Huddersfield Town vs Bradford City – League Cup First Round 2008/2009 preview

Having won on the first day of the season Bradford City go into the first local derby in sixteen months with tails high and a wound to heal.

The last visit to City’s least favourite rivals at the end of the 2006/2007 was one of the low lights not only of that season but of the fall from the Premiership which we hope to have now turned around as Huddersfield recorded a simple 2-0 win against a lifeless City side under David Wetherall’s management.

A season and a bit later and investment and management sees City looking upwards for the first time and Stuart McCall getting an early chance to measure himself against a team from a higher division,

McCall faces a Huddersfield side managed by a former assistant boss from Valley Parade whom he played under – Stan Ternant – who thanked goalkeeper Matt Glennon for a last minute save that stopped the lead they had taken through Andy Booth from being turned around to defeat in the 1-1 draw with Stockport at the weekend.

As with McCall’s City Ternant has stacked experience in his side with the likes of David Unsworth, Chris Lucketti and Luke Beckett – almost a Bantam joining Booth and Danny Cadamarteri who was a Bantam and a really wretched one at that. Added to that are a selection of youngsters who have come through Town’s set up and one could expect that as a higher league team they may be tempted to give some squad players a run out.

Former Town boss Bill Shankley said that were Everton playing in the back garden he would close the curtains but knew that winning the Merseyside derby gave his Liverpool team important bragging rights and such factors may change the teams put out.

McCall is expected to give the majority of the side that started at the weekend in the win over Notts County but may be tempted to give Michael Boulding a first start over Peter Thorne who suffered cramp after his two goal haul. Either that or Willy Topp will be given a chance to emulate his hero Edinho – well, my hero – and score at Town’s ground. Barry Conlon is likely to retain his place.

Chris Brandon is missing for a return to the club he has just left and Joe Colbeck misses the final game of his suspension leaving Omar Daley free try continue his impressive start. Kyle Nix on the left with Paul McLaren and Lee Bullock in the middle although McLaren’s tender ankle may give Luke Sharry a start.

Paul Heckingbottom, Graeme Lee and Matthew Clarke make up three of the back four the other is right back Paul Arnison who splits opinion for reasons that pass my understanding. Playing behind Omar Daley is a hard enough job for any full back with the winger far too often allowing a man to go past and double up on the full back. Not only did Arnison’s direction keep Daley closer than any full back has previously managed but he got forward and supported Daley to boot.

Add to that his assist on the first goal and one wonders just what a full back has to do at Valley Parade be considered to have performed. Stephen Wright, Gunnar Halle, Gus Ulhenbeek, Darren Holloway and Darren Williams have all been been pillared at points yet Simon Francis and Nathan Doyle were loved. Similarly Heckingbottom is criticised for things that Andrew Taylor and Luke O’Brien are not. It would seem that the forgiveble players – loanees and young lads – play as full backs do and are excused and full time seniors are never forgiven should a single winger go past them.

Rhys Evans keeps goal and Stuart McCall bites his nails on the touchline. This is a chance for the Bantams to notch a scalp on what we are hoping is the way back, to win bragging rights and to build the morale that can keep the league performance ticking over.

What It All Comes Down To – Wycombe Beat City in the Final Game of the Season

The first thing to say about this game is that it is proof that City should have got out of this league at the first attempt.

Well perhaps not should have but could have. Wycombe Wanderers are in the play offs but they are no one’s idea of a good football team and if they do go through the play offs I wouldn’t expect them to last a season in League One.

If only… is the theme of the day.

If only City had not had had that really poor spell in October. If only Stuart McCall had got to grips with managing earlier. If only Mark Lawn and McCall had been installed before Darlington had signed nine players. If only…

Delroy Facey’s goal in the first five minutes was a big if only. If City are to move on then this venerable naivety needs to be stamped out by McCall. Leon Knight got a second and City were not that the races. A penalty came when Diddy David Brown was thrown to the ground and Luke Medley scored but next season if City don’t want another season of If Onlys then we need to make sure that when we come to places like this that we put up more of a solid defence. Teams that go places don’t concede in the first five minutes.

But this is end of the season and who cares? We have been in preparation for next year for a while now and this was the Bantams more of less on the beach for the summer.

Eddie Johnson already is away somewhere now we have released him. I’m going to miss the idea that Eddie Johnson more than watching him. I always got the feeling watching Eddie that he was at 80% and that he had no idea how to unlock the other 20% and nor did Colin Todd or Stuart McCall. It was probably because he had come through Man United. Had he been Eddie Johnson signed from Farsley he would have been “could be good”.

Next season McCall has to bring in a good quality of player if the likes of Eddie Johnson get turfed out. He needs two new keepers and I liked Scott Loach but I won’t miss him if he goes for good. He flaps at crosses too much and I don’t like loan players. I like Ben Starosta and I hope he can sign for us next year but if he can’t then I don’t see Simon Francis’s name on the team sheet as often at Southend as I should do…

Mark Bower and Matt Clarke at central defense? Ok then. Paul Heckingbottom? Sure. He is good enough if the players around him are good enough and no one ever didn’t go anywhere because of the full backs. Stephen Wright after all.

