The last word of the summer

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown

I will keep this as a brief as possible, valued reader. We said we were going on a break, and some people are unhappy that we are not sticking to our promise. So consider this the last word.

It has been a crazy few days, and the shock of the departure of Phil Parkinson defecting to Bolton will linger on for many for us. Watching the contrasting reactions of Bradford City supporters has been really interesting, and the fragmented mood that has suddenly developed is one that probably isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. For a club that has in recent years achieved so much through everyone coming together, that is a worry.

Edin Rahic has talked about not rushing into deciding the next manager and that is a completely understandable approach to take. We are talking about replacing the remarkable level of stability that characterised Parkinson’s reign. He became the third longest serving manager in the club’s history, and his length of service is unprecedented in the modern era. When you go back to before Parkinson, where the manager was changed every couple of years and the club dropped down the leagues, the merits of having someone in place for the long-term are proven.

If it’s possible you’d want to replicate that stability, and that means finding the right manager rather than any manager. Yes, it’s not nice to see other teams getting a head start on player recruitment and the like, but we need to be thinking about the future of Bradford City in years not weeks.

That said, the urgency to move forwards is completely understandable. As a club we have just produced our best league finish in 12 years, and were very close to achieving promotion to the Championship. There’s never a good time to take a step back, but it would be especially difficult to take if City regress next season and move further away from the dream of second tier football, given we had so nearly grasped it. We don’t want to become the next Swindon Town or Chesterfield.

This means it’s hard to accept a reality of standing still, and of giving the new manager the time he needs to settle in, imprint his ideals and build his own team. If someone could guarantee that we would be a Championship club by 2018, I think we’d all accept a nothing season next year so the new manager can develop his strategy. But there are of course no guarantees, and a 2016/17 of a midtable finish or even worse would not be welcomed.

All of this frames the discussions about who should be the next Bradford City manager. We are all debating the names of individuals and reading up on their track records, but ultimately it comes down to a philosophy about what we want for our football club. Who do we want to become? What sits well with our values, and what goes against them?

At one end of the spectrum are would-be-managers who, on paper, can deliver the instant success we crave, but this includes names who in the past have been considered the enemy of Bradford City. Steve Evans appears at the top of such a group, and many City fans have declared they would accept his appointment. His past crimes forgiven, in recognition of his excellent track record. Selling your soul springs to mind. I would not welcome him personally.

At the other end is the romance of someone like Stuart McCall, who offers no guarantees of success and little experience, but is a guy you would root for and with whom success would feel really special. What City fan would not relish the idea of McCall leading us to promotion? If the most popular and iconic player in our history could write another chapter of success at this club, we’d all be so emotional and proud. But it’s a high risk appointment. McCall would need time and success would probably come slower.

The point of a spectrum is where you personally plot yourself between two extremes, and that is where Rahic and Stefan Rupp’s judgement comes in. They talk about wanting to bring in younger players from Premier League academies, but are surely not naive to think such a strategy would deliver instant results. Clearly they don’t want a cheque book manager and that viewpoint should influence the debate. Replace Steve Evans with Paul Jewell on our spectrum, and are you more of a Jagger or Stuart person? Jewell, for all his qualities, has only ever succeeded with significant money to spend.

It all suggests that Rahic and Rupp are more likely to favour a manager with a track record for bringing through young players, the McCall/Redfearn/Rosler/Lambert end of the spectrum, rather than Evans/Jewell/Cotterill. That could mean being prepared to take the step back that many of us supporters are reluctant to take.

The final key point is what the ultimate recruitment will tell us about Rahic and Rupp. It’s not fair to compare the pair to Massimo Cellino, but just bear with me for one paragraph. When the Italian took charge at Elland Road (where he was warmly welcomed by Leeds fans, despite what many think of him now) one of his early duties was to hire a manager. He plucked for the unknown and under qualified David Hockaday, and it set the tone for two years of quickfire manager changes. The only people to go near the Elland Road hotseat since Hockaday have been unknowns or people desperate for a job. Leeds are not attracting the high calibre of applicants that their status should warrant.

Rahic and Rupp’s credibility has taken a slight blow by Parkinson’s departure. However much the Bolton manager praises the pair and tells us they are good for Bradford City, the bottom line is he didn’t want to work for them. Actions speak louder than words. So now we are waiting to find out just who will buy into the Germans’ vision, and demonstrate a willingness to work for them.

So it’s going to be an interesting period, and we at WOAP will watch on like everyone else with interest and intrigue. I hope you have a great summer, and we’ll see you after the Euros to debate on the revolution that is taking place at Valley Parade.

