Patience is here and there as Bradford City face AFC Wimbledon

When the history of early 21st century football is written, the emergence of clubs with AFC prefixes will surely loom large. Whether they will be portrayed as grassroots revolutions or romantic daydreams only time will tell. At present their impact on the greater game is limited. They are a curiosity more than a threat to the established structure of the game. However, if AFC Wimbledon progress further up the divisions their ethos and ownership structure has the potential to reverberate throughout the professional game. The watershed moment would surely arrive if AFC Wimbledon overhauled the MK Dons.

However, we would do well not to over romanticise AFC Wimbldeon. Multiple promotions, and even a debt controversy, suggest that they are not FC United-esque mid-life crisis, revolutionaries. AFC Wimbledon are a limited company, albeit one dominated by the shareholding of their Supporters’ Trust.

Interestingly they also have an Independent Supporters’ Association, which suggests, in parallel with revolutions everywhere, Lincoln City for example, that factionalism is a fact of football life. So, is Saturday’s match at Valley Parade an encounter between two former Premier League clubs, or a vivid example of how a well organised grassroots football club can rise through the leagues to meet a former Premier League club which has spent a decade fighting crisis after crisis?

All that will fade into insignificance once the whistle is blown at three o’clock. The Dons arrive at Valley Parade off the back of an impressive 4-1 victory over Cheltenham. However, their form, like many in the division, is erratic. It has included a four goal thumping at Macclesfield. Are we in for another high scoring encounter? Few City fans would put money on their defence keeping a clean sheet, so it is probably a question of outscoring the visitors.

City have injury doubts over Kyel Reid, Michael Flynn, Liam Moore and Robbie Threlfall. Phil Parkinson has shown a reluctance to change the starting eleven during his short stint at the helm. However, perhaps the injuries and the poor second half performance at Crawley will force his hand?

Fortunately, he has options, although it appears that the most popular change among some supporters, Luke O’Brien for Robbie Threlfall, is the most unlikely to happen with the former Liverpool player seemingly the most likely to recover. Undoubtedly the defence requires work. The return of Steve Williams in a couple of weeks appears to be a formality. For Saturday Parkinson’s options are limited. Whilst he has wingers to spare, the back four is highly likely to remain in situ. We can only hope that the defence, and the captain’s Twitter account, have a quiet weekend.

The Dons game is beginning to take on some significance. Despite the team receiving praise for their free flowing football, and pledges that the fans would be content to have attacking football this season, some are beginning to nervously glance at the table. However, a similar glance at the calendar will reveal that it is still September. We have a new manager and a restructured team. Patience is a dirty word at Valley Parade, but show me the options?

Facts, rumours and Twitter

Take a look at those paragraphs to the right of this page. They come under the heading ‘External News’. They provide quick links to stories that the editors of BfB think might be of interest to the readership.

Now take another look at the links that are on this page as I write. One says that a goalkeeper from Tottenham is rumoured to be joining City because Hansen will not be allowed to play at Leeds. Another link is headed ‘Liam Moore announces he is going to join City’ and clicking on the link brings you to Moore’s Twitter page. Go down a little further and there is a story, under ‘more external news’, because it was posted last week, to the effect that Martin Hansen ‘is to arrive at City on loan tomorrow, or so it is said’.

I use these three stories merely to illustrate that BfB is not in the habit of reporting as fact stories about players coming to the club, when those players have not yet signed on the proverbial dotted line. Further, BfB goes to some lengths to make clear that these items of external news are ‘rumours’ or what someone else has announced, which is a fact in itself, when you can read it on a social network. The fact that Moore announced this did not make it true at the time and BfB did not claim it was true then.

I make this point by way of contrast with two recent items on the club website, both of which make clear the extent to which the club is upset either by rumours or by the inability of some people to distinguish rumours from fact, resulting in implied criticism when the club is not quick to report these ‘facts’. The first of these items was about the same Liam Moore and went to some length to say that he hadn’t actually signed until Friday (the day the item was posted), contrary to stories that he had signed on an earlier day.

It is the second item on the club website that troubles me more. It isn’t about any particular player. It is headed ‘Dealing in fact, not rumours’. It was posted on Sunday and, in my ignorance I took it to be either a follow-up to the remarks made in the Moore news or an explanation for why the club had not reported anything about the Tottenham goalkeeper. Either way, it looked as if the club was reacting to criticism, implied or actual, from fans that they were not being kept up to date with the ‘facts’ at Valley Parade.

Since then, via another Twitter feed or two, I gather that the latest rumour is about a player leaving, so now I’m guessing that the new piece on the club website was probably provoked by criticism that the club had not reported that ‘fact’.

I’m all for these social networks and message boards, just so long as they’re not compulsory. I haven’t joined any. I don’t have a Facebook page. I don’t have a blog. Maybe I should have a website, but I’ll talk to an expert (he’s reading this) about that another time. But I can see how these methods of communication can be great fun and provoke endless interest. So I’m not knocking them.

