Stop reading the papers or how I learned to stop worrying and love the World Cup

Chapter One. He adored The World Cup. He idolized it all out of proportion – er, no, make that: he – he romanticised it all out of proportion. – Yes. – To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a competition that existed in the gleaming yellow of Mexico ’70 and pulsated to the great tunes of New Order. – Er, tsch, no, missed out something. – Chapter One. He was too romantic about The World Cup, as he was about everything else. To him, The World Cup meant the beautiful game and street-smart players who seemed to know all the angles. – No, no, corny, too corny for a man of my taste.

I love the World Cup.

From the pre-tournament collections of goals which are worth seeing a thousand times to the Panini by proxy of a friend’s ten year old and his collection fo stickers. From the opening ceremony of curious lack of tedium to the first exchanges to the stressing over the performances of the England side to the glorious dawn of that nation and the cut and thrusts of Africans and Asians to burst the football bubbles of Europe – Czech Republic the second best team in the world? Tell Ghana that – and on and on and on.

I love the moments of the World Cup – Park Ju Sung’s knee taking the ball over Fabian Barthez and the reaction of William Gallas to the second French draw. For one game Zindane Zidane, Thierry Henry (Best striker in the World TM) et al are put into a situations where the fearsome reputations they have acquired are moot and they are what they are – the sum of their performance.

Stop the World Cup now and Brazil’s superstars are Kaka and a guy called Fred and not anyone called Ron-anything. The World Cup is not a respecter of reputations – it is a creator of them.

I like to think of The World Cup as a genuinely multi-polar event. Not only multi-polar but multi-objectivised. Pick any group of four and one gets a team which aims to win The World Cup, two that want to get out of the group and one which is happy to go home with heads held high. The aims of a Trinidad & Tobago are so different from those of England that when the two meet the game is not the same as a Premiership clash – even be that the opening Wigan vs Chelsea game. The fact that T&T go into today’s final group games with a chance of qualification is testament to this fact. The one point from two that was a draw they got with Sweden and wanted against England would be a poor Premiership or League One return but could go a way to seeing them through.

Multi-polar because each team has a contradictory agenda not only of success but aims to success. Svennis’s England want wins, T&T wanted a draw and to assume that desire and decent performance alone can override someone else’s agenda is to misjudge the nature of the event.

Yet it is this misjudgement which seems to govern the media.

This morning Radio Five Live talked about putting three or four past Sweden as if it were just a matter of having the will and passion to do so. The rest of the media (including BfB) suggest we have played poorly against T&T and Paraguay ignoring entirely the will of those two teams.

Both looked for the point that would have kept their World Cup alive and both could have got it. The fact that those teams are viewed on the whole in the newspapers as being the football equivalent of jam cars there to block England’s progress and not to attempt to progress themselves – even if progress comes from blanket defending – is condescending to the point of insult. It is “Johnny Foreigner can’t play” thinking.

Not that that concerns me. I have long since stopped reading newspapers and try not to pay too much attention to the corporate news media and seem to enjoy this (and perhaps other) events all the more for it. BfB match reports I write never try to tell you, dear reader, what to think of what you have seen at Valley Parade preferring to talk about reasons and ramifications. I’ll be damned if I let someone interpret what I have witnessed for me and tell me that winning 2-0 against a blanket back eight is a bad result.

I’m not going to listen to people telling me that Ronaldinho must be feared when Kaka is pulling the strings. I’m not going to hear about how if we don’t underestimate Paraguay we can give them a good pasting.

Perhaps I’m stubborn after watching twenty five years of Bradford City and a few more of Liverpool and Forest in Europe before that or perhaps I just remember the Rodney Marsh style critique of City’s Premiership chances and how poorly they were based on reality – “Watford will stay up, they were great in 1984 after all” – but I do not trust those views.

I love The World Cup. It is full of hope and joy and disappointment and consternation and is strange and brilliant and horrible and wonderful all at once. That is self-evident. Do yourself a favour and fold the paper up, do the gardening instead of watching Sky Sports and mute the TV and turn to your sofa mates to discuss the game at half and full time.

Forrest goes at graduation day

I was always very keen on Danny Forrest – released by Bradford City today aged 21 after 12 years at Valley Parade – but facts that had to be faced were that it was apparent that at this stage of his career Forrest did not look like the player who City need and he needed to be moved out.

Moved out is a harsh term to use about anyone who has been associated with a club for over a decade and applied the levels of passion to it that Danny has but as is right and proper when dealing with young players a graduation day – a day when a level is set and those who are above it prosper and those below fail – has to come and Forrest unfortunately falls under the bar.

Development of young players is a constant filtering process which is done on a timeline of player improvement and Forrest’s improvement seems to have been arrested.

There are some that would say that he was never “going to make a footballer” and they are entitled to that view but City are no less wrong to have persisted with him as they were to pick up the 16 year old Stuart McCall and give him a chance. Development is about graduations and affording chances for young players to rise through the ranks and as Forrest falls under the graduation mark along comes Joe Brown to test himself against it.

Forrest’s release to give Brown a chance is common in football and at City. Lee Sharpe was allowed to leave Manchester United to give Ryan Giggs the left wing position and at City Graeme Tomlinson was pushed through the ranks by pushing Scott Partridge out of the club. Partridge went on to a respectable career – at one point he lived with Helen Chamberlain – and had a decade of football after City let him go. One hopes – fervently hopes that Forrest can do that same and he can use leaving his home town club as the spur to move on as he seems unable to do at City and Halifax.

In the meantime he – and I – have some great memories of the local boy shining out in a sea of rent-a-players like Andy Gray and professionals winding down like Robert Molenaar and playing for Bradford City as if it meant something to them because it meant something to them.

Joe Brown, Joe Colbeck, Tom Penford, John Swift, Craig Bentham et al are all carrying on it the footsteps reforged by Danny Forrest. I know he enjoyed the goals he score din claret and amber – I saw them all – and I enjoyed him scoring them and as he leaves I can only hope that he enjoys the memories as much as I do.

The BCISC closes – the spirit should not die

For my money the Bradford City Independent Supporters Clubs was a genuinely significant event to come out of City’s double administrations and that it has now closes signals a defeat of practice and not of the idea.

The BCISC has closed through a lack of interest – it is hard to continue even the best of works without seeming to have a positive impact – and it must be said that a large wall of indifference from the club is blamed for that lack of interest. Rightly or wrongly the board of BCISC expected more from the people involved at Bradford City FC and what they got did not match expectations. My own view is that this club and every club should take a role as the facilitator of supporters initiatives and that they did not do that puts the Bantams in common with the vast majority of football clubs the world over which is par for the course but perhaps not reflective of the promises made following what still remains the largest fundraising in football administration history that ensured we still have a club.

The practice of the BCISC might be failed – and with the money it brought into the club I’d not use the word “fail” so lightly – but the idea remains an example. Supporters running clubs about supporting the club and in the interest of supporting the club away from the commercialised world of what is considered “official” and can be brought into the fold of the company that runs the team.

The idea that supporters do not need official sanction to group together for a common cause – a cause that should be fully and utterly backed by the club but has not been in this case and is not in most cases – is a powerful one.

It is the idea that football – specifically supporting Bradford City – should be something that continues through the week and is not picked up and put down with scarf and shirt on a weekend. It is the idea that a group of people should get together socially joined by the unity of backing the club but not exclusively to support the club. As many arguments over politics, pie eating and the length of piers went on at the meetings BCISC pushed as did discussions on football and clubs never seem comfortable with that idea.

