When pre-season is not pre-season

If you missed Bradford City’s 4-0 win over Stambridge United last night then you are not alone. BfB did little to cover it and a straw poll of City fans responding to news of the opening goals on Facebook seemed to show that they knew that some games in Essex were coming, but they did not know when.

City won the game with goals from Leon Osborne, Scott Neilson, Omar Daley and James O’Brien – a second four goal win in as many days following the 5-1 victory over North Ferriby United – and word came from the South that City had been given a good game by the part-timers from Essex although many would debate how much of a game non-league footballers at the level of the club’s City gave played so far can give professionals.

Indeed there is a charge at Peter Taylor’s door that his pre-season preparations are weak and that is is no benefit to the players to have easy victories over poor opposition. Certainly Taylor’s aim is not to create an interesting and exciting set of games but is he creating a useful set?

Sadly – or perhaps not so sadly – no answer can be reached for some time. Since the days of Chris Kamara – if not before – every City manager has looked at pre-season as if it were non-competitive league matches to be treated as significantly as Johnstone’s Paint early rounds or end of season dead rubbers (which is to say as lightly as a professional club every takes a game, but still as if it were a “proper” match) but Taylor seems to take a new approach.

Taylor is doing everything he can to ensure that pre-season matches – at this stage – are not taken seriously by his players and that the games are re-contextualised as a part of training. A means to an end and not an end in itself.

Which is not to say that there is not a seriousness to the training that Taylor, Junior Lewis and Wayne Jacobs put the players through – quiet the opposite – but that Taylor is keen to ensure that his players know the difference between training time and the business time of the season.

Matches kick off at three in the afternoon, seven forty-five in the evening in proper games but Taylor breaks this association moving the kick off around an hour here, two there and ensures that games are presented to players and to fans in a different situation.

Eccleshill United aside the games – up to the race trim of the final week – are all far flung keeping the Bantams away from City fans who season on season extrapolate the entire league’s nine months or play on the basis of the first game they see in July. Rightly or wrongly players are judged in their rawest form. I never – and still don’t – think much of Michael Symes based on watching his first performance for City at Farsley Celtic. The likes of Stambridge might get a few extra people to have a look at the Bantams but in all likelihood two men and a dog will be watching City rather than the backing of an active travelling City support.

These things break the link between what happened at Stambridge and what will happen at Shrewsbury on the first day of the season. Breaking that link says to the players that they are in build up now suggesting that they are preparing for something in August not playing for the tiny glory of winning in a pre-season game.

Not that winning is in question. The teams are a distance below City’s standard but win, lose or draw one doubts Taylor would care any more than he would care if the Red Bibs beat the Yellow Bibs at Apperley Bridge. The aim is not to show how good – or poor – City are by winning games over the best opposition available it is to prepare the players.

Taylor believes this is best done by taking the pressure away from these games, making them more like a practice match than what we now know a pre-season games. It is building relationships between players, patterns of play on the field, understandings and partnerships. In a way Stambridge United, North Ferriby United and Eccleshill United are doing the job of human traffic cones to be trained against but not designed to challenge the City players in any way other than not allowing them to fail.

I mean that with no disrespect. Taylor approach presents City’s players with the opportunity to play against an opposition which as long as they approach the game in the correct way they will benefit from it. City played Didi Harmann and Joey Barton in a Manchester City midfield five years ago in pre-season and Steven Schmacher and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson spent the afternoon having passes picked off which – while purposeful practice – was unrewarding and represents a slight return. If Lee Bullock and James O’Brien play as they can then they spend games in possession, using the ball, building confidence.

The merits of Taylor’s approach will be evidenced in the season itself but – rarely in modern football – City have a manager who wants to approach pre-season as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

How far with the lesson of Germany reach?

Self flagellation has always been popular in English football and when the national side returned home from a World Cup 4-1.5ing by Germany the press and players had already begun to whip itself in a freeze of internalised loathing showing the defining characteristic of the media approach to the game: That the game is played by England and other sides are the subject of that.

