Grave concerns


Barrow 1 Bradford City 0
Brown 18

By Adam Raj

In fitting tribute to Halloween, City managed yet another lifeless performance, scarily as bad as anything served up over the past few seasons. On this occasion, it was Barrow who put City to the sword in what was their first home victory back in the EFL. 

Typically, City were their usual charitable selves. Bolton’s first home win since February? Tick. Barrow’s first home win in the EFL? Tick. Barrow’s first clean sheet back in the EFL? Tick. If you want an easy win, look no further than Stuart McCall’s men who continue to resemble anything but a team. It’s all set up for struggling Southend’s first win of the season on Tuesday night at Valley Parade.

McCall stuck to his recent promise of keeping a settled system in place for this afternoon’s game. However, the Bantams boss couldn’t resist further tinkering to the personnel and made three changes from Tuesday’s defeat. Austin Samuels, Levi Sutton, and Reece Staunton replaced Billy Clarke, Elliot Watt and Ben Richards-Everton respectively. 

From the first minute, it looked a bizarre team selection. McCall confirmed in his post-match interview that leaving Watt on the bench was a tactical decision. Our best midfielder and most composed player on the bench on an afternoon that saw City deploy a kick and rush mentality. The conditions in Cumbria made for a tough contest, with City playing against the wind in the first half.

Naturally, the mentality would be to keep the ball on the deck as much as possible but City, for reasons still unclear to most, thought the best way to play today was to boot it long at every chance. For the most part, any long ball barely reached halfway, with Barrow managing to win the ball back instantaneously. An inability by the forwards to win any aerial duals or display pace and athleticism to run in behind, made any long ball a fruitless exercise. 

Yet, City still thought this was the way to go and continue to allow Barrow to pen them into their own half. It was an awful watch and City continued to look like a side devoid of any ideas.  

Inevitably, the hosts took the lead. That is now the fourth consecutive game where City have conceded the opening goal, and the eighth in the last ten. It is an appalling record and a massive concern that City continue to start games so slowl

Today’s opener came in the 18th minute through left wing-back Connor Brown following more passive City defending. Allowed the freedom and space on the edge of the area, the Barrow defender struck low into the bottom corner.

It is a reoccurring theme that opposition players continuously find themselves in acres of space around City’s box. Nobody seems willing to hustle and harry, to close down and force the issue. It continues to be this outright lazy defending that is the reason we are shipping goal after goal.

The hosts really should’ve doubled their lead on the half hour mark. Slick play from start to finish, and in complete contrast to City, the hosts sliced through their visitors like a knife through butter only to see forward Dior Angus thwarted by a decent Richard O’Donnell save. From the resulting corner, Clayton Donaldson lost his man to allow a free header at goal which was somehow cleared off the line by Bryce Hosannah.

Meanwhile, it continued to be a ‘nothing to see here’ scenario at the other end of the pitch.

Seven minutes later and City were down to ten. Levi Sutton was sent off for a two footed lunge on Barrow midfielder Jason Taylor. It would be kind to call it a stupid tackle from a player who had done nothing to justify his starting spot. Most fans, including myself saw the game being over after the goal, but this ended any faint hopes of a City comeback. 

City limped to the break in the hope of a second half revival but unsurprisingly failed to deliver yet again. The second half was uneventful at both ends but Barrow had the best chance to double their lead when Angus was set through on the break, brushed aside Finn Cousin-Dawson but was once again thwarted by an O’Donnell save. 

This Bradford City side is not a team. It is a collection of individuals lacking in everything from ability to desire. We have no goalscorer, ineffective wingers, no ball winning midfielder and a defence who continue to gift goals.

The body language of the players today summed up the apathy many supporters feel towards them. Plenty of moaning and waving arms around but nobody actually behaving like a leader. 

This Bradford City side is bang in trouble. A combination of an impotent front line lacking in every department, a lack of creativity and a leaky defence is a recipe for disaster. 

Upfront, Donaldson was beyond poor today and not for the first time. Lazily being caught offside twice in the opening five minutes set the tone for his own personal performance. Samuels continues to look like a panic signing, with no obvious qualities and it is hard to say that Lee Novak or Kurtis Guthrie add anything either. 

Creativity is a big problem. In fact it is non-existent. McCall can kid himself into believing that the red card changed the game and we would’ve got something with eleven men. But for that, we would have to create a chance. And considering the ability of our frontline, we will have to create umpteen chances to score a goal.

It is the third successive blank that City have racked up and the truly worrying aspect is that they haven’t looked like scoring. Even on Tuesday against Bolton, for all the territorial pressure we had, we failed to create a clear cut chance aside from a penalty. The failure to adequately replace the only goalscorer at the club in James Vaughan, is already, as many predicted, coming to bite us on the backside. 

The outcry on social media of impending relegation fears is not without some merit. It is of course far too early to be concluding that City will be in a relegation battle, but this squad is so unbelievably poor, that these concerns are understandable.

