Taylor keeps Jacobs to underline the importance of retention

Peter Taylor was quick to share praise with Wayne Jacobs are the 3-1 win over Rochdale on Tuesday night with the new City manager crediting his inherited number two with a couple of match winning nudges. Following that Taylor could not speak higher of the ten year Bantams left back saying:

He’s a very good professional and a really honourable man and hopefully he is as happy as I am with him.

Jacobs had faced near unprecedented criticism in his role a Stuart McCall’s assistant with some supporters suggesting that he was simply incapable of doing his job on the basis of training sessions watched, on the club’s warm up and warm down procedures, on the way he points during games. Mark Lawn has wanted “an experienced number two” brought in over Jacobs during McCall’s time at the club.

Peter Taylor – the man who has been brought in because of what he knows about football – knows enough to want to retain the services of Jacobs beyond the end of the season when the assistant’s contract expires and despite the arrival of Junior Lewis as a coach this week.

To Taylor Jacobs offers a link not just to the past of the club – he is a link back to the Premier League and back to Wembley and Chris Kamara – but to recent years under his and McCall’s stewardship. Jacobs is not just the other ginger legend – he is every coaching session in the last three years, every games played and the payers reaction to it. He is player that he and Stuart watched and he is all the knowledge that comes with working with the current squad for three years. He is knowing the name of Michael Flynn’s wife and he is being able to say from first hand experience just why City went from top to outside the play-offs this time last year.

That Taylor values all that knowledge says much about his approach as a manager which is one of augmentation and – that word again – stability rather than revolutions. His Hull City team that went up two divisions contained the likes of Ryan France and Ian Ashbee who ended up playing in every division for the Tigers and as he gets to grips with the City squad one might wonder how many of the Bantams squad could do the same and step up league after league. We can but hope.

Perhaps the effect of Taylor and Jacobs can be seen in Robbie Threfel’s arrival at City. Imagine Taylor turning to Jacobs and asking who takes change of the dead ball situations and Jacobs explaining how since Paul McLaren left no one had grasped the nettle. The Liverpool loanee’s delivery has added to City’s arsenal and had a significant part in every goal on Tuesday night.

Taylor made it clear from his interview – before, one assumes, he had met Jacobs – that he wanted to retain the staff already at the club. He is a manager who understands the merits of the knowledge at the club and the merits of carrying on with the things that Stuart McCall has brought, pruning the poor, adding to the good.

From stability to here to where?

Mark Lawn, January 2009:

Bradford City have had enough turmoil and non-stability at this club.

Thirteen months ago Mark Lawn had decided that Bradford City have “had enough of turmoil and non-stability” and gave Stuart McCall a new contract to manage Bradford City until June 2012. Now Bradford City go into the latter half a season with a manager who no one is sure will be around in June 2010. How did City go from the one position to the other?

In February 2010 Lawn confirmed that City’s replacement for McCall is not viewed as a long term appointment saying

The three-month spell gives us the chance to look at each other so it’s good for both parties. If Peter proves himself, I’m sure we will be talking about a longer-term contract. But it does mean we can look at others.

The former comment endorses the idea of a manager as the keystone of a stable football club, the second suggests that this view is no longer holding sway at Valley Parade in either that the manager does not offer stability or that stability in itself is worthless. How have the club gone from believing stability is the way forward to abandoning it as a policy altogether?

There is a theme of commentary – or perhaps just dissent, the two merged sometime ago – which has it that City have had stability over the previous few years with Stuart McCall and Colin Todd both enjoying around 135 games in charge of the Bantams – but I would suggest that around two and a half years as a manager is nothing of the sort.

It is the start of stability, the point in which stability begins. Where you make it known to all that you do not believe a manager’s position is mutable with the form of the club. Where players begin to get confidence that the man they sign a contract to play for will be at the club when it comes to an end. When supporters get to feel that the player name their child gets on the back of their shirt for their birthday will not have left the club by Christmas.