So when England play well – nine out of ten in qualifying – it is because of our abilities and when we lose it is the lack of those which is the problem and credit is never extended to the opposition. Watching Germany ram four past Argentina though could cause cause for a pause. However poor one might feel England were either Argentina (and Australia) were equal to that or – perhaps – there is something worth noticing going on in Joachim Löw’s side.

There has been a consensus that the Germans – who played a central five in the midfield with an average age of just under 23 years old – have stolen a march on the World because of that youth and freshness and there is much to be said for the way that they have blooded their younger players. 25 year old Schweinsteiger is on his second World Cup. So is Wayne Rooney, scratch that idea then.

Much is also made about the formation which Fabio Capello – and Diego Maradona – employed compared to Löw’s Germans and suddenly the word “fourfourtwo” is becoming something of a negative in the English game. One can almost hear now managers up and down the country being charged with the idea that they – like Capello – lack the imagination to play a more exotic tactic and one can expect three months of randomly thrown together formations up and down football.

Freakish results will mark the start of the season as teams who deploy something more “characterful” than the 442 which has fallen from fashion. As Clough said “There is a lot of rubbish talked about tactics by people who would not know how to win a game of Dominoes.”

Not that this will effect Peter Taylor who has signed the players and settled on a 433 at Valley Parade and City can make hay as League Two players are deployed in fanciful ways to little effect. Finding a way of playing and sticking to it is perhaps the most important thing.

On the fourfourtwo one can say that while it may have faults when playing three games every four years in the World Cup in the cut and thrust of two games a week for nine months the simplicity, adaptability and ease of the approach is the reason for its enduring popularity. Week to week football requires not a surgeon’s tool but a Swiss Army Knife, which is what fourfourtwo is.

The German’s 4231 – originally a formation played in Portugal because of the freedom it gives to the kind of attacking midfielder that that nation excels in producing such as Luis Figo, Joao Pinto and his brother Sergio – is nothing especially new.

The lesson of the Germans is not in tactics but in the deployment of players within those formations. The heart of the German side is Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira who play the deep set midfielder role in a revolutionary manner. Popular conception has it that the two in a 4231 should be holding midfielders and ball winners but Löw’s pairing are more box to box players capable of tackling and getting behind the ball for sure but also able to be used as a spring board for attacking play.

For Schweinsteiger and Khedira there is no need to look for a passer after taking the ball – the pair are equipped to play in the three more forward midfielder – increasing the speed of the counter attack and its accuracy. What they loose in not having a Claude Makelele they gain in rapidity of play creating a nod to total football ideology. As Schweinsteiger plays the ball forward so Mesut Özil or Lukas Podolski or Thomas Müller can drop back and tackle.

This is a stark contrast to the approach that many – myself included – have to for example the English midfield which agonises over the choice between attacking players like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and ball winners like Gareth Barry. The roles are as split as centre forward and full back but not for Löw’s Germans.

There is a plan for sure and positions – this is not total football Dutch style – but the less rigid assignment of player roles gives a fluidity which England, Australia and Argentina have been incapable of living with. The jobs are done in that German engine room but – crucially – the players who do them have the ability and remit to do each other’s tasks.

Even Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano – as fine a pair of specialised players as one could see – looked old fashioned and stolid in comparison and as Schweinsteiger surged to the left touchline and set up a second goal it seemed obviously that if Germany could prevent Messi emulating that then Mascherano simply would not attempt it.

The granularity of positions – especially in the midfield – has become something of a mantra for modern football and one recalls Lee Crooks and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson but struggles to think of them both as “midfielders” rather one as a holder, the other as an attacker. The same could be said about Dean Furman and Nicky Law although perhaps not about Michael Flynn and Lee Bullock.

Indeed whatever lessons are emanating from the German side at the moment Peter Taylor seems to have adopted. His midfield trio next season are Flynn, Bullock and Tommy Doherty and none of them fit easily into the idea of being players only able to – or only ready to – performing a single role.

It remains to be seen what lessons the game as a whole take from World Cup 2010 and if those lessons create a path to success but City seem to be ahead of a curve that is coming and should that bring the same rewards for the Bantams as it has for the previously unfavoured Germans then next season could be a good year indeed.

