Hard work, and well deserved, as City beat Bury

The Team

Lenny Pidgeley | Richard Eckersley, Steve Williams, Luke Oliver, Luke O'Brien | Tom Adeyemi, Lee Bullock, David Syers | Gareth Evans, Jason Price, Omar Daley | Rob Kiernan, James Hanson and Robbie Threlfall

If football matches are won in second of brilliance then those seconds are earned in committed and combative performances as City showed today.

It was Omar Daley’s brilliantly acrobatic volleyed finish from eight yards out – converting a deep and purposeful Tom Adeyemi cross – which ended as the difference between the teams and few would say the goal or the performance did not merit a win but that win was well earned in the moments around the Jamaican’s impressive goal.

It was in Gareth Evans running down a long strike to win the ball forcing it to Adeyemi to cross and in the rest of Adeyemi’s performance which was his best in a City shirt so far and provided an energy around the midfield which – combined with David Syers – took control of a midfield battle that gave the win. Bury’s Damien Mozika and former City man Steven Schumacher provided a strong and balanced middle two but City’s two were marshalled by holding man Lee Bullock and in taking out the middle two the visitors were rendered engine-less, less capable of driving the game into the Bantams.

The win was in David Syers’ truly awful miss with an hour on the clock and an open goal that was only better – or should that be worsted – by a Stephen Torpey one yard over the bar from one yard. As rank horrible as Syers miss was his reaction to that miss – a shaking off and gearing up to win the game – was the stuff of real success and real quality.

All over the pitch there were similar performances of players showing character and one was reminded by an offend said adage that one can forgive a player a mistake, but not not caring about a mistake. Jason Price recycled the ball well all afternoon – or until his replacement by the endlessly useful James Hanson – but when his lack of pace saw a chance fizzle out when freed in the middle of the pitch Price’s reaction was to keep on keeping on.

Muse, for a moment, about the difference between teams which look good and teams that do well – between Manchester United and Manchester City – and consider that the difference is in this attitude which for today was in place in Peter Taylor’s Bradford City team.

Luke O’Brien cropped up at right back to rob the ball from Bury’s Ryan Lowe after City had been left screaming for penalty following a battered down cross ninety yards further up the field. Curse the unfair decision – indeed Lowe was penalised for a handball which was hardly deliberate – but City and O’Brien kept going and this match report is not about how City were robbed by a dodgy referee as a result of that.

However – and if you are a Referee protectionist then look away now – City struggled through a first half that was defined by some truly atrocious decisions by Referee Colin Webster.

Webster booked Mozika for challenging with his elbow – always a curious thing to write up considering leading into challenges with an elbow is recommended as a sending off offence but leeway is given – and then less than a minute later watched the same player dragging back Syers by the shorts in the penalty area. Webster watched the offence and for reasons best known to himself and contrary to the Laws of the game decided to do nothing about it.

Other decisions – if an elbow is an elbow, if Efe Sodje’s foul on Gareth Evans was a “last man” and should have resulted in a red car – are judgement calls and one has sympathy with them but to watch a foul by a player you have just formally warned with a yellow card and to ignore that is just not officiating the game correctly.

I do not enjoy pointing out the failings of Referees – I would rather they read the rules of the game and applied them as written – but Webster needs to read those rules and understand them more fully before he officiates another game because today he showed that he does not know them well enough to referee a football match.

The players deserved better – both teams – because credit Bury with a stoic and committed display which could have merited a point or more had they had a little more luck but when they enjoyed their best chance they found Lenny Pidgeley – who signed a new contract to stay at City until the end of the season – as a solid block in the centre of the goal.

City though will look back to Gareth Evans’ lob which bespectacled keeper Cameron Belford saved superbly or Tom Ademeyi’s blistering, fading drive which Belford took from the air and consider that this was no win of outrageous fortune.

Hard work, and well deserved.

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.

