|Bradford City 0||Newport County 3|
|Demetriou 1, Amond 44, Dolan 90+3 (pen)|
By Jason McKeown
Dear Bradford City
Firstly, it’s hard to begin to describe the level of frustration you feel when you’re trying to watch your football team live on your tablet, and the stream keeps freezing. But when you’re impatiently waiting for technology to work so you can get back to watching such a woeful and pathetic defeat, the level of anger that rises inside of you begins to make you feel ill.
I mean what on earth was that performance, Bradford City? A clueless, spineless defeat to opposition full of the type of collective energy and vigour that has been absent from Valley Parade for too long. You were 1-0 down in less than a minute. Two behind by half time. Three down by the final whistle, when even your best player was reduced to making dismal mistakes.
How has it come to this? That the standards around Bradford City have dropped so low that you are beaten so easily on your own patch, to such relatively weak opposition? Michael Flynn’s Newport County deserve all the credit in the world for a terrific, dominant display. But this is League Two, and the expectations of ourselves should be so much higher than this.
After all, it was on this weekend just four years ago that more than 20,000 of us were at Valley Parade to watch you, Bradford City. Roaring you on, as you produced a pulsating 3-3 at home to Sheffield United, which kept you second in League One. Such great times, where it felt like we were pushing closer and closer towards something even more special. The Championship was right in front of us. And the upwards momentum since 2012 was edging us through the door.
What have we, as Bradford City supporters, done to deserve the last few years? It’s been so horrible. So spirit crushing. So dejecting. To watch us throw it all away. To land right back where we started. And to once again deal with disappointment after disappointment.
It’s clearly something in your DNA, Bradford City. When things start to go wrong, they fall apart. The periods of struggle seem endless. The moments of glory too fleeting.
Bradford City, you were so nearly promoted to the old First Division in 1988. Yet two years after agonisingly missing out, you were relegated to the third tier. In 1999 you reached the financial bonanza of the Premier League, yet within three years nearly went out of business. And in 2017 you made it to the League One play off final, yet within two years were relegated back to the basement league.
As a club you historically lack the ability to bounce back from disappointments. Quickly get back on your feet. Recover swiftly from mistakes. It goes wrong, it goes more wrong, and then it stays wrong for years and years.
It becomes soul destroying.
It was hard to judge the prospects going into this season, but there’s not nearly enough evidence so far to suggest anything better than another campaign of frustration. Of watching other clubs triumph. And the prospect of doing it yet again, after the last few years – and during a period of hardship for everyone, where we can’t even enter our beloved stadium to watch games – is going to test our patience like never before.
Bradford City, you were so bad today. Utterly second best in every department. And from the angle of watching through a seven inch screen, the most depressing thing is that it doesn’t look like it hurts you enough. Maybe it’s different actually being allowed to be inside Valley Parade, but the players simply don’t appear to be putting everything on the line.
They certainly went hiding for long periods. You can see it from the dreadful defending for the goals. It’s evident when City do have the ball, and players in front of them look happy to stand by their marker rather than offering an option. There’s such a carelessness in constantly giving away silly free kicks, or weakly coughing up possession. In the final 20 minutes, some players had evidently given up.
That is simply unacceptable.
Stuart McCall opted for a 4-1-2-3 approach and hoped that Kurtis Guthrie and Austin Samuels would operate effectively as wide strikers. Two players the manager had put a lot of faith in, who sadly offered little in return.
Anthony O’Connor, a player who has had good spells in a City shirt, continued to display a maddening inconsistency by once again underachieving. Tyler French, who has played well as right back, suddenly looked uncomfortable in the role. Ben Richards-Everton made several mistakes, but second half substitute Paudie O’Connor offered little to suggest he deserves a starting recall.
Billy Clarke produced nothing. Callum Cooke struggled. Lee Novak looked isolated. Elliott Watt and Connor Wood dipped from their own high standards.
Bradford City, you were so bad.
The worry is what this defeat signifies for City’s prospects this season. With the Lincoln and Harrogate beatings still fresh in the memory, this seems a worrying continuation of a developing trend. It is not the first time they have folded. This was the sixth league and cup game at home this season, and not once have they scored the first goal.
As a team it is too passive. Opposition sides don’t have to force lots of pressure to score. Going forward, there just isn’t enough of a tempo. They don’t look enough of a threat.
Ultimately, right now it just doesn’t look like a Stuart McCall team.
The City manager is out of contract at the end of the season. And as sure as night follows day, he will become subject to growing supporter disgruntlement, should these early season patterns continue. And this, after all, is a club that has not stuck with a manager for longer than 11 months since the latest downturn began. Changing managers repeatedly hasn’t worked but it won’t stop us trying it again eventually.
McCall has made a name for himself as manager as someone who gets the best out of his players – and he needs to start doing that again. Whatever his failings when he left in 2010 and 2018, he had a group of players running through brick walls for him. He has to get this lot to start doing the same.
Back in 2016/17, and days like the Sheffield United thriller, McCall was demonstrating a real flair as manager. Deploying different systems each week, with excellent results. Swapping around the players, with smooth success. Perhaps this current squad aren’t good enough to be managed in this way. It certainly feels like a more back to basics approach is now needed.
Seven league games in should not be a time to write anyone off. But we’ve been down this route several times before, and we know how this usually ends. So please, Bradford City, let today act as a wake up call.
We can live with not going up this season, but if we don’t look like we’re even capable of challenging for promotion I’m not sure where it leaves us.
The point is, Bradford City, we are absolutely fed up. This year has been rotten. The vast majority of us supporters are living in lockdown restrictions, not getting to see friends and family. We’re worried about our jobs. Our ability to afford Christmas. Our health, and the health of those who we care about.
We want some hope. Some escapism. And our football club should be capable of offering that. It’s not about winning every week, or playing the best football.
It’s about making us proud. Giving it everything you have.
And it shouldn’t be too much to ask.
Bradford City supporters
Categories: Match Reviews