I’m on my feet cheering Hull City…

I’m on my feet cheering Hull City on a Saturday afternoon and I’ve got two fists in the air and I’m watching the Tigers win promotion and I’m happy.

Hull City really hate Bradford City but I don’t know why and no one I know does. I guess they don’t like the way we went off to the Premiership after nicking their stand that time but whatever it is they hate us and we are a bit confused as to why. I have the same thing with a guy called Tim Johnson and I think me and Tim could get along well if only he got over the wanting to punch my face in thing. We are the same with Hull.

Especially because Hull have got Dean Windass leading them.

I always feel like Dean Windass was robbed from me. I loved having Dean Windass up front for City and from the minute he left for Hull I knew we were in trouble that season. Deano was the only player who had a club where the net was and he worked hard and he was smart as anything on the football field and without any of those things we were never going to win many. It would be like City now letting the goals of Peter Thorne, the work of Barry Conlon and the tricks of Billy Topp go on the same day.

But the worst thing about Deano leaving was that it was a self inflicted wound. Deano left and at the time he was getting death threats from a hand full of idiots who call themselves City fans but are really just sad cases. We ignore them cause they really are a minority.

But these guys were fed by the fact that we never appreciated Deano. All through his City career the boos were not far away. He was booed when we signed him for getting into the team over Robbie Blake and in the Premiership for not being Blake and the people who booed him when he played for us booed him when he came back for other clubs and scored against us.

Then when he returned to City the boos were not far away and some fans were so quick to get on his back. Deano was never perfect and his sending off against Bournemouth was stupid but he played with passion and he won matches for City and he did it time and time again.

But he could do ten things right and one thing wrong and some people would ignore the ten and jump on him for the one. Some people just enjoyed getting on Deano’s back cause they thought that being able to criticise Deano meant they were smarter football fans. It was personal abuse and nothing to do with what Deano did on the field which was head and shoulders above Eddie Johnson, Andy Cooke, Spencer Weir-Daley, Moses Ashikodi, Danny Cadamarteri, Michael Branch or any the other partners Deano had.

So when he had an offer from Hull City on the table alongside the death threats he probably looked at the team he has keeping up on his own and compared them to the club where he is a legend and thought why does he need to play for a team who boo him and moan about him. If he had thought “Lets see what they can do without me” then he would have been right. Letting Dean Windass go got us relegated and the people who made the climate that made him want to leave should know that they are responsible for that.

So I’m cheering Dean Windass’s brilliant twenty yarder at Wembley and thinking how that could have been a goal for us cause Deano would have stuck at VP for the rest of his career had it not been for some so-called fans driving him out. I hope Hull City do ok in the Premiership and I’m not jealous cause they will have thier Rodney Marsh.

But I am jealous of them for having Deano because he should be out player and some of us threw him away.

The pain goes on

I’m seriously considering returning my Morecambe ticket to the Shrimpers’ ticket office and making a formal complaint. The stub included details of what stand I would be in and which turnstile to go through, but it should also have included the word ‘WARNING’ in big red letters followed by a disclaimer about the risk of extreme stress I could suffer by entering their ground.

If I’d have been warned of the impending misery I would experience at Christie Park last Friday I might have thought twice before purchasing our tickets before the Accrington game. Last minute defeats are surely the cruellest and most painful. Suddenly an hour and a half journey home felt long and daunting. Christie Park is set up so that we had to walk around the whole stadium to get back to our car, so we had to wade our way through a sea of happy home supporters enjoying another great moment in their rise to professional football. And as we drove home through the Lancaster traffic, it was impossible to think of anything other than the failings of our players.

Five defeats in a row; less than a month after City defeated much fancied Peterborough, who saw that coming? An encouraging start to the season has turned into a complete nightmare as the Bantams sink to new depths. It seems ludicrous to think that City might be battling against relegation to non-league obscurity this season, but it feels more of a possibility with each passing defeat. The pressure is building and already some of our more impatient fans are openly questioning Stuart McCall. I want to believe that City are better than this and that promotion this season is not a forlorn hope, but at the moment all I have to go on is blind faith.

The return of Stuart to City as manager seemed to herald a change in fortune…yet so far it hasn’t happened and Stuart is probably still realising the size of the task he has in turning this club around.

The doom and gloom most of us seem to be feeling right now is partly contributed by recent history. Personally I’m sick of it, absolutely sick of City losing all of the time. Last season we saw City plummet from early play off contenders to relegation and there was just a handful of wins to celebrate during that period. We’ve watched City get relegated three times in seven years – and every other season has involved some, albeit often brief, relegation concerns.

Part of the pain with Morecambe’s last minute winner was the familiarity of the feeling that engulfed me. I’ve seen City concede late winners too often during the last few years. As soon as the ball crossed the line I knew that the feeling of misery inside would rise and quickly get worse within the next few minutes, and then stay with me all night.

