McCall’s Law

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Tim Penfold

The reaction to Bradford City signing Nicky Law this summer was, at best, mixed. It was expected, as he’s always been a Stuart McCall favourite, but, despite a good loan spell in 2008/09 and an impressive period in Scotland with Motherwell, fans were unsure about a player who’d seemed to stagnate at Rangers. For much of last season he was unable to get in a Scottish Championship side – and remember, this was a level where Mark Stewart was prolific.

In many ways the reaction to Law mirrored the reaction to Stuart McCall’s appointment as manager. We were only interested because he was a club legend/manager’s favourite. Yeah, he’d done well at Motherwell but that was a few years ago, and how good a level is Scottish football really? And that spell at Rangers was nothing to shout about. And yet, as McCall’s team cruised past Chesterfield to move into the automatic promotion slots in League One, it was once again Nicky Law who embodied many of the best qualities of this team.

Law does not stop running – a perpetual motion machine, always popping up in pockets of space, pressing opponents, charging down the left or through the middle past trailing defenders. And yet, he is not just running a lot and hoping that he ends up in the right bit of the pitch. His movement is intelligent and has thought behind it, and it means that whenever City have the ball in the opposition half he is available for a pass.

And you can see the rest of the team becoming more like him – today, Billy Clarke, Josh Cullen, Jordy Hiwula and Mark Marshall all ran hard for the team, but also ran smart, and pulled the Chesterfield defence all over the place. Law’s willingness to run anywhere also makes the team far more fluid going forward, with positions interchanged almost at will – summed up by a second half move where Hiwula dropped deep into midfield and played a wonderful ball to send James Meredith through for a shot.

Law, like most of this team, is also technically excellent – adept at the sort of one-touch passing and link up play that Cullen and Clarke thrive off, and capable of taking on and beating defenders as well. Today he dictated much of what was good about City’s play, always there to give a pass and move into a better position from the return ball, and a nightmare to pick up as Chesterfield defenders tried in vain to contain him. Law’s intelligence on the ball meant that when he did this, City invariably were in a better position than when they’d started.

It was Law’s intelligence, combined with Billy Clarke’s movement, that won City the game today – Clarke smart enough to spot that Chesterfield had switched off at a corner and make the run, Law smart enough to see him and pick him out with the pass.

It was not a goal that you could imagine City conceding at the moment. What started as a makeshift defence that would soon be broken up to bring in McArdle/Kilgallon and get Romain Vincelot back into midfield has turned into the strongest backline in the division. Vincelot and Nathaniel Knight-Percival, despite giving away a few inches in height to the hosts’ target man Conor Wilkinson, barely looked troubled, while Colin Doyle was called into action just once, producing a fine save to keep out a Kristian Dennis free kick.

Stephen Darby was his usual consistent self at right back, while James Meredith rampaged up and down the left hand side, and was unlucky not to score. This backline seems as strong as the one that broke every defensive record going last season, which is even more impressive when you consider that the centre backs and keeper have changed and the team is more attacking.

Going forward, City looked fluent and threatening. After a quiet first 20 minutes, Mark Marshall burst into life by beating three defenders and drawing a fine save from Ryan Fulton, and afterwards tormented the Chesterfield left back – his revival is possibly the best achievement of McCall’s management so far.

Jordy Hiwula ran and ran and ran, and was denied by Fulton on three occasions, the best save coming at the start of the second half. Billy Clarke got his goal, and despite some wasteful passes in the second half looks back to his best. Cullen and Timothee Dieng kept the team ticking over in midfield, cutting out Chesterfield’s attempts at counters and giving the ball to the creators.

But in the end, it was Law who ran the show and got the deserved acclaim. McCall’s favourite is becoming the defining player in a team that has the potential to go a long way.

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Categories: Match Reviews

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16 replies

  1. Nice article! I wonder if McCall would have used and got the most out of Josh Morris too. We’ll never know but it’s a crying shame he was let go by a certain ex-manager and he goes and gets ELEVEN goals by October 1st.

    When we signed him there was talk of him having great potential so this isn’t a huge surprise is it? Watch him join a Championship club for £5 million in January now….

