Nahki / Armstrong

And so the rumours continued.

Greg Abbott announced that Bradford City were interested in signing Adam Armstrong from Newcastle United while The Times are reporting that Armstrong’s parent club are now interested in Nahki Wells who, should he move to St James’ Park, would trigger a percentage clause in the transfer deal that took Wells from Bradford City to Huddersfield Town and give Bradford City the cash to spend on a striker.

The breathlessness of the above is indicative of a change in football over my eighteen years writing this website.

It used to be that football supporters lived for the football matches. Now the matches are a frequently ignored data point in the continuing narrative of squad gathering. Hull City’s victory in the first two games of the Premier League season is a quirk in the story of a team with too few players.

Bradford City beat Coventry City, Milton Keynes Dons and Peterborough United in eight days but this has not stopped the conversation around the club being entirely about who should be brought into – or moved out of – the squad.

Improving the squad may or may not be something that is needed this season – that would be a retroactive judgement made in May 2017 and speculation before that – but it is hard to imagine what football supporters would do in August if they were not talking about squad gathering.

Football supporting is now Pokemon Go with young men filling in for Pikachu.

Two

Nevertheless there are two things to note about the current cycle of rumour around Adam Armstrong arriving on loan from Newcastle United.

Notice how it is Chief Scout Greg Abbott and not Manager Stuart McCall who is talking about Armstrong. In fact it is Abbott who leads much of the conversation about recruitment to the club.

This in itself is in keeping with Abbott’s remit at Valley Parade and no bad thing but it is as stark a contrast with Bradford City up to the Summer of 2016 as one could see.

When Archie Christie had Abbott’s role he was geographically abused for having taken too high profile a role in transfer dealings and taking control away from the flailing Peter Jackson.

It is almost impossible to imagine Phil Parkinson’s Chief Scout Tim Breaker fronting a discussion on a target as Abbott does. In fact the first time most City fans heard Breaker’s name was in the revelation that he had left the club with Parkinson to join Bolton.

Abbott’s increased profile is a good thing. For football clubs to get better at transfers there needs to be a group-think approach to recruitment. Too often deals are done by managers to best serve the aims of that manager rather than the club.

The £250,000 that Phil Parkinson was able to reuse from the deal that took Oliver McBurnie to Swansea City was reused in the manager’s budget that season but as McBurnie starts to impress in Wales it is worth wondering if the long term aims of the club have been best served in that deal. I’m not the only one to have worried that after Parkinson, Lawn and Rhodes there is little left behind at Valley Parade.

Transfer group think is not popular in the English game – Liverpool’s transfer committee is seen as a problem – where any control taken from the manager is seen as a bad thing inherently.

my years of football have convinced me of it.

So Abbott speaking for the club is a change but and so it what Abbott is saying.

Should Armstrong join City on loan – perhaps as a result of Wells joining Newcastle United and freeing up the younger forward to move on – then City will be able to play Armstrong and Jordy Hiwula up front. Obviously this are two loan players.

City’s bid for Matt Green and the reported – or perhaps that is hopeful – interest in Adam le Fondre suggest that the alternative to a young loan signing not is an older permanent deal.

Which is a contrast to Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp’s stated aims when the new owners arrived.

Much was made of the fact that City could find value in signing released players from Premier League Academy football, turning their careers around, and developing them. That was how Bradford City would scale from being a League One club to being a club able to get into – and stay in – The Championship.

Hiwula or Armstrong or Josh Cullen might play well for City but the value for that will go elsewhere. City might get promoted because of their contributions but – we are told – when they are gone City will not have a Championship quality team.

Which suggests that either the plan has changed – let us hope not – or the plan was never there – let us very hope not – or that City are caught up in the Pokemon Go of squad gathering as much as the supporters are and that a deep breath would be best for all.

What are we trying to achieve and is signing Armstrong the way to achieve it?

On the day that Wells was to join to Newcastle United then City will be richer than they were. How is that money to be spent? Is it a scatter-signing for a player in August 2016? If it is how is it going to work better than when Stuart McCall scrambled for signings in his first spell as manager when the budget fluctuated wildly?