Joe Colbeck on the right hand side and Lee Bullock in the middle are not a midfield. Stuart needs to pull out some impressive signings here. He needs to find a Peter Beagrie to supply crosses and he needs a Stuart McCall to win the ball and without wanting to put too much stress on the Gaffer that is the most important position on the field. Whoever he get there needs to work out a Hell of a lot better than Paul Evans.

But if McCall can get a McCall and a Beagrie in then the sky is the limit cause City have an attack that no one else in the league can match. Peter Thorne is smart and finishes brilliant, Barry Conlon has the effort, Willy Topp the skills and Omar Daley who is more of a striker than a winger cause strikers should be greedy has the pace to beat anyone in the league. Something to beat any defence in League Two next season.

So it call comes down to if Stuart McCall can find a Stuart McCall…

Much of a Muchness as McCall Starts Signings Dash

Stuart McCall has missed out on the singing of Spencer Weir-Daley who joined Notts County – geographically closer to the former Nottingham Forest man’s home no doubt – as the Bantams starts to try assemble a squad.

Fast striker Weir-Daley showed some usefulness at City at the end of last season but his Issy Rankin-esque finishing suggests that City are not missing out on anything like a natural born footballer. Weir-Daley is typical of the players at this level.

In the Premiership the guy you think is garbage on TV is actually very good if not superb at everything. In The Championship the players are mostly very good but have a single flaw – age, a lack of pace, a bad first touch – that prevents them going to the top level. In League One most players are of the same ability level but some have one or two spikes of talent which single them out. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson was a great example of this type of player in that he could hit a ball and pass superbly but he was no one’s box to box tackling midfielder and ultimately he is revealed as having low limits.

In League Two those spikes are absent and most players are as good as the next man. Talent is less then organisation, spirit and determination. He who runs the team best wins and so Weir-Daley’s shoes will be filled by many, many potential signings.

The list grows longer on a daily basis. Pint sized midfielder John Spicer of Burnley is on McCall’s radar, Imre Deme from Ferencvaros has been offered and Simon Francis continues to be mentioned. McCall is unmoved saying

I’m not going to be rushed into bringing the wrong people in. I could go out today and bring six players in and three months down the line realise they are not the right ones.

McCall’s plans for bringing in players are in flux with one signing being robbed this week when his first team chances at his current club improved following a transfer request. It is frustrating but to give the Bantams an edge over rivals next season McCall knows he needs to shape a squad with the right attitude. Leon Osbourne’s Facebook dalliances this week show how easy it is for negativity to seep into a squad.

For all the legs of Weir-Daley McCall’s team needs players who will show the character needed for the fight ahead. The enduring image of Weir-Daley is his game against Leyton Orient and how after spurning first half chances – created by pace and skill – his head fell.

Continue looking.

The Real McCall Begins The Third Coming

From The Real McCall which was written in 1998 by by Alan Nixon and Stuart McCall

One day, in the distant future I would love to manage Bradford City. If I had the choice, that would be where I would start. I would like to repay the Bradford fans for all their support and courage for those years ago. There is some unfinished business to be done as far as I’m concerned. I have never meant to put pressure on the manager in charge of Bradford at the time, I am talking down the line…

Andrew Stuart Murray McCall will begin his third spell at Bradford City with a weight of expectation. His first spell saw triumph and tragedy in the same afternoon in 1985. His second saw the hugh achievement of Premiership promotion and the subsequent fall into administration. His path is littered with success.

As the ink dries on the two year deal to manage the Bantams there is no idea of anything other than a replication of those glories.

Julian Rhodes has stood alone over the past few years keeping the club together – let history record that and damn the doubters – but now he is joined and in pursuing McCall so fervently that he was prepared to knock back a job two divisions higher to join City he has made the decision Geoffrey Richmond failed to.

Back in the summer of 2000 when Paul Jewell left the job at Bradford City the invigorating force of McCall should have been employed as manager with Chris Hutchings kept in the role of number two. Bygones. A mistake is only a mistake if it is repeated.

McCall takes over City and immediately has decisions to make. Dean Windass is keen on a transfer to Hull but the return of McCall may see the striker rethink. Windass is McCall’s second call.

McCall’s first call no doubt will be to the man he has in mind to be his assistant. Some think Terry Dolan, others Terry Yorath. Do not be surprised if McCall pulls out a name from his time at Rangers – do be surprised if that name is Paul Gascoigne. Also do not be surprised if David Wetherall’s coaching is rewarded with a place on the staff.

Once his backroom is in place and the Windass situation is resolved McCall will look at the out of contract four of Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Steven Schumacher, Richard Edghill and Xaviar Barrau and make some decisions. No, Yes, No, No.

After that McCall begins to build and he could start that building at Southend United although not (just) for target man Billy Paynter but for former Bantam and Blade Simon Francis.

Lincoln City’s play off defeat means Spencer Weir-Daley favours us over them. It remains to be seen what McCall thinks of him.

