Why we can’t let Bradford City’s season implode

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown

Stuart McCall is a big fan of the idiom not to get too high with the highs, and too low with the lows. His first spell in manager, a decade ago, was characterised by his failure to live up to such values. But the ultimate success of his second spell could be defined by this motto.

After back-to-back, rank defeats to the towns of Yeovil and Northampton, the fear that the sky is falling in on Bradford City’s season is the talk amongst supporters. Such difficult moments demand cool and positive leadership, a calm response and a sense of perspective. As fans, we are emotional creatures and burying ourselves in a pit of gloom is an understandable reaction from many. But it won’t win football matches, and it won’t get Bradford City promoted.

Stuart McCall can influence both of these. He can lift his players. He can get them back to winning ways. He can guide City to a play off finish. He can the Bantams back to the Championship after a 14-year absence. “I’m not personally going to let this all crumble now. I’m going to lead from the front,” he tells the Telegraph & Argus’ Simon Parker. Defiance. Determination. Decisive.

In the minutes that followed the final whistle at Valley Parade on Saturday, Stuart McCall sat before me in the press box, answering the questions of Jason Thornton live on Pulse radio. I’ve been privileged to be invited to co-commentate on several City matches this season, and witnessed McCall and his mood after games – sadly, most of them defeats. Sometimes he has looked emotional. On more than one occasion he has been hurt by supporter criticism. But on Saturday, he looked calm, measured and in control.

McCall battered away any invitation to air excuses. He accepted the criticism. He wants to shield the players. Better him than them, he evidently believes. Just before he came up to the press box, a couple of supporters in the main stand came up and told us how fans behind the dugout had been yelling abuse at McCall during the second half, leading to him arguing back. The two fans were shocked and appalled by what they saw from their fellow supporters, and were anxious to wait back and speak to McCall to apologise, and to reassure him that most fans are behind him. “He’s a legend” they both said, in unison.

Yes, he is. And he also needs the support from everyone at Bradford City.

***

As the post-match debate was filled by McCall and his tactics against Northampton, it’s worth putting ourselves in the managers shoes – really, stopping to think about just what his options were – to appreciate the challenge in front of him.

He won’t make excuses, but McCall went into the game robbed of Charlie Wyke through injury. He was joined on the sidelines Omari Patrick, Adam Thompson and Tony McMahon, who joined long-term absentees Colin Doyle, Adam Chicksen and Alex Jones. Matt Kilgallon and Nathaniel Knight-Percival had just returned to fitness to start – the latter looked rusty all afternoon – whilst Jake Reeves and Dominic Poleon were only fit enough for a place on the bench after spells injured.

In other words, McCall went into battle without a fully fit centre forward, both of his first choice full backs, and his preferred goalkeeper.

All season long, it has been evident that Bradford City have a very good core of 14-15 players, but not a huge amount of first team-ready options behind them. It has meant that injuries to key players have been felt that bit keener than usual, and – in a more slow, corrosive way – a loss of form hasn’t always resulted in a player losing their place in the team. The competition for places isn’t as high as we have seen with other Bradford City squads of recent seasons. You don’t often look at the bench and find a clutch of names desperately unlucky not to be starting.

Without an out and out centre forward on Saturday, McCall had to ditch the 4-3-2-1 system that had worked so well in the victories over Oxford United and Fleetwood, and go with two numbers 10s – Paul Taylor and Shay McCartan – up front. Both players like to come deep for the ball and make things happen outside the box, and in the first half City were badly lacking a focal point. Even when everyone is fit, no other City striker is in the same class as Wyke.

In McCall’s shoes, what would we do differently here? He might have considered starting Dominic Poleon, but he isn’t a target man who can hold up the ball. And his fitness has looked an issue all season. Earlier in the campaign, Poleon was playing with a high intensity and would run himself into the ground, having to be substituted around the 70th minute. Having not started a game for over a month due to injury, it would have been asking a lot for Poleon to begin the game and play in that way. And he certainly wouldn’t have lasted the 90 minutes.