I don’t think the club is knocking them either. I just think the club wants to make clear that they don’t report ‘facts’ until they are facts, if you see what I mean. Two cheers for the club, then. But not quite a third cheer.

Let’s use Liam Moore again as an example. He tweeted that he was going to sign. He hadn’t signed then. He was at that point a Leicester player and no other club had any rights over him whatsoever. When he signed the loan agreement, City’s rights became a fact and were reported as such. Only then did the club comment on the status of player who, until then, had belonged entirely to another club. That seems to me to be the right way of doing business. The same principle applies about players who might or might not be leaving. I wouldn’t expect another club to say publicly that one of our players ‘was going to sign’ for them. Neither should our club, then, say that the same player ‘is going to sign’ for another club. We all know potential signings that have never happened. Let’s wait until it happens.

But the reason I can’t give the club three whole cheers lies in the mere fact that they have, not once, but twice, made a point about their policy. If this is intended to head off further criticism of not revealing ‘facts’ as early as other sources report them, then I suppose it might have that effect. I wouldn’t be holding my breath, though. I would have preferred that the club and those who criticise just accept the difference between something that finally becomes a fact, to be compared with rumours, reports and what others might put on social networking sites.

The club, in my view, would have done better not making an issue of this. Let’s be really professional and say nothing. Let’s not come over as prickly, as a bit on the precious side, as responding sharply to unjustified criticism. Those who prefer rumours must recognise them for what they are, regardless of the reliability of the source, and stop complaining that the club doesn’t repeat them until they are confirmed. But, if there are continuing complaints that the club does not deal in rumours, surely the club is big enough to shrug off that particular criticism.

Maybe the key is to accept that the club website is not another social networking site and has to be controlled in a manner those sites do not. That way we might all get on in peace.

Ronnie Moore and the way the world works these days

Ronnie Moore will be the next manager of Bradford City – or so the jester that is Tommy Doherty said as he continues his banter with various City fans using the social networking website Twitter.

For those who do not follow @tdocs14 the former City midfielder stood charged by a section of City fans of – avoiding the colourful language – not being very good and being about to retire and midfielder responded in kind with the odd vulgarity, a decent pun here and there, and a boast or two about how he would be spending most of his days playing golf from now on. Wilde called it a good walk ruined, you know.

The highlight of this exchange came after Doherty declared he was back to be at home and away from Bradford two which there came a retort which Wilde would have considered half decent going on to say what a shame it would be that the midfielder had exited the City because today they were unveiling the statue to him. Touché.

Doherty’s joke about Moore – and it was just as Joke as elsewhere on Twitter former Bantam and Ronnie’s son Ian Thomas-Moore called it 100% untrue – would have been said and gone some years ago but the modern world creates a feedback loop around such rumours. A joke on Twitter is written down without humour – or even one of those :-) smiley faces – and bookmakers keen to make sure they do not lose out start to cut odds when loose money is placed on Moore’s arrival at VP.

Cutting odds is a result of betting but – rather than the commercial enterprise it is – bookmaking seems to be looked at as a kind of modern soothe saying. If ten people in an hour were to go into a William Hill in Glasgow and bet on Elvis being alive then the usual pattern would be picked up and the King’s return would come down from 10,000-1. It is the mechanics of the business. If there is a risk of paying of a lot then the odds come down. There is no measure of probability, just of risk should the eventuality came to pass.

So a joke from Twitter leads to Ronnie Moore becoming the favourite for the City job despite the fact that as a manager he has stated that he would prefer Bradford City not to be in the Football League (something he could achieve was a poor performance) and that leads to Bradford City fans who look at the odds reporting back that Moore is much fancied, and assuming that there must be a credibility to the idea. It is the feedback loop in action. Like shouting into a tunnel the sound echoes around and amplifies but is not repeated. It is still just one sound and no more true for the reverberations as when it was first uttered.

Football seems especially susceptible to this kind of repeating rumour which gains the currency of fact quickly and the next Bradford City manager will be faced with the same rumours and whispers that the previous two full time ones have had. Stuart McCall had a number of “final games” and Peter Taylor was reportedly in the last chance saloon nearly constantly. None of these rumours have ever been confirmed and none came to pass but the fact they reverberated around wrote them into history as truths. They undermined the manager, without every being validated for accuracy.

More important for the next manager – who will be charged with making a team for promotion once more – is to ensure that the echoing effect does not undermine his team. @RHannah10 is a blast on Twitter at the moment – so positive about his move to City and keeping us up to date with his last week working as a gardener which strikes one as rather charming, Carbone never having to work his notice – but a bad game and a negative tweet and how does the manager try keep Hannah’s confidence when the echoes are repeating negativity at him?

The way the world works these days – and the way football works – the difference between players is mostly in the head. Tell a guy he is useless and – in time – he will prove you right. Whomever takes over as City manager has to work out a way of ensuring his players are not exposed to this echoing effect which eats into their mental resilience and makes them worse players.

Because should he fail to do so he might find @RHannah10 having a laugh about who his replacement will be.