Where’s the glue?

Notts county away

Notts County 3

Campbell-Ryce 32, McGregor 88, Grealish 90

Bradford City 0

Wednesday 1 January, 2014

By Jason McKeown (picture by Kieran Wilkinson)

Everything is broken, and for Phil Parkinson this is a big, big test of his managerial ability.

It doesn’t really matter who you are and what league you play in, losing to the side bottom of the division never looks good and Bradford City’s dismal 3-0 thumping to basement side Notts County stands head and shoulders above all others as the worst result of the season. A new low in a run of form that has seen the Bantams continually slump to new depths. One that only serves to further blacken the mood at the beginning of such a pivotal month, both on and off the field.

Parkinson can only hope that this is a watershed moment for the right reasons. The 2014 version of the 2013, season-turning 4-1 Exeter slump, perhaps. His tried and trusted formula of lining up the team has delivered spectacular results over the previous 18 months, but it now looks tired, feeble and wholly predictable. Watching from the Meadow Lane stand, there were times today when you could easily have closed your eyes and known exactly what City would end up doing with the ball. It must have been relatively easy for opposing number Shaun Derry to prepare for too. Defend the space around James Hanson, so his flick ons come to nothing. And stop Kyel Reid.

County were hardly world beaters and three goals flattered their efforts; but in victory they have moved off the bottom to give themselves a fighting chance of staying in League One. City stand 11 places above them, but recent results mean we must now share the Magpies’ season objective. The play offs are something to forget about, avoiding relegation is all that matters. The gap between ourselves and the bottom four has narrowed to just seven points.

Everything is broken, and there are no quick fixes. What has happened to the never-say-die spirit that saw this group of players produce astonishing heroics last season? Where is the pace, tempo and thrust that was so hard for others to live with, even earlier this season? How do we get Garry Thompson going again? What has happened to James Meredith? To Gary Jones? And where are the alternative options?

Today brought to the fore all of these and other problems. Robbed of Nahki Wells through injury (the rumour mill is currently in overdrive and it looks increasingly unlikely that he will play for City again), Garry Thompson was cast up front alongside Hanson and, with it, the problems on the right side of midfield were heightened. Mark Yeates was overlooked in favour of sticking Jason Kennedy on the flank. It wasn’t the former Rochdale man’s game at all; but then again, an underwhelming first six months at the club leave me questioning just what, exactly, Kennedy’s game is. He doesn’t look like a Parkinson player, and the raised expectations the manager’s success at Valley Parade has triggered leave me heading to the conclusion that he is not a Bradford City player.

Kennedy failed to offer any kind of balance, leaving Jones and Ricky Ravenhill looking pedestrian in their attempts to control the game. Midway through a half of no incident, City’s midfield lost the ball, Jamal Campbell-Ryce charged down the flank behind a static Kennedy and dribbled the ball past Stephen Darby and Rory McArdle, before firing County into the lead.

You looked for a reaction from the players, but there was none. Many supporters are lining up to take pot shots at Jones – not something I agree with – but what concerns me more than suspicions his powers are fading is his sudden lack of leadership. Last season Jones was the closest we have come since Stuart McCall to having a player who visibly lifted the performances of those around him. An inspiration that caused others to give more. The magic has gone for the moment. It is heart-breaking to watch.

Everything is broken, and the lack of decent City pressure to find an equaliser offered nothing for the quietest City away following I have seen in years to get behind. Some will call this a depressing vision of life after Wells, but that ignores the reality that Parkinson will obviously bring a replacement in should he leave. Wells or whoever up front, no one will score many if City continue to create such few chances.

On the left wing Kyel Reid suffers from Meredith’s low confidence in the sense that no one is offering him overlapping support, but equally he needs to show more bravery in contesting 50-50 balls and not being afraid of receiving a clattering. Still, even below par, the two best City chances involved Reid. A promising burst forward by the winger was halted illegally on the edge of the box, and from the resultant free kick Jones forced a finger-tip save from the excellent Bartosz Bialkowski. Another Reid charge forwards saw him attempt a low shot that was palmed away by Bialkowski. That was as good as it got.

Oliver McBurnie – who came on for Kennedy, with Thompson pushed back to the right wing – almost tapped home the rebound from Reid’s effort. The young striker toiled hard and showed some nice touches, but overall found the going tough. He tried his best to read Hanson’s flick ons, but lacks the same telepathic awareness as Wells. Such understandings are not developed quickly.