We can agree or disagree with McCall over his choice of front line, but we must all acknowledge that he had a very limited hand to play with.

Northampton followed the Plymouth Argyle blue print of sticking men behind the ball and congesting the midfield. City, who by the stature of their own players against a tall Cobblers side, struggled to play the ball through. Alex Gilliead was double-marked out wide. City tried to go more direct and to get the ball into the final third, where they could start to play football. They began to carve open some opportunities, but without a number nine in the box it was a struggle to finish off moves.

The game swung on two moments involving Romain Vincelot and John-Joe Toole. First, from a City corner, Vincelot got clear of his marker Toole and fired a volley at goal that was brilliantly tipped over by Richard O’Donnell. A few minutes later at the other end, it was Toole who got away from Vincelot at a corner, and he was able to plant a header past Lukas Raeder, who was badly positioned. A poor, poor goal for City to concede. And with Northampton’s defensive set-up, the tempo was only going to be slowed further.

Which brings us onto McCall’s most contentious decision of the day – the half time switch of Knight-Percival up front. Something had to be done. City couldn’t continue with no focal, physical point to their attack. And, as McCall would later explain, moving Vincelot back into defence meant City had a right footer on the right hand side of defence, who can play the ball long more effectively than Knight-Percival, who was demonstrating some value in his alien position.

Madness by McCall? Perhaps, perhaps not. But again we come back to the lack of options. In the dark old days of Peter Taylor adopting Luke Oliver as a centre forward, three and sometimes four strikers were sat on City’s bench, and we all scratched our heads. McCall had only Poleon, who would eventually come on and play up top with Knight-Percival. It wasn’t pretty from City, but at that stage, and in the difficult circumstances, we’d have all taken a point.

What unfortunately happened next was down to another issue – the lack of experience in the full back positions. Jacob Hanson has played right back for the last two games, but evidently isn’t ready yet to play in the first team. He made a mistake, and Northampton were two goals to the good. Without McMahon and with Luke Hendrie having left the building, McCall had little choice but to field Hanson. New signing Callum Guy, a midfielder, can play right back, and was on the bench. But Guy had only been signed less than 24 hours earlier. Saturday may well have been the first time he met his new team mates.

Again, it is a decision we can agree or disagree with McCall on, but opting for Hanson is far from a difficult one to understand.

Every contentious decision McCall took on Saturday could be traced to a lack of options. He had to make some close, difficult choices. Anyone who argues that McCall has lost the plot – as some have – need to take a good hard look at themselves. Faced with these choices and the facts, we might have done things slightly different to McCall. But it wouldn’t have been by much. There simply was little anyone could do.

McCall won’t make excuses, but that doesn’t change the fact he was down to the barest of bones.

***

All of which has quickly turned the focus and pressure onto Edin Rahic and Greg Abbott. The chairman and head of football recruitment are working hard to bring in players during the transfer window. They can’t happen soon enough.

Even during more peaceful times, the January transfer window is full of supporter angst over whether the club can and should strengthen. But on this occasion, it is clearly absolutely fundamental to City’s season that new signings are made. The squad needs more depth. It needs more quality. Everyone connected with the club needs a lift. The sight of a fresh face, holding aloft a claret and amber scarf in front of the pitch, would provide that boost.

The big lesson of the last two transfer windows is to reserve judgement until the window closes. A year ago James Hanson left and many of us – myself included – were upset. But in time, the owners would be justified in trading in the club’s longest serving player for Charlie Wyke. In the summer we said farewell to a number of key players and panic once again set in, but by the time the season kicked off all had been replaced.

We have to wait and see, and to trust in Rahic and Abbott that moves of careful planning behind the scenes will pay off. The urgency has clearly grown since Saturday, but panic buys rarely work out. It’s not a case of signing just anyone, it has to be the right people. Meanwhile, McCall has to get the team through this sticky patch with depleted numbers, knowing that whatever happens in the three games to be played before the window closes, there is still a long way to go.

