With less than a fortnight to go until the end of the season, speculation over whether Simon Grayson will stay on as Bradford City manager is beginning to grow. Grayson is due to hold talks with Edin Rahic about his future, and whether he wants to sign a more permanent contract than the short-term deal he requested in February.
But what do we make of Grayson’s “trial” period at the club? Width of a Post writers Katie Whyatt, Tim Penfold, Ian Sheard, Nick Beanland, Jason McKeown, Nikhil Vekaria and Mahesh Johal share their personal views – and we want yours too – on this key question:
Should Simon Grayson be Bradford City manager next season?
It might not be a comparison either club would particularly welcome, but presently Bradford City and Leeds United are more alike than either would care to admit. The numbers tell strikingly similar stories, any glimpses of momentum punctured the following week. Two wins in ten for Grayson and three in 14 for Paul Heckingbottom. Leeds have accrued 15 points since the turn of the year and City 13. Leeds lie 19th in the Championship form table and City 22nd in theirs.
The off-field backdrops are identical. There are ambiguities in player recruitment. Both sides started the season well but have since regressed brutally. Both clubs replaced their departing star players (the likes of Chris Wood and Kyle Bartley at Leeds, and Josh Cullen, James Meredith and Mark Marshall here) with a litany of poorer ones. And both now find themselves trying to judge managers who haven’t been able to halt the slides, stuck with assessing squads that, in all honesty, they probably wouldn’t have willingly assembled. No one could really argue Grayson would have picked these players himself. I mean, most weeks we can’t even agree on if they’re any good.
The difference is that Heckingbottom, notwithstanding Barnsley’s 9th-placed finish last season in a division defined by the gulf between the haves and the have nots, has never steered a team out of that league. Grayson does it with his eyes closed. Sunderland aside, his record is without blot. To suggest Grayson couldn’t have success here, if the conditions were right, goes against an awful lot of history.
Equally pressing is that, for both Leeds and City, a parting of ways in the summer wouldn’t look great. Radrizzani actually apologised for appointing Thomas Christiansen. He can hardly U-turn on Heckingbottom now. At City, that sentiment is felt more keenly still. After all, who is really holding all the cards here? In two years, the board have lost the club’s greatest manager this side of Paul Jewell and then fired a second one who, legend status aside, had nine months earlier taken them to within a breath of Championship football.
Relationships with McCall fractured so irrecoverably that Simon Parker tweeted: “Understand there is an effort from the #bcafc owners to stop Sky using Stuart McCall as studio guest tonight.” Parkinson was so perturbed that he willingly jumped ship to a Bolton team entrenched in off-field calamity, and who have navigated their first season back in the Championship beset with a transfer embargo and a side the Not The Top 20 Pod dubbed the worst squad in the division. They can hardly lose a third.
The consensus is still that the owners are well-intentioned but ill-advised – but can you really undersell how urgently they had to get Grayson back in February? Were he to slip through their fingers, the managerial graveyard would read: Parkinson, McCall, Grayson. As looks go, it would be… Well, bad. Really, really bad. Grayson, the events of the past three months aside, surely still carries a lot of credit and even more of the negotiating power. So stick. His record is worth banking on.
Played 10, won 2, drawn 3, lost 5. Scored 6, conceded 14.
It’s not a great record, is it?
And it’s not like the football is entertaining either. In several games the plan has been to sit on the edge of our own 18 yard box and aim to keep a clean sheet, but against Wigan and especially Blackburn it was poor opposition finishing, rather than good City defending that kept the scores relatively close. I can accept losing, but not even having a go grates.
His tactics are often strange. He has played Alex Gilliead up front, at wing back, at right back – almost everywhere except his natural position. Against Rochdale on Saturday we had Matty Lund stuck out on the left even after the likes of Nicky Law and Dominic Poleon, who are more comfortable there, were brought on. By the end of that game we had players all over the place, even though they would’ve all fit comfortably into a 4-3-3.
There has been one exception to this, which was the Portsmouth game. He got his tactics and subs right (particularly in the second half), the effort was there and the football was entertaining. But that’s just one game, and in too many others we have been abject.
There are caveats for this – the reasons for our collapse in form since January go far beyond the manager, with the quality of the squad and the board-level problems contributing far more. And I don’t normally like judging managers in the short-term – after all, Phil Parkinson started slowly. But it was Simon Grayson who has chosen the short-term deal, and as a result he gets judged by short-term objectives.
Can anyone honestly say he’s succeeded?
So far under Grayson, City have played eleven games from which they have gained ten points. Those are the facts. Not exactly promotion winning form, if anything it’s closer to relegation form. Grayson, who in February stated in the T&A that he “deserves to be in the Championship”, has not backed up his claim so far. However, he has inherited a squad whose confidence is at rock bottom, a Chairman who has lost touch with the fans, and supporters who feel as though the club is regressing. Not the easiest position!
Grayson was undoubtedly, and understandably, the majority of fans’ number one choice. He has an excellent reputation for getting teams out of this league, having had prior success with ‘them two down the road’ as well as Blackpool and Preston. He clearly has the knowledge about the league and its players, and how to push teams onto the next step.
However, this seems to be as far as he can take teams, for whatever reason. Here lies the problem with the offer of a long term deal. How will it be different with Bradford City if we get to the Championship?
He has signed a short-term deal, whether this is for him to show us what he can do or whether it’s for him to scope out the club. But what happens after? Are we back looking for another manager and the Rosler rumour mill starts to grind? The right things are coming from Grayson. He sounds as though he wants longer contract with certain provisions around the pitch, training and recruitment to be discussed. This sounds like he wants to be in it for the long haul. Performances seem to be picking up against recently with the victory against Portsmouth a highlight of my year so far – but can we keep this momentum going without referring to the long ball approach?
