he watched Avenue one Saturday and City the next. However, when he moved our family to Wrose it was inevitable that City would become my first love. My dad’s open minded stance has shaped my attitude to our neighbours to this day. However, it can be hard work, particularly when confronted by the hostility to City still held by some Avenue fans. Indeed, the biggest obstacle to Avenue sharing Valley Parade would be a section of Avenue fans for whom 1974 is still bitter memory. City are a convenient scapegoat for their own club’s failings, but that’s another debate.

The vast majority of City fans don’t see Avenue as a threat, so therefore are supportive of our former rivals. However, if – and it is a very big if – Avenue were to close the gap on City then those attitudes might change. Frankly, it is highly unlikely that Avenue will become serious rivals to City. The demographic of the Avenue fans is the wrong side of fifty and, unless they can suddenly attract a whole new generation of fans, the gap between the two Bradford clubs will grow. Despite City’s current lowly status the season ticket deals have kept attendances high and have help attract and retain a significant number of young supporters. As the era of the Bradford derby’s fades ever more into the past, the relevance of the rivalry will disappear into insignificance. It is already barely a historical oddity on a par with the fact that Bradford used to have more Rolls Royce’s than London.

David Markham T&A Reporting Legend

Of course, Bradford City supporters should welcome Park Avenue’s progress up the feeder league system. Looking at their position at the top of the Unibond League Premier Division, it seems likely they will be promoted as champions although they are being pressed all the way by one of our other friends and neighbours from non-League football – Guiseley – and they still have to play them twice.

Avenue’s president Bob Blackburn has invested a serious amount of money into the club, both on and off the field and it looks as if his investment is going to bearing fruit.

Make no mistake going into Conference North is a huge step for Avenue. They had a season there when Conference North and South were formed about five years ago, gaining their place through a play-off system even though they had experienced a poor season. Former City favourite Carl Shutt was manager. It was clearly a step too far and they were relegated back to the Unibond and Shutt left the club.

First of all, I hope Park Avenue have the players of sufficient quality to consolidate their place in Conference North. Then, I hope they can increase their fan base. I read in the T&A last week that they need to increase their average from about 500 to 700.

As a family we spent Christmas at Blackpool in 2008 and I went to watch Fleetwood play Workington on Boxing Day. It was their first season in Conference North. They have three smart little stands as well as a successful social club and they are about to build another new stand. They average just about 1,200 and considerable investment in the team this season has lifted them to the top of the League and, although they had their winning points against now defunct Farsley Celtic deducted, they are still slight favourites to go into the Blue Square Premier League – Conference – as champions although Southport are pressing them hard.

They have a far better ground than Park Avenue and if Avenue can consolidate in Conference North they will need to improve Horsfall or look for a better ground. The accommodation is little more than adequate and looking over a running track tends to spoil a match for spectators.

Bob Blackburn has bought land at Thornbury to build a new stadium, but that sounds to be an ambitious plan for a club that attracts fewer than 1,000 for normal league matches. Could they share Valley Parade? Park Avenue supporters I know wouldn’t be happy at that. There is some prejudice against ‘the club that plays off Manningham Lane.’ There are some of them, who are still re-living City-Avenue derby matches of the 1950s and 1960s.

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember those days – and great days they were with crowds of 15,000 to 20,000 watching those games in the 1950s although the gates tailed off in the 1960s, tremendous atmosphere and intense rivalry without the nastiness that manifested itself in the 1970s and still exist today. No segregation in those days either – fancy that?

I also watched Park Avenue play their final two seasons in the Second Division between 1948 and 1950 and I especially remember seeing Tottenham Hotspur – in Second Division championship season – West Brom, Leeds United and Coventry grace Park Avenue. It was sad to see their demise in the late 1960s and be voted out of the Football League in 1970.

It was also great to be able to watch League football on alternate Saturdays in Bradford. Despite Avenue’s successful season, we are still a long way off from those days and I just hope Avenue don’t over-reach themselves as Farsley have done. Their fan base was always too small and they went into the main Conference with crowds at about the same level as Park Avenue have now and over spent in trying to compete with bigger clubs with greater resources and sadly they had to be wound up a month ago. Their fate is warning to all clubs whatever level they play at – overspend at your peril.

Let’s hope Farsley can come back in Unibond North like Halifax Town did.

Richard Wardell Fundraiser in times of trouble and former BCST man

Breaking it down, we as Bradford City supporters shouldn’t be cheering on and supporting Bradford Park Avenue. However, welcoming their rise back up the football pyramid is a different matter.