In comparing this squad to that which Phil Parkinson had at his disposal in the 2011/12 season that just about managed EFL survival, this looks worse in a number of areas. Jon McLaughlin, Luke Oliver, Andrew Davies, Ricky Ravenhill, Nahki Wells, Kyel Reid and James Hanson all get into this squad. Some walk into it and some fly into it. That squad has leaders and some real quality. This squad has neither. 

McCall is understandably under pressure given the recent performances and results as well as the fact that his recruitment isn’t looking great. But would a change in manager actually bring about a change in fortunes? I’m not so sure.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola would struggle to get a tune out of a squad which is lacking in even the basics of leaders, passion and desire. And that’s before you even contemplate the glaring lack of quality. 

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , ,

21 replies

  1. Spot on. No cutting edge going forward and a defence which seems utterly clueless. I’m a McCall fan but he seems unable to get a decent tune out of this cheap old fiddle. Maybe time to look at out of contract players to see if there’s anyone out there to instil some belief .

  2. Brilliant summary, but the serious thing is it was so predictable before the season started by anyone who knows anything about football . I have been involved with Sunday morning football for many years and you can see the team is completely out of balance quality and leadership this is not looking back in hindsight I have been saying it from day one ,what are the club up to ,we need answers and not excuses ,the squad is terrible and needs a complete overall, where do we go from here at best In my view bottom half but safe or a relegation battle ,simply not good enough.

  3. it does seem that you and every supporter has exasperated all known avenues of complaint and understanding of our football team and no doubt the poor old manager gets it in the neck and rightly so i hear you say, But our managers loyalty and commitment is beyond reproach he is our man no question and what other manager would get a tune out of this team or want to try, They just turn up for a run around then go home.
    No the time has come for every football club in the league to hit back, Stop paying players for failure get them on a new pay deal with an agreement that if you loose you get minus 50% wage if you draw you get basic and if you win you get 30% more and that goes equally for the manager and coaching staff
    No other sport pays players for failure Winners always take the lions share and some don’t even get payed at all for loosing I think you will find players getting together and jelling as a team when it hits them in the pocket

    • The big problem is that for any sort of restraint on salaries, changes in manager or otherwise as sure as night follows day somebody will come out top and others will be bottom. Thats why pundits have a job for life. Sacking Stuart might be the answer but remember the four we had before him. What a thought !

    • David a Contract is a binding agreement between two parties. In this instant Bradford City and the players they have signed. You cannot change these without the agreement of the two parties. No player is going to agree to the changes you are proposing. The percentage difference in itself is far too great. You must be aware that a wage cap has been introduced. In your proposal the basic salary could only be around fifty percent of the cap amount. Most of the top 7 teams win twenty or more games a season. So the basic salary would have to be set low, to ensure the clubs didn’t break the EFL salary cap. So you would be looking at a budget of say £750,000. Clubs can have 22 senior players and additional players who are under the age of 21. That would leave an average salary somewhere in the region of £30,000 – £40,000, with a potential on your formula of players getting far less when they lose. In 2017/2018 eight teams lost over twenty games.
      Any player who signed a contract using your salary system would be fairly crazy. The PFA would attempt top veto it.
      We are all hurting at the moment, but I think we have to see it in a balanced manner. I am in favour of rewarding players for success, but the current EFL salary cap doesn’t allow much flexibility.
      Just as an aside what are you suggesting should happen to players who are suspended, injured, ill, etc?

  4. A truly abysmal display. Clueless in every fashion. I really don’t know who we are or even want to be at this very moment.

    A lot of noise on twitter tonight about not sacking managers and how the totally committed Stuart will be smarting, hurting and frustrated. I agree. We will never get a more committed manager than Stuart. He will be hurting very badly, and I for one don’t wish this in the clubs biggest legend, nor any human.

    But, we have to look to the sponsors of one of our better kits and eras and adopt a Bradford Myth Breaker approach to some of the retorts.

    1) He has not been hung out to dry by the hierarchy. Why would JR, who has hired him 3 times hang him out to dry? He loves him. He is his go to man. Why would he appoint and then harm him. Fake news.

    2) The wage cap is far lower than our usual wage bill. John Dewhirst followed up a very strong financial argument by revealing that Macca had made a decision to keep some of the wage cap back to make signings in January. Why would you do this? Here’s your Covid bounce back loan sir, you can either spend it all now and have a string business or spend a little now, struggle, and then try and come back stronger. A very odd decision.

    3) He has inherited a poor squad. Maybe. But the counter is that the players he inherited were only out of the play offs for one week under Bowyer and he then got sacked. We’ve never been in a higher position since. But McCall signed the keeper. Inherited a great LB. Signed a great RB. He signed ,pretty much the entire midfield.

