The unwanted man

As a way of settling debates over the quality of City players, their destination after leaving Valley Parade is a pretty reliable measure. Two players manager Stuart McCall was criticised for ignoring last season, Kyle Nix and Mark Bower, could both be playing non-league football this coming season. Whatever the shortcomings of Paul McLaren during his year at City, he has now returned to League One Tranmere Rovers.

So as rumours of Oldham Atheltic’s interest in Joe Colbeck continue to grow – manager Dave Penny was said to be in attendance at Park Avenue last night, though whether he was there to watch Joe or non-league opposition his side face in two weeks is unclear – it’s puzzling that a significant number of City fans apparently want to help him pack his bags. If the rumours are true, Joe could be playing football in a higher division than City next season, he could be facing Leeds, Southampton and Norwich, he could be lining up alongside a player we have sadly had to acknowledge is too good for us. To make that happen, Oldham could have to paying a six-figure transfer fee. Yet still many argue Colbeck’s a rubbish player that City should have got rid of a long time ago.

The continuing negative light Colbeck is painted in confuses me – just what is about him that makes some dislike him so much? He’s a product of our youth system, at the club a good number of years, who burst onto the scene four years ago and made a great impact under Colin Todd. Asked to make the step up and follow the tough act to follow that was Jermaine Johnson, Joe clearly struggled with his confidence and quickly became a target for abuse. His stupid sending off in a crucial game against Oldham was far from his finest hour, but the subsequent booing he received in later games that season was ludicrous.

In 2007/08 he was voted player of the season – not by him mum, not by his manager, but by us supporters. I’ve just been watching some highlights of that season’s games and he was outstanding at times. Unfortunately for his cause of winning over a skeptical Bradford public, most of his better moments came during away games. He scored eight times that season, but only once at Valley Parade.

Last season Joe began in brilliant form before getting injured – look at the number of goals Peter Thorne scored before, during and after he was injured and tell me there’s no correlation – but on his return struggled to find form and found no help from the stands. I witnessed people openly laugh at him when he picked up possession, expecting him to mess up before he’d even had chance to trap the ball. I was told he was the worst player ever to wear Claret and Amber – quite an achievement given some of the garbage we’ve seen over the years. Two years on from his Easter Monday nightmare against Oldham, Joe again had a miserable bank holiday against Lincoln where he had to be taken off so visibly was his confidence battered by the barracking and booing from his own supporters.

But just like every time it’s gone wrong for Joe, he’s bounced back and showed great resilience. He’s now racked up over 100 appearances for the club, appearing high up the League Two assist chart last season and the season before. Unlike other wingers, he can rarely be accused of not trying or caring. His crossing has improved greatly since he first came into the team, there is usually an end product to his game. Sure he has his imperfections, just like the club he plays for.

So why all this hatred? It’s understandable his contract negotiations have caused some concern, but the real worry is why he might want to turn his back on this club. Maybe he’s tired of being told he’s crap no matter how well he plays, maybe he’s fed up of receiving boos when other players are allowed to get away with bigger crimes.

After a summer where the club has lost a number of permanent and loan players, maybe it’s time we made one who should be treated as integral part of our revamped squad feel more wanted.