Wayne Jacobs and David Wetherall will return to Valley Parade on Thursday 22nd September at 20:00 as the Friends of Bradford City host a forum with the former players and coaches of the club.
Both Wetherall and Jacobs put in sterling service for Bradford City with the pair of them clocking up around thirty years combined service. For Jacobs the service was on the way up the leagues starting as a free transfer from Rotherham United recovering from a season long injury and going on to be a Premier League player. For Wetherall – who scored the famous headed goal which kept City in the top flight – the only way was down and as City slipped down the leagues the former captain’s contribution was to slow that decline.
Jacobs put in 318 games for City, Wetherall 304 which dwarfs anyone in the current set up and leads one to wonder who – in ten years time – will be being invited back for functions such as this? Who are are heroes of the future when the current player with most appearances for the club – Luke O’Brien – is persona non grata at Valley Parade. Injury to Robbie Threlfall (21 apps) may see O’Brien add to his 122 appearances for City this weekend.
O’Brien and Lee Bullock (120 apps) are the only players at the club in triple figures – a long way behind Ces Podd‘s 502 – but neither seem to be set to add many to that list. Bullock was unwanted by Mark Lawn but kept by Peter Jackson while O’Brien is frozen out of the first team for reasons unknown, or at least unsaid.
Not that O’Brien has ever enjoyed great popularity at Valley Parade. As a player he is better regarded on the bench than he is on the pitch. On the bench he is the world beating Roberto Carlos ready to turn things around but, when on the field, one might wonder if one were hearing the same crowd describe the player where his efforts are met with grumbles and only quiet support.
Often the same can be said for third on the list James Hanson (79 appearances, 21 goals) who proves that he can score when given service but is subject to a level of criticism which would suggest he had picked selected members of the support and punched their dogs.
Hanson’s return is under a goal every 3.76 games – around the same strike rate as Robbie Blake (153, 40) – which puts him above a good few well respected Bantams of the past. Joe Cooke (3.99) played 271 time and scored 68 although he played central defence at times. Ask men of a certain age about Don Hutchins and they go weak at the knee and his return of a goal every 5.5 games (286 appearances, 52 goals) was a good return and secondary to his overall contribution. The lauded Paul Jewell (269 appearances, 56 goals) banged in one every 4.8 games although most of them were before Christmas.
To paraphrase the problem is not in the stars but with ourselves. A mentality has grasped most of football – having taken hold a good many years ago – which suggests that supporters are blissfully happy to be unaware of what they have until it is gone. Sean McCarthy banged in a goal every two games for City – more or less – but was nicknamed “Scud” as a reference to his perceived inaccuracy.
McCarthy won the hearts of City fans when he exited Valley Parade for Oldham on deadline day and turned up wearing a ludicrously high squad number on Match of the Day a few days later playing at Old Trafford. Players who leave the club are well regarded. Wetherall and Jacobs’ defensive team mate Andrew O’Brien was – according to one voice in earshot – “On his way to Halifax Town, if they will have him” following City’s promotion. Two years later and he was “being sold too cheap.”
An exit infers a kind of status on a player, a respect because someone else has recognised the ability, and without that status our own players are generally disregarded. No player racks up hundreds of appearances because they either are snapped up by someone higher or they are slapped down and leave of their own volition.
A Catch 22 situation then. If a player never leave it is – in the eyes of some – because he is not good enough for anyone including City so should not be suffered to be in the side. It is no coincidence that the greats of Bradford City history: Stuart McCall, Bobby Campbell, Peter Beagrie; left the club before coming back.
Not Jacobs or Wetherall though. Both stayed with the club as players and became part of the coaching set up at later Valley Parade. Wetherall left for a development job with the Football League while Jacobs was unceremoniously launched from the club after Peter Taylor’s sacking. There was a verbalised question mark over Jacobs coaching ability and the former number two probably has too much class to point at the current state at the club – the so called “worst team in Bradford City history” – and ask how his departure improved things at Valley Parade.
One wonders if Wetherall and Jacobs are a rare thing. Only fourteen players who topped three hundred games for City and to add to that list Luke O’Brien would have to play pretty much every game for the next four season for a club where he is the only player who has been here for more than four seasons.
Rare things, and worth see. The forum is free to Friends of Bradford City members or a single shiny pound for non-members.
Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes will be used to looking for a new manager and – after three appointments two of which lasted less than a year and a bit – they show no signs of having a grasp of the right criteria to make those appointments.
When Stuart McCall “resigned” from the club the question we asked was what the plan was for the recruitment of his replacement was. A lot of these questions have been answered with the move to new facilities at Woodhouse Grove and the appointment of Archie Christie as Chief Scout and Director of Football Development.
There is a plan at the club which Christie was brought in to implement to develop players for the first team – and to provide more players for the manager with a more extensive scouting network – which aims to take some of the onus of recruitment from the manager and have a retention of knowledge beyond the man in the dug out. Unlike the situation where Peter Taylor left and his backroom staff were sent away with him Jackson having left yesterday the players have familiar faces around them.
It is this type of system which saw an end to Kevin Keegan’s second spell at Newcastle United and – in a way – Alan Curbishley at West Ham but is increasingly common in football. Indeed on Jackson’s last day at Valley Parade Michael Flynn told Radio Leeds that Colin Cooper took the players through their paces while the manager spent the morning on the phone to football managers trying to find a striker on loan. The team and manager lunched and went over the plan for the Barnet game, then resigned.
(It should be noted, and as an aside, that Keegan’s contracted stated that he would have the final say over players brought into the club and when the club’s Director of Football Recruitment Dennis Wise signed Xisco – the issue which Keegan resigned over – Newcastle United were in breach of that contract and while Keegan resigned he later successfully sued the club for constructive dismissal. One wonders what the detail of Jackson’s contract was.)
The manager’s remit is the first team and the requirement is not for an holistic club builder but rather for a game winner, and someone who with coaching and deployment can edge a performance an inch or two better. There is a list of managers who were considered to replace Stuart McCall (now Motherwell): Peter Taylor (now Bahrain), Steve Cotterill (now Portsmouth), Russell Slade (now Leyton Orient), Peter Jackson, Lawrie Sanchez (now Barnet), Jim Magilton (now caretaker assistant manager Shamrock Rovers), Dean Windass (working for BSKYB), John Coleman (still Accrington), Iain Dowie (no club), Martin Allen (now Notts County) and Wayne Jacobs. Six months ago John Hughes (no club) declared an interest in joining City and John Still (still Dagenham) interviewed for the position.
How many of these fulfil the remit which Jackson was being asked to work within? Certainly John Still – the victorious Dagenham manager of last week – would do having worked with Christie before but one has to wonder how much of an appreciation of what skills the next manager needs to have, and how those skills are distinct from those which were required when looking for McCall or Taylor.
Having appointed a big personality in Jackson – and perhaps had personality clashes – Lawn and Rhodes may be tempted to opt to bring in a younger manager who is more malleable, less set in his ways of how to run a club, and able to work within the current structure. They would do well to avoid “Yes” men.
The aim of the club is to have an appointment before next week’s trip to Morecambe which suggests that there is someone in mind – probably someone who has talked to the club six or eighteen months ago – but that Lawn and Rhodes do not have the clarity to bring someone in immediately. Were John Still to be the choice then one imagines a call would be made, a resignation drafted, and the new man revealed on Monday. The fact that there is a week until appointment suggests that there are discussions to be had and a choice to be made. There is a suggestion that three interviews will be held this week. One has to wonder what Lawn and Rhodes think they will hear in those interviews which they had not heard in the last two rounds, and how they will be able to sift the answers to get the right man. We are to assume that Jackson and Taylor were both the most impressive people in interview.
The early runners
The link to John Still – who talked about how he would have joined City were it not for the uncertainty over the future of Valley Parade – is a strong one with the Dagenham manager being in the final two of the club’s thoughts when Jackson was appointed. The club would – not doubt – have to pay Dagenham to free Still from his contract.
Impressive in the last round of interviews was former Hibs and Falkirk manager John Hughes who is out of work at the moment and could come in without any compensation payable. Hughes is a strong candidate for the job but one might expect him to be appointed this morning rather than next week if he is the chosen one.
Former players Peter Beagrie and Dean Windass have their name’s mentioned often in connection with the job. Beagrie has shown no interest in moving into management thus far but Windass has made his desire to take over the club known – Terry Dolan as his assistant – and could fit in as the type of rookie manager who may appeal to the board who have had problems dealing with experienced number ones.
Former Barnsley manager and City man of the 1980s John Hendrie is also an option although one might wonder how many conversations Hendrie has had with Stuart McCall about the board at Bradford City and how that would colour his view of the job were it offered.
City have always been fond a bit of fashionability and so perhaps Jim Magilton – who is working as caretaker assistant at Shamrock Rovers who qualified for the Europa League with this superb strike last night may be an outside bet having talked to the club previously.
Other names work mentioning include Colin Cooper the current caretaker manager and former player and Farsley manager Lee Sinnott. Paul Ince has been mentioned – his promotion with MK Dons would impress the board almost as much as his collection of shiny medals but his track record is patchy.
Finally John Coleman has interested City in the past.
While trooping out of Valley Parade following the Bolton friendly defeat yesterday, the loud moanings of one fan could be heard over the sea of relative contentment most people felt towards a very good Bradford City performance. The subject of this person’s ire was Luke O’Brien, and the fact he’d been caught in possession leading to Bolton’s undeserved fourth. And despite a decent performance otherwise, this fan could not stop slating him.
It’s not an unusual occurrence over the 18 months. Despite having his best season in his fledgling career last term, complaints and criticism over the left back’s ability were aired frequently. At some games people seemed determined to pounce on his every perceived mistake while constantly questioning his positioning. When he did things right, many attempted to still find fault. When he actually did make a genuine mistake, the level of abuse was astonishingly high. In some people’s eyes O’Brien is a poor player the club needs to be rid of, despite having made 136 appearances in claret and amber.
But as rumours began to surface last night – confirmed by the T&A this morning – that O’Brien’s position rival Robbie Threlfall has been told he can leave, it appears the former Bantam trainee has won the battle that really counts – convincing the manager he should be first choice left back. Many argue Threlfall is a better player, looking at purely technical ability he probably is; yet the former Liverpool youngster has failed to nudge O’Brien onto the sidelines, and has now been told where the door is.
All of which says a great deal about the mental toughness and desire of Luke. When Threlfall was signed on loan from the Reds one game into Peter Taylor’s ill-fated reign as manager in February 2010, it looked curtains for the previous player of the season who had struggled for form during Stuart McCall’s final weeks in charge. Threlfall netted a superb free kick on his debut at Rochdale, and became a steadfast fixture in the team before his move was made permanent during the summer. O’Brien was initially moved to left wing where he was steady if not spectacular, but by the end of the season he’d lost his place in the team.
Despite Threlfall beginning last year first choice left back, with O’Brien on the bench, he struggled to find his own form and eventually lost his place to Luke. A change of manager to Peter Jackson though, and come the end of the season Threlfall was back in favour and O’Brien on the sidelines. Perhaps now we can suggest this was Jackson using the last few games to put Threfall in the shop window, but from the outside it didn’t looked good for O’Brien – widely considered runner up in the player of the year award to David Syers.
Instead Threlfall is looking for a future elsewhere and O’Brien can look back with pride on the fact a player was signed to replace him and he stood up to the challenge with great character and dignity. And as the complaints from some fans will no doubt continue this season regarding his ability, there are further reasons to bestow a comparison on him with one of the club’s greatest modern day players.
Wayne Jacobs: a great club servant, hugely respected by most fans – constantly vilified by others during his 11 years playing at the club. Jacobs was considered the team’s weak link in Division Two (now League One), but despite many fans attempting to drive him out he kept pace with the club’s meteoric rise to the Premier League. When he made a mistake the reaction from many was over the top and deplorable, but he seemed unfazed and continued coming back.
Then there was all those replacements signed to take his place, who he managed to shake off: Lee Todd, Andy Myers, Ian Nolan and others. Only when he got older did Paul Heckingbottom finally wrestle the shirt from him. To have so many fans barrack you and to have managers try to replace you: that Jacobs stayed so long at City – making the best use of the ability he had – is a commendable lesson for anyone.
Including O’Brien, who from some he attracts similar types of criticism as Jacobs and who has now fully fought off his first major rival. It is sad that it has to be this way but – just like with Jacobs – it should not be overlooked how many supporters do rate him and are willing to fight his corner. Luke does have weaknesses to his game and can occasionally be caught out, like others he will make mistakes over the coming season. But his work rate and positive attitude makes up for other failings, and the defensive ability he does have means he can go further in his career than a League Two full back – with or without City.
Growing up watching City on the Kop, no doubt hearing the abuse directed at Jacobs over the years, Luke couldn’t have had a better role model. Those lessons probably helped him when his future looked uncertain at City more than once; now he has the chance to continue to build on a promising career with even more reason to feel confident.
Jamie Lawrence is approximately 60 metres away from me when he picks up possession inside his own half 67 minutes into an FA Cup tie with Grimsby. 10 seconds later, and I and dozens of people around me are hugging the Jamaican international following a sensational weaving run past numerous blue shirts than ended with the ball passed crisply into the back of the net.
It is a glorious solo goal and – in the days before football was breached by health & safety guidelines and players weren’t sent off for celebrating with fans – Jamie has chosen to run to the part of the Kop where I stand to celebrate with us supporters his special moment.
Lawrence only ever scored 14 times in his 170 appearances for the club, so this strike – which ultimately proves the winner in one of the last genuinely exciting FA Cup matches before the magic of the cup began to wane at all levels – can be viewed as a peak moment in his Bantams career. Certainly Jamie is fondly remembered for the occasional brilliant goal, such as against Norwich that same season, and West Ham and Tottenham in the Premiership a year later, but it wouldn’t be his first quality to come to our minds when we recall the Londoner’s time at Valley Parade.
Jamie was a battler, with a commendable work ethic that stood out even in a team featuring the likes of Stuart McCall and Wayne Jacobs. He would give everything he had to the cause, running up and down the right flank defending as equally effectively as he attacked. Most of us fans lapped it up – a rare real life example of the myth that we’ll always get behind a player who might not be the best, so long as they put 110% effort.
Not everyone agreed though, and in some ways there was almost a snobbish attitude displayed by Lawrence’s dissenters. Jamie was a poor player with limited ability, they argued, but he gets away with not being given a hard time because he hides behind his work rate. In the days when Peter Beagrie struggled to win over the crowd and was at one stage packed off on loan to Everton, some argued Lawrence should be criticised as widely too.
Yet Lawrence’s work rate and application levels stood out to me as inspiration rather than a disguise. Sure he wasn’t the greatest player in the world, but without working so hard on his game and displaying such passion, those skilful qualities he did possess would never have been seen either. Lawrence grafted to win our trust and respect, and once we supporters, team mates and management built up our faith in him we were rewarded by ever-improving levels of performances. While other members of the 1997-98 mid-table first division squad were left behind by the bar been risen the following season, Lawrence kept pace and became a key figure in the club’s promotion to the Premier League and successful survival in the top flight the year after.
The lessons we can take remain as relevant today as they were then. Without working hard, mastering the basics and showing the right attitude – none of us would progress so well in our own careers and even in life. I’ve personally learned from Jamie that demonstrating an aptitude for hard work can get you a long way in winning over people; and the greater responsibility and promotions you crave – offering you the chance to really show your worth – are the rewards. In contrast I’ve seen other friends go into a job believing they are above it and then failing to put in the effort or focus on improving, leading them to fall at the first hurdle.
Not all footballers can be as good at taking on players as Lawrence (I remember him selling Steven Gerrard a dummy once), nor are they capable of curling the ball into the top corner from 30 yards like he did at West Ham in 2000. But there’s no reason why any player can’t look to emulate him in the effort levels they put in on the pitch and at the training ground.
Sadly, players that came close to matching Lawrence’s work rate have been few and far between in recent years.
So I loved the fact I got to hug Lawrence at the front of the Kop that day. Because his stella goal was the result of him trying and succeeding to overcome personal failings and win over doubters; of recognising the need to improve and taking responsibility to do so; of building up confidence in yourself and in other people’s minds.
And of how anyone – if they work hard enough – can surprise themselves and those around them in what they are truly capable of.
I want Bradford City to be better.
A glib statement of the obvious? To some, probably. But for me it’s a genuine, earnest desire. I mean I really want Bradford City to be better. A lot.
The statement isn’t a direct reaction to the club finishing in it’s lowest league position for 45 years this season, the winning of a mere 15 league games in a season that averaged less than a goal a game, or even the wrangling over rent and where we are to make home. I have, and will always, want Bradford City to be better.
As they walked out at Wembley. As Wetherall belly-slid across the Valley Parade turf. As we greeted a grinning Carbone and a beaming Geoffrey. I looked forward to getting better.
