Diabolus Ex Machina

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Alex Scott

Where do you even start?

It’s not good, is it? There are dismal away defeats. There are dismal away defeats against ten men. There are dismal away defeats against ten men where your only chance is a soft penalty. And then there is whatever that was.

They say it’s sometimes harder to play against ten men. City partially proved that on Saturday as they were thoroughly outplayed by an outnumbered Fleetwood Town. That said, they didn’t look up to much against eleven either.

At times during their abject second half performance you began to wonder how few opposition players it would take before that City team would look like an adequate third division team. Nine? Six? Eight, but their keeper has his hands tied behind his back?

It’s not good, is it? The way this team plays and the futility you feel when they inevitably fall behind is disappointingly reminiscent of the last City team that was relegated from this division. For what I am sure are many good attributes I’ve not had a chance to see yet, George Miller and Eoin Doyle are demonstrating a little too much of the Moses Ashikodis for this fan’s liking.

The team looks out of their depth in a pool too deep, with their lifeguard stood watching pensively on the side, blaming them for losing their shape as they drown. The shape is the least of their worries.

Fellow Bradfordian Adil Rashid played in a Test Match for England recently where he didn’t score a run, take a catch, or take a wicket. England still won the game. Whilst a team can probably carry one Adil – up against a collapsible middle order at least – building an entire squad in his image seems to be an admittedly admirably parochial, but ultimately ill-advised, strategic decision.

If you’ve seen City at all this season, I doubt you really need me to fill in any blanks about what happened on Saturday.  They could have fallen behind immediately, twice, but didn’t before City’s defence broke out its already well practised Keystone Cops rendition. Eoin Doyle cooly converted a soft penalty against the run of play, before Wes Burns slid in rashly on Adam Chicksen and saw red just before half time.

In fairness, after restricting myself to the Barnsley and Southend games thus far, the first half was certainly the best 45 minutes I’ve seen this season. The subsequent imbalance in personnel from the red card led to a surprisingly positive half time where dreams of maybe creating a chance from open play in the second half took hold throughout the away end.

***

Nine months ago to the day, City battled to a 2-1 victory on the same ground maintaining their run of two and half years mostly unbroken play off football. 2018 had promise. Watching City attempt to replicate that comeback in the second half brought that contrast to bear.

Not one of that squad was in today’s squad. Nor anyone in the dugout. That team in January wasn’t close to the strongest side we’ve had over recently years, but it was competent, committed and organised.

Not one of this squad has yet demonstrated in a City shirt they are an improvement upon any of that squad in January.

The second half performance was abject. At times, it bordered on performance art. A dispiriting cocktail of several experienced professionals abdicating responsibility whilst hiding from the ball, and many young players who whilst trying admirably, had, at best, been put in a position to fail by their manager, or, at worst, had been hung out to dry in an attempt to deflect pressure off himself.

It became the latest in a run of matches where you stare at the names of the players who finished the game and wonder what on earth happened during it to lead to that jumble.

City finished a game chasing a goal with two inexperienced wingers (one of whom was a full back on debut), a teenage attacking midfielder (in his fourth game) as primary playmaker, the squad’s only striker in the hole, two full backs in a back three and a combined 89 City appearances across the pitch (24 of them from Adam Chicksen). Their captain, star player, and Australian international defender had been withdrawn to enable this.

It has become clear over the first few weeks of the season as they have been routinely outplayed and outcoached that there is a fatal problem with either the message or the messenger. It’s becoming clearer by the week that it’s probably both.

In 1969, Canadian academic and hierarchologist Dr Lawrence J. Peter famously established the Peter Principle, which went along the lines that every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

Forty two years later, former businessmen and City chairmen Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes established the less well-known Peter Jackson Principle, which went along the lines that it is never too soon to admit a mistake when it is apparent to everyone paying attention. Both of these felt pretty apt walking away from Highbury.

***

In two years and a few months, the club have managed to lose the services of their two most successful managers this century,  as well as dismantle not one but two play off teams. And, for what? The promise of a new, exciting, ambitious club the fans could get behind? They already had that! Twice!

As philosopher and cock fighting enthusiast Peter Griffin once stated “Not so fast Lois, a boat is a boat, but a box could be anything. It could even be a boat!”

When the man in charge of strategic decisions at your city’s premier sporting asset is following axioms established by a poor man’s Homer Simpson you end up with performances like Saturday afternoon.

At the away games at Southend and Fleetwood, I’ve cumulatively seen a soft penalty and a Jordan Gibson one on one in the form of chances created. Two decent fish and chips at least, so not all lost.

But whilst the mostly southern based City fans could find solace in the fact that “I don’t know, maybe Southend are good?” The crowd at Fleetwood appears to have made up its mind and it wants to convict on all counts.

