By Jason McKeown
They are having the season of their lives at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United are seventh in the Premier League and have a huge opportunity of securing European football next season. A remarkable achievement, for a club playing in League One just three seasons ago.
There will be smiles too, within BD8, over United’s achievements. For Saturday’s draw with Brighton pushed the Blades to the magical 40-point total threshold, which all but guarantees their Premier League status. And that pretty much assures Bradford City a further financial windfall, to help them move forwards.
That’s because of the add ons included in a structured deal City struck to sell Oli McBurnie to Swansea City in 2015, which allows the Bantams to share the financial rewards of the striker’s progress at Sheffield United. Swansea sold McBurnie to the newly promoted South Yorkshire side in a deal worth up to £20 million. It’s proving a lucrative piece of business for Bradford City.
According to Richard Sutcliffe in The Athletic, City initially earned £250k from selling McBurnie to the Swans five years ago. The deal included a 15% sell on fee, which meant City earned just over £2.5 million last summer, when Sheffield United bought the player. The Swans-Blades transfer is structured in a way where United must pay a further £2.87 million if they avoid relegation, which means City are going to be due another £431,250 at the end of the season.
It’s fair to say no one at Valley Parade back in 2015 would have predicted McBurnie would one day be a £20 million player. But the clever way the deal was structured has meant selling him to Swansea has proven to be a remarkable piece of business. It’s also proven hugely important for City, in view of the post-Rahic landscape of financial turbulence.
City chairman Stefan Rupp was greeted with some unpleasant surprises in November 2018, when Julian Rhodes got hold of the financials and the scale of Edin Rahic’s deception became evident. To Rupp’s credit, he covered those losses – preventing serious money problems. But with much of the McBurnie windfall used to pay Rupp back, effectively the success of McBurnie has paid off the debts caused by Rahic’s destructive leadership.
So stability is restored at Valley Parade to an extent, but amongst supporters this season there is a growing sense of frustration at the weak infrastructure of the club left behind. A feeling that a lot of hard work and progress has been thrown away. And that, whilst it could be worse in that at least a financial crisis has been avoided thanks to Rupp and McBurnie, the goal of becoming a Championship club again now feels more distant than ever.
After all, what is there to show for the amazing ride of 2012-17? The club experienced some incredible moments and impressive progress. But we’re now back in League Two where it had all began, as though it never happened.
City earned huge amounts of money during the ride to the League Cup final, promotion from League Two, reaching the FA Cup quarter finals and the League One play off final. But for many different reasons, the club has not been transformed. It is not stronger for the good times. The legacy is lacking. Right now there is no great long-term vision. And a danger that future generations of Bradford City support could be lost.
When you dig deeper, the feeling that a huge opportunity was wasted becomes more evident. City made a lot of money in 2012/13, but with a loan to Mark Lawn needing to be paid off, the opportunity was taken to pay off debts so City could operate in the black. Given the long-term financial problems of post-Premier League administrations, that was a sensible judgement and set City up. Debt-free, over the final three years that Rhodes and Lawn ran City in League One, the club’s league position improved year on year and the training ground was further developed.
Rhodes recently disclosed City made a profit of £2 million between 2011 and 2017, when over the same period Millwall – who pipped the Bantams to promotion to the Championship – lost £36 million. It shows how well City did against a far from level playing field, but also just how difficult it is to make a profit as a lower league football club.
So when Rhodes and Lawn sold up in 2016, the club was unquestionably in a good position. Ready, it seemed, to be taken onto the next level through bigger investment. Alas, it all came crashing down through inept leadership. When Rhodes returned last season to help out Rupp, he declared, “We had years and years of going in the right direction, but it now feels like we have fallen off a cliff.”
Rhodes deliberately keeps a low profile and doesn’t seek to take the limelight – a shame because when he does speak, he talks a lot of sense. In the absence of a vocal presence, supporter scorn of Rhodes has been allowed to grow. Over the last 12 months, he has earned the nickname ‘Captain Admin’ and retrospectively been criticised for the deficit strategy that served the club well between 2012-2017.
Whilst history shows Rhodes was far from blameless for the Premier League financial car crash, the way he eventually turned around the club and delivered sustainable success is exactly the type of leadership needed right now.
That said, supporter frustration lies in the fact City are owned by someone with the financial capability to invest more money building up the club, but seems unwilling. Rupp deserves more respect than he gets for his commitment – other Football League clubs have been left to flounder under disinterested owners who grew fed up of funding losses – but it will always remain difficult to believe he is in it with us for years and years to come.
