How Soon is Now?

Had Peter Taylor looked to the heavens during the Morecambe debacle, and he had ample reason to do so, he would have seen a flock of pigeons flying in perfect formation over the Bradford End. These birds of little brain easily outperformed their human counterparts a hundred feet below on the Valley Parade pitch.

Those who look for real grit and determination were rewarded when the ball flew into the Kop. Two kids were on the ball in an instant. Suddenly, fists were flying, as well as a cloud of popcorn, as the youngsters fought over the ball. It would be unkind to suggest that it turned physical when one of the boys realised that his protagonist was about to give the ball back to the players…

Just when you thought things could not get worse at Valley Parade? On the Kop we had a light hearted rendition of Yazz’s ‘The Only Way is Up’. By ten to five Bradford City were sitting one place off the bottom of the entire Football League. Suddenly, the dawning realisation is that the only way is not up… baby.

Peter Taylor received some fearful abuse. This was not the usual derision following a defeat. This was raw anger. We are staring into the abyss. Did I really hear Morrissey sing ‘all my hope is gone’ at halftime? The line is from the song is ‘How Soon is Now?’ That sentiment must be hanging over Valley Parade, hanging over the Lawn, Rhodes and Taylor households and hanging over many thousands of City supporters.

Where now? What now?

Changing a defence that had gained a valuable point at Rotherham was criminal. Dropping Luke O’Brien, City’s most heartening performer in the early part of the season, was illogical. Bringing two debutant, on loan, teenagers (yes Man United, blah blah blah) into the defence verged on the suicidal.

As the second half trundled along to its inevitable conclusion some fans sang sarcastically ‘Taylor for England’. A reference to reports that Taylor is (was?) being lined up for a coaching job under Fabio Capello. Quick as a flash another chant began ‘Taylor for Scotland’. People laughed, it was the most dangerous sound of the afternoon. You can lose football matches and recover, but lose credibility and you are finished.

What we lost on Saturday wasn’t just a football match. We lost our hope. A repeat of the infamous ‘We Want Football’ chant that defined John Docherty’s reign at Valley Parade is surely only a matter of time. Under Docherty City were once, even more infamously, booed onto the pitch. We haven’t hit that low point … yet.

When you say it’s gonna happen “now”/well, when exactly do you mean?/see I’ve already waited too long/and all my hope is gone.

The wrong man

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – and Saturday’s abysmal defeat to Morecambe makes it hard to believe he won’t shortly be shown the door.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because the timing is wrong. His track record in football is highly impressive. He has elevated under-performing clubs to new heights and awoken sleeping giants. He has managed some of the country’s finest players. His reputation in The Game is undoubtedly high. But such career achievements mean little when you’re overseeing a team which now has 90 professional teams ranked above it.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we are in such dire straits. Our home is the bottom division of the Football League and, no offence to others, we don’t believe we should be slumming it like this. In recent history we tasted the highs of Premier League football. We built up our stadium to a point where it is among the most impressive in the country. At the very least we should be part of the Championship; heck right now mid-table in League One would do just fine. But here, stuck in League Two, playing Barnet this weekend and fearing we will lose – don’t you know who we are?

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we’re in the position where instant success has to occur. Building for the future was yesterday’s idea, where we thought that was the strategy to deliver promotion. But in 2008 we threw a load of money at speeding up the building of a team and invested in players allegedly too good for League Two; gambling on it earning promotion and failing to ponder what would happen if it went wrong. And then it went wrong, and what seemed like a nice diversion to English football’s backwaters has become a painfully long trip. Like being stuck in an airport because all the flights home have been grounded.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we’re panicking. Crowds are dropping every season, and those little clubs we once almost patronisingly believed we only had to turn up and would beat are now considered tough opposition. In 2009, Stuart McCall’s wage budget was slashed by a third and any of the good building work he’d achieved in his first two seasons in charge was thrown out with the bathwater. But he started again, signed decent young players from lesser backgrounds and began to build a squad that could grow and, with the right additions along the way, eventually be good enough to elevate the club. But we didn’t have the patience, and in February 2010 forced him out.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we don’t trust managers. He was the best candidate for the vacancy in February, but we had to trial him for 18 games rather than tell him to get on with doing what he did to Hull. And then in April the City Board sat down with him to offer the job permanently, asking what was required to revive the club. Taylor told them the playing surface needed sorting, and that we require new training facilities. The club delivered on one, and the other demand was quietly forgotten.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we didn’t believe in him. Not only was there no training ground, he was only offered a one-year deal. After this dreadful start there were rumours he’d be sacked at the start of October, or that he may be sacked at the end of this month. Even if that’s not true, his contract has just seven months to run. The club and fans paid lip service to believing he could revive the club, but the backing fell short because deep down getting promoted this season was everyone’s be all and end all. Last March I wrote about Taylor’s training and pitch demands and concluded, “Taylor has not made next season promotion or bust, but expectations elsewhere may not quite fall the same way.”

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because he’s had to resort to short-termism. Failure to get City into the top ten this season and he won’t be given a new contract. So why on earth should he care about the long-term prospects of the club? Why should he care if there’s no new training ground if it might reduce his playing budget? He has to deliver results now, because we supporters and the Board can’t face the prospect of it taking a couple of years for him to mould that promotion-winning squad. We want short cuts, dammit.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because short-term thinking doesn’t seem to be his forte. Team selections have been bizarre, remedies to address the situation have missed the spot. The two loan players signed from Man United last week have left us all scratching our heads wondering why he’s dismantled the only part of the team which was functioning competently. And what had Luke O’Brien done to deserve getting dropped? He must have been devastated. But then why should Taylor care about the long-term benefits of the best player to emerge from the youth ranks in a decade, if his job is on the line and some apparently better-polished guys from Man U can come in for a month?

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because someone of his calibre is wasted right now. The problem with this football club is not that it is stuck in League Two, but that we leak money at an alarming rate and have to pay Gordon Gibb a massive sum of money for the right to play in our home of 100+ years. During our time in League Two, we’ve had the opportunity to do something about it and perhaps by now have even bought back the ground. But we threw money at players in 2008 when it was unnecessary and ill-thought, and those losses had to be covered by the Fabian Delph windfall. And we’ve made non-committal threats about going to Odsal and, almost a year after the redevelopment of Bulls’ home fell through, there’s being no word of what we’ll now do about the situation. Probably because everyone’s given up.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because the vision is so clouded. We introduced a brilliant season ticket offer to attract floating fans, then convinced ourselves – and them – that League Two was beneath us. So doing reasonably well in this division was considered a disgrace. Instead of being more realistic and focusing on making Valley Parade a wonderful place to be atmosphere-wise, we booed and sat in silence and slagged off hardworking players and drove away a City legend. In time those floaters have gone back to what they used to do on Saturday afternoons, and what in 2007 was a chance to reinvent this club has been almost completely thrown away.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because we no longer seem to want to care about the bigger problems. We’re miserable being in this league, and all that matters is getting out of it. Sod your training ground Taylor, just tell your players to run around the dog poo. Sod developing young players like Gareth Evans and James Hanson. Sod playing a style of football we might enjoy. And in the end, sod off. It’s just about getting out of this league, that’s the only problem we want to believe exists.

Peter Taylor is the wrong person to manage Bradford City – because he’s not a quick fix. So let us find a motivation man who can make the players feel ten foot tall and let the form guide be the deciding factor of the most important position in the club. Perhaps it will work for a bit, short-termism. Perhaps we’ll even get that promotion eventually and get out of this division.

And maybe when we do, we can finally sit down and address the real issues.