By Phil Abbott
Many a youthful afternoon would be spent in the Abbott household battling my mates over Top Trumps of fast cars, carnivorous dinosaurs and supersonic war planes. If it wasn’t that, it would be charging around in the back garden with a football, bowling endless overs of pace or spin at the side wall or gathering the street’s youth for an Olympic event of gargantuan proportions. Alas now, as my still-youthful mind unfairly teases my middle aged creaking body, there’s a need for a new, less physical pastime to massage the grey cells and feed the sporting appetite.
Following City since the early 90s has, to be honest, been a tough task at times, although some occasions have fuelled me with the raw emotion that only sport can generate.
In recent years, since the body has begun to give me the gentle reminders that it perhaps isn’t up for anything other than gentle periods of exercise, I have started following City home and away on a much grander scale than ever before, ironically during the worst years the club has suffered in some time.
There has been great change around Valley Parade since those early days; Staff, stadium, league status, financial state… I could go on. During this time, many a player has been and gone – some sent packing, most applauded and some nothing short of worshipped by the fans. Some have lasted one game in the Claret and Amber shirt, others close on a decade.
What has remained a constant through all this change has been that our hopes as fans have been firmly placed in the hands of one man at a time – the manager of the day. The fact that there has also been a huge turnover in managers during this time is also testament to the difficult times, but despite the different names, approaches and lengths of tenure, we’ve only ever wanted them to give us one thing; success.
So it got me thinking – how could we actually go about rating the managers in any other way than the silverware they have or have not provided? Some managers were renowned for their passion for the club, some for the length of service to BCAFC, others because they gave us some of our greatest footballing memories, and a handful more because they presided over some of our worst times! I guess for me the answer lay in the old Top Trump cards with which I fondly remembered filling many a blank Saturday afternoon with.
Let’s have a go as readers to build up the first 5 cards in the ‘Bantams Boss Trumps’ pack. I’ve done one for you – Stuart McCall. It’s not a definitive, just a starting point.
His tenure, win ratio and promotions as manager are non-negotiable, just fact. The other three sections are open to debate. In my mind, Stuart displayed a passion unequalled in the City dugout, mirroring his attitude on the pitch itself during his playing days. I scored him 100% as I can’t see that his passion can be beaten by any other manager.
McCall, for many fans, also retained the legendary status his playing days had generated, despite what ultimately became a hugely disappointing reign in the managerial hot seat. Surely there aren’t many other managers in the history of the game who can depart on such a low and still be hailed at every opportunity since? And finally, his tactical awareness; for me it was the thing that ultimately let him down. He studied under Neil Warnock (I’m biting my tongue here) and my initial fear when he came to City was that he wasn’t quite ready.
Too often, he could not turn his passion, commitment and enthusiasm for the club and their pursuit of glory into league points or a long cup run. From time to time, we all wanted to tell him what everyone else could see – just like with most managers I guess? I’m sure with experience and time, football will look back on Stuart McCall as a manager of distinction (and he’s currently flying high in the SPL with Motherwell), but sadly, his best managerial moves were not reserved for Bradford City FC. (Well, not this time round anyway!)
You may disagree with my analysis and that’s what this is all about. Debate. It’s a starting point upon which we can base a sizing up of his plusses and minuses against 4 other relatively recent Bantams bosses. So, following communal interest from fellow City Tweeters, over a number of articles, we are collectively going to look at building similar profiles for Chris Kamara, Peter Taylor, Paul Jewell and Colin Todd – Go easy! But for now, the focus of your thoughts is on Mr McCall.
What I’d like to spark here is a lively and informed discussion on just where the 5 managers rate in the categories used to judge Stuart McCall. Go on, tell us what you are thinking about him. Did I get it right?…but keep it ‘Width of a post’ and not ‘City fan’s forum’. You know what I mean! I can’t wait to hear what you have got to bring to the table.
To share your view on Phil’s ratings for Stuart – and your thoughts/memories of Kamara, Taylor, Jewell and Todd – please either leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.