It’s a want that all connected to Bradford City share, from the boardroom to those in the cut-priced seats. The truth is, however, we seem to have forgotten how to get better. And as we have seen in the last ten years if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.
In our four seasons and counting in the basement of English football, permanent and interim managers alike have bemoaned a lack of consistency from one week to the next. I find consistency an odd concept to embrace or value. I’m a believer that you’re either on the gain or on the wane.
Whilst sporadic fluctuations in the quality of human performance can be expected, and excused, more important is the general movement towards ‘better’ from the collective or any individual contained within it.
Great sportsmen and women will see a steep and long upward curve in ability and performance. They will then, at some point (and probably unknown to them) hit a peak, followed by a decent, which they will try to make as gentle and elongated as possible.
Tiger Woods will never eclipse the near golfing perfection he achieved at the start of the century. His challenge now is to minimise the rate of his decline and hope his still immense ability sees him to future victories as his powers diminish.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been the master at putting together team after team that have improved as a unit, then dispensing with those individuals that have peaked whilst retaining those with the longer curves of improvement.
We used to have knack for improving players. Remember that young, skinny lad McCall and his ragbag teammates in 1985 that grew individually and became more than the sum of their parts? Dean Richards oozing pure class from his debut to his departure and beyond. Sean McCarthy smashing up Norwich City in the Coca-Cola Cup before going on to score at Old Trafford for Oldham?
What about the lazy lad Blake we signed from Darlington? Wayne Jacobs seeing off an almost annual replacement left-back? Lee Mills? Jamie Lawrence? You’ll no doubt have your own favourite, dear reader, but what we saw were players getting better and our club benefitting from it greatly.
Bradford City players don’t seem to get better anymore. Last August the squad were pre-season promotion favourites, now, despite Jacko’s “everything must go” approach to the retained list, City would be forgiven for thinking the new telephone lines aren’t working properly . We witnessed the incredibly hard-working Gareth Evans seemingly give up on his City career with two months of the season left, and last week even the ever-positive Michael Flynn conceding that Bradford City is “a negative place to be“.
It’s telling that the last four Player of the Year recipients were all enjoying their first full season within the professional game, and as such, we cannot apply any metric of improvement:
- 2008: Joe Colbeck. Burst on the scene, all bundles of energy and direct play. 16 disappointing months after his award he moved to Oldham, and then Hereford.
- 2009: Luke O’Brien. Burst on the scene, all bundles of energy and direct play. Last seen sat next to Leon Osbourne on the substitutes bench as City were dismantled by Crewe.
- 2010: James Hanson. Burst on the scene, all strength and no shortage of finishing ability. A second term disjointed by injury and questionable priorities.
- 2011: David Syers. Burst on the scene, all bundles of energy and an eye for goal.
Time will tell if Syers can buck the trend, but the preceding three represented our most exciting and talented young prospects and all have failed to improve after their first season.
Jackson has signed the exciting prospect Ross Hannah, and the enthusiasm leaping from his twitter feed should hopefully see his first season in professional football be filed alongside that of Hanson, Syers and Steve Williams rather than that of Scott Neilson. But, in many ways, getting a good season out of Hannah isn’t the most pressing issue or biggest challenge for the next permanent manager of Bradford City.
Whether the board reluctantly appoint Jackson, or, as rumoured, continue to wait for John Coleman and subsequently expect him to repeat a decade’s growth and endeavour at Accrington in a 12 to 15 month period, the major challenge will be to get individual and collective development out of more established and experienced players. Creating a culture of improvement which is both inspiring and contagious within a dressing room.
There’s seems little point in throwing more of the precious wage budget at talents like Paul McLaren, Tommy Doherty, Michael Boulding, Graeme Lee et al when we continually fail to get the best from them, and then discard them without examining why. League Two has never been about having the best players, it’s about getting more from your players.
Off the field there is a lot of work to do, but lots of opportunities to get better. For all the criticism and scepticism aimed at the board recently, it’s worth remembering that they too want things to be better.
David Baldwin’s announcement about the new training facilities deal with Woodhouse Grove is incredibly welcomed. Negotiations with our landlords continue with the hope that a deal can be worked out that’s better for Bradford City.
We, as fans, can help make things better. Rival managers and players talk often of how the impatience of our large crowds can play into their hands. It seems odd that the greatest strength of our opponents is something we control. Let’s make that better.
Where Bradford City will be in 12 months time, in terms of both league position and physical location, is pure speculation at the time of writing. My only hope is that we all feel that we’re moving closer to where we want to be, and, as much as possible, enjoying the process of getting there.
As the rebuilding begins, let’s not immediately concern ourselves with being the best. Let’s focus on getting better.
The Crumbling Terrace: Pre-amble One
Towards the end of the 2008/9 season
There we are, on the crumbling terrace of Morecambe’s old Christie Park ground,, watching Bradford City and wondering how it all came to this.
It turns out in the game that City will be robbed a winning goal when Peter Thorne bundles in from close range and that a line’s flag twitch – the doubt going to Morecombe’s on loan Rene Howe – will bring defeat and more so bring to an end Stuart McCall’s expensively assembled side’s promotion push. Those things are for the future though because the more pressing problem is that the police are taping up a barrier in front of us telling us that we can’t lean on it because “a bit or pressure and it will be over.”
How did it come to this? Why did it come to this?
The Man Who Would Not Walk Again Takes Flight: Pre-amble Two
Ashley Ward has scored for Barnsley – recently of the Premier League – and they are going to sneak a 1-0 win at Valley Parade despite having only ten men but something in the Bantams psyche seems to struggle. Let us not kid ourselves, we have watched Bradford City team edged out of games, losing 1-0 and being a dash unlucky about it, for decades now.
There is something in Paul Jewell’s side which seems to denounce that idea. Jewell is a rookie, younger than his captain McCall at 32, but he seems to have built a team which has the character and desire that was sadly lacking from the man as a player.
Two goals were scored in injury time, both by Gordon Watson a player who 18 months early had almost lost his leg after a tackle described as “The worst I have ever seen in football” by Chris Waddle. This is his comeback game.
Watson had been taken from the pitch to hospital where he had almost lost his leg to a tackled six minutes into a local derby with Huddersfield Town. Kevin Grey’s “tackle” came when City were already one down and while an equaliser was scored the whole game was overshadowed by an horrific injury. Then manager Chris Kamara had burst onto the field in anger, his face turning sickly on seeing the wound. Everything was overshadowed.
Now he was back and in five minutes Gordon Watson scored two goals and turned a blank return into two points. Moreover though he maintained the belief that seemed to have dripped into the club under Paul Jewell. The manager from nowhere brought a belief from somewhere, and it had changed the club.
Two goals in five minutes. It seemed fated, everything seemed fated.
On the 9th of May at around 2:17 on a bright May afternoon Bradford City were promoted to the Premier Division of English football as runners up to Sunderland following a season which had threatened nothing at all.
The opening day – a defeat to Stockport – saw returning club legend Stuart McCall injured and was followed by two points in six games and suddenly it seemed that the team that cost a staggering £3.5m to build and included City’s first two £1m plus signings in Issiah Rankin and Lee Mills was going to achieve very little.
Hope came after a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United where the Bantams looked more than capable and belief came from that, or so it seemed, and that belief was cemented by the return of skipper McCall and a gradual climb up the table that included Barnsley, 2-1, and Gordon Watson.
Watson’s story seemed to typify the playing squad who had all come back from some kind of injury or – in the case of McCall – exile. A key figure in the club’s failed push for promotion in 1988 McCall always had “unfinished business” with City and so as he anchored the side using the wealth of experience that comes from an FA Cup final, World Cup goals, multiple titles with Rangers he made good on that promise.
When City were promoted – a 3-2 win at Wolves on the final day of the season securing it – it was very much McCall’s promise manifest. Certainly a season of performances represents something precious to any football supporter. We know, as supporters, that players are more mercenary than we would like to admit and when a player seems to match us for how much he cares we cherish that player.
And that group of players, in this case. Players who seemed invested in the outcome of the season which offered a deliverance for many. Watson from injury and the ghost that haunted him, McCall from the previous failure.
Peter Beargie had arrived a summer before under allegations – and later convictions – to do with a sexual assault while he was at Manchester City. Beagrie faced prison when he arrived in his first, ineffectual, season but the change of manager from Kamara to Jewell seemed to have focused the mind. Everything Beagrie did seemed to have a point to it, every cross made to perfection, hanging impressively for Lee Mills to arrive onto. At the end of the season three quarters of the club’s goals came from Beagrie, Mills or fellow striker Robbie Blake.
If Beagrie had faced prison then fellow winger Jamie Lawrence had been there. A convicted bank robber Lawrence had been something of a novelty on his release signing for Sunderland and then Leicester City but that novelty had faded and Lawrence wound his way to Valley Parade which seemed to be another step in a career of wandering but once again Jewell seemed to focus the mind, tell the player that his achievements were limited only by his belief.
This became Jewell’s hallmark with Bradford City and was a trick he repeated at Wigan Athletic. His ability to take a player and make him perform seemed to border on the magical and no more was this true than with idling forward Robbie Blake.
Blake was a bit part player transfer listed for being pulled over for drink driving in the week Diana died and incapable of nailing down a place in the starting line up despite the odd impressive performance. He was a slow right winger, able to show tricks but without the traction to stick in the team, until Jewell’s intervention.
Jewell got under Blake’s skin – famously they used to have bust ups with Jewell offering him nowhere to hide and dubbing him a “sulker” – but whatever the means the ends were impressive. Direct, skilful and cunning Blake formed a partnership with Lee Mills which tormented the division.
Blake’s anticipation allowed him to feed off the £1m costing target man Mills and grow into the type of player the manager himself felt he could have been had he had the application. The man who used to lay out Kenny Dalglish’s shorts Jewell’s playing career was a cautionary tale used to motivate the strikers he managed.
As a signing Mills – sadly – turned out to be a one season wonder after problems with drink cost him his place in the Premier League but for that season he represented some canny business for the club. Chris Kamara had been keen on Mills while the player was at Port Vale but it took Jewell’s determination to put in the £1m bid and secure the player. Belief, it seemed, was the watchword.
Another player who suggested much for some season and was anointed by Jewell’s belief was midfielder Gareth Whalley. Whalley, a £650,000 recruit from Crewe, became a midfield partner for McCall adding a sly pass to the captains driving heart. Darren Moore seemed too big, too cumbersome, to be a Premiership player but Jewell made him the defensive rock partnering him with one of Jon Dreyer, Andy O’Brien or Ashley Westwood on the basis of the opposition.
Gary Walsh, veteran of the Manchester United bench was as sure as one could imagine between the posts. He had a calm confidence about him that seemed to exude throughout the team. Walsh had left Old Trafford after collecting a lot of medals while hardly getting his kit dirty and ended up at Middlesbrough where he had been a small part of Bryan Robson’s Teeside revolution but in Bradford City he seemed to have found a place where his achievements would be recognised on the merit they had.
As a keeper Walsh was something to behold. Possessed of an unerring sense of positioning Walsh was the type of goalkeeper who seemed to suck the ball into his hands. Not for Walsh the need for acrobatics but rather a calm sense of seeming to play the next few second of an attack out and conclude where the best place to be to gather the ball at the end of it would be. A belief, if you will.
Late on in the season £1m brought Dean Windass to the club – a perfect match or player and team – but Windass’s contribution was minor although not insignificant. One bank holiday Monday at Bury with the team running on empty it was Windass who – like Watson before him – pulled three points out of seemingly nowhere.
Not that every signing Jewell made worked well. Full back Lee Todd was signed to replace club man Wayne Jacobs but Jacobs – as he would do all his career – saw off the challenge to win back his place. More obvious though was the £1.3m spent on Arsenal’s young prospect Issiah Rankin – a player of whom Jim Jefferies remarked “could not finish a bowl of cornflakes”- which proved profligate in excess.
A player with lighting quickness Rankin struggled for goals and after a fruitless pair of games at Huddersfield and at home to QPR was dropped for Blake to shift from the right hand side and Lawrence to join the team. Rankin never looked forward again.
Belief, it seemed, was lacking.
And It Was About Belief, Of Course
May 1999 and onwards
All these things eclipsed: The players, the manager, the belief; and they eclipsed in a game at Wolves that lead to two seasons in the Premiership, Benito Carbone, Stan Collymore and the story which is too often told. The first season in the top flight continued much of what had been good about promotion but the sense of hunger that Jewell used to feed the belief had gone. Within a month Watson was gone, Blake and Moore on the transfer list, and slowly things fell apart.
Those years continue to define the club – the financial fallout ruins the club to this day, we are the footnote in discussions about a Paul Scholes wonder goal – but seldom is the making of those days, how we got to a point where we could throw it all away, considered.
So a crumbling terrace in Morecambe and the failing of a promotion campaign and everything seems so far away now. Much further than the positions in the league and the comparison of Christie Park to Old Trafford or Anfield.
The reality of football is that most Autumns turn into hard Winters and joyless Springs. Most players want to achieve but fall short, most teams lack collective belief. This is not the game’s tragedy, the tragedy are those years having seen such a thing, and the wanderer waiting for its return.
If Bradford City’s board had been accused of short-term thinking in the past then those accusations are set into a new light and a new context by the decision to appoint Peter Jackson as manager on a week by week basis.
Jackson started work at Valley Parade today with a remit to prepare the team for Saturday’s visit to Gillingham. He might expect to be in charge for the visit of Rotherham on Tuesday night following and the trip to Morecambe on the weekend after but his time at the club is dependent on the interview process for the next manager.
If – one assumes – a manager is found then Jackson is moved on and in that context it is difficult to see what he offers the club over and above allowing Wayne Jacobs and Junior Lewis to caretake. That Wetherall is to be assisting Jackson – away from his other roles at the club – while Jacobs is paid to stay at home is nothing short is disgraceful.
David Wetherall assists Jackson who manages with a style that contrasts predecessor Peter Taylor sharply. During the time he spent at Huddersfield Town with Terry Yorath Jackson would rarely be seen at the training ground allowing the former City manager Yorath to take near total control of that side of the club, a point noted when Jackson was replaced by the more tracksuited Steve Bruce.
If the 49 year old maintains that division of labour then the players will train under Wetherall and have their tactical approach set by Jackson. Also in contrast to Taylor Jackson’s teams operate under a flexible tactical approach with the manager matching approach and attitude to the game before him and players he has available. Practicality rather than pragmatism which is perhaps suited to the role of week to week manager.
The role of week to week manager though seem to simply confuse.
If the aim is to provide an experienced hand on the tiller until a new appointment is made then could Peter Taylor not have been asked to stay until his replacement is made? He would be no less of a lame duck manager than Jackson is with every game potentially his last and the players knowing that it is not the man in the dug out they have to impress.
If the aim is to make a more stable ship by having an experienced manager on a week to week basis then Jackson’s arrival added Lewis and Jacobs’ exit seems to be unnecessarily upsetting for the club and the squad. For sure Jackson could have provided the change of voice while Wetherall, Lewis and Jacobs did whatever it was that Yorath did at Huddersfield but from Monday morning the players will have entirely different faces to deal with.
One might make argument that that is no bad thing considering the season to date, but one would have weigh that against the worry that the change will work out like Mark Cooper’s time at Peterborough, Peter Withe at Wimbledon or any other dozen and a half spells that produced one or two wins and a quick sack.
No matter who the week to week manager was it would carry a risk and bring a good deal of confusion and perhaps the best City fans can hope for as Jackson starts work is that his tenure is short and a full time manager with a contract and a remit to build the club over a long period is appointed as soon as one can be found.
One wonders if Jackson will be that man. His last contact with City of any major note was to use his position as Lewis Emanuel’s agent to (seemingly) try encourage the player to move to a Huddersfield Town team which a few months later he was managing and during his time at Huddersfield Town the former City skipper seldom seemed to show any affection for the club he served well for some years and then very poorly for two others.
But the many lays a wreath every May in private, away from the official ceremonies. Nothing is simple.
Peter Jackson starts work at Bradford City and he will probably be the manager next week, but might not be, and perhaps his appointment should be seen in that context. It is but twelve months since City last interviewed a bunch of managers, one doubts that Martin Allen, Jim Magliton and the others have changed that much in a year so there is no need to think that the process will be protracted.
Hopefully as he has most of his career Jackson will put the club on the path to staying in the same division but with players out of contract and decisions to be made on them – and with the very real risk of another summer building for a rush season or hoping for promotion – the Bantams have a pressing need to think beyond the week to week.
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.
Bradford City play Stockport County At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
Peter Taylor exits Bradford City after Saturday’s game with Stockport County which is described by joint chairman Julian Rhodes as “possibly one of the biggest in the club’s history” but the judgement on his time at the club will not follow until the end of the season.
Taylor’s time at City has been marked with upset over negative play and managerial mistakes as well as the manager criticising supporters who he revealed today were the cause of his decision to leave but his position in City’s history will be written in May when he is either written off as an experiment gone wrong or written in stone as the man who had Bradford City relegated out of the Football League after 106.