If Bradford City was a house, Rupp is faced with the issue that it is currently worth less than he originally bought it for. And to restore its value either requires time (such as house prices to rise) or investment to do up the property so it is worth more. Right now, Rupp appears to favour the former option. And he has the time and financial stability to allow that to happen. But if the Bradford City house proves a further drain on resources, that patience could be tested. Especially as the general market for football clubs is damaged by the Bury situation.
The club will always be far from the most attractive of assets for would-be buyers. It doesn’t own its own ground, or training facilities. It gets good support, but they pay rock bottom prices. The potential is there to play in the Championship, but it would require a lot of investment to get there quickly. There is not a lot tangible beyond a Football League share.
In the meantime, it is clear that Rhodes is trusted with the strategy of restoring Bradford City, and that he is following the template he used before to revive it. A key part of that is an understanding and perspective that it does take time.
The success of 2012-17 was preceded by several years of struggle, although the club’s financial health was in a stronger place before it became evident through on the field success. As Rhodes explained to me when I interviewed him for my 2018 book Who We Are, “To be honest, I was quite proud of the way we brought the club on. You had to be close to it to realise what a basket case it was.”
Rhodes was speaking in the summer of 2018, before his surprise return to Valley Parade. He reflected on his chairmanship, “I do think we built something special at Bradford City. And that really hit home to me when I went to look at other clubs, and some of them are in a real mess. It’s just a fact of life for them for the chairman to chuck lots of money in. But for me it wasn’t, it was all about doing it the right way.”
When you analyse that period of success, it’s obvious to cite the impact of Phil Parkinson. But there was also significant improvement to the club’s foundations before that, which aided success. For example, in 2011 Lawn, Rhodes and Roger Owen acquired the club’s former shop, saving a huge amount in rent that was proving a drain on resources. A year later, the trio had sold the building. It was a crucial piece of business in halving City’s rent outgoings. Rhodes added in Who We Are, “We bought it for a very reasonable sum and sold it for more to the Department of Education. All the proceeds went into the club. It was all about building up the club.”
Meanwhile, David Baldwin was overseeing significant improvements to the club’s training facilities. In 2011, the club was able to agree with Woodhouse Grove school to use parts of the school site for changing rooms, offices and areas the players could eat together and bond. Work was also done to improve the training pitches. And so the old arrangement of the players having to get changed at Valley Parade and drive to and from the training ground came to an end. Finally the club had a facility they could be proud to show off to prospective signings.
These infrastructure changes were vital in getting City off the canvas. And they were continued as the club began to progress up the Football League ladder. When I interviewed Baldwin for my 2016 book, Reinventing Bradford City, he explained, “I always say that my biggest achievement at Bradford City, for me as an individual, was the redevelopment of the training ground and the environment that the team operate in.
“When I was there as a kid in 1987 playing football, and compared to when I came back in 2007, the facilities were worse! When I left in 2014 they were equal to a good Championship facility. The decisions taken with the training ground in 2011 allowed us to be more ambitious about the players we targeted.”
When Baldwin left City in 2014, much of this work continued. His replacement, James Mason, oversaw the upgrade the parade initiative that helped to fund the redevelopment of the changing rooms and the scoreboard. Some of the seats within Valley Parade were replaced during the 2015 FA Cup run. Under Parkinson, the backroom set up was strong with a chief scout in Tim Beaker assisting with finding players. And with squad building, there was succession planning developed around a core group of strong characters who set the culture.
All of these enhancements on their own are small and not always headline grabbing. But incremental changes added up to something stronger. The Bradford City pre Rahic and Rupp had a strong sense of direction and a clear purpose. It was building in a self-sustainable, debt-free way. Perhaps it didn’t set pulses racing, but it was a growth model that was working.
The question of how Bradford City restore that sort of culture – and ultimately build stronger foundations – has been the subject of regular supporter debate this season. There is some very good and relevant criticism on the financial priorities. A wish list that is difficult to disagree with the principle behind. But from some fans at least, there is unquestionably a lack of realism about some of the practicalities.
For instance there is talk about the merits of leaving Valley Parade for a new ground. A debate heightened by the plight of Bradford Bulls, who claim to be looking to build a new stadium in the city. The Bantams’ Valley Parade lease is due to expire in eight years, which will leave the owner of the time with a decision to make over whether to stick or twist.