The worst punishment

Putting aside debates over Stuart McCall’s ability for a moment, everyone should be horrified by the prospect of the Bantams manager leaving this summer. A managerial vacancy in May will mean the play offs have been missed and a resultant punishment no one connected with City will relish – more of the same.

Today’s 1-0 defeat to Port Vale was a bad advert for League Two and sadly something its biggest crowds have had to become used to. Not so long ago visiting teams came with clever game plans that often worked, this season the majority show up with limited aspirations of avoiding defeat. Five across the midfield, time waste as often as possible and, on occasions home players get through, bring them down by any means necessary.That they succeeded owed more to City’s lack of confidence than any better parking of the bus compared to others.

The only goal of the game came four minutes after the break through a neat low finish by David Howland, but the chance came seconds after City had been on the attack and Keith Gillespie, making his full debut, had produced an ill-advised short pass to Dean Furman which had too much power to control and allowed Paul Marshall to break forward. Graeme Lee stood off him too long and, when he did eventually put in a challenge, the ball spun into Howland’s path from which he beat Rhys Evans.

It was the only time Vale troubled City’s goal, though the territorial advantage the Bantams enjoyed didn’t manifest itself into many chances. Lee might have made up for his hesitancy for the goal with three attempts that were cleared off the line, Clarke had a decent half volley attempt which was straight at Valiant keeper Jon Anyon, Furman blazed over and Steve Jones stabbed a few efforts wide – but at no point in the game was momentum built up to the level of heavy pressure.

The biggest concern for Stuart will have been that the final whistle did not herald only the second home defeat of the season, his team looked beaten long before it. Confidence is draining from certain players who, only a matter of weeks ago, were in excellent form. Low confidence for City typically results in a more direct approach and an over-desperation to force a goal which was evident even during the early stages. The lack of composure in hurrying the ball forward rather than passing it around patiently meant possession was quickly gifted back to Vale, who tried their hardest to boot it back in the direction it came.

Stuart has faced the conundrum all season of two central midfielders being out numbered by three opposition and seemed to have found the solution in the boundless energy levels of Furman and Nicky Law, but even the on-loan pair looked jaded and unable to influence the game. Out wide Gillespie and Jones battled hard and caused problems, but the double-marking tactics left them struggling for space and the efforts of Zesh Rehman and Luke O’Brien to support were undermined by the former’s favouritism of his left foot and the latter’s struggle to handle the counter attack threat from his side.

Up front Paul Mullin made his debut after signing on-loan from Accrington and, though he showed some good touches and battled well, offered nothing Barry Conlon does not on a good day. The hope for Stuart will be that he has higher consistency levels. Michael Boulding looked useful with the ball at feet but finding space is a problem he’s faced at Valley Parade all season. With the ball invariably aimed at Mullin, he was forced to feed off scraps. Stuart introduced Chris Brandon and Lee Bullock from the bench, but neither had any impact.

Fortunately for City, this impact on the league table has been just as slight, with only Rochdale winning and the gap to third still only a mountable six points. Realistically the play offs are the target but the worry is this further dent on confidence will make it even harder for the players to achieve that. Next week’s game at Chester becomes even more must-win and, with The Blues winless in 17 and having fallen into the bottom two for the first time, it will be a pressure game for both sides. Losing is unthinkable and would bring the reality of missing out on the top seven and another season in League Two closer.

That we are even here in the first place owes a little to today’s whistle-happy referee who did as much to ruin the spectacle as Vale’s Marc Richards and his kicking the ball away time-wasting efforts. It’s almost two years ago to the day since Steve Bratt was last officiating at Valley Parade and on that afternoon he stopped a resurgent City effort against Blackpool by ridiculously sending off Steve Schumacher just as the Bantams were completely on top. The score was 1-1 but the game ended 3-1 to the Tangerines with the hapless referee later admitting he was wrong to dismiss Schumacher – in between City were relegated from League One.

