The fifth coming

By Jason McKeown

Stuart McCall is back at Bradford City for a third spell as manager, and a fifth period at a club where he enjoys a 40-year association.

McCall has swiftly being re-appointed in the wake of Gary Bowyer’s sacking, with an initial remit to get the Bantams promoted over the final 15 games of the season. There’s a heavy sense of irony that he comes in just after a defeat at Oldham did for a City manager. It is almost two years ago to the day that McCall himself was axed following a loss at Boundary Park.

That sacking was hugely controversial, given City were in a strong league position and the horrors of Edin Rahic’s leadership were starting to become known. It is true that the Bantams were experiencing really poor form under McCall, with six straight defeats and some very poor performances. However, the mitigating circumstances of morale hurt by Rahic’s overbearing style, a bad injury list and a very poorly executed January transfer window approach left some 80% of City fans still backing McCall. Even in defeat, and in what proved to be his final game, McCall’s name was sung throughout.

The decision to sack McCall pushed the Bantams into a downward spiral that they’ve still not recovered from. The club has gone through Simon Grayson, Michael Collins, David Hopkin and Bowyer, but no one has been able to revive City’s fortunes. The Bantams have fallen from being consistently in League One’s top six under McCall, to slumming in League Two. No one can say, with any credibility, that sacking McCall two years ago was a good decision. It seemed the wrong call then, and the perspective of time shows that to be even truer.

It’s wasn’t just McCall’s excellent record during his second spell as manager that many fans have pined for, but the bold and adventurous style that has been missed. He takes over a team that has recorded just 12 shots on target in eight games. That is not a cautious approach that McCall will maintain. Expect to see attacking play, at last.

I got to know McCall a little during his last spell in charge. And, indeed, interviewed him just days after his sacking, on the night where City were playing away at Charlton. McCall was devastated by what happened, but characteristically honest and humble about where it had gone wrong. The relationship between Rahic and McCall had not been good, and in the fullness of time the failings and problems of Edin have come to light to everyone. It is remarkable just how successful McCall was against a backdrop of interference and limited control.

What struck me so much that night of interviewing him was how much McCall was still hugely passionate about the team he had managed. He’d listened to radio commentary at home of City’s next game after his sacking, a 2-2 draw with Bury, and was anxious to get the interview done in time so he could follow the Bantams’ trip to Charlton. He talked about the team selected that night by Greg Abbott, and players he was backing to produce. Some managers in that position would quietly want the club to fail, but McCall was desperate for City to win. He was incredibly proud to be Bradford City manager, and his love for the club knew no bounds.

These facts alone don’t make him the right man to be Bradford City manager again. But that love and passion for the club – coupled with an enhanced coaching ability, compared to his first spell in charge of the Bantams – is a powerful force. And with the greyness of City right now, bringing someone who can instil passion into the players, and re-energise the fanbase, can only be a good thing.

McCall will look at a squad that is vastly different from the one he left behind two years ago, but will be encouraged by the attacking options at his disposal. He inherits a team with a strong home record and in a decent league position. If he can restore their confidence and set them up more positively, it wouldn’t take much to build some momentum and get City pushing for promotion again.

Above all else, McCall is a motivator. He has a track record of players relishing playing for him, and giving their all to the cause. Abbott has since revealed that the biggest issue Grayson had faced at City was the loyalty of the players to McCall, who as a group were devestated by his sacking. During his first spell as City manager, McCall struggled badly to lift the team after defeat, triggering losing runs. But second time around, it was only just before his sacking that City recorded back to back defeats.

Whilst some City supporters understandably have big reservations right now, McCall was the only realistic candidate that can bring fans together. Even if you do have misgivings, he’s not someone that any City fan wants to fail. And so he offers the potential to galvanise the club.

There is a fear that it could go wrong again, and that the emotional rollercoaster of his last two exits is replayed for a third time. But there is also a big chance of achieving long overdue success. Promotion, if it was to to come, would taste all the sweeter for having the club’s biggest legend in charge. And especially after the pain of what he went through last time.

McCall needs this. He was very unlucky to lose his job last time, but a less than brilliant time at Scunthorpe had seemingly placed him on the managerial scrapheap. It’s probably his last chance to prove a success as a manager. An opportunity he wouldn’t get elsewhere. But his experience in good times and bad stands him in good stead. He can lift a deflated Valley Parade. And get some belief and excitement back into the club.

A dull season has just got a whole lot more interesting. Welcome back to Bradford City, Stuart McCall.

Categories: News, Opinion

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36 replies

  1. A good option to galvanise, the team, fans with the remit to get us into the play offs. The situation can be reviewed in May. I genuinely wish Stuart all the best for the rest of the season and hopefully this appointment will be third time lucky.