Personally I can’t see past Grayson for next season, but I just hope that his ideas about the pitch, players and training ground come into fruition – or we will be left in the same situation we are in now.
I haven’t felt this down about all matters BCAFC since an abject Peter Jackson led side slumped to defeat at home to Dagenham early in the 2011/12 season. The bulk of what Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp have done since taking over has taken us backwards. Two very fine managers gone, all the playing staff, Tony McMahon excepted, gone. The majority of the off-field staff gone. Season ticket sales at their lowest level since the cheap season ticket deal was launched ten years ago.
Either the club was rotten when they bought it 22 months ago, and these changes needed to be made or, in less than two years, they have managed to unwind huge amounts of good work by so many people.
The squad the owners left Stuart with this season was short of the required quality and depth to last a full season at the top end of the table. I genuinely fear a return to League Two, and our best hope of that not happening is Simon Grayson. We are lucky to have a manager who is statistically the best League One boss we could wish to have.
I understand Stuart got very little of what he asked Rahic for and that, thus far, Grayson is experiencing the opposite. Our only chance of thriving next season is that the owners recognise they have to let the manager manage, control transfers and trust him to do the job he has done successfully at four other League One clubs.
If Rahic can stop interfering, stop releasing or selling our best and most experienced players, stop wasting money on players who are nowhere near the quality required and start trusting the manager to do his job we might yet have a chance of halting this slide.
The bigger question for me is: what’s the target for Bradford City next season?
Are we going to go all out for promotion to the Championship, with a playing budget to match such ambition? If so, it makes sense to keep Grayson on as manager, backing him with what he needs. He is by far the more qualified candidate available, with an unsurpassed track record of achieving promotions at this level. If it is a win-at-all-costs mentality we want to take in pursuit of second tier football, Grayson’s pragmatic style will be easier to accept. And with money to spend to bring in his own players, the football would probably improve too.
Yet if the resources available mean that next season is more realistically about consolidating, bringing through young players and building for the future, Grayson isn’t the man for me. Such a route is going to lead to inconsistent results and a mid-table placing, so we might as well enjoy the football we are witnessing.
There is nothing worse than dour, losing football, as Peter Taylor proved. I shudder at the idea of a season filled with games as dreary as the ones we’ve endured over recent weeks. When we go to Sunderland, for example, I’d want us to try to win, rather than play for a 0-0 draw like we did during the recent defeat to Blackburn. Grayson also doesn’t particularly have a notable record for bringing through youngsters.
I’ve personally found Grayson’s cautious style of football difficult to watch. We are chasing a play off place, yet have regularly prioritised not getting beaten. With the right resources, Grayson will surely improve this. But if next season is about budget cuts and focusing more on the development of your Devines, your Hudsons, your Robinsons and your Brunkers, I’d be happy for a younger manager to come in and implement a more attacking style of football.
As someone who felt at the time that it was the correct decision to part company with Stuart McCall, it feels almost hypocritical of me to call for Grayson to stay on next season despite his poor record since coming into the club.
Whilst there has been a slight improvement in the last few weeks (particularly against Shrewsbury and Portsmouth), the Blackpool away result is up there with the worst we’ve had in years and general performances have hardly been inspiring.
However, I still believe that he’s the right man to take City up next season, if he’s given the tools to do so.
Simply put, Grayson has a record that is almost impossible to argue against, particularly at League One level. Promotions with four different sides shows his ability to motivate players and proves he isn’t just a one-trick pony but a serial promotion winner.
On top of this, after taking Preston up in his last promotion from the third tier, he comfortably kept them in the second tier and even competed for the play-offs, eventually falling short to sides with significantly bigger budgets.
His Sunderland stint is a blot on his superb recent record, but I think anyone who’s followed football over the last few years can accept that certainly wasn’t entirely his fault, as shown by the problems his successor Chris Coleman, a man who worked wonders with Wales, has experienced since.
The main reason I want Grayson in charge at Valley Parade next season is a simple one; we need to change our mindset.
Since the turn of the year City’s players have badly shown themselves up, raising serious questions about their mentality by turning what looked like a certain play off place into a scrap to finish in the top half.
Whilst McCall will always be a legend at the club, serious questions began to be asked about his ability to turn it round and get the best of the group again.
However, whilst there is still a long way to go, Grayson proved after the embarrassment at the hands of Blackpool that he was unafraid to call his players out and get them to take some responsibility. There are still obvious improvements to be made but at least it has looked like the effort and desire has come back to this group of players since.
This season will be one to forget for fans, who now just want to see the back of it. A major drop-off in season ticket sales is concerning and whilst there has been issues off the pitch, if City can go into next season with Grayson in charge, we can at least be confident on it.
The man is a serial promotion winner with a track record from taking teams up from this level which put frankly, cannot be matched by any other potential appointment.
Umm, I’m still not sure…
After the sacking of Stuart McCall, he seemed the perfect candidate to rescue this season. However, the play off dream faded quickly and performances have been painful to watch.
But in a time of a great discontent between fans and the owners, the club needs a focal point to build around. James Mason does a tremendous job off the field, but us fans need someone on the playing staff to look to. With a squad that needs ripping apart and starting a fresh, we need a manager that the fans can buy into. Grayson has the credentials and potential to be that man.
But there is a sense of déjà vu. A manager that wants players to wear suits to games. A manager who excels in promotions. A manager with the pulling power to attract the league’s best players to Valley Parade.
Is history repeating itself or is Simon Grayson still the man to get this club out of League One next season? Umm, I’m still not sure..
What’s your view, valued reader?
Use the comment box below to tell us what you think of Grayson’s performance as Bradford City manager, and if you want him to stay on. Please start your reply with either Yes, No or Maybe, and then add your reasons why. Thanks!