Later on Mark Yeates made his standard introduction for Thompson, but offered his standard minimal contribution. Young striker Lewis Clarkson – rather than fellow sub Alan Connell – came on for Matthew Bates, as Parkinson attempted to throw the kitchen sink at an anxious Notts County. As much as Wells dominates transfer talk, the future of Connell, Luke Oliver, Matt Taylor and Andy Gray looks pre-determined. Parkinson is currently favouring young players over these experienced heads. The decks are seemingly about to be cleared.

As City pushed forward, County were able to rob Jones of possession and Jack Grealish laid the ball into Callum McGregor’s path to make it 2-0. Then in stoppage time, Grealish was rewarded with the goal that his outstanding display merited. Many City supporters headed for the exits.

Those who stayed until the end booed at full time – and continued booing when the players came over to applaud us. Most players quickly gave up and turned around, only Hanson continued to walk towards the away section. Parkinson – who always makes a point of thanking fans win, lose or draw – made no attempt to come over.

Everything is broken – and for the 10 days before the next match, against third-bottom Bristol City, the inquest will continue. The imminent departure of Wells is dividing supporters, with many questioning the consequences and even the wisdom of profiting on a player who originally cost the club peanuts.

Parkinson increasingly finds himself under pressure from supporters – and probably elements of the Board, who don’t exactly have a track record of showing patience (one director was apparently overheard criticising the manager during last season’s play offs). To me, any such suggestions about a change of manager are a non-starter. It isn’t a debate. It isn’t a discussion. Parkinson signed a three-year contract last summer after we supporters were desperate for him to stay on. You don’t rip that up six months later, you don’t even suggest it.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is welcome to share a constructive plan that outlines how parting ways with Parkinson will improve the club. But it’s highly unlikely that I will agree with you, because the club’s history of changing managers is a painfully miserable one. We have gone through anyone and everyone trying to find a successful manager – and now we have one. Leave those dice alone.

This is a wretched time for the club, but all of Parkinson’s achievements afford him time to get it right. We’ve enjoyed so many good moments under the manager, but it’s too easy to back him when things were going well. Now is the time to really show our support. Crank up the positivity, not the pressure. Believe in his judgement of managing this football club; of getting us through this transitional period of player turnover in the January window; of turning around this poor run of form.

Everything is broken, but it can be fixed. The challenge is to reboot, move forwards and continue the new era of Bantams progression. Parkinson will do just that.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates (Clarkson 86), Meredith, Kennedy (McBurnie 56), Ravenhill, Jones, Reid, Thompson (Yeates 71), Hanson

Not used: Ripley, McHugh, Stockdill, Connell

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18 replies

  1. I can’t agree that everything is broken. We are goibg through a bad patch but we have enough to keep us up. A couple of loans will help then it’s rebuilding time at the end of the season. Double promotions was always gonna be difficult. At this time last year I would have bitten your hand off for 12th on league 1. Its progress and further progress takes time. Believe! !!!

  2. The players and the Manager need to read this article.
    If I’d performed like this in my job, then I’d know the certain consequences.
    Fixed contracts avoid this, but they all need a kick up the Valley!

  3. “We have gone through anyone and everyone trying to find a successful manager – and now we have one. Leave those dice alone.”

    That’s one of the most sensible things I’ve ever read, very well put.

  4. I have to agree Jason. I’ve been trolling Facebook & Twitter tonight reading people’s comments:- Parky out! Seems to have started from a small minority of supporters. I remember asking Mr Parkinson at beginning of season what he felt could be achieved this season? . He was honest enough to say he wasn’t sure as some player’s hadn’t played at this level before, he said let’s see where we are coming out of Christmas. We’ve had a great 2013 and the wonderful Wembley appearances will never leave my memories.
    Phil Parkinson has dragged this club by the neck and given us a platform to build on. He deserves our support in this mini crisis.
    I hope we can keep Nahki Wells until the summer he’s guaranteed goals and at the minute scoring goals and our attacking play is struggling to find form. I remember our last season in lge1 when Julian Rhodes sold Dean Windass to Hull Cty in my opinion that cost the club relegation? Deano was always likely to score a goal. Yes these are different circumstances as Mr Rhodes needed the money to pay wages and Hull was Deano’ s club. But the result could be just the same?. It’s likely we will try and off load the fringe players and make room for a fresh impetus of player’s in this transfer window. What concerns me is supporters are automatically thinking the fee for Wells will go into new player’s! I honestly think Mr Parkinson will be lucky if he receives £150, 000 tbh. With £600, 000 over budget on wages and maybe another over spend on wages next season don’t expect transfers galore. In comparison to other club’s like Bristol City, Sheff Utd etc we’ve done exceptional this year? bigger club’s with bigger resources . I’ve every confidence Phil Parkinson will rebuild and we will see the benefits next season.