The emotional pull of remaining at Valley Parade is obvious. The tragedy of 1985 gives City and supporters a stronger connection with its ground compared to other clubs. But on the other side of the coin, the rental commitments hold back the club. Valley Parade is also beginning to look its age, with some parts of the ground badly in need of maintenance and TLC. This will only continue as time goes on.
Nevertheless, finding a suitable site for a new stadium in Bradford, not to mention having the finances to build it, remains highly dubious. What Valley Parade really has going for it is a capacity that suits the club’s potential. Moving to a stadium with, say, an 18,000 capacity would hurt long-term growth. It’s difficult, but not entirely impossible, to see how City could do better than Valley Parade. They just need to do something about the rent millstone, or get to the Championship when the rent won’t matter as much.
There are also calls for City to build their own training ground. Again, City are paying rent for their current facilities. You can’t beat owning your own home. However, the facilities City have access to at Woodhouse Grove are excellent, and it would cost millions for the club to build their own. The open nature of Woodhouse Grove can be problematic – keeping potential signings a secret has been an issue – but it’s probably not enough of a concern to push a new training ground to the top of the priority list.
Perhaps a training ground is something to consider the next time City achieve a windfall they can invest. Other clubs have used cup revenue on such a legacy, leaving them in a better position. Whatever the future holds, City must learn lessons from the past. That they paid Benito Carbone £40k a week but had him training with such inferior facilities was a poor use of a huge investment. City didn’t move with the times, and it’s a trap they must avoid slipping back into.
Beyond that, questions of whether City can be stronger in recruitment and scouting are valid. As we wrote a month ago, the turbulence at the end of the transfer window appeared to see a scatter gun approach taken to signing players. From the outside it looked far from joined up. The club does not have a chief scout. The rapid turnover of managers hasn’t helped, but the current squad looks badly built and performances don’t live up to the overall investment.
A careful and considered transfer strategy is needed this summer. What McCall can do that Gary Bowyer could not is really rebuild the squad. Only 12 of the current squad have a deal beyond the end of the season, and a lot of high earners will be out of contract. We ideally need to stop bringing in players on contracts that outlast the manager who signs them. We can’t afford more Hope Akpans.
Is the affordable season ticket philosophy a help or a hindrance? It’s a debate that always attracts a range of passionate views. To the most engaged supporters, with the wealth to pay more for their season ticket, it can be frustrating wondering if the low prices leave City short of the resources to build a stronger club. But others – including me – would argue that the club exists first and foremost for supporters. And that having more people being able to afford to buy season tickets has financial benefits on matchday revenue.
Then the discussion quickly moves onto the franchising of matchday catering and the shop, with poor quality results. And we haven’t even got onto the youth set up yet. Or the bloody pitch…
In short, Bradford City is lacking investment in key areas – but with such a huge to do list, it seems impossible to improve everything. It’s no wonder many supporters are pining for some sort of revolution at Valley Parade, but it’s hard to see it occurring anytime soon. And so, the frustrations continue to build.
At the same time as Sheffield United were in Premier League action on Saturday, 67 miles away in East Lancashire, Burnley were taking on Bournemouth in the top flight. In the build up, the New York Times journalist Rory Smith wrote a really interesting piece about the contrast between the Clarets and the Cherries.
Both are in an enviable position to most lower league clubs, including City. But whilst Burnley have used the Premier League money to invest in the infrastructure of the club – building new training facilities for example – Bournemouth have spent the majority of their top flight revenue on players.
The challenges of the staying amongst the elite means both clubs are susceptible to relegation every season, but the differing strategies used means Burnley would go into the Football League with more to show for their Premier League endeavours, whilst Bournemouth would be more likely to suffer financial headaches. Yet for all Burnley’s laudable principles, their fans have frustrations with a perceived lack of ambition.
For Bradford City, the dilemma is similar and a key consideration in attempts to rebuild. Do we put more resources into the playing side to build a really strong football team next season, in the hope it will take City forwards, and enjoy greater financial rewards to then build up the infrastructure? Or do we focus on the infrastructure now, knowing it could hold back results on the field in the short term at least, but could ultimately place City in a strong position to progress in the long-term? Better still, can we do both?
Within the confides of Valley Parade, you suspect they’re treating it as a balancing act. Over the course of the last 12 months, incremental improvements have been made. Evolution not revolution. From trialing a fanzone and supporters singing section, running money-earning events like the Premier League and Chelsea nights, setting up the Bantams Heritage numbers, through to replacing damaged seats this summer. And although the change of manager in February hasn’t yielded improvement yet, sacking Bowyer was a statement of ambition about the drive to get promoted.
