Brilliant McCall bounces City into the season to savour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And making a season to savour.

The Boulding brothers settle for Valley Parade

Michael Boulding has an impressive goal tally for sure and he has been tagged as a target for City for a long time this summer but in terms of alarm bells there is very few that the 32 year old has not clanged.

Boulding joins City after the sort of on off chase which never has brought us much joy in the past. His father insists that the decision to join City has nothing to do with cash but one cannot help but be reminded of the transfers of Ashley Ward, of Lee Power, of Benito Carbone when thinking of this deal.

City’s best signings grasped at the chance to come to Valley Parade with both hands.

Then there is the injury picked up in training with minutes to go of a training session before a game which saw him able to go home rather than to Farsley. In itself not a problem – an injured player should rest – but hardly that desire to settle in to City.

Nevertheless Rory Boulding played that night. What are we to make of Rory and the deal that brings him in his brother’s pocket? How much elevation does the younger get to please the elder? How does McCall deal with Michael if if offers the opinion that Rory deserves a starting run out?

We are to hope that Michael is just pushing for his kid brother not pushing him into places he should not be. These are alarm bells but in a world where Christiano Ronaldo is a slave perhaps this is just Michael using player power and making his own decisions.

The biggest alarm though sounds when one recalls Mansfield’s brilliant, spirited display at Valley Parade last season after which I commented that the team would not be relegated should they play like that more often.

Boulding scored in that game. His 25 goals in a relegated side that can play so well but often did not makes one wonder how the striker fits into that or any of the many teams he has played for? Is the one of those players who while impressive gets more out of a team than he puts in?

Chris Waddle’s time at City was brilliant to watch but Shaun Murray got us out of the bottom two. Wayne Rooney’s second season at Everton was much worse then the year after he left and Tim Cahill took his place. These were good players who for whatever reason did not fit.

Let us this is not the case with Boulding. Let us hope that there worries are unfounded and that the alarm bells are pre-season tension playing on the mind. After all all indications are that this reason is very much make or break.

We welcome both Boulding brothers with the same – if not more considering Michael’s three clubs in the last month – enthusiasm they join us with.

In 12 months time though this double signing and how the relationship between the two is handled could very much decide Stuart McCall’s future.

How much would you pay to make the difference?

City have got Abel Thermeus on trial and will take the French/Haitian striker back to Fir Park where they called him The Flask and have a Bebo group about his “shiteness”.

Michael Boulding is going to join Cheltenham as long as they take his brother – the Chelt manager is getting it in the neck for agreeing to that – and I for one am glad that Stuart McCall is not taking City into the kind of bizarre deal that used to blight Melchester Rovers. “He will sign for us Roy but we have to sign his brother…”, “No Blackie, we could offer that chance to one of our youngsters who has earned it!”

Hard to argue with Racey and hard too look the parents of all the kids who you have promised a route to the first team if they sign for City when you give away squad shirts to someone’s brother. What do you say when Michael tells you that he things Thorney is feeling it in the legs and perhaps a younger player?

Nevertheless Stuart McCall has confirmed that City are no longer interested in Boulding and the talks for Luke Beckett are still “on hold” and seemingly declared dead as the Bantams put in an enquiry for Leeds United’s Anthony Elding.

Elding – a player tracked before – is a pint sized goal machine putting in a strike every other game when he is on form and Crewe are believed to have bid £150,000 for him which the player rather than the club knocked back. He scores goals at this level and were he available for the free transfers that has brought Paul McLaren or Graeme Lee to Valley Parade he would be a great recruitment.

But £150,000? That would be City’s biggest signing not since Andrew Todd (who – memory serves – cost £110,000 although I could be wrong on this and the next fact) but since £1.7m was paid for Stan Collymore. It is serious cash for a club at this level.

Nevertheless McCall’s summer has been about bringing in a striker – Beckett was the first transfer move – and his missed targets are all front men. Peter Thorne can get goals for sure but is has been clear from day one that he does not believe that Willy Topp and Barry Conlon would be able to mount a promotion challenge without an additional twenty goal a season man.