Perhaps you or I would have done things different but for two years they did do things and here at BfB we were more than happy to back what they did. They showed spirit – the spirit that did generate a quarter of a million pounds to keep City in business – and carried that spirit into the nuts and bolts of following the club. They are gone now but like a single Velvet Underground album gave seed to a thousand garage bands so one hopes the spirit of BCISC – that supporters are not dependent on the club for attention like a child but (albeit with the need for assistant from the centre ground of the club) can grow into organisations strong and true in their own right – will be planted in the minds of more supporters.

And more supporters will want to make something more of their Bradford City than a weekend thing and more supporters will want to build pride in Bradford City and that all these things will be done in spite of if not because of the business of Bradford City’s involvement.

The BCISC is gone but the people in it deserve credit for the idea which was as acorns are to mighty trees for the want of the light of the sun.

Todd makes it easy to go

Note: This article has swear words in it.

After a couple of seasons of making the best – or at least an average – fist of a bad hand given to him at Bradford City Colin Todd has committed the cardinal sin of football managers and in doing so given plenty of reason why he should now be fired.

Reports and rumours from those coming back from Gillingham have Todd telling some of the ravelling City support who were barracking him at the end of the game to “Fuck Off”. In the two years he has been boss Todd has shown an unargued professionalism to the point where people accused him of being professional to the expense of having passion and this outburst has coloured that image. No matter. Todd has just about ensured that sooner rather than later he will be leaving Valley Parade.

Let me be clear on this. I could not give a hoot if Todd – or for that matter anyone – swears in heated conversation. What is good enough for Philip Larkin will do for me when expression in anger is on the table and I doubt any of the City fans in debate with Todd at the end of the game had not heard and used similar while following the club. I do not expect Todd holding the a higher standard than any supporter and as a result I do not expect him to work the miricles some would have him do – but he must know that on the whole he is held to that high standard and this slip gives a silver bullet of ammunition to those who want him out of the club.

Because for the time Todd has been under fire he has always had the catch-all that while some may disagree with his team and the way he plays the game he stands alone in experiencing the life as City boss in the current situation and those who comment do so for the safety of the sides. Such talk is unarguable and in my opinion has validity but now becomes moot. The accusation at Todd now no longer needs to be about the players he picks out of position or the performances of the team on the day or any of the factors that justified and justifiable debate continues on but on the duality of ideas that mealy-mouthed Todd is not the sort who should be given a chance to run our football club and that by swearing at one group of supporters he was expressing an inner loathing of many. In short – that Todd has told us all to fuck off.

Like Bill and Monica or Glenn Hoddle and the “karma induced disabled” comments it was only a matter of time before Todd reacted to the abuse that he gets – justified or otherwise – and expressed the kind of distaste for the supporters which is common throughout football but never verbalised.

At most levels of football supporters are viewed on as a distraction at best and a necessary evil at worse. It is no different for managers but like chairman who talk of the lifeblood of the club and players who sign autographs one minute and walk out the next the public face is always that the club has “The best supporters in the World.” There are 3,300,000 football clubs in the World and around 100 professional ones in the UK and all claim to have the best supporters in the World. That if nothing else should tell you of the sincerity of such claims.

Which is not to suggest that City’s support are bad or that they deserve swearing at on a regular basis. They are a divergent bunch with many opinions – I know because at BfB we have put forward four or five dozen different fan’s opinions at least and none of them have had any unity of thought other than that they were all from Bradford City supporters – and the significant and vocal collection who want rid of Todd are no less aware of these points. They are not offended by Todd swearing or especially surprised by the idea that football managers may not have the same passion for clubs as supporters do. They now have the chance to act righteously justified and call for the manager to go for not respecting the supporters or the club. Todd has foolishly given them one although with a contract which is reported to run for three more years and the chance of that being paid out as a result of thins I’m not sure who the fool would be.

So what do we conclude from this event and if the two years of Colin Todd’s management are coming to an end? possibly that managing a club with massive financial problems under ongoing trading restrictions is extremely difficult – well we could have asked Nicky Law who would have told us that – and that the guy in the manager’s chair thinks that the support at this club helps the opposition – well Law told us that too. Neither of these issues at City are helped by a total unwillingness by subsection – everything is about subsections – of fans who refuse to believe both of these points. The atmosphere is negative at Valley Parade as shown in contrast against Blackpool and the fact that before a ball is kicked in the season £600,000 goes out to Gordon Gibb and others who rent bits of VP back to the club hampers the club compared to the rest of the division.

In fact in the reckoning if Todd does go he will list his two years at VP on his CV as having done a stabilising job with no money to sign players and a historic debt problem to service and he will say that in those circumstances he did a good job. The recipients of that CV – chairman who are sick of managers mortgaging their clubs to save their jobs – would probably agree with him.

We have learned very little in the last two years about the promise of success based on consistency. BfB is constantly characterised as being pro-Todd despite having given the current City boss more criticism than any who have preceded him but in truth the call for consistency is not a call for this manager to keep his job but for all City managers to be given a chance to make a fist of the job. It is a call to try stop the process of appoint and sack and let managers get some work done at Bradford City.

The call for keeping Todd in his job for football reasons is no different now as it was to keep Paul Jewell after two points in seven games in 1999 or it will be to keep the next boss when things go bad for him but those calls are made on the basis of footballing reasons. What Todd has done now opens him up to pressure on his job away from the field of play and should it be decided on the basis that Todd and the supporters have an incorrigible relationship then how can he be defended? The board have the prerogative of deciding on a manager who has a better built in relationship with the fans such as Peter Beagrie or Stuart McCall but in doing so set a dangerous precedent for allowing the whim of a group of fans dictate policy.

Regardless if this argument between boss and fans has hastened the next manager settling into his chair at Valley Parade then all the calls for Todd to keep his job have been far from in vain. The same principal that backs our calls for Todd to keep his position will be applied to either of the rookie pair mentioned above and – as they learn the ropes of football management at a cash strapped club – they may need it.

Managing failure

Without much doubt Bradford City have had a season of failure.

From top to bottom with the exceptions of the increasingly effective department run by Peter Etherington and David Bosomworth’s efforts which have seen the growing numbers of young players breaking into the squad the standards that have been set at VP have not been reached.

All things are relative of course. Julian Rhodes said at the start of the season when a bid for Dean Windass was rejected that one does not achieve the aim of the club – promotion – by allowing the best players to leave and under those terms the Bantams have failed. Perspective on all things though. Should they be relegated Milton Keynes Dons have failed, Rotherham United have failed, Walsall have failed. We have not succeeded.

Semantics aside though in the summer the word around VP will be how can we make sure that next season is better than last and the word failure will be used in relation to Colin Todd, to the team of players, to his signings, to the lack of leadership from the club, the falling gates and on and on.

Things that have failed – relatively failed – and things which are to be put right.

The pressing question is how will the Bantams higher echelons try to put these things right. The pressing question is how will the Bantams manage failure?

Conventional wisdom – as typified by the Sir Alan Sugar “You’re fired!” shout – is that the way to manage failure is to get a P45 out and write on it the name of whichever poor sap happens to have the job of managing the team.