The owners – and in a spectacular showing of hubris, the manager – may put this discontent down to the fickleness of the fanbase, but they are betraying their lack of understanding about the motivations of their fans (their customers), and human beings in general.

You methodologically, and with malice of forethought, remove every single player from the squad with whom the fans have a relationship and wonder why the fans aren’t giving the benefit of the doubt to the team?

You sack the club’s iconic figure as manager for one bad run and replace him with the miserable dirge of Simon Grayson, then whatever this is supposed to be, and wonder why the fans are frustrated?

You make the exact same series of decisions a sleeper agent trying to ruin the club would make over a prolonged two year span, and wonder why the fans don’t have faith in your vision?

***

The final ten minutes on Saturday watching City fail to locate the screw, let alone turn it, bore out the myriad ills of the club at the moment. Not only have they managed to recruit an entire squad of players who to a man are not replicating the performances of their predecessors, they are organised in a way where every in-game decision or substitution makes them weaker in defence, and also somehow less dangerous in attack.

It isn’t just that the team are performing poorly, or are failing to adapt together. It’s feels more fundamental than that. The machine feels broken. Everything we are seeing feels like a symptom of something worse.

I’m sat here on the train back home trying to think of the positives in the manner of a man who has earnestly picked up a broken appliance, stared at it for ten minutes before concluding, “nah… it’s fucked, that.”

Where do you even start?

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Categories: Match Reviews

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31 replies

  1. I dispair. The only positive maybe that Edin will sack MC sooner rather than later but that is just scratching the further of the issues. A dramatic transformation of club, the wrong way.

  2. Painfully accurate in every way

  3. Excellent analysis of our once great team

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. Again a very good article. I think we all know were this is going to end, relegation. Unless the owners do a u-turn on their running of the club or they sell the club, being honest both options seem unlikely. So I ask the questions how can we make this more likely to happen and in the past low attendances has always forced the Directors hand but as most of our crowd are season ticket holders this season I can’t see it changing anything, we’ve been well and truly stitched up by Rahic and Rupp. The only way maybe next summer another dramatic fall in season tickets sold may just force their hand to go and that will be a happy day for us all when we get our club back.

  5. Good piece and echoes a lot of my thoughts.

    You try and give the benefit of the doubt to Rahic’s ‘vision’ and think that we might have a season or two of mediocrity/struggle before several quality young players breakthrough and we go on a good run but then you remember all the terrible decisions Rahic has made and can’t see a bright future under the current owners.

    One of the first young signings for potential was Wyke and we ended up getting barely double up front for what we paid for him. Yeah, it’s technically turning a profit but when you see that goal-scoring League One strikers are going for £2m plus, it really grates. Not to mention, it appears that in a petty moment Rahic ended up upsetting him over bonuses so we had an unmotivated striker not scoring (many) goals for 5 months. This also led to his value decreases/desire to leave the club. Was it worth it Mr Chairman?

    I actually think we have a decent first 11 but the back-up get weaker and weaker so they don’t push the starters to improve. Doyle won’t lose his place for Bruenker. The main issue is an inexperienced coach that seems to have confused all the players. Lord knows, he’s confused us fans in his tactics and substitutions. I feel for him a bit but then he should never have taken the job. This is a Rahic appointment so don’t be surprised if he lasts far longer than he should.

    Rahic has a lot in common with Trump. He believes he is always right and any mistakes or failures are down to others. I can’t wait for the day he leaves the club. I simply can’t see how he can turn it around so we can trust and have faith in him. He’s caused far too much damage already.

  6. Excellent article and I echo every word. Blind faith is not good enough when you can see with your own eyes that things are out of control at Valley Parade and the general consensus is that Edin Rahic is out of his depth. Who is trying to kid who?

    I have never previously witnessed the current degree of supporter alienation and disengagement with the club notwithstanding the catalogue of failures and incompetence at BCAFC in the last fifty years. For all the talk about financial stability and prudence, with the benefit of hindsight you could derive more confidence from the casino approach of Geoffrey Richmond than the current so called strategy which seems all the more risky and foolhardy by the week. I can say with the knowledge of the club’s history that no other regime at Valley Parade has previously demonstrated such a capability for being disaster prone, if not incompetent. Rahic is proving to be the least respected chairman that there has been at VP and that speaks for itself – Bob Martin, Dave Simpson etc etc.

    I agree entirely that there are signs of this getting worse before things will improve. What is all the more worrying is that Edin Rahic patently cannot see that because otherwise he’d do the decent thing and stand aside. Never before has the old terrace favourite ‘You don’t know what you are doing’ been a more apt response.