It isn’t ideal. Of course it isn’t. But Charlie Wyke is the proof that good things can come to those who wait.

***

Until the cavalry arrives, the players need to pick themselves up and – to use the cliche – go again. There are noises coming out of the camp that morale has been damaged by the club’s decision not to sign Luke Hendrie, and the fact he mysteriously departed the camp just before the Yeovil game. Certainly, aspects of the last two performances would back this rumour up. Some players don’t fully look themselves.

The Tony McMahon situation is also a curious one. With the player out of contract in the summer and unlikely to be offered new terms, you can understand why his head might be turned by interest from Scunthorpe. McMahon’s performances this season have not been at the same high level as seasons gone by, but his leadership and in-game ability remains crucial to a young team that can at times be naive. City’s dreadful record when he doesn’t play is also a sign of how vital his influence remains.

If a replacement can be found, the temptation to cash in might be understandable for all parties, but Filipe Morais’ resurgence at Bolton last season, after City allowed him to join their promotion rivals, is a cautionary tale. Losing McMahon and strengthening a fellow promotion contender would be a massive blow.

McMahon needs an arm around the shoulder. To be told how much he is loved. To be fired up into re-energising the players around him. However downbeat the camp might be feeling right now – and whatever the reasons behind it – they have to pick themselves up.

It may already be happening. The positive, on Saturday, was just how the players on the field never gave up the ghost. The unedifying and – frankly – embarrassing sight of thousands of City fans filing for the exits long before full time was in contrast to the commitment on the field. They kept going, and were unlucky not to score sooner.

Paul Taylor’s last strike might have come too late, but amazingly City almost snatched an unlikely point in the final minute of injury time. They deserved to have that moment, and so too did the fans who stuck by them by staying until the end.

***

For all the debate, for all the fall outs, and for all the finger pointing, one fact remains completely and utterly indisputable: the League One table. It feels like we are in a crisis, as though we are fighting relegation or slumped in mid-table. Yet City are fifth in the league, only six points off the automatic promotion spots and six clear of seventh place Portsmouth.

Fifth in the league. Inside the play offs.

It is a strong position to be in. For all the change in the summer, for all the budget reductions, for all the home defeats, for all the injuries, for all the uncertainty over transfers, and – as his contract runs down – for all the questions about McCall’s very future, City are in with a fantastic shout at promotion. They are three points better off than at this stage a year ago.

Whilst Rahic’s enthusiasm is all well and good, talking up City’s automatic promotion prospects isn’t helpful – unless a marquee signing or two is suddenly made to justify it. They are competing with sides in Wigan and Blackburn who are comfortably outspending everyone, and who already have strong squads and massive playing budgets to begin with. To stay in the play offs for the rest of the season would be a great achievement. City’s own budget possibly isn’t even top six, and yet they haven’t been outside the top six all season.

And that is to McCall’s great credit. He has his detractors in the crowd, but his record since returning has been exceptional. He is operating under a recruitment system where he has only limited say in the incomings and outgoings. He has the pressure of working for a chairman who – for all the talk about building the club for the long-term – is clearly fiercely ambitious to get promoted this season. And he has being able to maintain City’s play off position for 18 months.

If, or when, McCall leaves, he will find that his employment prospects elsewhere have been greatly enhanced by his second spell at the club he loves so dearly. And he will be a tough act to follow.

 ***

“I’m not personally going to let this all crumble now.” These are words that we should all take on board too. It’s easy to be lost in doom and gloom and to fear the worst. But we are fifth in the league. The transfer window hasn’t closed. And if we all stick together and keep believing, this season can have the glorious ending that was painfully lacking a year ago.

In James Mason’s words, “We’re in this together. Back the owners, back Stuart and back the players who represent us.” Let’s please, not get so low with the lows. There is a long, long way to go in this season. The idea of throwing in the towel now makes no sense.