I must admit that in this day and age of media hype surrounding the Premiership and the Champions League, I prefer to follow the fortunes of teams in the non league circles. Indeed, I notice that the top of the table clash between Bradford Park Avenue and Guiseley was postponed last night.

I am too young to remember Bradford Park Avenue as a league team so I don’t remember the days of Bradford having two football league teams. I suppose the question that we have to ask ourselves is what impact would league status for Bradford Park Avenue have on Bradford City fixtures? At the moment Bradford Park Avenue are averaging less than 1,000 people per home game this season. However, in the post Second World War years, a crowd of 25,655 watched Bradford City verses Bradford Park Avenue in a Division 3 match.

Another factor is cost. We as City supporters are all aware of the great (in my opinion) season ticket prices offered at Valley Parade in recent seasons. For their next home fixture Bradford Park Avenue will be charging adults £8, children £1 and concessions £5. If they were promoted to Division 4 (our current division), I wonder what the costs would be then?

The population of Bradford and the surrounding area should in theory be able to support two Bradford based football leagues clubs but theory doesn’t always work in the real world. People often talk about the great support that both Newcastle United and Leeds United gain but they are cities where there is only one league club. Discussions from time to time crop up about Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United merging but most of their supporters don’t want this.

So, back to the original question. Personally, I would like to see Bradford Park Avenue climb up the football pyramid and to play them in a league game would be great. However, being selfish, I wouldn’t want to see their rise result in our demise into non existence.

Paul Firth City fan and Author of Four Minutes To Hell

As a lad growing up in Bingley and without access to private transport, I was never going to be an Avenue fan. I even went to watch Keighley rather than Northern for much the same reasons. Apart from derby matches I’ve only been to Avenue (the football side of the stand, that is) once and that was in the sixties for a cup tie against Fulham – Johnny Haynes, George Cohen and some young kid called Allan Clarke.

City fans today, most of whom missed out on those derbies, love to hate teams in the league above us. Maybe they’ll be happy to see Avenue’s possible rise up the football ladder unless and until it impinges on City’s progress. We can cheer Avenue into the Conference North or even the Conference proper, especially when they struggle to attract 1,000 spectators for most games and we can’t find a soul who has given up his Valley Parade season ticket to go to Horsfall.

But if they did return to the Football League? Worse still, if they reached one league higher than City? Manchester United fans never worried much about what was going on at Maine Road once the Bell/Lee team fell apart. Pride in your city soon takes second place to pride in your City.

A sad day for football, a good day for football fans?

Chester City were wound up in the high court bringing to an end a four year shame of an existence the 126 year club have gone through while Farsley Celtic were incapable of being accepted into administration and were liquidated.

For the better part of the last decade Chester City were struggling with financial problems partly caused by an underweaning lack of ambition but mostly by the actions of the owners of the club – The Vaughan family – who would make Richmond, Richardson and Risdale look like paragons of virtue and models of sturdy custodianship. I am no expert on the Vaughan family and so shall make no further comment on them other than to echo the comments discussed by Chester fans elsewhere. It was an horrifically drawn out demise, but it is not the end.

The 126 years of Chester City may have been pillaged by the Vaughan ownership but it is far from the end for the football club.

Chester City Fans United are already planning a new club – the popular AFC route as it is dubbed – and more power to their elbow. The rise of the AFC movement which started with the unloved and notoriously weakest fans in football who followed Wimbledon becoming the robust supporters of AFC Wimbledon dragging their clubs up from literally nothing.

The end of our neighbour Farsley Celtic is massively upsetting and to paraphrase “There, but for the Grace of God goes (John) Bradford (City)“. Trumpeted as the success story of local football three years ago the club that Stuart McCall signed for City from are no more.

Farsley are the first football club to have been refused administration because the possibility of a workable CVA paying more than liquidation would was too remote. Notts County – some speculate – would face the same situation.

Farsley Celtic‘s problems seem to have come from over-reaching to try grow a club to be bigger than would be sustained by the size of the current number of supporters but are not helped by the fact that the people who should have been looking out for a club founded in 1908 were – it is suggested – looking with envious eyes at the patch of prime Leeds land that Throstle’s Nest sits on.

Telford United and Halifax Town followed the AFC route and revivals for Bradford (Park Avenue) and Accrington Stanley while different in nature have drawn a new pattern of football. A map which separates the football club from the football business that operates it. The Farsley Celtic supporters who today look for something new to do with Saturday afternoon would do well to look at the AFC route which promises much reward.