  2. I think Paul Hurst’s failure at Scunthorpe shows there was probably something underlying there that was stopping success. I do agree this will be his last chance to deliver as a manager , but would you back against him? I wouldn’t. 🙂

  3. Excellent. Unfinished business. An absolute disgrace that Radic sacked him at a time when he should’ve been backed to the hilt.
    Exciting times

  4. Let’s put it this way.
    I decided not to waste my time going to watch city next Saturday .
    I now can’t wait to go.
    Best of fortune Stuart.
    I am excited and looking forward to the reception he gets.
    I had reservations but don’t have them now.
    I pleaded with Rhodes to act and he has done so big time

  5. Happy Stuart’s back. Pure sentiment I just want to see a McCall team promoted. Think it would really galvanise the club aswell if he can bring success. As fans we have to be the 12th man between now and May. AND maybe the football gods may just smile on us

  6. City Fans You’ve GOT YOUR MAN so no more squabbling just get supporting like you know how and we will get promoted on a sea of emotion The BRADFORD way

  7. Brilliant! Should never have lost his job anyway and, with the Oldham symmetry, it feels like the last 24 months have been an awful sliding doors moment where we totally made the wrong call. The third coming as manager ought to be his last so – please – this time, let’s give him the support he needs to succeed.

    Because there is already a big risk in this. I worry that Rhodes’s “Big Book of Solutions” just has “Hire Stuart McCall” scribbled inside, as we turn to this magnificent man every time we can. He never, ever let’s anyone down. But we let him down.

    First time around, the horror of second administration still loomed over what he could achieve as he tried to find his feet as a manager. Second time around, he had an over-bearing Rahic micro-managing everything to destruction.

    But this third time around, he might just find the exact opposite – two owners of the club who don’t want to manage anything at all, and would both rather be far, far away doing other things – and so be left to succeed / fail without the proper support.

    I felt we let Bowyer down a little, in not providing an adequate infrastructure for him to succeed (no assistant, no real scouts, limited match analysis, only Drury as coach). Maybe Bowyer wasn’t the man to back. Maybe nobody truly believed he’d deliver.

    But at the third time of asking, by McGod the club had better give Stuart what he needs to succeed. He worked miracles last time in the face of so much adversity and we shouldn’t simply expect that to happen again.

    Now the transfer window is gone, invest off-the-field in a proper support structure for the next ten years at least. Put things in place to make the club work as a football club.

    He might find a toaster down at Woodhouse Grove this time around; but until we have more than the basics in place, we are already preparing to fail. Let Stuart plan for the long term, let him rebuild the club. If he isn’t the man to do that, I don’t know who is or ever will be.

    But a 15-month contract suggests that wasn’t the conversation they had.

    So good luck Stuart. I love you and you have my unwavering support.

    I just hope the club has promised you the same.

  8. Players have no excuses now to do their best, McCall is a guy who treats people with warmth, honesty and respect.

    We may lose some games this season but I won’t complain too much as I know McCall will be asking them to play as a team, to pass the ball on the ground more often and to attack as a unit rather than hopeful punts upfield.

    Ironically McCall has a better suite of attacking players than he did last time round, Cooke, Pritchard, Ismail, Devitt, Middleton, Donaldson, McCarton, Guthrie have probably more goals in them than Poleon, Hiwula, Clarke, Gillead, Law and Wyke.

    Can’t wait to see how he managed to blend them!

  9. Absolutely thrilled…… my only reservation is the state of the pitch which will hinder the style of football he will want to play which was a factor in his first spell….welcome back pal…no egomaniacs to deal with this time!!

  10. The lad’s come home, good luck Stuart.

  11. All hail the Messiah!

  12. Fantastic news!!
    I can’t wait for Saturday!!

  13. When city fans wanted McCalls return,I was doubtful weather it was a good idea I would have preferred someone from beyond the club.But I’ve got to say I’m looking forward to the rest of this season bring it on Stewart bring it on.

  14. Another good analysis from Jason, particularly the few final paragraphs. I have reservations, but Stuart and the club will continue to have my support. I feel the decision has its foundation in commercial issues relating to season ticket sales as the club could not allow GB to fail. and consequently he was not given the opportunity to work with the incoming players. But Stuart’s appointment sidesteps that as he inherits a squad not of his making, and whether we get promotion or not he is likely to get the chance to rebuild given the number of players going out of contract.

  15. I am so tired of the short term thinking at City, McCall is what we know he is, a club legend that can motivate players and play entertaining football. He is also the guy with no plan B. There is a good chance he can get us out of this league and I will enjoy watching the effort but equally as good a chance we’ll fail in the important game when the oppo sets up to counter the style and we can’t adapt.

    The club needs a vision and a commitment to it, we have a reluctant owner, a part time CEO and a cost cutting nature that clearly acted on the managerial appointment only when season ticket sales were in jeopardy. I cannot recall any team ever letting a manager have a transfer window and then sacking him before he could even use the players. Any healthily organisation would have made the move 2 weeks ago.

    Rahic, when he started he had a vision, invest in the playing surface, invest in youth, build a family club the area can be proud of, keep the pricing realistic. It was a joy to hear a 5 year plan, unfortunately his execution was an unmitigated disaster that has left us here now. And here now is, make a very safe choice at manager, back him with no structure (do we have an analytics team, a structured scouting network, a commercial leader), hope it goes well and hope someone comes along to buy us. It might get us to L1 but it isn’t going higher.