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Categories: Opinion

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20 replies

  1. I don’t get the criticism of McCall, there’s very rarely been an aspect of in game management that I disagree with (or at least can’t understand) and moving NKP up front made perfect sense on Saturday within the context of the way the game was going. Poleon was barely warming up so clearly not fit and Jake Reeves didn’t warm up at all.

    In terms of transfers, A couple of seasons back, Hanson would get injured and you could get a Mason Bennett or a Jordan Bowery or a Wes Thomas in for a month or two and there wasn’t any real risk or commitment in those deals, now whatever City do it’s got to be until the end of the season at least and they’ve got to be good enough to replace Wyke now and then, but also be prepared to be the back up and it’s a difficult balancing act to pull off because I don’t know how many fit the bill… a Jamie Proctor type.

    I don’t go on Claret and Banter or the Facebook page, but there’s some wild stuff out there on Twitter. I really struggle to understand the tizz some folk get themselves in over this stuff.

  2. A wise man (my Dad !!) once said to me that you’re never as good as you think you are when you win, and never as bad as you think you are when you lose*. Some City fans would do well to remember this.

    I do worry however about the disconnect in what the Chairman says and the way he behaves. For him to talk about automatic promotion with the squad he has given to McCall is ridiculous. For him to ask why we are letting in so many goals at home having let one of the best defenders in the division leave for free in the summer and not replaced him suggests a naive blindness to the impact of his own decisions.

    Blackburn have real aims of automatic promotion – they have signed Bradley Dack and Adam Armstrong amongst others. What have we done that means we should compete with them ? We started this season with a squad markedly worse than the one which finished 5th in the division last year.

    We don’t have a divine right to anything of course but how much better would we be feeling if we recognised that getting in the play-offs again would be a major achievement with this squad and not painting that option as a failure ?

    *this was very wise of him – I suspect he read it somewhere…

  3. Excellent piece Jason. It is astonishing that fans are turning on Stuart. He is the best manager to get the job done. If he goes then we can certainly say goodbye to promotion. I am not sure what else he could do on Saturday, a big physical side pushed us aside, but at no time did they out play us. I was pleased with the way they kept going. Those fans who left should be ashamed, those lads were out there giving their all, and they turned their backs! However they missed yet another cracking goal from Paul Taylor, who was an inspiration to young professional footballers, never ever give up trying, go right to the end, and that message should go out to all supporters as well.

    We are up against it at the moment injuries etc, and certainly players are needed, but if the players put in 100% then no complaints from me, yes we might get beat, but I bet we will not be beaten on effort.

    I have been called all sorts for being positive, but I cannot see how getting on players back or the manager for that matter is going to achieve a positive outcome. The whinging has stop, and go and find your inner Bantam and start to give that team your support.

  4. This is probably the best article I’ve seen on WOAP in a long time.

    I can’t help but think with the fact that some people are being far too unreasonable in terms of transfers they are expecting the club to make. I’ve seen names like James Vaughan, Adam Armstrong and even Jack Rodwell which is utterly ridiculous.

    The squad needs more depth and it needs investing in quickly, that is for certain. We don’t have a senior left-midfielder at the club which is concerning (although Robinson would be able to do a job there no doubt once Chicksen is fit) and it’s glaringly obvious that we are left short up-front when Wyke is injured.

    This being said with the return of Chicksen, Wyke, Reeves, Poleon and hopefully McMahon in the next fortnight, the squad will be looking incredibly strong again and this is likely to be boosted even more once Doyle returns in February.

    I’m cautiously optimistic about January. I’d imagine we’d sign one – potentially two younger exciting talents (with the example of Mellor who we’ve had a bid rejected for) who have strong first team experience in this division or the one below. I’d also expect us to bring in a player in a Paul Taylor like mold, if not two and this would help to add some much needed experience to what appears to be a young bench at the moment.

