By Jason McKeown
Bradford City head coach David Hopkin’s backroom reshuffle continues to gather pace, and WOAP understands that head of recruitment Greg Abbott is set to leave the club in the coming days.
The 54-year-old has until recently held the role of assistant manager to Hopkin, alongside Martin Drury. However, Hopkin is keen to finally bring in his own people, and Abbott’s likely departure will follow last week’s exit of goalkeeping coach Steve Banks. It was already confirmed earlier this week that Abbott would no longer be assisting Hopkin, instead moving back to head of recruitment. In recent weeks, Abbott hasn’t been present on a matchday anyway, scouting future City opposition.
The fact Abbott is likely to no longer be head of recruitment underlines the changing approach overseen by the returning Julian Rhodes. And it reiterates Stefan Rupp’s statement that Hopkin will be in full control of transfers when the January window opens. During his time as chairman of City, Rhodes worked very closely with managers to secure the transfer targets they had identified, and it is said he and Phil Parkinson forged a particularly strong partnership. Part of Rhodes’ consultancy role is to do the same for Hopkin.
So with the City head coach calling the shots on signings, and Rhodes providing the required support, there ultimately isn’t a role for Abbott.
On both a personal and professional level, 2018 has been a tough year for Greg Abbott. Last Spring he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and spent time away from the club receiving treatment. As Tony McMahon stated at the recent Stephen Darby appreciation night, the difficult circumstances around the club saw Abbott rushed back into work when he should really have been allowed to recover for much longer. For example, McMahon revealed that it was Abbott, rather than Rahic, who called the player to inform him that he would not be offered a new contract.
Whilst all City fans wished Abbott well through his health problems, he has not escaped criticism for the club’s dismal record in the transfer market over the past 18 months. The fact he has seemingly remained loyal to Rahic hasn’t aided his standing either.
Abbott, who played for the Bantams with great distinction during the eighties, had re-joined the club in the summer of 2016 to head up recruitment, shortly after Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp’s purchase of Bradford City, and Stuart McCall’s arrival as head coach. He held a key role in the transfer committee approach instigated by Rahic, with his knowledge of the lower leagues vital; especially given McCall, who had been working in Scotland for several years, did not initially have the same breadth of knowledge.
For a time, the transfer committee approach seemed to work well. Abbott and others chipped in with names during the summer of 2016, and City made a number of eye-catching signings that helped them reach the play off final. Perhaps most notably of all was Abbott’s successful capture of Charlie Wyke in January 2017, who would go on to be sold for a significant profit.
But there’s no getting away from the fact recruitment hasn’t worked out since the play off final defeat. Abbott is perhaps unfairly blamed too much for this – at WOAP we regularly heard rumours that his list of targets was getting overlooked and/or undermined by Rahic. But, ultimately, the transfer committee model has failed at City. The desire to keep it going in the summer led to the farcical appointment of Michael Collins, and the lack of character and identity of the current squad is damning on all those who helped to bring it together.
Nevertheless Abbott’s contribution to Bradford City over the decades should not be forgotten. When I interviewed him for Who We Are he declared, “I don’t think I’ve been heavily criticised too many times in my period of being 17 years old to where I am now – and for that I owe Bradford, the fans and the club a great deal of thanks. Because it’s probably made me the type of person I am. All my children are born and bred in this city and we’ve been made to feel very welcome. And for that I think I owe them.”
This is set to be an unhappy ending to what has been a difficult chapter. But whatever Abbott’s own failings over the past 18 months, there have been much bigger failings from the guy above him. Abbott deserves credit for everything he has given to the club since 2016 – especially when his health was on the line.