The disgruntled Manchester United supporters who formed the ludicrously named FC United of Manchester – Newton Heath would have been so much better – have done similar and illustrate the practical successes of the supporter-centric approach. That FC United songs are now sung by clubs up and down the leagues says much about the impact that club is having and the growing protests of gold and green at Old Trafford shows a rising upset with the owners of the parent club.

The business of a football club can be owned by anyone who passes the much discussed fit and proper test – or in the case of Chester City and the Vaughan family people who do not – but the football club is not included in that business entity. The football club – being the historic traditions, the support, the icons, the status – is made up of the things around a club which cannot be bought and sold.

As Chester City Fans United look to follow a path trodden by AFC Wimbledon of taking over the history of the club despite being a different business it is worth reflecting that our football club has been run by the businesses of Bradford City AFC 1983 and Bradford City Football Club 2004 in the last decade. The switch of what is considered to be “Bradford City” from one business to another is done with the permission of the football club and in the case of Wimbledon/Milton Keynes that permission was not given.

So in almost welcomed demise and the instant rise of Chester City the owners of the businesses that run football clubs are given another example of this new pattern for ownership which gives them the power to run the clubs at the behest the supporters and with a remit to serve those supporters.

One can only imagine how horrific it has been to be a Chester City supporter over the last few years but the anticipated rise – and the lessons that illustrates to those people who own football businesses would seek to run clubs for their own benefit, and behave in ways that best suit them and not the supporters – are an example for all.

Football businesses can be owned by anyone, football clubs are always owned by the supporters and business owners would do well to remember this.

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.

What we learn from pre-season

It was once said of a group of young footballers who went on to big things that “you won’t win anything with kids” and perhaps as Stuart McCall prepares his team for the start of what is expected to be a promotion season this motto has been taken to heart with the City boss arriving at Farsley Celtic with a collection of major signings who were all aged around thirty. McCall is not going to stand accused of trying to make youngsters do men’s jobs.

However if they warn that inexperience will not beget results then lifelessness is an even bigger ailment and it was that which was Bradford City’s undoing tonight.

We should remember that one should not read too much into pre-season – City ended with game with David Wetherall, Wayne Jacobs and Physio Adam Cook on the field – but the approach to a game at Farsley Celtic could be a telling factor. Paul McLaren arrived at Valley Parade to gasps and delight but he and Lee Bullock at the heart of the Bantams first half midfield put in little application. Throstle’s Nest is not a million miles from Christie Park or many other League Two grounds and every game in claret and amber is important.

That the Bantams trailed 3-0 at half time was an indication as to how little McLaren and Bullock had got stuck in and the turnaround in the second half was entirely down to the hustle brought to the game by Kyle Nix and the impressive Luke Sharry. If one was to read anything into pre-season games then it would be that Craig Bentham and Tom Penford might be at Celtic because of the abilities of Sharry who is very much one to watch.

Certainly if City are to get anywhere they are going to need more application in winning the ball than McLaren or Bullock showed and one worries that that pairing could be another Steven Schmacher and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson.

Also a problem – in the first half at least – was defensive struggling by young pair Adrian Bellamy and Luke O’Brien who were at fault for a goal each as they dallied on the ball rather that putting the David Wetherall boot through it.

The other goal came from one of those offside decisions which drive you nuts. Paul Arnison had half a good debut having to do much to cover Bellamy next to him and Kory Nix – brother of Kyle – in front both missing. Kory Nix started well tucking in and taking the ball but after a half hour went missing up front although this came after a distressingly high kick to his chest from a defender that shook the new Australian.

Up front Peter Thorne hit the post with a header and Willy Topp looked lively until he was moved to the right wing second half although it was from the right that the cross that saw Barry Conlon fouled to win and score a penalty that got City’s goal came.

Conlon was partnered by Michael Boulding’s brother Rory who played the second half. Shoudl he sign then Michael Boulding, as with Graeme Lee and Chris Brandon, had to slot into this team and one can be sure that at no point did the eleven on the field resemble those who will start the season.

However regardless of the players on the field should anyone in claret and amber turn up without putting effort in then we will not win. It is pre-season and not much can be read into it but that much I know and can guarantee.

“You won’t win anything without effort.”

A proper pre-season

The new season will move a step closer this week as the pre-season friendly programme begins at Farsley Celtic. An almost annual stop-off point for Bradford City’s preparations, this Wednesday’s meeting will provide those of us attending with our first football fix in months and offer some clues as to what sort of season the Bantams may enjoy.