It would insult your intelligence, dear reader who has seen six managers in as many years, to suggest that this is a course of action which is proven to work but it would also not be out of the question for the board to look at Colin Todd’s record and the signings he has made and conclude that so far in his City career has been so average.

Todd’s record at City to date is the picture of average being almost equally split between wins draws and defeats. Played 97 games – won 32, drew 32, lost 33. Todd’s record is better than Phil Parkinson’s at Colchester was at this stage of his career with the now high flying Essex side and obviously the potential for the same pattern which the Parkinson has enjoyed this season exists.

In fact there is nothing to suggest that Todd will improve next season. His signings are hit and miss – for every Marc Bridge-Wilkinson we have a Bobby Petta – and his approach to the game is built on the tried and tested rather than the outlandish and risky but potentially successful. Todd is a manager who does not look at runs of wins but sees a home and away pairing of games as the chance to get four points.

Todd is not going to change. Some subscribe to his management philosophy, others do not but few would deny that continuity of employment for any manager is more likely to bring success than does rapid change. For what it is worth in the poker game of football management I say stick because I tire of the disappointment of the twist.

Replacing Colin Todd is a valid way forward but only a handful – probably less than a handful – of candidates suggest themselves as being able to guarantee to have anything to offer that Todd does not. Sacking him in the name of “anyone is better than this” is the kind of thinking that has laid the club low and more than any other decision in a club the choice of manager is about managing the levels of failure.

Because ultimately failure is the natural state of the vast majority of football clubs the world over. Every season 70 of 92 professional clubs in England fail in some way – not getting promotions or winning anything – and I would suggest the fact that they respond to that failure not by emulating those who are successful but rather by breaking with ways they are similar to the Manchester Uniteds of this world. You never have a manager for ten years if you sack them after 18 months.

Which is not to suggest that failure and success are entirely a product of a sum which includes the time served by a manager but that the tendency in football to view anything other than success as a significant failure which requires revolution at a club hampers most clubs efforts causing them to lose focus on what is being done well and what is done poorly. A manager is sacked and takes with him a back room team many of who may have been doing good work. A club does poorly and the good people within it leave with the bad. The streets of football are full of babies sitting in the thrown out bathwater.

Failure is the way of things in football and with it comes re-evaluation. The late, great Brian Clough used to say that when a manager was sacked the chairman who appointed him should go with him and while Clough’s comments are rough around the edges they have a truth to them. The manager’s performance – ergo the team’s performance – are so yoked into the general structure of the club from chairman down that one struggles to think of occasions where great success on the field was achieved in run down surroundings of it (or vice versa).

When failure – or poor performance if you will – is the case then there is cause for re-evaluation at all levels. Few would say that Bradford City have a perfect set up which Colin Todd is frittering away. Most City fans would want to emulate the progress of Charlton Athletic from small club to Premiership regular and that progress was built on a slow process of measured improvement season in, season out.

So on the agenda at the post-season review meetings many, many arms of Bradford City will be called to account and in the most cases the decisions to be made will be about how to improve things rather than to assess that something is in such a terminal state it must be done away with. Even the official message board – which has as many who loathe it as are devoted to it – undergoes improvement processes with the appointment of moderators. The way to manage failure is to plan improvement. If the commercial staff are not making enough then they are supported and maintained and plans for performance improvements are produced which take into account the failures of the past. The ability to learn from mistakes has been key to human development since the guy realised that he had to cut the edges off his square wheel.

Which leads back to the players and Colin Todd and the mistakes – the failures – which have been made in signing players and deploying them. The mistakes in tactics, selection and all the other things that have made this an average season. We really do not need another manager spending six months working out that Dean Windass is big and strong but is not best played as a target man?

In terms of the season “Average” is used advisably. We are mid-table flirting with the bottom half of the top and the top half of the bottom not because we have done badly or well but because we have been very average. The majority of the squad could not claim to have anything more than an average season. The derided Darren Holloway has had a few duff moments but put in mostly solid games – if you think that Holloway is a bad player then you never saw Darren Morgan or Tom Steele play – while never being that impressive. Holloway is a perfect example of the average and the inconstant which has been Bradford City’s season and illustrates the problems City face. His contract is up in the summer and if we replace him he lose the understanding that he has built with the rest of the squad – admittedly this is a poor part of Holloway’s game – and the assurance of what level of performance he offers. His replacement could be much better than him but seriously how often has this occurred at City? How many clubs these days are giving away players who are good enough to come straight into a League One team and impress enough to drive a promotion campaign in their first season?

A decision must be made over if the average that City have fallen into represents the mid-point of a terminal decline or not and on that basis the failures are managed – lessons learned, mistakes recognised not to be repeated – and the club moves forward.

Football has a business side to for sure but is more about the playing and contrary to what everyone with an opinion will say it is not all money but business planning and practices can inform the way the playing side works and in this case should be. The club should be looking to make changes in the areas that offer the most benefit and those benefits need to be nailed down before a replacement is made and not assumed as a product of the replacement process.

If/When Todd is on his way out of Bradford City we need a managed process to replace him that guarantees an improvement of the position. Until we learn that lesson we are not going to be managing failure, we are going to be bringing it about.

Todd and making the future work this time

Prefacing this by saying I like The City Gent and Chris Armstrong who runs The City Gent website we at BfB were interested to see that website use it’s front page to make a case for the prosecution against Colin Todd calling for the City manager to be sacked.

The content of the article runs through a damning list of “crimes” and makes it clear that Todd should be held accountable for the teams performance – a view I personally think always lets the team off with ineffectual displays but one I respect the writer’s right to hold.

However such talk is neither especially interesting or especially new. Indeed City fans need only cast minds back to October 2003 when the same comments were being made about Nicky Law.

That those comments may – or may not, depending on your opinion – have been proved true is hardly important. What is important and what would be needed to convince me that the Todd Out protests had enough merit to be worth supporting is an answer to the questions asked back when Law was sacked.

For all the talk about from City fans about the relative merits – or lack of merit – of Todd and his position at the club I have yet to hear anything approaching a convincing argument which tells me that sacking this manager would not be as ineffectual in halting City’s decline as axing Law was.

Genuinely curiously I wonder why would sacking Colin Todd improve the club any more than sacking Nicky Law? Or Jim Jefferies? Or Chris Hutchings? Why would the next manager turn our fortunes around when Bryan Robson’s arrival did not? Or when the return of popular coach Terry Yorath as manager in 1988 could not?

By anyone’s yardstick – including the one Colin Todd applies to Sven Goran Eriksson – Todd would be overdue the bullet from the vast majority of jobs in football. What I am interested in – and what we as supporters of this club should be interested in – is the future of the club beyond the short term buzz of a sack and search.

How will the job of managing Bradford City be different for the next manager than it is for this one and it was for the last one, and the one before that, and before him and before him?

Hand me that Todd Out banner

I want a Todd Out banner for Saturday.

But more than just a banner – a bit of shoe polish on Mum’s table cloth – I want to believe in my Todd out banner.

Which is where I fall out. Odd for me being a good Catholic boy and all but when push comes to shove Toddy out the door I lack the faith required to see the benefit.

Naturally I see the good points in getting rid of the manager – bad results lead to a lack of confidence in the squad and in the supporters and this translates into games so obviously. Footballers – being simple lads – are under the impression that if you get rid of one man who tells you to play 442 (or sometimes not) and jockey the other side’s for’rad and get someone else to tell you to play 442 and jockey the other side’s for’rad then fortunes are immediately turned around. Who is to say that the next guy will not be better than the last? Sure it reeks of randomness but it has some sense to it.