  5. Its quite clear that somewhere along the line, probably in the last few weeks, there has been a major re-think by not just the City management, but by the hierarchy at Valley Parade.
    That Wells will now leave is a given, the question has to be the amount of money that generates and how that will be used.
    I suspect (I dont know for certain) that the plan is to retain that money largely and wait until summer to reinvest in the team. In the meantime youngsters like McBurnie, Clarkson, and Stockdill will be blooded, and assessed. That fringe players will leave in January, and others (Out of contract) will leave in Summer is obvious, with a resultant reduction in costs/wages.
    There must be confidence that those who will represent City for the rest of this season have enough to maintain our standing in League One.
    I cant even begin to think of a return to the lowest level, and how long, and how hard it was to climb out.
    I hope we have enough.
    That said the team should be good enough to finish mid table, and then the evolution, Parky spoke about, can continue.
    Parky spoke about the great nights we would enjoy, and surely the Arsenal, Villa, and other wonderful matches are not history, but a fore taste of what lies ahead.
    In Parky, we MUST trust.

    • Very good points there Mark. It’s obvious the football club can’t sustain going over budget on wages every season? Stockdill , Mcburnie, are very talented and have the quality to play at this level but patience is needed for the lad’s to get used to the physical demands of professional football. So yes maybe the rebuilding is already under way .

  6. Weird, startling and as stated in the article in reference to Jones, a little bit “heartbreaking” to see the confidence, fight and leadership drain from a team that thrived on it’s together and plucky underdog satus last season. I may be wrong but I can’t help thinking the seed of this mood was sown post-Wolves by Pressley’s “dark ages” comments – we all laughed them of at the time but did they plant a destructive little doubt that has got into player’s, staff’s and fan’s thoughts? It’s a real shame to see at the moment but, without making light of what an important crossroads we’re at, I don’t think the current state of affairs should diminish what this squad acheived last year, nor should it errode our trust and support of the management team keep pushing us forwards.

  7. It’s going to be really difficult to offload the fringe players as they are called in January. Players like Gray, Connell, Kennedy,Yates ,Ravenhill in fact all of Parkys summer signings will be on lucrative contracts till the summer at least and not many clubs will be lining up to take them off our hands. In short we will be stuck with all of them ,and the only way the club could bring in fresh blood is a lucrative fee for Wells who’s departure looks likely. However I am not sure we will receive the sort of fee many supporters expect. Tim Thornton for instance said today on the Pulse that he wouldn’t let him go for less than 3 million, well if we are waiting for an offer of that magnitude then he won’t be going anywhere. Hope I am wrong but I don’t think we will get offered much more than the 1.3 million Peterborough offered in the summer and that the club could still be tempted to sell at that figure. Agree with you about Parkinson ,to sack him would be crazy and expensive, however football is a crazy industry, just ask Martin Allen manager of last seasons league 2 champions.

  8. What has cost Parkinson are his poor signings over the last 12 months. Gray, Nelson, Kennedy, Forlan, Bates, Yeates& Taylor. These players have/did not bring competition or improvement to the side that won promotion last season. Parkinson is obsessed with signing centre halves when there’s ample cover for this position. That coupled with the loss of Davies & a dip in form & confidence from players such as Thompson, Meredith, Jones & Doyle without real competition for places has cost city this season. The team has been crying out for an energetic ball player in the middle of the park & a goal scoring midfielder. In short 2 new midfielders fitting this bill needed to be signed pre season and it didnt happen. After a excellent start to the season Parkinson needs to clear the decks & bring in 3 or 4 fresh faces for the Bristol City game. The long ball up to Hanson has become even more prevalent in recent weeks & Parkinson needs to act quickly if he is to halt this current slide down the table. In relation to wells & the will he won’t he leave city in the January transfer window. This is not helping Parkinson’s transfer planning & player targets. Once Davies returns & we can sign a midfielder or two with an eye for goal then we may stop conceding soft goals & start picking up some much needed victories & gain a respectable league position this season. This will enable Parkinson to continue to build towards a further promotion next term. Up the city.

