By Steve Dresser
A confession. I am more of a fairweather fan these days. However I am moved to write a piece considering the mess that City find themselves in. Especially as it’s all self-inflicted and there are fans (you’d better believe it) who still claim everything will be okay and that our erstwhile leader is not in any way to blame for the decisions he has made.
Some of my relatively recent games have seen us at Wembley (twice) a play-off semi-final and a FA Cup quarter final to boot, my (somewhat) recent fixture list is a timely reminder of how far we have fallen.
In my defence; I have my own business and four kids to try and track around shops and other places – it’s like man marking from a corner when you’ve had a man sent off. Just running all over. We don’t concede though which is more than can be said for City.
The point of my write up is one of objectivity and viewing from a distance. I watch games and goals on Sky and also keep up to date to see what the club are saying in the wider world via social media and the forums.
A key point that I keep coming back to when reading the views from people is that there is a hardcore minority who, for reasons best known to themselves are still saying that everyone else is to blame bar Edin.
They refuse to accept any criticism despite a wealth of evidence in terms of facts (IE players signed and those leaving), interviews with the likes of Stuart McCall and a huge churn in off the field staff.
To be honest, it’s probably to side step any such fan who truly acts as if they believe Edin isn’t to blame, in any way. They are beyond help and can tell their grandkids about how they supported the club to the heady heights of 24th place in League One.
Personally, I’d ban them all for life.
At the purest level, the issues are for anyone to see – just look at the league table. We are not getting 50 bonus points from the FA for having an ‘innovative’ head coach style operation, we can’t defend despite signing about 6 defenders in the transfer window. We lose games like anyone else, we get 0 points like anyone else.
Edin is one constant throughout this decline; if that is an unfortunate coincidence (somehow) then we only have to look at his statements to the press and his decision making. He has left himself wide open for criticism and with it, the club are 24th in League One. Who else is to blame?
The (now infamous) ‘I know football’ comment was a disaster waiting to happen, why would you ever make such a statement? It was only ever going to come back and bite us on the backside. Even if he really knew football, the manager and playing staff would get the plaudits (and quite rightly).
Greg Abbott is the other ‘constant’ (of sorts) and it remains unclear how many of the players that couldn’t pass water, couldn’t trap a balloon and think pointing is an effective defence against a player running in unmarked (Josh Wright) he is responsible for signing. Certainly, the January transfer window was an utter disaster and even those days seem a million miles away now. That said, I find it hard to believe that Abbott would have had someone like Kai Brunker on his radar as a solution to any striker problem last January. (for a start I don’t think Brunker was on Championship Manager 97/98).
It isn’t about those comments or the players that have arrived or the decisions made around the head coach, around young players, around being happy to lose 4-3 but for young players to score. Nor is it the woeful German players, or the one who couldn’t get in our team but went to Nottingham Forest, or the unbalanced squad or the players signed when no manager was present, the list goes on and on and on.
It’s about the fundamental flaws of the self-proclaimed business model, the decision making and about the future. Whatever may happen going forward, we are in real trouble with the current structure and player recruitment strategy (if one can call it that).
There is a great business book called ‘Good to Great’. It focused on a number of companies and principles were then developed for a company to succeed despite larger competitors or trading in a niche industry. One bit from the book was the “Stockdale paradox”. This is a concept incepted by Jim Stockdale; a US admiral who was captured in the Vietnam war and held in solitary confinement for 8 years.
The basic premise of how he got through those years in captivity was that he retained optimism that they would be rescued, but at the same time, he confronted the reality of the situation. As in they may not be rescued and therefore, had to prepare for the worst.
He was asked who went first, mentally and then didn’t make it. His answer? “Those guys who thought the war would be over after the first Christmas…..”
You have to wonder if some supporters are anywhere near accepting the reality of the situation we are in. Bottom of the table without a prayer, a terrible goal difference and we don’t look like we’ll get enough points to stop us driving. All this before we start to point the finger at the transfer strategy, the sacking of McCall, the fact we were in the play offs in January 2018 before heading to the bottom of the league in October 2018.
