The simple

Bill Shankley said that Football was a simple game – made complicated by fools – and so in that spirit we shall, dear reader, keep this short and simple.

City lost to Lincoln City 2-0 after missing a penalty which would have turned and excess of possession into the goal advantage required to win the game. Michael Flynn saw Rob Burch save his spot kick but impressively Flynn – who had a great game at the hub of things for City – did not let his head drop.

Heads though were lost when the Bantams were paggering into the visiting team and got caught on a break with Simon Ramsden being penalised. The Referee was so sure that Ramsden’s last man foul was a penalty that he gave him a, well, a yellow card.

It was that sort of refereeing all night long. Spineliness, gutless, worthless and of a sort to create a terriable game of football.

The penalty went in and heads were lost with Steve Williams erring and a second goal going in. Gareth Evans could have got one back but Burch – a keeper Stuart McCall wanted to sign but was outbid for – saved well twice and City completed a fourth game without a goal.

One thousand and one solutions then for the problems City are facing and one will be taken which guarantees perhaps only that the vast majority of people will be left unhappy.

Unhappiness being the order of the day – to each his own grumble – but until that penalty went and and as that penalty was saved City did not do a lot wrong.

Scant consolation as the most simple thing – Shankley may say – is that unless you score more goals than the opposition you will not win games.

Tonight was simple: they scored theirs, we didn’t. From that the complications begin.

The rest of League Two – Preseason 2008/2009 [II]

The numerous season preview supplements produced at this time of year act as a reminder, if it were needed, that the hopes and expectations we City supporters have for the coming season are not dissimilar to the majority of League Two fans.

Much has been made locally about how last season’s promotion of the MK Dons and Peterborough has left a more levelled playing field, but we aren’t the only ones thinking such sentiments. Some clubs will look to Hereford’s unexpected promotion last season and be confident they can emulate it, others may be hoping it’s emerging young talent can push them forward in the manner of Stockport and Rochdale, while others are upping the wage budget in a bid to go for it. League Two may look weaker without the presence of the Dons and the Posh, but it’s likely to be just as competitive.

When considering who might be in the promotion shake up it’s typical to start with the clubs who have spent money, those who lost out in last year’s plays offs and those relegated into the division last season. The club record £170,000 that Shrewsbury Town has spent on Nottingham Forest striker Grant Holt stands out like a sore thumb compared to everyone else’s summer recruitment. Last season was one of underachievement for the 2007 Play Off Finalists but manager Paul Simpson will begin his first full season with expectations not much lower than at Valley Parade.

Holt made his name at last season’s play off finalists Rochdale, who are likelier to be up there come May. Keith Hill has worked wonders at Spotland and their counter attacking approach impressed last season. Arguably lacking a decent striker, the Dale will hope Halifax’s Jon Shaw can make the step up; especially as midfield playmaker David Perkins, twice the thorn in the side of City last season, has left.

Wycombe Wanderers parted company with manager Paul Lambert at the end of last season and welcome Peter Taylor – with more than a point to prove following a difficult couple of years. They will probably do better than the other semi-finalists of last season, Darlington, who have lost star players David Stockdale and, while not confirmed yet, Tommy Wright. Dave Penney spent big last summer but doesn’t appear to have significant funds this time around.

Elsewhere big things are expected of Lincoln City, who prospered last year under Peter Jackson before his time off through illness. New keeper Rob Burch was sought after by others, including City, while Frank Sinclair could prove a clever buy if he still has the legs. Chesterfield fans seem to dislike their manager Lee Richardson but have one of the best strikers in the division in Jack Lester, Alan Knill will be looking to continue his rejuvenation of Bury and they could be dark horses, while Grimsby has strengthened defensively and will hope young striker Danny North can fulfill his potential.

It’s a sad state of the continuing financial problems many clubs in the lower reaches of the Football League are suffering from that this year’s League Two relegation battle could be determined by point deductions. Three seasons ago Luton finished 10th in the Championship, but the odds are heavily stacked in favour of a third successive relegation and drop into non-league following the 30 points taken off them. Play off form will be needed just to stay up and, with the club still in a mess, that seems unrealistic.

Bournemouth and Rotherham’s hopes of merely beginning this season are still in the balance and respective 15 and 17 point deductions look like a best scenario. That may allow other clubs to breath easier but Chester City, another club with money problems, won’t be counting their chickens as they remember how last season’s dramatic collapse in form almost cost them their league status. Some of the division’s smaller clubs, such as Macclesfield, Accrington and Dagenham, will also be targeting the 50 point mark rather than any loftier ambitions.

Gillingham’s recent financial difficulties make it difficult to imagine they can achieve much beyond midtable but Port Vale, under former City defender Lee Sinnott, will be a better bet for an instant return to League One. The league’s new boys, Aldershot and Exeter, arrive with romantic stories of rebirth and should both be good enough for midtable, where they will surely be joined by Notts County, Barnet, Brentford and Morecambe.

The quality of League Two is derided by some, while others trumpet it as featuring real football and real fans. Last season many clubs enjoyed better form on the road but the ones who did make it to the division above were strong at home, too. This season’s League Two promises to be unpredictable, ugly and beautiful; and those successful in realising their pre-season expectations next Spring will probably be all three.

The waiting or popping the question

We wait, us connected with Bradford City, and we wait.

We have been waiting for Luke Beckett and Michael Boulding to decide who they fancy joining next season and Stuart McCall begins to tire of waiting.  The move for Beckett is on hold but one of the player’s other options – Chester City – have been knocked out of the running for the player.  It says much about the power of footballers in the modern game that guys on the bench at third tier clubs can keep everyone waiting.  Nevertheless Beckett can.

McCall is growing tired of waiting for Michael Boulding but the former Tennis professional turned footballer who went out of the league with Mansfield last season seems awash with options for next season and the ball is very much in his court.  He has knocked back City before back in 2001 when he joined Aston Villa rather than opting for to sign with Nicky Law.  Within a week the Bantams were in administration and 19 players were redundant.  One wonders how much this plays on the players mind when he deals with Rotherham agianst the stability seemingly offered at Valley Parade these days.

We wait for Boulding who has his pick of Yorkshire sides near his home and we wait for Darren Moore who is to talk with Leicester City before deciding his future.  In essence The Foxes are offering the same deal as the Bantams – to end his career in promotion – but a division higher and nearer to his home.

This waiting is a good think for City and the people trying to bring Moore to the club.  Without McCall, Wayne Jacobs et al then there is little reason for Moore not to dismiss the club in a division below out of hand.  The waiting is tribute and shows that Moore is taking City’s approach seriously.

The waiting is hard.  The waiting is torture as scribbles on bits of paper with “PA” and “CB” joining “PT” and “JC” in positions in elevens crop up on the desks of City fans everywhere.  The waiting is hard.

We wait for Rob Burch the goalkeeper McCall has talked to and we long to do as he did and pop the question in public view to get a binding yes or no.  Do you, we would ask Darren Moore, take this hope and manifest it in promotion?

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