Football is a mostly mental game – especially at this level – and as such it could be argued that if the players believed that a change of manager would equal a change of fortunes then the ends would justify the means regardless of the qualities of the incumbents of the job. The cult of the manager has a firm hold in football now but sometimes one must wonder how much influence the man who wears the big coat has over the team. Kevin Keegan used to say that his job finished at three on a Saturday and started again at quarter to five because the players were in charge in between those times.

Regardless of the short term boons it might grant I wish I could believe that sacking Todd would cure the problems of Bradford City but experience tells me that it probably would not. I have a genuine envy of those people who can be so sure that a P45 here and there would fix the team in the same way I wish I could be sure that Heaven, God and all that stuff was really real. Back to the good Catholic boy bit. It would be good to know for sure but perhaps faith is the order of the day and blind faith at that. Faith in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

Unfortunately I will no doubt find out both the answers to the mysteries of life and the question of what will happen to City post-Todd all too soon. Perhaps taking the Catholic religion as a metaphor is my problem when it comes to believing. The Buddhists believe in reincarnation and so perhaps should we? Are we really just Paul Jewell’s Bradford City reborn for the fifth time? Is it – as the man said – “the karma working from a previous lifetime”?

Colin Todd’s Bradford City will no doubt be reincarnated as someone else’s – perhaps Stuart McCall’s if rumour watch tells us anything – before too long but the new body will face the same problems as the old. We live in a world where Rotherham announce that they are £1m and a few weeks away from liquidation (not administration – liquidation) and being the first team to go out of the league mid-season since Aldershot but the leading stories on BBC and Sky Sports were that Chelsea were holding off on relaying the pitch.

Dwindling numbers and lack of interest – back to Catholicism again it seems. We are in an increasingly diminishing scenario where fans exit and are not replaced. Aggressive pricing has put off a generation – we all know a few who have stopped going to VP but who can remember the last time we saw a new face? – and takes chunks out of the previous ones. Rotherham gulp for air and the likes of Chelsea are using the aqualungs for breathing laughing gas. To suggest that no one cares outside of us is the understatement to kill a game.

I wish I could believe that this could be turned around by sacking Colin Todd.

Hell I wish I could believe that this could be turned around.

The phoney race for the Todd job is in full swing

Colin Todd still has a job at Valley Parade.

He still picks the team and is right to do so. For the record and for reasons I’ve mentioned ad nausem I’d have him keep that job because I do not believe we would do anything other than harm the club in replacing the manager at this point.

I mention this because watching the media output in recent weeks one could think that the Bradford City job is up for grabs.

Certainly there is a growing idea – rightly or wrongly – that Todd might not be in his position for the medium to long term and the runners and riders to replace him have started to get into position.

Take Dean Windass – the outsider of our four – who honestly pledges loyalty to Todd positioning him as something of a continuity candidate while pointing out his sacrifices for the club. He could be on £10,000 a week at Wigan but he is here and should Todd lose his job then we would do well to remember this point. Of the four we talk about Windass is the rank outsider.

Fan’s favourite for the Todd job – should it come available – is Stuart McCall. McCall was on Football Focus a week ago talking about how he loved Bradford City and would welcome the chance to manager a club after being in many positions at Sheffield United showing his versatility and wide experience. McCall was keeping his name in the ring in response to increased noise from another candidate.

That other candidate for the job that does not exist is Peter Beagrie who was on YTV Soccer Night telling all that he was flattered to be linked to the City job but that Bradford had a very good manager. Beagrie is increasingly being mentioned in connection to City with appearances at book launches, mentioned on Sky Sports on the increase and of course the link in The Sun. Should the job come up then Beagrie would have an outside track compared to McCall but the more links between club and former player continue the more he assumes the position of manager in waiting.

All of which is right and proper. Football is a world of pragmatists and while none of the people mentioned would want Colin Todd sacked – indeed they all would probably prefer that if the City job was to come available it did so at the end of the season allowing them to finish off current jobs – all recognise the inevitability of managerial change at some point and seek to position themselves for that eventuality.

However in the box seat should Todd leave Valley Parade is David Wetherall who moved into talking to the press last week when Todd acquiesced, has a firm friendship with Julian Rhodes who once described him as “The Reason we stayed in the Premiership”, knows the current squad, has shown loyalty and commitment to the club and is available to work immediately.

Windass, McCall and Beagrie may push their names forward but it is Wetherall who would be offered the chance to take over from Colin Todd should be leave Valley Parade especially if that departure came during the season.

Like Chris Kamara and Paul Jewell before him Wetherall would get the chance to show what he could do for the rest of a dead season. Should he make a fist of that all the links and mentions would not be able to push him out.

What happened to white boots?

Considering the anticipation I had at his every touch two years ago Tom Penford’s sudden and effective re-emergence blindsided me at Valley Parade on Saturday. Sure TP was on the bench but I had assumed that Colin Todd was engaged in more of a shirt filling exercise and that the player I saw so much potential in before would carry on as a reserve until he exited in the summer.

Penford arrived on the field and then arrived with his perfectly floated cross to Dean Windass and the rest is the future and at the moment that looks bright. Back in August Colin Todd had had the chance to release Penford but kept him on saying he saw something there but making it clear that something needed shaping.

Back when Penford made his debut against West Brom in 2003 blooding players was very much the order of the day. I was impressed by the languid style Penford has and his way of moving slowly with the ball to give himself more time on it. In a game crammed with players and managers who believe pace is the answer to all situations it was refreshing to see Penford style. Refreshing and reminiscent of Chris Waddle’s days at Valley Parade. Penford – born in Leeds but a childhood Bantams – had watched the former England man and learned.

However somewhat conversely to the problems with administration Penford and many of his peers found themselves further from the first team squad as the club rebuilt. Kevin Sanasy was exiled at Farsley Celtic in a kind of swap deal for 18 year old forward Nick Smith and the sense was that Penford would go in a similar direction. He still might – football is a game that punishes the player who rests on his laurels – but the chances of him leaving VP in the summer now seems greatly reduced.

So what has happened in the past few years to Penford. The one cross aside Penford’s contribution to the 1-1 draw with Swansea was significant and effective. It had the end product which Colin Todd used to talk to Ben Muirhead about and showed a talent, not a promise, for the future.

One can only guess. The work Colin Todd and Bobby Davison put in on the training ground has had hand in the development of Penford and who are being presented with chances at Valley Parade at the moment for sure but one suspects that they couple of months of league football when 17 which TP got has given him an understanding of what is required to make it in the game.

After a few months playing the men’s game a 16/17/18 player gets more focused on what will be required of them when they are older and the exceptions made for being a kid are peeled back for the player to be revealed. David Wetherall believes that Penford needs to build up his body and he is no doubt right but that point was probably apparent to the player back in 2004 and is something he has worked on. The 2006 Tom Penford got stuck in enough for my liking and looks like a guy who is serious about getting on in football. The white boots of two years ago were gone and replaced with businesslike black. The early blooding means that we are not fielding a 20 year old fresh face to be kicked about by senior professionals but a player who understands the requirements of league football.