    • Mega, I appreciate the comments expressed in your first two paragraphs. However, to say that Rahic and Rupp (don’t forget him) had a plan is truly polishing a turd. Their plan was so naive and delusional. Any football knowledgeable fan should have seen that it was unfeasible.

      I look forward to seeing Stuart consolidate the Club and the playoffs would be a bonus. It’s important that we all remain realistic with our expectations.

      • Well depends what you mean, the plan was ‘invest in youth’, that is both achievable and feasible.

        However Rahic executed that by culling every senior professional and replacing them with young and very inexperienced players, giving them no support structure, no leadership and an u18 coach. Anyone (except the guy making the decision) could see that would be a disaster.

        The problem is now we have no plan, no vision, no goals, that is better than disastrously spinning into oblivion but it’s nothing to get excited about.

  16. Only one thing to I did when I first saw him on the pitch back in 1987……….”Stuart Stuart Stuart” !

  17. Welcome home Stuart.

  18. The messiah has returned.

  19. My favourite all time player, who comes across as an entertaining guy and someone who loves City, as much as we all do. He will get my 100% support. Really hope it works out and that we can have dignified succession planning in place, so that he can rightly retain his place amongst City legends and us the supporters(hell I will buy him a Season Ticket!).

  20. Excellent as usual jason. The man, the legend, the club, all summed up in perfect prose. I was sceptical last time, and thought initially it was right for him to go, especially when Grayson failed too, but the whole story wasnt yet known and it is now. Stuart is the man for this moment, of that I am sure. If anyone can turn this ship its Stuart and I salute him for still daring to dream and Julian for acting quickly and in the right way.

  21. Welcome back Stuart and good luck it’s never been the same since you left finally we will get to see some attacking entertaining football

  22. Alleluia, hallelujah, alleluia, hallelujah, alleluia

    With 15 games to go a miracle on Valley Parade, from dreading the next game to can’t wait for Saturday now what a turnaround, hat’s off to the board, big change before the rot set in and who better to walk through the door, I love McCall’s style playing at a high tempo, you might concede 2 but you could also score 4.

    If you want to sell 20,000 tickets for next season, then that’s the correct way to go about it, let’s not expect too much for Saturday’s game against Grimsby, as we all know McCall always draw’s His 1st game, I hope He breaks His duck and gets a win, but this is surely a big step in the right direction.


  23. How good is it going to be to be singing “Stuart McCall’s Bradford Army” on Saturday. Gives me goosbumps thinking about it. Good luck to Stuart and please let it be third time lucky.

  24. Couldn’t be happier.
    We should all get behind OUR man and and OUR team.
    Can’t wait to go on Saturday.
    Come on CITY!!!!

  25. I’m pleased Stuart will get another crack at the club. He was treated very poorly by our Mr I know football.

    My stance has always been to the management and players is Entertain me … defeats are always hard to take but it’s how you lose .

    With Stuart Mcall I know we will go out and try and win the game with entertaining football.

  26. The words written by Tony W above were the words written by my 10 year year old Godson to his Dad earlier today, Stuart Stuart Stuart. This is also the same lad who had just turned 8 years old and was holding back his tears at Wembley when we lost to Millwall in the play off final. Since then, my Godson has witnessed first hand our spirial of decline during the past 2 years. However, the news of Stuart McCall’s return to our football club has got my Godson excited again, especially after he was in the away end at Boundary Park last Saturday.

  27. Pleased to see Stuart come back, but I think it would’ve made more sense to initially appoint him until the end of the season, and then offer him a longer term deal if he did well during that period.

    Hopefully his 3rd spell will be a success, and he will get that promotion on his C.V that he fully deserves.

    • Whilst I can see the merits in your suggestion Rob, a short term appointment just smacks of the chronic short termism that dogs this football club.

      It’s not that we don’t know what Stuart and Kenny are all about and what they can do.

      We need long term stability; to build the club up again around someone who can connect the fans with the club. Stuart is that man. He is the living embodiment of the values of BCFC. Values that seem to have drifted away.

      As has been said before – Stuart won’t let us down, but will the club and fans let him down by not giving him the support he needs? I hope that this time around, lessons learned from the disgraceful way he was treated (by a man who had a total lack of respect for our values) mean that he will get the backing he needs to bring the success we all crave.

      • After he struggled at Scunthorpe, personally I would’ve given Stuart until the end of the season to show he’s still got his “managerial mojo” so to speak, and then have given him a long term deal if he impressed.

        I actually think only giving him effectively 18 months, is a bit of a short term appointment in itself, and if we had deemed that he deserved a long term deal, it should’ve been an extra year on top of that, to give him the chance to build something.

  28. I’ve spent the last 2 years arguing with many how his sacking was such a stupid decision. Everything since supports that. I’m delighted to see him back but that is tempered by the squad of players and over expectations by some fans. It may take a few games for the players to readjust if they can at all, problem is that eats into the 15 games and others around us have both momnetum and games in hand, making the task to reach the play-offs all the more difficult. At least though we should see some shots and crosses. Not sure that our dfence and midfield are good enough tbh, but Stuart will at least give them the chance to show us….good luck Stuart

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