Back at the scene of the crime, Bratt played completely into Vale’s hands by continually stopping play and awarding some bizarre free kicks. On at least two occasions City players were fouled, only for Bratt to give the decision the other way. He also displayed ridiculous inconsistencies with the advantage rule, at one stage pulling the game back ten seconds after a Vale foul hadn’t stopped Boulding charging into the area with just a defender and keeper to beat. No wonder the Vale players were so quick to shake his hand at the final whistle.

Stuart was yet to be installed as manager on Bratt’s last visit; as assistant to Neil Warnock, he had just witnessed Sheffield United lost 3-0 at Chelsea. The bright lights of the Premier League quickly became distant after the five successive defeats early into his City managerial career, last season. His immediate task is to make sure that record isn’t equalled next Saturday, as well as restore hope we might escape another year of punishment.

How respect is lost through a lack of understanding about football

Let me begin with two important statements. The first is that referees hardly ever lose games; much more often players lose games or opposition players win games. Referees’ decisions can have immense bearings on the outcome of games, especially late on and in close contests. But those situations are quite rare. Jarnail Singh’s decision to play on after the obviously serious injuries to Lee and Moncur almost certainly cost City a goal, but they had 84 playing minutes to catch up. They were lucky it was only 1-0 at half time.

The second thing I have to say is that I really did start the new season in the spirit of Respect. I thought the trappings (walking out together, shaking hands and the like) were all about style and nothing to do with substance. As such, they represented very accurately the times we live in, which is a pity for our great game. But there we are, still looking for the substance and hoping to find genuine respect in our game.

So, with the statements over, let me express my grave disappointment after less than two months into the new season. Sadly the Respect campaign has, as I feared it might, already been found out for what it is. The totality of the campaign is that the players and managers are expected to give their unquestioning respect to referees automatically and at all times.

Real respect may be granted at the outset, but then has to be earned. I have always compared the status of the referee with my old job as a judge, while conceding that I had time to make decisions and referees may have to act very quickly. (An argument in support of technology, but we’ll leave that for another time.) There is, however, at least one perfectly valid comparison with my old job. Whenever I first sat in a new area, I may have had the initial respect of the professionals in front of me. I hoped that, as they listened to my decisions and the reasons behind them, the regular professionals would continue to respect me, without necessarily agreeing with every decision I made. We all make mistakes and with many decisions there must be a sinner and a sinned against; a winner and a loser.

Respect for referees, it seems to me, should work the same way. It should be granted as a starting point, but it may not last forever. If the referee is plainly not up to the job – I shall come back to that phrase in a moment – he will lose the respect initially given. And he will rightly lose that respect, just as judge or a policeman or head teacher or a manager who is not up to the job will also lose the respect of those over whom he has authority.

So, having said that retaining respect (as opposed to the initial granting) requires that the referee act in a manner that does not destroy what he started with, I must go on to a second point; respect works two ways. Many readers of this will spend much of their time in a workplace where either they supervise or manage others and/or those others supervise or manage them. When a new manager arrives, we all wonder what he or she will be like and we may well take time to get to know his or her particular methods and personality. We may not always agree with our new boss, but we will surely respect sound ideas, especially if they outnumber the dodgy moments.

But we have all had bosses who, for one reason or another, have lost our respect. I once had one who couldn’t face awkward truths and consequently told me what I can only describe as a right cock and bull story about my career prospects. All respect was lost once I worked out the truth and, having been lost, it was never recovered because she kept on avoiding the truth, thereby continually repeating the very reason for losing respect.

So what of a referee who loses the respect of the players, not because of a decision or two they don’t agree with, which might or might not be a mistake, but because of the general manner of his refereeing? Are the players and coaches seriously intended to remain genuinely respectful to such a person, despite the fact, as the crowd’s chant might put it, that he’s not fit to referee?

All of this has been brought to a head by two particular referees in the last week. What I believe they have in common causes me real concern for the way our game is refereed and for the future prospects for genuine respect. I question whether these referees (and probably several others who referee in similar styles – no, I don’t necessarily mean you, Mr Styles) understand how football should be played. More fundamentally, I question whether they, like the worst managers we’ve worked for, have any understanding of the people over whom they have authority. They may not even feel the need for such an understanding, so long as they know the rules and get the respect they think they deserve by virtue of their status.