Had we been two years ago then McCall’s side would have no doubt included If McCall gets a call from Italy from an excited Benito he should take it. If he gets one from Lancashire from a bloke called Ashley he can hang up. Players want to join clubs where they can see good things happening and this is Bradford City’s Keegan to Newcastle.

Decisions to be made. McCall is understood to have cancelled his family holiday to start work and what glorious, what long awaited, what wonderful work it should be.

No one has the right to sell Francis so cheaply

Popular wisdom: Simon Francis had to be sold because City are in administration. Balderdash! Simon Francis should not have been allowed to leave Valley Parade.

No one at Bradford City at the moment has authority to sell Francis for what is a modest amount. If this club were not in administration then this is not an unturndownable offer for a player. £250,000 for one of our finest performers as we fight relegation? If we were not in administration then this would be called footballing suicide.

However we are in administration so we have to take whatever money is offered right? Wrong.

City are currently in a period of funded administration and have at least one confirmed offer on the table for the club. The Rhodes family have financially guaranteed this period of administration and, as is my understanding, have put in an offer to buy the club at the end of it.

Administration was called “a technicality”, something that could not be avoided but would not seriously effect the running of the club, and we were not to worry about the future which would be assured under the Rhodes family. For the record I still believe it will be but this is not about Julian and/or David Rhodes.

It is about the administrators who have received more than the single Rhodes bid to buy Bradford City as of Friday afternoon. When the club was made available for sale the playing squad was given a value of none although since then Andy Gray and Simon Francis have left for cash leading anyone who would be interesting in buying the club wondering how come the assets are marked down and why what is of value at their potential purchase is being sold.

Administrators are not asset strippers or liquidators. It is not their function raise money only to keep the club going until a deal that best suits the creditors is made and that administrative period had been guaranteed by the Rhodes family.

So if the administrators did sell Simon Francis then how could they be said to be acting in the best interests of the creditors? 19 year old footballers very rarely go down in value and Francis was, as I understand it, on very reasonable terms at Valley Parade.

Unlike seeing the back of Benito Carbone, Ashley Ward, Stan Collymore, Dan Petrescu, David Hopkin and just about every other face to leave VP in the past few years we did not need to get Simon Francis off the wage bill. His was the kind of wage club’s dreams are made of – good players on low money – and just as it is understood by all when a business goes into administration that it needs it’s staff to continue to run to allow the best deal for creditors a football club needs footballers.

We did not need to get Simon Francis’ modest wage off our wage bill to help us in administration – Hell it probably appears on the balance sheet as tiny next to the amounts being paid out to Ashley Ward to not play for us – and so administrators had no business selling him.

If it was not the administrators then perhaps it was on the order of the Rhodes family who, it is assumed, will be taking control of City after administration? I doubt that the Rhodes could have had much of a hand in this as a potential buyer of the club but if they had then they should not have been allowed to. They are one of a number of potential buyers and have no remit in changing what has been put up for sale after the event.

Like I say though it was probably not the Rhodes family and we all look forward to the day when they can complete the takeover of City and we can stop being subject to the financial melee we seem to find ourselves in and get some stability.

So if it was not the administrators, and one hopes it was not, and it was not the Rhodes family then who did sell Simon Francis? In my mind neither have enough of a remit to justify making this sale.

Perhaps it was someone at the club. One hopes it was not Shaun Harvey because he seems too canny a chap to allow the club to be raided like this and as chief executive he also does not have the remit to decide who stays and who goes. He enacts decisions made by the board or in this case administrators (and as said above they should not have been making them and by whoever is in control of the playing side which at the moment is Bryan Robson.

Robson has no remit to start selling players unless he puts pen to paper on a contract for next season.

It’s that simple. Until Bryan Robson commits to next season then he should not be getting rid of players who are contracted longer than he is. If Robson walks away in a few months time then the new manager will find a huge hole in the team where Simon Francis used to be and would justifiability ask how he is expected to bring in a player of similar quality for £250,000 should he get a transfer budget which one seriously doubts. A new manager might also look at Andy Gray and ask why no contract offer was made. He might wonder if this club had any concept of long term planning and he could be right if he concluded that we did not.

Robson can walk away and if he was the one who rubber-stamped Simon Francis leaving he can walk away leaving us much less of a squad than we had when he arrived. We accept that in the name of rebuilding but only if the one doing the releasing will be doing the signing in the summer. In my opinion Robson does not have the remit to start selling our players until he makes it clear that they are his players.

So who has sold Simon Francis? I’m sure that one of the parties I’ve talked about has a good reason why we have sold one of our brightest prospects for what most would say is a disappointing fee but frankly I am unable find a reason.

Despite the popular misconception we do not need the money short term for administration because that time is being funded by the Rhodes family. We do not need to get Simon off the wage bill to make the club work financially in the medium term because his wage is not an issue next to those going out to the likes of Ashley Ward on one hand and the host of not good enough players like Robert Wolleaston and Luke Cornwall on the other and in the longer term any profits we can get from selling him are only enhanced buy having him at the club as he develops which is saying nothing about the increased chance of avoiding relegation we have with him in the side.