He has looked for proven goalscorers and gone to the lengths of the Boulding nonsense and the breadth of offering money for Beckett to get his man. McLaren’s wages and Lee’s signing on fee. Brandon’s recruitment and Arnison’s arrival. These things are for nothing if the ball does not go into the net at the right end at lot next year and Stuart wants someone proven to do that.

The £150,000 for one player is a chunk at this level but spread over the recruitment of the summer making all those signings worthwhile it could be a the snip of this or many seasons.

I’m not losing any sleep over Jon Shaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Paul Arnison solve that right back problem?

Stuart McCall is making his second signing this afternoon when Paul Arnison joins the Bantams from Carlisle on a two year deal on a free transfer to play right back as the City gaffer looks to make the deals to bring in the players he thinks can play in League One.

Arnison played his last game for Carlisle in the play-offs against Leeds and you can see what Stuart is thinking in signing players like the former Newcastle United defender and Chris Brandon who joined from Huddersfield last month. Get a team of players who are League One quality together and then you will be a team good enough for League One.

Arnison has knocked back his old club Hartlepool United who are in League One to come to Valley Parade which suggests the ambition that McCall wants in his new faces not wanting any of them to get to used to the idea of playing in the bottom division.

He comes recommended by Stuart’s old mate Greg Abbott who is number two at Carlisle and replaces Darren Williams who only was at Valley Parade for a year after replacing Darren Holloway who never really had the best of times in the position. In fact it is hard to remember the last right back City had who looked the part.

Holloway got ripped apart more by fans than by left wingers but no one would say he commanded the position. Gus Ulhlebeek was nothing to get excited about and Gunnar Halle was not the sort who stopped people going by him. In fact the last time City looked like they had a solid right back was Stephen Wright.

Wright never played in the Premiership but the change of number two was probably not as important as the guy alongside him. For the last nine years City have struggled to get a right back to look good next to David Wetherall. Wetherall was a cracking player but perhaps he never supported the man to his right enough causing this constant problem with the full back?

In football you do what the guy behind you does.  Goalkeepers tell central defenders where to stand and central defenders tell full backs and holding midfielders and Wetherall always pulled his right back too far inside giving them too much work to do to close down left wingers.  It is probably something that has stopped goals going through the middle but the result is that we have been weak on the flank.

Left wingers have a field day at Valley Parade and they cross for big centreforwards who head in passes from the left.  Paul Arnison gets to be the first right back in a decade to play alongside someone other than Wetherall.

The End of the Beginning of the Road for Tom Penford

Thirteen players were released by Bradford City today and they included a former player of the season in Donovan Ricketts and a high profile signing in Eddie Johnson but none leave me with as heavy a heart as the end of Tom Penford’s career at Valley Parade.

Penford came onto the scene in a collection of bright young prospects who looked to turn around City’s fall from grace five years ago and while Simon Francis moved on and Danny Forrest moved out Penford remained coming into the side as a bit part player, suggesting much but never nailing down a place in the side.

His latest spring into the first team was typical of this. He looked more than capable of doing a job in League Two but some would say his form dipped and it seems that Penford has run out of last chances under Stuart McCall taking with him a complement that the City gaffer believed the Leeds born midfielder to be capable of filling his holding midfield role – a task he did in a team which performed well.

In those games Penford played as he always had for City. He has an intelligence to his play and to how he handled himself that is rare in young players and arguably players of any age. He seemed more considered than most footballers and in this writers opinion was often a joy to watch. He played type of pass that Stuart would have attempted and while everything changes and everyone moves on eventually I will miss having a player who can be relied on for that in the City squad.

Tom Penford had cracks of whip and no doubt he could have made more of an impact but as Colin Todd said of him He clearly has something. One can only wish him the best that that something takes him elsewhere and on to a good career as a professional footballer.

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