An assessment which would be harsh for sure – you do not go from the Premiership to the Football Conference in just over a decade because of the guy who got the job twelve months ago – but one which will no doubt be made. Taylor’s only input into this writing of history is the tone he sets in his final game.
The final game with Stockport who – in something of a minor irony – have helped to seal the manager’s early exit. Mark Lawn and Rhodes talked about their requirements for the medium and long term when thinking about the next appointment but it cannot have escaped their notice that by changing manager Lincoln City and Saturday’s opponents have turned seemingly moribund seasons around with revivals.
There is something to be said for that approach too. It is football in the ludicrously short term – the financial position being what it is and relegation hovering City may only have a short term left – but increasingly it seemed as if the players had lost belief in Taylor and that they might benefit from another voice in the dressing room.
Be it David Syers and Tom Ademeyi being given the midfield roles against five Lincoln players, Scott Dobie being given the job of chasing high balls or Luke O’Brien and Lewis Hunt playing full back without anyone supporting them when they are doubled up on the players are coming under criticism for decisions made by Taylor, and on occasion that criticism comes from Taylor.
That they stop thinking that following the manager will lead to success is a problem addressed by Taylor’s exit, although after that one suspects the problems will begin and that chief amongst those problems will be finding a new manager who has the same effect on City which Steve Tilson has had on Lincoln to some degree or another.
If the benefit of Taylor’s exit is a change of voice in the dressing room then there seems little benefit in appointing Wayne Jacobs until the end of the season but the assistant manager has twice taken control of the club as caretaker in the past. The two week gap that follows the Stockport game suggests City will have time to bring in short-term appointment and that a caretaker taker will probably not be needed.
Names suggest themselves: Phil Parkinson and Brian Laws mentioned in one breath, Dean Windass and Terry Dolan in another. Martin Allen has previously impresses Mark Lawn and could get a chance to do again but those problems are for Monday. Saturday is more pressing.
The effect of Taylor’s departure on that game is hard to measure. The City players responded to Stuart McCall’s departure with a loathsome display at Accrington Stanley in Peter Taylor first game. In his last one might expect the squad to be equally nervous although perhaps they will feel they have something to prove to the outgoing manager. If they spot a trenchcoat in the main stand they may feel they have something to prove to the incoming manager too.
Taylor is likely to stand by the players who have figured in the majority of his squad although there is a sneaking feeling that he may employ a 235 1911 style in a final flash of “attacking football.”
Assuming he does not Lenny Pidgeley will keep goal behind Lewis Hunt, Steve Williams, Luke Oliver who more than most will be effected by Taylor’s departure one suspects and Luke O’Brien. A middle three of Michael Flynn, Lee Bullock and Tom Adeyemi seems set to continue – one has to wonder why Jon Worthington was brought in – while the forward three could feature a return for James Hanson alongside one of Scott Dobie or Gareth Evans, and Kevin Ellison.
These players are tasked with winning the game – an everyone in for a pound offer which sadly was not extended to the visitors should see a few more bums on seats – and starting writing what could prove to the the last chapter in the 58 year old manager’s career.
A win and graceful retirement to Newcastle United’s backroom awaits, a defeat and he starts to become the man who killed a club.
The players are working ever so hard; the manager wants to build long term success; the fans are great; it’s a wonderful club; there are no problems with the chairman … fans’ forums with the manager follow a certain script. From Paul Jewell to Lennie Lawrence; Terry Yorath to Stuart McCall; the personalities change, but the message remains fairly constant.
However, what I have never seen before was, at the evening’s end, the manager standing at the exit shaking every supporters hand and thanking them for their attendance. Here was the former England international and Premier League manager firmly closing the gap between supporter and manager. As we read this morning of Wayne Rooney’s transfer speculation, and view endless replays of Champions League matches, the contrast with Peter Taylor standing at the door of Bradford’s Irish Club shaking hands with the supporters of his fourth tier club is all the more remarkable.
We will return to this theme, because it emerged as the key moment of the night. However, first let’s cover the usual business discussed when a football manager meets the fans. The Supporters’ Trust organised a fans’ forum to coincide with its AGM (which I will cover in another piece as it deserves a stand alone report). Peter Taylor, Wayne Jacobs and Luke O’Brien (one of the Trust sponsored players) were our panel.
The evening opened with Peter Taylor laughing at the suggestion that he might have been glad that the forum did not take place two weeks ago. He revealed that his daughter had joked that had he been sacked at Barnet at least it was close to his family home. Peter Taylor said there was no real issue with Mark Lawn and that both of them were men who ‘said it like it was’ and that any disagreements were quickly put behind them.
In response to a question about the T&A headline that suggested that Peter Taylor was seeking reassurance from the board about his position, he said he had merely told the paper that if he were the chairman of a football club he would immediately clear the issue up and go public. It wasn’t meant as anything else other than a general observation, but that had been changed into a managerial crisis. He did mention a story that Paul Jewell had relaid to him. When Jewell was under pressure at Wigan Dave Whelan, the chairman, had asked permission to go into the dressing room. When he got here he told the players that Jewell was his manager, he wasn’t going to be sacked and of they didn’t like playing for him they could leave immediately. Decisive action that completely cleared the air.
A question was asked about the inclusion of the Manchester United loan players in the team the lost to Morecambe. Peter Taylor said that at Northampton Hunt was injured, on top of Ramsden’s longer injury, it left him perilously short of cover in defence. He had already been talking to Manchester United and both players were signed on the morning of the Rotherham game. He could not play them at the Don Valley because both had played for United’s reserves the previous evening. Of course, City gained a morale boosting point at Rotherham and kept a clean sheet. However, the loan deal stipulated that both players had to play in their first available match – which was Morecambe – but after that the decision is solely Peter Taylor’s as to whether they play or not.
It was touch and go as to whether they will remain at the club, Manchester United play Wolves in the League Cup and they may be recalled to appear in that match. Peter Taylor said that the loan players were costing the club less than Luke O’Brien’s basic wage and that bringing them to the club had not hit his budget.
Tactics are always an area of discussion, particularly in this era of Championship Manager games where everyone is an instant expert, one fan caused amusement by suggesting a 4-4-3 formation, the manager said yes please if he could get away with it, but the real discussion focused on the merits of 4-4-2 and 4-3-3. Most fans seemed to be supporters of 4-4-2 but as Peter Taylor pointed out we lost using that formation against Southend and had played 4-3-3 in the League Cup matches against Forest and PNE. The manager said that the players should not hide behind a system, it was possible to play well and badly using either formation. He did mention the frustration of opposing teams coming to Valley Parade and playing 4-5-1. A tactic designed to frustrate and get the big crowd on the home players’ backs. Wayne Jacobs mentioned that he had seen one team play two up front at the then divisional leaders Rochdale and then come to Valley Parade and play five in midfield.
We had to have a Luke Oliver question. Peter Taylor said he thought that Oliver had done a great job for the club and he had decided to play him there as the team were short on confidence and, at that time, needed the easy ball for the big target man. He didn’t think that Evans, Moult or Speight had held the ball up well enough (and he had told them as much) and after the Stockport game he decided that it was time for a change.
With James Hanson now fit he didn’t envisage playing Oliver up front again – at least on a regular basis. Luke O’Brien was asked what his favourite position was. He initially gave the party answer of being happy to play anywhere, but did say that he had begun his career as a left winger, he had later modified to left back and that was now his preferred position. Peter Taylor said he thought that OB was a better player than OB thought he was and that he was very effective going forward. He needed more belief in himself when attacking.
On training facilities OB said it was a pain to get changed and travel in their cars to Apperley Bridge, but once there, at least at this time of the year, the pitches were fine. Wayne Jacobs said that the facilities desperately need upgrading, he had been to non-league clubs with better facilities. He said some of the big signings City made in the summer of 2000 could not believe their eyes when they saw Apperley Bridge. Apparently, people from opposition clubs have been known to come and watch City train.
Peter Taylor also appealed for the City fan who had been posting on the internet the formation City had been training with to stop doing so as the only people it aided was the opposition. Dave Baldwin was actively looking for other options and the club may spend some money on new facilities in the future. Of course, City were going to Weetwood, part of Leeds University’s campus, but talks broke down at the eleventh hour when the university revealed that the lady who would have the ultimate say on which part of the facilities City could use was rarely on the campus. Suddenly there was the possibility of restrictions on certain days and even a suggestion that on some days they would not be able to use the goalmouths.
Peter Taylor said he had come to Bradford City because he thought that City were a wonderful football club and one that would be amazing if it was turned around. He said the reaction to Cheltenham’s goal was unbelievable. He did admit that a small section of the support can make it hard for the players, particularly the younger ones. Luke O’Brien reminded us that many of the players were simply not used to the big crowds at Valley Parade. Many of them had signed from the non-league or other lower league clubs where crowds numbered in the hundreds or low thousands. However, following the Cheltenham game the players couldn’t wait for the Oxford game to come around.
Peter Taylor then made probably the most telling intervention of the evening. He said when he first came he thought of the fans ’crickey these lot are a bit impatient’. But he now understood that a lot of that frustration was born by ten years of decline and possibly the worst home record in the entire Football League over that period. His attitude has changed and he is trying to build a positive relationship between the players and the fans.
He has seen opposition clubs come and use the Valley Parade crowd as a weapon against their own team. He said we all have to change and muck in together. It was the only way forward. He accepted it is difficult at times, but it was vital. There is still a long way to go this season and with Hanson and Price up front our squad is as strong as anyones.
The panel were unanimous (as you would expect) in their belief that City would be promoted this season despite the poor start. At the conclusion of the evening, Peter Taylor shook hands with each individual, it was evident that the manager had identified one of City’s biggest strengths and weaknesses - its fans. Of course, there may well be an element of self-preservation in this approach, but perhaps when the fans roared their support in the wake of the Cheltenham goal it was the moment Bradford City hit rock bottom and bounced?
Bradford City play Northampton Town At Sixfields Stadium in League Two, 2010/2011
As Peter Taylor substituted Louis Moult to widespread boos and groans two-thirds of the way into Bradford City’s eventual win over Gillingham last week, it was tempting to ponder just how long the City manager will be around to make such unpopular decisions.
This was the second home game in a row a substitution by Taylor was booed by some fans; and in the other two league home games there was the half time chant directed at him to “sort it out” against Southend, and booing the team off in victory against Stevenage.
Unlike his predecessor, Stuart McCall, Taylor is clearly not someone readily prepared to blame himself and believe those questioning him are right to do so, and one can speculate whether the reason his assistant Wayne Jacobs was sent out to face the media after the game was due to anger at having his decisions questioned once more.
A frosty relationship between manager and many supporters is beginning to develop.
The frustration last Saturday stemmed from the fact it was Moult rather than Luke Oliver taken off by Taylor. After a fairly anonymous start to his six-month loan stint at Valley Parade, the Stoke striker was finally beginning to show glimpses of his potential and was one of a handful of influential players helping City to get on top in the second half. Oliver meanwhile looked clumsy and awkward, the wrong man in the right place of City’s increasingly-frequent attacks. The sight of Gareth Evans ready to come on told us the hook was coming, but in many fans eyes Taylor was taking off the wrong man.
Football coaches often talk about the importance of going back-to-basics when things go wrong. If, for example, a midfielder produces a poor pass, he is encouraged to make sure he tries something much simpler the next time he receives possession, so he can quickly build up confidence again. When a team is on a run like City have been, it’s understandable Taylor would want to take a back-to-basics approach to selection and tactics. Start getting points on the board, then build up again from there.
Taylor’s approach against Gillingham strongly suggested going back-to-basics. Without James Hanson and after a loan striker turned down a move, the deployment of Oliver up front was all about better-retaining possession in the final third so the team as a whole could gain greater territorial advantage. Oliver was instructed to win and hold up the ball, thus bringing others into the game. Not fantastic to watch maybe, but effective. Basic you might say.
I personally believe Taylor got a better performance from his players than he’d dared hoped, particularly in the second half when Lee Hendrie’s introduction sparked more attacking impetuous and saw City gain a lot more joy from passing it through – rather than over – the visitors.
But this improvement suddenly made the tactic of Oliver up front far less effective, and what City really needed was a forward more comfortable in possession and who could make intelligent runs. The moment where Hendrie dribbled past a couple of players and produced a perfectly weighted through ball for Oliver, only for the tall defender to fail to control it with just the keeper to beat, summed up the sudden problem.
So like others I was willing Taylor to take off Oliver. And although I did not boo, I did groan and feel deflated when Moult was hauled off instead. This was surely a moment where Taylor could have been braver, shown more belief in the way his team was playing. But in the back of his mind perhaps was the risk of Gillingham scoring and City needed to go long ball in the final 10 minutes, where Oliver would have been needed.
But after so many times a City manager has been unjustly slated for his tactics when City have lost a game, Taylor ultimately deserves a lot of credit for the fact his tactics and substitutions ultimately delivered three valuable points.
As City head to Northampton this weekend, it will be interesting to see how much Taylor changes things around to build on the basics which have slowly started to come together since the season’s low point of the 2-0 loss to Southend. Both Hanson and Michael Flynn – another target man option – are not expected to be fit in time, so the chances of Oliver continuing up front would appear high.
But it should be recalled that arguably the best football City have played under Taylor so far, the final five games of last season, saw a 4-3-3 formation employed without a target man. This worked well because of the running and link up of Leon Osborne, Gareth Evans and Gavin Grant. It is that level of football City now aspire to reach again, and to which Taylor could consider evolving the back-to-basics approach from and look to employ at Sixfields.
Oliver’s move up the pitch enabled Steve Williams to return to the central defence against Gillingham, and the impressive display he and the fast-improving Shane Duff produced would suggest Oliver may have to join Zesh Rehman on the bench at some point in the near future. With Jon McLaughlin also looking more composed during the last two games, Taylor is moving closer towards a solid defence which has acted as the bedrock of his previous promotion-winning teams
At full backs, however, there are plenty of unresolved issues. Lewis Hunt and Robbie Threlfall have both attracted a lot of criticism for their efforts this season, but in many ways they are in excellent company as I struggle to recall many City full backs over the years who were not slated at some point.
In terms of Hunt, the criticism he’s receiving has to be balanced by the fact he is a second choice right back at a fourth division club. The wage allocated for this role isn’t going to be high, and so Taylor is limited in the options and ability he could bring in. Meanwhile Threlfall had a shocker at Shrewsbury on the opening day, and hasn’t recovered.
Luke O’Brien, who’s had his own dips of form, is arguably playing his best football of his career so far. The Gillingham half time switch around that saw Threlfall replaced and O’Brien moved to left back is surely likely to be continued while Threlfall rebuilds his confidence. But let’s not forget it is his form, rather than ability, which is the problem.
In midfield there are suddenly stronger options when a fortnight ago it looked a major problem area. Lee Bullock picked up the sponsors man of the match last week and his return to form benefited Tommy Doherty; while the arrival of Hendrie further brought the best out of both. For now Hendrie will probably remain on the bench, or start the game and be taken off, as he builds fitness. David Syers is beginning to look the part and should be fit to start; Omar Daley has been an unused sub for the last two games, and the Jamaican’s future is beginning to look bleak.
Up front there remains a troubling lack of goals, and the poor form of Evans and tentativeness of Moult leaves Taylor with some difficult decisions. Osborne’s first meaningful appearance of the season last week attracted derision, but his form at the end of last season showed promise and it would be worth getting behind the player – who has emerged through the ranks, remember – rather than writing him off so prematurely. For now at least Oliver classes as a forward option.
Northampton are fresh from incredible cup exploits over Liverpool, but in every other way will hopefully be stale. Taylor had joked about asking Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee to make sure the game went to extra time, and the fact Clobbers’ players were on the floor with cramp towards the end of their penalty shoot out win would suggest the Bantams will carry a fitness advantage from no midweek action.
City have so far lost two and drawn one on their travels, and though it is still early days the points return from the trips to Northampton on Saturday and Rotherham on Tuesday will say a lot about the team prospects for the rest of the season. A four-point haul would set City up nicely for upcoming easier-looking games and a climb up the table during autumn.
Achieve that and, come winter, it’s hoped the only frost we’ll be talking about is the stuff which forms on the ground, rather than the nature of the feelings heading towards and from the Valley Parade dugout.
Bradford City play Port Vale At Valley Parade in League Two, 2010/2011
Last week City had to beat Southend United and did not.
The sky did not fall in on Chicken Licken nor did the walls tumble down but the sense of dejection around City fans was palpable. There is a level of disappointment which goes beyond a moaning about the team or the players to just not talking at all. Rather than getting heads together and saying how this formation or that substitution would have sorted out the problems City fans around Bradford and beyond looked blank and shrugged. What is there to do?
