Finger off the Pulse

There are several things I’m looking forward to about my trip to Moss Rose for the Macclesfield game on Saturday. A visit to a ground I’ve never been before, the hope that the pub where we enjoy our pre-match pint will be as good as the one at Accrington, hopefully City will play well and grab three much-needed points and, while the away stand is apparently roofless leaving me anxious about the weather, there’s a chance to have a good sing song.

Another part I’m looking forward to is not following the match from home like I had to for the Wrexham game. Of course it’s not the same when you’re not there, but it can be deeply frustrating relying on the media to let you know what’s happening. Listening on the radio, every opposition attack sounds dangerous and the roar when the home side score reaches you before the words of the commentator describing the bad news. Even when we score, excitedly jumping around the room isn’t the same on your own.

And it’s the negative approach of one local radio station that especially leaves me wishing I could afford every away trip. It’s only over the last couple of years that I’ve bothered to tune into The Pulse for commentaries as Radio Leeds, with three teams to cover, can’t be relied on to feature every City game. The first time I listened to their commentary team, Tim Thornton and Ian Ormondroyd, I thought City must be playing abysmally given how much they slated the performance. I was therefore very confused when the draw received a more favourable write up in media reports elsewhere.

Since then I’ve listened to commentaries on a handful of occasions and learned that Tim and Stix’s negative attitude is no better than some of our more miserable fans watching in the stands. Everything we do is rubbish, our tactics are clueless and our players are hopeless. Switch between coverage on The Pulse and Radio Leeds and you would think you’re listening to a different game.

Last season Tim Thornton’s post match interview with Colin Todd after the Cheltenham home draw was considered so unfair on the under pressure City manager that it led to him boycotting radio interviews for a month and BCST’s Phill Marshall taking the unusual step of blasting Thornton in the matchday programme. I had the misfortune of listening to The Pulse’s commentary of Todd’s last game at Gillingham, where they complained and ripped apart everything City did. If Julian Rhodes had also been listening, it was no wonder he sacked Todd the following Monday.

A year on and, despite a new man being in the hot seat, the familiar moans and criticisms fill the airwaves. I understand Thornton is a passionate City fan of many years so fair to play to him, he is certainly no worse than some of the resident moaners who attend Valley Parade every fortnight singling out home players for abuse. For Ormondroyd I find his opinions slightly embarrassing. He is a supposed to be a good friend of Stuart McCall’s, so to hear him slate the City manager’s tactics is disappointing. Of course he’s paid to give his views and no one expects him to say false nice things, but surely a more balanced perspective isn’t too much to ask for?

It’s also worth noting that Ormondroyd’s day job is Football in the Community Officer for City. I’m not sure if he is directly paid by City or the organisation for this work, but it seems wrong to have a person who represents Bradford City in the community to be publicly questioning another most weekends. I wonder what Stuart would think if he knew what Ormondroyd was saying behind his back?

I’ve heard some City fans stick up for The Pulse commentary team because they “tell it like it really is”. Their outlook may appeal to a section of supporters unhappy about the way this season has gone, but it’s contradictory to that of a side unbeaten in five.

The draw at Wrexham produced some very mixed reactions from fans and those particularly upset with the result kept using the argument “they are bottom of the league.” I think it would be a useful exercise to revisit this draw at the end of February and see how City and Wrexham have done since then. That ‘disgraceful’ draw may look like a decent result, or it may not, but with Wrexham improving it was never going to be the easy game some imagined.

Personally, if City dismiss Stuart anytime soon I would like to see Ormondroyd given the manager’s job so that I can take text The Pulse to slate his tactics. Until then I’ll continue to attend as many City away games as possible, where I can make my own mind up at to whether things are as bad as The Pulse would have us believe.

Media review

Until this season, I held the misguided and naive belief that the proportion of media coverage each football team received was related to their standing on the league ladder. Back in those heady Premiership days, it was not unusual for news of City to feature prominently in national newspapers. Remember when a Stan Collymore dressing room prank ended up on the front page of the Sun? As City have fallen down the leagues, national newspaper coverage has inevitably dipped. These days, were lucky to receive a 50 word match report in the Sunday tabloid papers.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule of how much media coverage a team receives in respect to the division they are in, such as big clubs falling on hard times. Nottingham Forest’s bumbling attempts to get out League One have filled many column inches while Man City’s slump to the old Division Two nine years ago could not be ignored. But it’s the coverage of another big club’s demise to the third tier of English football that is bothering me.