The future for Penford is open now – one good performance needs to be built on – but that future could be bright because at the age of 20 City are producing a player not a prospect. Note that all this applies in equal measure to Danny Forrest who is loaned out at Halifax Town at present but like Penford will be hoping to have a future at the club he supports.

So to Yeovil and Penford hopes to maintain a place in the team. The haircut might be a bit Chris Martin but the attitude in his play and the play on the field is obviously more aimed at producing an end product and that is in no small part thanks to a early blooding in the City team.

A template for the future, so to speak.

FA let the racists win

The Football Association have turned down Donovan Ricketts’s appeal against the red card he received for reacting to racist abuse from Southend United supporters and in doing so have given racists a victory.

Racist Southend Supporters claimed a point for the Shrimpers by pushing Ricketts into reacting and getting sent off. They will be laughing now and could be given the Freedom of the Town should they go up/stay up by the single point they got through racially abusing our keeper.

Racist footballers willl be laughing too. The FA are telling them that they can add a few N words to their vocabulary and as long as the Referee does not hear it and they can get a reaction from an opposing player they will be ok. Every time you see a player have a word with another outside of the ear-shot of the Referee know that the FA have given them carte blanche to racially abuse.

Carte Blanche too to fans of other clubs. They can racially abuse for ninety minutes now to upset the opposition and if it works – even if the protagonists are sent out – then the FA will not step in to try ensure that is is matters of football which govern results not whom can keep and even head as they are disparaged.

Last week the FA wheeled out Svennis to tell England fans they should not sing songs about the Germans and the war at next year’s World Cup but if it upsets the Germans then why not?

The FA would not step in if it happened here – they seem to be considering it a valid tactic in trying to upset the opposition. Perhaps they will get Southend fans bussed over for the game with Trinidad and Tobago to see how many of them will lose their heads? After all it must be part of football if the FA stand back and do nothing about it.

The FA have let the racists win.

Response to Southend United supporters and threat of removal of BfB

Our article FA let the racists win has generated much debate both positive and negative between both Bradford City and Southend United supporters which is always good to see. However one Southend supporter – having taken offence – is taking steps to have this website removed so in the interests of keeping readers informed should teh website be taken down tomorrow it is for reasons beyond our control.

The following response was sent to a number of Southend United supporters and once again is included for information.

Response to Southend United supporters

Good evening,
Firstly allow me to apologise for what is blanket response to individual e-mails.

Secondly thank you for taking an interest in We try to make a website which engenders debate and discussion and on this occasion we have no doubt done that. While it is not apparent to the group of respondents I am presently addressing, this discussion has been as much concerned with positive reaction to the article as negative.

The article in question concerns Southend United in only two paragraphs and is a criticism of the F.A. for a failure to take into account racism when dealing with the suspension of Donovan Ricketts.

The first mention of Southend is factual. The second mention – and I can not stress this too clearly – is very much targeted at “Racist Southend supporters”. Indeed that phrase is used to make an exact delineation between the supporters accused by Ricketts of racist abuse and other supporters.

Given this precise and clear language I am surprised that so many Southend fans have taken offence. I know that should somebody address “racist Bradford City fans” I would not feel that I was being referred to.

Should a misunderstanding have occurred then I appreciate your mistake and trust you have no problem with me attacking racists, even if they are contained within the group of Southend supporters.

Some mails pointed out that Essex police had released the man arrested but released without charge, and that evidence for the racist abuse had not been forthcoming. Indeed one writer suggested there were no witnesses. He is wrong.

Donovan Ricketts witnessed the abuse and was subject to it. It is important to remember that Ricketts is the victim of a crime and only a perpetrator of breaking the rules of football. Ricketts – like any victim – has the right for his views to be considered. Many mails I have received accuse Ricketts of lying about being racially abused in a cold, calculating manner to avoid punishment under the rules of the game.

To make such an assumption against the victim of an alleged crime is offensive to me and to suggest that Ricketts word has less validity – that he can not be trusted to tell the truth – has worrying overtones.

Returning to the point in hand I do not believe that all Southend fans have been offended by this article – just those who fall under the term “racist Southend Supporters”. I have no problem offending racists.

The article in question comments on the F.A.’s treatment of Ricketts making a broader point than the Southend United game. It also speaks out against racist football supporters. I trust that none of those I am addressing believe a website should not question the F.A. or attack racists.

There has been suggestions that steps will be taken to have this article and the website removed. If you believe that the best course of action is that then by all means do so. Until such a time I shall continue to use this platform to attack racists and racist behaviour.

Some writers sought an apology for Southend fans and a retraction. I will not be apologising to those who feel they are “racist Southend supporters” nor shall I be retracting my criticism of those racists. If you are offended because you believe I was labelling all Southend fans racist I can only suggest you re-read the article not as the attack on a club as some would portray it, but as an attack on the racist in clubs (including Southend) and on F.A. policy in this matter.

If you feel football is improved by suppressing freedom of speech and freedom to attack racists then please get in touch and I will forward my web hosts details to you.

With this clarification I consider this matter closed. If you wish to contact me seeking an apology for “racist Southend supporters” then you will not get one. Otherwise thank you for your interest.
Michael Wood state Southend fan arrested

For further clarification have informed us of the following “We understand from Essex police a 26 year old man was arrested at the game on suspicion of “chanting racial abuse”. He is on police bail until December 22nd.”

FA should show racism – not Ricketts – the red card

Let us start today’s article on the red card for Donovan Ricketts for making an obscene gesture to Southend United fans who were racially abusing him with a couple of assumptions. Firstly that Donovan did make some kind of offensive gesture which could be classed a red cards offence under Rule 12.6 of Football which reads “Uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures” – and I would not bet my mortgage that the level-headed Christian did – and that we all accept that Racism is wrong and has no place in society and in football.

With this in mind one is left with a curious call to make to the footballing authorities and a call that City are trying to make. That Ricketts’s offences are mitigated by circumstance. That the referee should “look the other way” and the game should rescind the red card on the basis that Ricketts had a right to be upset at the treatment he was getting.

For there are very few that would suggest that Ricketts should be forced to turn the other cheek to the abuse he was getting – although ironically Ricketts is one who would say he should – and accept in full belief that justice would be done on the perpetrator. In short very would say that Donovan Ricketts should stand and be called racist names and grin his oft seen smile to bare it.

However football and yesterday’s match referee and assistant suggest he should.

Likewise few would suggest that the best course of action for a footballer is to start getting involved in personal spats with spectators. Obscene gestures are liable to inflame a crowd and cause a wider problem and rightly are heavily discouraged in football and by the laws of the game. Assuming that Donovan Ricketts did make an offensive or insulting or abusive gesture to the supporters who seemingly were perfectly prepared to stand next to a man who would dish out racist abuse and not shun him then his red card is as clearly laid out in the rules of the game as the fact a goal is awarded when the ball goes in the net.

City have encountered this problem before. Unlike the majority of footballers our own Dean Windass has worked on a building site and uses the kind of language he would there on the field of play and is sent off for it all too frequently and often as a pre-cursor to my rants about how unfair such decisions are being applied to Windass, to the likes of John Hartson, to Craig Bellamy, but never to players who have not been tagged as “evil”.

An evenhanded approach to those rules would give Windass and Ricketts a red card every time.

However football rules are not applied even handed and as a game we recognise the need for refereeing flexibility.

