How Football is ploughing fields without planting seeds

An away trip through South Yorkshire

Chesterfield away is a classic of the genre. A one goal victory that came when Bradford City ground the ambition out of the home side leaving only struggle.

Every pass forward was marshalled and pushed away by an imperious defensive line. Every easy clearance was made hard by strikers and midfielders who chased down what would have been the routine were it not for the attitude that manager Phil Parkinson has drummed into his team.

The goal came when Tony McMahon finished off a mazy run and low cross by Billy Clarke. Clarke enjoyed his best game in claret and amber and tormented the Chesterfield backline dropping into the hole between James Hanson and the midfield and exploiting it.

Chesterfield’s response – to bring on the aging Richie Humphrey – showed a team stepping back on their home turf. McMahon’s goal finished off the home team.

Parkinson would say after the game that City could have had four – indeed the post was pinged a number of times – but really the City manager oversells his policies. A one goal away win excites Parkinson – and excites me – because of the grind that has seen wins come Scunthorpe United, Rochdale, Doncaster Rovers, Oldham Athletic.

Those days are Parkinson at his best.

Playing away to teams that want to win mirrors the visits of Sunderland, or Arsenal, or Aston Villa, or the trip to Chelsea. When the opposition commits to victory Parkinson uses Hanson the battering ram occupying multiple defenders, and soaks up pressure with a mean back four.

The City manager’s problems come at home when teams sit back and defend the Bantams attack which is sporadic as shown by the third fewest goals scored total in League One. When City are forced to make the play in a game then games slip away from Parkinson.

Or sometimes things do not work.

An away trip to South Yorkshire

Text message before the game with Sheffield United: “Upper or lower?”

Reply: “Neither.”

Going to a football match should not cost more than going to the cinema. I’ve said this in the past and I believe it.

I think that Bradford City’s home pricing is a rare oasis of sense in a madness of a game in which this generation sells the game from the next and does so with a great deal of support from those getting fleeced.

Bradford City’s away pricing – and walk up pricing – is equally toxic to the game as a whole. Last time I checked it cost £25 to go to Valley Parade as an away fan. It cost £22 at Chesterfield, it cost similar at Walsall, it cost similar at Doncaster, or at Scunthorpe and so on.

The impact of this aggressive pricing that makes following football a thing that only some can afford is obvious to anyone who sees the aging supporter group and the gentrification which seems to come with it.

£27 to get into Sheffield United is certainly something I can afford but it is not something I will pay. It is a few pounds more than other games and those few pounds are hardly significant to me but I will not pay it.

And I do not know when the hand becomes the wrist nor do I feel like I’ve created a hard and fast rule never to be broken but I would not support this part of football’s attempts to gouge out of my pocket because they assume that because I can pay it they should sell to me, aged 42, for a price that me, aged 21, would never have been able to pay.

The combination of the two

If you enjoy a team that puts in a performance that is part frustration, part opportunism then you would have enjoyed the Chesterfield game.

I would argue that Chesterfield, or Scunthorpe, or Doncaster, or Oldham were little different to the game with Chelsea that defines 2015 for Bradford City: Minimise chances coming at your goal and maximise what one has at the other end.

But I cannot say with all honesty that all people would enjoy all or any of those games. I am cut from a cloth were I am more impressed with hard work and honesty on a field than I am by rabona kicks and 45 man massing moves.

I enjoy seeing a team with limitations which overcome those limitations, some of the time, and the processional football of the Champions League leaves me cold. I’ve no interest in football where the players who walk onto the field against Barcelona believe they are beaten before kick off.

Winning away at Chesterfield from few chances but battling to make sure that the team does not concede a chance let alone a goal is a good Saturday afternoon for me but probably only because of the narrative it creates.

It is enjoyable to watch my team Bradford City attempting to overcome limitations because I know those limitations. There is an overarching story of the emergence of Rory McArdle from understudy to as rock of defence, or about Tony McMahon finding a role having floated anchorless at the start of the season.

