By Andrew Collinson
After the announcement of club legend Stuart McCall, the vast majority of fans voiced their excitement at the appointment, and some, just sheer relief.
Seeing some long-awaited attacking football is a mouth-watering prospect after the overly pragmatic approach adopted by Gary Bowyer.
It’s strange, really, how quickly emotions can change in football, and they wildly fluctuate at Bradford City Football Club.
High hopes and harsh realities
Despite the incredibly disheartening end to last season, it’s fair to say that Bradford City fans were quietly confident last summer; marquee signings of James Vaughan and Bradford-born Clayton Donaldson suggested that the club was recruiting not only quality, but players who would give their all for the shirt, something that was severely lacking last season.
Bowyer himself showed fans that he was keen to engage with them, and repair the bond that had seemingly been broken, when he spent time calling some to simply thank them for renewing their season tickets.
However, the last couple of months have seen that quiet confidence dwindle, with fans becoming increasingly vocal as a result of the overly defensive tactics that has seen the Bantams amass just three points from a possible 21. It became evident that Bowyer had lost the confidence of Bradford City supporters – and this, alongside the poor run of results, ultimately spelled the end of his tenure.
A common goal
Announcing Stuart McCall as manager, less than 24 hours after the club and Bowyer parted ways, seemed to immediately galvanise supporters. A sense of optimism and belief has returned, after it was briefly experienced in the earlier stages of the season, but had since dissipated.
It seems like years since the last time so many supporters were in agreement that the club had seemingly, for once, made the right decision. The board Julian Rhodes and Stephan Rupp need this to work, and the coming months will reveal if McCall is the right choice.
For the last two years the club has been on a downward spiral, and while things have stabilised, albeit without drastic improvement, fans have felt cut off from the club. Sanctioning the departures of two of the league’s highest scorers in January certainly didn’t help matters. The fans have been crying out for someone who represents them and ultimately, someone who is a fan themselves.
Although this is McCall’s third spell in charge, this time it feels different. Firstly, Stuart has inherited one of the strongest squads in the division, many of whom have played in League One and the Championship. This is in stark contrast to his last spell in charge where he managed to get the club, despite its mid-table budget, to the play off final.
Secondly, the players he has inherited appear to suit his attacking philosophy. He’ll have quality wingers for the division in Zeli Ismail, Dylan Connolly and recent addition Glenn Middleton; technical attacking midfielders in Harry Pritchard, Shay McCartan and Jamie Devitt, supported by Connor Wood, who has proved to be an effective attacking outlet for City.
Lastly, Stuart McCall has been given the title of ‘Manager’, not the much maligned ‘Head Coach’. Not only does this mean that McCall will have more say in the transfer market this summer, but it also shows that the club’s hierarchy has absolute confidence in him.
With the fans hungrier than ever for attacking football, Stuart is sure to at least deliver on that front. This arrangement needs to work for all concerned, and now, more than ever is the time to get behind the players and management.