Of course this is most often applied to headline decisions such as dismissals and is the subject of much debate but it is also applied liberally almost every minute of every game. Referees giving throw ins when offences committed would merit free kicks were they in the middle of the pitch but one method of restarting allows the game to flow more. Referees calling time when the ball is stuck in one corner and injury time is ebbing away because it saves the nastiness of Paul Linwood and Lewis Emanuel in the FA Cup this season.

Goal kicks taken from one side because the footing is better. Fouls and obstructions going unpunished because a goalkick is better reward. Looking at the individual decisions in a game one can see that even-handedly accurate application often comes second to flowing football. To what is the right thing to do. The right thing for the good of the game.

So what we have is the same kind of dichotomy between doing what is right and referees to adjudicate the mitigation of the offence in relation to the decision given use doing what is given under the rules and like the examples above a sliding scale. We are going to make another assumption being that the referee was not stupid nor was he ignorant to the idea that racism in football grounds still exists and thus what we have is the official deciding that said mitigation does not justify action on Ricketts’s part.

We have a man telling a man that he is wrong to react negatively to racism. In the year 2005 we have a man telling Ricketts he should accept racism.

The idea is so sickening – so backwards – that it is barely worth discussing in any other way that to say that the back pedalling after Saturday should be so fast as to make one’s head spin.

City can’t be given back the game we were leading 1-0 with eleven men but we can get Ricketts back at the behest of the FA who can use this as an opportunity to say that football will not be a party to racism and will not – by punishing those who complain about racism – give tacit agreement with the racists. The racist at Southend was identified and arrested but his actions had already hit their target. Ricketts was rattled. Rattled enough to lose his head and give some gesture to the visiting supporters. If the FA press ahead with the three game ban for City’s keeper then they are rubber stamping that racism and giving a big thumbs up for racist supporters to do it again. After all it clearly worked in the case of Donovan Ricketts and – should the Shrimpers find that a point is the difference between one thing and another this season it will have worked for them too.

I do not have much faith in the FA but I think I can trust them to not side with the racists.

The FA run campaigns saying they will give racism the red card. If they want to put that promise into practice Donovan Ricketts has one they can re-distribute.

Vox populi, vox Dei: The right and proper coverage of anti-Todd

I was begged by email today – always a curiosity – to give coverage o the counter-point argument to three articles which had run this week on BfB all of which concluded that keeping Colin Todd as Bradford City manager was the right thing to do.

I did not write any of the articles nor did I ask for them to be written – submissions are always welcomed with open arms but rarely solicited with the mood of the day prompting writers more than I could ever do – and I thought the second of the three was written in reaction to the first but nevertheless the idea was that there was a counterpoint I was wilfully ignoring.

I was failing to represent the “anti-Todd” side I was told.

The phrase mulled around my head on Friday night’s journey back from Manchester. “Anti-Todd” as if the other three articles had been personal aggrandiseations of the City boss rather than comments more on the merits of stability and of the manager’s performance. I dislike the phrase “anti-Todd” intensely – BfB is not a place for personal attacks – but poor phrasing is not enough to mask a growing voice around Valley Parade.

All of which was moot in any case. No article landed in the BfB inbox and went unpublished this week – only two have in six years – and as of this morning (Friday) nothing “anti-Todd” had been submitted.

Now counter-point has been received and is online for all to read. One columnist requested a screen name for his article a request we denied – we have a policy of not publishing in anonymity lest this site becomes like so many other dismembered floating voices of Message Boards without accountability for opinion which certainly Roland Harris has had this week – and I hope that in denying that request the article can still be published.

Nevertheless the verbalisation of the comments against Colin Todd’s management of the club has begun and is on BfB.

At BfB we often read comments about how a reader enjoys the site but does not understand why writer x gets column inches. The fact we throw the doors open to all opinions is a strength of the website and a strength I am proud of. Love or loathe BfB it is always going to carry the opinion of those who write for us. As Franklin said “Decisions are made by those who turn up.”

Opinion is good. Both comments are soft-tagged as “anti-Todd” but neither makes a personal attack on the man. They talk about how he does his job something we as City fans are free to – if not obliged to – comment on.

My personal opinion on Todd – the one which informs the majority of the news on this website – is that he needs to make some changes in how the team plays and could make more of the playing resources at the club. I believe that he is a man of some experience in football and a reasonable amount of flexibility which comes with having had many jobs and can make those changes in situ.

That is my opinion on Colin Todd. If Colin Todd were to give his views on this website and on websites in general I’m sure I’d give it the same weight he gives my comments on his job and rightly so.

However it is also right that those who have a grievance to air with Todd have a forum to do so – this forum – and use it to state considered opinion without anonymity.

Ultimately opinions voiced in what is one of the more trusted forums than most for football fans – well City fans – to air their views adds to a general pressure on Julian Rhodes and Colin Todd that suggests a change or a course of action. If the only way for supporters to suggest a course of action to Rhodes and Todd is to use the banner headline comments of manager sacking then it is sad and hints at an inflexible polarisation which should not be at any level in any football club but especially not this football club.

Should the pressure suggest a change to Todd – a change of tactics or picking policy – then so be it. Vox populi, vox Dei. It is right and proper that the supporters have a voice – no – a chorus of voices representing the differing opinions around Valley Parade – which is listened to.

Personally I hope that Colin Todd stays at Valley Parade – many of his ideas make sense to me – but it concerns me that after the lessons of the authoritarian years of Geoffrey Richmond’s time at Bradford City still the only way for a dialogue between club and supporters to exist is in calls for sackings.

I honestly do not know what Refereeing is for anymore

Tranmere Rovers left Valley Parade about as angry with the Referee as they could be.

Having come over from the Wirral on a wet Yorkshire Sunday afternoon they left stung with the feeling that the man in the middle had robbed them of a penalty, given a goal which did not go over the line and then allowed a soft penalty against them which led to them going out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle. As the Referee went down the tunnel at VP the boos that surrounded him could have left him in no doubt as to what the visitors thought of his display.

Meanwhile – at the other end of Valley Parade – Lewis Emanuel wandered from the field in a tattered shirt. Tranmere Rovers defender Paul Linwood in what is euphemistically called a “confrontation” had ripped Emanuel’s shirt. Emanuel might have been nursing bruises on his legs sustained from Linwood’s kicks at the ball that Mani shielded at the corner flag – notoriously the lest pleasant of the in-game time wasting tactics and the short straw for any player. Sure enough as Emanuel shielded he defended the ball from two kicks before Linwood stopped aiming for the round white thing and started to kick Lewis. Two swipes connected before Lewis turned round and the square up began. Another firm kick from Linwood as he ripped Emanuel’s shirt and Emanuel took a firm grip of the Tranmere player. The referee booked both.

I honestly do not know what Refereeing is for anymore.

When I was younger I had a sense that Referees – like Policemen – were there to punish those who do bad things and in a way both still do. Much of what the Referee does centres around his cards although I have long since stopped trying to read anything into those decisions. Linwood is given the same punishment as Emanuel when one is playing the game – albeit in a way we might not like – and the other is annoyed by his play enough to start kicking assaults. They both get the same punishment as Dean Windass gets for talking out of turn and a lesser punishment than Windass does when he effs and jeffs.

If you can find logic for that then you are deluding yourself that one exists. It is simply wrong.