Which returns us to the central question of 2016 which is how are City without Parkinson, Mark Lawn, and Julian Rhodes going to be better? Indeed are they going to get better? There is no reason to assume an era of success will be followed by another and every reason to assume it will not be.

Is The Rahic Development Plan still being followed? Is it being followed by everyone at the club? If it does then it would make more sense rather than bringing in Armstrong to find a promising teenage striker we own or can own – such as Reece Webb-Foster – and give him the development time.

And while doing that take any money that comes from a resale of Nakhi Wells and use it to fund infrastructural additions which will make the club able to stand up in the Championship.

Speight reacts to Perry’s comments

New City signing Jake Speight is not best pleased with the comments from Mansfield Town’s chairman Andy Perry which said the player threatened a strike were he not allowed a transfer saying

There are two sides to every story and it’s wrong to say I would have refused to play. If I’d have been offered a two or three-year deal I would have been willing to sign it. The gaffer (David Holdsworth) pushed for it, but the chairman did nothing and then he left me without pay for three months this summer.

The striker continued

I have a mortgage to pay and family to feed. I’m not a Premiership player and I was not being greedy. I was earning half the amount of some strikers in the division anyway.

Speight started pre-season with the Stags at the weekend, he starts it again for Bradford City today.

One signs, one joins as Hanson gets new deal and Speight arrives

James Hanson has signed a new four year deal with Bradford City as the club also found £25,000 to pay for Mansfield Town’s forward Jake Speight.

Hanson is believed to have attracted interest from Coventry City after his impressive first season in professional football and his new deal offers City protection from would be suitors. Peter Taylor was happy to retain the services of the striker saying “I’m pleased as long as he carries on doing what he has been for us. It’s good for the football club and it’s good for him.”

24 year old Speight – formally of Farsley Celtic – is a former Sheffield United youngster but since leaving Stuart McCall’s Blade reserves side he has wandered the leagues ending up at Mansfield where he scored seventeen in thirty two games.

At five seven Speight is not being brought in for his presence in the forward line and – having spent £25,000 on him – Mark Lawn made it clear why he was at the club saying “If he can score 17 to 20 goals for us next season, we will be well pleased.”

Lawn’s opposite number at the Stags Chairman Andrew Perry was less pleased to see the player going saying It was a great disappointment to learn that Jake Speight no longer wanted to play for Mansfield Town. We have had no option other than to grant Jake a transfer as he stated that he would refuse to play for the club unless a transfer was forthcoming.”

Parry continued “We did all we could as a club to keep Jake but both he and his agent refuted any fresh offers and made it clear he wanted to move on. I am very disappointed it has come to this. Jake was a great asset for us last season and I am even more disappointed when a player doesn’t honour his side of his contract, as we have done.”

None of which makes good reading and while Perry and Lawn will probably not exchange Christmas cards for some time one has to wonder how much City have been involved in Speight’s decision to seek a transfer.

One would hope none at all. On the day that we have a player agree a long term deal and are pleased by his committing his future to us it is sad to see another club unable to get the same from their player.

Speight has signed a two year deal.

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.

For another year

Bradford City 1 Mansfield Town 2 – League Two

Mansfield Town’s players punched the air in delight after beating Bradford City 2-1 at Valley Parade. They out fought the Bantams – the second consecutive match at Valley Parade where the home side were found wanting for effort – and they deserved the win that moves them closer towards escape from the relegation zone of League Two.

I suspect that we will see the Stags at Valley Parade next season with the Bantams play off hopes rising and falling with the all too common away wins of this division. With ten games left the consensus has been reached that Stuart McCall’s side are gong nowhere. McCall seemed to have come to this conclusion some time ago and continues to experiment with players while the squad has a generally low level of engagement. Mansfield, like Stockport and Dagenham & Redbridge, wanted to win more because they needed to win more and so City rumble out the last third of the season in trying style.

For forty-five minutes the Bantams were lifeless – flaccid even – as a series of getting by performances saw little in the way of forward motion. Indeed from the first half only Joe Colbeck – reliable in his effort – and Barry Conlon could claim to be have been in first gear. Conlon went close to scoring with a dipping drive from outside the box and nodded his third goal from open play just before half time but by then City trailed to a goal by Nathan Arnold which took a large deflection from David Wetherall’s arms and represented the visitor’s old shot on target of the half assuming that the arms of Wetherall did not prevent it being blazed wide.

