Crewe Alexandra 0
Bradford City 0
Saturday 2 November, 2013
Written by Jason McKeown (image by Claire Epton, see note below)
I hate afternoons like this, where football supporting feels like such a joyless experience.
It’s not the spending of £20 to watch a non-event of a game that got me, but all the crap surrounding it that in differing ways will dominate the coming week. On the field there was a performance which triggered an unwelcome reminder of dark days of the not-too-distant past, but more depressing was the stuff taking place off the field that sparked highly charged emotions.
Shortly after the game commenced, a section of Crewe supporters began to chant distastefully about the Bradford Fire disaster of 1985. I wasn’t close enough myself to hear it, nor did I see the differing reactions from away fans closest to the chanting, but news of what was happening filtered down the packed out stand very quickly. Some say that a few of our fans attempted to kick off in retaliation, or complained to the stewards and police around. At the start of the second half a couple of City supporters came and sat with us having moved from being close to these Crewe fans. They looked a bit shook up and talked of wanting to get away from the situation. They told of some City fans being in tears about the chanting.
How utterly despicable that a few Crewe supporters could chant something so vile and disturbing. I’ve long since given up trying to get my head around the mentality of any football fans using a set of tragic events experienced by a fierce rival club as something to goad them about. There can never be any excuse for it. But Crewe fans, what the hell have you got against us? What could possibly cause this minority of fans to think it acceptable to chant about a horrific event in which 56 people died, and from which countless remain emotionally scarred to this day?
In the second half near us, a steward was asked by several City fans why no action had been taken against these Crewe fans. His response was they had been warned to stop. I mean, really, is that enough? When a few yards away people are in tears because of the hurt these mindless morons are causing? Why were people not ejected for the distress they were causing?
It’s suggested that the Crewe fans who joined in with the chant are too young to know any better. What is the age threshold below which we supposedly excuse people for their actions? No one is asking for any Crewe fan to understand what Bradford City and its community went through almost 30 years ago, but for me there should be a zero tolerance to any football supporter in the land taunting other people about a tragedy.
We at Bradford City are not perfect at all and the behaviour of some of our fans can leave a lot to be desired at times. At Christie Park October 2007, a group of our supporters disgracefully chanted about the Morecambe cockle-picking tragedy and deserved greater condemnation than they received for it. It shouldn’t have happened, just as today shouldn’t have happened and just as Leeds fans shouldn’t sing about the Munich disaster and Manchester United fans shouldn’t sing about Hillsborough. To Crewe Alexandra Football Club’s credit, they have apologised via Twitter and stated, “the club and police are investigating and any of the perpetrators will be identified and banning orders will be issued moving forward.”
All of which, frankly, overshadowed a game that will do little to ease the growing concerns that City’s season has gone off the boil. This was easily the worst league performance of the season so far, with a worrying drop of standards, confidence and – amazingly, for this team – spirit. That City at least went home with a point was as relief given the game was running away from the players and they were hanging on at the end. But we have come to expect better than this.
Too many players were below their best, but let’s at least start with the positives. Nathan Doyle was once again terrific in the centre of the park; he is slowly taking on a greater level of authority and leadership from the hands of the still-effective Gary Jones. Doyle’s reading of the game has always been excellent, and countless times today he won back possession and set the Bantams on their way.
Superb also was Rory McArdle, who is revelling in emerging from Andrew Davies’ considerable shadow to take the senior reins of the back four. He needed to be good today, as Matthew Bates struggled to hit the heights of his three previous appearances and James Meredith’s worryingly average form continued.
Bates and Meredith weren’t the only ones struggling. Kyel Reid’s bumpy fall back to earth from his Preston performance must be frustrating to his manager Phil Parkinson; but ultimately Reid’s inconsistency is why his career has took him to Bradford City rather than remaining at West Ham. Nahki Wells – who hadn’t looked at all rusty on his return against Wolves last week – looked, well, rusty. James Hanson couldn’t hit his previous heights, but credit should go to Crewe’s backline for marshalling City’s strikers so well.
Indeed the struggling Railwaymen began the game brightly and pushed City onto the backfoot early doors. Their central midfield pairing of Chuks Aneke and Anthony Grant was the best I have seen this season, offering great balance to their team. The highly rated Max Clayton shot wide after two minutes, although in general Stephen Darby won his battle with the Crewe winger.
City got better as the first half went on and might have taken the lead when Wells had a chance in the box, but blasted into the side netting. Midway through the first half, a superb tackle and quick through ball from Doyle sent Wells clear on goal at an angle, but his first time shot rolled agonisingly wide of the post.
The 15 minutes after half time belonged to the Bantams. Crewe were hemmed in, and should have fallen behind when a scramble in the box saw Hanson presented with a glorious opportunity that he mishit. When shortly afterwards the in-form targetman’s header from a corner forced Alan Martin into a good save, confidence grew that it was only a matter of time before City made the breakthrough.
But then it all began to unravel, and performance deteriorated by the minute. City players stopped passing the ball accurately to each other, stopped making off the ball runs to utilise the space, stopped working as hard to win back possession. And little arguments occurred between team-mates here and there. And certain players began to reveal their frustrations through their body language.
Crewe stepped it up and began to dominate the game, leaving City hanging on for a point. That is so unlike Bradford City under Phil Parkinson. We have had poor results over the past two years for sure, but in general we have always become stronger as games have gone on, not the opposite way around. As anger grew in the away end and the mistakes continued to be made, it felt like a return to the worst days of Stuart McCall and Colin Todd. All that was missing was that hammer-blow of an opposition winning goal. Had the match gone on another 10 minutes, Crewe – whose speedy substitute, Chuks Aneke, gave Darby a tough time – would have probably won the game.
That they didn’t and City dug in for a draw is a big positive, but it doesn’t cover up the disappointment of the poor performance. As we waited an age to get out the away end at full time – just one exit for 1,300 supporters is ridiculous on Crewe’s part – the phrase “two points from 15” was uttered on several occasions.
That was the other element of crap surrounding the afternoon – the over-the-top anger from some City fans that will no doubt be aired repeatedly during the next few days. Whilst disappointment at players like Reid and Wells was understandable, hearing people swearing and screaming abuse at them and others was almost heart-breaking. You’re going to turn on our promotion heroes, really? “Why doesn’t Parkinson make better subs?” A criticism directed at every other City manager in my time supporting the club.
It upsets me – not as much as people chanting disgusting songs about the Bradford Fire, of course, but it still jars – that we supporters seemingly have this default setting of being miserable and angry at our team which we revert back to far too quickly. These players and management deserve so much better.
Two points from 15; but the stat that really matters is 23 points from 45 since the season began, and that City remain sixth in the table. It is of course worrying that we are winless in five, but not something to panic about. Parkinson’s two years at the club has seen him faced with far worse situations than this and each and every time he successfully turned it around.
I have absolutely no doubt that he will do so again.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates, Meredith, De Vita (Thompson 71), Doyle, Jones, Reid (Yeates 86), Hanson, Wells (Folan 90)
Not used: Ripley, McHugh, Taylor, Kennedy
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Categories: Match Reviews