By Mark Davis
It’s not as lonely as you’d think up here behind the picket fence. Many have gathered on this unrealistic grassy knoll and, if I didn’t know better, I’d say they were willing me to shoot. Aim low and true, back and to the left…
I can’t speak for the others who find themselves here, but I can say why I ended up looking through a crosshair as a motorcade moves slowly from the safety of Euston onto Elm and then approaches me along a devastating Dealey Plaza.
He is good. He is really, really good. He’s tearing us apart. I’m sat at the top of the Main Stand at Valley Parade in awestruck silence. It’s a cold late December afternoon and Rochdale are playing some of the best football I’ve seen in League Two. Four brilliant goals in 40 odd first-half minutes have arrived thanks to a fluidity of movement and speed with the ball that I’m no longer used to seeing in the hoofball league. Most away sides come here with five across the middle and hope to frustrate us. Not this Rochdale side.
They are hugely impressive this afternoon and there is one man at the centre of almost everything they are doing. He’s commanding the middle of the park and springing up everywhere. His touch is great, but his awareness and precision of pass is destroying us. Who on earth is their number 7? He’s just what we need.
Who is he? Jason Kennedy.
I am thrilled when he signs for us several months later. My mind recalls that late December afternoon and I can’t wait to see him play alongside the combative leadership of Gary Jones; to see him read the game as well as Nathan Doyle. He’s probably Championship quality, so he’s going to be just the improvement we need to compete in League One. Exciting times.
Who is he? Because that is not Jason Kennedy.
It’s now a cold afternoon in January. I’m stood looking on in disbelief at a first half display from a City side I do not recognise. The faces are familiar, but that’s it. Bramall Lane sees over 3,000 of us in attendance; testimony to the belief bestowed in us by the on-field and off-field events of 2013; testimony to our joy at being a league higher for the first time in over a decade; testimony to the faith the vast majority of us have in what Phil Parkinson is building at our club. The new culture of positivity he’s created is breath-taking when set against those suffocating days in League Two.
But this first half is genuinely shocking and we are playing some of the worst football I’ve seen for a long time. We have no shape, no structure, players are chasing the same ball, or losing the same player, leaving so much space in the middle of the park it’s frightening.
Seeing Gary Jones look around him at team-mates hiding on the pitch, misplacing easy passes and shirking tackles (that’s you Mark Yeates) is just heart-breaking. New signing Aaron McLean turns away and shakes his head, as Yeates decides against challenging for a 50/50 ball out wide and the Blades break on us yet again. We’re already 2-0 down and by the end of this we could be onto a real hiding that will de-moralise us even further.
As I reflect on that first half, although he is by no means the only one under-performing, there is one man at the centre of almost everything we are doing wrong. He’s all over the place, but not in a good way, either tracking the wrong man or giving up tracking the right man. His touch has deserted him, only dimly aware of what he’s meant to be doing. At one point he seems to jockey an opponent, only to unfathomably step aside and allow the Blades man to charge past him.
His indecision is destroying us, none more so than when he makes no attempt to clear the ball from our goal-line as the Blades score a second. He’s simply in the way as McLaughlin tries to get a hand to it. He should have attacked the ball positively so that our ‘keeper isn’t needed. It’s his post, after all, and schoolkids know you always take charge if it’s your post.
Who is he? Despite myself, it is Jason Kennedy.
So, this is how I find myself stood on the grassy knoll. There are plenty of others gathered here. It hurts to be stood here and I can’t conceive of us actually going through with it… assassinating Kennedy is never, ever justified. Surely? But as I stand here, I can’t shake the thought that – for all the talk of Davies and Wells over the last 15 odd games of decline – it’s undoubtedly our midfield that has struggled.
Our midfield is too easy to play against. Attack us with any pace through the middle and we’ll crumble; if we do win it back, we’ll bypass that same midfield with a high-ball to Hanson, or a wide-ball for someone (anyone) to chase.
Right across the middle everyone is seemingly undroppable, but for the wrong reasons. Who’s going to replace them? I don’t believe that Parkinson can’t see this too. He knew this was going to be a problem and he addressed it. He signed proven quality in Yeates, De Vita, and Kennedy. And they are badly letting him down. And that hurts too.