Of course the small progress made this season won’t earn the club much credit. It increasingly looks like City are destined to remain in League Two, and that keeps them a long way short of the heights on 2017. But compared to the financial mess of the end of 2018, the club has moved forwards in a relatively short period of time. Behind the scenes, they’re getting some things right.
But imagine what City could do with more investment?
This summer will be a further test of Rupp’s appetite to keep funding the club, especially as deeper financial commitment could make a real difference now the Bantams are on more of an even keel again. The near half a million extra McBurnie windfall will help, but hopefully will be treated as a bonus investment rather than needing to cover a deficit. That £431k could offer City an edge, if used well.
The demands of fans will continue to be loud. The restlessness won’t ease. After getting a prolonged taste of how strong this football club can be between 2012-17, the genie can’t be put back in the bottle. There is much work to do to restore Bradford City, and fixing those damaged foundations is surely the key to success.
Club is very much at a crossroad Jason with league 2 football looking very likely for next season and morale among supporters getting very low. However there is hope on the horizon, we can have a summer rebuild with so many out of contract, slim down the squad and have quality over quantity. Season ticket sales while sluggish now will take off as the May deadline approaches.
It would be so good to talk to Stefan Rupp and persuade him that a reasonable investment this summer could be paid back massively. Start by investing about 500k on the pitch, the drainage that Rahic had done by the Harrogate firm seems to have worked but he only did half the job and neglected the pitch itself. Long term we need to look at any development the council and Bulls are planning and decide if it’s worth moving to another stadium although if Bradford council are involved probably pie in the sky.
People of this City are used to lower division football over many decades but it doesn’t have to be always like this. An investment now in the playing squad rather than just treading water could be the start of a revival similar to the Richmond 90s and Stefan does have the resources to kick start this. Wether he is willing is arguable but there is an opportunity to get the club off its backside and start to get the club booming again.
A well constructed and facinating critque that’s covers all the issues facing the club presently.
The club has been and in some respects continues living in the fall out of the 6 weeks of madness from Richmond with his short termism, the crazy spending beyond our means and the massive ground expansion to accomodate premier league football.
The 2 administrations that followed and the selling of Valley Parade left the club on the edge of an abyss that was only truely reversed by living within our means, the selling of the club shop to reduce costs, canny owners, sell on clauses, and a manager (Parkinson) with supporting staff who drove the club forward with backing from a healthy fan base built on affordable ticket prices.
2012-2017 were fantastic times to follow the club with a healthy 15k+ fanbase at Valley Parade which is much more preferable to watching in the Todd era of 7k supporters with no atmosphere, parts of the ground closed and unused with swathes of empty seats.
Fast forward to 2017 and another over egotistical chairman in Rahic has undone all the good work of the previous regime which has set the club back years. Rahic’s total lunacy and approach from an absolute Charlatan has fractured the club and stopped dead all the progress made in the Parkinson era. Due to the amazing sum generated by the McBurnie windfall and commitment to cover further losses from Rupp the club at least begin to start moving forward again.
McCall is the right man for the job he knows the club and will take us forward. It will not be this season and there is a massive cull required in the summer to move on this poorly assembled, over bloated and under achieving squad.
In the short term if the further windfall money can be given to McCall to build a squad for next season then the rebuild can start in earnest. Any losses incurred may have to be covered by Rupp as a decrease in season ticket sales is on the cards.
In the longer term a buyer with some financial onus, clout and drive will have to be found to address the issues outlined here including a blue print for how the club will move forward, youth development, relocation or bringing Valley Parade into the 21st century. Big financial backing in the club that addresses all the issues outlined is the only way I see the club competing again at the second tier of English football.
Rupp needs to wake up and invest! However McCall isn’t someone I would trust in building an initial squad never mind repeating that! In my life time we’ve had one successful manager who could do that and that was parky!
His initial season he inherited/ developed the squad that could secure football league safety. Kept those good enough, and added players that would mount a promotion challenge and get to the cup final! He then set about securing league 1 safety, cup runs and continued to edge us closer to promotion by keeping a core group of players and releasing / signing others on short term contract! McCall comes in with Parkinson’s core players and gets us to the play off final. That squad should have gone up autos yet parky beat us to it with Bolton as our soft centre struck conceding too many and the lack of goals meant we drew too many!
