McCall heads to Champions League, City stand still

By Jason McKeown

As the final whistle sounded at Tynecastle six days ago, Motherwell manager Stuart McCall hugged his coaching staff and players, before saluting the sizable away following. Well had just defeated Hearts 1-0 live on Sky, to place themselves on the brink of Champions League qualification. 24 hours later, their closest challengers Dundee United lost 5-0 at Rangers – meaning they could not catch Motherwell.

So McCall, and Omar Daley, and Nicky Law Jnr will all be competing in the Champions League qualifiers at least next season, hoping for a couple of favourable cup draws which could mean they get through the rounds and secure a slot in the group stages. It is said that clubs can earn 7.2 million euros for reaching this stage alone – such a sum of money could significantly change Motherwell FC forever.

Of course, this achievement is only a result of Glasgow Rangers’ ludicrous financial practices finally catching up with them, meaning the 2nd placed Scottish club are barred from entering European competition next season. But even if Motherwell were instead qualifying for the Europa league, for McCall to guide the club to 3rd place is still an outstanding achievement. If we just consider Motherwell’s crowds, over the course of this season, Rangers and Celtic have benefited from aggregate attendances seven or eight times higher. Even with Rangers enduring such financial problems, it appears there is no chance that anyone outside of Glasgow will finish in the top two over the next few years.

McCall and Motherwell have hit the glass ceiling, so to speak. And you’d have to be hugely heartless to disagree that he has proved himself to be a good manager. Two years on from the emotional farewell from Valley Parade, where the City legend himself was the first to declare that he had failed, McCall has delivered success and demonstrated his managerial ability.

The way that some supporters and a certain BCAFC director sought to drive McCall out of the City hotseat two years ago remains one of the most depressing and ugly moments of the last few years. Two-and-a-half-years into the job, a poor run of form suggested that the Bantams were going nowhere under McCall and that a change was the best option. The pressures of the job weighed heavily upon the rookie manager, who six months earlier had vowed to quit only to be persuaded to stay by supporters.

Now he was being attacked inside the club’s own matchday programme, had apparently not spoken to one of the two Chairmen for over two months and was the subject of over-the-top criticism on message boards. “McCall is holding back the club”, was the rhetoric. Get rid of him, and we will no longer under-achieve.

If only…

Two years on, McCall celebrates taking Motherwell to Europe, and City breath a sigh of relief over narrowly avoiding relegation – for the second season in a row. And with three managers having followed McCall into the City job and failing to reverse the club’s stagnant fortunes, the job McCall had performed looks increasingly like it was good, if not outstanding.

Mistakes were made for sure. Too bad McCall has proved that he has learned from them to the benefit of someone else.

When you look at the stats of McCall’s time in the Valley Parade dugout, the lack of improvement since his departure is even more obvious. The following table shows the record of all City managers from the last five years of League Two (including cup results). The second to last column is the win ratio of wins only, while the final column takes into account the positives of drawing matches too (by awarding half a point for every draw achieved).

P

W

D

L

Win ratio (wins only)

Win ratio (including draws as half a win)

Stuart McCall

133

46

35

52

0.35

0.48

Wayne Jacobs

1

0

1

0

0

0.5

Peter Taylor

53

20

8

25

0.38

0.45

Peter Jackson

19

4

4

11

0.21

0.32

Colin Cooper

1

1

1

0

0.50

0.75

Phil Parkinson

48

13

16

19

0.27

0.44

If we discount Wayne Jacobs and Colin Cooper for obvious reasons, the best outright win ratio of all City managers in League Two came from Peter Taylor. However, Taylor also had the second highest lose ratio of all managers (0.47, Peter Jackson’s lose ratio of 0.57 was the worst). When you factor in the value of draws (and personally I think they are important), McCall has the best win ratio of all City managers who were handed the reins full time.

McCall guided City to an 11th placed position during his first season, followed by 9th the year after. When he resigned in February 2010, City were 16th. They improved marginally over the rest of that season to finish 14th under Taylor, but have slumped to consecutive 18th placed positions for the last two seasons. The following tables illustrate this decline:

Bradford City league form under McCall:

P

W

D

L

F

A

PTS

Win ratio (wins only)

Win ratio (including draws as half a win)

119

43

33

43

166

159

162

0.36

0.5

Bradford City league form post-McCall:

P

W

D

L

F

A

PTS

Win ratio (wins only)

Win ratio (including draws as half a win)

111

35

26

50

119

134

131

0.32

0.43

So over a very similar period of matches, City’s outright win ratio, and win ratio including draws, was better under McCall compared to what Taylor, Jackson and Phil Parkinson collectively delivered. Going back to February 2010, the very loud argument that ultimately won the day was that the club would improve if we got rid of McCall. This patently did not happen.

But what about the budgets? A favourite criticism that is still directed towards McCall is that he blew loads of money, which has impacted on subsequent budgets. There is no doubt that McCall was given a lot of money for his second campaign (2008/09) and we expected a better return than not even making the play offs, but have other managers had it much worse?