Some carried on as normal – one has to be impressed with the tenacity of the people who are still arguing that everything will be right when Stuart McCall leaves the club when the evidence of swapping one manager for another once again illustrates that the manager was never the main of the problem – but even that carrying on seemed to be half hearted. Making the same noises because they are the noises you make.
Peter Taylor made his noises on the BBC’s Football Focus revealing his disappointment in the season so far, using “they” rather than “we” a couple of times and issuing an open invite to David Beckham to come to Valley Parade where he would get a game although one has to worry that with the three man midfield with two wide players up front if Goldenballs would fit into the Bantams line up.
It is that line up which Peter Taylor is being urged to change for the arrival of Port Vale on Saturday. Taylor deployed a World Cup style 4231 but the three given the role of dangerous players were anything but and the result was a massive hole between the midfield and lone striker James Hanson.
James Hanson has come in for some criticism this week – “just a pub player” someone said. People who think like that are wasting their money even coming to Valley Parade just as people who love Pot Noodles and Big Macs are wasting their money going to Noma. Of the reasons to be optimistic about the future of Bradford City Hanson figures highly and if he is fit he would be the first name on my teamsheet.
Hanson came off at half time last week as City’s 4231 faltered and the whispers are that the striker has not been fit all season. Taylor has the option of deploying Gareth Evans or Chib Chilaka as target man to give Hanson the chance to recover but seems to hold last season’s player of the season in high regard and – as I would – would probably play him every week if he could.
Jake Speight has returned to full fitness and liberty and is expected to make a first start for the club as one of three up front with Evans alongside him and Omar Daley dropped to the bench. Speight and Daley both seem to be charged with offering (for want of a better phrase) an x-factor to City’s line up and presently Daley looks some way away from being able to do that. One could speculate all day about why this is – tougher training, return to fitness, form – but the winger has always blown hot and cold and managing him back to heat quickly has been a challenge for City bosses.
Louis Moult is talked up much considering he is a Stoke City played facing Port Vale but after a poor show last week one doubts the loanee will make the side. Since the moment pre-season finished Moult has worn a City shirt well but not shown anything to suggest he is worth a place in the side. He is all promise and prospect but – at present – Taylor needs productivity.
The Moult Hole last week caused an issue for City’s two holding players Tommy Doherty and Lee Bullock – both of whom are expected to start in a three man midfield alongside probably Tom Ademeyi or perhaps David Syers – who ended up having to come forward to try fill the hole. Doherty has started to look impressive in his distribution while Bullock is struggling to get back to last season’s ways.
The defence seems a mixed bag thus far. Robbie Threlfall’s distribution is missed giving him the edge over Luke O’Brien although the latter has put in some good performances. Lewis Hunt is steady to a fault at right back – nothing gets past him really, he does not get past anybody really – but Zesh Rehman hangs on his shoulder looking for a place in the side. Anyone who things that Rehman he been “obviously the worst player at the club for eighteen months” (as was commented this week) is invited to go stand in the Wilderness Garden behind an eight foot fence on a Saturday afternoon.
None of Rehman or Luke Oliver, Shane Duff and Steve Williams have especially been woeful this term and occasionally some have been excellent. In defence popular wisdom has it that Taylor should pick a team and stick to it but one recalls how Paul Jewell would have three names on his back four and float in one of Ashley Westwood, Jon Dreyer or Andrew O’Brien to partner Darren Moore between Steven Wright and Wayne Jacobs seemingly at random although – perhaps – based on the opposition.
Jon McLaughlin, he plays in goal. He blamed himself for the first goal against Southend allowing the ball to get away from in turning possession over to the visitors. He must have been waiting for people to note his mistake, waiting for the treatment that Simon Eastwood got for similar.
As it happened the sky did not fall in.
On The 2010/2011 Season
I met a traveller from an antique land.
The modern history of Bradford City – which is to say the everything from the return to Valley Parade onwards – shifts on a fulcrum moment which happened ten years ago this month that City kick of a fourth consecutive season in the bottom tier of English professional football.
August ten years ago and – with bare faced cheek and a brassneck – I went to my boss and asked him if I could leave half way through the day because I wanted to go to the press conference that unveiled Benito Carbone as a Bradford City player. Carbone – at a cost of just under £55,000 a week – was the pinnacle of something that rose at The Bantams and – in the last ten years – fell.
Much has happened in that last ten years – two administrations, three promotions, BfB has had 112 more writers doing about 3,500 articles, the hole in the ground, a riots, the boss in question now is chairman of Bradford Bulls – but nothing has matched that moment. Geoffrey Richmond sitting at the head of a room of supporters and journalist proudly proclaiming the promise that his new recruit represented.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert.
Valley Parade played host to former tenants Bradford Park Avenue and – soberingly and as a result of that time ten years ago – its current tenant Bradford City and is a transformed arena. The main stand rises high and is most often half empty or half full (your point of view on that) ready to host Premier League football which is a distant memory now.
Rippling away from Valley Parade the effects of City’s rise and fall fade. Peter Taylor tried to prepare for this season in different training facilities but that proved impossible – for now at least – and Apperley Bridge continues to be the host for the club’s day to day activities. Carbone said of City on his arrival that “nothing resembled a football club” including Apperley Bridge in his swathe of comment.
Players have come and gone most notably Dean Windass who partnered Carbone up front in the Italians first game. Windass returned but left the club after death threats following a sending off.
Managers have come and gone most notably Stuart McCall who was the captain and assistant manager when Carbone was signed. He, along with other players of the day Wayne Jacobs and David Wetherall have reputations tarnished not by the continued involvement with the club but by the club’s decline from that day onwards.
In the wider football world though that day – and Bradford City in the Premiership – is a footnote. The other team in Paul Scholes’s wonder goal, the prototype for the likes of Hull City and Blackpool and a step on the evolutionary ladder from Barnsley’s single season in the top flight. Not forgotten but hardly remembered and remembered as one of many teams who tried and failed.
An ebullient Geoffrey Richmond stood on the field – a dozen City fans around him – in a blazing eyeball to eyeball argument with a Daily Express journalist who questioned his motives and motivations. It was a rare sight. The Empire builder questioned, raging against the coming tide which he would not be able to keep back.
He resurfaced briefly at Notts County and Leeds United, and then he was gone.
And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
So ten years on Bradford City under Peter Taylor prepare for the new season and it is hard to imagine being further from that August press conference. The pitch – sun drenched on that day – has been improved at last but little else can be said to have.
Pre-season was low key to a point of hardly being considered during the tour of Essex which saw four games in seven days. The jailing of one former striker and one new one provided the news and perhaps there was a sense that nothing else from the club would match that so – other than the progress of the new grass – little emerged from the club. There is no good news, so there is no news.
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.
The best which can be said about Peter Taylor is that he has augmented what he found on arrival at the club rather than trying to rebuild salvaging some of the last two and a half years of work that Stuart McCall had put in. A look at Taylor’s assumed first eleven shows that the keeper Jon McLauglin, defender Steve Williams and striker James Hanson were all plucked from nowhere to be key members of this season’s side.
Indeed it is to Taylor’s great credit that one can skip through the team: Right back Simon Ramsden, Zesh Rehman at centreback, left back Robbie Threlfall was a target of McCall and co at left back, Lee Bullock was converted to a deep role by McCall, midfielder Michael Flynn and striker Gareth Evans brought in by the previous manager. Taylor has recruited Tommy Doherty for his three in midfield while Omar Daley – with 97 appearances for City – pre-dated the previous manager.
Rather than start again Taylor has taken what he found and added to it giving City a rare route to having some stability at the club. That he has only a one year contract is a matter of great worry – for every prediction which tells you City will be promoted you can find one which says we will end in mid-table which would result in the board not offering a new deal to the manager – with City highly unlikely to find as good a replacement for this manager as was found for the last.
His football is pragmatic to a point of unattractiveness at times but Taylor is perhaps the only reason for optimism at the club this season. A man who appreciates the value of building while standing in the bare, lone and level sands.
Bradford City 4 Bradford (Park Avenue) 0 At Valley Parade in Tom Banks Memorial Trophy, 2010/2011
As Lee Bullock turned a chance to get a fifth goal in City’s comprehensive 4-0 win over neighbours Bradford (Park Avenue) wide of the post following a powerful run by Tom Adeyemi the Bantams’ pre-season came to a merciful end with little learnt and little needed to be known.
Peter Taylor sent out a first half team assembled of players not expected to play on Saturday afternoon’s season opener against Shrewsbury Town with new face Seb Carole on trial and playing on the right with David Syers in the middle and suspended for Saturday Omar Daley on the left all ahead of – surprisingly – a first City appearance for Tom Doherty.
The bearded midfielder’s forty five minutes showed the glimpses of what Taylor sees in the player sitting deep and moving the ball around usefully finding the active running of forward pair Jake Speight – who dropped off well and showed a useful turn or two – and Louis Moult who is a strong looking, hard working striker who is instantly impressive in his play and attitude.
Moult scored his second goal for the club – and City’s second of the night – controlling a pass just outside the box and hitting a mid-height controlled shot past the visiting goalkeeper.
Moult’s goal added to a Steve Williams headed goal from an Omar Daley corner which saw the young defender jump unopposed in the box to head in. Williams and his defensive partner Shaun Duff started flat-footed allowing two chances in the first five minutes to test Lloyd Saxton in goal but that spell at the start and a pair of shots by Spencer Harris and David Heagrey at the end Avenue did little to threaten despite playing with spirit.
Spirit which City either lacked or controlled. Moult and former City man Tom Claisse both went in for a ball with studs showing and in League football both would have been punished the same but Claisse’s aggressive shove of Moult to the ground showed the difference in approach from the teams.
Which is not to say that City did not care – on the contrary, they do – but that Taylor’s side focus upset from incidents like that, stings from defeat, grumpiness from misplaced passes and pushes them into the performance. Avenue, seemingly, just push them into pushes.
Taylor watched the game from half way up the main stand trying to communicate with Junior Lewis and Wayne Jacobs on the bench with a series of hand signal and mimes which – in time – turned into a series of shouts. “Three subs?” Jacobs bellowed up to a nod, later before kids keeper Chris Elliott came on a head stuck itself over the dug out and was pointed at in a “am I coming on?” way. A couple of mobile phones maybe?
As technology failed City did not. A 433 after half time saw a team more resembling that which one might expect on Saturday with Gareth Evans being supported by James Hanson and Scott Neilson in the forward line which immediately looked lively. Hanson has grown as a player – in his play – and as a human – in his build – from his time last season looking a long way from the part timers he was playing against.
Evans moved well making himself an option always and held the ball when needed, bringing others into the game. Neilson charged up and down the right. Both got goals.
Evans’s reward for an inventive ball flipped over to Neilson was a return pass for the striker to accurately power in from the edge of the box to make the game 3-0. Ten minutes from time Neilson is given the ball and the freedom of the box to get a fourth.
The comprehensive nature of the win aside the game offered little for Taylor to learn. Luke O’Brien and Robbie Threlfall combined well down the left in the second half as they did at the end of last season, Evans looks to have brought his fine end of last year to the start of this, Lee Bullock looked controlled and quality as he did last year. You can see the theme building.
This was City’s first game of pre-season at Valley Parade – a bedding in for the new turf of which it is said with justification that one could play a snooker game on it – but it was the last game of a pre-season which went back to the start of April when Taylor’s side ensured they would stay in League Two.
Four months of build up to a season which starts on Saturday.
Bradford City play Rochdale At Spotland in Friendly game, 2010/2011
This season will be fascinating. Every move will be analysed, every game mark a position, ever result considered as a proof of a concept about building slowly and in a determined fashioned. One can only guess at the outcome too – a team that takes change as part of progress, that sees development as a thing done over years, not over a summer.
It will be a very interesting League One season for Rochdale.
After the best part of four decades in the basement division Rochdale have gained an upward mobility which saw them promoted last season despite having sold – to a club who plead poverty for a figure they did not disclose – their best player in Adam Le Fondre but prospered because of the strength of the unit. Defender Craig Dawson is looking to move on this summer with the club waiting for someone to match the £1m valuation they put on him and – once again – Keith Hill will look to his side’s whole being able to withstand the withdrawal of one of the parts.
Rochdale are an object lesson in the idea of retention. Keith Hill has been at the club since his retirement being in charge of the youth side, then the assistant manager and finally as manager. The squad has long service – captain Gary Jones has played 229 games for the club – and with that has come a resilience.
One could take issue with other things about Spotland but on the field there is much to admire about Rochdale and their progress this term represents a test of their ideals.
Bradford City represent something of a contrast being a club that has firm and fast plans off the field which have seen the club be rightfully proud of being one of only two professional football clubs in the black as well as taking firm action against troublemakers. The commercial side of operations at Valley Parade come on a pace we are told and off the field – despite the legacy of huge debts ten years ago – the club are in rude health.
It just goes wrong when kicking a football come into the equation. It would not be true to say City do not have a plan on how to go forward – they have lots of plans – and they change on a regular basis.
Over the summer Peter Taylor has gone about augmenting what he inherited when he moved into Valley Parade while keeping some things in place. Wayne Jacobs, Michael Flynn, James Hanson, Steve Williams and Jon McLaughlin have all benefited from this as the manager recognises that all retention builds institutional knowledge. Nevertheless Hanson and Williams both arrived as part of the club’s plan of harvesting the lower leagues. That came after the club’s plan of spending £600,000 on talent. Remember City’s Mexican academy? City had a plan that included with Royal Racing FC Montegnee and the development of young players? A side note here is that the Bantams Belgian partners picked up Willy Topp on January three years after City took him from them RRFCM’s grasp.
While Rochdale have been pursuing a single approach, City have had many and perhaps they would have all failed in the long term but having not been given that time who could say?
Taylor’s one year contract evidences this – clearly the best man for the job – with the club hedging bets so that another plan can be sprung into place to replace the current one which at the moment is “the right thing.” If you buy enough lottery tickets then one day you will win, maybe.
Taylor has something of an injury crisis on his hands with James Hanson – who is expected to lead the line for the season – struggling to be fit for the first day with Gareth Evans and a new mystery striker who the manager hopes to sign today – replacing him in the forward one of a 433.
Evans would be deployed as a wider player alongside the likes of Scott Neilson, Jake Speight, Leon Osborne who is injured, Omar Daley who is suspended for the opening day of the season and perhaps Ryan Harrison and Norwich loanee Tom Adeyemi who are midfielders who may move forward.
For Speight the chance to play in front of his new fans and start to build bridges after a summer of sentences and suggestions will be welcome. If every a player needed a good start to his City career it is Speight.
City’s idea midfield three are Flynn, Lee Bullock and Tommy Doherty but the bearded maestro is injured suggesting that Adeyemi may be used in the middle although Luke O’Brien may slot onto the left hand side of a three as he did last year. With James O’Brien leaving this week City seem light in the midfield area with those three, the Norwich loan player and youngsters Luke Dean and Ryan Harrison and perhaps Taylor will be looking to replace the exiting Irishman.
At the back the Bantams have some strength and the names write themselves on a team sheet: Simon Ramsden, Steve Williams, new recruit Shaun Duff and Robbie Threlfall; Luke Oliver may yet end up pressed into attack once more – that is a pudding that is only for the eating – and Zesh Rehman would seem to be marked to provide cover for Ramsden and the central players.
If Taylor has one aim this year it should be to get Rehman – who has a pedigree of playing Premiership football – to perform appropriately consistency. Rehman put in a half dozen excellent performances towards the end of the last season under Taylor and if the manager is the manager everyone (seemingly including Fabio Capello) thinks he is then it will be in getting performances out of the likes of Rehman which will evidence that.
In goal Jon McLaughlin is expected to get the number one shirt with Lloyd Saxton to wait for his chance as McLaughlin did.
City face Rochdale and then entertain Bradford Park Avenue at Valley Parade on Tuesday before starting the season on Saturday at Shrewsbury. At least that is the plan.
There was a public clamour to discover the detail of the crime that saw Jake Speight convicted of assault and so the lower end of the tabloid press responded and laid out in grisliness Kathy Mugglestone’s side of the story.
Read the story if you want. I think – with some personal experience – that stories of domestic assault are are horrible enough without the needless tone of an article like this but obviously The Daily Star’s editors feel that there is a need to egg the pudding describing the victim as “Stunning Kathy Mugglestone, 21″.
If the article changes your level of sympathy or empathy for the victim, if it makes you think more about the need to take action against Speight, then you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.
And the question asks: Does it matter?
The reaction to the article has been a return of the debate between fans as to whether Speight should be sacked with people believing that there should be no place at the club for someone who behaves as the new signing has done and others attesting to the idea that player’s personal lives are away from the game and that in effect aside from missing a week of training his assault simply does not matter.
Does not matter that is as much as his capacity to score goals and be a part of a winning Bradford City side. It is hard not to have some agreement with this point of view when considering the recent history of this football club. If what matters about Bradford City is not the merciless pursuit of wins then why are we four months down the line from firing Stuart McCall as manager? The club was much nicer with our favourite player in charge.
