A familiar story

Image by John Dewhirst

Newport County 2

Inniss 28, Bennett 33

Bradford City 1

Donaldson 26

By Adam Raj

Stuart McCall has been in charge of four games. We’ve scored the first goal in three of those. How many of those three have we won? Zero. This Bradford City team has it’s glaring deficiencies, but probably none more so than the obvious lack of game management and character.

The phrase ‘character’ is something I’ve often scoffed at in the past, seeing it as something used to excuse players of limited ability. But, it’s only now when you have the displeasure of watching this Bradford City side on a weekly basis, that you really understand and value the players who have that winning mentality and that never say die attitude.

You look back at the last Bantams side who you could call largely successful, and that is the side of the 2016/17 season, and the characters we were truly fortunate to have. Colin Doyle, Tony McMahon, Rory McArdle, James Meredith, Billy Clarke, Romain Vincelot, Mark Marshall, I could go on. Even those who had limited game time that season like Stephen Darby and Matt Killgallon. It’s only when you list those players off, you realise that they are a world apart from what we have now in terms of their mental strength.

Last week’s late collapse at Cambridge was not much of a surprise to the 800+ City supporters who witnessed that second half. And today was probably not a surprise to any City fan at all. Newport County had failed to score in their last four outings and were in the midst of an injury crisis. City, not only handed them their first goal in that time, but also their first win in six. Typical.

In response to last week, Stuart McCall made one change, Clayton Donaldson replaced Shay McCartan as City lined up in a 4-4-2 shape. Playing on a cow field of a pitch, as bad as Valley Parade, meant the game was not going to be one for the purists. McCall had spoken about this during the week and commented on the need for City to really dig in and fight if they were to come away with the three points. Instructions and directions that fell on deaf ears right from the start of the game as the visitors were second to every ball and giving it away for fun.

It was the hosts who had the first golden opportunity of the game. An in-swinging Ryan Haynes cross from the right flank was headed high and wide by towering centre half Ryan Inniss, who should’ve done better. City grew into the game slowly and went close through Donaldson when his header was saved by Tom King following a Glenn Middleton knock down.

Then, out of nothing, a deep Connor Wood cross was headed home at the far post by Donaldson. City, ahead after 26 minutes, needed to do what we failed to do last week, and that was capitalise on our advantage.

Instead, the goal seemed to galvanise the hosts, who responded imminently. City, expecting a cross from a Haynes corner were caught out as he played it short to skipper Josh Sheehan whose bobbly hook towards goal was headed home by Inniss. City heads dropped and Newport, in stark contrast to the Bantams, had the bit between their teeth. They sensed the fragility, as Cambridge had done last week, and like their amber rivals, hit City with a quick one-two.

Another corner resulted in another goal. This time, Lee Novak, who had another torrid afternoon, failed to react to the second ball, allowing Scott Bennett to slam home on the half volley. Two goals in five minutes for the side who had gone 443 minutes without scoring.

The game fizzled out to half time with City offering nothing since going ahead. A half time substitution saw Adam Henley replaced by Paudie O’Connor. City moved to a 3-4-1-2 with Dylan Mottley-Henry filling in at right wing-back and Middleton having a free role behind the strikers. Initially, the second half was more of the same – long balls, misplaced passes and a lack of control over the game. However, as was in the first half, City grew into it.

Jake Reeves saw a long range effort deflected onto the crossbar five minutes in, before Newport were denied a third goal by a good Richard O’Donnell double save. Clayton Donaldson somehow failed to connect with a Middleton corner which saw Newport keeper Tom King in no mans land. But, City came a little closer in the 76th minute, as Middleton had a shot excellently blocked by Inniss who then blocked Paudie O’Connor’s follow up when he was still laying on the floor. It was the sort of bodies on the line commitment that typified the hosts this afternoon.

A few decent enough chances to salvage something from a game which showed us up in many areas. But, our current striking options simply aren’t good enough. Lee Novak looked a fairly adequate addition in his first two games, scoring twice, but the two games since have passed him by. The job we needed him to do both last week and this week of holding the ball up to relieve pressure simply didn’t happen. And then when presented with scoring chances, he fluffed his lines in both games.