Then club politics took over and everyone has a paddy, McCall, Rahic, Hendrie, Abbott, McMahon, supporters, the list goes on. The lack of direction and blaming everyman and his dog has got us to where we are!
Irrational short term thinking to please the majority! And the latest short sighted appointment of McCall is already showing signs of the club no longer demanding a play off spot. They can hide behind McCall as they know most supporters will give him time! It’s pathetic.
The mind set of the club, owners, supporters and players needs to change! Too many people accept failure and the excuses are there again, such as “it took years to get out of league 2 before”. Luton and Lincoln have shown what to do! Invest in potential and spend wisely. Sadly I don’t believe the owner will trust McCall to build a squad.
Once again it’s another excuse to hide behind and so reigniting the viscous cycle!
The madness of the January transfer window just highlights this! Window opens, sign nobody, players kicking off at tactics, bowyer wins battle and gets rid of disruptive players, manager /club brings in new players on last day of transfer window, poor form continues, bowyer sacked, McCall brought in to win over most fans, club can sit back and hide, poor run continues, McCall now stating he’s looking at next season when we are four points off play offs! Utter madness! Cheap option! No ambition!
I really think you are rewriting history to suggest City should have beaten Bolton to automatic promotion in 2016/17. Worth repeating Julian Rhodes’ comments a few weeks ago on the 2016/17 season and the greater resources other clubs had:
“Our budget was around £2.7 million and Stuart had us competing with Sheffield United at £10 million plus, Bolton on more than that and even Millwall at £7-8 million.”
You’ve alluded to it in the article, budgets dont mean everything! Now they do?
I remember clearly how many games we drew! Too many where we should have won! And who could remember the embarrassment of bramall lane where we turned up and had our pants pulled down after 20 mins! That Bolton team wasn’t a cut above any other league 1 side! They had players on big wages still in contract who were of actual league 1 quality and not championship!
Sounds familiar to us this season doesn’t it?
What are you so upset about? The article you’ve wrote is quite balanced actually.
It’s just all this McCall loving is doing my and many others heads in. We get shot down as soon as we say we don’t think he’s good enough. But ultimately we all want him to succeed. I just haven’t read anything and so far seen anything in our play to give me confidence he’ll do it this time. What’s changed?
I’m not upset about anything at all. I can totally understand skepticism over Stuart coming back and whether he is the right man. Frankly I was quite amazed at how positive the reaction was to his return. I thought a lot of people would be against it. I worry it might be the wrong decision as well and whilst I am going to give him plenty of my patience to rebuild this very poor team (attitude wise), I don’t think he should be immune from criticism this season or next.
I just think the comment about 2016/17 wasn’t very accurate or fair. McCall had to operate on a reduced budget to what PP had the year before, and yet we stayed in the play offs all season losing only 7 games (none at home). I’m not sure why budget is irrelevant. The fact is we had a mid-table budget that season and yet managed to go all the way to the play off final. I love Phil Parkinson, but in three years in League One as our manager he didn’t get us that far.
Of course McCall did inherit a strong dressing room, but the club only had 8 players on the books when he took over. So there wasn’t that much left behind. Looking at the top 10 appearance makers for City that season, only 3 were inherited by PP – James Meredith, Billy Clarke and Mark Marshall. And with the latter only made 8 starts for PP the year earlier.
And that’s before we go onto the Edin factor, and the fact the interference was at its worst that season. It’s funny you mention the Sheff U game. I agree it wasn’t clever, but the backdrop was McCall had been under heavy pressure from Rahic for weeks to go for it more in away games especially. To take risks, with the promise that if we do get thrashed by someone McCall would not be blamed because at least he was bold. So that’s what McCall did at Bramall Lane, and did Rahic keep to this word? Well, what do you think?
So anyway we’ve gone well off point. I don’t have any issue with your skepticism of McCall as manager. Ultimately, he has to prove himself like any other City manager. I just think the accusations of 2016/17 are factually unfair. Let’s face it, if that was failure I think we’d all take that type of failure right now!
In actual fact we were very close to automatically going up in 2016/17. I know it’s all ifs and buts, we were only 7 points behind Bolton and if we could have hung on to our 2-0 half time lead against them, hung on at Fleetwood when we were winning with 20 mins left but lost and hung on to half time lead v Gillingham on Wykes debut we would have gone up in 2nd place by 1 point. So near yet so far.