I dreaded waking up the following morning and feeling the pain all over again when I remembered the match. I also knew that the gloom wouldn’t go away until well into the week and, when it did, it would be replaced by foolish optimism that City would win next weekend and we would all be celebrating again. Yet again my weekend will be ruined by raised hopes being crushed.

The stress and misery is part of being a football fan and I accept that, but why can’t we have a season where we win more than we lose? Why can’t we have players who do their job properly and excite us with brilliant football? I occasionally fantasise about a safe, boring midtable season with little stress. The night before travelling to Morecambe I met up with a Burnley supporting friend who ridiculed me mercilessly about City’s recent efforts. How I wish we could be Burnley, always finishing mid table with no promotion or relegation concerns. Great, now I’m jealous of a Dingles fan!

Our party travelling to Morecambe was unexpectedly boosted by two extra people, one who stopped going to watch City during the Todd reign and another who had not been since the Premiership adventure. As we drove home I thought about what they had both missed since giving up on City. What truly great moments has there been? The occasional memorable victory, but that’s it. No promotion challenges, no cup runs; continuing survival has been the only thing we’ve been able to get excited about.

The return of Stuart to City as manager seemed to herald a change in fortune, especially with new investment and phenomenal season ticket sales quickly following. Yet so far it hasn’t happened and Stuart is probably still realising the size of the task he has in turning this club around.

With just six senior players when he took over, Stuart had to bring in a near full squad of new players. It’s becoming painfully clear that certain members of the existing squad aren’t good enough to challenge for promotion or play for the best supported club in the division; whether it be for their ability or attitude. Stuart has spoken of bringing in new blood but, while there is some money to spend, it will need to be loan players until January. By and large, we’re stuck with the present lot until then.

The biggest disappointment of the Morecambe defeat was the lack of passion shown from some players. The home side chased and harried every ball and won nearly all the 50/50s. Their players gave everything to the cause and dominated the second half. In contrast some of our players seemed to believe they didn’t need to work hard as others in the team would win the ball back and do the ugly bits. Both Alex Rhodes and Omar Daley were guilty of failing to track back and help the defence, which was badly under the cosh for long spells in the second half. They also failed to adequately support Eddie Johnson and Nicky Law as City weakly lost the midfield battle.

Debates about midfield balances take place at all levels, look at England, but City’s felt wrong against Morecambe without a ball winner included. Both Law and Johnson appear more comfortable going forward rather than tackling. Paul Evans is badly missing and Scott Phelan has struggled to date. Craig Bentham has yet to be given a chance and, in hindsight, Stuart must have wished he’d included a more defensive Phelan or Bentham in his team at Christie Park. I’ve heard a few City fans say, “We need a team of Stuarts.” Well just one against Morecambe would have been nice!

Playing two wingers away from home can be a risk, especially when they defend like Daley and Rhodes. Neither were much better going forward either and I felt sorry for Barry Conlon and Guylian Nsumbu-Nsungu. Both got into good positions but were often ignored by Daley in particular, who usually elected to shoot instead. City improved when Kyle Nix came on, but the winger situation must be causing Stuart to tear his hair out. Daley has moved from been the big hope last year to key player this season, but his performances haven’t really improved.

The lack of pace in the defence is a concern and led to Morecambe’s winner, our strikers aren’t getting great service and the right formula for our midfield has yet to be found. With second place Darlington due at Valley Parade on Saturday it may get worse before it gets better. It’s still early days in the season and too soon to write off City completely, but things can’t go on as they are and we can only trust Stuart and Wayne to get it right.

Hopefully better days are around the corner. Hopefully the pain and misery which has become too familiar for us City supporters will be less frequent. Hopefully I will soon be able to bring myself to look at the league table for more than five seconds, because City will have climbed it. Hopefully when I go to buy my Grimsby tickets they will have thought to remember the appropriate health warning.

Good Things Happen At Last

It’s five years since Stuart McCall was shown the door by Bradford City. Considered too old, too expensive and a little disruptive, his contract was not renewed and his number four shirt handed to someone else.

The impending financial meltdown that would come to light weeks later was the true reason behind showing a City legend the door. Yet as a near full house waved goodbye to Stuart during his testimonial game with former club Rangers, it appeared his best days were behind him.

Stuart hooked up with Neil Warnock’s Sheffield United and enjoyed a new leash of life by playing a significant part in the Blades reaching the League and FA Cup semi-finals and losing the Play Off final. Not bad for a player who Jim Jefferies, less than a year earlier, famously wrote off by saying his legs had gone. When those legs did eventually go, his coaching career took off. Rising to Warnock’s assistant, the sight of Stuart stood behind the Blades boss in the dugout has become a regular sight on Match Of The Day this season.

As for his first love Bradford City, it’s not been pretty. Administration, administration again, relegation, relegation again. Six years ago City were the butt of people’s jokes as they exited the Premiership, relegation to League Two was deemed barely worth a mention. The fall from grace may not have been as quick as the club formerly known as Wimbledon, but it’s still startling.