The decision to loan out James Vaughan and replace him with Novak and Kurtis Guthrie looks more and more ridiculous as the weeks go on. That decision, in my opinion, hampered McCall before he even walked through the door. I have seen some people criticise Vaughan for the fact he is quick to hit the deck, but ironically, it is exactly that which we have been missing, among many other things of course, in the last few games.

Neither Novak or Donaldson have done an adequate job of holding the ball up and winning fouls high up the pitch. An ugly job, but a necessary one with where we are.

One of Gary Bowyer’s favourite terms to describe this squad was ‘honest’. He used to roll it out at every press conference but I’m not so sure that’s the case. What I see, is a squad lacking in confidence and belief. A squad still containing some players scarred by last season’s disaster. A squad lacking a strong spine. A squad which contains several good players but who have, for want of a better word, been ‘bowyered’.

It may not be a popular opinion, but I think the damage which Gary Bowyer did to this squad, in terms of their confidence, is huge. I don’t see our players enjoying playing for us and playing with a smile on their face and you have to wonder why that is the case. Even the goal celebrations have been muted.

It’s a hard task for McCall to overturn. One which he may not be able to do without a summer clear out, which would be the third in three seasons. Whilst that does nothing for the want of stability within the squad, it may present our best option, with the last of Edin Rahic’s remaining expensive purchases being out of contract.

For this season, whilst it’s hard to throw in the towel, only being four points from seventh, it does feel like its unlikely that this group of players will achieve what was deemed a necessity this season and each passing game at this moment in time does nothing to ease those fears.

Image by John Dewhirst

Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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33 replies

  1. Good report which sums up what those of us who did not watch suspected . But what gets to me is the reason why City are so bad. If you look at the pedigree of the players you can see that they are not good, but they are not that bad. There must be a reason which I trust McCall to identify and cure.
    Your comment about our lack of goal celebration is fascinating because it was obvious when Donaldson scored .
    As I say, the underlying cause of the malaise must be identified . Maybe it’s somewhere in the personnel of the squad but it is there . McCall must cure it .
    I shall be there next week to see.

    • Yes, I’ve just looked at the Donaldson goal and not one player went to celebrate with him, almost like when a team is 5-0 down and they score a consolation goal.

      We’ve scored first and it looks like no one’s bothered, other than the scorer. It’s clear something’s badly wrong at City, and we can’t blame Rahic!

  2. Newport County are an ordinary side but one comprising players who are well organised and who work for each other. Today they demonstrated the sort of team spirit and focused approach that is sadly lacking in the City side.

    It doesn’t take expensive signings to overcome the likes of Newport County or the vast majority of other fourth division teams. In fact the Bantams payroll is probably significantly higher than that of Newport. What is lacking is a sense of purpose and urgency. Supporters feel cheated of the honest endeavour that could be expected of their team.

    The absence of an on-field leader is a massive handicap. However the biggest failing of players wearing the claret and amber in the last two years has been one of attitude and it’s clear that the weaknesses of last season remain. Make no bones about it, Stuart McCall has a big job on his hands but ultimately it is about the basics and it is terrible indictment of the way that the club has been run that we are in this position.

  3. We’re like a ship drifting aimlessly at sea. The “feelgood” McCall factor has disappeared in a flash. It’s alright saying the last of Edin’s expensive misfits will be gone in the summer but how about Bowyer’s “wasted” window signings? Another torrid afternoon for Novak, Guthrie cast aside quick sticks and Middleton playing, probably at Rangers insistence.

    Lack lustre on the pitch and lack lustre behind the scenes. Why on earth was Bowyer trusted with the January window when, for weeks earlier, he was effectively a dead man walking?

    A squad, high on numbers and low on quality, heart and application. On the basis of the last ten game form league, we’re relegation material and, for the majority of this season, I’d say that’s just about right.

    • Hiring Stuart virtually assures the City Brain Trust of stable season ticket sales for next season. Likely the only commendable decision made since Rahic’s departure. Talk of 20,000 season ticket sales and promotion to the Championship within five years by City management being examples of wishful thinking which border’s on delusional. At least next season we won’t be relying on ex Blackpool players for recruitment.

