Carlisle United defeat leaves City thinking about the punitive sacking

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Jon McLaughlin | Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies, Matthew Bates | Gary Thompson, Gary Jones, Matthew Dolan, Adam Reach | Aaron McLean, James Hanson | Nathan Doyle, Kyle Bennett, Andy Gray

Let us, dear reader, forgo discussions of the 1-0 defeat to Carlisle United and move without flinching to the mainstay of this discussion. Should Phil Parkinson remain Bradford City manager?

I shall ruin the surprise. I think he should

I think he should but I think that a club and community that sacks Stuart McCall can sack anyone – Wembley or no Wembley – and unless there is a change in the boardroom that is the reality in which we live.

My contention on Parkinson is that he has the abilities that Bradford City need in a manager and that if he were not the current manager, and he were available, he would be the top of our list for the job.

We save ourselves the effort and the expense if we just ride out this bad run.

That idea is not one that has traction in the modern culture of football management which revolves around the punitive sacking and let us not make any mistake removing Phil Parkinson would be a punitive sacking.

You can hear it in how people talk about the idea. “One win in twenty one” they say (it is beginning to be a credible sample size) and then mumble about deserving better. The second half troubles me in this. Poor results, even poor performances, are not personal slights and trust no one who treats them as such.

Nevertheless the punishment for such a return is to be sacked. Why is that the so? Because received wisdom tells us it is so.

When I was younger (I was born in 1973) the idea of a rapid manager turnaround was a joke that was becoming a reality at the poorer run clubs. Now it is a truism that almost every manager is considered to be a dozen games away from being fired.

Arsene Wenger loses at City and there are calls for him to be sacked. He loses 5-1 at Liverpool and there are calls for him to be sacked. Someone notices that Arsenal have not won a trophy for a good few years and there are calls for him to be sacked. Spurs have sacked manager after manager as Arsenal stuck with Wenger and have never passed them. They simply burn resources in the changes.

What was a joke is the conversation that has seeped beyond the more tedious parts of Talk Sport into football culture like a drop of ink into water. It is everywhere now. As much in boardrooms as it is on Twitter. We even have a song about it.

If a manager suffers bad results he’ll be sacked in the morning.

Statistics say that bad form rights itself with or without punitive sackings but that hardly seems to be the point. Boardrooms can do very little in terms of direct action to be able to suggest they have a manifest control over the destinies of their teams.

Sacking a manager looks like action but seldom does it come with any change of policy and so aside from the cosmetics of looking like a boardroom is taking action the result of a punitive sacking is almost always negative.

Using Bradford City as an example we call recall Trevor Cherry was sacked as a punishment for bad form and replaced by Terry Dolan who seemed to do a better job taking the team to the edge of the top flight but he in turn was sacked for the same kind of poor run and the Bantams did not get lucky again and Terry Yorath did worse.

If Hutchings, Wetherall, and Jackson do not tell you what the impact of the punitive (rather than planned, from a policy change such as Geoffrey Richmond’s arrival) sacking is then an article by this writer never will.

But this writer would not make that case. Not only is it a pointless argument to have – the boardroom at Bradford City acts as it will – but it’s also not the reason to keep Parkinson.

We should keep Phil Parkinson as Bradford City manager because he is a hard working manager who knows how to bring success. It is not the only way to bring success but it is a proven way. He brings success by instilling a work ethic and having a set pattern of play which is rugged and practical.

I’ve seen more attractive teams playing football although rarely ones with more character, but the fact that those things are the right things to have do not change with a run of bad results or even with relegation.

If you think the answer is to install a manager who promises to play a 352 and drag in some playmaker to Platini around the pitch then you must have been sleeping all last season, or faced in a direction away from the ball.

If you think the answer is just to change to anyone else then go lay down until your sense returns. If you think you “deserve better” then I don’t know what to say to you other than that you have an inflated sense of entitlement.

If you did pay attention last season (and in the other good seasons the club has had, and not just the ones which brought promotions) then you’ll notice that there is only hard work and effort. If you have a manager who prizes those things above all else then why change other than because you want to mete out punishment?

Peter Jackson appointed interim manager

Bradford City have named former captain Peter Jackson as the club’s manager until the end of next week replacing Peter Taylor.