A lot has been said about the first of these two referees. Mr Atwell, at 25, used to be famous for being the youngest referee in the Premier League. He is now more famous for allowing the goal that never was at Watford. Much as I was troubled by that goal and what the referee and his assistant thought they had seen, I was more concerned by how the referee reacted to the players. And I don’t mean just the Watford players. The Reading players were equally baffled. The only difference was that one team was laughing and the other arguing. Nobody but the officials thought there had been a goal.

What this suggests to me is that either the officials weren’t watching the players or they didn’t feel the need to observe and understand those over whom they had authority. Anyone with a basic understanding of football observing the Reading players would have spotted immediately that not one of them had thought for even the briefest moment that there might even just possibly have been a goal scored. Now what does that tell us? It tells me that there wasn’t a goal.

But what did it tell Mr Atwell? Nothing at all, it seems. I don’t know where he was looking at the time, but it can’t have been at the ball. If he had been watching the ball, he would surely have seen that it never went anywhere near the goal posts. He must, then, have been watching the players nearest to the incident. But what did he actually see? Not enough to suggest to him that there was something very wrong indeed here, when both teams were playing on, when not one Reading player was appealing for anything at all, when no fans were shouting for a goal and when the only person in the entire stadium who thought he had seen a goal scored was his assistant.

Let me go back to Mr Singh and what he has in common with Mr Atwell. A minor incident it may have been in the context of TJ’s injury, but in the last few minutes Grant Holt hit a shot yards wide, cursed himself and turned to trot away for the goal kick. Rhys Evans went to retrieve the ball for the same reason. Mr Singh gave a corner. What was he watching? What had he seen that no one else on the pitch or in the crowd had spotted? Why was his eyesight so much better than everyone else – including Grant Holt? And didn’t the unanimous reaction of the players on both sides tell him he might just have got it wrong? Apparently not.

The Moncur-Lee incident is in my eyes a much more serious symptom of the same problem. According to Stuart McCall, Mr Singh says he saw the clash of heads ‘and felt they were both okay.’ I might be inclined, with another referee, to put it down to just one single human error, albeit one with potentially the most devastating consequences. The resulting goal was a mere nothing compared to what might have happened. Even from the stands it was immediately obvious that this was very serious. Listen to the commentary. Listen to anyone who saw the incident and understands football or has even a rudimentary knowledge of falls. But Mr Singh ‘felt they were both okay.’ He, of course, has form for this sort of mistake, as City fans know only too well. I think Steven Schumacher will also remember more of his head injury than TJ can recall.

In the second half at Shrewsbury there was another head injury. From my seat some 80 yards away I was sure the Shrewsbury defender was the victim of a foul by Omar Daley, an arm or a hand to his face, as Omar took the ball away from him. Where the ref was looking is another little mystery. The defender went down, play carried on and, so alarmed was she by what she saw of her player and what she knew of the referee’s earlier failure, the Shrewsbury physio ran on to the pitch while play continued for quite some time. OK, she broke the rules and the ever efficient Mr Singh told her off. But she acted on a genuine human concern for a man obviously suffering from a head/facial injury. She was up to her job.

Later in the game two Shrewsbury players collided, both going to the ground, although not in the same bone-crunching fashion as Lee and Moncur. Mr Singh had finally learned his lesson and stopped the game. Neither was, as it happened, all that badly injured and both carried on after the briefest treatment and the mandatory leaving of the field for five seconds.

Now what concerns me about these two referees and those others like them is not that they make mistakes; not that they make important and possibly dangerous mistakes; not even that they make lots of mistakes; but that they do not understand what football and footballers are all about. In that sense they are plainly not up to the job. They have other and wrong priorities. They want to demonstrate their knowledge of the rules, rather than their ability to evaluate. They feel the need to satisfy the assessor or, in the Premier League, the TV cameras.