  9. What’s broken ?

    Andrew Davies is broken…he is that stellar player in this team, the one we pushed the proverbial salary boat out to re-sign. You can argue about the wisdom of that given his track record on injuries and discipline but it is no coincidence that this bad run started the second he got injured. He is the man that stopped the stupid goals being conceded, he is the man that made all the other defenders around him look better and he is the real leader of this team.

    Fortunately he will be back soon and I expect form to return.

    A pretty easy start to the season deceived some into thinking this team could win promotion again – that was never the case but hopefully a mid-table finish is within our grasp.

  10. To sack Parkinson would be foolish in the extreme, just like, a few years ago ,the sacking of Colin Todd was the catalyst for relegation.
    My view , after watching the two Xmas home games and reading Jason today, is that we now have too many Division Two players in a Division One environment, and, sadly, Gary Jones, is getting past it. But what a City player he has been! The loss of Davies has been crucial.

    The constant talk about Wells must be unsettling to team and management, and the sooner his future is settled the better for all concerned. I wish he would stay, but think he will go. I hope, if the latter happens, he goes quickly—with all our best wishes. Then the club can settle down.
    I think this will be a long, hard four months, but trust in Parkinson to keep us up.
    Happy New Year to all.

  11. I agree that it looks like Parky is already trying out younger players in preparation for the departure of Wells, but I hope we aren’t expecting them to score enough goals to keep us up. If Wells goes an alternative proven goalscorer is a must, or we will be back in L2 next season.

    What particularly bothers me is that Jones seems undroppable. For our more attacking central midfielder to have no goals and no assists from open play half way through the season, is shocking. You cannot play a deep holding midfielder and then carry another CM that neither scores nor makes goals. We are so one dimensional because all our creative threat comes from wide. Stop Reid and our strikers’ supply line vanishes because we just don’t set up chances through the middle, which only leaves the route one long ball from the back. Wells would score even more goals if we had a player that could play passes down the channels for him to spin onto. Doyle has that ability but he plays too deep to do it.

    I love his energy but ‘you’ll never get past Gary Jones’ is clearly way off beam at present because he is too slow. He is getting bypassed with regularity which is putting additional pressure on our central defenders, who are having to decide whether to leave their forward to tackle the midfielders running at them. Teams have worked out that they can easily outpace Jones and run straight at us. It is hard to see what he now brings to the party if his leadership and inspiration are waning too. I hate writing negative posts about individual players (and he is certainly not the only problem) but we need more pace, mobility, creativity and goals from midfield and Jones can’t provide those things. Doyle is a class act in the holding role but he needs a more mobile, creative player alongside him. Jones was just what we needed last season but his best days are well behind him and we need far better in order to progress, or even stabilise, at this level.

  12. We are also 7 points from the play offs – so we have just as much chance of a promotion push as a relegation battle at this moment in time – We are bang mid table, no need to panic yet IPWT

  13. Sussex Bantam is right, Davies is the linchpin in this team, his absence is sorely missed.

    My personal opinion is that if i had to choose between losing Wells and Davies, id sell Wells down the river as fast as the current would take him. Our entire back four is significantly stronger with him in it. We cant lose games if we don’t concede.

    The structure of our fixtures this season hasnt helped either, we have played a lot of teams far better than us in a relatively short space of time. Coventry, Rotherham twice, Leyton Orient, Peterborough, Wolves, Swindon and Preston all within 12 games. Its going to batter confidence when your up against the top teams (better teams) in the division and the results not going the way you want. Throw in injury to your best defender and constant speculation about your best striker, its not ideal.

    That doesnt excuse the loss against Notts of course, but if we can pick some points up over the coming 3 games (Bristol, Sheff Utd and Port Vale) 2 of which are at home we should be in a reasonable position. We play a few top teams again in February, but March is full of teams that are entirely beatable. We should pick up enough points in March to ensure our position in this league.