If the aim of Bradford City is to be a collective of people who you are proud to applaud onto the field and think would probably like to share a beer with you then what was the purpose for anyone of removing the most beloved figure in the club’s history? If we want a Bradford City full of nice guys then why is Wayne Jacobs criticised for being “too nice.”
The past six months have seen a definitive statement made by a section of the supporters and by the club itself that winning football matches is more important than almost any other concern. Should Speight start to score goals then – one is forced to assume – he will win around the people who pushed so hard to see McCall ousted from the club because nothing matters more than winning games.
Indeed some would point to Speight – who has been tried and convicted – having a right to carry on his life and career on the basis of his application and ability rather than his past. You can, dear reader, take a view on that but we need not debate it again on these pages.
Why do we think we know footballers?
The counter opinion is that that Speight should not be allowed to wear a Bradford City shirt because he is to be considered unworthy of such distinction brings us to a more uncomfortable truth and one which sits at the heart of football supporting.
As football supporters the common ideal is that – with the odd exception – were we to meet the footballers we cheer on the field we would probably enjoy their company off it, what is more they would enjoy ours.
In the back of his mind the football supporter has a belief that were he to be in a pub on the Saturday night next to the player he watches on a Saturday afternoon then he could share a thought and talk over the game. Confuse this not with sycophancy – this is not about hero worship – but rather the idea that there would be an automatic magnetism between player and supporters because they were concerned with the same passions: Football, and the club.
Not only that but without evidence to the contrary we assume that the footballer is probably a good bloke. We think he will be someone we find likeable because – after all – we like him. We look at how the game is played by the footballers we like and from that infer a set of characteristics which find admirable.
We decide that James Hanson is a solid, hard working lad with Roy of the Rovers dreams in his head and stars in his eyes now he has been given a chance to play in the big leagues. I’ve never met him but he might be an utterly insufferable man bloated with egotism at his own achievements however I’ve seen his play from that feel I have some connection to him. That I somehow know him.
So when it emerges that the footballer is not what we would have thought he would be we are robbed of our disillusion – even if we have rarely given them serious thought or fantasy – and for some people that perceived betrayal is unforgivable. I’ve never met John Terry and I’m not the sort given to indulging the kind of inference of character I talk about above but some people are and those people found the revelations about him to be almost a personal slight.
How well do you know John Terry?
To some people it was as if Terry had put up a front to them, pretending to be an all round nice guy and good bloke, and that because they knew him through his game when he turned out to be a bit of a shit they we outraged by the duplicity of the man. How dare he pretend to be the thing I want him to be only to prove he is not?
All along John Terry has always been John Terry and while he might not want the world to know about it because of the effect on his lucrative sponsorship deals and his personal privacy it is our inference as football supporters watching him play that has afforded him that status. All along he has been a bit of a git but the fact that he kicked a ball around well created – in the mind of fans – the persona of “JT The Great Guy.”
Confuse this not too with the idea of idols and Gods with feet of clay. This is not a situation where we find a hidden truth where previously we had some knowledge but rather one where we find only a truth where before we had assumption.
Smarter footballers are able to manage their public persona in a way that hides any negative traits in the same way that actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio are able to spend years ensuring that they do as little as possible which anyone might find objectionable in order to allow the public to project onto them some positive characteristics. Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise saw their stars dim when the public started to see too much of their own shapes, taking away the forms they were ale to afford them themselves.
The uncomfortable truth at the heart of football supporting is that the chances are that were we to be given the chance to have that drink with a player then we would probably not like them. We would try talk about the club, about the game and they would have different passions, different interests. They might even find us odd. For various reasons few players are as interested in football as supporters are and – like Benoît Assou-Ekotto who plays for Spurs and represented Cameroon in the World Cup – sees the game just as his day job.
When we are presented with a story like Jake Speight’s assault on Kathy Mugglestone then it becomes clear that some footballers might be down right objectionable (or they may not be, again I’ve never met Speight so have only mediated and assumed lore to make a judgement on) then this distance between what we would want a player to be and what they actually are is brought into sharp focus.
And so, to personal matters
Some years ago I was out in Leeds in the aftermath of City’s 3-1 win over Portsmouth in which Lee Sharpe had had a rare great game and bumped into the player in The Courthouse. Without going into details let it be known that Sharpe was not enthusing about football or his performance – not that he should be, it was his night out too – and following that night the BfB policy of trying to avoid matters off the pitch fermented.
In the eight years since I have lost track of the number of emails which I’ve received which detail the transgressions of various players as detailed by City fans the majority of whom were some how disgruntled by an encounter with a player.
Recently and most benignly Barry Conlon was “outed” as liking a drink and not really being that bothered about the club as if the man who had at that point had twelve clubs in ten years should be a teetotal dyed in the wool Bantam. Every year one sees a dozen or so players come or go from Valley Parade and to expect them all to care about the club as deeply as a support does is unrealistic to the point of madness. Opinion was divided on Conlon but – from this corner of the web – it was given on the basis of what he did on the field and not an expectation that he should be as interested in Bradford City as a supporter.
Nicky Summerbee was vilified following an exchange with City fans who thought he should care more – or like Omar Daley appear to care more – but to demand the commitment of fans such from hired hands is setting oneself up for a fall. On Summerbee and Daley and all others who seem to not – and indeed probably don’t – care as much as fans then again one looks at the performance on the field rather than judging them against some perceived idea of the player who cares as much as the fan. This is not the fifties, and there is only one Wor Jackie.
When City signed Gavin Grant mails came in talking about the player and repeating things which have since turned up in court and BfB was once again left with questions as to how to talk about a player who was scary in his deviation from what supporters would want him to be. What can one do in that position when talking about football other than just talk about football?
Supporters have expectations of players and it is not for me to say if the expectation that Jake Speight be an model citizen is appropriate enough on a personal basis is a healthy thing or not but I will say that anyone anyone who expects footballers to be in life what they are in the mental fiction we build around them is going to be disappointed. As my brother is so fond of saying “(I) hate everything about football apart from the football.”
At BfB we try to talks about the club on the basis of what happens on the pitch and – even in a case as trying as Jake Speight – we will continue to try to do so.
If you missed Bradford City’s 4-0 win over Stambridge United last night then you are not alone. BfB did little to cover it and a straw poll of City fans responding to news of the opening goals on Facebook seemed to show that they knew that some games in Essex were coming, but they did not know when.
City won the game with goals from Leon Osborne, Scott Neilson, Omar Daley and James O’Brien – a second four goal win in as many days following the 5-1 victory over North Ferriby United – and word came from the South that City had been given a good game by the part-timers from Essex although many would debate how much of a game non-league footballers at the level of the club’s City gave played so far can give professionals.
Indeed there is a charge at Peter Taylor’s door that his pre-season preparations are weak and that is is no benefit to the players to have easy victories over poor opposition. Certainly Taylor’s aim is not to create an interesting and exciting set of games but is he creating a useful set?
Sadly – or perhaps not so sadly – no answer can be reached for some time. Since the days of Chris Kamara – if not before – every City manager has looked at pre-season as if it were non-competitive league matches to be treated as significantly as Johnstone’s Paint early rounds or end of season dead rubbers (which is to say as lightly as a professional club every takes a game, but still as if it were a “proper” match) but Taylor seems to take a new approach.
Taylor is doing everything he can to ensure that pre-season matches – at this stage – are not taken seriously by his players and that the games are re-contextualised as a part of training. A means to an end and not an end in itself.
Which is not to say that there is not a seriousness to the training that Taylor, Junior Lewis and Wayne Jacobs put the players through – quiet the opposite – but that Taylor is keen to ensure that his players know the difference between training time and the business time of the season.
Matches kick off at three in the afternoon, seven forty-five in the evening in proper games but Taylor breaks this association moving the kick off around an hour here, two there and ensures that games are presented to players and to fans in a different situation.
Eccleshill United aside the games – up to the race trim of the final week – are all far flung keeping the Bantams away from City fans who season on season extrapolate the entire league’s nine months or play on the basis of the first game they see in July. Rightly or wrongly players are judged in their rawest form. I never – and still don’t – think much of Michael Symes based on watching his first performance for City at Farsley Celtic. The likes of Stambridge might get a few extra people to have a look at the Bantams but in all likelihood two men and a dog will be watching City rather than the backing of an active travelling City support.
These things break the link between what happened at Stambridge and what will happen at Shrewsbury on the first day of the season. Breaking that link says to the players that they are in build up now suggesting that they are preparing for something in August not playing for the tiny glory of winning in a pre-season game.
Not that winning is in question. The teams are a distance below City’s standard but win, lose or draw one doubts Taylor would care any more than he would care if the Red Bibs beat the Yellow Bibs at Apperley Bridge. The aim is not to show how good – or poor – City are by winning games over the best opposition available it is to prepare the players.
Taylor believes this is best done by taking the pressure away from these games, making them more like a practice match than what we now know a pre-season games. It is building relationships between players, patterns of play on the field, understandings and partnerships. In a way Stambridge United, North Ferriby United and Eccleshill United are doing the job of human traffic cones to be trained against but not designed to challenge the City players in any way other than not allowing them to fail.
I mean that with no disrespect. Taylor approach presents City’s players with the opportunity to play against an opposition which as long as they approach the game in the correct way they will benefit from it. City played Didi Harmann and Joey Barton in a Manchester City midfield five years ago in pre-season and Steven Schmacher and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson spent the afternoon having passes picked off which – while purposeful practice – was unrewarding and represents a slight return. If Lee Bullock and James O’Brien play as they can then they spend games in possession, using the ball, building confidence.
The merits of Taylor’s approach will be evidenced in the season itself but – rarely in modern football – City have a manager who wants to approach pre-season as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.
Wayne Jacobs has signed a new deal as a Bradford City coach after Peter Taylor secured the services of his two coaches on single year contracts but in doing so is bound to raise questions about his own future as Bantams manager.
Taylor has signed long time collaborator Junior Lewis and Jacobs to aid him next season and while his loyalty to Lewis is obvious – he has signed him eight times and let him marry his daughter – why he should keep Jacobs is bound to cause anger.
Wayne Jacobs – if we recall – is not even a real coach, just a friend of Stuart McCall’s and it was to the damnation of McCall that he was incapable of seeing the obvious failings of the left back turned assistant manager.
Jacobs could not coach the players in the training field. This was a commonly spoken view with one City fan who assured me he lived next to Appleley Bridge saying that he often watched training sessions and could assure me that all Jacobs did was “play headers and volleys” while another told me of the obvious crime of – when snow covered the ground – Jacobs allowed the players to indulge in a snow ball fight after a jog around the pitch.
Indeed not only were supporters who spent the mornings watching training keen to get rid of Jacobs but at one point Mark Lawn himself took Stuart aside and encouraged him to replace Jacobs.
Why did McCall not sack Jacobs for there heinous crimes against coaching? If not fr them for the way he stood in the dug out at Valley Parade which as we all remember – and as Peter Taylor must have seen already – is quite contrary to how a “proper” coach stands.
As we know this is because he is a Christian, thus “too nice”.
So should Peter Taylor be told of these failings? If he shows such an obvious lack of judgement in not knowing what a good coach is why are we employing him? Why are those supporters who can’t keep away from Appleley Bridge not trying to move Heaven and Earth as they did to unseat McCall doing the same to rid us of the flawed Taylor. A man who – in common with his predecessor – has such appalling judgement that he has not noticed that Wayne Jacobs is a proper coach.
Phrase d’jour: Get real.
Peter Taylor arrived at Bradford City and set about putting in place the things that a football club needs – better facilities, overnight stays – and he worked with Wayne Jacobs for three months and this contract deal is his validation of the man and his coaching abilities.
Not only that but it is a vindication of McCall’s decision to keep his man even under pressure from his chairman. If one takes Taylor’s approval of Jacobs to make liars/fools (delete as appropriate) out of those who claimed to have watched Jacobs’s methods and found them wanting then one has to ask what motivated the Bradford City fans who attacked McCall by banging around falsehoods about his number two? Why were people so keen to get rid of one club legend that they told lies about another? What sort of supporter does that? What sort of man?
At the very least Wayne Jacobs deserves a great many apologies.
Bradford City play Port Vale At Vale Park in League Two, 2009/2010
While James Hanson was the object of a pile-on celebration and City fans were the subject of the attentions of Rotherham supporters with the five minutes overtime goal that gave The Bantams a 2-1 win over Ronnie Moore’s faltering Rotherham side on Saturday I can’t imagine many were watching Peter Taylor’s reaction to the goal.
Indeed of the sights at The Don Valley Stadium: The goalscorer submerged, the tauters dispirited and the oft Bantam critic distraught made for better viewing, but may not have been the more significant.
So we know not if Taylor circled the bench with arms out before grabbing Junior Lewis and Wayne Jacobs for bear hugs in joy or if he simply saw the goal and nodded sagely. While the outcome of a job well done was unknown, the practises of it was evident to all.
If last Tuesday night was about City being a team hard to beat then Saturday was Taylor’s side frustrating to victory. The lines of four – so often seen at Valley Parade as a rearguard action and a million miles away from the 433 City teams of Stuart McCall who seemed to see every minute of the game as a chance to break up the field – saw the Millers incapable of breaking down the Bantams on what was a bog of a pitch and the visitors in black using the space created by a home side’s pressing.
It might not have been the most pleasing thing on the eye – is League Two football ever going to be? – but the sight of City wheeling away in victory was a beautiful thing if only for it’s scarcity. By the time James Hanson had heading in concerns over loan players – too many for some, too few for others such as those who were incensed that Matthew Clarke was included over Luke Oliver – were far from the mind. Football is not a results business, but results are often the outcome of doing other things right.
Three weeks into his job at Valley Parade Taylor deserves credit for his use of the current squad; keeping the best parts of it and augmenting rather than the revolution suggested by the five new players. Excellent performances from Lee Bullock, Michael Flynn, James Hanson and Matthew Clarke all justify the new boys Taylor has brought in cooling heels on the bench. As City fans talked about how the team could be/should be flooded with loanees Taylor used what he wanted from the temporary transfer market and stabled the rest. McCammon’s benching in favour of our boy James Hanson was a welcome surprise and one which paid off.
His football is more direct, but gets better results. He signs up loan players to suggest huge changes, but uses those players sparingly. It seems that Peter Taylor has found a way of pleasing all of the people at City all of the time, at least for now.
Where City and Taylor go from here seems obvious. If the City manager feels he has a good player in Adam Bolder who he can use next season then Bolder could be offered a deal, but without Taylor having signed up for next term then such a deal being offered or signed seems highly unlikely. Likewise when the likes of Flynn and Bullock are putting in good performances and thinking about where their future might lay the assurance of having a gaffer who (as with the previous one) treated them with respect for their achievements would be a significant factor.
If the City players talk like the City fans in recent weeks then they will be talking once again about promotion next term but with the caveat that Taylor remains in charge. Aside from the traditional Bradford City supporting trait of setting a bar as high as possible – can’t we just hope that in Christmas 2010 we have enough point to not be relegated and take it from there? – the manager’s three month deal remains a worry and the spectre of Taylor’s time at the club being all too brief is a troubling one.
City will not find a better manager in the summer – only two candidates suggested themselves – and so a delay in offering the repeatedly successful Taylor a contract only continues to increase the level of uncertainty at the club and make that manager’s job harder.
On the field Taylor could hardly be expected to be doing better. When he arrives at Valley Parade on Saturday following this Tuesday night at Vale Park Taylor will have played five on his travels and one at home which we could expect eight points from on “promotion form” winning at home and drawing away but has at least nine. Not only that but Taylor has not been able to benefit from a new manager effect that comes at many clubs when a gaffer unpopular in the dressing room is swapped for another face. The City squad liked Stuart McCall in most cases – Chris Brandon, we are told, did not and Taylor was quick to ostracise him – and were obviously upset by his departure.
Off the field who knows how Taylor is settling into the culture at Valley Parade. Perhaps he has a way of dealing with “player signing suggestions” from his bosses, with being asked to join discussions on the merits of various squad members and why they should be leaving the club, with contracts being signed without his knowledge and so on. One hopes that these things do not prompt him to look elsewhere should a long term contract be offered.
There has been a lot of talk about Mark Lawn and his motivations and desire to be popular. One might suggest that the best way to do that is to announce on Saturday that a three or four year deal has been offered to Taylor and – should it be signed – to sit back and allow that manager to manage.
Port Vale sit three points above the Bantams but it would take a 5-0 swing in goals to have City move about the home side at the end of the evening. Taylor’s team at Port Vale – and his approach – is unlikely to go chasing goals. The 442 with Michael Flynn in the forward line is likely to continue with Hanson and his new strike partner both nabbing a goal on the road. Flynn’s ability to be dropped back to create a bolstered midfielder plugged any holes which Rotherham attempted to find on Saturday.