Of course the summer events at Elland Road meant that media coverage of Leeds United was higher than usual. Whether the 15 point deduction they were handed was fair is a matter of opinion, but their response so far this season has been extraordinary. Yet the amount of coverage their efforts are receiving is starting to annoy me, especially locally.

Covering the whole region, the Yorkshire Post has a lot of football teams to report on. Inevitably the Yorkshire teams in the Championship are awarded the most column inches, but matching and often beating them is the coverage awarded to Leeds. The editor and journalists seem to have ignored that Dennis Wise’s team are in the bottom two divisions and give major coverage to everything they do. With only a handful of sports journalists, the paper relies on the Press Association for a lot of its weekend match reports and sends their reporters to selected games. They nearly always have a reporter at the Leeds match; no other local League One team receives such attention.

Last week was a good example. In Tuesday’s edition there was a lengthy story about Leeds’ decision to loan out midfielder Shaun Derry – I don’t remember Lee Crooks’ loan from City to Notts County a couple of seasons ago receiving such attention. On Wednesday there was a large match report on Leeds’ FA Cup defeat to Hereford the night before. Fair enough with little else going on, yet on Thursday there was another lengthy piece about why Leeds’ shock exit was a good thing and Dennis Wise was upbeat about it. Why are the Elland Road outfit awarded this degree of coverage? There was no story in Thursday’s edition about Rotherham’s more shocking FA Cup exit.

Undoubtedly what’s happened to Leeds has made an interesting story (and quite an amusing one at times to us City fans) but I believe the Yorkshire Post’s fixation with everything going on at Elland Road, while ignoring most other local clubs, is down to ensuring they don’t upset their readership. Clearly there are a lot more Leeds fans than any other club in the region and so are buying their paper, but surely there should be a little more balance?

BBC Radio Leeds has taken a similar stance. For years they have split their coverage of the West Yorkshire clubs over two frequencies – FM for Leeds United and MW for everyone else. In the past this can always be justified by Leeds being in a higher division than the rest, but this season they are at the same level as Huddersfield and the station has continued as they were. It would be interesting to see what they would do should Town go up, Leeds stay down and City go up this season. Though I get the feeling nothing would change.

With the excellent Derm Tanner, Radio Leeds’ coverage of City is still largely good (providing you have a digital radio) but there is no doubt the station suffers from not having a regular co-commentator for every City game. John Hendrie is there for home games and he is very interesting to listen too, away from home Derm is often on his own which must be hard work and isn’t as interesting. In this respect, Pulse Gold Sport are ahead with Ian Ormondroyd assisting Tim Thornton with commentary, although I find them frustrating to listen too as they can be extremely critical of City’s performances. They remind too much of other fans I sit around at VP, who moan at everything and look for fault. I listened to Tim interview Stuart McCall after the Chester league win and he was bursting with pride for Stuart getting the win, obviously no runs in as yet a-la Todd last season!

In my view, local football has suffered from ITV’s questionable decision to reduce the budget for regional coverage in the last few years. In the past we had the excellent Goals on Sunday with highlights of a local game every week, plus Football league Extra in the early hours of Monday. The Sunday morning Championship programme is fantastic and, like it’s predecessor Football League Extra, is the best produced ITV football show, but the loss of ‘Goals on Sunday’ still feels sad.

Instead we now have the Thursday evening half hour programme Soccer Night. I’m left confused and angry as to why, every year, the new series of this begins months into the football season. This year it returned at the beginning of November. I look forward to this show every week as it’s an all too rare opportunity to watch local football, though I stupidly always forget how bad it’s going to be.

Presented by Andy Townsend, a massively underemployed ITV pundit with no relevance to Yorkshire football whatsoever, the show usually devotes little air time to the region’s teams. Last Thursday’s edition began with a ten minute chat about England’s Euro 2008 qualifying defeat the night before. Yes this is interesting, but it was receiving huge coverage every where else. This slot is supposed to be for local football!

Not for the first time they had invited a guy called Mike (a TalkSport presenter) as a guest. He seems to go out of his way to offer ‘controversial’ opinions. Townsend asked him what he thought of Leeds being 4th in the league, Mike replied that it was disgraceful that they and Forest were in League One and declared that a new rule should be brought in where, if a big club finishes in the drop zone, their relegation is cancelled if the club due to take their place has a smaller fan base. Ignoring the sheer idiocy of such a view, didn’t anyone on the programme consider how offensive this might be to supporters of other clubs watching? What about Scunthorpe United fans, whose team replaced Leeds United in the Championship this season? Townsend just nodded along as though he agreed!

