No disrespect is meant to Gary Megson but, really, Sheffield Wednesday should fire him

No disrespect to the competition or Bradford – it’s fantastic that Johnstone’s Paint sponsor the competition – but we have to do what is right for Sheffield Wednesday.

Which is to say losing matches. Gary Megson’s actions in the defeat on penalties to Bradford City seemed to make that more likely and while I’m not expert on the amount of effort put in by a custodian in a Tuesday night match and how it would tire him out for Saturday if I were facing a penalty shoot out I’d be glad to have Nicky Weaver in goal.

If I were a Sheffield Wednesday fan I’d probably wish the Megson did the kind of unexpected exit which our own Peter Jackson performed last week and not because of the idea that he has shamed the club, or disgraced the competition or anything so emotive but because in two ways Megson indicated that he failed to grasp the task in hand managing a club like the Owls in League One.

Bradford City are not a club the size of Wednesday, but we are big guns in these lower leagues and have been there to have had pot shots taken at us for the best part of a decade now. For a time there was a hushed aware when teams visited Valley Parade – the kind that comes when a player who is used to 3,000 capacity stadiums visits a proper ground – but that did not last long. Bit by bit the reputation City had of a top club at the bottom was chipped away by the odd home defeat here, the weakness shown there and by season after season of being knocked out of competitions like the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy by teams from further down the football pyramid.

Under Colin Todd’s management a lot of the things he was doing in the league were undermined by constant defeat to the likes of Accrington Stanley – then a non-league outfit – and Notts County before the fraud. For a half decade City were ground out of cup competitions at the first time of asking and – in retrospect – the sight of “Premier League Bradford City” going out to Acky Stanley chipped away at any fear factor we had.

So players of other clubs reading this morning that Sheffield Wednesday lost to Bradford City will see Megson’s Owls as a little less than they were, a little bit more beatable. Likewise the players on the field – struggling to maintain the idea that they are not League One players but rather Championship players waiting for re-promotion – have a niggling doubt that something at Wednesday is not what it was.

Understanding how cup form sabotaged the long league seasons has come through hindsight mostly, but as a manager who is going to get promotion Megson should understand the perils mentally of losing to a club in the leagues below you.

And lose they did. The other strike against Megson for a Wednesday fan is that they team he put out against City were ill prepared and it showed. Luke Oliver hit the bar in the last minute but more importantly he converted a header which was nodded away from what looked to be behind the line. There was no bad luck in the game, Wednesday got what they deserved, nothing.

The players oozed a mentality that they had been sent out as second class citizens at the club. They did not play like the people who would be expected to be dropped into a League One game next week, they played like they were the off cuts. Many a manager had challenged his fridge fringe players to “show me what you can do” but Megson seemed to say “Show me what you can’t.”

At any level of football a manager should not send a team out with that attitude. Tell a team that they are second best and they will prove it on the pitch. Take Arsene Wenger’s 8-2 reversal at Manchester United. As two midfielder’s exited Arsene told Arsenal’s players that they were not good enough – certainly not as good as the guys who had left – and his players showed that at Old Trafford. Imagine – if you will – had Arsenal played that game with Ces Fabregas suspended and Sami Nasri injured. Would the attitude of the Arsenal players been the same or would they have pulled together to cover the missing men? Had Sheffield Wednesday gone into last night as the young heroes being called on in an injury crisis then would they have walked taller, won more tackles, felt better?

Not only is preparing players as Megson did unprofessional but it is avoidable. Clinton Morrison screaming his head off at team mates is not a way to prepare footballers. A young kid making his debut at the back deserves more than his team mates being told that they have to play. Tell the seniors that they are there to help the juniors, tell the juniors that you need a performance from them.

The next time one of the players who finished the game for Sheffield Wednesday is called on by Gary Megson how is the feeling of knowing they are part of the cut offs team going to effect them. Megson might be schooled in 38 games of a Premier League season with Bolton Wanderers but the demands of the game lower down are that the division between first team and reserves is much finer, and the need to have a squad all pulling in the same direction has been aptly illustrated by the last three years at Bradford City.

So, while one means no disrespect to Sheffield Wednesday or their manager my experience of watching a team in similar circumstances suggests that the manager lacks what is needed to take a big club back up.

When the fear factor goes, much goes with it, and Megson chipped away at that last night.

Cooper Provides Perfect Platform for Parkinson to Launch From

The Team

Oscar Jansson | Liam Moore, Luke Oliver, Guy Branston, Robbie Threlfall | Chris Mitchell, Richie Jones, Michael Flynn, Jack Compton | James Hanson, Mark Stewart | Ross Hannah, Michael Bryan, Luke O'Brien

Tomorrow morning City’s new boss Phil Parkinson is due to discuss the futures of the backroom staff and that namely of Colin Cooper. Cooper took the helm to guide City to a second impressive display in four days, that saw the Bantams go through to the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, via penalties, at the expense of League 1 opposition. On this evidence it must surely be highly tempting for Parkinson to keep him on as his number two.

That is to say if Cooper wishes to remain in the role, because on the back of these two games he has done himself no harm if he was to go looking for a number one spot elsewhere.

His mantra seems to be to get the team passing, using the flanks effectively and pressing teams into their own half. It would be nice to see this ethos continued under the new boss as not only is it pleasing to watch, it has also yielded two positive results in as many games.