Brandon stays at City and provides an option in the middle

It is hard to imagine it some thirteen months on but Chris Brandon was a player to get excited about when he joined Bradford City.

A Bantam as a boy and a player who worked up through football the hard way after being released from City when young Brandon’s long return fell flat after pre-season injury kept him out of most of last term.

Unwiling to take a pay cut the former Huddersfield man – as he is dubbed when one refers to him in any way that is negative – has now been told that he can stay at Valley Parade becoming perhaps the club’s top earner following the departures of Graeme Lee and Paul McLaren along with Michael Boulding and Peter Thorne agreeing pay cuts.

The onus is now on Brandon to wear that mantel better. As a City fan and a midfielder he should be perfect choice for captain but such an honour seems to remain a distant prospect.

Having played less than a fistful of effective games last year performance seems to be key to Brandon’s season. He has yet to convince and remains an isolated figure in the left flank not fast enough to beat a man for pace, showing some guile to drift inside band make play.

Perhaps then Brandon’s talents could be used to address another issue in central midfield. The winger is not the number four we seek but he could be a second number eight.

Tucking Brandon alongside Lee Bullock would leave a midfield light on ball winning – never a good thing – but big on creative ability at this level and would more closely resemble the Steven Schmacher and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson central two of Colin Todd’s time at the club or the now infamous Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard pairing for England.

Such pairings proved limited and were forged in preference to throwing a Lee Crooks, Tom Kearney or Gareth Barry into the mix but City’s under Stuart McCall would be born from need. The manager can not find a player to win the ball in midfield as he did so effectively as a player so he changes plan and moves from a “stop them” to a “stop us” midfield.

Football is a balance and this would typically push that balance out of kilter and comes with other issues such as the question of who plays on the left hand side but it may be preferable to fielding ten players one has confidence in and another weaker name simply because he is nominally, if not in practice, a ball winning number four.

Such responsibility of tracking back would be shared by the midfield pair and one would be confident in the approach of Bullock but Brandon would need to understand the requirement to spend as much time in our half as the oppositions.

Should he do that he might just be a signing to get excited about at last.

Four five what?

He looked down at the ground. There appeared to be no attempt to pass the blame or even highlight the virtues of the goalkeeper who’d blocked his shot. He should have scored and how he and his side could live to regret that moment.

Barely a minute later he’s celebrating though, two of his team mates had charged forward and ganged up on the exposed full back. They worked the ball effortlessly past him and sent over a low cross that’s tapped home. The villain a minute ago becomes the hero, 35,000 fans watching want to strangle him and many of their neighbours are quietly chortling as a former player of their’s strikes the blow.

Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, former Bantam, has just struck the second goal of Carlisle’s eye brow-raising first leg Play Off victory over Leeds United on Monday. The Cumbrian side were classed as underdogs having only won one of their last eight games, but were now in enviable position with 30 minutes and a home leg to follow. Leeds would pull a goal back right at the end and win impressively at Brunton Park three days later, but the tie had not been as straightforward as the Elland Road club might have assumed.

If the first leg result was unexpected, it was the approach of Carlisle which really surprised. There was no sitting back, concentrating on keeping the game tight and hitting Leeds on the break. They attacked from the first whistle, Bridge-Wilkinson unlucky with a shot clipping the post early on. Knocking the ball around confidently, they looked threatening every time they went forward.

Leeds are a good League One side and had plenty of chances, Carlisle keeper Kieran Westwood was in stunning form, but the Sky Sports stat on the half hour mark that the last five minutes had featured 74% possession to Carlisle showed just who was running the game. They scored soon after and, with Leeds expected to come out firing, seemed to up their efforts even more after the break. Bridge-Wilkinson missed that glorious chance but was soon mobbed by team mates after getting it right soon after.

The formation Carlisle employed for their attacking approach? 4-5-1. It’s something that City manager Stuart McCall, who is said to be taking in most Play Off games with an eye on new signings, will have noted. He came to Valley Parade last summer with fresh ideas, one of which included the aim of City being adaptable enough to play 4-5-1 in difficult looking away games. A decent pre-season draw against Burnley and narrow Carling Cup defeat to Wolves seemed to confirm it was a way his players could play.

