“Don’t underestimate what we can achieve together”
The final sentence of yesterday’s statement from Bradford City summed it up perfectly. After weeks of rumours and uncertainty reached fever pitch on Sunday, the club has firmly stated its position via a joint statement issued by Stefan Rupp, Edin Rahic, Stuart McCall, Greg Abbott and James Mason. McCall will continue as manager. Rahic and Rupp continue to support him. The band is back.
Clearly there was something in all of those rumours. Arguments took place behind the scenes. But the disjointed nature of the early parts of the close season probably helped to exaggerate the situation. With McCall, Abbott and Mason holidaying in different parts of the world last week, getting everyone in a room together to clear the air has taken time. In its absence, those rumours were given the oxygen to spread.
Whilst the content of those crunch talks will only be known to those in the room, WOAP understands there were two key starting points. Firstly, McCall had no intention to resign or walk away from the job. Secondly, Rahic and Rupp did not want to lose his services. This made it easier to reach the compromises and common ground that now allow everyone to move forwards.
We should never underestimate or devalue just what this club means to Stuart McCall. His 37-year association with Bradford City underlines shows how much he cares about its fortunes. He is deeply proud to lead the club. Those rumours that he might leave for Leeds or Aberdeen simply didn’t make any sense when it comes to his loyalties. He wants to lead this club forwards, and deliver success. In the build up to the Millwall play off final McCall stated winning the game would be the proudest moment of his career. A massive statement for someone who experienced so much personal success.
Rahic and Rupp did not expect McCall to achieve what he did last season. A push for promotion was hoped for but not demanded. In the pressure cooker of the run-in, where every game mattered and the top two remained a vague possibility, it’s understandable if that was forgotten. City had a massive chance to get into the Championship, and it was a crushing disappointment not to make it. But now everyone has had the time to sit back and reflect, it’s clear 2016/17 was a very good season for Bradford City. Certain moments could have gone better, but they shouldn’t detract from the overall achievement.
It is difficult for everyone – from manager to supporter – to see key players depart Valley Parade this summer. But that doesn’t mean the club is secretly skint, and can’t compete for wages with other League One clubs. Every player has his value, and the likes of Scunthorpe have seemingly offered deals that exceed that. It can feel daunting to rebuild so much of the team. But if that’s the reality, everyone just needs to get on with it.
The hope is that the transfer targets identified by Greg Abbott are as good level of quality as the people leaving the building, and time will tell. At the moment we are left judging incomplete pictures, but the successful resolution of these talks should give every supporter confidence.
In 2014 Stuart McCall had just achieved a third successive top three finish with Motherwell, only to have his budget cut yet again. He lost good players, Motherwell struggled badly the next season and McCall quit. A sour end to a period where he had reached cup finals and achieved Champions League football. City might be his dream job but I doubt he fancied a repeat of that this time around. The budget – boosted by transfer windfalls around Nahki Wells and Andre Wisdom – can and must be competitive. Let’s now see how wisely it is spent.
Rahic and Rupp have received some very strong criticism over the last few days. There seemed to be an expectation from some supporters that the pair were going to spend huge amounts of money, despite them stating from day one this would not be the case. They do have deeper pockets than Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes, but they’re not Roman Abramovich. Equally important is their repeated stance on building up the club and being here for the long-term. We all want success now, but the owners are committed to doing things in what they believe are the right way.
So the focus now firmly turns to next season. New arrivals will inevitably take their place in the dressing room, pre-season training and friendlies are still a few weeks away. Although McArdle’s departure seems inevitable and Bolton continue to be linked with Tony McMahon, there should still be hope of keeping Mark Marshall. So far it has been very quiet on the transfer speculation front for the club’s player of the season, and we know how much he enjoys playing for McCall. That could be the key deciding factor.
This strange close season will hopefully be quickly forgotten, but that’s down to everyone at the club to deliver. The transfer committee need to bring in players who meet McCall’s approval so they can be signed, and McCall needs to make sure the pain of last season’s play off final defeat is channelled in the right direction so the club bounces back.
There’s a big season ahead, but when is that not the case? “We’re now ready to go again” said the statement. This needs to include each and every supporter. It’s time to move on and look forwards.