Waring / Trophy

Bradford City will play Stoke City Under 23 team in the first round of the Football League Trophy along with Morecambe and Bury.

There is endless controversy about this move by the Football League to include Premier League reserve teams. The idea of watching Johnville Renee-Pringle, Joel Taylor, George Waring in a competitive FLT game is an anathema to what football should be.

Johnville Renee-Pringle has a superb name. George Waring has a decent record scoring six goals in fifteen games in a loan spell at Barnsley in 2014/15. Barnsley played Oxford United in the final of the Football League Trophy last season and won. Oxford lost the game 3-2 and George Waring – on loan from Stoke City once more – played in that game.

And so we have a situation in which George Waring plays for Barnsley and that is fine, and George Waring plays for Oxford United and that is fine, but when George Waring plays for Stoke City u23 then it is not fine. Not fine at all.

Swing

Let us dispense with Football League Trophy in one swing. Football teams represent communities of supporters and – statistically – there is serious reason to doubt that anything under the first team level is viewed as representative of that community.

People do not go to reserve games on the whole, they do not go to u21 games, they do not on the whole take a lot of interest in top level women’s football associated with their clubs. The tradition of British football is that a football club is seen as the first team and nothing else.

And so (unless there is a sudden groundswell of unprecedented interest) Stoke City u23 are not Stoke City – not really – and one does not expect Stoke City fans to come watch them. The game does not represent the community and game that do not represent communities are in decursu argumenti not football we need concern ourselves with.

It is a training match, or something similar, but what it is not is one community meeting another community for a game. This might be a romanticised view of the game (I’d argue that football without romance is just athletic movements) but important to football is the idea of meritocracy. In any game one team can beat the other. This might seem fanciful but I was at Chelsea and Aston Villa and I speak from experience. The irrelevance that the Football League Trophy has brought us is that the if Bradford City beat Stoke City u23 they will not have beaten Stoke City, and so the result will hardly matter.

But still we have the question of George Waring.

If we say that we are not interested in watching Waring play for Stoke City u23 and are against their inclusion in the Football League Trophy why are we for watching him play in the Football League Trophy for Oxford United? Or Barnsley? If it is not worth watching a Stoke City reserve like George Waring play for Stoke why is it worth watching him play on loan?

Year

Last season’s player of the year will not be at Bradford City this season. Reece Burke joins Josh Cullen and Lee Evans in returning to parent clubs. This is the case almost every year at every club in the lower two divisions.

Go to any League One game and it is not uncommon to see a half a dozen young players from Premier League academies on loan in League One matches. Players like George Waring who come from Stoke City u23. We do not want to watch them play for Stoke City u23, why do we want to watch the play for (or against) Bradford City?

Why is it good to watch Reece Burke but bad to watch George Waring?

If we worry that playing Stoke City u23 is not the same as playing Stoke City then what is playing a Bradford City team with two West Ham United u23 players in it? Football League rules limit the number of loans from a single club to four, and the total loans in one match day squad to five.

If Bradford City were to be offered a deal that gave them Reece Burke and Josh Cullen back for the 2016/2017 season but – as a part of the deal – West Ham’s Martin Samuelsen and Lewis Page must also feature for the Bantams then City would be able to field them all. There are a good few supporters who would see that as a very good deal. It might be a very good deal but if the Football League Trophy is Stoke City u23 and not Stoke City then how would Bradford City with four West Ham United players not be not Bradford City? Would it be any different with six players? Or ten? Or two?

Wider

There is a wider worry vocalised by Against League 3 that there is a covert agenda in place to bring Premier League B-Teams to the Football League in the same way that Real Madrid Castilla or FC Bayern Munich II.

The suggestion is that including Premier League u23 teams in the Football League Trophy is the first step towards such teams being allowed in the Football League. I would suggest that the first step has happened and that it has happened slowly to a point where as supporters we have got used to – even celebrate – our clubs being used as training grounds for a selected few from the Premier League Academies.

If we are against the Football League Trophy for including Premier League u23 teams are we not also forced to at least question if we should be against the same players being dropped into Football League clubs?


Note, I was not happy with the first version of this article so I made a few changes.

The strange decline of Andrew Davies

Ross County? Really?

That Andrew Davies has left Bradford City an unpleasant reality. That he has seemingly taken a move downwards to join Ross County lends the whole situation a baffling air.

On Davies I shall say this. He was my player of the season last term and I believe that when he is not in the City team that difference manifests itself in the number of goals conceded. Put any other defender in in Davies’ place and City concede about one more goal a game.

(I’m tempted to add “Put Christopher Routis in and it is two” but it seems both uncharitable and troublingly prescient)

That Davies often does miss games is the unfortunate part of this equation and it is said that City offered Davies a deal tied to how many matches he played in. It is my belief that in the balance of games he played he was worth employing for those he missed.

Seemingly Phil Parkinson disagrees and so Davies has accepted another offer which over two years will – one assumes – pay him more than City were offering.

But Ross County? Really?

No disrespect

I’m not going to claim that Scots football is a lowly enterprise or that the quality of the football played in it equates directly to a division of the English game. Ross County are a top division side, albeit one who finished in ninth position last season.