      Next week, I’ll be disappointed if there is not at least three changes to today’s starting lineup. If necessary, change the formation in order of ensuring that Akpan doesn’t start and Luke McGee should be given another start.

  4. Can’t wait for next season…..

    Re-building required big time…..

    Just gentle reminder to all those players who wanted to play for a big club with a big fan base, get out there and show it, what attracted you was the stature, passion, and desire of a club bigger than the league, disgraceful, the Great Fans of this City travelling all that way to watch you play with no fight, no creativity and most of all no quality, that was diabolical, if I was a City player I would have bowed my head in shame, got on my knees and bowed & praised them travelling supporters, because you are not worthy to represent this Club.

    If I was Stuart, I would cut my losses now, and play all the contracted players left at the end of the season, and put all the Bradford players in within the squad like Dylan Motley Henry, Devine and Donaldson and throw in the rest with the Bradford youth players, with the others left on the bench if they are lucky enough to get in the match day picked squad.

    I know a lot of people will think this is ridiculous, but how can this be worse, we may get some kind of results from commitment alone with attachment to the club, cos this shower are not interested.

    Shame, shame, shame.

    Dreading Saturday now again.

  5. Our form over the last 3 months would surely be relegation form – and when you consider some of those results were through penalties or our only shot on target (Morecambe) and it brings home just how poor we are.

    Stuart in the past seemed to do better when we had the confidence of a few good performances and wins as he managed to prolong it.

    At the same time his biggest struggles were when the side had no confidence and were in a poor run of form – often he would look clueless in being able to stop it (e.g. think first spell, second season collapse from March onwards).

    We have just continued the rot from last season into the this and we could well carry it into next year as well.

  6. A squad which contains several good players but who have, for want of a better word, been ‘bowyered’. I love the verb to Bowyer. I assume this means that players who had any desire to attack, demonstrate forward movement, be spontaneous and score goals, who now have had these doubtful and dangerous instincts removed? Let’s hope Stuart can debowyer them!

    I also totally agree with John Dewhirst’s comments about the way the club has been run.

  7. No leadership qualities anywhere on the park
    Starting Akpan is an insult to supporters with eyes because he just about sums this team up and he in the engine room

    • Starting Akpan ahead of Pritchard makes absolutely no sense to me. Zero work rate. You are effectively playing one in centre mid. Really puzzling

  8. I listened to yesterday’s game. It sounded like so many other away performances it was as if there was a script to follow.
    When Stuart McCall was interviewed he referred to the players’ failures in taking responsibility at key moments.
    What underlies such a failing.
    Usually, it shows a lack of care for those with whom you work. It shows you have no pride in your personal performance. It shows you couldn’t care less about your workplace and those connected with it.
    Some of our players, more than could reasonably be expected, can’t even turn up for work- twinges to this, that and the other all contributing to a sense of disarray when it comes to match days.
    This is not merely Bowyer’s fault. Recruitment has been abysmal since the club was sold and is symptomatic of a club with no clear organisation, goals and plans to achieve such goals.
    The people at the top really need to get to work on what they want to achieve or this drift will continue.
    With Leeds looking set for promotion and Burnley doing well again, keeping hold of new, young fans will become harder with no success to encourage them.

  9. So, the new manager “bounce” didn’t last long!

    The players are not playing for this manager, just like for Bowyer, Hopkin, Collins, Grayson, or who was it then? Ah yes McCall for the 2nd time.

    Only Bradford City could appoint a manager for the 3rd time who has failed twice before!! We must be the laughing stock of the football world to keep repeating the same mistake. Great players do not have the divine right to become great managers. In fact, the opposite usually applies.

    It is surely time to start again – a new board, new team and new manager.

    • Can you explain by what metric Stuart “failed” last time, given he was sacked in February with City in the play offs, the best managerial win record since the 80s, and 18 months of constantly in the play offs? Also can you explain what subsequent evidence there has been that sacking McCall was a good decision? I mean the last two years have been brilliant haven’t they?

      • Those stats read favorably but as I said a few weeks ago, Stu doesn’t seem to have a plan b. He wants the players happy, working hard and playing with the commitment he showed, when he gets that, he can go on great runs but when it’s not working or when it stops, he doesn’t look like he can turn that around. Last time he was sacked, I certainly didn’t think he just needed a week or two to stop the rot.