Jackson joins City on a week to week basis as caretakers pending the appointment of a manager as assistant manager Wayne Jacobs and first-team coach Junior Lewis “have been placed on gardening leave.” The club with no money having suddenly discovered enough cash to two people to stay at home. David Wetherall takes Jacobs’ place as assistant.

Jackson came through the ranks at Valley Parade in the early 1980s before leaving for Newcastle United only to return to his home town club for two years until 1990 when he was freed and joined Huddersfield Town, then manager John Docherty dismissing Jackson as “too handsome for a central defender.”

Jackson went on to play for Chester City and Halifax Town before going into management with Huddersfield Town when – in partnership with Terry Yorath – after steering the club away from relegation worries in his first season he took the Town to the brink of the Premier League.

“Brink of” meaning “not into”.

Jackson was somewhat unfairly dismissed as Huddersfield manager when new owner Barry Rubery opted to appoint Steve Bruce over him. He returned to Huddersfield Town in 2003 taking them out of the fourth tier following administration but. In the period between his spells at Huddersfield Jackson accepted Geoffrey Richmond’s offer to manage Bradford City on Christmas day 2000 only to give back word on Boxing Day.

Jackson left Town in March 2007 after failing to make the League One play-offs but returned to football at Lincoln City in the October. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in February 2008 and took time off, returning in January 2009 only to be fired in September 2009.

Jackson returns to City – where he made 330 appearance and led the team to the 1985 Third Division Championship – on a short term basis as the club look for a new manager.

A Very Bradford Revolt, or searching for the soul of Bradford City

It was a very Bradford revolt. John Docherty had arrived at Valley Parade with an impressive CV. He had taken the deeply unfashionable Millwall to the Premier League and was presented as a pragmatic results man. Apparently, just what Bradford City needed after the flamboyant style of the linkable Terry Yorath. Under the Welshman City were said to be easy on the eye, but were a soft touch, they played too much football. We needed results and Docherty was to be the man to get them.

The City fans, used to flowing football under the likes of McFarland, Cherry, Dolan and Yorath, were deeply unimpressed by Docherty’s long ball tactics. However, at first they were prepared to wait and see. There were many debates about style over substance. Some fans said they would take success at whatever the cost. However, results remained inconsistent and incomprehensible substitutions saw the mood of the fans darken.

Eventually the frustration burst into open revolt. During one match the Main Stand, yes the Main Stand, began a chant of ‘we want football’. The team was even once booed onto the field as the relationship between the fans and manager completely collapsed.

The end of Dark Days

I can still remember exactly where I was when I read the Docherty had left Valley Parade. I was elated. What became known as ‘the dark days of Docherty’ arguably changed the culture of the football club.

The chairman and directors fully understood that the supporters wanted a certain style of football. Yes, we wanted to win, but we wanted to be entertained. We were not willing to accept the joyless win at all costs style of football City employed under Docherty. Perhaps it was a different Bradford City back then? The fire had changed attitudes. The spirit shown in the aftermath of the fire, allied to the sense of ownership we had in the club, made the club feel very different to many of the other clubs in the Football League.

From the financial collapse of 1983 to the fire of 1985 and the agonising near miss of promotion to the top flight in 1988 there was a family feel to Bradford City. The bond between the club, players and fans was a close one. We had shared a lot together. However, although Docherty’s rein probably brought that era to an end, the revolt of the fans ensured that City would play in a certain style for the decade that followed.

The echo and the principles

The echo of those days are still with us. A significant number of City fans are uncomfortable with Peter Taylor’s approach to the game. We have been willing to go along with it so long as it brought success – and how desperate we are for any modicum of success following ten years when we have plummeted from one end of the Football League to the other. However, is there a growing realisation that there is more to this beguiling game than attempting to stumble to single goal victories? Yes, Bradford City has hit rock bottom but that does not mean that we should abandon the principles of the football club.

We should debate once again what we want our football club to be. We should debate a set of principles the club should operate to. Those principles should include: style of football; whether to support an active policy of promoting young players; whether to continue to support the policy of cheap season tickets; the policy of keeping the club on an even financial keel regardless of its impact on results.

I’m sure there are many other principles supporters will want to debate. However, as another season threatens to drift into nothingness it is a debate we must have. We are the soul of Bradford City Football Club. If we lose faith and drift away the club will be worthless.

Let the debate begin.

Do City really get victimised by the officials?