But just as we wondered if good things would ever happen to City again, Stuart comes over the hill as the proverbial knight in shining armour. City shocked the footballing world by signing Benito Carbone seven years ago and some will again be left scratching their heads in disbelief at Stuart’s decision to take the reigns at Valley Parade. Chiefly among them will be us City supporters and the staff, probably even Julian Rhodes himself.

When Colin Todd was dismissed last February, Stuart became number one target. There was nothing doing at the time, so Rhodes entrusted David Wetherall to look after the team and saw it relegated in feeble fashion. The wait continued and, after a turbulent week for the Blades, Rhodes incredibly got his man.

Through all of the waiting and debate of who should be manager, most supporters wanted Stuart in charge. We hoped he’d take the job, but who really believed he would? This is a club that has sunk to its lowest position in quarter of a century, become saddled with debts and played increasingly poor football. Decent players were replaced by average players – and then they were replaced by even poorer ones.

What have we achieved, other than continuing survival, since Stuart left? Staying up in 2002-03, but losing relegation battles in 2003-04 and 2006-07. Signing some decent players like Paul Henderson, Damion Stewart and Andy Gray, but only receiving a fraction of their value back. Attracting a world class big name manager, but discovering he was not a world class manager. Winning some memorable games, but losing more often and when it really mattered.

Good things haven’t happened to Bradford City for a long time. So who would have been surprised if Stuart had of landed the Sheffield United position and turned us down? Of course part of the reason we have got him was because the Blades decided he wasn’t right. But it hardly matters a jot.

A manager to finally unite the fans, attract more interest in the club and breed genuine optimism. A Bradford City man to inspire those who work under him, emphasise with the fans and demonstrate the long sought after ‘passion’ that some supporters believed was lacking in previous managers. A hungry individual with a point to prove to those who rejected him, ambitious for a good career and determined to succeed.

A man to help us remember happier times and look to the future with new belief. Good things haven’t happened to Bradford City for a long time, Stuart’s arrival will hopefully herald a change.

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.

We will always have Barrau

There was something refreshingly ecstatic about Xaviar Barrau’s reaction to both his goals at Valley Parade in this 2-2 draw with Millwall on the final day of League One for Bradford City for a year at least. Barrau wheeled away twice in delight after twice giving the Bantams the lead in a game which could not have had less meaning had it been played as a friendly but still seemed to warm the heart.

Heart warming first was the immaculate silence for the 56 supporters of 11th of May, 1985 observed at both ends of the ground. Whatever reputation Millwall supporters have they got some marks in the plus column at 2:58 on Saturday afternoon.

David Wetherall’s reputation seems to have survived his first spell in management. In the post game walk around he is applauded for his efforts over the past fourteen games and the past seven years and should this be his final game in management at this club then one hopes he can get a go elsewhere at some point. Wetherall is backing his predecessor as captain to be his follower as manager saying

“I would be absolutely delighted if we got Stuart McCall here as manager. I haven’t got a clue if it is going to happen, but I think that it would create such an interest in the club and around the city that it could only be good for Bradford City. With Stuart McCall in charge we could get the club going in the right direction and I could play a part in that on the pitch and not from the dugout.”

Wetherall’s last act as City gaffer was to use a 433 formation – unseen since the days of Jim Jefferies and Bryan Robson – to make up for the holes left in the side when Wetherall calmed down following last week’s fury following the Chesterfield capitulation. Billy Paynter and Spencer Weir-Daley were absent leaving a forward line of Joe Colbeck, Omar Daley and Barrau in front of a midfield of Steven Schumacher and Tom Penford sitting atop Craig Bentham who protected a back four of Edghill, Mark Bower out of sorts and position on what could be his final game for the club, Matthew Clarke and Ben Parker. Donovan Ricketts kept goal.

The result was a City team more capable going forward than has been seen in recent weeks but susceptible at the back. Twice Barrau gave the Bantams a lead which was pegged back in short time by the visitors who punch for punch looked no better than the team that will start life as a League Two club next term.

None of which is to suggest that City unveiled a prototype for promotion next term but rather that given the chance and without the pressure it could at least be enjoyable to watch the Bantams again. The first half was satisfying until Joe Colbeck knocked in a low cross just before half time that Barrau muscled a defender for and blasted into the bottom corner. Barrau charged to the bench to celebrate with David Wetherall and as he ran a season of frustrations seemed to drift away behind him.

At some point we have to zero the clock on this club and start from even. Let it be now.

Millwall equalised a minute after half time after making a sly substitution and slipping on an extra forward without telling anyone. The extra man snuck in behind Mark Bower as the left footer played on the right hand side and the annoying but reasonabiliy ammusing Darren Byfield beat Donovan Ricketts.