(There is also a story about James Hanson being not good enough for a transfer to a professional club, not good enough for the bottom of League Two, not good for the middle of League Two, not good enough for a League Cup semi-final, not good enough for a play-off second leg, not good enough for League One, not good enough for a team chasing the League One play-offs. One day he will not be good enough and I’m sure the phrase “we told you so” will be used regardless of all the times naysayers were proven wrong. Watching Hanson over the last few years is a lesson in the narrative of football.)

These things are seen over the course of months, and years, and not in isolation. Football, for me, is never viewed in isolation. I find the idea of turning on Sky Sports to watch any old game as mystifying as opening a book at a random page, reading twenty pages, and then putting it back on the shelf.

To watch the unfolding narrative of a team one needs to be able to watch often and prices over £20 are no aid to that for me but would have been a substantial problem to me twenty years ago. Is Sheffield United vs Bradford City £27 worth of entertainment when – if one considers it – one could take a friend to watch The Force Awakens in IMAX and still have change for popcorn?

I can’t remember a worst time

Sheffield United away is not Chesterfield. Without a game owing to waterlogging and without the regular training pitches owing to flooding reports return that City lack sharpness and are easily beaten. Football is a multi-polar world and games are hard enough when preparations are ideal.

The supporters – both Bradford City and Sheffield United – are subject to some racist chanting from Sheffield United fans and some chanting that is unpleasant. This will be passed onto The FA – who are perhaps the least able and qualified body in the Universe on this subject – but probably not to the Police.

The FA never seem to tire of their role as prosecutors of – some might say persecutors of – those whom the Law of the Land can find no case against claiming their lower standard of evidence as somehow better than the one that is required by any court which could not be prefixed with the term Kangaroo.

I would not want to have The Racists of Sheffield who were at Bramall Lane to be convicted for what they said or what they think. I’m happy to just consider them to be a collective of idiots and be done with it.

But I did not pay £27 so what can I say?

The focus

To suggest that football needs to understand better its audience is to allow the game – the collective of clubs and organisers – leniency on the charge that they understand full well that they increasingly greying men who populate matches are the ones who will dig deepest for tickets and that they exploit that.

The people who run football always need more money and they know that people aged 35+ in good jobs with good incomes will fund their extravagant demands for more wages paid, more promotions pushes, more mistakes and managerial pay-offs.

These people are the focus of football’s attention. In twenty/thirty years time when those people have retired to Saturday afternoons in more comfortable surroundings there will be no generation to replace them because that attention is so narrowly focused.

Oddly enough because of the odd combination of Wembley twice and season ticket pricing Bradford City are one of the clubs who have some protection against this – there is a healthy group of younger City fans who have been allowed a stake in the support – but mingle with the home fans at an away game and appreciate the difference.

Football is ploughing fields without planting seeds.

The longview

Sheffield United away is I am told a bad performance in isolation but not out of keeping with how Bradford City perform. When taken over a longer period City are averaging a point and a half a game away from home, as well as the odd Chelsea if you will.

Often the game plan of Chesterfield works but when it does not the result is as it was in South Yorkshire. Since Phil Parkinson arrived his plans have had a shifting impact on the mentality of the club.

When he arrived the club was congratulating itself for avoiding relegation out of the Football League under the hapless Peter Jackson. Now there is a consideration that the club is not ideally placed to reach the second tier of English football.

But I – and perhaps you – only know this having been fortunate enough to be able to afford to follow the club from that period to this.

I do not see how that will be possible for the coming generations of football.

Cherishing the racism and bigotry of football

No one in England was going to be happy when it turned out that only two of the twenty two votes needed to bring the World Cup to these shores went to the nation and the accusations of corruption in FIFA and a broken bidding process quickly followed.

England’s bidding team congratulated Russia and Qatar – the host for 2018 and 2022 respectively – but went away cursing the system of handbags and kickbacks the exposure of which seemed to critically hole the attempt to bring the World Cup to the country. It is hard to imagine what more England could have put into a bid and near impossible to excuse every one of the twenty non-voting officials from looking at the facts of the English case and the propositions of others and veering towards the prospective.