Yet to some City supporters, 4-5-1 is a formation to provoke anger. Stuart has tried to play this way in other games during the season, with limited success. The formation is viewed as too negative and it’s argued City are playing for a draw. When Stuart opted for 4-5-1 at bottom club Wrexham in January steam was apparently coming out of people’s ears. The message from these supporters was to stick to 4-4-2 and stop being defensive.

They have a point about not been too cagey, but the success of only playing the traditional 4-4-2 formation in recent years is questionable. Omar Daley, Ben Muirhead and Bobby Petta are just three of the inconsistent wingers who’ve frustrated. 4-4-2 relies on wingers bombing down the flanks and getting in good crosses; but while there’s been several memorable days it’s worked, there’s also been several exasperating occasions where it hasn’t.

The secret behind the way Carlisle and I believe Stuart attempted to play, with 4-5-1, is to get midfielders charging forward from deep and causing the opposition problems in picking them up. The MK Dons played this system at Valley Parade last month and our defence struggled to mark the runners. It also needs a good defensive midfielder who can sit back and allow his four colleagues to take turns at charging forward at will.

The key, which is where Stuart has struggled, is the right personnel. Chris Lumsdon did an outstanding job for Carlisle at Elland Road by sitting back and allowing others to get forward, while Bridge-Wilkinson and Hackney particularly caught the eye with some killer forward runs. These players won’t be arriving at Valley Parade this summer but a Stuart-esqe defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder, or two, hopefully will.

Despite the fantastic opening hour at Elland Road, it all went wrong for Carlisle. For the final 30 minutes they were guilty of sitting too deep and holding out for 2-0, the late goal they conceded shifting the momentum. In the second leg they played 4-5-1 at home but were outclassed by a Leeds side who stuck rigidly to their 4-4-2, without playing any traditional wingers.

On this evidence a defensive formation to protect a lead it is not; but, if Stuart wants to adopt the 4-5-1 attacking principles of the MK Dons and Carlisle in away games next season, I’ll be one supporter at least who won’t be unhappy.

Schumacher’s Exit Will See Crewe Reap The Rewards Of City’s Endeavours

I will admit to a softness for City’s combative midfielder Steven Schumacher and so his move to Crewe Alex for a nominal fee upsets me. Schumacher is very much the type of player who the future of Bradford City is – like it or not – in the hands of.

Signing as a former England skipper rejected by Everton Schumacher arrived at Bradford looking to kick start his career and having spend three years in League One and not having to take the drop with his team mates one could argue that his has done just that. Looking at Schumacher’s career to date one could suggest that like many, many other kids coming out of Premiership clubs his status as a footballer depends not on his ability to justify a contract from a club looking for the next bounce back to the top flight but rather his ability to get a contract beyond that. Every club has top flight lads who come in with huge expectations and exit with a whimper. Schumacher has exited without huge glory but a third club is more than most get.

Yet watching Schumacher was often a frustrating experience. His first season was impressive and his second famously as bad as his first was good after Colin Todd – won over by eight goals in two games form a midfield powered by Schumacher and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson – seemed to decided that those two could ball players could be City’s route out of League One. Both preferred a more solid man next to them – Schumacher and Tom Kearney had made a great partnership for the Bantams as did Lee Crooks and Bridge-Wilkinson – but together they could never recapture the two the sword play they ran through AFC Bournemouth and Brentford at the end of that first season.

Schumacher suffered like all players in that second club do as he grew up in the harsh light of Valley Parade. Like many who have impressed for City in recent years it was away from home with the pressure off that he shone with his engine purring up and down Roots Hall and Ashton Gate consistently for the eighteen months where his home form disserted him.

Towards the end of his time at Valley Parade and under the stewardship of David Wetherall Schumacher showed signs of maturity in his play and his attitude. His dismissive swearing at City fans at Chesterfield was nobody’s finest hour but the player’s temperament had come to a part where he felt that criticism aimed at the team was aimed at him. One suspects other players on the field that day would have pointed at their team mates rather than shouldering the blame to react badly.