However Windass swearing and Linwood’s shirt ripping assaulting do fall within the remit of offences occurring outside the flow of the game. Both are technically speaking criminal offences – although the laws on vulgarities would have to be stretched to cover a footballer – and have no effect on the course of the game unlike a handball or a trip and while they are to be discouraged football’s authorities make a big leap trying to enforce laws of the game over law’s of society and has at times failed. Duncan Ferguson’s red card and additional suspensions during a Dundee United game a number of years ago was dished out by the Scottish Football Association who assumed that the violence would be kept in football circles but the Sheriff saw differently and Big Dunc was sent to prison for assault.

Any punishment football had in place fell a long way short of a few months in clink.

Away from out of the flow of game offences football has a series of rules regarding offences which do interrupt the flow of play which are designed or once were designed to keep that flow going. Back in 1980 Willie Young broken West Ham hearts by pulling down the then 17 Paul Allen on his way to goal in the FA Cup final and his booking for what would now be called a “last man foul” was scant punishment.

At some point after that the idea of sending off players for a professional foul was suggested not as a punishment for the likes of Young but as a deterrent. The idea was that the red card would be so costly a punishment and such a handicap on the team that a player would instead of diving in to foul as “the last man” he would allow the striker to continue to the goal scoring opportunity unfouled creating a more flowing and more entertaining game.

We saw the outcome of this rule yesterday when Dean Windass latched onto a through ball by Owen Morrison and got into a goal scoring position in the penalty area only to be fouled by Ian Sharps of Tranmere. The Referee gave a penalty but Sharpes was not sent off regardless of the fact that the rules say he should have been because to do so would be too harsh a punishment.

One does not want to assume what went on in the Referee’s mind but the idea that the punishment was too harsh – losing a man for the last half hour and probably a goal down – most likely occurred to him and he decided to counter balance the decision he has made to give the penalty by failing to apply the rules as they are laid out. What is supposed to be a deterrent to prevent Sharps from making the tackle and allow the striker to shoot – which is supposed to be the exciting part of football – becomes a subjective punishment.

The next time a player is in the position Sharps found himself in he will no doubt make the same decision to foul to just because the punishment is not given out consistently and thus may be avoided but because it has become so commonplace. In the day when a team can expect players sent off for swearing a red card for a defender has become an almost meritous thing. Managers talk about “silly” cards with those gained in the act of breaking up the flow of football for the opposition and for supporters as being the proper yellows and reds.

Red cards, yellow cards: All the cost of doing business these days.

Before the Windass penalty Tranmere had a shout for a penalty themselves. The far end of Valley Parade does not afford the quality of view to say if this case has merit but far too often balls bouncing to hit hands as opposed to hand being put in the way (deliberately or inadvertently) are being begged for as handball offences. Football should punish those who stick out an arm to stop the ball and those who leave arms laying away from bodies which block the ball but occasions where the ball inadvertently hits an arm only blocking it’s path to the players body are not something we should consider worth the same punishment as a trip which breaks up play.

On top of all this we have a Referee and a linesman who see the ball bounce down from the crossbar and maybe go into the goal but maybe not and give what seemed like a best and even handed decision. It could have been wrong but if it was it was done as a judgement call and not as the product of confusing and neutered rules.

One can forgive Referee mistakes in matters of empirical judgement. The second guessing and uneven application of clear rules on the other hand has created a system where any deterrent factor of discipline in football is lost and results in players fighting because as Paul Linwood kicked out Lewis Emanuel seemed to sense that no one else was doing anything to prevent the opposition player from taking chunks out of his legs.

I do not know what Referees, card, discipline et al are supposed to be doing anymore. Every week Referees are booed and teams are unhappy but as representatives and poor executives of such a deeply broken system one cannot say they do not deserve such criticism.

Football discipline is broken from top to bottom and very few elements of it work as they should. The game continues despite it and an industry has been established about moaning about it but when as we see now both teams regularly leave games complaining about the men in the middle it becomes clear that the game carries on in spite of and not because of their officiating.

Where were you when the lights came on?

I love a good goal and Andrew Cooke’s 89th minute strike was certainly that.

Not the goal itself – although anyone man who hits a two yarder that hard is getting something out of his system – but the timing of it which was so apt coming as it did seconds after the words “We could play all day and never score” floated from forward right of me at Valley Parade.

Up to Cooke’s goal it was a traditional Saturday afternoon at the moaning and abuse factory and no one was spared the verbal barbs until the moment Windass rounded Tony Bullock and Cooke Ahabed it into the goal.

Then – and for a moment – the lights lit at Valley Parade in recognition for a player who has put in a few months of hard work with no reward. The uncorking of frustration sent a bolt of energy raising the support to it’s feet and for a moment everyone in Valley Parade – those from Kent excluded – experienced the same emotion.

And there was a real unity which I had forgotten the taste of.

If that moment could be distilled – could be bottled and brought out for a pre-game sup – then who knows what could happen on the field. For sure the atmosphere would improve at Valley Parade and we might get some of those needed thousands to avoid the third and final administration through the turnstiles.

The kids started up a round of appreciation for Cooke – “when he gets the ball he scores a goal” – and the moaners were silenced. Mr. “Never-score-if-we-played-all-day” immediately got onto his mobile to ring The Times to take out a full page advertisement apologising for his doom ladden and incorrect statements and committing himself to the power of positive thinking.

Perhaps not. One wonders what someone who dooms says for ninety minutes a week feels at such a moment? Do they crave validity so much they regret it’s happening? One wonders what if the erstwhile moaner feels excluded from the celebrations.

Of course they have the right – they love to tell us that they have the right – to say what they want and they will say it as loud as they like but the words can jam in their throats and they can be sure that those who kept the faith – a side in sixth place in the league has good reason to have faith – enjoyed Cooke’s goal a good deal more.

They have the right to say what they want but – when the lights come on as they did at 16:44 at Valley Parade – others have the right to thumb their noses in delight and so they did.

The End of Twenty-five Years – Now For Something Really Smart

The twenty-five year season tickets are on the way out to be replaced with an extended discount system which – aside from giving the 900 of us who parted with the thick chunk of cash when asked to six years ago the distant promise of free Premiership football once more – works out as decent value.

They promise to give me percentage discount – nicely returning to them the ability to lower as well as raise prices on a season by season basis – and I promise to join the season ticket queue again. They promise to spend my money on buying players improving the team and I think that would be like giving Pete Doherty money to go out and buy a guitar from the shop next to his dealer’s house.

I’m going to put my weight – such as it is – behind the Gang of Five and Julian Rhodes’s attempts to remade these millstones into smaller millstones and I welcome the innovative thinking. I notice the offer includes another trip into the Banqueting Suite for the BfB staff and short of pressing Rhodes, Ham or Longbottom for a pint I want nothing more from them for the £2,250 I spent than is offered.

However as I face the prospect of once again having to explain why supporting a football club requires me to ignore the financial sense part of my brain I’m keen that the same sort of smart thinking which went into this deal gets a deeper hold at the club.

For example the idea of spending the money raised – any money raised – on improving the playing squad is sheer folly when so much of the club’s structure lays at least fifty years out of date.

Bobby Petta is the latest in a long line of skilful players to arrive at Valley Parade and never (so far) come near the boil. Sure we blame the performances and personalities of the likes of Dan Petrescu and Lee Sharpe and we say that they can not hack life in proper football or that they think they are too good for us but for God’s sake I hope City spend the season ticket money I’m going to start paying on proper training facilities.