Asmith, I generally agree with your post and that includes your thoughts on Stuart being a short sighted signing. I would have preferred Stuart to have been signed for the balance of the season only and then reassessment. Having said that, I quite understand why he was given an 18 month contract. No other signing could have immediately consolidated fan support and ensured stability in season ticket sales for next season.
The road ahead looks quite bumpy and the fog surrounding the Club adds to the uncertainty. City need to significantly improve it’s infrastructure in support of Stuart for him to succeed and that includes tight reins on his expenditures.
So who would you have liked as manager…?
It depresses me just how much critism McCall is taking already, although to be fair more on FB than on here. People are quick to critise but less quick to suggest an alternative. Surely the point of the article is that until we actually sort out some of the off field issues it doesn t really matter who the manager is. This team is definately not McCall’s and you could argue given the contracts in place it wasnt fully Bowyers.
We’ve discussed ‘entitlement’ on here before. I dont get the sense that the club has given up on promotion but I think has sensibly started to think in terms of league 2 next season. This is part of the long term planning we so badly need. My worry is that without support (scouting network etc) the rebuilding job Stuart has to complete in the summer will fail, leaving McCall as the fall guy and the club back to square one.
In some senses I agree with you. I would have preferred for Stuart to be a director of football or similar. His understanding of the club and experience might have provided the long term footballing leadership we need. I worry that the fickle nature of the fanbase and of football in general will mean he will lose his job at some point and those skills and that comittment will be lost to the club for ever.
People talk about him failing twice before but I dont see it like that. The first time he reversed a decade of decline by actually finishing a season higher than we fininshed. Peter Taylor, the ‘exceptional candidate’ hardly pulled up any trees despite (like Bowyer) having meant to have the knowelge to get out of the league. In the meantime McCall excelled at Motherwell and did well at Rangers. The second time around saw Stuart get to within 90 minutes of the championship on a reduced budget. As far as I can see teh only blemish on his CV is Scunthorpe.
Like I said at the start – if McCall isnt the man for us – who is?
Even at scunthorpe whilst only having 1 window he left them whilst out of the relegation places…they got worse and went down. I see a lot of Stuarts critics as been Rahic supporters who were duped too…they appear to need to keep on defending the decision to sack McCall wihtout admitting that they were wrong, as everything that has occurred since goes to proove….
Stuart inherited only 7 Parky players and had to assemble a squad in 6 weeks….he didn’t do a bad job of it did he? Indeed Parky was in this division 3 years yet McCall finished higher in 1….the point here is that if as you insunuate McCall only did what he did tdue to inheriting Parktys players why didn’t Parky acheive promotion or a play-of final with those same players and more?
Fact is, Stuart over acheived last time. He will make mistakes as all managers do (i rememebr Parkys 15 game without a win run very well, but we stuck with him and he changed things around)…its time to stick with Stuart and as the article states build and make steady progress. We have no choice in this unless someone with real money who wants to spend it comes in. It wouldn’t actually take that much to go through the bottom 2 leagues in my opinion but finding someone willing to speculate to accumulate isn’t easy…
Are the facilities at Woodhouse Grove “excellent” or “inferior”?
Can’t speak for what they are now but trust me – in Carbone’s day they were inferior – very inferior!
The comments regards the top two when Bolton got promoted aren’t true. We could have got top two but Bolton were a far better side overall.
With regards the infrastructure, I honestly couldn’t tell you who is running the club. I’ve never been so disengaged with the club. Nothing is done professionally in any aspect whatsoever. It’s like an old boys club, or a family business where people are given jobs because of nepotism.
McCall’s appointment and lack of any sort of planning or attempt to get anyone else was embarrassing. As for the last day of the transfer window that was beyond a joke. Two deadline day signings on 18th month deals, who are bogstandard league two players showed we have no ambition whatsoever.
Darren is spot on.
For what it’s worth I will back Stuart, what is the point in doing anything other for now ?
I didn’t want him back, not without the club taking time, to look around at what quality there was out there to appoint and for me they haven’t done that and appointed Stuart as a sticking plaster over a big hole again.
Long term he isn’t the right man, but I actually think, with a summer to recruit and some money he will get us out of this division. Or is that my heart ruling my head again ?
The 2 rushed signings showed what a mess we were and are in. That’s 2 more in the building for another year plus.
Some of this seasons performances home and away have been pathetic. Not all Boreyer’s either. The last 2 away games, yes I went to both, were largely dull and uninspiring. We do have to get behind the club though don’t we ?