Were it not for relegation Schumacher would have probably have signed a new deal under Stuart McCall and the former City number four would have been looking for someone to play anchor behind the more attacking man in a McCall-style holding position but such was not to be and Schumacher goes onto Crewe with a new dawn starting behind him. For a time few will miss him.

However if Everton gave birth to Steven Schumacher then it is Bradford City who brought the player up. His hundred plus games for the Bantams are his education in football and turned him from would be professional kid into professional footballer. We get a nominal fee as a reward for our endeavours but Crewe stand to reap the rewards, whatever they may be.

McCall Escapes Overnight

It escaped sometime overnight and was said to be a leaking of information but one suspect that an inability not to shout from the rooftops has motivated Julian Rhodes as he formally announced

In light of intense media speculation, I’m delighted to say that the new manager is Stuart McCall.

McCall was to be unveiled as part of a three card trick coming at the start of June but idle speculation suggested snags where none existed and to keep momentum on the manager Rhodes opened up for all. He inherited Nicky Law, Gordon Gibb picked Bryan Robson and an administrator promoted Colin Todd. McCall is Rhodes’s first manager and probably the one he has been dreaming about giving the job to.

Tributes for Stuart are plentiful and lead by Walter Smith at Ibrox – the most decorated manager in that club’s history – who says that McCall has all the attribute to make a great boss. McCall seems ready to add Wayne Jacobs to his backroom team as a number two. Jacobs never takes the credited for Darren Moore and Linvoy Primus but both men name Jacobs as the biggest influence on their careers.

Mccall may also have Dean Windass to select after Hull City offered little for a striker whom they credit with a lot. Phil Brown has suggested that Windass’s goals kept them in the Championship but in negotiations he is an 39 year old and not a season-saver and the East Coast side want to pay for him as such. City would rather he be considered similar to Mark Bower – a player capable in The Championship – and paid for accordingly.

Rhodes addresses his opposite number at Hull when he says

The point I made to Adam (Pearson, Hull’s chairman) is that Dean Windass is a striker who could score 30 goals in League Two and what sort of price can you put on that? When Dean went to Hull, and I admit it was at my instigation due to us needing to save money, the understanding was always that the move was temporary. It was not with a view to a permanent deal with the plan always being for Dean to return in the summer.

Windass will not be sold for less than the cost of a thirty goal striking replacement says Rhodes. The inference is there for all. We needed the money before. Do might need it now?

Windass is a man of heart and in McCall in the Premiership he found a kindred spirit. He wants to go back to play for his hometown club but he has done that now and the prospect of giong back into the trenches with McCall may a worthwhile project for the final two years of the lively striker’s career.

McCall will also have the Yang of Windass’s Ying to call on with David Wetherall confirming his intention to step back to playing duties as McCall himself did after a spell in charge. Wetherall hopes to get a chance to run the reserves but seems shell shocked by his time in the big chair and wants to go back and process information on the field until he is ready to take charge again. He will probably be the best – if not the quickest – defender in League Two.

McCall is squad building at the moment. He weighs up options including – BfB understands – reoffering a deal to Steven Schumacher while Marc Bridge-Wilkinson joins Port Vale on a free. There is a calm to follow Rhodes’s confirmation, to precede a storm.

The Real McCall Begins The Third Coming

From The Real McCall which was written in 1998 by by Alan Nixon and Stuart McCall

One day, in the distant future I would love to manage Bradford City. If I had the choice, that would be where I would start. I would like to repay the Bradford fans for all their support and courage for those years ago. There is some unfinished business to be done as far as I’m concerned. I have never meant to put pressure on the manager in charge of Bradford at the time, I am talking down the line…

Andrew Stuart Murray McCall will begin his third spell at Bradford City with a weight of expectation. His first spell saw triumph and tragedy in the same afternoon in 1985. His second saw the hugh achievement of Premiership promotion and the subsequent fall into administration. His path is littered with success.

