Peter Taylor Nil

M.O.D. Aldershot and this is my closest game so I’ve brought some of the lads and in the first minute I wish I had not. I’m not a football expert but I know that teams have got to play better than this if they are going to win matches and watching the last two games for the Bantams (The other one being the 2-1 defeat at Oxford) I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It is like a City team that don’t want to do anything.

They don’t want to pass the ball, they don’t want to take shots at goal. They don’t want to tackle, they don’t want to get in the way of the ball. They don’t seem to fancy the job of being professional footballers that much. You could pick out the odd good move and nice ball or something but what is the point of that? Tom Ademeyi missed a good chance early on and you knew that there was nothing coming after that. Dave Syers looks good, James Hanson looks good, some player look good but that is not really the point. Jon McLaughlin was back in for Lenny Pidgeley but when was the last time a team turned its fortunes around by changing goaly?

Maybe it is what we do down here but for me football matches are all about the unit, the team, and good and bad doesn’t even really come into it when talking about the players because when the unit fails the individuals fail. End of story.

Likewise a unit makes a solider (or a footballer) better. Leon Osbourne came on after twenty minutes for Lee Bullock and looks like a matchstick man wandering around a field but it is the unit’s fault that they do not cope with the change, and it is the unit’s fault that they do not support the weaker players and pull their level of performance up.

Stuart McCall used to do that as a player. McCall would not let one of his team mates have a bad game, and if he was, Macca would be geeing him up and pulling him through. A real leader which is what that City team lacks, but not that only thing.

With a new manager in Dean Holdsworth Aldershot had a little bit of a buzz about them but they did not lay siege to City’s goal or send waves of attacks at us they just seemed to win the game by default. They turned up, and won, and we did not turn up. Victory was not even difficult for them. Ben Harding looked impressive for them but no more impressive than the odd City player did. The point I’m trying to make is that they were allowed to coast to victory.

Trying to remember the better moments and there is hardly anything to talk of. Robbie Threlfall has a free kick, maybe, but mostly it was City defending and the only goal of the game by Anthony Charles never looked like being clawed back. The players did not want it enough, because they didn’t want to work together. I don’t know what goes on in the dressing room at City but I can’t imagine it is a very happy place because the players have no collective work ethic at all. Osbourne or Daley lose the ball and the rest of the players seem to look at them rather than trying to win it back.

It is eleven footballers and not one unit, and that is the fault of the man in charge, and requires a change in that man in charge regardless of where they train or whatever. A leader’s job, and Peter Taylor is the leader of the unit, is to create a dynamic in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts and in the year he has been in charge I have never seen City play like that.

A view is taken on if the situation will improve without a change, I don’t think it will, and so a change needs to be made either now or in the Summer when Peter Taylor’s contract is up. Mark Lawn will do whatever makes him most popular and so I’d be expecting a change sooner rather than later.

So another very depressing evening watching City. Everyone has their own thing they want from the team. Some people want great players and some want blood and guts. Me, I want to see a team that play as a team and in the last year Taylor’s not been able to do that and as the players wandered off heads down not one of them within five foot of a team mate it showed. There was some footballers on the pitch, but no team.

It was not so much Aldershot 1 City 0 as Aldershot 1 Jon McLaughlin 0 Richard Eckersley 0 Shane Duff 0 Luke Oliver 0 Robbie Threlfall 0 Omar Daley0 Tom Adeyemi 0 Lee Bullock 0 David Syers 0 Luke O’Brien 0 James Hanson 0 Leon Osbourne 0 Gareth Evans 0 Mark Cullen 0.

And Peter Taylor 0.

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

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

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

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

The end of Dark Days

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

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

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

The echo and the principles

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

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

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

Let the debate begin.

Not a must win for Peter Taylor, but a must win

Another week another must win game comes around for Peter Taylor as calls for the manager to be shoved out of the Valley Parade door reach a crescendo. The most moderate City supporters can see no future under his management fearing his success sapping the enjoyment out of Valley Parade as much as his failure seeing the club go nowhere.

Taylor’s remit on arrival at City in March was very much about results and not performance with the previous manager’s teams being good to watch but ultimately not getting the results craved. Enjoyment is an emotion and not twelve months ago the talk was that it was not possible to keep a manager on emotion.