So Davids Beckham and Cameron are united in disappointment, and once again Football steadfastly refuses to come home.

But where is it going? And what does the destination say about FIFA?

That Russian society has problems – regarded as a Mafia State Wikileaks tells us – is not a disqualification but the message sent to the supporters who made this farewell for Peter Odemwingie is a curious one.

What commitment to ridding racism from football is there in giving the crown jewel of the World game to such supporters. Will FIFA be left longing for the sound of the Vuvuzela if only to mask the monkey noises and jeering of black players which is heard in Russian stadiums? Indeed the final two in the voting were Russia and the joint Spanish and Portuguese bid with everyone but goldfish recalling the treatment Ashley Cole and other England players received when playing Spain four years ago.

FIFA talks fair play and ridding the game of racism but today’s decision shows that to be just that – talk – and asks questions which will go unanswered.

More serious questions though come from Qatar. A state which puts a five year jail sentence for homosexual men, that legally values a woman’s life as half that of a man’s, that still has on the books of law that converting from the state region is an offence punishable by death.

For FIFA award a World Cup to a country that enshrines intolerance in its laws turns the stomach. FIFA must have a powerful believe in the ability of football to rehabilitate both Russia and Qatar or they are prepared to cherish what others find objectionable.

FIFA head honcho Sepp Blatter told the seven bidding parties who went home empty handed to learn that football is as much about losing as it is about winning. Reflecting on the nature of those who have been so richly rewarded today one is forced to ask if a country that respects human rights, a game that is free of racism and the best footballing infrastructure in the world is not good enough to win the right to host the World Cup then what where criteria for selection anyway?

I’ve No Passion for this Hate

Editor’s Note: Details with the game with Chesterfield – a 1-1 draw with almost little to write home about – can be found on City’s official website. Rather than dissect the game of what for the Bantams was something of a meaningless affair the report is given over this this piece by Dave Pendleton about events around the game.

I love this country. In particular I love the north.

As we sit here in the wake of St. George’s Day, with a General Election and World Cup looming, I’m feeling less at ease with the in your face ‘Englishness’ that has suddenly appeared. From car flags to official parades involving press ganged school children, ‘celebrating’ Englishness is everywhere. Flying a few flags and kids enjoying an unexpected day out of the classroom is harmless enough, but there is undoubtedly a dark underbelly to this newly discovered ‘Englishness’.

Ever since the Bradford riots – which would be better described as young angry Muslim men riots – City fans have regularly had chants of ‘En-Ger-Land’ aimed at them by opposition fans. The fact that the people being chanted at are 90% white working class, and frankly have more reason than anyone to be angry about the damage the riots had on their home city, seems lost on the chanters. The point the chanters seem to be trying to make is that Bradford is not England in their eyes. By implication it seems that even white Bradfordians are no longer English.

I wish the chanters could point this out to the car load of young Asian men who last year informed me I should “fuck off home” when I was walking down Hall Ings – I was bemused by the incident given that here was an Englishman being abused by men of Pakistani descent on a street with a Viking name. There was a piece of wonderful irony at play here, but I didn’t see the point in trying to explain that to a car load of young men with cropped hair cuts who probably couldn’t spell Subaru Impreza, let alone irony.

But, enough of angry young Asian men, let’s return to angry young white men.

At Rotherham we were treated to the chant of ‘you’re just a small town in Asia’. What a piece of cutting wit from the ethnically pure, even smaller town, near Meadowhall Shopping Centre. What was funny that day, very funny, was Ronnie Moore’s face when James Hanson scored deep into injury time. We should have celebrated by singing at the Millers’ fans “have you ever had a bath with your dad?” Instead, we jumped around like demented lunatics on the Don Valley running track.

Cut to Chesterfield and the penultimate away game of the season. The English Defence League were leafleting the home fans. I agree with the EDL that I don’t want our country to become an Islamic State. Where we differ is that I’m fairly confident that a country that once built the largest empire in the history of the world, and who managed to fight off Hitler when he was staring at us across the Channel, is unlikely to suddenly cave into to the radical demands of a minority of its Muslim population. However, a section of our popular press seems convinced that a few hundred angry young men with beards are enough to cause our entire nation to fall to its knees, both in supplication and prayer. This in turn causes a few hundred angry young men in designer sports wear to mobilise in defence of their country.

