Taylor gets back to being tough with Williams injury

Steve Williams was left out of the squad for the game with Stevenage after breaking one of Peter Taylor’s club rules.

Taylor requires that players report injuries they have and Williams – following his excellent display against Nottingham Forest – did not. The manager’s rod of iron rule saw the defender excluded from the squad. Discipline in the squad – for Taylor – is everything.

Williams returns to the squad for the weekend game with Torquay United with the manager unequivocal in his punishment and the reasons for it. Williams had a day off when he should have been in having treatment on a sore hamstring – Taylor says – and that is unprofessional. Punishment done, Williams back in the squad.

For Taylor WilliamsHamstringGate gives the manager a chance to publicly re-flex his muscles as a disciplinarian following a summer in which it was hard for him to project that image. Gavin Grant might have reported every injury, never turned up late for training and always tracked back but being the manager of a player who is sent to prison for murder – especially the manager who had re-signed the player – painted the gaffer in a poor light.

Add to that Jake Speight’s jailing and – rightly or wrongly – City looked like a team ill disciplined and Taylor out of touch. Swinging the bat at Williams for his transgression in a public way reasserts Taylor as the hard task master – cross him and suffer.

While the public glare might be unfair on Williams once again the ends for Taylor justify his means. Taylor rates the discipline of his squad – which is to say their willingness to do as he tells them rather than to avoid yellow cards – above all. His comments on players reflect this working around the idea that if a player “works hard and does the right things” then he will do well. The right things are laid out by the manager.

Laid out by all managers up and down the leagues – one recalls the famed Ryan Giggs/Lee Sharpe party story – oft ignored by players. When manager Stuart McCall had Matthew Clarke and Barry Conlon out drinking and dealt with it half-heartedly, Taylor will not do the same.

The risk is that Taylor the Taskmaster – as Corporal Capello stands accused of – will squeeze the enjoyment from the squad with restrictions and rules but the manager would counter that enjoyment comes from winning and that is worth the sacrifices. The booing following a hard working victory undermines what Taylor is doing in that regard.

Williams moves on – probably in need of a break on Saturday following a superb display midweek – and Taylor reasserts for him, for the rest of the players and to Bradford City supporters that there is one man you should listen to at Valley Parade, and it is he.

The uncomfortable truth at the heart of football supporting

There was a public clamour to discover the detail of the crime that saw Jake Speight convicted of assault and so the lower end of the tabloid press responded and laid out in grisliness the other side of the story.

Dig out the story if you want. I think – with some personal experience – that stories of domestic assault are are horrible enough without the needless tone of an article like this but obviously The Daily Star’s editors feel that there is a need to egg the pudding describing the victim as “Stunning”.

If the article changes your level of sympathy or empathy for the victim, if it makes you think more about the need to take action against Speight, then you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.

And the question asks: Does it matter?

The reaction to the article has been a return of the debate between fans as to whether Speight should be sacked with people believing that there should be no place at the club for someone who behaves as the new signing has done and others attesting to the idea that player’s personal lives are away from the game and that in effect aside from missing a week of training his assault simply does not matter.

Does not matter that is as much as his capacity to score goals and be a part of a winning Bradford City side. It is hard not to have some agreement with this point of view when considering the recent history of this football club. If what matters about Bradford City is not the merciless pursuit of wins then why are we four months down the line from firing Stuart McCall as manager? The club was much nicer with our favourite player in charge.

If the aim of Bradford City is to be a collective of people who you are proud to applaud onto the field and think would probably like to share a beer with you then what was the purpose for anyone of removing the most beloved figure in the club’s history? If we want a Bradford City full of nice guys then why is Wayne Jacobs criticised for being “too nice.”

The past six months have seen a definitive statement made by a section of the supporters and by the club itself that winning football matches is more important than almost any other concern. Should Speight start to score goals then – one is forced to assume – he will win around the people who pushed so hard to see McCall ousted from the club because nothing matters more than winning games.

Indeed some would point to Speight – who has been tried and convicted – having a right to carry on his life and career on the basis of his application and ability rather than his past. You can, dear reader, take a view on that but we need not debate it again on these pages.

Why do we think we know footballers?

The counter opinion is that that Speight should not be allowed to wear a Bradford City shirt because he is to be considered unworthy of such distinction brings us to a more uncomfortable truth and one which sits at the heart of football supporting.

As football supporters the common ideal is that – with the odd exception – were we to meet the footballers we cheer on the field we would probably enjoy their company off it, what is more they would enjoy ours.

In the back of his mind the football supporter has a belief that were he to be in a pub on the Saturday night next to the player he watches on a Saturday afternoon then he could share a thought and talk over the game. Confuse this not with sycophancy – this is not about hero worship – but rather the idea that there would be an automatic magnetism between player and supporters because they were concerned with the same passions: Football, and the club.

