A ray of hope as Bradford City remain deep in relegation trouble

By Tim Penfold

Bradford City remain in the relegation zone despite a much improved second half performance against Plymouth today.  City dominated the second half but squandered multiple chances to take all three points against opponents that were there for the taking.

David Hopkin selected a team with as many ball-playing midfielders as he could fit in it, with Jacob Butterfield and Lewis O’Brien sitting behind a three of David Ball, Jack Payne and Billy Clarke.  There’s a lot of creativity there, but it showed how unbalanced City’s squad still is – there was nobody to stretch the play or run in behind.  It was also a line up fundamentally unsuited to last week’s direct tactics.

The first half can best be described as forgettable.  City did, unlike last week, try to get the ball down and play.  But there were too many loose passes, and too many times where there was no movement off the ball.  The play became compacted in the middle and ended up scrappy.

Plymouth were more direct but did have a striker in Freddie Ladapo who could compete physically with City’s centre halves.  Despite this they also struggled to get their playmaking trio of Ruben Lameiras, Graham Carey and Antoni Sarcevic into the game, with the exception of one moment just before half time where Carey got a shot away from the edge of the box which Richard O’Donnell tipped on to the post.

The second half was a different story.  City began at a higher tempo and looked a bit more fluid.  The creators were finding space, with David Ball firing over then a few minutes later wriggling into space and hitting the post from the edge of the box.  Paul Caddis also had a drive from inside the box turned away as City pushed forward.

Plymouth fought their way back into it, with the introduction of former City target Ryan Taylor giving them another physical presence up from and putting Ladapo up against Adam Chicksen instead.  But despite the physical mismatch, City’s defence held firm, with Chicksen and Nathaniel Knight-Percival impressing.

City continued to push forward and created several good late chances.  Hope Akpan should’ve done much better when he skied an effort from just inside the box, then Eoin Doyle drilled a cross that substitute Jermaine Anderson flicked goalwards only to be denied by Kyle Letheren.  But the Plymouth keeper’s best save was from Doyle’s looping header.

No matter what City did it would not go in, even when David Ball got clear in stoppage time.  He tried to take the keeper out of the equation by squaring it when a shot was on, but was denied by a superb block from Niall Canavan, ensuring that it finished 0-0.

There are plenty of positives to take from this performance, if you will excuse the cliché.  City look a much better side when they get the ball down and play, to the relief of a crowd that made it clear very early on that they would not tolerate another 90 minutes of aimless hoofing.  They created plenty of opportunities, and the defence looked much more solid than it did last week.

But despite the improved second half performance it’s difficult not to look on this as another opportunity gone.  February’s fixtures were a chance to get points on the board ahead of a March that looks incredibly tricky.  The bottom of the table is still tight – if we’d got the win we deserved today, we’d be 18th – but if we don’t get points soon, we will end up cut adrift.  Everything now rides on next week’s trip to Walsall.



Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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20 replies

  1. Sorry to moan but we have a totally unbalanced squad, how many more midfielders do we need. I have a feeling in my gut that we are not capable of getting out of this relegation zone. We have no options up front, Doyle for me is a complete waste of time, cant hold up the ball, mind you he has to win it first!!!which doesnt happen, no energy, body language all wrong. Hopkins said he played well today, must of meant in the warm up!!!. Why did he leave it so late to bring on Mellor, we need to win these home games. Loosing faith in Hopkin.

  2. The club has a “make do and mend” feel about it. No under 23 fixtures, no reserve team fixtures. Too many of the same type of players in an unbalanced squad, very little competition for places. A first team built on a “short term” basis with many regulars either loans or free agent temporary contracts. Reputedly highly paid contracted players treated as outcasts and reported to be training away from the main squad, draining our financial resources for the foreseeable future.

    Come what may, the end of season will result in another major overhaul of the playing staff, with the consequent disruption that will cause on the pitch. I’m not sure what comprises our scouting network, but , based on recent recruitment, I’m not confident we’ll find, let alone attract, an improvement in the quality of the current squad.

    I fear for the outcome of this season. However, that fear pales into comparison for what lies ahead next season. Rahic has gone but the club remains a mess.

    • Spot on. New CEO needed in summer when Rhodes goes. There arent many people at the club now who will be there in 24 months. We are back to being a club built on sand.

      Who would buy us? They are only buying membership to the EFL. Rupp overpaid so badly and has had to dig deep again.

      Worrying worrying times.

  3. Of course the club has a `make do and mend` feel and of course Rahic has gone but the legacy of his mismanagement remains! The team is the nett result of his madcap period running/ruining the club.
    Things cannot be put right overnight.
    That is the scale of the damage he did.
    But one has only to look at the table to see that we can, and we must, get out of this.
    In my opinion, based on 55 seasons of watching City and many relegation battles, this will go to the last week of the season with us (and others) needing a result, and other results to go our way. frightening, and squeaky bum time.
    i remember Geoffrey Richmond saying the Bradford public liked a good relegation fight, and we beat QPR on a sunny Sunday 3-0 to stay in the Championship.
    It keeps it interesting!!!!!