Well, we don’t know at the time of writing; because the 2011/12 budget has not been disclosed publically. But what we do know are the budgets for the four previous League Two seasons: £1.3 million in 2007/08, £1.9 million in 2008/09 (that was the big budget year), £1.3 million in 2009/10 and £1.5 million in 2010/11. We know that Jackson began this campaign with a low budget, but that it was significantly increased by the time Parkinson was installed. If we were to be conservative in estimating what the total spend has been over this 2011/12 season, we could once again assume £1.3 million and add it to the other years (though £1.5 million would probably be closer to the truth).

So over five years, City’s playing budget has averaged £1.46 million – while McCall’s averaged £1.5 million. Overall, McCall had marginally more to spend than Taylor, Jackson and Parkinson – which probably explains his better management record at City.

We know nothing of McCall’s budget at Motherwell – especially relative to their SPL peers – but his Well management record of 0.43 (outright win ratio) and 0.66 (win and draw ratio) is a huge improvement on his record at City. It therefore suggests he is a better manager now than he was two years ago, and that sticking with McCall, rather than allowing him to exit the club under fierce criticism from many, could have seen City in a much stronger position now – benefiting from his greater experience.

Because the real story, when you look at all of these stats, is how much the club has under-performed over the past five years. Whilst maintaining the conservative estimate of how much was spent this season, City’s aggregate playing budget spend since falling into League Two is £7.3 million. I wonder how that compares to Shrewsbury over the same period, finally promoted this season after being down here the full duration of our stay here? What about all those smaller clubs who have been promoted, while we have stood still?

It seems to me that the only way this club will get promoted is to stick by a manager and give him the time to learn from mistakes – a lack of midfield balance at times this season, for example – so they can eventually deliver success. Parkinson is now that person, and though I admit that I’ve disagreed with many of the things he has done this season and don’t particularly feel warm towards him, the fact we have gone so far down this path under him means he retains my full support.

As for McCall, the chances are he is going to be in the frame for bigger and better jobs than Motherwell right now. Whether you agreed or disagreed with me and many others at the time that it was wrong to drive him away from City, nothing that has occurred over the past two years has changed my mind that it was a huge mistake to let him go.



Categories: Opinion

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6 replies

  1. Superb article and really gives me ammunition when confronted with the mccall out brigade.

    It’s there for all to see how the club have not been able to oust it self into the top half of league 2.

    Interesting that the playing budget so far this season hasn’t been outlined and my personel opinion is fagen, Reid, dagnall, duke, Davies, Ravenhills wages would have made the budgett well over 1.6 million.

    Also I suspect that previous cty managers have used more players than mccall did in a season?

    Although Jason points out that sticking with a manager is the course of action for them to learn from mistakes lets not forget that Stuart mccall had little experience as a no1.

    Parky on the other hand has been at colchester, hull, charlton, and at higher level clubs?.

    But yet nearly a season in charge a very low win percentage the worst so far in a,season?

    • The way Stuart McCall was treated remains one of the most shameful episodes in the club’s recent history. He remains a legend and to have people at the most senior level in this club attempting to tarnish that reputation was unbelievably sad.

      One of the pleasures of this season for me (and God knows there have been few) has been watching Motherwell perform so brilliantly. I am however a little concerned about how Nicky Law will cope with playing against Xavi and Iniesta !

      Good on you Stuart.

  2. Whilst I agree with the sentiment, there’s some pretty shameless manipulation of the stats to show what you want them to show there!

    Personally, I would assign a draw the third of the value of a win, what with a draw having one third of the value of a win… I suspect, though of course I may be wrong, that you tried this initially and found the stats to show that McCall and Taylor’s ‘ratios’ were near as dammit identical at 0.43 each, somewhat dampening the point you were attempting to make

    As I said before, I agree with most of what you have to say and I really enjoy the website but I feel you need to be called on that one

    • Hi Chris

      I used exactly the same measurement calculations as that used by the authors of the book “Why England Lose” to look at the records of England managers. They assigned half a point for a draw. I did not even look at the 0.33 calculation. I personally agree with this 0.5 measure, because in football you either win, draw or lose. I think there is value in working the managerial stats out on the basis of 0 for a defeat, 0.5 for a draw and 1 for a win. Though of course I appreciate this is not how league tables work. That said, these are managerial records including cup competitions, so it’s not just about League Two points tally.

      I have no desire to manipulate the stats and I would not work something out, find it doesn’t say what I hoped it might and try to fudge it. Had McCall’s record being worse than other managers I would have happily said so. I set off researching the article just to compare and to see if the stats backed up my belief that City have not progressed since McCall left – a glance at the league tables of the last two seasons would have been sufficient really.

      But even if we use the 0.33 measure, that Taylor and McCall would have 0.43 record each sums up the point just the same – those who chased McCall away send we would improve without him as manager, that has not happened. Taylor was given a slightly larger budget, and did not fare any better.

  3. …. and besides we actually played football under McGod… which should negate any discussion about the nitty gritty of such similar stats.

    I also suspect the budget this year was fairly high – the cumulative effect of all the development squad players (despite cheap) and the forgotten scottish set, would add up, as would the signings of keynote players like Fagan, Duke etc… And then one cannot forget that Flynn, Ramsden and others will be on a fair whack.

    Any word on the questions for Archie Christie Jason?

    • slight delay on us doing the interview with AC – he has a personal family matter. We will get to it in a short while.

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