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.