    • I thought it was pretty amusing that on the Channel 5 Football League Show last night they said Josh Morris has scored more goals than the entire Bolton team. I don’t think the presenter will have realised he was making a dig at Parkinson!

      • I know there’s more than one way to skin a cat (horrible idea though :/) but fans/chairmen accepted PP’s way of playing when we were doing well. There is no way the Bolton board will allow him to go 20+ games without a win.

        I understand we would have struggled to pay him and his staff off if we had have sacked him but there was a large amount of loyalty there from the board and fans alike too. Shame he hasn’t really shown any appreciation of that.

    • Morris wasn’t let go by Parkinson. Morris was released by the club a week after Parkinson left for Bolton. City could’ve quite easily have kept him if they had wanted to.

      • Morris wasn’t offered a contract extension by PP, and the club trusted his judgement on the player so when another club came in for him they accepted it, even though PP wasn’t at the club at the time. To say he had no involvement in his release is just a technicality.

      • I’m sorry Damian but Morris had a three year contract so why would they give him an extension? We had new owners and PP had left so why would they trust his judgement? Mark Marshall had also been treated the same as Morris throughout the season and was under contract. He was being chased by Northampton, so why wasn’t he released?
        I’m sorry but this is just another excuse to get a dig in at Parkinson. I didn’t see any uproar on here, twitter, facebook or any message board when Morris left. It’s only now when he’s started scoring goals have City fans started crying over him leaving.

      • His release was made public a week later.. doesn’t mean that’s when it was done. Given his lack of involvement, it was probably a long time in planning, not a sudden ‘lets go today’ decision. I’d be surprised if it was decided/recommended by PP to let him go.

  2. Reading the Bolton Evening News website, it’s clear the Bolton fans are up in arms at the dross being served up on the pitch. The cost of sacking Parkinson and his staff in the near future may be prohibitive and, therefore, save his skin. It just shows how long we’d been in the doldrums that some fans considered him to be the “Special One”, considering the Dark Ages football he served up.

    It’s a delight watching the different brand of football we’re now being treated to. How lucky we are that he left.

    • Can we please stop digging at PP, the fact is he brought us away from potential oblivion. Concentrate on supporting the team.

      • How does a comment about our departed manager mean we’re not supporting our team?

        I’ll remind you, the same departed manager who blamed our players of cheating last week?

    • As long as we finish above them I don’t care what Bolton do, but if they sack Parkinson they will be joining Blackpool very soon.

      Bolton has always had too many big time Charlie’s thinking the world owes them victories, a bit like Yorkshire’s least favourite club. They now have a lot of problems, and not enough of them realise how easy it will be to get relegated again. When we sacked Peter Taylor, because of poor football rather than results, he warned us we’d go down, and we did. The same will happen to Bolton now if they sack Parkinson; and they will deserve it and all.

  3. Loved the comment by Channel 5’s studio expert that “the new manager has not changed the team” to carry on from last season. Erm………

  4. I wish our fans would just stop talking about parky. He has gone we have moved on. I have read comments on the Bolton pages that city fans have left – why are we bothered it’s slightly embarrassing. If this was a relationship break up parky would have had to get a restraining order out.
    Thank you for the 5 years of improvement u did not wave I don’t care, see u in Feb when I hope we beat you.

    • Exactly Idler… There’s too much talk about Parky. He did a wonderful job for us, saved us from oblivion. I get a little disappointed about the revisionists out there trying to re-write history. The fact is both he and City have moved on and thankfully it seems to have worked out (so far) rather well for us. The guy’s a fierce competitor, something we loved In him during his time at City. We can expect the same treatment from him as he dished out to countless other opposing managers and clubs during his time in the City dugout and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  5. Anyway back to the article and the Chesterfield game.

    Law has been great for us and the only time he’s been poor or not up to his usual standards was Coventry. That’s fine everyone has a bad game now and then but so far him or Marshall has been my player of the season so far.

    We should have won by more and we need to stop wasting decent chances and if we do that we can win this league or at the least automatic promotion

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