Nevertheless City had a sort of dominance attacking with some flair down the right and pace down the centre. Omar Daley charged at centrebacks all afternoon and at one point freed Joe Colbeck who slipped the ball into the path of Barrau for the Frenchman to fire into the top corner and celebrate equally exuberantly as Lenny Pidgely in the visitor’s goal blasted a poor linesman suspecting offside. Within two minutes Millwall were level following a cheap free kick poorly defended and a low shot by Tony Craig.

City had the chances to win the game notably when Steven Schumacher – more on whom later – blasted over following good work and when Barrau was felled in the box sparking a scuffle that saw the Frenchman booked and butted by goalscorer Craig. Wetherall gave sixteen-year-old Leon Osborne a debut in the place of Daley and withdrew an injured Joe Colbeck who despite setting up both goals was lightly booed by a section of supporters than shall henceforth be know in a knowingly supercilious manner as “The Idiots”.

“The Idiots” will always have a voice at City – the have not learned after forcing Dean Windass on his way – but hopefully the more bums on seats Julian Rhodes and his cheap seats can get next term the more they will be marginalised to a point where their voices are counter-productive whimpers not destructive shouts. “The Overtly Sensitive” can join them for all I care. Yes Steven Schumacher used some shop floor language to City fans last week but having been in football crowds for the last twenty five years I can guarantee he has had worse said to him and frankly to use his slip into effing and jeffing as a stick to beat him is the worst kind of politicking.

If a person does not care for the way Schumacher players or the performances he has then say it. Anything else I pretty much could not care less about.

Next season will be different. Different team, different manager, different supporters, different atmosphere hopefully – more like the backing off the post lobbing a ball around ten minutes at VP today please – and different heroes and favourites. Exuberant knack for goal scoring and joy at getting a goal? Different Dean Windass too by the look of things, and this one is a Frenchman.

Into The Darkness as City Face the Last Day of League One

We always worried that the final day of the League One season this year woudl have City having nothing to play for but I doubt we ever thought it would be like this.

Colin Todd’s team is going to end up in mid-table mediocrity I recall people saying. Perhaps Todd put that on his CV as a plus point judging by how we have plummeted since he left.

To be fair to David Wetherall and Julian Rhodes it would seem that City – Todd and all – have been dodging bullets for years and failed to this term. We start in League Two next year because that is the way that we are being pushed and yes that is down to finance and yes that is boring to read and only half of the truth but there it is.

So news this week that Julian Rhodes is talking to investors is music to the ears. The scale and feasibility of investment in the past nine years – since The Rhodes Family in fact – has been risible so a measured approach would probably be best. If someone wants to help with the rent then that is cool but if someone is coming to buy players then let us not fall for it again. It is a year since Peter Etherington was going to put us in the Championship. Look what happened.

Rhodes wants a new manager in place within three weeks and will be talking to Stuart McCall about the job so this could be David Wetherall’s final game as gaffer. He has Donovan Ricketts in goal and Ricketts had made enough mistakes this term to suggest he will still be around next. Richard Edghill is probably going to get a final game although John Swift would be – in my humble opinion – a better option. Wetherall’s mistake is fielding too many players who have no investment in the future of the club. He needs to start to look at the players who will be around next season so like Swift Simon Ainge should play and probably will in place of Wetherall who will step down to sub.

This could be his last game at Valley Parade – he deserves a rapture of applause when he appears.

Mark Bower is fancied by Burnley so this could be his final game. Ben Parker at left back will return to Leeds but may be back as they lose players. He his a decent player and would be welcome.

Omar Daley, Joe Colbeck or Ben Muirhead have the two flanks – perm any two from three they all have their merits. Steven Schumacher is forgiven for swearing at City fans last week – tempers were frayed – so take the midfield role with Tom Penford. I’m a confirmed fan of Penford’s cool midfield calm and believe he should have been considered long before this stage of the season. Eddie Johnson is out injured.

Billy Paynter and Joe Brown are expected to start up front with Spencer Weir-Daley returning to Nottingham Forest. Weir-Daley may return next season – rumour has it we have offered him a two year deal – and should Paynter be kicking his heels should he be released from Southend then he would be welcome too.

Billy Paynter and Spencer Weir-Daley are expected to start up front with Joe Brown and Nick Smith standing by in case Weir-Daley’s injury problems continue. Weir-Daley may return next season – rumour has it we have offered him a two year deal – and should Paynter be kicking his heels should he be released from Southend then he would be welcome too.

Welcome too no doubt is the break. Next season needs to be so much better.

Another Barmy City Summer

With events off the field proving far more dramatic than that on it in recent years, it appears we’re all set for yet another summer where we won’t be able to keep our eyes off what’s happening at Valley Parade.

Fortunately this summer is unlikely to be as traumatic as others, but still hints of carrying far too much significance in shaping the season ahead then what goes on during the winter months at Appleby Bridge. And as we supporters prepare to say goodbye to another season on Saturday, it could potentially be a very different Bradford City we welcome back in August.