        However, the manager is not the problem, we are a club with no structure. We have no scouting, no long term thinking, no developing players, no leader. A club like any business, without leadership, vision and structure is failure.

        The sad thing is I don’t see how It changes, Rupp isn’t going to drive it, there are no buyers seemingly around the corner that want an expensive damaged asset.

      • I think that you will find that McCall was sacked in Feb 2018 after 5 successive defeats. Though I do agree that since then City have gone backwards.

        My point is that City replaced Bowyer in haste and should have gone for a manager with a track record of achieving promotions rather than appointing McCall – again. .

      • You may be proven right in time but it seems ridiculous to write off McCall after only four games.

      • I also seem to recall the rot (under Stuarts last tenure) started when Luke Hendrie travelled to Yeovil only to find out that Voldemort had ‘Spoken’ & he was out . . . . The team effectively went on strike that day & remained so until the end of the season when they were ‘allowed’ to leave. That was when they (by choice or not) gave Voldemort the excuse to sack Stuart. Luke H respectfully didn’t celebrate his goal a couple of weeks ago).

  10. Have just watched the highlights several time’s and the performance didn’t look terrible. We had four chances – Newport has three but they scored two of those. Stuart has his hands tied this season – lets see what happens at VP on Saturday.

    • City with the wind at their back in the second half had one weak effort on goal. That says it all about how inept, City truly are.

    • It wasn’t a pretty game to watch, that is for sure. The point is that this was a fixture that was winnable and should have yielded 3 points. That is the measure of yesterday’s performance. We had a real chance to take control of the game and have it sewn up by half-time but we collapsed and after conceding the second goal never looked like scoring. It might not have looked bad on the highlights but I doubt you’ll find anyone who was at the game who derived any comfort from what they saw. It’s not just the players’ confidence that is at a low ebb…

  11. Here we go again everybody needs to calm down this is a very broken club both on & off the field of play.
    We need to get behind this appointment
    it’s somebody we know and his heart is in it where else and who else are we going to in the current situation.
    I heard some fans coming out with fantasy managers before the appointment get real McCall will be cheap the club is not in a cash cow position the position of season tickets for the next season is crucial.
    Get ready for a bumpy ride we are very nearly at the last throw of the dice.

    • The vast majority of supporters have been positive about Stuart’s appointment and are fully behind him. The comments on this page reflect the fact that people have come to terms with just how badly broken is the club and if anything reflects a realignment of expectation which is wholly necessary.

  12. The hiring of Stuart buys the City Brain Trust a 15 month reprieve. It consolidates support for the Club and ensures minimal disruption to season ticket sales. Sad to say the road ahead looks bumpy with lots of uncertainty. I hope next season that expectations are a lot more realistic.

  13. What is the City Brain Trust? If it is intended to be a witty comment it’s failing miserably.

  14. Actually, I’m not trying to be witty but being diplomatic by not mentioning them by name, Rhodes and Rupp. I’ve noted a lot of sensitivity on this forum to any criticism against them. Like a number of posters have mentioned since Saturday the Club is broken and who else can you blame other than the “Brain Trust.” Unless of course, your one of those fans who still think Rupp was duped and blameless for this ongoing “sad saga.”

    We are only a month away from City’s financial reporting to Companies House. Should make for interesting reading. “Beware the Ides of March???”

    • I think you are being simplistic. Stefan Rupp is not beyond criticism but you have to sympathise with his predicament. Throwing money at the club is not going to be a solution given the problems of attitude on the pitch although cash to fund the losses won’t go amiss. By the same token he is undoubtedly looking for a buyer but struggling with the prospect of just writing off a big fortune invested in his BCAFC project. I know it’s tempting to look for scapegoats but this is not going to be an instant fix even if Rupp disappears and we should be wary of what we wish for. As for what the financial reporting of last year’s results have to do with the current situation I don’t know.

  15. Damien, obviously your a lot more kind hearted than I am. I have absolutely no sympathy for Rupp. If he was duped he was naive and gullible. Being a successful businessman I truly doubt that was the case. Currently, if he sells the Club he is looking at a loss of five million or less. For an investor reportedly worth a hundred million or more this is a minor loss of 5% or less which is quite acceptable to most investors. Interesting to note, you don’t say a word in defence of Rhodes. As for next month’s financial reporting, fans actually get to see a glimmer of transparency rather than having to rely on speculation.