While thinking outside the box is in fashion at Valley Parade we might want to look at the supporter involvement again. I seem to remember £250,000 of (directly and indirectly) our money finding it’s way to Valley Parade in the summer of 2004 for the vague promise of supporter involvement but how has this involvement manifested itself?

BCISC and BCST have meetings with some of the Gang Of Five – indeed I once heard that someone from BfB was to be invited to that although that never occurred – and that is a form of involvement but listening to customers in this way is not a privilege but rather a requirement for the club.

I’ve said before that supporter involvement should come when the club stops trying to be the father of all things and starts being the facilitator.

If you get a chance to read the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster you will see sections devoted to the need for football club’s to readdress their links with communities and supporters and to bring in more supporter involvement. The all-seater stadia and subsequent price hikes are dogmatically stuck to by every single club in football but those sections are largely ignored.

And speaking of pricing now the need to create a sense of value for the twenty-five year season ticket holders is gone the club needs to look for innovation in the pricing policy at Valley Parade.

Much joy at the idea of under elevens getting in free and some suggest that in allowing this City are getting in the next generation of fans but in truth the generation lost to football is not at first school but rather doing GCSEs and A-Levels.

Think about the kids who used to sit around you at games but spurted up and stopped coming. Football prices out a generation of people on a yearly basis. Middle class families are always going to bring their kids and letting them in for nothing saves a few quid. A permanent commitment to pricing a day at the football alongside the cost of going to the cinema will stop the leak away which happens when kids get to certain age.

Hey – I do not care for gangs of teenagers any more than the next 32 year old but unless we do something as a club (and as a game) the next 32 year old will not have been going to football for the majority of his life.

So I’m putting the financial side of my brain on hold once more sending my 25 year season ticket form back with a big yes on it and I’m crossing my fingers that this success may beget others.

Football and Bradford City needs a permanent revolution. It needs to start thinking smarter. It needs this kind of thinking times a thousand.

A good start.

On what Bradford City need to do off the field

The Shipley Bantams were formed in the summer of 2004 to provide travel to away matches. They meet once a week in a pub and talk over all matter’s City as well as arranging trips and looking at which pubs to stop in on the way. They have rules and regulations about drinking on the coaches and stick to them with an ardent sense of responsibility as good members of a community should.

In a way the Shipley Bantams are nothing new. CTC73 was formed to answer the same problems in the 1970s and from that, owing to a lack of anything approaching reporting on City, The City Gent sprung. Former City Gent editor Dave Pendleton established a History of Bradford City exhibition to mark the centenary and accompanied it with a website. BfB came out of the lack of a Bradford City online presence back in 1998.

In short when the need arises Bradford City Supporters have a track record of being able to look after themselves. When the people of the Shipley Bantams first got together they did so to support the club by quiet literally turning up to support from the stands – we use the term supporter so casually – and back then it is almost impossible to think that within six months the Shipley Bantams would be in a loggerhead situation with Bradford City.

Nevertheless as an exit from administration came into view then the club started to ramp up activities like away travel and started to undercut the Shipley Bantams. The two met and an offer was made by the club to engulf the SBs and let them run the show within Bradford City.

The Shipley Bantams declined and rightly so.

One month later a summit was held in a Bradford pub – a pub from which the sharp eyed could see Valley Parade – but despite location no one from the club was called on to attend nor were they needed. The evening was organised by supporters and the outcome – an attempt to re-establish the local supporter’s clubs in the style of that which has the name Shipley – is based around the efforts of supporters around but not including or drawn from the club.

Across town the Bradford City Supporters’ Trust were meeting. A half year on from being the last bastion of hope when all had left the club the BCST faced something of an image problem with some City fans crying foul with fundamental disagreements over Trust policy on attempting to get board membership and angrily shouting that BCST does not represent them.

Chairman Mark Boocock opted for a meeting of members to approve policy giving him the ability to represent those members with a more clear mandate. In the end the Trust may or may not get a place in the Bradford City boardroom but should you subscribe to that aim and you have enough like minds around you then the Trust offers a path to fruition and does so at a good arm’s length from the club itself.

This website – – exists with virtually no contact with Bradford City save the odd question about factual matters or seating arrangements for various games. We shun the phrase “unofficial” when talking about BfB because we do not believe that as a publication to be read by Bradford City fans that we need an “official” stamp of approval from anyone especially not Bradford City AFC (1983) Ltd or Bradford City Football Club Limited 2004.

Which is not to say that any of the organisations mentioned should be at loggerheads with the club or even be aloof from the work that goes on at Valley Parade but that the propensity to be at loggerheads should exist. Any community is stronger when it supports the ability to hold diverse opinion.

As we exit administration the club must learn the lessons of the last ten years when everything connected with it – be it away travel, supporters groups or publications – was taken in house. Bradford City football club tried to be at the centre of everything surrounding the supporter’s passion for football. The Richmond regime, as is common up and down the country, wanted to take your money to travel away from home, get your money from you for merchandise, get your lunch money off you with a café and to sign you up to various clubs all of which were operated from with VP. Once administration cut the will to do these things City fans like those who formed the Shipley Bantams took a look at what was left found that it was very little.

The new club, and one optimistically uses the phrase, needs to view supporter activities not as something to be privatised but rather as something which should be facilitated.

I hope that BfB that enriches the experience of being a Bradford City supporter in even a tenth of the way that our fellow publication The City Gent has done and continues to do so for over twenty years. I’m sure that the Shipley Bantams do for it’s members and I know that the Trust did in the summer and can do again. All these things make a stronger club but do so outside of the business that is Bradford City.

Previously Bradford City Limited has been at the top of a family tree – the grandfather – and everything which is established for City fans has been subservient to it. Grab a piece of scrap paper and draw a box with the words Bradford City in it and you could add the children of that box – the away travel and supporters clubs of the Richmond years – underneath it. Perhaps under those children there are grandchildren smaller subgroups but always Bradford City are at the top.

Next piece of paper.

Bradford City in the middle but The Shipley Bantams, BfB, City Gent, BCST, Bantams Past et al are not children of the club but surround it like planets circling the Sun reliant on the centre for focus and life – not much point in having a Shipley Bantams without a Bantams – but able to go about it’s day to day, month to month, year to year business with contact from the centre.

Now imagine not five or six or seven planets put twenty or thirty or sixty or seventy all giving every Bradford City supporter an outlet for whatever he or she has passions for. Naturally the mind turns to things connected to the game but it need not stop there. Bradford City is the heart of our community. Should it opt to be a facilitator of community rather than trying to be a provider then who is to say what resourceful City fans will dream up?

With the support of the club to give the oxygen of advertisement in programmes and on scoreboards then attempts to set up the kind of groups which make a richer Bradford City supporting experience will be enhanced. Today it’s website and magazines but tomorrow it could be five-a-side teams, it could be swimmers in our colour, it could even be the Bradford City knitting circle. As long as it is strengthening community bonds and enriching the supporting experience for fans then it is constructive. It might not add to the bottom line in the way that putting a pound on the cost of coaches did for the club’s away travel did but it will pay off in the longer term when the club becomes more than just a Saturday afternoon to more people.

The club has a chance to change – to forge a new path away from the failing business model of trying to get as much cash out of an ever decreasing band of supporters – into the Sun at the centre of a system of supporter communities which will keep interest in the Bantams buzzing long after the final whistle on a Saturday afternoon.