Categories: Opinion

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11 replies

  1. Good balanced piece Jason. I think Rahic also said he wasn’t after a quick fix with youngsters but wanted to build a team to last at least 5 years! That is one monumental task, almost a dynasty but he has reiterated they have a long term vision for the club which is another way of saying they want stability that we all crave. I’m happy to trust the new owners so far on their admittedly small public utterances. A fans forum wouldn’t go amiss

  2. I would be happy with a manager like Paul Ince who did really well at MK Dons and set the tone for Karl to finish the job.

    He has the pride and passion and I think he would be a good fit definitely better in my opinion than Cotterill, Evans and Adkins who only did well at Southampton

    • Adkins did very well at Scunthorpe too! Also, it’s worth remembering that Southampton fans were devastated when he left (albeit in different circumstances to Parky) yet the replacement, Pochettino, took the club to the next level. Hopefully we can achieve a similar outcome when PPs replacement comes on board.

  3. Ian Hemmens.
    You are spot on. A fans forum is what is required as in your own words so far we have had only “Small public utterances”.
    I for one would like to know what long term vision they have, even if they have only just got there feet under the Valley Parade table. An outline plan with detail to be added as they progress would not go amiss.
    It would also at this point offer reparation to the season ticket sales campaign which has got to have been affected by the PP departure even if most of us are now coming to terms with the events of last week, and maybe acting with their heads rather than more emotionally as I admit I was in the immediate aftermath.
    At the very least the owners must be aware of the Club-Supporter relationship (particularly as they have been watching the situation for some time) and now is the time to give us some idea of their future plans.

  4. You say that, “…the merits of having someone in place for the long-term are proven”. Perhaps, but it could be argued that Parky was kept on because of the relative success he brought, rather than that the success was down to the long-term retention. It’s a chicken-or-egg debate. I still prefer the stability but it’s not the be all and end all.

    In the premier league, success in recent years has come through short term thinking (Leicester, Chelsea) whilst many Arsenal supporters are complaining that the board’s resistance to change is impeding progress.

    What I’m really saying is it may not be the end of the world losing PP and this may lead to greater things by adopting a more 21st century approach. I’m just hoping we don’t lose our more traditional values in terms of relationship between club and supporters.

  5. It looks like we have gone down the ‘romantic’ route with the news that McCall is set for a second spell. I think this says a lot for the Germans, they are happy to have a transitional period with Stuart and allow him to bring in young quality players from X, Y and Z and build a team that can grow together rather than choose a Evans type and throw money at it and crave instant success like a certain clown down the road…never mind what would happen to the clubs statue with someone like that coming in – it would set us back a few years in terms of the legacy Parkinson, Lawn and Rhodes left behind.

    I’m fully behind the new ‘team’ and am already looking forward to next season, one final note – let’s all have a bit of patience and give them all a chance!!

    • Stuart has yet to explain how he has changed as a manager – what formation? What style of football?
      A lot of talk about building a side is idyllic rather than practical. Jacko left after just a few weeks but some of his embryonic team havent done badly – Liam Moore who was a 16 year old rookie and Nahki hasnt had a bad career!
      Stuart did introduce Hans and Steve Williams. So he is prepared to give youth a chance – unlike PP who perhaps was burnt by the Olly McBurnie experience – yet Reece Burke and Josh Cullen provided the key impetus for our season.
      To me the whole saga leaves me underwhelmed and apprehensive about the new owners. As Jason rightly says actions speak louder than words and to date PP has walked, there has been ” a fan pleasing” rather than logical managerial replacement (probably to maintain increase season ticket sales)

      • Stuart has a press conference today so give him a chance to speak!

        As a sidenote, Peter Jackson was against signing Nahki Wells as he preferred Niall Rodney, so he doesn’t warrant credit for that player.

  6. Admiration and respect for PP was at an all time high, but nothing lasts forever – heres to the next adventure, second star to the right and straight on until morning! – CTID!

  7. I am utterly bewildered by some comments…not particularly on here but in the general social media….if you have been on the same journey as I have over the last forty years with City, a journey of incredible highs, but with lows that have affected you as a human being…then why on earth would you not welcome a manager who had travelled the same road as you? Why? This club is like no other in the world, it’s totally unique. Read the history, all of it. I want people in charge of this club to know what it’s like to hurt, but with a sense of perspective. If you need City to attach yourself to City to improve yourself worth because you have a crap job or you like the idea of safety in numbers then please be quiet….let those of us who bought into the rollercaster prior to cheap tickets and the short sojourn to the elite have our say. We know because we have walked the walk and talked the talk . Welcome home Stuart I cannot wait for the new season now.

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