A change in manager seems highly probable. Julian Rhodes has had to be careful with his words this week, but his hopes of still luring a certain Premiership assistant manager betray any firm belief that caretaker manager David Wetherall is the man to revive this ailing club. Wetherall remains in contention, but his chances depend on others saying “no”. He has already hinted that a full time appointment might lead to him hanging up his boots and, with Mark Bower rumoured to be catching the eye of The Dingles; Wetherall the player might be needed more than Wetherall the gaffer.

What of the chances of Stuart accepting an offer to manage his first love? The story I’ve heard is he was prepared to take the job should City have survived, so it remains unclear what appeal the job now has. Last September, Stuart spoke of his aim to leave Sheffield United at the end of this season and take the plunge into management. No one could argue taking the reigns of City would require his heart to rule his head, although news of potential investment might make his ears prick up.

According to Julian Rhodes, talks are taking place with a few interested parties. It remains to be seen who these people are, but one potential investor could even be prepared to buy out the Rhodes family. Given the never-ending struggle to pay the bills and recent criticism from some supporters, few could begrudge Julian for handing over the reigns and reverting back to being a supporter like the rest of us.

Even if nothing happens, City hardly face the stiffest of opposition next year. Some of the headlines this week have focused that City won’t have much money to mount a promotion bid. Who does at this level? We had a wage bill ranked midtable for League One this season and even a reduction in this area shouldn’t handicap City’s chances too severely. Our ability to attract decent League Two players should also be greater than that of some of our new rivals.

Dean Windass won’t be staying, but City should still be able to command a decent transfer fee for him. There is pressure from the Hull fans for the Championship club to sign up their old favourite and City should enter the negotiating table in a strong position. The only worry is if there are any agreements in place for knocking the original loan fee off any future transfer fee, which we will suddenly get to hear about.

That leaves just six other professionals still in contract, giving the manager plenty of room for manoeuvre. There will be a few goodbyes after Saturday and, given how poor the team has played this season, certain players won’t be missed should they be looking for a new club this summer. The squad that begins life in League Two is likely to be very different, with new heroes and new villains to get used to.

So come August, City could be starting a new season with a vastly revamped squad, a new manager and new owners. Even the crowd won’t feel the same with an extra couple of thousand turning up each week. There’s still one last game to go and it’s not clear who we should be biding farewell to against Millwall. One last singsong, one last dismal defeat (probably), one last flourish of boos or cheers and we will all go our separate ways.

We supporters are the only ones definitely coming back next season. It’s doubtful we will be switching off from events at Valley Parade in the meantime.

In Consideration of Stuart McCall

League Two is beginning to settle into my mind. I’ve done a look up and down the list of teams – nothing very impressive – and I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason we are going to be at the same level as Rochdale is that the characterlessness of the club means we deserves to be at the level of Rochdale.

Characterlessness I’ll qualify. This season City have been subject to some appalling and frankly biased refereeing decisions and have had a share of bad luck that hampers most teams. Our reaction to these knock downs has been to hug the canvas for as long as possible. There are many reasons for this – too many loan players, a change in manager, losing key members of the squad, injuries, a hostile crowd, an inequity in the structure of the game – but few would argue that it is the case.

To escape this League Two the club is going to need major work and prime in that work is the appointment of a manager. Julian Rhodes wants someone in the chair by the end of May and he wants to talk to Stuart McCall about the job.

It is probably clear that City need McCall more than McCall need City but need him we do. No other names suggest themselves as being able to have the sea-change in atmosphere – who would boo a McCall team? McCall would get the shield of bullet-proofness for longer than other managers and might actually get some work done – and culture at the club.

Adding McCall to City could put a few thousand bums on seats, it could get people behind the club again. It could be the answer to all the minor problems that have added up to a major crisis for this club.

Make no mistake Julian Rhodes cannot keep bank rolling a City side that loses him money. We need McCall to return to kick-start all the things we need to turn the club around. We need a manager whom people want to do well rather than the procession of gaffers who it seems failure was almost welcomed for. I heard I don’t mind if we lose cause then Todd will be sacked far too many times last year.

However it is said that McCall would not want to join a League Two club. That relegation has cut off our chances of getting the number four for his third stay at VP. Perhaps so.

To that all I can say is that Bradford City is in dire need – in dire need for the changes that McCall could bring – and should he decided as he has a right to that he can watch the club flounder from afar in what is in a very real and very serious way our hour of need then perhaps I hold him in too high regard.

A club’s legend – this club’s legend – needs to be prepared to get hands dirty otherwise what is the point of being the legend?

Bradford City’s problem since the McCall/Paul Jewell/Geoffrey Richmond days has been a critical lack of leadership. A McCall led City have a chance to establish a direction again – to rally under a banner so lacking under Colin Todd or Nicky Law – and stop the backbiting and arguments that go along with every game. Valley Parade could unify behind Peter Beagrie or John Hendrie but it would be behind McCall and the divisiveness of the last seven years could be put to rest.