And with Davies aged 31 and no stranger to the treatment room one can see how his value in the marketplace is not as strong as it could be but he is the man who stopped Drogba, and to exit English football so soon to join a team that with the best will in the World are playing for Second (and probably not likely to get it) in Scotland borders on early retirement.

There will be games at Celtic Park for sure and who knows if The Staggies can make Europe there may be some interesting trips on the road but all those things would surely have still been open to a 32 year old Davies had he taken another year at Valley Parade.

Of to a 34, or 34, year old Davies had he been able to use his exposure this season to promote himself to another club in English football. I would have written here that a Championship side would have found him a useful recruit but I remember watching Sunderland and suggest that if he were prepared to be a bit part player he could have aimed higher.

Really, no disrespect

Which is not to say that had Andrew Davies remained in England with Bradford City or anyone else he could have guaranteed himself another Chelsea away, or a trip to Wembley, but in heading North so early he seems to have excluded himself from having those opportunities in favour of the not especially attractive proposition of middle league Scottish football.

Which is really not to be rude to Ross County or to Scottish football but one cannot help but have the feeling that whatever there is for Andrew Davies there would have waited a year or two more for him.

On the bright side his arrival will make Ross County more likely to be more top half than bottom half next season, more likely to get a “famous win” at Celtic Park, more likely to take a Cup perhaps.

The only that that exceeds my puzzlement at Andrew Davies’ move North is my desire to wish him all the best at his new club.

He deserves it.

The strange decline of Andrew Davies

He started at Middlesbrough in the UEFA Cup and moved onto Southampton who were a league below and then Stoke where it did not work out and he went to a series of increasingly lowly loan deals before settling at League Two Bradford City who he played for before joining Ross County.

Reading Davies’ career written out sounds like a managed decline rather than the endeavours of one of the biggest hearted, most characterful, and best defenders I’ve ever seen play the game with my own two eyes.

Chelsea away might be a part of history, and Davies’ part in that history and the rise of Bradford City, might be recorded but to a stranger who did not see those days Davies career is not what it should be.

We were there, it was glorious, but as he starts life at a new club it seems that rather than reading like the annals of a defensive hero that it was Andrew Davies’ career has the sound of a strange decline.

Davies join City on loan

26 year old Stoke City defender Andrew Davies has joined Bradford City on loan for three months as the club look to address the defensive problems which have seen goals shipped.

Davies, one time of Middlesborough and Southampton, is six foot three and has experience at England u21 level. His first team chance have been limited at Stoke but as a senior professional his dropping down some four divisions to join City represents something of a coup for the club.

His arrival is expected to bring about a resuffle in the Bantam’s backline with one of skipper Guy Branston or Luke Oliver stepping down for the AFC Wimbledon game and the other perhaps following when Steve Williams regains match fitness having returned to training yesterday.

Davies is expected to make his debut tomorrow.

Jewell looks to Stoke for rebuffing

Paul Jewell and Tony Pulis go way back – or so we are told – and they seem set to renew that association as it seems that the former City boss is set to join Stoke City as the new assistant boss.

Stoke – who retained Premiership status when bigger clubs did not – seem to have looked into Premiership history and identified what is known as “second season syndrome” as the main threat next term.

They turn to Jewell – who kept Wigan Athletic in the Premiership and exited Bradford City before our second season and subsequent plummet – to help avoid that fate. Perhaps his advice based on watching the arrival of Benito Carbone or the exit of Pascal Chimbonda would govern the Britannia Stadium bid for Michael Owen.

Jewell – without a doubt – has the experience to help out a Premiership club and while Pulis gets all the credit going for last season at Stoke on performance alone Jewell should never be in a situation where he is the deputy to anyone in football.

Ten years ago aged 34 and having kept Bradford City in the Premiership Jewell seemed to have an open door to many a job. He picked Sheffield Wednesday which has been the ruination of more managers than one cares to think of but restored his career to health at Wigan Athletic.

Wigan stayed up, Jewell exited Wigan, rumours started, newspapers published videos, Jewell went to Derby and found nothing much of worth before leaving once the titters overwhelmed the appreciation.

Once the shining light of young managers Jewell is damaged goods. Football wants managers who looks dashing in Wool Armani Coats or can talk up a storm but Jewell seems to have lost that edge giving rise to the new old joke “What do you call a football manager you cannot put in front of the camera? Assistant.”

Yet Jewell was the man who said we were all over Chelsea for 59 seconds and when Mr Wool Armani told him after the opening day of the season that he hoped Wigan stayed in the Premiership replied with a firm, warm handshake “I hope Chelsea do too.”

Jewell needs the time out of the limelight to refocus the minds of many on what he can do in football and Stoke offer the perfect opportunity for that. As a manager the former City boss outstrips Pulis and some and no way should he have to call anyone “Boss” but such is the state that his career is in that it has come to this.

Nevertheless no matter who comes in or leaves Stoke this summer they will not make a more significant signing towards retaining Premiership status than Paul Jewell.

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