In the old job I always had to give a public explanation for each decision, which could be used on any appeal. There was always someone who didn’t agree with the decision, but at least we all knew how it been reached. Referees explain very little and most of their decisions are immune from appeal.

But if referees don’t understand what they’re doing and why some of them are doing it so wrongly, not just making human errors, then the respect will soon be lost, never to be regained. Long before Saturday I’d lost respect for Mr Singh, not just because of the Schumacher injury, but because he failed to send off Darren Holloway at Yeovil for a waist-high scythe. I would have been furious if he’d been an opponent. The yellow card, while a relief from the team’s point of view, finally convinced me that Mr Singh doesn’t understand football.

How many more referees come into the same category? And does the FA really expect fans, players and coaches to forget what they see and dutifully respect them? If that is the FA’s expectation, they too do not understand those of us who care about this game and its future.

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.

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.

For Those Who Care To Know

And for a while everything seemed to be going to plan. Spencer Weir-Daley was putting the Leyton Orient defence under huge pressure, Omar Daley looked likely to waltz to glory should his running with the ball continue and the 10,000 strong support were going to be entertained and take City on to safety and victory.

It was all going to work. It was all going to plan. Bradford City could have had three or four in the first half when Weir-Daley made the home back four – defending high up the field – look flat footed. Just before half time he sprang forward with only the goalkeeper to beat with a chip and agonisingly the ball bounced wide.

Before Omar Daley had surged forward and – after beating enough men to justify not passing – hit a shot saved by Glyn Garner in the visitor’s goal. Garner had stopped Billy Paynter from giving the Bantams a lead earlier on and tonight is the man who won the game for the Londoners.

At half time – or so it seems – Leyton Orient won the game. The Bantams left the field having controlled the game but emerged to a visitors side with more of an eye on nullifying City and whatever it was that Martin Ling said to his charges it worked. Ling’s team got the ball and kept it away from the Bantams pressing down the right flank and troubling Ben Parker or the left where Daley could scarcely be troubled chasing the ball and slowly the game slipped from the Bantams.

And surely the game turned away from The Bantams and fittingly for the season it was more Refereeing nonsense that marked the moment. Ling must have fared the worst when Luke Guttridge – booked for a challenge on Steven Schumacher that was so later it was practically from next season – body checked Kelly Youga as the left back went past him. The Referee ignored Guttridge’s second yellow card offence, Youga went off on a stretcher probably never to return and a minute later Orient’s Gary Alexander had scored.

At this point it is worth thinking of how Joe Colbeck – not the most talented player but no shirkers for sure and someone who would cover every blade of grass for the Bantams every day of the week if asked – watched from the sidelines as Omar Daley ignored a ball running out. Colbeck might have been thinking about how he would – and he would – have surged the ball and he might not have thought he could have done much with it but as Daley’s indolence was punished with the ball in City’s net seconds later he must have wondered and grumbling about Daley’s play was verbalised he must have wondered what City fans want? Colbeck gives his all – gets booed. Daley gives very little effort but has skill and pace if he uses them and increasingly gets the same treatment.

Such thoughts was vanquished by a second Leyton Orient goal leaving City looking at two wins and crossed fingers to stay in League One. Even if we do then things need to change – many things – not least of which is the reliance on loan players and players with short term deals at the club.

Ben Parker, Spencer Weir-Daley, Billy Paynter, Kelly Young, Nathan Doyle, Carlos Logan, Moses Ashikodi, Lee Holmes, Bruce Dyer and many more have pulled on the City shirt as loan players and have put in some great, some not so great, performances but a team can not be built around players who have no future with the club. We cannot continue to ask for huge effort for our cause from players who will be at Charlton, at Watford, at Leeds next season. We have to put the future of this club in the hands of player who will be hear in the future of this club. We need to stop letting the tempo of the club be set by players who almost by definition have less passion for Bradford City than those they displace. Nathan Doyle did a great job, Richard Edghill has years of experience in the game as he sits with two haves left on his contract but the energy and effervescence of John Swift should have been rewarded with a place in the team a long time ago. That is a tone to set for this club. That and not the idea that your place will be taken by anyone who comes from a Premiership or Championship reserve side.