The debate about the future direction of the club is very live and there is a thread on Bantam Talk, addressing the specific issue. https://bantamtalk.com/index.php?threads/how-does-this-club-move-forward.3701/page-15#post-326296
I guess the club needs to clarify, how it plans to progress. What the priorities are and how it will address them.
Perhaps they could undertake some form of consultation with individual supporters?
An online questionnaire, which has a ‘log in’ comparable to the ticket system, to avoid multiple responses, from small number of fans.
In many ways the club has to reach out beyond the ‘regular’ supporter groups, who although very important, do not have a monopoly of views, and are perhaps influenced by core members.
Finally we may well benefit from the McBurnie sale and a number of earlier transfers of young players. However to the best of my knowledge, there is no budding starlet, who through future transfer moves, could generate significant sums for the club. So future developments cannot rely on potential ‘windfalls’.
that forum is bloody awful to navigate and read with all the ads. What happened to Claret and Banter?
I will never understand how Rahic has walked away Scot free when he took a massive wage, paid his wife a big wage, put his kids through school and paid for his housing all on Bradford City, absolutely ridiculous when City have to pick up the pieces yet again.
The media quickly jumped on the bandwagon with their claim of Rupp being “duped” which is a far more serious claim than being “deceived.” If true, you would expect legal action to follow for damages incurred by Rupp. Interesting to note, no legal action implies this was far from a clear cut claim. If this had gone to court I seriously doubt Rupp would have come out of it unharmed.
Currently, it appears Rupp is unwilling to make the investment required to restore City to League One status and yet the media and most fans appear to consider him a benevolent benefactor. Then there is Julian Rhodes who brought us Phil Parkinson, cheap season tickets, “Reck and Ruin” and Bowyer. Certainly a mixed bag. Again, highly regarded by the media and most fans. Conclusion, City fans are not very discerning and used to being disappointed.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing Phil.
I, along with most supporters welcomed Radhic when he arrived. A commitment to invest in youth, a plan to progress organically, an approach to transfers and football management that didn’t depend on who happened to be in post at any given time is an example of the sort of strategic thinking most supporters are crying out for.
We all know what happened then. I’m sure you saw it coming all along but I know I didn’t!
Similarly Bowyer’s appointment was seen as positive – as was Taylor’s.
We can all be critical – what’s your solution…?
Even by your standards, Jason, this is an excellent article.
I just want to add a few points.
The revival of City under Parkinson was overseen by a strong management team of Rhodes , Lawn, Baldwin/Mason. Stuart McCall, in his 2nd spell had Rahic and a sidelined Mason. It’s a wonder McCall managed to get to the play-offs. The following season must have been poison for him and his players which boiled over at Yeovil. I do not blame McCall.
Now, McCall, and Bowyer before him, seem to have Julian Rhodes only. Rupp is absent. I think he has no proper scouting network, no analyst ( a position which I understand is vital in modern football), possibly no proper fitness coach(I’m not sure about this) and seemingly a bloated squad of players.
This amateurish set-up was seen in the farce of the transfer window, and will be seen in the next one unless steps are taken to rectify it.
The absenteeism of Rupp is not necessarily a really bad thing, as Manchester City seem to prove.
You essentially need a professional infrastructure, and only need to look at the success of Burnley and St Helens to see this.
McCall will do for me. He has a good assistant, but unless the management of the Club is strengthened he will not succeed.
Finally, I ask fans to forget the delusion that City are a big club in the wrong division. We deserve, due to bad management, to be where we are.
“City fans are not very discerning and used to being disappointed”
Phil, I can kind of see your point of view, but what as fans do you expect us all to do about the situation we are in? Unfortunately short of one of us landing the Euromillions and buying the club to inject a fortune, surely we are merely spectators?
Following City for over 60 years, I certainly consider myself a fan “used to being disappointed.” Some would say my expectations are low and they would be right. I think fans should be realistic in their expectations and demand the same from City management. All you have to do is look at the rhetoric coming out of Valley Parade this year re 20,000 season ticket sales and a goal of Championship promotion within five years to realize they have no playbook (plan).
The shortest time we’ve spent in Division 4 is five years. So, demand a five year plan for promotion and sustainability in League One. All this talk of City being a big club is really quite laughable. In reality, City are a small fish in a big pond. The Club is a small business and should be run accordingly with a business plan, attention to detail and good communication with their customers.