He was meant to be a big solution to this – the brilliant Jason Kennedy from Rochdale. His guile, tenacity and precise football intended to complement Jones and Doyle. Yet not since the dark days of Darren Morgan have I seen a midfielder wander around in the City shirt allowing games to pass them by so inexplicably.
The motorcade is right in front of me now, and it seems there’s plenty of people stood around me who think it’s time to fire the metaphorical bullet and call time on his controversial term in office.
I’m holding fire, hoping that a glowing performance will come forward, remind us of why he was elected, and we can pack up the countless rifles that have seemingly gathered here and simply walk away.
I don’t want to go through with it, but it is now time to talk me down…
It’s up to you.
It’s surely a confidence issue regarding Kennedy. He seems to be playing with fear in his eyes. He loses that and he has a chance to prosper at Valley Parade, if he doesn’t he’ll be on his way. Bradford City fans are some of the best in the country but they are also demanding, in other words they expect a performance, Kennedy needs to up his game as does Yeates, consistently under performing isn’t an option. We are in a decent enough league position, get a grip in midfield and there are no worries regarding the last twenty games, win a couple on the bounce and suddenly the mood changes. Self belief is key, Jones, Doyle, Reid and Thompson have it, Kennedy and Yeates need to dig deep and show BCFC fans their true footballing ability because they are not doing themselves justice at the minute.
This is too clever by half: leave the guy alone as I am sure he is doing his best .easy to suggest imagery around JFK assassination but this is plain football, not the death of a world leader. Does it not occur to you that such a comparison might be very upsetting to Jason Kennedy?
The JFK element of the article is clearly light-hearted and no one is suggesting poor Jason be assassinated. Whilst I don’t doubt that Jason is trying his best – and certainly no one wants to upset the lad – to most City fans we haven’t seen his best form that we know he is capable of (as Mark points out, his performance for Rochdale against City last season really impressed the home crowd).
The analogy Mark is going for is that on Saturday, and after another underwhelming Kennedy performance (not the only player), there was a feeling in the stands that it’s now or never for him. The central midfield has struggled over the last few weeks, and we are crying out for someone to really command it and cement their place. Sadly Jason has so far been able to take it, and it is almost coming to a head now.
As Mark states in the article, we know Jason is better than this and that he is a good player. The article is a call for him to show that form and to win around a growing band of critics. I hope he does – indeed there is no doubt he is trying – but this is not his best, and I’m sure he knows it and is as frustrated as anyone that he is not showing what he is capable of.
Im sure this article will do him the world of good
Indeed it probably won’t but does Width of a Post (and other websites) have a role to be critical when merited, or are we here simply to applaud everything and not question? I’m not saying there is a desire to give people stick and to hurt feelings – there isn’t – but things aren’t going well on the pitch right now.
As a website with a group of supporters writing articles, I personally think we should be fair, balanced and accurate. And if we are going to criticise, backing those views up with reasoning rather than just saying ‘Player X is rubbish’.
Perhaps that’s wrong and readers would prefer we only write positive things, I don’t know; but I can only speak for myself, as editor, when I say that I only ever write what I believe in (good or bad).
Thanks to all for your comments.
The article was indeed intended to show the two sides of Jason Kennedy that we’ve seen as City supporters and to suggest that he has to start to take his opportunities when presented to him. I had hoped that was made clear by showing both light and shade, rather than simply writing a damning article about his time at City so far (this isn’t the T&A message board).
The connection to the actual Kennedy Assassination was obviously metaphorical (does that really need explaining?!) but to acknowledge that he currently is being “verbally assassinated” by a significant number of vocal City supporters.
I usually ignore this blanket negativity, but it is hard to find a reason behind the transformation of a player we saw play so well at Rochdale, to the man who now pulls on the City shirt. What does he currently offer us? Is that question something to shy away from? I don’t think so.
Honestly, the idea for the article was triggered by more than one section of supporters at Bramall Lane shouting that Kennedy should be “taken out and shot” for his first half performance. Whilst obviously not meant literally (although I was glad the heavy-handed stewards didn’t hear them) it made me want to raise the Kennedy issue for discussion.
If you think that’s “clever”, I make absolutely no apologies for that.