Bolder and Bullock showed steel in breaking up a Rotherham midfield but Nicky Law Jnr has never a player for midfield battling while Anthony Griffith of Vale does little other than tackle. Vale’s home form is similar to City’s and both teams have done better on their travels than they have at on their own turf. Gareth Evans and Luke O’Brien are unorthodox flank players but Taylor’s direct play requires not the dribbling and taking on men that Omar Daley provides. One wonders what the future of City’s winger is if Taylor remains.
It would seem that the back four of Simon Ramsden, Steve Williams, Matthew Clarke and Robbie Threlfall continue in front of Matt Glennon with Luke Oliver waiting for his chance to impress as other’s perform well. There was a time when City fans debated if Barry Conlon should be in the side with some saying that the now Chesterfield forward was never going to be good enough and others saying that while he was playing well, he should keep his place. Clarke very much fulfils that criteria with some – including, it is said, those in high places than Peter Taylor at Valley Parade opening voicing the opinion that he is simply not good enough and other’s pointing out that while the defender is putting in good performances he should very much be in the side.
It is hard to argue with that way of thinking and the spirit it engenders within a team. Players respect a manager who rewards good performances with a place in the side while the opposite destroys confidence and starts talk of manager’s having favourites.
In many of the things that he has done since arrival – playing Clarke, allowing Hanson to battle with loan signing McCammon for the starting line up, listening to Wayne Jacobs’s advice on Michael Flynn’s abilities to join the forward line – Taylor has shown a willingness to give a chance to what he has found at Valley Parade to work with. His abilities to appease those who he currently is working for may decide his longer term involvement at the club.
Pleasing all of the people, all of the time.
It was always a long shot, but Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat to Aldershot has probably closed the door on any distant hopes of Bradford City making a late play off charge this season.
The league table finds City lying in 16th position on 40 points – 14 points off seventh-placed Notts County, having played two more games. More comparably, City are 15 points off sixth-placed Shrewsbury with two games in hand. Still catch-able, but the kind of form required to overtake the Shrews looks well beyond this City team.
With 14 games to go, the remainder of the season has a somewhat hollow appeal. But with the managerial situation needing resolving before the planning for next season can truly begin and with so many players out of contract in May, there is still plenty to be play for. Defining what that is – and the subsequent expectations – is a matter for strong consideration from the returning-from-holiday Mark Lawn and his joint-Chairman Julian Rhodes.
Four games into his initial contract, the honeymoon period feelings of goodwill continue to be directed towards Peter Taylor. After the win over Darlington there were calls for interim manager to be handed a long-term contract straightaway, for fear of another club snapping him up. That will certainly remain a concern when the short-term deal moves towards its conclusion, but it’s foolish to award a contract on the basis of two wins – no matter how impressive defeating leaders Rochdale was.
I agree Taylor should be given a longer deal, but that should have happened when he was originally recruited. Instead the club has gone the route of assessing a short-term tenure, so judgement has to remain reserved. It’s surely impossible to evaluate him over the short period of time so far, and the danger with some of the praise he’s receiving is that it contains an air of falseness that undermines credibility.
Or to look at it another way, imagine if Stuart McCall had still been in charge for those four games and made the same decisions and same comments? After the Accrington defeat Taylor was asked about the 1,800-strong away support in a post-match interview. He was quoted saying we supporters were “too hard on the players”.
Barely a year ago McCall mentioned the huge travelling support for an away game at Rochdale might have caused the players to feel nervous, which attracted incredulity from some fans that was twisted into McCall “blaming the fans for defeat” – incredulity which was repeatedly brought up right up until his resignation. Taylor’s criticism of the Accrington away support – albeit a very valid one – has attracted no attention.
Stuart was also consistently derided for being too respectful and full of praise to opposition teams ahead of matches, which some ignorantly claimed de-motivated his own players. After the 3-0 defeat to Rochdale in December, there was anger ahead of McCall’s pre-match thoughts on a trip to Darlington with threats, “he’d better not go on about how good Darlington are.” Ahead of Saturday’s home match with the Quakers, Taylor was declaring the bottom club would provide a tough game, no supporter battered an eyelid.
The Darlo game itself was also a differing indicator of acceptability. It was remarkably similar to the 1-0 win achieved in the North East last December, right down to timing of the only goal (23rd minute in the away game, 26th minute last Saturday). In the first halves of both games, City were dominant and should have scored plenty, but the failure to score a second goal prompted nerves in the second halves on both occasions, and in the end City were relieved to hear the final whistles.
The general performance was better in the Valley Parade encounter, but the acceptability of the afternoon was a huge contrast to the disappointed reaction after winning narrowly at the doomed club before Christmas.
Expectations have clearly dropped.
Then there’s the tactics and line ups. Under the final few weeks of McCall, there was the usual annoyance all managers seem to receive for playing people ‘out of position’. Yet Taylor’s decision to move left back Luke O’Brien to left wing and striker Gareth Evans to right wing attracts no criticism – had McCall tried the same thing, there’s little doubt he’d have been slated.
At Rochdale midfielder Michael Flynn was played up front and the decision was applauded if not praised (well it was Wayne Jacobs’ idea and a section of fans want him gone), when McCall played Flynn up front against Bournemouth he was labelled tactically clueless.
Which is not to suggest Taylor isn’t doing a good job, but that the well-meaning praise in support of him lacks substance and the goodwill has yet to be tested by the inevitable occurrence of a run of bad results. Right now the manager can do little wrong and any failings are directed to the players, but this will not last and the question of whether we can objectively rule if Taylor is the man to take the club forwards – seen as we’ve decided to take the probationary approach – is one that cannot yet be answered.
Yet Taylor is clearly impressing so far in the quiet-but-determined manner he’s going about the role. After using only two loan players under McCall, there are now four short-term players on the books, as Taylor attempts to stamp his own shape on the team. Meanwhile rumours rage about the future of Chris Brandon, who it seems clear will be leaving the club soon, and Scott Neilson is set to go out on loan.
Having overseen a debut game in charge that saw an unconfident City knocking the ball too direct and having nothing to offer on the flanks, he’s pushed O’Brien and Evans into unfamiliar roles that is bringing a degree of success and greater overall balance. Despite having some excellent striking pedigree to call upon from the sidelines in Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding, Taylor has brought in Mark McCammon in the belief he’s a more effective worker to match James Hanson.
Perhaps under McCall life was too comfortable for some players, though this may be more to do with injuries and lack of depth than a manager giving them an easy ride, but there is suddenly greater competition for places and those in the starting eleven have every reason to look over their shoulders. Some players will have had their nose slightly put out of joint by Taylor’s approach and selections, but the experienced man has publicly offered only praise for everyone and done nothing to belittle the previous regime.
But what is the target for the rest of the season, by which a reasonable and fair judgement can be made over whether he should be given a longer deal? A top half finish would seem a realistic objective. The number of winter postponements gives the league table a distorted look, but the gap is bridgeable over the remaining 14 games. An improvement in position and results from what McCall had achieved would build Taylor a strong case for being handed a longer deal.
Perhaps looking more ambitiously though is matching the points total achieved last season – 67. In what was a more competitive season with a smaller gulf in quality between top and bottom, that tally took City just short of a play off spot. This season the same total wouldn’t take the club as close, but it would send a powerful message.
For Taylor would have been able to steer City to matching the points tally of the year before, from working with a squad that cost a third less. It would represent a hugely compelling case for what he could do over a full season, with what is sure to still be limited resources.
To achieve this City would need to gain 27 points from the remaining 42 available – nine wins from the last 14 games. It’s a huge ask, especially considering City have won only ten games this season; but the closer he can finish to it, the greater the optimism for the following season would be – with Taylor at the helm.
Ultimately the goodwill currently directed towards Taylor is a positive thing and it is within everyone’s interests the short term trial works out. The potential for the club to be rudderless with a managerial vacancy this summer is both real and worrying, where all Taylor would have achieved is sign some loan players that denied City youngsters a chance.
The parallels of McCall’s first season, which lacked preparation, is one which could be made if a new guy has to start from scratch with just six players to choose from. Taylor is in a position to fully evaluate the squad before doing things his way this summer, the hope is the trial goes well enough for him to get that chance.
For a club which has nothing to play for this season, there’s an awful lot riding on these last 14 games
Peter Taylor was quick to share praise with Wayne Jacobs are the 3-1 win over Rochdale on Tuesday night with the new City manager crediting his inherited number two with a couple of match winning nudges. Following that Taylor could not speak higher of the ten year Bantams left back saying:
He’s a very good professional and a really honourable man and hopefully he is as happy as I am with him.
Jacobs had faced near unprecedented criticism in his role a Stuart McCall’s assistant with some supporters suggesting that he was simply incapable of doing his job on the basis of training sessions watched, on the club’s warm up and warm down procedures, on the way he points during games. Mark Lawn has wanted “an experienced number two” brought in over Jacobs during McCall’s time at the club.
Peter Taylor – the man who has been brought in because of what he knows about football – knows enough to want to retain the services of Jacobs beyond the end of the season when the assistant’s contract expires and despite the arrival of Junior Lewis as a coach this week.
To Taylor Jacobs offers a link not just to the past of the club – he is a link back to the Premier League and back to Wembley and Chris Kamara – but to recent years under his and McCall’s stewardship. Jacobs is not just the other ginger legend – he is every coaching session in the last three years, every games played and the payers reaction to it. He is player that he and Stuart watched and he is all the knowledge that comes with working with the current squad for three years. He is knowing the name of Michael Flynn’s wife and he is being able to say from first hand experience just why City went from top to outside the play-offs this time last year.
That Taylor values all that knowledge says much about his approach as a manager which is one of augmentation and – that word again – stability rather than revolutions. His Hull City team that went up two divisions contained the likes of Ryan France and Ian Ashbee who ended up playing in every division for the Tigers and as he gets to grips with the City squad one might wonder how many of the Bantams squad could do the same and step up league after league. We can but hope.
Perhaps the effect of Taylor and Jacobs can be seen in Robbie Threfel’s arrival at City. Imagine Taylor turning to Jacobs and asking who takes change of the dead ball situations and Jacobs explaining how since Paul McLaren left no one had grasped the nettle. The Liverpool loanee’s delivery has added to City’s arsenal and had a significant part in every goal on Tuesday night.
Taylor made it clear from his interview – before, one assumes, he had met Jacobs – that he wanted to retain the staff already at the club. He is a manager who understands the merits of the knowledge at the club and the merits of carrying on with the things that Stuart McCall has brought, pruning the poor, adding to the good.
By the end of this week we should know Bradford City’s new caretaker manager until at least the end of the season, but who is in contention? Here’s the who-what-why-when-where-how of the reported candidates.
Why might he be interested? Having guided Wycombe Wanderers to promotion from League Two last season, Taylor was surprisingly given the boot last October as the club struggled to come to terms with League One life. That his successor Gary Waddock has done little to improve the Chairboys survival hopes once again underlines the futility of changing managers. Taylor has also been linked with the vacant Notts County position.
What’s he achieved? A lot in a lengthy career which beginnings included non-league Dartford and Dover Athletic. He rose to fame after then-England manager Glenn Hoddle asked him to manage the England U21′s in 1996. He also took over at Gillingham in 1999, guiding the Kent club to promotion from Division Two, via the play offs.
Taylor had one game in charge of England as caretaker in 2000, a 1-0 defeat to Italy. It’s well documented he handed David Beckham the England captaincy, but he also helped to bring in the new generation of England players in place of the aging ones which had failed dismally at Euro 2000.
After guiding Brighton to the Division Two Championship in 2002, Taylor left for Hull and lifted the historically-underachieving Tigers from the bottom division to the Championship thanks to back-to-back promotions. He again managed the England U21s at the same time.
Where has it not gone so well? In between Taylor’s successes has been some notable failures. Following Martin O’Neill at Premiership Leicester in 2000 was always going to be a tough act. At Filbert Street he spent a whopping £23million in 18 months, and was sacked as they headed to relegation.
After the success at Hull, Taylor took charge of Crystal Palace but failed to lift the Championship club towards promotion and was sacked after 16 months, with the Eagles languishing in the bottom three.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? At Gillingham, Taylor’s side caused an FA Cup shock when they defeated Paul Jewell’s Premiership City 3-1 in 2000.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? City’s four ex-non-league players might welcome him here because of his non-league background.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Well Taylor has a similar persona to Colin Todd (four years younger). So you could try labelling him a miserable old man and claim his team talks must be very uninspiring.
Why might he be interested? Cotterill has been without a club since leaving Burnley in 2007. He has been linked with the VP position, though BfB understands he wasn’t interviewed prior to the weekend. He may be one of at least two interviewees lined up for Tuesday, and has recently been linked with vacant positions at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday.
What’s he achieved? Cotterill is best known for his success at Cheltenham Town at the turn of the millennium. He guided the Robins from the Conference to Division Two. In 2002 he left to manage Stoke and then, after just 13 games in charge, went to Sunderland as assistant to Howard Wilkinson. Cotterill is Burnley’s longest serving manager and in his time took the Clarets to the FA Cup fifth round.
Where has it not gone so well? His decision to move to Sunderland in 2002 was a disaster, as he and Wilkinson oversaw a dismal relegation campaign and won just two games. Cotterill was clearly lined up to be Wilkinson’s long-term successor, but was sacked with the former Leeds boss before the season ended.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? One of his 13 games in charge of Stoke included a 2-1 success over City. A Gary Walsh miskick allowed future Bantams’ striker Andy Cooke to score a tap in, which sadly spelt the end of arguably City’s finest modern-day keeper.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? At Burnley, Cotterill earned the nickname “Cotterball” for his long ball tactics; so our centre backs, who seem to love hoofing the ball aimlessly forwards, would presumably welcome carrying this on.
How should message board users go about abusing him? His quick departure from Stoke and fact he left Cheltenham suggests he uses clubs as stepping stones, so you’ll be able to say he doesn’t care about City.
Why might he be interested? Sacked as Brighton manager in November, Slade has managed several lower league clubs and will be attracted to the Bantams, as arguably the biggest club he’ll have managed.
What’s he achieved? Not a lot really. His arrival at clubs has often caused the short-term effect of strong winning runs and he’s guided Scarborough and Brighton away from relegation troubles. Slade has also reached two play off finals – with Grimsby and Yeovil – but lost both times.
Where has it not gone so well? Over a longer period Slade has been unable to significantly take any club forwards and has been known to walk away. He was sacked at Yeovil last season for ‘gross misconduct’.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Just ask Gordon Gibb. In 2003 Slade had apparently all but agreed to become City’s youth team manager, but changed his mind to the clear annoyance of the former chairman.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Simon Ramsden played under Slade at Grimsby.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Slade was said to be interested in returning to Grimsby when there was a vacancy at Blundell Park late last year. Fans didn’t want him, and that the man who got it instead hasn’t won a game yet means you can justifiably moan, “even bloody Grimsby didn’t want him!”
Why might he be interested? Sacked by Lincoln City last September, Jacko would apparently love to take over at his former club.
What’s he achieved? Became Town manager in 1997 with the Terriers bottom of the league, managed to pull it around so they beat the drop but, despite a flying start to the season after, he could only lead them to a midtable finish and was sacked the day after City were promoted to the Premiership. Returning in 2003 with Town languishing in the bottom division and just coming out of administration, Jackson guided Huddersfield to promotion via the play offs. He took over at Lincoln in 2007 when the Imps were in the relegation zone and lifted them up the league.
Where has it not gone so well? He was sacked twice by Huddersfield and at Lincoln, and his boastful nature can count against him in the long term. For me though, the usual style of football he plays – defensive-minded and all about the counter attack, time wasting and fouling – has limited his progress. Not pretty to watch.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Jacko obviously has a long history with City and fans’ attitudes towards him generally differ by age. In recent years the dislike towards him has softened and, when Jacko was receiving treatment for throat cancer two years ago, he revealed he’d received more letters of support from City fans than any other club.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Chris Brandon and Matt Glennon played under Jackson at Town and would presumably welcome him.
How should message board users go about abusing him? You don’t need my help on this one.
Why might he be interested? Like Cotterill, Sanchez has been out the management game for a few years. He was last at Fulham.
What’s he achieved? Starting at Wycombe, he guided the club to the FA Cup semi finals in 2001 (beating Peter Taylor’s Leicester along the way). His achievements at Northern Ireland were highly impressive. Taking over with the country winless in three years, he guided them to famous wins over Spain and England as they climbed from 124th to 27th in the FIFA rankings.
Where has it not gone so well? Away from the cup exploits at Wycombe, league form wasn’t great and he was sacked. Sanchez must surely regret leaving Northern Ireland for Fulham, where he signed some of his star Irish players but couldn’t lift the club upwards. He earned the boot after just 24 games in charge (four wins).