    My final point whilst the January window remains open is that whilst the club can’t afford to loan players out at the minute given how threadbare the squad is, Devine and potentially Jordan Gibson could do with a spell at a League Two or Conference side. Both appear to be young talents and haven’t been fully utilized this season and given the fact we aren’t lacking in central midfield, it makes sense to send Devine out on loan.

    These are all just my thoughts anyway. I have full faith in McCall, Mason and the Chairmen and I think it’s a fantastic incentive by the club to offer free transport to Bristol this weekend.

    A signing or two in the next week, a win and some key players returning from injury really will paint a different picture. Let’s not forget where Bradford City were some eight years ago and where we are now.

    Here’s to the rest of this season.

  5. I agree with all the comments concerning Stuart – he’s doing a good job under very difficult circumstances and there is no one else I would have at the helm right now. However it is fair for fans to question the club’s approach to recruitment, and whether Stuart is being given the support he needs to succeed.

    While the scouting set-up has identified good players (even if we’ve only seen that talent in bursts from some players), the process of recruiting those players can be questioned. It’s been fairly obvious since October/November that we needed the transfer window to open to allow us to address holes (not just in the squad, but the starting 11). Yet two and half weeks into the window and we’ve only added one young lad (who primarily plays in our most well stocked position). Arguably a signing or two before the Yeovil game would have given the squad and the fans a lift.

    It’s my view that we’ve scrimped on the budget for defensive players and that has left us – regularly this season – threadbare at the back. We can talk about NKP up front, but we still conceded two goals against a poor Northampton side. If the game was 0-0 after 65 minutes then I think the second half takes a different turn; fans get behind the team to press for the win instead of trickling out early. We seem to have a different defensive line-up each game, in contrast to previous years where our defence was our greatest strength. That said, I can’t remember City having an injury list the likes of what we have now.

    We also have Abbott and Mason on the radio, bullish about our fortunes and potential signings (‘bidding serious money for Kieffer Moore’) and Rahic in the T&A talking about aiming for second. But then our manager feeling he has so few options that he has to play a centre half up front in the next game. So this gap – between what the fans are hearing and what they are seeing – understandably leads people to ask whether they’re being intentionally misled, or whether the owners are underestimating how competitive the division is this year.

    We can judge the squad at the end of the transfer window, but at what cost? There were 15 points to play for in January (plus the FA Cup 3rd round game). We’ve created a huge amount of pressure upon ourselves for the AFC Wimbledon home game. But all that said, there isn’t anything here that wouldn’t evaporate with a couple of strong signings this week that match the owners’ stated ambitions.

    • What a very smart reply, I agree with all of this. It’s the discrepancy between what we hear and what we see that is suggestive of a disconnect between club and fans (leading to rumours of the disconnect being between the Board and Stuart).

      The biggest surprise for me is not the grand statements of intent – I’ve always rather liked Rahic for this, and still hope he’ll emerge as the perfect balance between Richmond’s grandstanding matched with Prussian economic sense – but the apparent lack of preparation for this transfer window.

      I love Abbo. Everything about the man and his love of City. It’s great having him in this role and I don’t doubt there is a lot of work behind the scenes (unlike many it seems, I am happy to say I am entirely NOT “in the know” about what’s going on), but as Andrew says above we are now well into January and nothing of note has happened. Much of that might not be in our gift, as players, agents and other clubs are variable we can’t always influence, but other clubs appear to have additions lined-up ready for January 1st and we were promised a good deal of preparedness would go into each transfer window, so we wouldn’t be left scrabbling around on the 31st. Yes, Wyke signed late and that took time, but that can’t be a measure of the policy. An exception, not the rule.

      Managing expectations has always been the hallmark of a happy VP. Set them too low, we lose interest and ‘the library’ emerges on match days. Set them too high, and we get impatient and frustrated. Stuart’s “never too high nor too low” philosophy emerges from an understanding of this, so with BIG statements of intent from the Board, as fans I think we have been led to expect BIG signings to help us deliver on that.