    • Mark why do you only blame Rahic for the current mess? Nobody, including the friendly media have produced any factual proof that Rupp played no role in creating the current mess. I also, have no proof that Rupp was an active partner in the mismanagement. However, my skepticism is based on rational thinking and not wishful thinking which the media and most fans are relying on.
      Sad to say, if City are relegated, it will be interesting to see how truly honourable Rupp really is. His ownership could be very, very difficult to replace.

      • Happy to put the blame on Rahic with the best, but he’s gone. It’s the Manager who seems to take pride in naming and shaming players by name and creating a leper colony of around 5-6 players who are still under contact next season and beyond. I was going to work out how many of the 14 players on the pitch this afternoon are under contact next season but don’t think it’s more than 3 or 4. It could have been useful counting the players (including those out on loan) who played no part today who are on contract after the end of the season. But we played well in the second half and hopefully we can find a 90 minute Manager.

      • Hi John

        You are indeed correct in that 4 of the 14 who played today have a contract beyond this season.

        I am intrigued by this leper colony comment. Who are the 5-6 players? I can only name Wright, Riley and Patrick. Looking at the XI and bench today, are you really suggesting they should be involved? Who would you take out of the 18 to accommodate them?

  4. Woody. With respect you are in Canada and I am in Bradford so nearer to the facts and the truth. i am lucky enough to know people who do know the facts (even though after 30 years I have no involvement in the club). Believe me Rupp was conned by Rahic.
    I dont subscribe to rumour, untruths etc. Only facts from people I trust.
    As far as things that have happened i believe what has been published on WOAP to be factual. So its untrue to say that only the friendly media have produced `truth`. If it had not been for certain supporters and WOAP/ City gent, Rahic may have still been here!!!

    However my own feelings as regards Rupp are as follows, and I reiterate, these are my own thoughts, not based on any fact, but blindingly obvious. Rupp would not have bought us without Rahics encouragement and he admits he has no real interest in us. He paid (Rahics contribution was only £225k) near to £6m for us. We are reported to be about to post a loss on this season of £2m. If i was him, and I feel many will agree is that at some point he will want to rid himself of something he has no particular affection for, which is making a loss.
    I understand that the only reason we have not already attracted a buyer is that he wants to recoup his initial investment.
    I also understand that their have been, and may still be interested parties (Not Gordon Gibb and Jack Tordoff) but who are only interested at around £3m.
    That seems to be around our present value, maybe less if we drop into League Two.
    That whole scenario worries me,
    Certainly Rupp is unlikely to want to continue to pour good money after bad, as he will see it.
    Who would?
    As you say as an owner Rupp would be difficult to replace, and as we found with Rahic and Rupp we would not know what we have until any new owner had taken over.

    • Mark interesting comment on current value of the club, which I agree with. I fully expect Rupp to sell up before his net investment gets even worse and he walks away with nothing. He probably wishes the day he didn’t get hoodwinked into buying the club. Rahic did a proper job on him.

      On a side, few clubs have sustained survival in the top leagues without being bank rolled by a person/group with deep pockets. I always wondered why no sugar daddy didn’t seriously take a punt on us. There are hardly any clubs left in the lower 2 divisions which not already owned by wealthy owners, that could genuinely be transformed from a med size club into big club: Given the right financial backing and infrastructure set up. Would I fancy such an adventure, compared to another 15 yrs in bottom two leagues. Damn right!!

  5. Hi Mark, thanks for your response. We appear to both share the same concern about ownership uncertainty. Especially if City are relegated this season. Time will tell if there is any validity to my skepticism of Rupp.

  6. I am.not sceptical about Rupps intent He was clearly conned by Rahic into funding the ‘Rahic ego trip’. He has no interest in the game and no emotional connection with Bradford. Clearly he will not continue to pour money into a bottomless pit and will want to recoup his investement or get as much of it back as possible. He has shown some sympathy towards the Bradford public by stating we deserve better and covering this seasons shortfall and given the manager some support in the January window. He must be considering his future and my guess is that he will try to sell soon.

    • Sad to say, if City are relegated I doubt Rupp will have any equity left to sell. The rumours surrounding Rupp and his innocence has no factual supporting evidence and therefore must be considered speculation. Why the media insist on posting these unsubstantiated rumours and putting Rupp on a pedestal is quite puzzling in light of the damage they have done.
      Interesting to note Rhodes latest comments on Rupp being an honourable man and promising to cover this year’s deficit includes no time frame for fulfilling that promise.
      City fans are likely to see how truly honourable Rupp is over the next six months. I sincerely hope he does not let us down.