As the ink dries on the two year deal to manage the Bantams there is no idea of anything other than a replication of those glories.

Julian Rhodes has stood alone over the past few years keeping the club together – let history record that and damn the doubters – but now he is joined and in pursuing McCall so fervently that he was prepared to knock back a job two divisions higher to join City he has made the decision Geoffrey Richmond failed to.

Back in the summer of 2000 when Paul Jewell left the job at Bradford City the invigorating force of McCall should have been employed as manager with Chris Hutchings kept in the role of number two. Bygones. A mistake is only a mistake if it is repeated.

McCall takes over City and immediately has decisions to make. Dean Windass is keen on a transfer to Hull but the return of McCall may see the striker rethink. Windass is McCall’s second call.

McCall’s first call no doubt will be to the man he has in mind to be his assistant. Some think Terry Dolan, others Terry Yorath. Do not be surprised if McCall pulls out a name from his time at Rangers – do be surprised if that name is Paul Gascoigne. Also do not be surprised if David Wetherall’s coaching is rewarded with a place on the staff.

Once his backroom is in place and the Windass situation is resolved McCall will look at the out of contract four of Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Steven Schumacher, Richard Edghill and Xaviar Barrau and make some decisions. No, Yes, No, No.

After that McCall begins to build and he could start that building at Southend United although not (just) for target man Billy Paynter but for former Bantam and Blade Simon Francis.

Lincoln City’s play off defeat means Spencer Weir-Daley favours us over them. It remains to be seen what McCall thinks of him.

Had we been two years ago then McCall’s side would have no doubt included If McCall gets a call from Italy from an excited Benito he should take it. If he gets one from Lancashire from a bloke called Ashley he can hang up. Players want to join clubs where they can see good things happening and this is Bradford City’s Keegan to Newcastle.

Decisions to be made. McCall is understood to have cancelled his family holiday to start work and what glorious, what long awaited, what wonderful work it should be.

City Offer Deals To Ainge, Penford, Colbeck and Bentham

The need for Bradford City to change focus from a club that buys to a club that produces players has been obvious at Valley Parade for some time and the fruits of that policy – first voiced by Gordon Gibb but continued through the investment in the youth set up – are becoming apprarant as the Bantams offered new deals to Tom Penford, Simon Ainge, Joe Colbeck and Craig Bentham.

The four – who all featured in David Wetherall or Colin Todd’s selections last season – are offered new deals while cohorts Joe Brown, Patrick McGuire, Nick Smith and John Swift are released.

The mystery of the stunted development of John Swift will remain at Valley Parade. Impressive in the first team on his debut under Colin Todd and a mouth on committed leader of the juniors who played well in the reserves something – and one doubts is was the performances of Richard Edghill – stood in Swift’s way.

Joe Brown’s release comes after his shined as a bright young thing but failed to nail down a place in the first team squad. Both Brown and Nick Smith are released to allow a more clear path through the ranks for seventeen year old Leon Osborne who featured in the last game of the year. Such a process – of setting a bar for the young players to beat and backing them when they do – replacing them should they not – maintains a healthy demand for continued improvement in the ranks.

Of the retained players Ainge looks ready for a place in the starting eleven next term and Bentham and Colbeck are already considered squad players. Penford has ability to spare as a succession of managers have believed and one hopes that with the exits of Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and perhaps Steven Schumacher he can turn that ability into performance.

Bridge-Wilkinson, Schumacher, Richard Edghill and Xavier Barrau are waiting for a new manager to be installed – something expected within two weeks – before being offered deal. Schumacher and Barrau are thought to be ready to sign, Edghill to be thinking over an offer from Macclesfield and Bridge-Wilkinson to be Port Vale bound.

Russell Howarth has also been released with Ben Saynor stepping up to number two goalkeeper.

The Name is Clear, The Tools Are Not

David Wetherall added his weight to the calls for Stuart McCall to become the next manager of Bradford City and while the former Bantams skipper is keeping his own council it does seem that there is a growing momentum that will install he ginger one as the gaffer at VP.