    • During these depressing days, its refreshing to read considered articles by those who have Bradford City links. I agree with all the comments. I have supported City over 60 years and I’m dumbfounded by what is going on. I’m sick to death of clichés and propaganda. Let’s face it the chairman and the coach are out of their depth. We are constantly told everything is good on the training ground, and that players and coach spend all week analysing the disasters from the previous week. Yet every week we see the same shambles: players lack the basic skills: they hide even against poor sides who show more determination and team spirit; most players are below the standard of this division: the team is slow going forward; they give too many balls away in midfield; they can’t shoot on target; coaching is inept and muddled. I think the lack of honesty, and ethics which have been reflected in the treatment of Stuart and Killa recently, have knocked the heart out of the club. For years the club and its fans have been highly regarded, but now we are quickly becoming a laughing stock. As others have predicted, we are heading for relegation unless something happens quickly. It wont be easy but a clear out at the top, with owners and coaches going, and players who lack commitment to our club sent out to clubs with lower expectations.

      A clearing of the air is vital before its too late, before the club we love is destroyed. The owners and management have lost the trust of the fans. It was interesting to read Stuart’s reason for going to Scunthorpe because there is a happy atmosphere and the manager is able to manage without interference. I feel so sad that a club that has been so successful over the years, has been brought down to this level.

  7. Next home game – 10 mins of chanting Stuart MCCalls Bradford Army followed by 10 mins of chanting Rahic Out then all get up together an exit the game!

    If we all do this then maybe the penny will drop!

    No point leaving this til the scunthorpe game as No Balls Rahic will no doubt do a No Show for that game!

    • I’m sorry but if you buy season tkts and give Rahic the funds to stay in place and do what he’s doing … we all are part of the problem.
      4000 season tkts holders decided not to renew… off went James Mason Etc.
      The man’s arrogant and alienated the fans to such an extent… the damage is now to far to bridge gap . I expect worse to come and relegation battle.

      • I agree with you, but this summer was the first real full blown attempt at the ‘vision’. Although most of us were at best wary of the vision, a fan gives it a chance and buys the season ticket (back in April or whatever, with change on the horizon) hoping he does in fact ‘know football’, how bad can it be? Now is too late to not buy the season ticket for this season. If we wait until the next round of season ticket sales, it will be too late..

  8. Wow! Sadly all true.

    Can’t understand the mentality of Rahic (or Rupp) All they needed to do was invest in 2016 Wembley side and promotion could have been there. Jack up season tickets in 2016-7 to £199 to part-fund investment (no one would have batted an eyelid). If not successful jack up ticket prices this season to £249. We would have bought in to THAT vision.

    Sadly you ain’t going to develop talent in a poor team.

    They haven’t a clue. Collins sadly a scapegoat.

  9. A very entertaining article, thank you. Far more interesting and entertaining than City’s performance.

    Another expression defining our beloved club springs to mind, along the same lines – FUBB ( F**ked Up Beyond Belief ). There is also an American version – FUBAR ( F**ked Up Beyond All Recognition).

    Worryingly, one can imagine that in a couple of years, there may be only one professional/semi professional football club in Bradford – Bradford Park Avenue. How ironic would that be!?

    I have been a City supporter for 60+ years and my ancestors have been supporters since 1903. Whilst City cannot bathe in historical success in the way that clubs like Everton, Arsenal, Spurs, Man U, Man City, Aston Villa ( to mention but a few ) can boast, nevertheless I cannot ever recall the sense of disconnect I feel right now. We have had dark times in the past with re-election, administrations etc but this feels very different. If Rupp und Rahic are bringing about a revolution, then we need a counter revolution, and fast.

  10. A spot on article. Collins is out of his depth and put there by the biggest charlatan of them all. Rahic needs to step aside or else he will continue to rearrange the deck chairs on titanic.

    I can see the iceberg from here and we are on a coillision course that Captain Rahic cannot stop. Do the decent thing Edin and leave the club now before your gross incompitance and lack of humility sinks Bradford City FC to the bottom of the sea.

  11. I think I like Payne. He looks alright

  12. Excellent article and sadly so ,so true😢

  13. Alex. This report is spot on and beautifully written. Sums it all up. How has it come to this? So many consecutive ill informed bad decisions made in the name of ‘progess’. Hubris will mean the Jackson principle won’t be adopted. ER has gambled too much on incumbent personnel.

  14. It is a shame and a condemnation of the current regime at VP when the article and reports on City matches are lots more entertaining than that game itself. I am increasingly finding things to do on an away Saturday-how long before I start to do the same on a home Match day. After my 60 years of watching thin and thinner with just the odd scraps. We had a feast under Parkinson and Jewel but we are starving to death now.
    We see legends removed. Loved players moved on without a word. A soulless VP. Fans struggling to show restraint and not boo our own players. Our players? We do know them yet. It seems that the players do not know each other either. If Brexit goes through does the German have to leave? Please.