      • Oh for Christ’s sake shut up. As if the season wasn’t bad enough, having you ruin every article on this website is not required.

  7. When I set off for the game yesterday, I resolved to try to be positive and cease moaning. It was hard going in the first half, at times, more frustrating than annoying as was last week.
    The second half was made much easier, with our players really moving themselves and the ball with great alacrity.
    Without becoming starry-eyed, I had an enjoyable match and have cause to believe we can still get out of the mess on the playing front.

  8. FAO WoodyCanuck

    Another week and another post match discussion hijacked by the same user making the same points. I think politeness is at breaking point now, but I’ll try and put together one last attempted reply to your argument. If this continues in future articles, your comments will be deleted.

    Nothing to do with restricting freedom of speech. I have no issue with you expressing your view, but repeating it again and again is becoming tiresome and alienating readers.

    So here goes…

    On the “unsubstantiated rumours” accusation, can I please ask you to re-read this article I wrote a year ago about our editorial stance and the way that we acquire and build up a picture about the club. https://widthofapost.com/2018/06/15/width-of-a-post-why-we-do-it/

    I (and I’m sure those in the real local media) do not make stuff up or repeat wild rumours. I can’t always say where we get stuff from, to protect or maintain the trust of sources. But that does not make them unsubstantiated. I think that after seven years reporting on Bradford City, WOAP deserves a bit more credit than that.

    The second point is that I don’t know of anyone in the local media, or otherwise in fact, who has put Stefan Rupp on a pedestal. If you have evidence of articles in the local media that back up your pedestal claim, I would gladly read them because I certainly must have missed them.

    Reading your many, many comments it seems painfully obvious that you have made your mind up on an issue and are only interested in finding stuff that supports your narrative, ie Stefan Rupp is a bad person. Anything contrary, no matter how insignificant, you dispute and accuse of being false. Sadly, in these modern times your approach is fairly typical in the way people form a view and hold onto it for dear life, on topics far weightier and of wider interest than Bradford CIty. See the Brexit debate, for example.

    This latest comment of you questioning/twisting Rhodes claim of Rupp covering the shortfall is just another example of this. Whatever your personal views on Rupp and the mess the club has got into since 2016, we should all surely be grateful that Rupp is prepared to clean it up and cover the losses made this season. That doesn’t mean we should all bow down and kiss his feet – no one has said that – but give him credit where it is due. Without his money, the club would be in administration now.

    My own personal view on Rupp is that I’m undecided, and I don’t see any reason to rush to form a conclusive judgement – positive or negative. I fully agree with Mark that he was duped by Rahic, and the consequences of that is he is now the owner of a foreign football club – a sport he doesn’t particularly care for. That he doesn’t live and breath Bradford City like the rest of us does not make him a bad person. And whilst it undoubtedly leaves big question marks about the future and his ongoing ownership, I applaud the fact that right now he is trying to do the right thing by fixing past mistakes and providing significant financial backing.

    There’s no question in my mind that Rupp feels a sense of responsibility for what Rahic did and his role in making that happen. But he is at least taking responsibility for that by his ongoing financial backing. You say that there is no factual evidence that he is innocent. Firstly, he is not innocent and no one has claimed that. But I would add it by asking what evidence could there possibly be that could produced to satisfy this demand you have? How do you prove, factually, that anyone is a good person?

    Is Rupp the right person to own Bradford City Football Club? I don’t know is the honest answer to that question. And, like you, I think over the coming months we will find out. I would also add that with the scars of Rahic yet to heel, we should all be vary wary of anyone who holds the ownership of our beloved football club. So scepticism is healthy.

    Rupp would be the first to admit he is not a football expert, and he does not personally have the expertise to run a club. He did not invest into Bradford City in a belief he had those skills, he thought his business partner had that know-how. And for now he employs Julian Rhodes to bring those skills. And whatever the future holds, as long as Rupp is the owner he will need a Rhodes or someone of equal ability to run the football club for him.

    But what Rupp can offer is considerable resources. He funded the club’s largest playing budget for 15 years, and as WOAP and the T&A have both reported it one of the biggest budgets in League One this season. He has discovered the club is on course to make a loss of £2 million this season, and he has agreed to cover that. And in January he funded the additional costs of keeping Jack Payne at Valley Parade for the rest of the season.

    Looking at all the whole situation, and the short-term concerns about staying in League One, I find it strange and counter-productive that you want to keep attacking him. What do you hope to achieve, exactly? Why don’t you join most right-minded City fans in believing that we have to pragmatically support Rupp right now, and that come the summer there is a debate to be had then about the future ownership of Bradford City football club?

    Right now, we are in an almighty mess. And I firmly believe that we all have a part to play in helping the club survive relegation.