      As a final note, to my mind anyone questioning Stuart right now is either wilfully ignoring all of the caveats Jason outlines above, or deliberately seeking to provoke a reaction amongst fans. Honestly, we are over-achieving massively this year with a weaker squad overall and the playoff hangover having still not materialised. He is working with very limited resources – due to injuries rather than lack of investment at this point – and doing a superb job of it too.

      Let’s see how happy he is with his squad on the 1st February.

      • ‘I love Abbo. Everything about the man and his love of City. It’s great having him in this role and I don’t doubt there is a lot of work behind the scenes (unlike many it seems, I am happy to say I am entirely NOT “in the know” about what’s going on), but as Andrew says above we are now well into January and nothing of note has happened. Much of that might not be in our gift, as players, agents and other clubs are variable we can’t always influence, but other clubs appear to have additions lined-up ready for January 1st and we were promised a good deal of preparedness would go into each transfer window, so we wouldn’t be left scrabbling around on the 31st. Yes, Wyke signed late and that took time, but that can’t be a measure of the policy. An exception, not the rule.’

        None of us ‘are in the know’ Mark, but if you read the comments on other sites such as C&B you’d think our transfer policy was common knowledge. The biggest myth seems to be all this money that’s supposed to be swilling around the club following various transfers. The reality is that just because a player is sold for £hundreds of thousands doesn’t mean the club gets all of this in the bank as one payment. I spoke to someone at the club ‘off the record’ following the Hanson transfer and was shocked at just how little the club actually recouped up front. But it works the same way for purchases too.

        Whose to say that we didn’t have, prior to the transfer window opening, players lined up? Some of these players may still come to the club between now and when it closes. I would expect the club to keep a low profile on what it’s doing for fear of attracting other clubs to our targets. Another factor is that targets may be picked up by other clubs with deeper pockets (or bigger overdrafts) than ours, or like we’ve seen with Blackpool, simply reject our offer out of hand. Just because we want a certain player doesn’t mean we’ve a right to sign them.

        Fans have moaned about losing out on Luke Hendrie, but a lot of fans I know didn’t really rate him that highly. So, why compete with Shrewsbury for a player who wasn’t in the same bracket as say Josh Cullen? I’d rather we brought in quality not quantity. Yes other clubs seem to be signing players for fun, but how many will really make the difference? We rushed to sign Vukic on loan from Newcastle before the start of last season due to the size of the squad and he didn’t exactly pull up any trees for us.

        We’re having a bit of a wobble at the moment, but lets not turn it into a crisis of our own making. A couple of players signed in the next 15 days plus a few coming back from injury will change the whole outlook.

  6. It’s certainly frustrating times at the moment for all City fans especially at Valley Parade.
    7 defeats in 14 at home is not the sort of form that will gain you promotion, but thankfully our away form is second to none.
    Injuries to key players has highlighted the depth in our squad. Some of the promising youngsters have had to step up to the plate earlier than anticipated and sadly have been found lacking.
    Only surprise for me is the fact that we didn’t acquire a ‘Charlie Wyke’ type young PL/Champ striker at the start of the season on loan from somewhere to be ready when the need arose. To now have to buy someone in January when prices are over inflated is not good planning and a gamble.
    However, now is the time when our club needs us the most and we must stick together.
    Keep the faith!

  7. Jason, that is an excellent article, and , like any good advocate, you make the best of your case. I have to say that we never, ever, leave before the end. Remember Swindon last year? But I have to say what I saw on Saturday. City in the first half were appalling. A poor side outplayed them, were faster, stronger, tougher, more streetwise. Our only tactic seemed to be a long ball or Law running across field, and then passing back. We had corners and lofted them into the middle. Did it never occur to the management to attempt a short corner? Did the management not look at the height of the Northampton team and guess what their tactics would be?
    In my opinion, Northampton could have won by more, but seemed to give up playing and concentrated on fouling and time-wasting.
    I have to say that I was depressed after the game. City mean a lot to me. I have lived through the worst of times and have often felt worse than this. But we have been poor in two of the last three home games, and I think they were tactically inept. I really idolise Stuart, but do tend to put a lot of the blame for Peterborogh, Northampton and perhaps Yeovil onto him. Sorry.