What about League Two? Assuming the worst comes to the worst? How can anyone have faith in the much-fabled transfer committee then? With the CEO/Owner/Chairman head coach setup alongside Abbott and his questionable record?
An increasing number of fans grasp the reality of the situation but going forward; what is in store for the club?
There is little prospect of hope given the dismantling of a superb playing squad and the dismissal of a manager who was not just performing well but had the club so close the Championship, leaving it in the play-off zone. Imagine what the current set up, plus League Two football will do to season ticket sales and in turn, the playing budget.
Replacing players with ones who are nowhere near good enough, either from Germany or closer to home alongside signing young players to potentially sell on (to who?!) then to finish, ones who can’t get in to a bad City side.
Anyone with a part functioning memory knows who is responsible, Rahic hasn’t been backwards in coming forwards about how a model needs to be about others signing players, not just the manager.
It isn’t just the idea of a chairman signing the players hasn’t worked, it’s the much-publicised idea of buying low and selling high that is also flawed. This ‘theory’ is nothing new and it’s not like Rahic has reinvented the wheel, nearly every lower league club must try to do this as their most basic objective? That or a pleasant side effect of having a successful team.
The problem with this being a key plank of the strategy like City is that you aim to weaken your team at every turn and over time become uncompetitive. If you were chasing the league or play offs even (quite the first world woe, I appreciate) and have a Charlie Wyke scoring goals = a club comes in and the likelihood is that City will sell. The model almost demands it, contract negotiations also go that way as the player knows the club will sell, so to force a move, just has to stall on a contract….
If you replace Wyke with quality, a la Brentford for example who seem to have a whole host of players waiting in the wings, bought via data analysis via a huge scouting network to replace a player sold on then it’s happy days.
But we are Bradford City and having had a transfer window in January that was so poor, you are left wondering if there were deliberate efforts to not sign players and leave the squad lightweight, then what would have been done differently? Let’s not forget January 2018 was without Charlie Wyke leaving!
January 2019 is potentially huge but it’s an impossible job to fundamentally change the squad in January unless you are signing out of form, unfit players or indeed, overpaying for players based on form or value to their club and if they can get a replacement in.
Add in the fact that a selling club knows City are desperate given our position and well, what would you do as the selling club? Add another £50k to the selling price….
This week’s news of Julian Rhodes returning is positive, but James Mason left to go to Rochdale (which would not happen ordinarily, surely) and was never consulted despite being on the books to do so. JR being a consultant is good news, assuming he is consulted and perhaps more importantly, he is listened to.
For City, the position of Rahic looks untenable. It’s really is no good coming back and offering yet more supporters events, Rupp offering a few token words in the press and a wider Q&A. We have had that and got nowhere fast, we have had the ‘we’ve learnt mistakes’ PR spin already (we appointed Michael Collins weeks later..)
I genuinely think 90% of fans would not think Rahic would change in any case. Not now. There have been too many chances given. We would get the same player signings, the same model, the same Germans coming over who are not good enough, same youth players taking portions of the wage budget without threatening the first team, the same disappearing act when things get tough.
As Malcolm Tucker, the PR master in “The Thick of it” says in the opening scenes of Series 1, Episode 1 to a hapless minister. “you are becoming the story” …
Rahic is the story. Not Bradford City, not David Hopkin, not the club, the players or the fans and it’s rapidly becoming a case of ‘unstoppable force’ (fans) meets immoveable object (Rahic).
Julian Rhodes could be part of the solution as he comes in on a day to day role, however he will find a club on its knees, virtually unrecognisable from the one he left behind. The biggest challenge for him is recruitment for January and who is signing the players, put simply, it has to be Hopkin.
Julian Rhodes joining as a consultant is the best signing the club have made in some time, perhaps summing up the transfer market record of Rahic and co nicely.
Quite simply, we are beyond the hashtags, we are beyond the gimmicks, it is really difficult to see how things progress until results come on the pitch. With the current squad looking anything but capable, the transfer window cannot come quickly enough, however it may be too late.
Rumours of Rahic bringing a German trialist or two over as he returned to the UK this week reminds me that I haven’t seen the film Groundhog Day for an age.