    Jason

    • I think you’ve put that matter “to bed”, in excellent style, Jason.

    • Hello Jason,

      Pressed too early ! I’m replying to your request for clarification following my post last night.

      I would also include Tom Clare (fit for a couple of months now), Jordan Gibson (after his loan spell at Stevenage, he still has a year on his contact) and possibly Jake Reeves. I don’t include Tyrell as he is suspended.

      I’m not aware of any breach of club discipline or factors other than the Manager does not include them in his plans or training, which I think is poor or abysmal man management when as you stated that only 4 out of the 14 that took part yesterday are still under contract after May.

      To answer your second point, I would have a striker on the bench rather than Mellor. We appear to have two strikers (Doyle and Miller) with recently one coming on a sub for the other. The 89th minute appearance of Miller yesterday was strange unless as part of the ongoing loan agreement with Barnsley. Therefore I would have had either Patrick or Clare rather than Mellor based on the Manager’s view on seeing them train, if they are allowed to train with the first team squad.

      Hope this answers your questions, you certainly don’t have to agree with them ! but with only the Non League window still open (as pointed out by the Manager) and with all I have mentioned under contract some inclusivity may benefit our position both for team spirit and even providing options.

      Kind regards,

      John.

      • Hi John

        Thanks for your reply.

        To start with I think that it’s unfair on Hopkin to say the fact only 4 of the 14 who played have a contract next season is “poor or abysmal man management”. The issues with the mess he has inherited are well documented, and it is clear that the club has a) got a lot of transfers badly wrong before Hopkin joined and b) have restricted the manager from signing anyone on a deal beyond the end of this season (hence why Jim O’Brien left, because Notts County offered him a longer deal). Only 4 of the 14 players involved were signed by Hopkin, who has largely had to make do with what he has due to the financial issues. Player recruitment has gone badly wrong, hence our league position.

        I would also add that it happens all the time in football that a manager comes in, doesn’t like certain players and moves them on within 12 months. The fact Hopkin doesn’t like/rate/want to keep certain players is not unusual and seems understandable. I remember Phil Parkinson doing the same when he took over.

        In terms of the individual players mentioned, my understanding is this:

        Clare – been injured all season but now fit, however not in Hopkin’s immediate plans. Clare is only 19 and has never started a senior football match for Barnsley or City, and only a handful of us fans saw him play in pre-season. The clamour to play Clare from some fans is not based on any evidence of actually seeing him play. Surely we should back Hopkin’s judgement on this? Also, he is training with the squad as far as I’m aware.

        Gibson – given opportunities earlier in the season, and sadly didn’t take them. I feel for him as I liked him as a player, but hard to disagree that he didn’t make the most of his chances. Interestingly he has not started a game yet during his loan spell at Stevenage, and was an unused sub on Saturday.

        Reeves – is still injured and has not once been available for Hopkin, so certainly not the manager’s fault. Clearly some personal issues going on with Reeves, but unfair to speculate or criticise the player for them without knowing the facts.

        Wright/Riley – neither training with the first team. I’m told their attitude has been very poor. And the performances earlier in the season were not good enough from either player. It is worth noting that not only did Hopkin not sign these players, but neither did Michael Collins. They both arrived during that period where Rahic had no head coach but was making signings anyway. Utter madness, and costly too.

        Patrick – loaned out to Yeovil by Michael Collins just before he was sacked. Only scored one goal at Yeovil and by all accounts did not play particularly well – he only started one match. He also had a poor time of it at City last season after a promising first couple of months. Is he a player who can really make a difference? I would suggest not.

        It’s all very well that some of these players have a contract for next season, but are they good enough to be in the squad? Do they deserve to be picked ahead of others in the team or on the bench, just because they have a longer-term deal? I’m struggling to see how any of these players are the answer.

        I fully agree with you about wanting to see more strikers on the bench, but it’s a question of quality and personally I’m not convinced it’s there in reserve.

    • Jason, thank you for your pragmatic post, much appreciated. Hopefully, you won’t hear anymore from me on this subject, anytime soon. I’m confident that my skepticism about Rupp will resolve itself over the next six months and hopefully for the better.

  9. I think as a group of fans we need to be ‘nice’ to Herr Rupp.
    As stated quite clearly Rahic led him up a garden path and as a result Herr Rupp has potentially.lost a lot of money and is also perhaps a bit embarrased that ge has been badly treated by Rahic. It is said Herr Rupp has little interest in football and no emotional attachment to Bradford

    Putting to one side his own ‘hurt’ of the way he was conned and any financial tribulation, he has stated that we, as fans, were also treated badly and deserve better, so he has some empathy for us. We can only empathise with him and hope that he continues with his goodwill

    At the end of the day he has the ultimate control over our destiny.

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