  8. Stuart can only work with the players the club has signed and even then those who are available, given the list of injuries. The ‘development’ model, along with the rumoured ‘performance’ related pay structure, perhaps means that we cannot sign some players who could help give the squad a more balanced look.
    To be frank, the home form has been woeful this season, and if one only looks at that, then it is on the verge of relegation.
    It is hard for many to have a ‘feel good’ factor, when in most games they are leaving Valley Parade having witnessed a defeat.
    Even the pitch is not helping matters, and does not lend itself to a slick passing style of play, favoured by the club.
    McCall’s hands are tied, in my view he is doing a reasonable, even good job, given the limitations he has to operate within.

  9. The discussion here following Jason’s excellent report has helped me to ‘calm down’ a little after feeling almost suicidal after our the seventh home defeat. So thank you all for your comments.
    I remain committed to McCall as manager but this said, I do feel some tougher questioning of him and indeed others in the club’s senior management is warranted. I’d like the management’s views on
    – the seven home defeats taken in total
    – our inability to get a draw in such games
    – whether our current league position is more a result of some very good fortune rather than effective week on week performances
    – team selection and set up; in particular, for example, recurrent midfield weaknesses; whether Vincelot should play centre back or not at all etc
    – slowness to change set up and formation when circumstances clearly demand it – why wait until we are 1 down on Saturday to try something different? – the ‘shape’ of the game was evident to all after 10 minutes
    – the apparent failure to prepare for Wyke’s inevitable absence at some point in the season – we could hire a 6 6″ bean pole for 2 weeks and this would be more effective than what we managed to muster on Saturday
    – why other teams seem able to make excellent use of the transfer window in the first two weeks of January?
    Week after week McCall appears on Pulse only to fed the most innocuous leading questions that you could imagine. Maybe the deal is “I won’t come on if you ask me tough questions” but I sense that McCall would be prepared to address difficult questions – it’s just that no-one seems prepared to ask. And, of course, there will not always be ‘easy’ answers but the questions need raising.
    My parting note is my concern of the possible damage our home form does to our future support. I think if I were a 7 or 8 year old I might be saying to my Mum or Dad “I’m going to support Man Utd or Man City next year” and what a sad testimony to the season this would be if only a small percentage of our existing young fan base made such move.

  10. My take on the current situation is as follows.
    I back SM to bring success to the club in the form of a return to the Championship but he needs the backing of the new owners. I have not seen that yet in fact quite the reverse. The comments they have made publicly show mixed message. On the one hand after Wembley, we were going for it. On the other we are pursuing a path of sustainable growth with young (cheaper) players. Come on. What are we doing? So far in the January transfer window ( remember they said they would back SM if we were in this position) we have seen little evidence of this backing. We lost a player (Hendrie) and gained another loan player (Guy) but there is time for the growing number of sceptics to be won over with ‘marquee’ signings before the deadline. Excuse me, I might be proved wrong, but I doubt if this is going to happen. So with no sign of a new contract SM is unlikely to be here next to term. Any new manager will need the backing of the owners. So why not give SM that having now. If they don’t the new owners are creating a situation which could prove costly in many ways. Not least by season ticket sales in the summer.

  11. Its almost 48 hours since I left the memorial ground in Bristol and its taken me that long to stop seething. Its rare that I’m ever this depressed after seeing City.

    Its not the on field performance that bothers me. The analysis here is equally applicable to the Bristol game and is far superior to any insight I can add.