Beagrie, Hendrie, Chris Wilder, Wayne Jacobs. Other managers could turn around the club but McCall – with the status he would bring – has the best chance to avoid a future in which attendances dwindle, in which Rhodes can no longer fund a club making less and less money every year, which is so far away from the top table of English football that the risible, lamentable trickle down hardly registers.

In the twenty five years since we were last in the bottom division football has changed beyond recognition. For most of those twenty-five years we put the club on a progressively higher footing but – and apologies to the sensibilities on this but it is a grim fact – we are at a storm front in football where the haves have and the have nots are swept away.

Twenty-five years ago we were in the have nots by some degree. We rose into the haves of the Premiership and the Championship and black balance sheets and entertaining football, we need to get back not just to have a better future but to have a future.

Twenty-five years ago when City started our last campaign in the bottom division in the first game we have a debut at right back to a 16 year old picked up after being released.

You can guess what his name was?

Which Way Now For David Wetherall?

David Wetherall looked a forlorn figure after the Chesterfield game as he prepared to all but rounded on those in claret and amber around him in his post match comments.

I feel a degree of anger. We just weren’t good enough, it’s as simple as that. We got exactly what we deserved and that was nothing at all. I’m hurting. It’s sad for myself and for the club and it’s an understatement to say I’m very, very disappointed.

If it was it was never supposed to be like this for City – one recalls the booming that we would be back in the Premiership some six years ago – then David Wetherall’s start in management was also supposed to be wildly different.

Always cutting a studious figure there was a common assumption that the player with a degree – albeit one in Biology – would take to the coaching and management side of the game naturally yet at present Wetherall’s record reads 13 games played, 2 won, 3 drawn, 8 defeats. It is not how it was supposed to be.

Which is not to say that Wetherall has hamfistedly failed in the Bantams job – up to half time last weekend it looked like he had taken a dozen games to get the side playing his way and would then take them on to some spirited escape. Certainly up to that point performances had been improved and the football was good but – as with most situations in the game – results are what mattered.

Going forward it is hard to see the next move for Wetherall. It seems unlikely he will stay as a player having been the boss although his contract suggests he will be doing and the majority of his charges will be nowhere near Valley Parade next season. It is also hard to see anyone offering him the role of manager on the strength of his two wins in thirteen but that is a possibility. Wetherall puts over the air of an Arsene Wenger off the field – a thinker rather than a thunderer – and that is a rarefied commodity in the game and often an attractive one.

However that cerebral air is easily turned into a stick to beat the City skipper turned manager. The lifelessness of the Bantam performance yesterday begs for comments on the need to add some passion to the club. Hard to imagine Wetherall banging his fist on the table, hard to imagine him hairdrying.

City are a team flattened. The majority of the squad will drift away in the summer and that shows in the display on the pitch. Too many players setting too much of a mood that City is only until Summer and when that mood takes hold the likes of Steven Schumacher sink down with it. Nine determined professionals and two loanees or kids or guys soon out of contract works. Reversing the ratio does not and regardless of Wetherall’s abilities as a manager it was never going to.

Of those abilities it is hard to make a judgment and given a steady club the man who kept City in the Premiership may be able to make a fist of things but – it would seem – it will not be at this club.

A Day of Gloom, A Lifetime of Joy

With around 10 minutes to go at Saltergate on Saturday, I looked around the pitch at our players and began to feel a huge sense of relief.

Part of this relief was because the game was almost over and I could stop watching this wretched, gutless City display. Part of the relief was also because I knew I would soon be leaving the ground and my backside could recover from the numbness of sitting on an uncomfortable wooden bench for three hours. But the main reason for feeling relieved was because City’s outcome had finally been decided and I could stop fretting about their frankly feeble fight to avoid the drop to basement league football.

Of course we were hoping to leave Saltergate in celebratory mood. Two weeks ago that seemed a huge possibility after City’s welcome three points at Brighton. Last Saturday’s home defeat to Leyton Orient had killed off any realisitic hope and if anyone still felt we could do it, to many of our players clearly didn’t and failed to put up a fight. Each of the three goals conceded had an air of comedy about them as the players put in a performance as poor as anything they have managed all season.

With hope over long before the final whistle, it was easier to stop feeling gloomy and relax instead of worrying about whether Rotherham, Forest, Gillingham or Oldham could do us a favour by beating sides above us. We can now stop spending hours carefully studying the league table and trying to predict other teams results. All that’s left is a carefree, meaningless home game with Millwall next Saturday and then we can all take a break from City and come back refreshed for a League Two campaign in August.

