Do City really get victimised by the officials?

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

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

And so The Barry Articles continue with the question:

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

Alan Carling Chair of the Bradford City Supporters Trust

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

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

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derm Tanner BBC Radio Leeds Commentator/Presenter

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

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

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

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

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

Save us from Hell, high water and Chris Brandon

Chris Brandon has fired the parting shot that everyone was expecting after his exit from Valley Parade that was – ultimately – the only thing that City’s former manager Stuart McCall and chairman Mark Lawn agreed on – that Brandon was a crashing disappointment.

Signed in a fanfare and talking about playing for his home club Chris Brandon seemed like a great signing although supporters of Huddersfield Town sounded a note of caution saying that the player who served them against City on numerous occasions was a football nearly man – nearly beating the defender, nearly bending a shot into the far corner, nearly looking great.

Certainly once Brandon had started playing one could empathise with such a view. Brandon was unlucky during his time at the club with injury – he spent much of his first season in the treatment room following an injury pre-season – but once he did start playing then he very much fitted that description given by the supporters to the West. Brandon was a great player on paper, a great player when drawing up team sheets and thinking about football but the practice of having him on the field disappointed. His skills never did result in the defence splitting pass, the chance created, and often he would be left marooned in claret on the left wing.

It was this left wing position which seems to have irked Brandon during his time at the club. Said Brandon

I don’t think the club knew where my best position was and didn’t know my best attributes. I was on the left, on the right, in a three or playing off the front man. I can play all those positions and was happy to do so but it’s not easy when you’re being switched around all the time.

One can only imagine that Brandon would like to play those positions but his ability to be useful in any of them is questionable. As a flank player he neither plays an an orthodox wide man beating players nor does he contribute massively defensively drifting inside far too often to little effect. Likewise when deployed in a central midfield role Brandon’s inability to cope with the physical demands of the role exposed City’s midfield badly.

Of course he can play off a front man – a position that requires next to nothing in terms of defensive discipline – but again his effectiveness there was questionable. If you struggle to recall the moment Brandon latched onto the nod down or made the incisive run from deep to pop up in the box it is because it never occurred. Brandon’s upset seems to come from the idea that he is a bit of a passenger in a team and that Stuart McCall – and later Peter Taylor – should have put together a side that carried him.

Michael Flynn plays off the front man with zeal and commitment, Luke O’Brien’s play at left back has been superb, Omar Daley on the right is obviously and constantly better than Brandon’s while the central two of Adam Bolder and Lee Bullock. One would love to know which of these hard working professionals Brandon believed he should have strolled into the team past.

Brandon’s two years at Bradford City were characterised by this attitude in which the player seemed to have an inflated idea of his own position in the club. A player who having failed to show a consistent usefulness in the positions he was played in and then blamed the club – both managers he played under – for not creating a position for him.

As Peter Taylor starts to build a team he would look to do so with players who are made of sterner stuff than the outgoing midfielder. Players who will take responsibility for the side rather than wish for it to carry them.

Brandon will crop up again. Some other side will sign him and he will turn a boot impressively on TV, making a great looking pass or a fine finish and for a moment, dear reader, you will miss him but do not be fooled.

A player who got to play for the club he supported – sadly – seemed to want that club to support him. McCall, Lawn and Taylor all took objection to that and – after his parting shot – so do I.