Stability is one way of running a club but not the only way, and one could argue – with limited success in my opinion – that it is not the best way. But most importantly it is the way that Bradford City were following a little over a year ago and have now abandoned.

Retaining institutional knowledge – that is the point of stability at a club – is something Peter Taylor seems to value more than his employers. Wayne Jacobs is retained as assistant manager and on his first day in Bradford the new City boss started talking about [para] “building something not over fifteen weeks but three years and fifteen weeks.”

Peter Taylor is a man much more worth listening to when it comes to questions of how to make a successful football club than City’s joint chairmen. He is talking about years, Lawn is talking about weeks.

The short term deal, Taylor’s talk of loan players, the interviewing candidates to replace Taylor in the summer, the idea of judging the new manager over the next fifteen weeks. City have moved a long way in a short space of time away from the one position and, if the Bantams are no longer following a plan of stability bringing success, what plan are we following?

What is the club’s plan to bring success and advancement to Bradford City? How will Peter Taylor be given the scope to achieve more than Stuart McCall and Colin Todd did?

There are many things which could augment the club that Taylor now manages. The club’s training facilities are notoriously poor and in bad weather the players have no full sized pitch to use; the club’s scouting needs attention (if not expansion, if a James Hanson can be plucked from the non-league of West Yorkshire why not see what pickings can be had on the other side of the Pennines?); the academy could be raised in standard to match those at Huddersfield and Leeds.

Then in a wider sense there is the problem with ground ownership – which costs £600k of the clubs budget – and the rental of equipment within Valley Parade which costs the same figure again. The issue of City’s 107-year-old home is oft talked about and Bradford Bulls chairman Peter Hood – a man with whom Lawn should take care in his dealings with for Hood is a canny and will eat he City chairman for breakfast – is holding a suspiciously open door to the idea of City moving to Odsal.

What are our plans for the future location of Bradford City? Stability says stay where you are, the three month appointment says why not say we will move into Odsal but tell Gordon Gibb we might return to Valley Parade should he make a better offer on the rent.

The price of tickets at Valley Parade and the free tickets given out to youngsters are about building a stable and constant tradition of support. Is that plan to follow the way of stability past? A policy of maximising transient support is more in keeping with the idea of short-term thinking. The club is shortly due to announce 2010/11 season ticket prices for those unable to afford to purchase one last December, potentially as soon as next week, so we may know more then.

More than these things – and already I can hear someone tapping the words “BfB blames the fans again” – the atmosphere at Valley Parade on a match day and around the club in general is bad to the point of being poisonous and, as Taylor picks for him number two a man who some have spent the best part of two years saying could not coach, is the new gaffer’s first choice at the club going to come under the same abuse as the last few have?

So many things could be done which would help the attitude around the club and thus help the manager from not being made to look stupid on Sky TV after we lambaste a kid who gets a ball full in the face for being “in the wrong area” to addressing the situation that Lawn believes has emerged around the club’s official message board.

Is there a plan to achieve any of these things which would mean that Peter Taylor had more resources at his disposal than Stuart McCall? That means that, aside from his innate abilities, Taylor has more to do to suggest he can achieve with City what many, many managers have failed to do.

In the space of a year, Lawn and Julian Rhodes have left behind the idea of stability and gone to one of fixed term appointments. Is this the new view of the club? Are we as fans to get no more connected to our managers than we do the people who run our phone companies or banks? Are we Peter Taylor’s Bradford Army, or is Taylor just an acting sergeant in someone else’s platoon?

All of which is not to say that the Bantams chairmen do not have a plan for taking the club forwards, nor is it inherently a criticism of the club for changing its mind on how it operates. Just that, having binned one plan, the appearance to supporters even on the broadest most meta level is that one set of ideas have been ditched in favour of a total opposite set.

The supporters of Bradford City are the people who pick up the pieces when the chairmen fail in the plans they have for our club – the last twenty five years have told us that much – so, as those supporters, is it not reasonable that we ask, after such an obviously and publicly move away from one position, we are told what the club stands for now?