    What really upset me was the actions of our supporters. As in the Northampton game one guy felt the need to barrack Stuart who turned round and started trying to explain his tactics to him. This lasted for quite an extended period of time until the backroom staff led Stuart away.

    Lets get this into context. Stuart has a lifetime of football experience. Domestically he’s played at the top level in both England and Scotland. He’s played a FA cup final and won everything the Scottish domestic game can offer. He’s played Champions league and represented his country 50(?) times. He’s played European Championships and World cups. Yet somehow a supporter who looked as if he’s never kicked a ball in his life never mind got any coaching badges felt he knew better how to set up the side for an attacking corner!

    Quite why Stuart felt the need to engage in a discussion about his tatics is quite beyond me. Its the measure of the man that he did that and not just tell him to “eff off”.

    I’m not saying Stuart is above criticism, he most definitely is not. But debates on how the team lined up, the balance, pattern and the style of play should be reserved for after the match. Its the job of every supporter to back the team during a game – not take a cheap shot from behind the dug out. What sort of message does that send out.

    I guess the supporter in question would argue that he has a right to an opinion. Indeed he does, as do I. My opinion of him is that he’s a disgrace to Bradford City, the City of Bradford and to the wider supporter community.

    I was also utterly disgusted with the foul and abusive language aimed at the stretcher bearers towards the end of the match by a group of City supporters. These people are volunteers for goodness sake. They give up their time to ensure that everyone at the ground are safe and that players and supporters alike have access to first aid should they require it. Clearly some City supporters felt the player was timewasting although at 3-1 down with 2 minutes remaining we’d have to of been Houdini to get anything out of that game. Either way quite how the stretcher bearers were responsible for any perceived unsportman behaviour is anyone’s guess! They looked visibly upset as they walked within yards of these Neanderthals.

    Anyway sorry for the rant. WOAP is better than that. I just had to share that with you all. I’d love to hear from anyone with an alternative view on either incident.

    • I was stood right behind the “incident” you speak of. It was something and nothing believe me. Stuart shouldn’t have got involved but the way he did and the way he spoke to the fan shows his passion for this club. The fan in question has been condemned in some quarters yet all he did was voice his opinion which he is entitled to do. There were far more choice words spoken from other fans on the day yet very few if any were aimed at McCall. He has the fans backing now he needs the backing of the owners. Tuesday is a pivotal game, come away with something and we keep our nearest competitor at arms length. Another bad performance, of which they have been a fair few recently, will only heighten the calls for changes to be made. There is a toxic atmosphere manifesting itself at games and it needs to be nipped in the bud.

      • Thanks for that perspective Dom. I agree with you about the toxic atmosphere. When at Valley Parade I’m generally sat with folk who are ‘of a certain age’ and enjoy a perspective on life and of football that comes with it. No less passionate you understand, just a little more….. considered. As one comment on here said – you’re never as good – or as bad – as you think you are. I

        Saturday shocked me because it was the first really toxic atmosphere I’ve been in for some time now. Reminded me of the Docherty era. Certainly not a game to bring my 10 year old to for his first away day.

        You’re right. Tuesday is massive and a match I can’t attend. Not sure whether that’s good or bad – my nerves are going to be shredded…!

  12. A wise man once said that faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you cannot see. I and my 9 year old son wrote a letter of support and encouragement to Stuart McCall some 10 days ago. I’d have written exactly the same letter on Wednesday morning, after the Rotherham defeat.

    Seeing Yeovil play Man U tonight, with Alexis Sanchez debut, was painful. I’d have loved my kids to have seen that at Valley Parade. But at times like this you ask, what is being a football supporter? Are we passing customers, just looking for a fix of entertainment, or are we the twelfth man, an extension of the team, doing our part, through thick and thin? I know many WOAP readers have followed the club over decades, and seen greater highs, and far greater lows.

    The signings of the last 2 days looks to be a good sign. I don’t know what to tomorrow’s match will bring. But I’ll still be backing Stuart on Monday, whatever the result.

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