Whilst the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy offers an unhelpful distraction from the league to some, it offers others the chance of a cup run with a trip to Wembley at the end of it. City set up with the latter in mind and named an unchanged starting line-up from Saturday’s victory against Barnet. Megson’s team selection seemed to apply to the former, choosing to blood a sixteen year-old centre back, but nonetheless offered the Owls a chance to pick up their first away victory of the season.

Megson’s clear scepticism towards the tournament was further confirmed only minutes into the game when first choice Wednesday keeper, Nicky Weaver, was replaced by second choice stopper Richard O’Donnell. A slight bending of the rules perhaps, which stipulate that six first team players must be included in the starting line-up, and not, one would argue, in the spirit of the game or competition.

To add to this early surprise, after only fifteen minutes Megson made more changes, sacrificing former Leeds midfielder David Prutton and defender Jose Vitor Semedo. The sentiment that you can only beat who is put in front of you seemed to echo around Valley Parade and did not deter City, but surely spurred them on sensing a higher opposition scalp.

With these distractions aside, Bradford started the game brightly and looked to play a passing game through the midfield, feeding the wide men Compton and Mitchell. Compton particularly looked dangerous and increasingly demonstrated the confidence to go beyond his full back, this led to an early pull back for Mark Stewart who had the ball nicked off his toes just before connecting with his shot.

Continuity in selection seemed to be paying off for City as Michael Flynn and Ritchie Jones struck up a decent understanding that saw Flynn playing the aggressor, whilst Jones showed finesse to find a yard of space to push the Bantams forward. Indeed this was a refreshing sight following the midfield being by-passed far too often in recent memory.

Despite early amounts of possession and positive play, the Bantams rarely tested the Wednesday keeper and as the half wore on the Owls seemed to settle into the game and gain more possession themselves, but likewise, without every really threatening Oscar Jansson’s goal.

As the half drew to a close, the tenacity of Mark Stewart carved half a chance for the Scottish striker, his shot ballooned up into the air and straight into the path of James Hanson who could only managed to knock his header into the ground and agonisingly wide of the far post.

Despite the miss the near chance seemed to send the Bantams into the break with positive intent and left Wednesday looking vulnerable at the back.

Vulnerability that nearly proved costly only seconds into the second half, when a loose pass back to his keeper by sixteen year old Ayo Obileye, was nearly seized upon by the alert Compton, who saw his effort deflected wide by the keeper’s legs.

The City forwards continued to hustle the inexperienced Owls backline, Hanson using his brute strength and Stewart his guile to carve out more chances; Stewart’s best effort was pushed wide by keeper O’Donnell, whilst Hanson dragged his late effort wide.

Midway through the second half, City introduced boyhood Wednesday fan Ross Hannah who continued where Stewart left off and continued to pressurise the Wednesday defence. Mitchell was then also replaced by winger Michael Bryan, who again looked a little lightweight when up against opposition fullbacks.

Wednesday continued to pass the ball effectively through the midfield carving few chances on goal and never really testing Jansson, but as the half went on, it was City who finished the stronger.

Firstly, a Luke Oliver header that was cleared on the line (following a watch of the replay on TV it certainly looked over the line), the resultant clearance came to Flynn who volleyed an effort that was effectively saved once more by O’Donnell. Then Compton curled a vicious free kick just wide of the far post; Hannah tried to scramble a shot in on the turn following a Hanson knock down and Jones also had a powerful volleyed effort saved.

With the game drawing towards the last five minutes City introduced prodigal son Luke O’Brien for Compton. Early link up between O’B and Robbie Threlfall saw the Bantams force a free kick on the left flank; the ball was swung across into a dangerous area by Threlfall and was met again by the consistently impressive Oliver, whose header struck the bar and bounced to safety.

It seemed that it was going to be one of those nights for the Bantams, who’s endeavours went unrewarded. With the game finishing level, the lottery of penalties ensued and saw City keeper Jansson come into his own.

Sheffield Wednesday started the spot kick proceedings at the Bradford End, Clinton Morrison blasting his effort way over the bar. Ritchie Jones then stepped up and made it 1-0 with a coolly taken spot-kick. The Owls’ second penalty saw Jansson dive athletically to his right to push the effort wide, then Flynn doubled City’s lead with another well taken effort. Wednesday’s third effort saw the visitors get on the board, only for Ross Hannah to smash City’s third into the top corner. As Wednesday’s fourth taker stepped up, it felt amongst the crowd that the superior City performance was about to be rewarded and duly it was as Jansson dived low to his left to push the shot around the post.

If this is seen as a lesser competition then nobody told the Bantams’ players whose reaction was one of delirium as the arm-linked Claret and Amber stripes stampeded towards Jansson for a good old-fashioned pile on, topped off by a Guy Branston Swan dive (Ouch!). The team spirit was clear to see and it is hoped that Parkinson will now look to continue this in order to build on the confidence gained in the last two games.

The two victories represent a massive step forward for the squad and Cooper’s influence cannot be ignored. So it is hoped that Phil Parkinson’s observatory role tonight has shown him enough to know a good thing when he sees it and does all within his power to keep Cooper on. This will surely aid the transition and maintain continuity, whilst hopefully demonstrating to the new boss, cited in previous articles for favouring a tight 451 formation, that playing an attacking 442 formation can merit its own rewards and do it in style.

It will be interesting now to see how many new recruits Parkinson decides to bring in, as it would be a shame to oust the promising talent that has been on show in the last two games, without first giving it a chance. An experienced striker is still an attractive prospect, but the players handed over by Cooper must at least leave the new man thinking hard before spending Mark Lawn’s newly available funds.

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