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Just before he became Northern Ireland manager, Sanchez expressed his interest in the managerial vacancy at City that was eventually filled by Bryan Robson, saying it was an attractive job as there would be “money to spend”. Hopefully Sanchez did his homework when applying this time.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? At Wycombe Sanchez was criticised for sticking with aging players, so any City player the wrong side of 30 might hope he persists with this approach.
How should message board users go about abusing him? The style of football he introduced at Fulham was widely derided, so expect similar moans about “hoof ball” if he got the job.
Why might he be interested? Sacked from QPR before Christmas due to an alleged bust up with a player, the Irishman will probably be hoping for a Championship job but might see a spell at City as an opportunity to be in the shop window.
What’s he achieved? A popular player at Ipswich, Magilton was handed the reins in 2006 after Joe Royle left. He twice came close to finishing in the play offs but after his second failure was sacked to make way for Roy Keane. In his second of three seasons at Ipswich, Magilton turned Portman Road into a fortress (they lost just once at home). Appointed QPR manager this summer, the club had started this season well.
Where has it not gone so well? At both Ipswich and QPR Magilton had sizable transfer funds, but he couldn’t take Ipswich up. How would he do on a shoestring budget?
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? As a player, Magilton greatly impressed City fans during a 0-0 draw with Ipswich in the 1998-99 promotion battle between the two clubs.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Michael Flynn, Lee Bullock, Steve O’Leary and Luke Sharry would surely learn a few pointers from a brilliant midfielder. The attractive passing football he introduced at QPR would also see City’s midfield be given greater responsibility.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Unproven, fights with players (allegedly), only here until he gets a better job, etc.
Why might he be interested? The former City striker hung up the boots earlier this season after a brief spell as player-assistant under Colin Todd at Darlington. He’s making an impression as pundit on Sky Sports, but is said to be desperate to become a manager.
What’s he achieved? With no previous managerial experience, nothing yet. However his exploits at City – 216 games, 76 goals – demand respect.
Where has it not gone so well? Both spells at City ended less happily with Deano typically shooting his mouth off. His second exit, on loan to Hull, was particularly unhappy with rumours I couldn’t repeat here.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? See above.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Only Matt Clarke and Luke O’Brien were at the club when he departed. In his autobiography Windass praises Todd for allowing him to solely focus on getting on the end of chances rather than dropping deep to help the team, Peter Thorne may welcome a manager asking him to do something similar.
How should message board users go about abusing him? When playing for City message board users poured some frightful and at times disgusting abuse towards Deano, expect that to continue if he takes over and doesn’t do well.
Why might he be interested? Accrington manager, the third longest serving in the top four divisions. It seems unlikely he would give that up for a few months at City, but he has yet to sign a new contract at Stanley and keeps been linked. Perhaps he’s sick of people going on about the milk advert.
What’s he achieved? Since taking over at Stanley in 1999, Coleman has lifted the famous club back into the Football League via three promotions. Despite very low gates and financial worries, Coleman has kept Stanley away from the relegation trap door and, even with recent form dipping, they still retain an outside chance of the play offs.
Where has it not gone so well? Nowhere yet, perhaps he wants to keep it that way by staying put.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? The shock 3-0 success of Stanley at Valley Parade in October 2007 was described by Coleman at the time as the best performance of his time at Accrington.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? His career rejuvenated by Coleman, former City striker Michael Symes might relish following his boss to BD8 to show what we missed when he was here.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Coleman would quickly be labelled ‘out of his depth’. Those who pretend to be wiser would also go back to last season’s 3-2 City triumph at Stanley – where Accrington blew a 2-0 lead – as an example of his lack of tactical know-how in not seeing out the game. “I knew after that day he should never become our manager” you might claim.
Why might he be interested? Other than the odd appearance on BBC’s final score, Dowie was last seen assisting Alan Shearer at Newcastle United. After a very promising start to his managerial career, Dowie’s stock has fallen in recent years and he might see this as his route back.
What’s he achieved? After starting at Oldham, Dowie became Crystal Palace manager in December 2003 with the club 19th in Division One. His objective was to keep Palace up, he ended the season taking the Eagles to the Premiership via the play offs. Despite a good fight, Palace went down and the following season Dowie’s team lost in the play offs.
Where has it not gone so well? Everywhere since. He left Palace for Charlton and was sacked after 12 games, did little at Coventry and managed only 15 games at the trigger-happy QPR.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? Guided Palace to a 2-1 win at Valley Parade in January 2004, as the Eagles headed to promotion and City headed to relegation.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? Not Zesh Rehman, who was at Loftus Road when Dowie took over. Zesh was instantly loaned out to Blackpool.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Dowie’s usually had plenty of money to spend, but his record in the transfer market isn’t great. Expect him to make a couple of dodgy loan signings and be written off there and then.
Why might he be interested? Having left Cheltenham under something of a cloud earlier this season, Allen is looking to restore a battered reputation.
What’s he achieved? Allen made his managerial name at Brentford where he saved the Bees from relegation from League One in his first season before steering them to successive play off semi finals. He also oversaw some memorable FA cup exploits, which included him swimming in the river solent ahead of a tie at Southampton.
After resigning due to lack of investment in the team, Allen helped to turn the MK Dons tide by taking the relegated League Two club to the play offs. The defeat to Shrewsbury was widely cheered given the MK Dons unethical emergence.
Where has it not gone so well? He left the Dons for Leicester and was sacked after just four games due to not getting on with chairman Milan Mandaric. He emerged at Cheltenham last season, but couldn’t save them from the drop to League Two.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? He was of course the opposition manager for City’s remarkable 5-4 win over Cheltenham earlier this season.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? The much-loved City supporter, ‘Charlie’. When Allen’s Brentford side were being well beaten by City in 2005, Allen left the dugout to sit and talk to Charlie in the stand. He later remarked on how Bradford City fans “know their football.”
How should message board users go about abusing him? Allen was a popular in The Game a few years ago when passionate managers screaming on the touchline was in fashion. Widely-viewed as nutters these days, Allen at City would be slated for getting worked up during games.
Why might he be interested? Just like McCall, Jacobs cares passionately about Bradford City and is said to not be able to imagine being anywhere else.
What’s he achieved? As assistant at Halifax, he helped Chris Wilder guide the club to the Conference play offs.
Where has it not gone so well? His caretaker record at City now reads P 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 F 0 A 1.
When has he previously crossed the Bantams’ path? No explanation needed, Jacobs proved himself a true City legend during his 11-year spell as left back.
Who might welcome them to Valley Parade? It’s been suggested the players are very disappointed McCall has left, so they may welcome Jacobs taking the step up.
How should message board users go about abusing him? Already some OMB users have threatened to chuck away their season tickets if Jakes is appointed, which is a shame. As assistant, some fans moaned he clapped too much; expect close scrutiny over his touchline routine which will of course be considered wrong.
Bradford City 0 Grimsby Town 0 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2009/2010
A banner was unfurled over the edge of the Main Stand top tier as the players came out for kick off which seemed to be in support of Stuart McCall; but before we’d had chance to read what it said, it had been removed.
This didn’t appear to be an act of boardroom concealing, more concern from stewards that the banner was covering up advertising hoardings. Though it was a shame the supporter’s home-made effort wasn’t allowed to be draped over some of the thousands of empty seats.
It was not meant to be, and perhaps the same can be said of Wayne Jacobs as Bradford City manager. Having requested to Mark Lawn that he is interviewed for the vacant position during the week, this disappointing draw with second-bottom Grimsby was hardly the commendation he needed ahead of Monday’s meeting. Already an outsider for the position, his chances seemingly reduced with each passing minute of goalless action.
Apart from Jacobs patrolling the dugout in suit rather tracksuit, it was difficult to recognise much different. For 90 minutes City huffed and puffed, but the well-organised visitors defended in numbers and carried a threat on the break. Oliver Lancashire and Joe Widdowson were outstanding at the back and, although the Bantams spent long spells camped out in the opposition half, clear cut chances were at a premium.
Robbed of injury to Omar Daley, Jacobs’ team selection could easily have been that of McCall’s. Though Gareth Evans was moved to the left instead of part of a front three, bringing more balance to the side than for last week’s defeat to Bury. Scott Neilson was recalled on the right and improved on a tentative start to produce an impressive second half display which was aided by Jacobs’ switching Simon Ramsden back to right back at half time, as City’s captain was more supportive going forward than Zesh Rehman in the first half.
But elsewhere confidence was obviously lacking. For much of this season City have been too desperate to get the ball forwards quickly instead of showing composure; and though midfield pair Lee Bullock and Michael Flynn impressed in patches, the middlemen were often cut out in favour of a long ball from the back towards James Hanson.
With Grimsby playing a higher backline in the first half, passes in behind the strikers from midfield was an effective option, but when Town dropped deeper it was back to route one. Initial panic was often caused from Hanson’s flick ons, but Town always seemed to have more numbers back to snuff out the danger.
Evans had the best chance of the first half when a good pass had set Hanson clear before he pulled the ball back to City’s number nine. But Evans’ confidence seems to have been unaffected by his double at Torquay two weeks ago and he fired over. It’s now three months since he scored at Valley Parade.
And it’s nine months since Peter Thorne - making his first start since going off injured against Rochdale in the JPT last September - scored anywhere. The top scorer of the past two seasons was effective in holding up the ball, but inside the area the sort of half chances he sniffs out seemed to allude him. Michael Boulding was introduced on 65 minutes and wasted a decent opportunity when shooting straight at Nick Colgan. Hanson and Neilson also fired over from promising positions, but the 0-0 looked inevitable long before the assistant referee signalled four minutes of injury time.
Matt Glennon was a virtual spectator, other than an important save from a well-worked Grimsby corner just after the break. Despite the visitors’ relegation worries, they seemed content with a point and made few efforts to push forwards in numbers during the final 20 minutes. It was an afternoon to forget.
Which quickly pushes the focus back onto the managerial situation and, with Martin Allen and Russell Slade watching from the stands, they and others would seem to be in a better position than Jacobs after he oversaw this mediocre display. Jacobs’ best hope of earning the job would surely have lied in truly differentiating himself from his former manager, given Lawn’s rather tactless hint McCall would have been pushed had he not jumped.
In time, Jacobs would surely stamp his own mark on the club. But his chance always lied in the short term and this City display was much of the same and therefore makes it more difficult for him to convince Lawn and Julian Rhodes he could do a better job than McCall.
But whoever does come in has a job to do in quickly building up confidence and belief in a team which has become too used to feeling hard done by. Not losing today means the spectre of falling into a relegation battle remains distant, but with two tricky trips to Lancashire to come before a visit from a Darlington side showing faint signs of improvement - however futile - the urgency for improved results is increasing.
Like this drab draw which was seemingly decided long before the end, City’s season seems to be drifting to an inevitable mundane mid-table conclusion. That Jacobs was unable to make an impact means it will surely now be an outsider entrusted with shaking things up.
Tell someone that you have seen the Yeti wandering around Thornton and they will not believe you. Talk about seeing Little Green Men wandering through Idle you will be looked at in a curious manner. Say you saw Spaceships over Shipley you will be considered wrong in the head.
Today – however – if you claim to have seen Sir Alex Ferguson wandering around Manningham you will be believed and you will have started a rumour.
For today is the day that – some days too late in the opinion of this writer – Bradford City step up the search for a replacement for Stuart McCall holding interviews for the position of Interim Manager.
The role is a curious one. It promises “pole position” for the job as it is appointed in the summer but is distinctly a fixed term contract. Achievement is touted as impossible in the role with joint chairman Mark Lawn making it clear that he believes that that club is not going up or down this season. Julian Rhodes – who thought similar when appointing David Wetherall three years ago as a prelude to the sink to League Two – could not have kept a straight face saying the same thing.
If the financial situation at the club did not then the nature of this interim position – as opposed to the caretaker role Wayne Jacobs has presently (he is taking care of the team, that is why they are called caretaker managers) – precludes the idea that one of today’s appointments will be with a manager who currently has a job ruling out swathes of names. Alan Knill, Keith Hill, Fabio Capello; these are just some of the people who despite no doubt frequent sightings in BD8 would almost exclude themselves from the process should they show poor enough judgement to leave one club for such a transient position.
The timing of the change also precludes the idea of bringing in a player manager unless the player with ambitions is currently without club in which case they are probably no longer to be considered player-managers but rather rookies which would not seem to be the type of person the club are looking for. The irony in this is that this would have excluded Roy McFarland, Trevor Cherry, Chris Kamara and Paul Jewell from the job who are the only City managers who have achieved promotion in my life time, and I ain’t as young as I was.
Nevertheless Mark Lawn has talked about bringing in an experience manager and some have suggested that this means Terry Dolan which perhaps is a definition of the word experience which might not be as expected but is accurate. In the same way that when fans talk about a team needing to be consistent they do not desire a side that always lose so when they talk about experience do they mean someone who has failed often and at many levels.
One recalls the words of Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling: “I have learnt from my mistakes and I could repeat them exactly.”
Not that that is to suggest that Dolan is especially worth mentioning as being an poor candidate over and above the no doubt hundreds of names who have failed often at clubs similar to City. Expect Peter Jackson to be sighted around the club looking to bring some of the “magic” that he showed in his previous appointments to Valley Parade. He should be used to the journey by now having been interviewed and accepted the role of Bradford City manager in December 2000 only to decide that he would give backword a day later.
Not that every manager who has been sacked can automatically be assumed to have failed. Mark Cooper – son of Leeds’s Terry – was sacked from Peterborough by an increasingly mad chairman while Gary McAllister’s record at Leeds United of 25 wins in 50 games certainly does not suggest that he should have been put out of work.
Experience managers who are out of work are not uncommon and should they have every worn claret and amber in action then they will probably be mentioned as meandering around Bedlington Terrace sometime this afternoon.
The obsession clubs have with appointing managers who have played for the club is always a curious one. Chris Wilder – the manager of Oxford United who aside from going well in the Conference would also be able to reunite with Jacobs who was his assistant at Halifax Town – played for the club for months more than years but still this promotes his name above Graham Westley or Martin Foyle who manage the clubs above and below the Us.
One would hope – and it seems that these hopes are to be dashed – that Mark Lawn will have looked to low risk appointments of managers who can point to a repeated track record of success such as Peter Taylor or Paul Jewell but were that the decision then there would have been little reason not to appoint the man on Monday. Jewell – incidentally – is still being paid by Derby County as part of his severance from Pride Park a year ago. That contract expires in the summer when Jewell is looking for work.
Expect Jewell and Taylor to be sighted though, and hope that the sightings are true.
For while Lawn is confident that the season is done for the Bantams one cannot help but recall Wetherall’s fourteen games at the club and think that how a similar return of one point of every four from the next nineteen games would give City 14 more points to add the the current 33. The aforementioned Cooper got a single win and four draws in thirteen games at The Posh this season despite his being brought not from the dole queue but from a job he was excelling in at Kettering Town and City cannot afford that sort of performance and, as with Peterborough, would find it hard to predict it.
47 points is normally enough to avoid relegation but the whole endeavour seems to pile a level of risk onto the club for little return considering that in four months time the process, the sightings, the looking for a new manager will start all over again.
Only rather than having a manager who knows the players names we will be left hoping that the one sighting that turns out to be accurate can manage to quickly get to the level of being average and stay there for a few months.
So after months or rumours and speculation we now know. The Telegraph & Argus has said it, Stuart McCall tellingly said nothing; but the truth is out that the former manager and joint-chairmen Mark Lawn’s relationship was strained to the point they had “barely communicated in months”.
It seems incredible that a professional football club could operate with two key figures working on such fractured terms. It also raises legitimate concerns over the state of the partnership between Lawn and co-chairman Julian Rhodes, and the damage a clear difference of opinion might have caused in both the short and long term.
Rhodes and Gordon Gibb were widely-stated to have begun their painful fallout because of the decision to sack Nicky Law in 2003, will recent debates over the future of McCall cause history to repeat itself? It’s claimed Rhodes owns 51% of the club to Lawn’s 49%, was the latter willing to accept the former’s wishes to persist with McCall?
McCall’s lack of comment on Lawn, choosing instead only to praise Rhodes as he departed, speaks volumes. Lawn’s weekend quote on McCall’s expected departure that, “Obviously I’ve only heard this through the grapevine. Stuart hasn’t spoken to me,” does him no favours. The last few days has demonstrated just how many supporters still wanted McCall to be manager and, as they come to terms with the departure of a legend, Lawn is becoming an increasingly obvious target for their anger.
Lawn was probably not the only Board member keen for a change. I missed the Christmas games against Shrewsbury and Cheltenham so didn’t get to buy my usual copy of the matchday programme. When in the days after the Cheltenham game McCall publicly declared, “If anyone wants to pack up and clear off, then I don’t want them here. That goes for anybody connected with the club,” the target of the attack was unclear. The City Gent’s John Watmough, via the Official Message Board, suggested Stuart’s anger was aimed at director Roger Owen for comments in the Cheltenham programme. Intrigued, I had a look at the article when visiting the club shop on Saturday, and was as stunned as John by Owen’s words.