Not only that but without evidence to the contrary we assume that the footballer is probably a good bloke. We think he will be someone we find likeable because – after all – we like him. We look at how the game is played by the footballers we like and from that infer a set of characteristics which find admirable.

We decide that James Hanson is a solid, hard working lad with Roy of the Rovers dreams in his head and stars in his eyes now he has been given a chance to play in the big leagues. I’ve never met him but he might be an utterly insufferable man bloated with egotism at his own achievements however I’ve seen his play from that feel I have some connection to him. That I somehow know him.

So when it emerges that the footballer is not what we would have thought he would be we are robbed of our disillusion – even if we have rarely given them serious thought or fantasy – and for some people that perceived betrayal is unforgivable. I’ve never met John Terry and I’m not the sort given to indulging the kind of inference of character I talk about above but some people are and those people found the revelations about him to be almost a personal slight.

How well do you know John Terry?

To some people it was as if Terry had put up a front to them, pretending to be an all round nice guy and good bloke, and that because they knew him through his game when he turned out to be a bit of a shit they we outraged by the duplicity of the man. How dare he pretend to be the thing I want him to be only to prove he is not?

All along John Terry has always been John Terry and while he might not want the world to know about it because of the effect on his lucrative sponsorship deals and his personal privacy it is our inference as football supporters watching him play that has afforded him that status. All along he has been a bit of a git but the fact that he kicked a ball around well created – in the mind of fans – the persona of “JT The Great Guy.”

Confuse this not too with the idea of idols and Gods with feet of clay. This is not a situation where we find a hidden truth where previously we had some knowledge but rather one where we find only a truth where before we had assumption.

Smarter footballers are able to manage their public persona in a way that hides any negative traits in the same way that actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio are able to spend years ensuring that they do as little as possible which anyone might find objectionable in order to allow the public to project onto them some positive characteristics. Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise saw their stars dim when the public started to see too much of their own shapes, taking away the forms they were ale to afford them themselves.

The uncomfortable truth at the heart of football supporting is that the chances are that were we to be given the chance to have that drink with a player then we would probably not like them. We would try talk about the club, about the game and they would have different passions, different interests. They might even find us odd. For various reasons few players are as interested in football as supporters are and – like Benoît Assou-Ekotto who plays for Spurs and represented Cameroon in the World Cup – sees the game just as his day job.

When we are presented with a story like Jake Speight’s assault then it becomes clear that some footballers might be down right objectionable (or they may not be, again I’ve never met Speight so have only mediated and assumed lore to make a judgement on) then this distance between what we would want a player to be and what they actually are is brought into sharp focus.

And so, to personal matters

Some years ago I was out in Leeds in the aftermath of City’s 3-1 win over Portsmouth in which Lee Sharpe had had a rare great game and bumped into the player in The Courthouse. Without going into details let it be known that Sharpe was not enthusing about football or his performance – not that he should be, it was his night out too – and following that night the BfB policy of trying to avoid matters off the pitch fermented.

In the eight years since I have lost track of the number of emails which I’ve received which detail the transgressions of various players as detailed by City fans the majority of whom were some how disgruntled by an encounter with a player.

Recently and most benignly Barry Conlon was “outed” as liking a drink and not really being that bothered about the club as if the man who had at that point had twelve clubs in ten years should be a teetotal dyed in the wool Bantam. Every year one sees a dozen or so players come or go from Valley Parade and to expect them all to care about the club as deeply as a support does is unrealistic to the point of madness. Opinion was divided on Conlon but – from this corner of the web – it was given on the basis of what he did on the field and not an expectation that he should be as interested in Bradford City as a supporter.

Nicky Summerbee was vilified following an exchange with City fans who thought he should care more – or like Omar Daley appear to care more – but to demand the commitment of fans such from hired hands is setting oneself up for a fall. On Summerbee and Daley and all others who seem to not – and indeed probably don’t – care as much as fans then again one looks at the performance on the field rather than judging them against some perceived idea of the player who cares as much as the fan. This is not the fifties, and there is only one Wor Jackie.

When City signed Gavin Grant mails came in talking about the player and repeating things which have since turned up in court and BfB was once again left with questions as to how to talk about a player who was scary in his deviation from what supporters would want him to be. What can one do in that position when talking about football other than just talk about football?

Supporters have expectations of players and it is not for me to say if the expectation that Jake Speight be an model citizen is appropriate enough on a personal basis is a healthy thing or not but I will say that anyone anyone who expects footballers to be in life what they are in the mental fiction we build around them is going to be disappointed. As my brother is so fond of saying “(I) hate everything about football apart from the football.”

At BfB we try to talks about the club on the basis of what happens on the pitch and – even in a case as trying as Jake Speight – we will continue to try to do so.