My biggest criticism this year is City management, the media and pundits and their outrageous hype about City gaining promotion this season. This does a disservice to fans which is likely to whittle down season ticket sales. I hope they’ve learned a lesson that is not repeated next season.
‘Within the confides of Valley Parade, you suspect they’re treating it as a balancing act.’
Who are they and who has driven the small progress you mention?
This article is written with an assumption that we aware, which I find baffling. If there are some people at the club making even small progress against some plan, then great, all power to them.
Who are they and what is the progress you speak of?
I’m a bit confused by this question. I said ‘suspect’. I wasn’t assuming you were aware of anything. And I wasn’t referring to anyone making small progress against a plan.
WOAP, I have this website and the T&A as my only sources of information. I have seen nothing from Rupp or Rhodes but your article suggests that there is (you suspect) some work going on with regards to balancing the investment between infrastructure and the playing squad.
My question was, do you have any more info on who you suspect is doing that work and what level of investment might be being managed?
All I really know is what we hear at fans media meetings, where we discuss all kinds of matters. For example in the last one there was talk about playing budgets through to the pitch, catering and VP seating. This gave me the impression they were looking at matters on and off the pitch, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily investing significantly more in either. That’s why I used ‘suspect’.
I don’t have any secret insight so apologies if I gave you that impression
Great article. I think a number of posters are alluding to the “They”. Who exactly are the “They” who are trying to get to grips with the overall running of the club/business ?
In a sense your article points the way too. There are multi- faceted reasons why the club are not as successful as we would all hope. Lack of overall leadership and a clear vision is right up there.
I understand from informal sources that JR is hopeful he can pass on the baton to a new CEO. I wonder if that recruitment effort is not being hampered by the ownership. Does Rupp have a clue what he wants ?
To continue tgectortuted analogy – if he wants to sell the house he first needs to repair/ improve by appointing an architect and a project manager as well as a good builder (the football manager) to improve the product.
An excellent thought provoking article.
Football is full of opinions and as long as we respect each other, we should be entitled to display our opinions.
For what it’s worth here are a few of mine.
Firstly, owing to the emotional ties of Valley Parade, we should continue to play our home games there.
Secondly, I think that it’s correct to offer cheap season tickets. It allows people, including families to attend home games. Even with 15,000 supporters inside Valley Parade, if the home supporters are quiet, the stadium can feel a bit empty.
Thirdly, I am pleased that McCall is back as our manager again. He certainly overachieved during his second spell as our manager and he cares about our club too.
Finally, for now, as a club which has not won away in the league for over four months, we don’t deserve to be promoted this season. The current squad isn’t good enough to be promoted.
It’s all so depressing
All I want is a beer and a laugh with my mates and a team that looks to be trying, has a hope of scoring a goal and a well managed club – we haven’t had that since Yeovil
I’d rather be in division 1 but div2 is fine as long as we are having a go. All too often this season it’s either dull or embarrassing
6 wingers and no central midfield?
Lots of points made and interesting discussion and dialogue.
The recent transfer window was :interesting: to say the least. With Novak (who SM would know from Scunthorpe) and the lad from Rangers arriving, it seemed to.me that a decision had already been made about GB and these were signings sanctioned by the incoming SM. But equally the Guthrie signing seemed more speculative and the return of Mottley also a weird one. As it turns out Mottley has looked ok but Guthrie seems to offer little. The departure of Vaughan was also strange
Surely he knew where Bradford was in relation to his Wiŕral home when he signed a 3 year contract in the summer?
Doyle too remains a strange one. City obviously were trying to force Swindon into a decision when they recalled him, and GB had to play him. But if it was already decided that GB was going then was SM.given input to both decisions? As an incoming manager who would not wish to inherit Doyle’s goals and Vaughans potential? All very strange.
Rhodes has stated that he’d didn’t contact McCall till after Bowyer was sacked. There is nothing that either Rhodes or McCall have said that has contradicted that statement
Listen, these things do not happen overnight. There are lawyers involved, contracts to be drawn up, settlements with the outgoing parties to be agreed. Do you really think that all of this is settled over a phone call? My guess is that GB had been made aware of the scenario where he would be replaced and SM had been sounded out to see if he was willing to return. Plus SM would have also contacted KB to ensure he was up for it too. There.is no suggestion that any of this was done in a sinister or underhand way. It’s the game!! My
point is that both Morrison and Novak were known to SM. Makes it less of a coincidence.