And that is why I don’t feel too sad about the relegation at this moment. It just seems to have been inevitable and watching our players raise hopes and then fail miserably over the last few weeks has been deperessing enough. It’s often said that it’s the hope that kills you and it has been so frustrating to watch the team fail to make a better fist on avoiding relegation. It looked straightforward enough weeks ago, just a few more wins and the odd draw. At half time against Orient last week, survival seemed within touching distance. Frankly I have had enough of walking to work on a Monday morning feeling anxious/worried/depressed at City’s plight and I aim to go in with a smile on my face this Monday (especially as a couple of my colleagues support a certain Yorkshire club who have also had a bad weekend!).

After Saturday’s despair turned to relief at Saltergate, I joined in with other City supporters in singing away during the closing stages. The atmosphere became fantastic as everyone seemed to join in. Deep in stoppage time, “City till I die” boomed out of our end of the ground. It was a hugely uplifting moment that reminded me no matter how bad things get, there is always next season. This won’t be the last time I see City relegated, but I also haven’t witnessed my last City promotion.

During the last few years supporting City I have seen us get relegated from the Premiership to League One, suffer two periods of adminstration and watch countless decent players depart to be replaced by inferior ones. I’ve seen us lose woefully home and away on too many occasions to think about, watched other teams turn up at Valley Parade and win crucial games that left their fans going crazy in celebration. I’ve watched us concede a glut of horror goals through bad defending or goalkeeping, I’ve seen our strikers miss chances that even I could have scored, I’ve seen referee’s get decisions badly wrong and loads of injury time winning goals for the opposing team. Saturday’s defeat can be added to this list, but misery and City have gone hand in hand in recent years so it hardly comes as a shock.

As I looked down at the away terrace at the end of the game, I recognised a couple of City fans who I have known/seen around Valley Parade for many years. Almost 2,000 City fans had decended on Saltergate, a sizeable following that will dwarf many of our new rivals. We will all be back in August, whether it’s Accrington and Macclesfield gracing our turf. Most of the current bunch of players will have left, new players and a new manager will be in place. That old killer, hope, will return. Hopefully this time our particular hopes will finally be realised.

Despite the misery, going to watch City has given me hours of joy that I wouldn’t swap for anything. I love our club with a passion and know I will be supporting them until my dying day. Many of us feel the same and, with our continuing support, our club will turn it round and earn success. Eventually City will win a promotion, go on a good cup run and rise back up the leagues. In the not to distant future, our players will be pararding silverware around the pitch and the open top bus will come out of its garage.

It might take years but it will happen and, when it does, the memories and pain of occasions like Saturday will seem distant. We’re City till we die and we will all be there celebrate our club rising again.

League Two is a Series of Bad Decisions

Donovan Ricketts let the ball go through his legs after Jamie Ward hit the ball at goal. Slowly it squirmed over the line. So slowly, so slowly.

Eight years ago I felt sick with anticipation. It was barely something I could understand and certainly was something that while I hoped for it I never thought it would happen. City – my team – were in a two way shoot out with Ipswich Town for a place in the Premiership. For sure we had lost to Huddersfield Town but as our form started to stumble so did the East Anglians. Eight years ago I could hardly believe it. It was hard to form in my mind.

But it was formed in my mind. It was believable.

Six months earlier City had played Sheffield United – who themselves were chasing promotion – and then Paul Jewell’s Bantams were second bottom and people were saying that Geoffrey Richmond was frittering away the talents of the recently returned Stuart McCall by allowing him to be managed by the Scouser. The game ended 2-2 but the way the Bantams organised themselves that day convinced me we would be in the play-offs at least.

So eight years ago I could believe it was us or Ipswich to follow Sunderland into the Premiership because on the field and off it we were a superbly run club. Jewell had a team that played effective, percentage football and Richmond – turning a profit every year – led a tightly run ship.

I could believe it because we were a well run club at (the vast majority of) levels and perhaps it was naive but my sense of social justice tells me that when you do things right good things happen. Not that the cream rises to the top but rather that the top is layered with people that do things in the right way.

I could believe it.

I guess the second goal was unlucky. A shot cannoned off the post and Ward was the first to react it it. Ricketts did well and shot glances around the area as if to ask Am I playing on my own here. Rebounds always seem to fall to them when you are at the bottom don’t they? We never seem to get there first. Bad luck.

Move forward a few years and I’m standing on the pitch with a dozen other City fans watching Geoffrey Richmond argue with Matthew Ward a Daily Express journalist – about the merits of the Italian footballer he had unveiled as a new signing half an hour ago. We stood in the centre circle watching Richmond ebulliently wag his finger in Ward’s face as Ward impressively went toe-to-toe with the powerful figure of the Bradford City chairman.

The sun beat down on Richmond as he told Ward that Bradford City would no longer be considered a small club and as he said it from the corner of my eye I noticed recently installed manager Chris Hutchings wandering the full length of the field untroubled by press men or supporters and in retrospect Richmond’s ebullience was his bullish attempts to keep the club together following the departure of Paul Jewell.