If Kennedy does end up reading this, I hope he would take note of just how impressed myself and others were with him during his time at Rochdale and that – set against that (unfairly high?) benchmark – he has been really disappointing for us so far.
I hardly think that’s news to him, but it shows we were genuinely excited to see him here. Set against what he’s currently hearing from the stands, that might actually be a pleasant reminder.
Regardless of whether you agree with how I’ve framed the article, I thought the debate about Kennedy and the current state of our midfield was worth having.
If he reads this then maybe he will realise he needs to sort himself out. No good moping about, get your head down and fight for the cause…hes certainly not doing that right now…at present i would rather see Bates in midfield or the young Stockdill given a chance over Kennedy.
No problem with the criticism of JK (deserved) and if he reads it so what? WoP should criticise in a reasoned manner – they are here to reflect/inform opinion. Thought JFK analogy was laboured and detracted from some good analysis. Suggest drop the pretensions of literary greatness and stick to football
To Andy and Chris – Jason Kennedy has so far massively underperformed and I want WOTP to be able to report both positive and negative aspects of our club. To be fair he is not alone in this failing and PP must take some responsibility as he signed most of the players who fall into this category.
But the players must take some responsibility for their lack of impact, effort, commitment etc and when it is argued they have not had much of a chance yet I would argue our management team see them every day in training and if they were shining in these aspects I am certain their opportunities would come.
I would agree with Mark that our midfield is a big cause for concern – all the players are very ‘samey’, there is a lack of pace, we are often overrun and there does not appear to be the ability to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and dictate the play. I really hope PP can rectify this, ideally in this window but if not in the summer.
The midfield is not the only concern right now and lets be honest there are worries all over the pitch (apart from Hanson) and I really feel the points we are scraping are largely down to the fact we still seem to have maintained some of the never say die spirit that was generated throughout the club last season.
I for one would settle for 50 points this season (assuming that is enough to keep us up!)
I don`t see a lack of effort with Kenndy, just form. Thats Mark Yeates.
our midfield is a problem and has been for months now. a lot of fans are calling for an attacking midfielder to be signed. i can’t agree. where would that attacking midfielder sit in our side? who would he replace? Jones? Doyle? Our problem is that we play with two wingers/ wide midfielders with only jones and doyle in the centre. in this division managers (and some players) are just that tiny bit smarter and have figured out how to play against us….play 3 in the middle against our 2. Sadly (and I’m as reluctant as the next city fan) we are going to have to sacrifice a wide man to play that extra man in the middle. i though would go for an out and out defensive midfielder to give jones and doyle the freedom to get forward without having to be constantly looking over their shoulders at the space left behind them. a man to sit just in front of the defence to give them extra cover and able to break up opposition attacks if our own forward movement breaks down. sadly, from what I’ve seen jason kennedy isn’t that man. he simply is unable to fulfil the role we need doing.
Pull the trigger! I agree with Paul above re. the midfield and 2 wingers. My solution would be different however. I don’t think Jones and Doyle have enough of a goal threat to push them forward in front of a defensive midfielder. How many goals has Doyle scored for us in 2 seasons, shooting doesn’t seem to be one of his strengths? My solution would be to drop Doyle into the defensive midfield position, he always impresses me when he fills in a centre back, he reads the game well and would be a good outlet rather than pumping the ball forward from our defence. I’d then play 3 mid-fielders in front of Doyle including an attack minded player who can link play. Our current 4-4-2 formation doesn’t work. For a team with 2 out and out wingers how many decent balls do we get into the box? Our strikers are feeding of scraps and we have a massive hole right through the middle of the park when teams attack us. What we need are more players who can affect the game in both boxes, right now we’re slow predictable and easy to break down. Without the great spirit we have shown this season we would be fighting relegation.
I’ve a good Rochdale friend and a good judge of the game who said when he signed for us that it would be bcfc best ever signing BUT he did say at the time that parky must want him to replace GJ because they don’t compliment each other,now back at the dale my mates over the moon , maybe he’s right and next season GJ could be a good one to come on from the bench and give Jason the role. I think the comments are maybe true but very harsh as I think he’s GJ replacement and will prove it back at Rochdale for the rest of this season then back to us for next season for a real push for the championship