Questions on the captain as Rehman bares the armband

Zesh Rehman is not the Bradford City captain although he wore the armband during yesterday’s game – a draw with Accrington Stanley – which saw the defender attract some criticism.

Rehman – and this is a personal opinion – put in as good a performance as any in the match and certainly did nothing to suggest that faith should be lost in his abilities as a player. His performance as a captain – however – is harder to measure.

Harder to measure because on the whole – and ignoring the fact that Rehman is standing in for the injured Peter Thorne – it is hard to create a set of criteria to judge a captain against.

The finest captain I have ever seen of any side in a good thirty five years of watching football is Stuart McCall and in saying this I recall how I would tell any and all how McCall’s abilities with the armband were defined by the fact that not only did he turn in a performance to inspire but he made the players around him better.

David Wetherall took the armband from McCall and used it to show a steady leadership. His was a less obvious improvement of his peers than McCall but in setting a high standard of professionalism and performance he provided leadership by example for the side. Mark Bower was proof of this developing and slowly improving year on year.

Graeme Lee’s year as skipper post-Wetherall showed little leadership and lack of harmony in the run in was there for all to see. Pre-McCall captains like Eddie Youds or Lee Duxbury showed some abilities but nothing to mark them out as above and beyond the regular progression of skippers which suggests that the inspirational captains are the exception, rather than the rule, and City fans were spoilt with Stuart and Dave and that most of the time the guy with the armband is just someone to pass a pennant and shake hands with the Referee.

Not that were I Rehman I would have shook hands with Steve Cook after the Accrington Stanley game in which the man who could hold the hard to achieve title of Worst Ref of The Season booked five people for talking out of turn during the game like the weakest substitute teacher handing out detentions rather than instilling discipline. To get respect one must give it and Cook certainly did not.

In such conditions – Accrington’s staff laying siege to Cook at half time and a City side who got nothing from the man in the middle in the second half (the linesman gave the penalty) – the Bantams showed an admirable fight long after I had told all around me that “we might as well go home ’cause (The Referee) has decided the result today.”

City kept battling and should have won the game. Gareth Evans and Michael Flynn both fancied the penalty – one suspects Flynn will get the next one – and the players did not shirk the fight which would seem to be one of the qualities that many found lacking from Peter Thorne’s skippering against Notts County at the start of the season and begs another question.

If the team keep going in what many would say were utterly frustrating circumstances then should the captain not take credit for that?

Compared to Wimbledon 5-3, Luton 4-0, Sunderland 4-1, Barnet 4-1, Notts County 5-0, Rochdale 3-0 and so many other collapses that came from things going against the side then Rehman deserves some credit.

The quality of a captain tend to be linked to the success of the team and probably some fine skippers are dismissed because they were part of teams who did not excel but certainly nothing in what Rehman did yesterday would exclude him from that bracket.

If we say a measure of the man with the armband is if can keep his team going in adversity then Rehman is doing a captain’s job as deserves to keep the job.

Too many bad days

The rain tipped down at Valley Parade, it never stopped. It was always going to be a hard game, not a pretty game and a series of bad days saw to it that it was not a good game.

Stuart McCall’s selection of a 442 pulling Scott Neilson into a right wing role opposite Chris Brandon on the left was the City manager’s bad day. All formations have a tendency to veer back to a 442 given time and it seemed that the City boss thought that he could plug the odd hole at the back with two lines of two rather than the 433 he moved back to after Accrington Stanley equalised in this game.

Accrington’s equaliser came from Michael Symes, a former City player who had more than his share of bad days while a Bantams and his goal aside looked not at all impressive. Symes will have empathy with Gareth Evans who missed a penalty in the dying minutes smacking a child behind the goal with the ball rather than ending the game in glory. Symes had done the same thing at the opening of his City career.

Not that that should have been an end to the glory for Evans who lashed a ball chested – or one assumes the officials must have judged handled – down by Michael Boulding. Evans and is strike partner James Hanson struggled on a blustery day but both kept going giving the Bantams a plethora of late chances to win the game. The last half hour should convince McCall to stick with his 433 formation if only because the game was far more entertaining after that point.

The Bantams had taken the lead when Michael Flynn – who had what was for him a poor game – had centred the ball and Phil Edwards put in his own net. Nothing else Flynn did seemed to come off but the mark of the man – and the City team – was that even when playing poorly the players kept playing.

Flynn, Luke O’Brien, Neilson, Evans, Brandon and James Hanson. None of them enjoyed great games but all of them played hard and ensured that personal negatives would not be carried over and contributed to a positive team performance. There are dozens of City players in the ten years since the slide from the Premiership who could not say the same and when they put in poor performances they let the team suffer.

The subject of the fall from the Premiership was recalled by the visiting Accrington fans in a song “Premier League, you fucked it up” or at least I assume that was what it was because it might have been the sound of the Stanley fans with buckets trying to raise money to keep their club going. I would rather than the sang the word “thank you” over and over as credit to people who came to their aid when they needed it so recently rather than behaved so gracelessly. Accrington Stanley had bad days, everyone rallied round, but those supporters made you wonder why?

Hanson toiled unsuccessfully although he would point to a head at goal which was pushed away by Andrew Proctor – a player who had already been booked – to give a penalty. Proctor seemed to hide in the box but he seemed to be no danger of a red card. Indeed he had got into a pushing match with Chris Brandon that could have resulted in a second yellow card but probably the fact that Referee had booked before probably saved him a card.

It did not – however – do his team any harm. Brandon had held onto the ball to complain about an obvious yet not given penalty when Steve Williams’s shirt was pulled a yard or so away from him in the box. Within seconds of Proctor not being booked Lee Bullock was, for something he said to the referee, following Symes’s goal.

It seemed to be a common tactic for a Referee to struggled all game. He dodged decisions – the penalty was given by his linesman – and ducked his responsibilities fudging calls so he was not required to use his red card but of the seven bookings that he issued five of them were to players for “dissent” – for which read “questioning the Referee’s decisions.”

No one has an idea as to why the goal Evans struck which was ruled out was ruled out but some mentioned handball by Boulding. A question of handball by a player who set up a goal? Really? This week in which a Referee was “100% certain” that Thierry Henry did not do the same.

I am tired of high handed Referees who cannot control a football match dealing with any questions with yellow cards. Stuart McCall, Michael Flynn, Gareth Evans and others had bad days but they did not have cards to silence critics. They applied themselves and deal with the results.

As Referee Steve Cook pointed to his watch a minute into injury time to tell new signing Simon Whaley that the three minutes to be added were under a stopped watch and then blew the whistle some fifteen seconds after the restart one could not say the same about the official. No control over the game save the threat of sending off, more bothered about telling off the players for talking out of turn like naughty school boys that trying to be a part of the game.

It was a poor game in poor conditions in a poor league with some players putting in poor performances but it deserved a better referee than that and it is hard to imagine it having a worse one.

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