For the first time Richmond was putting his not inconsiderable efforts into the wrong area so badly and it bore such consequences. Richmond was no longer running the club well and the club was running away and the debate on the scale of Richmonds (mis)management and the effects of external elements in football will go on forever but unequivocally in the Summer of 2000 with Richmond out of control and Hutchings a shadow Bradford City were a badly run club and a year later we deserved relegation.

It was irritating to see a team show so little fight. Bill Shankley said that he preferred to use the language of the people and that he would not call a player lackadaisical when he could call him lazy. Omar Daley is a lazy footballer and he while he is not alone today there are too many players on the field for City who are not invested in the future of the club. Too many loan players so do not need to perform and too many last year of contract players who can see the exit door. How have we got to a position where you can write the names of the starting eleven down and you cross off the ones you think you will see next season rather than the ones you thing will go: Ricketts, Edghill, Wetherall Will he stay not being manager?, Bower Better than Div 4, Clarke , Daley, Johnson, Schumacher Out of contract, would be good to get him to stay, Parker, Paynter, Weir-Daley Rumoured to have a two year deal on the table – who offered him it?

How can a team play well when so few of the players have anything invested in the future of the club?

I stood outside Valley Parade – this was three years ago – with Bradford City Supporters Trust chair (and the reason we still have a Bradford City, but that is another point) Mark Boocock and we waited for administrator Kroll to get an agreement on the CVA document that would end City’s second spell of administration which had come about after Gordon Gibb and Julian Rhodes had fallen out and the club had slipped into League One.

Gordon Gibb would not agree to the terms of the CVA which left the one hundred year old club waiting for one of our former players – Ashley Ward – to agree to drop his objection and take the club over the needed percentage of agreed creditors but Ward was out on the training field and could not be reached and so we sat in the Banqueting Suite which stands above a place were 56 people died and in a location where professional football had been played for a century waiting for a guy who did very little for his £18,000 a week to get out of the shower and decide if the club would continue or if it would be liquidated.

So we waited and we talked to one of the officials of Kroll the administrator and asked him about the future of the club and he saw reason for optimism because unlike the rest of League One we would not be riddled with debt so “all” we had to do was to get income over expenditure and we would be debt free. We pondered as Ward finished his shower and told us we could continue to be a City with a football club and I walked away thinking that this surely, surely is not how a football club should be run.

Jamie Ward ran fifty yards pretty such unchecked before putting in a shot which Mark Bower turned into his own net. 3-0 and all the booing to date – the chiding of good players and the atmosphere of poison – has cheapened the criticism given out to some players who are not even going through the motions.

Six months ago Colin Todd was not sacked not as a solution to get the playing side back on track or to flood the club with new ideas on how to play the game or even to change the focus of the system to a more or less direct game but as a punishment because results were bad and as a sop to the fans who wanted rid of him. Sacking a manager is a way to effect a change to bring improvement but it is not a change in itself. Julian Rhodes is a good man, a good fan and he is applauded for his innovations but decisions often outside his control have been poor. The debts we have no are caused by bad decisions, the way we ended up paying rent of our own ground was a bad decision and yes changing managers without ever effecting a change on the field was a string of bad decisions.

So slowly the ball crept over the line. So slow the decline of this club but along the way bad decisions have been made metronomically – from the boardroom to the pitch to the stands – and this is by no means the lowest Bradford City can sink.

League Two? Can I believe it? Of course. Seven years of bad decisions should result in this.

So This Is It. City Doing Bad Doing Good

In a nutshell anything other than a win for Bradford City at Chesterfield will see the Bantams relegated.

David Wetherall’s side go into the game without Kelly Youga who joins Mose Ashikodi and injured back to the Premiership following his stay at Valley Parade and looking for results and miracles. If wishing made it so City would stay up but football is hard and our own mistakes have been compounded by refereeing point stealing leaving us where we are now.

Should the worst have happened at five on Saturday then City will not go into administration but will be starting next season with the cheapest season tickets in football after Julian Rhodes decided to honour the pledge for the 7,000 fans who have applied. City fans will pay £136 next term. One can only hope that this signals a turn around in the fortunes and atmosphere at VP. Julian Rhodes deserves it to – his actions today should be followed throughout football. As City falter on the field the ideas off it are laudable.

Rhodes says

As I keep stressing, the club’s future depends so much on the backing from the fans.

That is laudable too.

Also worth backing is City fan Nick Kitchen’s campaign to Bradford Council to get them to financially help City out. The title of the campaign is “Campaign Backing For The Bradford District Council To Help Support City Financially” and already over 600 Signatures.

If you see Nick collecting signatures around Keighley shopping centre, in the Bantams Bar, at the club shop before a game or in Chesterfield then give them a sign if you agree. If you get doorstepped in election week next week then you might wants to ask red, blue, yellow or “other” what they think before voting.

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