So results were all that mattered, and always were, and without any indication that there is any reason to hope that the manager who follows the current boss would be more successful. Mark Lawn has let it be known that he thinks (or thought, two weeks ago) that Peter Taylor is doing a good job at City. Peter Taylor is Lawn’s choice after not only a selection process but also an unprecedented three month probationary period in which the performances were no different than they have been this season.

Mark Lawn knows the inside of the club better than most of us and he says that Peter Taylor is doing a good job on the basis that – one assumes – he knows the conditions he is working under.

Ultimately Taylor is a hired hand at City and truth be told probably cares little for the club over and above his professional approach being tied into the success. There is no reason why he should. The last manager adored Bradford City and that point was oft used as a stick to beat him with.

So while the rearranged trip to Aldershot is a “must win” for Peter Taylor one has to wonder how much he will be upset by the outcome. City will struggle to get promotion this season from the position we find ourselves in (although hope springs eternal) and Taylor will no doubt not have his contract renewed but as he exits one doubts he will look over his shoulder with much regret – he asked for things to get the club promoted, was promised them, and they were not delivered – although his exit would probably see more problems for Mark Lawn.

Financially backing Peter Taylor has cost Lawn in the pocket for sure but the recruitment of the manager and trumpeting of the team as favourites for the division – to the stage where weight was thrown around at people who dared suggest City might be 8th this term – questions his judgement and fitness to find another manager.

“Let me slaughter your idol, and as a reward I shall bring you your heart’s desire.”

There is an almost Faustian deal that has been broken between Mark Lawn and Bradford City supporters. This writer made no secret of his desire to see Stuart McCall remain at the club and few would argue that this season would have been any worse but it seems that the promise of improvement – promotion no less – was the inducement which was offered to Bantams fans in exchange for McCall’s exit.

Not overtly, not bindingly, but that was the mood in the air and in the courts of the minds of Bradford City supporters Lawn is charged with breaking that promise. He got what he wanted, the new manager and the chance to preen in the local paper talking about professionalism and promotion and what did the fans who backed him in this “improvement” end up with?

A six-two-two formation and Mark Cullen

Picking Peter Taylor’s team is more tarot reading and not once has BfB been able to get it correct this year. The manager picks the team he feels will do best – I have no axe to grind with him on his team changes and recall previous managers being criticised for not changing their starting eleven – and in the last two games it seems to have failed to do so.

Changed are expected with Tommy Doherty waiting for a recall in the midfield over Lee Bullock and the attacking trio of James Hanson, Jake Speight and Gareth Evans all hoping for a place in the side.

I would expect Peter Taylor to keep the back four of Richard Eckersley, Shane Duff, Luke Oliver and Robbie Threlfall with Luke O’Brien ahead on the left hand side of a five with Gareth Evans on the other flank and Tom Adeyemi, Doherty and Lee Bullock with James Hanson up front, or perhaps Speight. Honestly, it is just guess work.

But not a “must win” for Taylor. What is the worst that happens if he loses? Even if he were fired tomorrow he would walk away with a year’s money and look back and say with a great deal of honesty that he told the board what he needed to make City successful and those things were promised but not delivered.

Increasingly though these games are “must wins” for Mark Lawn. A report in the T&A in Saturday pre-emptively highlighted the idea that there is no one else to invest in City and questions about the joint chairman and how his actions in the last year have improved the club – indeed some would ask if they had not sent the club backwards – are increasing.

Some winning would be a good defence against that.

I found Robbie Threlfall’s leg in my garden…

…seriously I did.

It was laying there, dismembered, on the grass near the two stone frogs named George and Geraldine after two especially repulsive girls I knew at University. It had one of his boots at the end of it too and his City sock.

This is not the first time this has happened. One time I wandered in the garden and found a bit of Bruno Rodriguez next to the thin, white reeds I try call Daffodils. It was in that location where I found the thigh of Bobby Petta, one of Owen Morrison’s arms, and that reliable right foot of Paul McLaren.

I doubt I’m alone in this problem, the finding of parts of Bradford City footballers in my suburban environment, because it seems clear that limbs must be falling off the members of our squad at an alarming rate.