    • To be honest he argument about whether anyone has sympathy for Rupp or not is akin to looking st a bad divorce.

      Either way the the kid (Bradford City) is the one that gets affected the most! Forget which parent you sympathise with and focus on the club’s predicament.

      If Rupp walks away we are screwed as we will be even worse off and if he stays he won’t want to invest heavily as it’s not his project really. It is in the best interests of Bfd City (our club) AND for Rupp that a buyer makes a reasonable offer that at least offsets most of the money Rupp put in to the project that Rahic sold to him.

      Rupp is s businessman and will prob accept a hit on his investment but isn’t going to go out there and state it publicly!

      A reasonable offer is win/win for buyer, seller AND Bradford City!

  16. He wasn’t the first gullible businessman and won’t be the last. Anyone seriously believing that BCAFC is a profitable investment opportunity has to get a smell of the coffee. However the daftest thing he did was not to walk away when he realised the black hole pist Rahic. Had he done so you’d have had reason to condemn the man. Anyway hopefully we’ll get a new benign owner and you can instruct him on how to spend his money.

  17. Damian, look at the big picture before commending Rupp for not walking away. Two significant reasons for him not walking away:
    1. The Club still had market value and he is responsible for covering all the outstanding debt.
    2. Walking away would have also included turning his back on the £3 million McBurnie windfall.

    I am amazed how the media and Rhodes are portraying Rupp to be the benevolent benefactor. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Simply put, Rupp’s motivation is primarily focused on stabilizing the Club with no further investment from him and hopefully recouping some of his losses prior to selling the Club.

    • In November, 2018 when Stefan Rupp took back control of the club it was on the verge of insolvency and unable to pay that month’s wages without a cash injection. My understanding is that his prime motive was to avoid the club going bust, as much out of a sense of duty and shame as to protect his investment.

      As for the market value of BCAFC at that time I think it was wishful thinking and as regards the McB windfall, at the time I don’t think anyone dreamt that it was going to be as high as it turned out so I am not sure you could say it was part of his calculation.

      We’d all like a wealthy owner to buy the club and transform the outlook but we’d need to find someone who was indeed benevolent and not looking for a capital return because what is beyond doubt is that Stefan Rupp has paid over the odds. If someone else does the same then surely we are back to square one?

      • John, are you claiming that it is highly questionable that City had any market value in November, 2018? Today, is likely no different with City’s debt load being greater than the current market value. Having said that, there still is market value to offset some of the debt load/losses.

        I accept your point on the McBurnie sale price being a shocker but you can’t say there weren’t a lot of interest from Leeds United and Rangers in the summer of 2018. Also, his strong start to the season got fans speculating.

        Covering last season’s deficits is commendable but what about the investment to restore League One membership? Where City are now, is all due to the gross mismanagement by him and his partner. Promising no further investment doesn’t seem fair to me when he partnered in creating the current mess.

  18. At this level a good scouting team : chief scout , a proper no2 and reliable regular second 11 games are so important. We’ve had none of these this season apart from the likeable Kenny B who’s just arrived with SMc. We’ve neglected all the above for an extra player or 2. Ludicrous when consider some of the fringe players at the club. Akpan / O’Donnell (give loan keeper a chance) / must be given a pass for a few weeks we need a change . Pritchard even Danny D in from the cold alongside Cooke and Reeves. 1 up top with 2 Dylan’s behind or 1 of them with even Devitt in . I’ve seen enough of the attitude or lack of care from McCarten / Akpan / A O’conner now. Fresh blood needed and 1 last go at things. I would say Paudie for A O’Connor who also looks not 1 bit arsed once again but can’t see Paudie being fit from groin strain now. We need some legs , energy and positive intent. None of the 3 to be dropped have an ounce of it and are off in a few months on big old wages. Either they’ve got a new club already and deals done or are too daft to not be pushing for a new deal. Whichever it is I’ve seen more than enough of them and a good few others to last a lifetime now!

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