Also sitting on the Soccer Night sofa each week is Peter Beagrie. Much as I love our former hero, he seems to be one of a new generation of football pundits who look comfortable on camera but say nothing of value. On Thursday, Townsend asked Beags about City’s season so far. After stating he thought his mate Stuart had been mad to take the City job, he explained that he hoped City would get some investment next season as ‘not a lot of people know that Julian Rhodes is keeping the club going on his own’. He then ‘revealed’ City have one of the smallest squads in the division! At this point I was searching around my room for something to throw at Beags, for talking garbage on my TV.

If Beags had done his homework, or talked to his mate, he would know that City now have investment from Mark Lawn, a guy who recently stated that City need to trim their squad as it’s too big! I find it really frustrating that this half hour weekly slot to cover local football is wasted by this awful programme. The views expressed lack any research or thought.

Although at least they ignore Leeds United as much as the rest of the region’s teams.

There Is No Third Time for Bradford City

News came this morning – if you can call it news – that Julian Rhodes could be forced to put City into administration for the third time should the Bantams be relegated from the league. It comes in the Daily Star – attach to that whatever status you will – and it reads ominously.

Everybody knows that there is no third time for Bradford City. Administration is about settling debts with creditors by allowing them to have faith that they will be paid back better in the long term than they are through a liquidation of assets. Kroll – no one – could make a case that City would pay back this time better than the previous two. Without faith there is no CVA ergo there is no administration. There is only liquidation.

However Julian Rhodes has no immediate reason to seek Administration. The squad at Valley Parade is threadbare to the point that in the summer the Bantams may have only six or so senior professionals in contract and the expenses are transparent. City lost £600,000 last year. £330,000 goes to Gordon Gibb leaving £270,000. Should Dean Windass exit – and he probably will – then City have every right to demand a significant fee for a player wanted for a season in League One so perhaps half if not more of that £270,000 can be wiped away.

A projected loss of £150,000 is not a debt that forces a club into Administration and the loss of £600,000 this season has been offset by the sales of Jermaine Johnson and the loaning of Windass. I may be wrong and I may not be privy to all the information but veteran of two CVAs unless I’m reading this wrong the end of the world is not nigh.

Rhodes for his part is furious saying

It’s utter rubbish and we will be discussing these comments with the club’s lawyers. The stories are so far wide of the mark it’s untrue.

The Daily Star – jumping on Rhodes’s comments in the week and looking for punchy stories – would be better off pointing City fans to Sheffield Wednesday and Hull games for the rest of the year. Should the Tigers stay up City get a slice more cash for Windass and promotion for The Owls – they are pushing for the play-offs – would land the Bantams £150,000.

City need to be on a constant watch against financial problems but part of that watch is being able to control panic that would be sparked by the Daily Star article. It is still worth buying a season ticket; it is still worth caring about the club.

Are City the real deal?

The papers were full of it, “OK 4-0, but don’t think this makes you any good”.

It seems that the boys of the press are sticking by the mid-table, 10th, bottom half, probably not go down predictions that they had tagged City with despite the thumping of Barnsley on the first day. No surprises there. The paper don’t need a memory, if they had one they might ask why the man who they said would not be at the club at Christmas if things were going bad scored an overhead kick for us in division one.

But the question remains. Are City the real deal or is this just opening day delight before the averageness that awaits?

Personally I thought City looked a class above Barnsley and I did not think Barnsley looked that bad. The discipline that saw Gareth Whalley on the goal line to clear Kevin Gallen’s shot just after Ashley Ward had scored his first penalty was the best example of what City have got and the other sides have not. Barnsley attacked pretty well, but defensively they and a lot of other teams in the division are a shambles.

David Wetherall, Robert Molenaar and on his day Andy Myers are good enough to get into any back four in this league but there is more to it than that. City are post-war London. The blitz has gone but the spirit is still there. The oneness that repelled some very good teams for the past two years is a sponge for the Nationwide league’s better forwards.

Whoever the members of the back four are, now that the cursed Ian Nolan has gone, will not matter because the motto and the mindset will be the same. For all the headlines of Benito Carbone’s overheads or Ash Ward’s Man of the Match display, its at the back that City separated themselves from Barnsley.

So if you are going to stay strong at the back and your forwards are likely to create you something, and lets face it Carbone, Ward, Blake, Jess et al are all creative Peter Beardsleys before they are deadly Gary Linekers.

The next 45 games are going to tell us if City are the real deal or not, but yesterday should have seen the guys at the papers reassessing the Bantams. They have us pegged as a Watford, bounced out of the Premiership with tails between our legs, but we had confidence build up by the solid back end to the season (Leeds excepted). It will take winning until March before they sit up and take notice of us on Fleet Street.

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