Talking about the JPT 3-0 defeat to League One Carlisle, he seemingly dismissed the sending off of Simon Ramsden as having no bearing on the game before bemoaning the so-called gulf in class which showed how far behind City are from their intended target of League One football. City were very unlucky to lose the game, giving everything with 10 men and coming very close to pulling back the tie at 1-0, so it’s understandable if McCall was fuming at reading these criticisms from a member of the Board. It was unfair for any manager to have his team so publicly attacked internally; it also suggests lifelong fan Owen sees things from Lawn’s point of view.
Perhaps this is the downside of the much trumpeted ‘fans running the club’ idea of a couple of seasons ago. No one doubts the huge work rate and commitment of those responsible for running the club, but come 3pm on a Saturday afternoon it seems they are no different to the rest of us in becoming fans, with conflicting views and ideals to others.
With access to bending the manager’s ear and a financial interest in how the club is run, they have greater opportunity to share those views, such as perhaps suggesting a lack of firepower could be rectified by some Chilean flair. But ultimately their views as fans are no more or less insightful than the rest of us, and were probably sometimes unwelcomed by a single-minded manager.
I can’t help but feel Lawn and Owen, like other fans, were of the opinion that the removal of the manager is all that is needed to catapult City up the leagues. A friend of mine used to work under Lawn many years ago, at his driver hire company, and regularly told me how his boss had a box at City and complained all the time about how bad we were. As a supporter, perhaps Lawn has allowed himself to take a regular fan’s view of blaming all faults on the manager, when it’s partly his job to help them find positive solutions.
There’s a sense of irony that, after so many fans moaned McCall had no plan B, we find that, after allowing him to leave, the City board don’t have one either.
But it is Telegraph & Argus’ reporting of the cause of the fall out between McCall and Lawn which troubles me the most – that of the apparent lack of experience in the coaching staff. It’s a well run and frankly boring debate which has been raging amongst City fans ever since Stuart appointed Wayne Jacobs as his assistant. That Jacobs had a few years experience as assistant at Halifax Town seemed to be ignored.
The whole thing never made sense to me, it was as if fans didn’t believe McCall knew what to do so had to have someone older telling him. Surely if people really believed he needed an assistant to make the decisions, he shouldn’t be the manager in the first place?
But it’s really more to do with the fact it’s Jacobs. He spent some 10 years as a player with City, raising from Division Two to the Premiership with the Bantams, yet for almost his whole Bantams career we had to endure supporters at games loudly screaming abuse at him.
Jacobs was the soft target to pick on, the obvious choice for those who like to inflict their football knowledge onto other people to highlight as the cause of all problems. How these people became excited when other left backs were signed to replace Jakes, how disappointed they were after he fought challengers off to keep his place. Jacobs, the worst left back in Division Two back in 1996, marking David Beckham in the Premier League in 2000 – how did that happen?
And as Lawn apparently argued with McCall that he should ditch his ginger friend and bring in someone like Terry Dolan, fairly or unfairly I can’t help but picture Lawn sat a few seats along from me at various games over the years, ready to jump on his feet and scream at Jacobs when he next lost the ball. The fans who were doing this were probably the same ones who shamefully tried to pin the blame for two-and-a-half years of League Two failure on Jacobs, and on McCall for employing him.
And if you believed McCall should have appointed a more experienced number two, but you say it’s nothing personal against Jacobs, please answer me this honestly – would you have been demanding a more experienced number two if McCall had instead recruited Peter Beagrie?
As we say goodbye to McCall, it seems the lesser celebrated legend that is Jacobs will also soon be departing. He seems to have no chance of earning the managers job, those who ridiculed him as assistant are already informing the rest of us on the message boards that they would hurl their season tickets on the floor in disgust if he were appointed.
Personally I think this is really sad, because there’s merit in enabling Stuart’s building work to be continued in the same manner Paul Jewell once continued Chris Kamara’s, rather than ripping everything up. Yet losing a manager is always coupled with an abandoning of the policy which led to their appointment. If Colin Todd was the cheese to the chalk of McCall, it’s likely his ultimate replacement will be the type of experienced man Lawn and others were apparently craving to be his assistant.
So unless the new guy has a need for Jacobs, he will be gone too. Ridiculed by fans and indirectly insulted by the Board, hopefully he’ll at least get to be in charge for Saturday’s game with Grimsby.
If that is the last time he’s employed by Bradford City, let’s make sure he too gets the reception he deserves.
Bradford City will begin to interview managers for the vacant role on Thursday ahead of the Grimsby Town game on Saturday.
Unless an appointment is made on the day it seems that the Bantams will be going into the game with Wayne Jacobs as caretaker manager before the interim manager is found.
Even should a new man be appointed as a result of these interviews then it would be odd for him not to allow someone who knows the players to pick the side and so it would seem Jacobs will get his a chance to manage the side in what is a crucial game.
Bradford City director Roger Owen is not a happy man. The man who was rumoured to be the target of Stuart McCall’s We All Stand Together comments has reacted with some anger to criticism which suggested that the recent call off against Notts County was as much down to a fall in standards at Valley Parade as it was falling snow.
Owen – who has a rising profile at Valley Parade – addressed City fans saying
I have been prompted to speak in light of some really quite hurtful comments … relating to the capabilities of those at the Club who worked so hard to get Saturday’s game on.
His further comments make fascinating reading. City tried to get the game on because Notts County were in financial trouble but not because they thought the Meadow Lane club could do with the money but rather because should they get it – they might have signed someone by the time the reply is staged. One might have suspected that such unsporting – if as Owen says valid – reasons are applied to the staging of games but perhaps one would not have expected those things to be verbalised in a public forum and doing so seems a little crass.
The comment which have sparked Owen’s ire come from – of course – the club’s Official Message Board and Owen joins Mark Lawn in demanding a removal of anonymity from that place as a way to make people more accountable for what they say. One has to wonder who these calls are aimed at? When a decision was made to stop fake name and anonymous positing on this website we wrote some rules and got about our business. Lawn’s prompts came about a month ago and one wonders why they are no further toward fruition.
One also wonders what the effects of removing anonymity from the Official Message Board would be on those who would happily have their comments attributed to their correct name. If BantamHead89 writes something offensive or insulting about the manager, the players or the groundsmen what of the is the come back that he should expect if the club know that BantamHead89 is Jimmy Smith from Terrace Street in Idle? Would he be banned for matches? Have his season ticket removed? Will Jimmy face a visit from Matthew Clarke and James Hanson on a dark evening to “discuss his views.”
While one ponders that question is it worth considering the background of the problems the club has with the supporters it interfaces with through the Official Message Board which has always been troubled but never more or less so than any other club. When Lincoln City sacked Peter Jackson and his assistant
Keith Alexander Iffy Onoura the number two used his FourFourTwo column to discuss how after returning home from a 14 hour day he had put in on behalf of the Imps he had read on a web forum how he “did nothing.”
The Bantams OMB says similar things about Wayne Jacobs and does so under the heading of the word “Official” and were that all there was to say about the web forum which once again is dragged into the fore of the conversation of Bradford City then it would be easy to say that the whole thing should be shut down. It is not.
Spin back six years and the OMB was the lifeblood of Bradford City as the club headed to oblivion of a second administration. The community around it was a significant factor is raising what was at the time the largest amount of money put together by football fans in defence of their club’s future. Community – with almost no exception – is a good thing and the community which has emerged around the Bradford City OMB is no different.
That that community comes under the banner of “Official” is a problem for the club – many have asked what any person would do were they to read that their own employer carried negative commentary about them – and one which Lawn is right to try address but his carrot and stick approach of removing the anonymity in exchanged for continued use addresses some of the problems the OMB might have in terms of the level of debate being brought down by brickbat attacks from faceless people but does not capitalise on what the OMB could be.
The OMB is a community – like it or not – and it is probably the biggest community of Bradford City fans assembled outside of VP on a match day. It puts City Gent and BfB into the shade in terms of numbers and impact. City are forever answering issues that arise from comments on the Official Message Board be it a negative as it was today or responding to questions obliquely asked on that forum but they have never commented on an article on this site, or on the other non-official sites.
As a community the OMB is significant but Bradford City do not get the most from that community – not by a long way – and they are not alone in that. Having played a significant role on projects for Premier League clubs trying to address the question of how best to leverage the community around the club into a workable web presence I would suggest that there is not a football club in this country that “get” the web and what to do with it.
Owen and Lawn are right to try remove anonymity from the Official Message Board – the instinct of having supporter be accountable for what they say is a good one – but the OMB is a problem for this club and other clubs on the whole because football clubs still have not decided what to do with the Internet and how they best can use it to further the idea of a football support for all that carries on all week long.
Jake Wright was supposed to be little more than a footnote in Bradford City history.
The left sided defender wore number 46 – the highest number the club has issued – in 2003 but was did not feature in the following years before he was released signing for Chris Wilder and Wayne Jacobs at a Halifax Town side where he served well enough that he secured a move to Crawley Town as Fax declined.
Crawley allowed the player to go Brighton on trial and Brighton were impressed enough to sign Jake Wright to the League One club.
The 23 year old battles for a place at the Withdean Stadium at left back or in the middle and has the tributes of Russell Slade – a man City once tried to recruit as youth team boss – ringing in his ears.
One wonders what turned Wright’s career around. Perhaps Wayne Jacobs critics will note that Wright had turned and City’s brightest prospect of last season Luke O’Brien also plays in the assistant manager’s position which might point to Jakes doing something right.
Coaching aside a man changes between 18 and 23 and Wright now is no doubt different from Wright then. More mature, more determined perhaps and that could be a result of release by City.
Nevertheless it is heartening to see a young player turn himself around following release from a league club and with City dipping into signing non-league players such as James Hanson and Steve Williams there is a hope that good players may be available from previously unused sourced.
The eighteen year olds released as kids five years ago become matured twenty three year olds the non-league system further sorted and returned the best.
I remember Mark Bower’s debut for City.
Down at Carrow Road in April 1998, City had climbed into a seemingly unassailable 3-0 advantage thanks to quick-fire goals either side of half time. The first of those scorers, Wayne Jacobs, had to go off injured, so off the bench stepped an 18-year old to take the City skipper’s spot. Norwich, trying to avoid relegation from then-Division One, came back to 3-2, and we were too busy willing the referee to blow for full time to be pre-occupied with how the debut boy was getting on. He must have quietly got through it, never giving cause for a fuss.
And that’s what is both great and not so great about the long-serving defender, who today it was officially announced has been released. Bower’s City career has rarely featured controversial headlines or given managers cause for headaches, but it hasn’t included too many good times either. During his 11 years he’s generally looked solid and dependable, but when his understated presence was taken away, for manager Stuart McCall, it wasn’t missed enough.
That said there is great sadness in thinking of the Bradford-born defender out of work and facing an uncertain future right now. His presence at Valley Parade, for the past decade, was something we took for granted.
The next time I saw Bower was when we were beaten at home to Portsmouth at the end of a season his team mates had long since given up on. The following two campaigns were unforgettable, with promotion and then that exciting first season in the Premiership, but what Bower saw of it was from the sidelines or from afar while on loan at York City, near the bottom of the Football League.
He did at least get to play for City in Europe the following season, but was back at York for half a season as City sank miserably from the Premier League. A fleeting appearance here and there, including another game at Carrow Road during which he scored his first City goal, was all he had to show as City laboured to get going back in Division One. Eventually Nicky Law, already Bower’s fourth different manager, gave him a run in the side and he played a significant role in ensuring a second successive relegation was avoided, even scoring the winning goal at Wimbledon to confirm mathematical survival.
Typical of Bower’s luck, he became more part of the scene just as the bad times really begun. As the club fell into administration, Bower was one of only five players it did not attempt to sack. At times that summer City staying in existence was touch and go and, while the immediate concern for Bower the City fan would have been for the future of his club, it would equally have been on his own given he was the verge of making it. In the end City survived and Bower prospered in a reduced squad with reduced expectations the following season, playing 39 times.
The centenary that City celebrated during the 2003/04 season was marked by relegation and administration, with Bower not for the first time watching others underperform in his place. Jason Gavin was brought in and played ahead of Bower by first Nicky Law then Bryan Robson, and if there was one early thing to trumpet Colin Todd for after he took over that summer it was his decision to pick Bower ahead of the hapless Irishman.
And under the tutelage of the former England defender it seemed Bower had finally arrived. City, now in League One, bobbled about in mid table for two seasons with David Wetherall and Bower mainstays at the back. Bower picked up the 2004/05 Player of the Season award ahead of an undoubtedly aghast 28-goal Dean Windass. Yet a year later came further clues that Bower was not the kingpin to build a defence around, with Todd shifting him to left back for a time so the impressive Damion Stewart could partner Wetherall. Todd’s now-huge army of critics saw it as an opportunity to slam the City boss, while ignoring the fact Bower looked excellent charging forward down the left flank.
With the club seemingly on irreversible decline, it seemed to finally catch up with Bower a year later. Todd was sacked in February and Wetherall asked to assume a caretaker role, and the opportunity was there for Bower, newly appointed as skipper, to emerge from Wetherall’s shadow and become a rock to depend upon. He was hardly the only player to fail to reach the heights expected as the club crashed to a seemingly avoidable relegation, but the player who had never let anyone down failed to convincingly prove he could step things up and be a hero.
With two years of a four-year deal still to run, Bower stayed on for life in League Two but it has been far from kind. If asked to name regrets, Bower might just list his willingness to play in goal away at Grimsby, when an injury to keeper Evans left manager Stuart McCall without a specialist to take the role. Bower let no one down in goal, but his replacement at the back, Matt Clarke, impressed instantly alongside Wetherall and suddenly a worrying dip in form meant Bower was dropped two weeks later. There has been the occasional appearance since, but no one should be surprised that, with the club now needing to release high earners, the highest earner of the lot has being shown the door.
Much of this season has included a soundtrack of fans whining about Bower’s exclusion and Clarke’s inclusion, which is a testament to short memories and of absence making hearts grow fonder. Back in the autumn of 2007, Bower was crucified by some supporters but it’s almost been airbrushed from history as some openly questioned “what he ever did wrong?” and screamed abuse at Clarke. Bower did little to deserve the abuse he was getting back then, but he’s equally done nothing to prompt some fans to elevate him to to the status of saviour and, belatedly, chant his name at games.
Bower will be no fan of Stuart and no one can blame him. But Stuart is the manager of this club and is entitled to make what he believes to be the best decision. One can only speculate that, for how much Bower’s weekly wage was, Zesh Rehman’s contract at QPR would be comparable. Rehman has been offered a deal and I for one am delighted. Clarke has also received another contract offer and, though he’s never going to be able to win over a section of support, has largely looked strong this season.
As for Bower, he should have little trouble finding another club, maybe even one in League One. He will go onto to enjoy a decent career elsewhere because, like the last home-grown City defender to ‘make it’, Andy O’Brien, he has plenty of talent and a good attitude.
He will be missed back at Valley Parade, but perhaps not quite enough. A player who will always be guaranteed a good reception on his return, a player who may one day be welcomed back with open arms, but sadly also a player for whom it’s difficult to associate with too many happy times.
It’s time that both he and City enjoyed a turn of luck.
Stuart McCall has to stay on for another season as manager, simple as that
It’s got nothing to do with whether you’re pro or anti McCall. Before some of you begin bellowing at your monitors, let me explain by outlining the alternative scenario and it’s timeline.
At 5-00pm on the 2nd of May Stuart seeks out Julian Rhodes amd Mark Lawn to confirm his resignation. the season’s just ended and we’re now managerless. Now I’ll make only one assumption that neither Wayne Jacobs nor David Wetherall is going to get the job. So we’re looking for a new man.
With any luck the chairmen already have someone in mind so an appointment is confirmed by mid May. If not, with newspaper adverts followed by sifting through replies and organising interviews, City would be lucky to have someone in place by the end of May.
Either way, we’re into the close season and the playing staff are on their (undeserved) holidays.
So the new manager is faced with a choice…bring in players “blind” or keep on most of the existing playing staff. Hardly an appealing choice.
Any experienced manager will tell you that the only time the boss begins to know what he has (or hasn’t) got at his disposal is when he sees actual competitive matches… at least
3 but preferably more. I agree. as a fan who’s watched countless pre-season friendlies over too many years, I know what they tell you which is nowt! We’ve had great friendlies followed by terrible seasons and vice versa.
Competitive matches only begin 2nd week in August. by the time three or four are played and the manager has some idea of the team’s needs we’re almost at the close of the signing window and looking
at the dreaded loan signings to make up the numbers till the turn of the year and the re-opening of the signing window. By then we’re all in “hoping” mode. hoping that what we want is available.
We could, if they’re not, be looking at another season of marking time and planning for 2010/2011.
Now football success is a young man’s pastime and I’m not getting any younger. I do not want another wasted season marking time.