Threlfall’s leg falling off is probably the reason why now he is a part of a Bradford City team which is “not good enough.”

When Threlfall arrived from Liverpool he was something of a revelation. He played the ball with a sweet left foot delivering a quality cross and scoring free kicks. There was a comment on this very website from someone who said that it would be great to sign Robbie Threlfall but he probably would not come because he was simply too good, and someone else would get him.

At the start of the season Julian Rhodes noted that the board had had to put more money into the club because “players like Tommy Doherty don’t come cheap” – Doherty’s beard might be in my shrubbery along with other vital parts of him – but nevertheless those players did come to Valley Parade and were considered good enough then.

And let us not mince words here. When they were putting five past Oxford they were good enough but on the back of a 2-1 defeat to the same team they are condemned so either bits of them have fallen off – laying in my garden – or the players have not changed at all.

Changed physically that is. Robbie Threlfall’s leg has not fallen off and I did not find it in my garden but there is a difference between the player who surged into the 3-1 win over Rochdale and the one who seemed ineffectual on Saturday.

The same can be said all over the field where poor performances were observed. In almost every case the player who is being dubbed as “not good enough” has moments one can pick out where he excelled. Springing quickly to mind come Gareth Evans and Northampton last season, or Omar Daley and Rotherham, Luke Oliver against Bury.

The players can play well, they have not changed physically, so the same high levels of performance can be reached again.

Who is to blame for this situation? The players, or so we after often told these days, although it must be said that under Stuart McCall it was (according to many people) the manager’s failing that performances slipped. While City sat 17th in the division this season BfB got an mail from someone asserting that we recognise that Peter Taylor is a “better manager” than his predecessor and perhaps in that way he is. If the art of good management is making sure someone else takes the blame?

The players have not changed physically but the same cannot be said for their mental states in which poor performances, brittle confidence and a lack of belief seem prominent.

My belief is that football is mostly a mental game. Once players are fit and trained – and these things are by no means assured at Bradford City with the club incapable of practising set plays of late because of the flooded training ground – then the difference between a Premier League player and someone in the middle of the lower leagues is pretty much in the mind. Is Gary Taylor-Fletcher the guy who scored the winner over Liverpool in the week for Blackpool or a struggling Lincoln City forward? I would suggest that he is both, depending on what he believes.

Who is enfranchised by the club to be in charge of the mentality of the players, to build the belief in them? The manager.

Famously when City beat Everton 3-2 in the FA Cup Chris Kamara told his players that Chris Waddle would be the best player on the pitch on both sides. It was a mental trick to tell the ten other players in claret and amber that they could get stuck into the eleven in blue and it worked. If Andy O’Brien could tackle Waddle in training, he could have Kanchelskis in the game.

Not that the manager is allowed to carry out this task of belief building in isolation. Internally he asks for what he needs to help build that belief – proper facilities, overnight stays, suits – and gets some but not others and one can only imagine the results of that on the squad.

(From personal experience as a contract worker if I arrive to an office and find a shiny iMac with CS5 waiting for me I know the company means business, if I find a sagging 486 with Photoshop 8 on it I’m hit by the idea that they might not be on top of their game.)

Externally the forces that press on a team are less the lower down the leagues are less – a Premier League manager at someone other than “the big four” has to cope with his players watching Sky Sports News and being told that they are rubbish compared to someone Manchester City have just signed – but still there are forces that seek to distract the player’s mind and pollute the core message the manager tries to drum into them.

“You are as good as you play, and you control how well you play.”

Play well, you are good enough. Put less than 100% in, lack discipline in your approach to the game and to the game itself, do not believe in yourself and your team mates then you are not.

You are as good as you play and so you control if you are “good enough.” The reason I like Peter Taylor as a manager is because he seems to understand the requirement for building this belief even if he has not achieved it as yet.

I did not find Robbie Threlfall’s leg in my garden because it is where it always has been, attached to the same body that impressed all against Rochdale. That his performance levels have changed a mental shift which can be shifted back.

I simply do not believe in the idea that players stop being “good enough” or that the vast majority of players who have pulled on a City shirt could not have been “good enough” had they had had the belief instilled in them.

The current players are good enough and it is up to the club – Peter Taylor for sure but not just Peter Taylor – to get the best out of them.