Perhaps we had hoped that with the exit of Stuart McCall City might get a change in fortunes from Referees but the Gareth Evans shirt tug penalty decision – or lack of one – at Hereford and some strangely one sided bookings in the game with Notts County put pay to those thoughts and we were left talking about the quality of officials once more and returned to the old chestnut of the game: Did the ref make a mistake or is something more sinister going on?

Meanwhile at the top level of club football John Terry stopped only an inch short of saying that European Referees conspired against the Chelsea team he captains after another European exit.

And so The Barry Articles continue with the question:

“Do City – or does any club – really get victimised, picked on or given the rough end of the stick by the officials?”

Alan Carling Chair of the Bradford City Supporters Trust

I do not know whether City or any other club has suffered more than its fair share of appalling decisions by match officials, but I can imagine how to find out. Most of the worst errors can now be spotted by TV replays, so we should be able to work out whether these mistakes average out over the season or not. This will identify biased officials, if there are any. And this also means that we should be able to work out what the league table should look like without the mistakes.

FIFA says that it does not want football matches at different levels to be subject to different types of refereeing, so football has lagged behind other sports in the use of instant replays, even though the stakes are much higher. I cannot see the argument for this. It is no use saying that refereeing mistakes are just part of the game that we have to accept. They are not part of the game, but they are part of the bad refereeing of the game. We should use all the technology we can to rule out these bad decisions. Then we can talk about the game, not the referees.

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

When Morecambe visit Valley Parade later this season, I for one will be booing Shrimpers goalkeeper Barry Roche.

It was last September, when City played out a goalless draw at Christie Park, where Roche feigned injury after a fair challenge for the ball from Gareth Evans – resulting in referee Stuart Attwell ridiculously issuing a red card for the Bantams’ number nine. Then-manager Stuart McCall complained angrily after the game, but City decided not to appeal the decision.

It seemed a mistake not to at the time and, in the subsequent weeks where a high number of poor refereeing decisions went against City, it suggested a pre-judgement was formed by officials which has victimised the club. It’s unlikely any ref would enjoy hearing of another receiving criticism from a manager; and, though City didn’t appeal against Attwell’s decision because of having no faith in the review system, to others it might looked as though McCall was slamming an official to cover his own team’s failures, as he hadn’t backed up his words with actions.

Certainly the manner in which referees then officiated Bantams’ games gave credence to pre-conceptions been formed well before kick off. The wrongly-awarded free kick that allowed Northampton to snatch a point three days after, the Crewe handball in the area where a free kick outside the box was awarded, Lee Bullock’s sending off against Hereford, a disallowed late goal against Accrington, Lee Probert’s entire performance against Rotherham. And that was all before three controversial sendings off in three games over Christmas and Bury’s Stephen Dawson diving for a penalty in the New Year. City have only been awarded two spot kicks all season.

And with each bad decision, further complaining from McCall may have only increased the next referee’s resolve. Perhaps McCall contributed to this by complaining so often; but as his job became increasing under pressure and poor refereeing decisions added to it, he surely had the right to defend his team.

Whatever, it’s surely more than a coincidence that loudly complaining about a referee was followed by even more poor decisions in the next game. But for Roche getting away with that play-acting, the officiating all season could have been very different. Please join me in welcoming him warmly on Tuesday 13 April.

Derm Tanner BBC Radio Leeds Commentator/Presenter

I would hate to think that officials had it in for Bradford City and to be honest I don’t believe that to be the case. Even if a certain referee took it upon himself to be harsher against City than another club, he could not hope to escape the ‘all seeing’ assessor in the stand.

Referees are closely watched and every decision is graded. Following the match there is a conversation between assessor and referee and afterwards a report is filed. You would like to think that any trends would be spotted.

That said, Terry Yorath told me a story some time ago about refereeing when City were in the Premiership. Yorath and complained to this individual official (he didn’t tell me his name) about his performance the last time he had visited VP. During the game Bradford did seem to get the majority of the decisions, some a little questionable, so Terry told me. After the match the referee went up to Terry and said to him….”Was that better?”

I was horrified at that story and hoped that it had been tweaked over the months of telling, but if true then what are we to make of it all?

There’s no doubt some referees like to be the centre of attention and arrogance is perhaps necessary when dealing with 22 pumped up footballers and 2 managers week in week out. But systematic bias against certain clubs? I really hope not.

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