Leyton Orient enjoyed a two goal but the Bantams had twenty minutes plus six of injury time to strike back. A look around the field at bowed heads and shoulders slumped and eyes could find no one to drive the Bantams on. There is no Stuart McCall. There needs to be a Stuart McCall if one cares about the club because League Two is by no means as low as a club can go.

Steven Schumacher, Mark Bower, Donovan Ricketts, David Wetherall. The list of players on the field who one could build a team around was woefully short. We need senior players who can and will take responsibility for the team, the game and the ball when on the field and for sure those players can be augmented with a loan signing or two but those players pick up a tempo from the senior members of the squad. One cannot help but think that this season the converse has been true.

All of which is discussion for another time. This game was a must win – a must win – and we did not and we all know what means.

Given The Choice Of Two Evils

Football at this level needs to do something about the quality of Referees right now or it faces a nothing of a future.

Yes I am furious about the red card for Steven Schumacher which stopped a rampant Bradford City getting a much needed three points from Blackpool who had taken the lead but struggled to keep it following Omar Daley’s superb equalising strike after an hour. I’m furious cause I did not think that Schumacher even committed a foul let alone one worth being booked and I’m furious because Blackpool made the man advantage count to inflict what could be a fatal blow on City’s hopes of staying up.

Yes I’m furious about the fact that Referee let the visitors pass the ball around Donovan Ricketts for a third goal as if the injury time, last ditch goalkeeper out situation meant that the basic rules of the game did not count.

I’m furious about the fact that after a quarter of a century watching football I can still come away from grounds totally clueless as to why things have happened one way and not the other and have no one attempt to clarify things for me. Is it really that hard to have a way of communicating between Referee and supporters? I’m furious about all these things.

However I am more furious about this feeling I have in my stomach that will not accept that today we saw another dodgy Referee.

That is what we are told to accept. That the man in the middle makes a bad call this week against us and one next week for us and while only a fool would suggest that is an acceptable system it is something of a status quo in the game.

I’m no longer able to accept that idea. I’m looking for another explanation and I’m looking in places that I used to think were for raving mad men only.

Biased referees are a part of football at the moment. Referees who have been paid off to make sure one team gets a result are a part of football at the moment and if I’m asked to make a choice between the idea that today’s official Mr Bratt was making his decisions after being paid off or was just so utterly incompetent that he would send of Schumacher, would allow Blackpool’s Robbie Williams to stay on the field following his last warning as he committed offence after offence, would wave such a very off side goal into the net then I’m stuck between two options neither of which are welcome.

I would prefer that Mr Bratt had taken a pile of cash to get the result rather than thinking that he represents the standard of refereeing. One side of that question can be addressed after all. If Bratt really is the standard of refereeing then the game is not worth watching.

Certainly that is what I concluded at the end of the game as for the first time in my life I left a game early. That was not football it was pantomime. I doubt the best villains worry about being booed and I’m sure they are rewarded handsomely.

Half of Serie A – including the third biggest club in the world Juventus – are under punishment for match fixing and as I type the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal are still sitting round the G18 table with proven cheats. I do not believe it is naive to suggest that if cheating can exist at the very top level then it is possible in the money hungry, paid less world of League One.

Which is not to take anything away from Blackpool who played a good game – but so did the Old Lady of Turin over the last two seasons when they won the league only to have it stripped away. The Juve players and fans were distraught with what they assumed to be steamroller football being found to be Referees moving the obstacles out of the way.

Blackpool played well but they did not deserve the three points that they were gifted when Schumacher was sent off. Take your pick between paid off bias or game perverting incompetence but be sure of this – whichever it is it is killing football at this level and was the only thing that cost City three vital points today.

Recent Posts