  14. There is a bit of pressure on PP to get things right in this transfer window – I think that we have all accepted that Wells will leave. I think he will be replaced by loan players though. I dont see the board spending money in January. Some of Parkinsons signings of late have been questionable. Forlan for instance looked to be a decent signing but has not been given a chance. Kennedy has been woeful so far and has shown nothing to suggest he will be an asset. McBurnie is going to be a good player, but he needs to be introduced slowly. To be thrown in too early can ruin a young player. We do need more pace in the side and I’d like to see Blair Turgott return.
    It’s important we dont press the panic button, but personnel and tactics need to be changed in the second half of the season.

  15. It seems to me that City have got into a few bad habits, so I’d like to suggest these new year’s resolutions:

    1. Look after the ball better

    At the moment we are giving the ball away too easily. One of the best things about how we played last season was that we were able to keep possession and move up the pitch when the ball was with our defence. Every time we give the ball away the opposition have an opportunity to attack, and we lose our shape. This also made James Hanson more effective and dangerous, as he was closer to goal when he received the ball. These days he tends to be challenging for headers closer the the halfway line than the goal line. Our defenders need to learn the discipline of keeping their heads on the ball, holding off opponents for a couple of seconds and playing a sensible, short pass to a midfielder. And the midfielders need to get disciplined about finding space to receive the ball when we win it.

    2. Spread the net wider when recruiting

    Our player recruitment hasn’t really worked out. I think we can all admit that. Not being party to what has gone on behind the scenes, this is based largely on conjecture, but I feel we have been too clear on the players we want, both to retain in the team and recruit. Their agents must have though that all their Christmases had come at once. Ahead of the summer we need to get some thorough scouting going and have multiple targets for each vacancy, including for players who are currently in the squad but out of contract. Being able to walk away from negotiations and go somewhere else is a powerful advantage when seeking value for money. I’m sure the talent is out there,

    3. Get really good at chasing the game

    We aren’t particularly effective when we need a goal. You can blame individual players but the problem is that we rely too much on individual players in these situations. Simply putting attackers on the pitch doesn’t automatically lead to goals. You need to have a plan that will force opponents to constantly react to threats from different directions, and you need to be able to quickly recycle the ball and get it into dangerous positions again when an attack breaks down. It doesn’t feel like we have that at the moment.

    4. Get really good at protecting a lead

    This certainly involves looking after the ball better (see #1). It probably also means learning how to play 3 central midfielders and one striker, but still present a threat on the counter.

    • My opinion is that most readers of this excellent website are the type of supporter who will give our manager and players more time. It amazes me that less than seven months since promotion some people are calling for Parkinson to leave. I’m sure that Phil and the players are hurting at the moment and want to get our next win as soon as possible.

      I agree that some of Parkinson’s summer signings haven’t proved their worth yet (but many haven’t been given a decent run in the side) and I would have liked us to have kept Hines and Atkinson in the summer. However, when things aren’t going how we’d like them to, it’s easy to say Gary Jones is past his best, that Garry Thompson is rubbish and that we should have signed a goal scoring midfielder in the summer.

      Yes, we’ve had a difficult run of games, yes, the Nahki Wells situation can be distracting and yes, we are missing Andrew Davies. But, we still have a team that should be good enough to avoid the bottom four. But they have to prove that we are good enough to avoid a slide back to Division Four.

      A previous person highlighted how Colin Todd was sacked and we all know what happened at the end of that season. To even be considering getting rid of Parkinson is ridiculous.

      It was easy to be a supporter of Bradford City last season when things were going well. However, now is the time for us to be positive and give the players and manager our vocal support, when things are difficult.

      When things aren’t going to plan, we know that some people will call for the manager to go and will be negative about many of the players. What I hope the Board, management team and players do is show their true colours, pull together and this will hopefully result in our team maintaining their Division Three status this season.

      In Parkinson I trust.

  16. I think that it’s down to a lack of confidence and a few weak links in the team. Of course injury has been a curse and the distraction of Wells leaving wont help but I’m certain a team that went to the Capital One final, whilst playing some good football can’t be as bad as we are now. It has to come down to a lack of confidence and the games I have been able to watch recently have shown this.

    At Rotherham players seemed to be hiding and even Jones didn’t have his usual lion heart despite his roaring at the cop pre game! Parky has to take responsibility for this as the long ball and negative play makes our big crowds anxious- the players then lose confidence and it’s a downward spiral from there.

    Loans, and good quality signings can help but a big slice of confidence pie would go down a treat.

    Come on you yellows!!!

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