The ire at directed Mark Lawn

The day after Stuart McCall left Bradford City and Mark Lawn started the process of looking for a new manager got off to a bad start for the joint chairman. Comments in the T&A over night – which were repeated on City’s own site – saw Lawn practically confirm that if McCall had not gone he would have been sacked.

As a statement it as crass as it gets – imagine Charles saying that if Diana had not died he would have had her bumped off anyway – and added to the anger that is building against the half of the City board who seemed most keen to replace the manager. Lawn no doubt has many reasons he could air why he did not want McCall to remain City manager and no doubt like Vanessa Perroncel will one day spill the beans.

The problem with the McCall debate was – in many ways – McCall himself with the confusion between backing the man and the idea of retaining a manager – be he The Legend or anyone – often muddying the waters. Losing McCall as a man is upsetting for the fans of City but changing the policy of management at the club on the head of a pin is something else.

Lawn will already know this being – it seems – an avid reader of the Official Message Board to a point where he talks on the need to end the anonymity of it. Lawn obviously pays more attention to it than I do and so I cannot imagine if McCall’s exit and talk of Peter Jackson as a short term replacement has gone down well or badly but my post bag has grave concerns.

Concerns about Lawn’s plans for the club. It seems he has been keen to change the manager for some time – correspondents conclude – so why do we now talk about short term appointments? Stuart McCall leaving the club was first put on the agenda by the former manager himself some ten months ago with his promise to leave should the club not reach the play-offs. Why then does it seem to have taken City by surprise to a point where they are waiting for CVs to land on the desk to find the best man rather than locating the best man and – considering Lawn more or less says that Stuart McCall would have been sacked on Monday – appointing him to the job today.

This is a very real problem for City. The nineteen games that remain offer enough points for us to see us trouble the bottom of the play-offs but they offer Grimsby Town enough to see them overhaul us and were we to mount the sort of run we did when Chris Hutchings took over as manager then there is no saying our points tally will be higher than the one amassed at Blundell Park.

Four months of uncertainty for players with a manager who may – or may not – be around next season and in all likelihood has never met them. If Stuart McCall struggled to find his best mix of the four central defenders on offer are we really not scared that someone who has probably never seen them play let alone met them might be picking the team?

City have gone from a point of some stability to an earthquake of randomness and Lawn is doing nothing to steady the club. Indeed the joint chairman himself has gone from that position.

On arriving at City he talked of the need for stability and the noises coming out of the club publicly mocked the number of managers who had been in the big chair in the last decade. Why then has Lawn abandoned that idea of stability – which is in practical definition retaining as much as you can from one time period to the next – and replaced it with an abyss of uncertainty?

What was that talk of stability if Lawn has been leaning towards a new manager for the whole of this season? Anyone who would define stability and backing as keeping the manager until results go against you simply does not understand the concepts involved in it and how they can improve a football club.

The ire directed at Lawn comes from some angry at what they perceive as a disrespectful stance to a man they respect in McCall and those people are significant for sure but in life people come and go and the club will get over the Stuart McCall/Mark Lawn divorce.

In addition to that unease – and perhaps more relevant – there is an idea that in promising stability and removing that in favour of nothingness Lawn has put his desire to remove McCall ahead of the good of the club, that he has no plan in place to improve the club after the obvious exit of McCall and that after promising stability and then working against such an aim a substantial number of Bradford City supporters who were behind Stuart and the club for the long term have been taken for a walk up the garden path.

These people stood on terraces and bought shirts which they wore as they travelled up and down the country behind a team that could be a hard watch for the last three years on the understanding that the club had a long term plan about building a club through determined, albeit slow, methods.

Mark Lawn might have appeased those who wanted rid of Stuart McCall but it is the people who nodded heads at the talk of stability who direct their ire at him now and demand an answer as to why three years of work has been thrown away in favour of what at present promises to be at best a substantial risk and, at worse, is nothing at all.