It’s been well documented that City was under-prepared as they embarked on their first few pre-season friendlies a year ago this week. On the day of the first game, at Harrogate Town, Paul Heckingbottom had become only the third summer signing, after Peter Thorne and Barry Conlon.

Having taken over with less than a full team of senior players on the books, it meant new manager Stuart McCall had to use a squad topped up with trialists. Some impressed and earned new deals, some were quickly released and a couple of those who were – Peter Leven and Simon Johnson – earned chances at clubs who performed better than City over the season. It was hardly the most ideal of beginnings and it showed during the disappointing first third of the season.

The lack of preparation undoubtedly influenced the subsequent disappointing midtable finish last season; and the traumatic pre-season the year before shaped the even worse 2006-07 campaign. Then, five the six pre-season friendlies ended in defeat – including two 4-1 thrashings to sides in the division below. Manager Colin Todd was badly lacking in players as the Peter Etherington investment was delayed and then terminated behind the scenes.

The majority of new faces arrived less than two weeks before the opening game – all loan signings. A good start followed but, as form collapsed cumulating in relegation, it was obvious from those pre-season thrashings that the warning signs had been there from the start.

The memories of both patchy pre-seasons have clearly been in the thoughts of many fans as this summer has unfolded. There still remains a degree of unrest that certain key positions in the team are yet to be recruited for but, compared to the progress at this stage last season, there are plenty of reasons to feel confident. It’s likely a trialist or two will pop up in City colours during the next three weeks, but the majority of the squad is already in place and Wednesday will be the first of six build-up games to hone an understanding.

Which, traditionally at least, is what pre-season games are supposed to be about. Will Chris Brandon be better in the centre or the wing? Should Mark Bower or Matt Clarke partner Graeme Lee in defence? Is Willy Topp going to be up to it this season? Stuart will be able to better decide on such matters during the next few weeks, rather than having to rely on the first few competitive games of the season.

The result on Wednesday won’t matter but, given the fact it’s the third year in a row City has visited Throstle Nest pre-season and the last two ended in disappointing defeats, there may be something to be read into the outcome. It’s likely the remaining signings will quickly follow and Stuart should have a very strong idea of the squad’s capabilities in time for the first game which really matters, on August 9.

Inking In

Farsley Celtic are the success story of West Yorkshire football. Standing in their cobbled together ground seeing a club punching over its weight going for it against a twenty-two man Bradford City team one cannot helped but be impressed with what is going on at City’s new nearest neighbour. If Bradford City or Leeds United punched this high then Championships would be won.

Farsley mean business and were in race trim. Gareth Grant had something to prove against City and roasted Luke O’Brien at left back and City’s first half middle which included Everton trialist Scott Phelan whent from control of the game to a worrying back foot. Simon Johnson up front was fed by Joe Colbeck and slid over a ball for Peter Thorne to get a debut equaliser but Damien Dunne gave the home side a decisive lead.

Four days later and Colbeck – persistant target of both critisism and plaudit even amoust the thousand who travel to pre-season – impressed in a 2-0 win over North Ferriby United ripping into the home side’s full back and firing over a string of excellent crosses. Joe Colbeck with end product is almost everything. The rest comes from Peter Thorne and Barry Conlon who both look like the burley sort of striker that City will need in League Two. Thorne got his second – adding to an opener by Omar Daley – and City had both good win and good workout.

Wins and workouts aside the modern friendly is about squad shaping. Conlon and Thorne are Bantams and they will surely be joined soon by a return of Paul Evans who slotted back into Bradford City colours aptly. Evans taking a free kick blasted at goal is a sight one thought one would never see again and one is so glad that the midfield engine seems set to return.

Joining City seem to be Nathan Joynes and Thomas Harban on long-term loans from Barnsley. Harban looks an interesting player with decent ball skills. Joynes – a forward – is superb until the finish which “lacks polish” to say the least. Simon Johnson moves on to Hereford having not impressed McCall. Joynes seems to offer the same. One wonders if the fear of a two year contract should City win promotion is behind that one.

Former Hartlepool United and Sunderland right back Darren Williams has been offered a contract. He is not Darren Holloway. Repeat it softly to yourself before you go to sleep dear reader.

Kyle Nix is to be told on Monday what his future is. It is six to half a dozen if he will stay. McCall seems to want Scott Phelan and Phelan – a full back at Goodison moving into midfield – looks worth a punt. As with Nix he finds out today as McCall – two wins and a defeat into his City career – inks in names to his team sheet.

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