So, why did the EDL choose to leaflet our match at Chesterfield? I once remember seeing BNP supporters in Sunderland leafleting when City were in town, telling the Wearside shoppers ‘don’t let Sunderland become like Bradford’. The retort, which nearly caused a minor riot, was ‘don’t let Bradford become like Sunderland’. Well, I thought it was amusing, even though we had to leg it to avoid being beaten senseless.

At Saltergate a small number of home fans decided to regurgitate the usual chants about ‘En-Ger-Land’ and much worse. Has Bradford become the sum of all their fears? Our city representing some imagined multi-cultural hell hole where white people fear to tread? Though Bradford is far from perfect, and has major problems with attitudes of some of its youth, both Asian and white, but if it was as bad as the chanters at various grounds seem to think shouldn’t we – i.e. the white people who live in the city – be the ones chanting ‘En-Ger-Land’? The fact that we don’t either tells you that life in Bradford actually is fine 99% of the time, or that we don’t give a flying one anyway. I’m inclined towards the latter.

At Valley Parade, and away, I want to leave politics, home life and work behind. I’m there to immerse myself in the football, scream and shout like an idiot for ninety minutes, then laugh, shrug my shoulders and go for a pint. The only colour I’m bothered about is claret and amber.

Perhaps the next time the chanters start up we should drown them out with ‘And it’s Bradford City…’ Us, whoever ‘us’ is, united for the afternoon in support of our team and our city and to hell what anyone else thinks about it.

Why can’t Spurs fans sing about Sol when Huddersfield fans can sing about the fire?

Four men have been charged with singing what is a very offensive song about Sol Campbell after a unified decision by “people in football” that things had gone “too far”.

Harry Redknapp led the charge against Spurs fans – how ironic – and he was right to do so, His comments about not being able to understand the mentality of a Father who sings a racist, homophobic and generally nasty song in front of his son is echoed throughout the land. Almost no one outside of a football ground will understand the reason why such chanting is necessary, as will a good few people inside it.

All of which is right and proper – although gives rise to interesting questions – but why was the line drawn at Sol Campbell and Spurs?

As a Bradford City fan I have this season had to sit in a football ground listening to home fans singing mocking songs about the fire of 1985 on more than one occasion – in fact I can tell you having ill advisedly sat at Huddersfield Town with the collection of supporters who sit on the river bank side closest the away fans delight in it – so why is it that no one has been arrested, cautioned, questioned, accused of behaviour likely to cause affray or any of those other laws which – rightly or wrongly – are being used against the Campbell chanters?

I’m no legal expert so I’m not able to answer that question returning to Redknapp’s bafflement at the mindset of people who would engage in such chanting and adding my own belief that some self-policing in the form of right-minded fans booing the offenders would not go amiss. After all football fans seem capable of booing almost anything else.

It seems that the Campbell chanters are guilty of committing an offence at the wrong place and the wrong time and to be made an example of – they get no sympathy from me – but how much the lessons will be learnt by fans the length of the land, and what those questions are, is debatable.

Will the police be arresting Huddersfield Town supporters in the situation out lined above? Would they have moved in against the Bradford City fans who sang songs about cockle pickers at Morecambe last year? Will they arrest the guy behind me who shouted that Barry Conlon was a useless twat and should be substituted on Saturday? Doing so would have robbed me of the satisfaction of watching him cheer though gritted teeth after he scored.

What chanting is acceptable? David James believes that anything not racist or homophobic is allowed while others would suggest it is anything legal but the morality of grown men screaming swears until faces turn red at kids barely out of their teens troubles me greatly. I would suggest the people singing songs about the fire are worse than those swearing, being racist to or homophobic towards players but I’d say they were all under line of what should be acceptable.

I wonder about football when it has to look for law and browbeating debates on manners to decide whether or not deliberate offence of these kinds are socially acceptable.

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.