  15. Great article. It is clear Rahic has lost his credibility with the supporters and soon the club’s sponsors. He does not communicate.He must be blind and deaf to the volume of discourse with the way this club is heading. There was a time when you could not predict an outcome of a game. You could guarantee endeavour and passion. What is certain now is that we can predict the outcome of a match and it is defeat and struggle. The silence from Valley parade is deafening!

    MC gives his post match comments of cliches and a guarantee to right wrongs before the next game. It is a worry that supporters are wanting City to fail – because it is expected! Maybe it is a way of getting rid of the current management. The players must feel this. The solution is not easy. Sack MC – who would want to work with this structure? One possibility is for Rupp and Rahic to face their critics and convince them of their vision. Sadly, so many are against what is happening to this club and I suspect would never trust the owners. Therefore, Rahic and Rupp must sell up. Otherwise there will be nothing to sell.

  16. Excellent article, sums up the mood around the club perfectly.. without a doubt I’ve never felt so much apathy to going to the match since the end of the Colin Todd and Wetherall caretaker era, that ended in abject failure and relegation.. 4 go down in this league, are there 4 teams with a worse squad/manager combo? I don’t think so.. feck me it’s only early September and after 33 years of watching City already I’ve had enough! congratulations Edin and MC you’ve managed to do what luminaries such as John Docherty and Dave Simpson failed to do and make me think I’ve better things to do with my Saturdays..

  17. Not sure I understand the reference to Adil Rashid.He has skill and ability-he may concede runs but takes crucial wickets.He was badly missed by Yorkshire in the T20’s.

    • Agreed. Very good article, spot on about City, but why insult Adil Rashid? There was no point in saying what you did about him. It rather spoilt the article.

    • He’s done absolutely nothing in the Two Tests he’s played in and his attitude towards Yorkshire has been nothing short of a disgrace. Anyway he isn’t the issue here is he?

  18. An excellent article from the start and especially to the finish, which sums the situation brilliantly simply!

    The club is like a slow motion car crash. Everyone knows what’s going to happen but feel powerless in stopping the outcome. Short of Rupp intervening, his stubborn co-owner seems hell bent on following his destructive path. Demonstrations, abuse and boycotts will have no effect on this fellow. When the going gets tough he’ll merely swerve the home games, like he did after McCall’s sacking.

    The bad old days of standing on the weed strewn, crumbling Kop now seem halcyon days compared to the never ending drama being played out at Valley Parade.

    Having decided not to renew my season ticket, my only connection with Bradford City this season has been the odd snatch of commentaries. The players names mean nothing to me. The team appears to have no structure, purpose or desire. The Head Coach talks the talk, but can’t walk the walk. Amidst all this the architect of the equivalent of “football club suicide” doesn’t seem available to provide a bulletin on the critically injured football club, which is heading for intensive care and thereafter…………….?

  19. Great analysis. Love the comparison of Peter Principle to Peter Jackson Principle!

    Folk talk about sacking the coach and / or Edin stepping aside. I think it more likely ithat Collins steps down as he realises he is not up to the task in hand. The lack of response to his coaching must be sapping his confidence. The only problem then is who is chosen to replace him!

  20. We know exactly where to start……. Edin OUT!!! Then back to basics. Simples!!!

  21. We take out of third division football whatever we can, and I’m pleased for the writer that he at least found some decent fish & chips to take his mind off his (our) troubles.

    I feel the exactly same affinity with Rahic and the people presently running the club as I have done with the owners of BCFC since Richmond left – none whatsoever. They’re all the same to me.

    I’m hopeful that after the next couple of matches, Rahic will respond to the disaster unfolding before his eyes, appoint an experienced MANAGER, and take a step back.

    Ever hopeful, and there’s a transfer window coming up at Christmas.

  22. When I was a child, I was told the tale of the Emperors New Clothes. I fear that our current owner is wearing the equivalent suit of ‘magic football’, one that is so brilliant that only rich clever and people “who know football’ can see it. The rest of us see, a vainglorious individual who is so set in his ways, that if he orders it, the sea will stop coming in. I guess cautionary tales as a metaphor, are resisted by Mr R who seems totally set in his ways and will not change as everyone else is wrong! So very very sad days for City and all of us who are committed to supporting the club!

  23. As superb as it is sad!
    I don’t know whether to thank you or join me on the black leather couch in a fetal position whilst gently rocking.
    One has to almost admire what has a been achieved by just one totally misguided self obsessed individual.

  24. “nah…its fucked” sad but seemingly true.

  25. Dan got it right in his comment: I think I like pain!

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