McCall spent yesterday at Oakwell as the best player on the park in a Bantams legends vs Barnsley match to mark ten years since the Tykes went to the Premiership. He was asked and dodged the question as to if he was to be the new City boss. He has to focus on Sunday when either he or former boss Paul Jewell will probably be relegated from the Premiership. It would be unwise for him to talk other jobs at this point but he only has a week left at Sheffield United before his contract is up.

At 42 he looked a tidy player on the field. His last game was a reserve match at Valley Parade against City – McCall going out of professional football as he came in and on that day as yesterday he plays with vigour combined with smarts. Watching Stuart McCall play has been a joy in my life.

Watching him manage I’m hoping for. I think we need it. Should he come in the summer then he will look at his charges as a depleted unit in need of re-enforcing.

Donovan Ricketts between the sticks has probably made enough mistakes to remain at the club next term but really he deserves a higher level. Russell Howarth has never impressed nor looked worth giving a chance to. If the Jamaica number one is still at City next year then the incoming gaffer could have the best sticksman in League Two.

At right back Richard Edghill is thought to be on his way and John Swift is absent without leave. Swift looks and talks the part in the juniors and reserves and his failure to ascend is an enduring mystery at VP. The new manager would be advised to go to Swift over the uncommitted Edghill but will probably end up bringing in a new face.

At left back word has it Ben Parker is ready to join with his own team – Leeds United – having hit the skids hard. Parker is a player of some potential – not in the bracket of a Nathan Doyle or a Lee Holmes but good enough for this level and above – and so the next manager would do well to sign him.

The next manager will hope to have the previous manager to call on in David Wetherall but will probably be looking for another partner as Mark Bower moves to the Championship – Burnley and Stoke are interested and figures of £450,000 have been mentioned – but the pace and presence of Simon Ainge is worth giving a chance to. Ainge was called on periodically though the season and never looked less than impressive. Certainly he seems more able than the League Two stalwart Matthew Clarke.

Should the next manager be McCall then he will look to his own position – holding midfield – as being underused by the previous two managers. Neither Colin Todd nor David Wetherall favoured a break up man and both tried to mesh two more attacking players into the midfield. Craig Bentham is City’s only McCall and for sure he should be the number four next season regardless of who the gaffer is.

The opportunity to link Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and Steven Schumacher is probably over with MBW reported to be rejoining Port Vale. Schumacher is thought to be ready to return but might rethink when he gets City’s contract offer. Tom Penford – who has a season cameo on Saturday – is of course a favourite of this parish and could do a job replacing MBW were he given a chance. I can only hope he will be.

Omar Daley and Joe Colbeck are both contracted beyond the summer leaving the next manager with a Ben Muirhead too many on the right wing. On the left Xaviar Barrus will hope for a contract and should a new manager favour a 442 then it is probably a good idea to do more than nominally look at the idea of having a pair of left wingers to use.

One of the failures of managers at City and beyond is believing that the left wing role is to be given to a third striker – Danny Cadamarteri springs to mind – leading to a huge gap appearing in front of the left back and very little coming forward. If we are to raid down the flanks we need proper left wingers to do it with.

Up front Dean Windass will exit stage left for the right price with Hull City his probably destination. Spencer Weir-Daley is hoping to have impressed City into offering him a two year deal and the word that has reached our BfB ear is that he has done that. Joe Brown is looking over his shoulder at Saturday’s sub Leon Osborne who is pushing for a role up in the squad.

The top four of League Two this year are the bottom four of League One the year before. Bouncing back is common place but to do that City’s new manager is going to have to take the picked over bones of the club and build a team.

The experience of the past few years suggests that building teams out of loan players is an ultimately fruitless exercise. The likes of Richard Edghill – jobbing footballers signed to 18 month deals – are also hardly likely to be the stuff of success either.

The next manager needs to make a squad that is able to play the kind of committed football that McCall typifies. To do that we need to think beyond temporary players and start to make some long term deals.

We need to start putting faith back into the players – be bold and mighty forces will come to you aid – and to do that we need to put our faith in a manager we want to employ for more than the statutory Bradford City sixteen months.

Julian Rhodes. You know what you have to do.

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