Plans for Weetwood scrapped as pre-season starts with a slump

Jake Speight has played around the non-leagues in the last few years and has probably while at Northwich Victoria or Droylsden had to train on some run down school playing field with shoddy facilities and had to get into his kit somewhere else for the want of a changing block and then get to the pitches by car.

He will be looking forward to leaving those days behind now he at a proper football club. He will be disappointed.

Speight and his new team mates start training at Apperley Bridge today after the club made a decision to abandon the plan to move to Weetwood. Manager Peter Taylor – the driving force behind the desire to move to better facilities – fronted the club’s explanation saying “All the boxes had to be ticked before going to the other place and they weren’t. A couple of things we wanted couldn’t be guaranteed, such as being able to train on certain areas on certain days, and I wasn’t prepared to take that chance if it wasn’t right.”

So the club take another chance, the chance of history not repeating itself. Speight arrives costing money, Tommy Doherty signs, James Hanson has a new four year deal and like Dan Petrescu, Benito Carbone and many, many others they are given training pitches and a way of training which have repeatedly be found wanting.

Found wanting by players. Lee Sharpe revealed that the players affectionately called City “The Dog & Duck” because of the training situation while Benito Carbone described The Bantams has having “nothing that resembled a football club” after his arrival.

Found wanting in the weather. When Bradford City’s second year in the Premier League went to hell it is often forgotten that Jim Jefferies side could not use Apperley Bridge because the rain has caused flooding. This is not uncommon and last season Michael Flynn recalls not being able to do a passing drill on the field because the ball could not be trusted to move or run true on the surface.

Found wanting in practice as for years and years as City have underachieved and while there is a school of thought that places that blame at the feet of Jim Jefferies, Nicky Law, Bryan Robson, Colin Todd, David Wetherall and Stuart McCall as if each manager inherited a discreet event when they arrived but – like Taylor – I would suggest there is a common factor and while one cannot say it is definitely Apperley Bridge it seemed to be identified by the current gaffer as a significant problem.

So the plan to move is off and Taylor tried to look on the bright side saying “To be fair to Apperley Bridge and the groundsman there, they have been terrific for us. I’m really pleased for the groundsman especially because he is a Bradford supporter and he used to work his socks off.”

However one has to wonder how this plan – seen as vital by Taylor not three months ago – has been allowed to fall apart. When a deal with announced why were ends left untied? After the announcement that we were moving to Weetwood – in knowledge that the deal had not been signed – did Mark Lawn, Julian Rhodes et al carry on looking for a facility understanding that the promise they had made to Taylor had not been fulfilled and they had not found him the training facilities he wanted?

The words “Plan B” used to be thrown around at this club on the field in an entire inappropriate way but it is appropriate to ask if Weetwood was Plan A what was City’s Plan B? Is this is?

Players like Robbie Threlfall were brought to the club with the idea that they were swapping Melwood for Weetwood and not on the idea of getting back in the minivan outside Valley Parade and being driven through Bradford traffic before training can begin.

The players arrive back at pre-season today and – after this – the season starts with a slump.

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…

Something Sharpey stirs

When I was a kid, I mean a younger kid, I wanted to be Lee Sharpe.

Not that I was a Man U fan or anything, I started at the Bantams at 1991 and cemented myself as a City fan after following from Grandstand’s vidiprinter before that, but there was something about the way the young Sharpe went from Torquay to whooping Arsenal in the League Cup for the that appealled to me. I’d try mimic his tucked in run and sidestep, to some effect.

That all faded with the onset of puberty and the transfer to Leeds but I still have a glint of affection for Sharpe, affection that colours my view of someone who has been a poor performer for the Bantams for the past few years. I stuck up for him because of old loyalties.

But something is happening to Sharpey, something strange.

After three years of in out displays, or patchy football, of promising (me only perhaps) much but delivering next to nothing, Lee Sharpe is looking good.

Not good in the same way Benito Carbone looks good, just because he is, but good as in focused, good as in like he gives a damn.

Sharpe is eyeing Gareth Whalley’s place on the inside of midfield, left hand side. Like John Barnes he wants to turn his leftwingism into a more solid role anchoring, spraying a pass, feeding the ball. People who have only been watching Lee in claret and amber would rule out any chance of him converting from ineffectual shurker to quality and quantity ball player but those who saw him terrorise right backs in the early 90s might pause and think.

Lee Sharpe was brilliant, and not just in a City way but in a good enough to play for England way. If that talent comes back, and perhaps Jim Jefferies is the man to dredge it back out, then the final chapter in the career of Lee Sharpe may not have been written and City may have found a cracking player where previously there had been a crack.

And at least one City fan will be able to say that they never gave up on the guy.

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