Such is the painfulness of defeat. Mansfield were worthy winners – they got a second though one time Nicky Law target Michael Boulding after half time following a Bantams rally – with Arnold impressive throughout but anything other than a first gear performance would have seen the Bantams win with some ease. The Stags managed two shots on target all game. They came for a point and ended up with three and are probably amazed at how they managed it considering that from the point of view of creative chance making rather than passion and effort they were bad.

Not that City were better but one got the feeling that City are multiples better than this performance it was Mansfield at full tilt. Indeed the whole of City’s season can be summed up in today’s performance by Paul Evans. Some people said nice things about BfB this week and included was a quote about Evans being the best player in League Two which I stick to and stand by. His can pass superbly, he has a great engine, he tackles, shoots, heads and he can bend a free kick to boot. He can do all these things but he does not.

Today he blasted the ball too far rather than playing simple passes, he had no coordination with Eddie Johnson his midfield partner and he did nothing other than his base role of protecting the back four. A very talented player doing very little with his talent with the challenge for Stuart McCall to make Evans play like Evans does when Evans plays well because application is all that is missing from this side and it is McCall’s job to add it.

McCall’s job was murmured on the way out of the ground and someone swore on their first born that the next manager would be better except of course they did not and all talk of McCall’s position should be given short shrift unless someone can come up with a statement as to why the club was improved by sacking any of the last four managers. For a change the handful murmuring against McCall were not the greatest abominations of football support today with the racist chanting from the Mansfield end taking that honour. One can only hope that Nathan Arnold heard it and gets on his way.

As for City changes are afoot and McCall is to make them. The likes of Alex Rhodes, Tom Penford, Eddie Johnson, Darren Williams and Evans all will be the subject of decisions on the futures soon and next season’s team will look different to this one. One hopes that with ten games to go next season things will not be – as they are now – over for another year

Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Shouted At Me

I had a dream last night that Paul Jewell was really upset about losing to Huddersfield and QPR back in the promotion year and so he decided to drop Stuart McCall and put Paul Bolland in the team. No it wasn’t a dream. It was away at Mansfield without Paul Evans and Peter Thorne.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that City should have undroppable players in the team and I’m not saying that everything is right when you put these guys in the team but as Macca comes out saying that the team lacks a cutting edge you can’t help but think that that was cause he spent most of the night sitting next to the cannier players we have not only cannier but one’s who give more of a toss.

Omar Daley started really well at Field Mill and could have scored with a shot that pinged the post but he didn’t and in typical Omar Daley fashion his head went down. I don’t believe that a player like Omar should be motivating himself and geeing himself up – that is not his job in the team – but he needs a Stuart McCall alongside him to put rockets up his arse when he does sag.

The same is true of Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu. As a loan player who coudl be out of work in six months at another club how do we expect him to play his guts out for City. The playing the guts out and making sure everyone else plays guts out has to be someone else’s job and the problem is that someone else is Paul Evans.

To be honest it is a few people who the club don’t have and we need some players with character and a bit of spirit. I have a mental picture of Dean Windass shouting at half the squad and getting them to put in the effort but he has gone now and I’m told even tonight when we are a division below where we were when some Muppets took against the striker that his leaving was for the best.

City are a closed mouth team save Evans who enters late and is no match changer anyway unlike Willy Topp who we are promised soon and while we did not deserve the win we certainly did nothing to deserve getting beaten. Donny Ricketts saved a penalty in the first half from one time target Michael Boulding that David Wetherall gave away by standing too near someone else and the zip zip with the bottom team said it all.

It seems to be believed that the club lacks a bit of dazzle and Stuart McCall talks about opening up defences but for me we lack the graft that will get us out of this league. We need eleven men who will give everything or more likely one man who will force the other eleven to give their all and the really strange thing is that that was Stuart’s job for City.

Had Paul Jewell decided that the problems with City were not that Issy Rankin could not finish a bowl of cornflakes and that Robbie Blake should be brought in off the right wing then where would City be now? If he had decided that the solution was dropping the senior players who tried hardest what would Stuart McCall have thought?

Recent Posts