    He inherited the CBS (are they that bad- Staunton has been raved about, BRE in top 6 blockers in the league) and the strikers to a point. His final piece of the jigsaw lined up today and was applying. Yes CD and Guthrie are crap, but LN has the best goal per game ratio of our strikers for years. He had the opportunity to right this, yet held money back.

    4) No manager ever hasn’t inherited a squad. You have to work with this fact. And yet he’s taken us Backwards. His football cannot be seen as being better than Bowyers.

    I’m not saying we should sack him. As I say in opening I don’t want him to fail. But, he’s very much at fault for this. Let’s not say he isn’t. Where were we this time last year under boring Bowyer with an allegedly poor team?

    Just perspective. That’s all.

    • But he doesn’t have the resources Bowyer did. Just look at the difference in strikers he has to what Bowyer did. As for the money spend. It was a short gap relatively to the next window. You could argue that is might have been shrewd to wait t see in what area he was short or needed something else after assessing his squad. That would have been deemed ok had we had better results. Problem is is that a lot of us predicted that there was not enough goals in this side. And that is the case. So now his ecision looks to be back firing. The club itself though did not look to buy/hire before the cap rules took place as other clubs did. They also happily said that we will work within the salary cap whilst stating that they didn’t agree with it. A bit of a smokescreen considiering that they could have recruited before the cap took effect. I do understand, and agree, with the prudence though but it has not helped Stuarts plight. The squad is simply as i predicted not one near challenging and thus i am not surprised by the results. The one glimpse of positivism is that the results are still narrow margins and defeats by the one goal in most respects. Thus if we can address the striker situation and perhaps stiffen up the midfield then we can see results going the other way. But most fans and those with an agenda against Stuart simply won’t allow this time.

  5. McCall can’t abdicate responsibility for this shambles of a squad, some inherited and some he’s recruited. Where do you start on trying to put this right? Who’s interested in trying to put it right? Not Stefan Rupp, our absent owner. Not Julian Rhodes, desperately looking for an exit route. Certainly not the players. Stuart might be interested, but strange team selections, results and, performances like today, suggest he doesn’t possess the ability.

    Adam, the worrying things for me are your last two sentences. I agree, and that’s why I’m worried. Because all we can hope for is that, come May, there are two worse teams than us. I can’t recall having written off a season so early in proceedings.

    • a simple perusal of the squads should have dampened any expectations. It was clear we were short in many areas. He inherited an attack bereft of a record of goals. 3 left backs. No right back at all. And has had to fill the squad with 5 youth players and 2 other loan youth players. Indeed Saturdays team had 4 players who were playing youth football last season, which is perhaps part of the reasons for not playing to the conditions?

  6. The conditions ruined this game, even more so than the stupid challenge for the red card. O’Donnell was sending it long into the wind because Barrow were forcing his hand, putting players around the 18 yard box to prevent us playing-out from the back. Maybe we could have dropped midfielders back to give him more options, but that didn’t happen, so he had little choice I think.

    More concerning for me was Donaldson’s apparent inability to stay onside, meaning that almost all of our attacking play in the first half broke down, and especially since shots from distance were clearly not an option due to the wind. He has the ability to be a match winner, even with the amount of attention he gets from opposition defences, but this side to his game really lets the team down.

    • Dave, no matter how you gloss it over regarding the conditions we were tactically outthought by the opposition. Mcall either tinkers with the team week in week out or when he sticks with a consistent formation he can’t play the same personnel. He is tactically out thought week in week out.

  7. Team leadership begins with the manager. He sets the tone. Plenty of examples throughout history of strong managers inspiring average talent to overachieve. SM is not that type of leader … or so it appears. Is there one out there for City? Can SM pull a massive turnaround story before it’s too late? We may have to only hope for the latter this season.

  8. Same old faces, re signed again, probably due to the fact they were cheap and available, but we did not progress with these last year and we can blame Covid for that disaster as the get out clause.

    It will take a couple of seasons with tinkering and replacement’s, but I feel until we have to rid the rot and we have no team players from the Bowyer era, then we maybe able to move forward, I am not wanting to see manager replacement as we have had a few and it did not make any difference, it is back to building blocks again and I would love to see 5 new players in January through the door but we would be lucky to make play offs if they were any good at this moment in time.

    Unfortunately McCall inherited a totally different team to the one He did from Parkinson that He managed to get to Wembley in L1 and going forward I would look at bringing in as many in as possible in the transfer window and release as many out on loan as possible to balance the books.

    It ain’t working and it is certainly not the Mc Call style of play, so questions need to be asked openly and honestly and face the facts, draw the line and build for the future.

  9. Stuart has to hold his hands up for this and other recent performances. It is down to poor tactics, puzzling team selection and poor recruitment. Stuart is responsible for all these decisions. When I saw the team selection for Barrow game, I knew we would struggle for goals. Looking forward, I cannot see where we can improve. His tinkering is baffling. He drops his best midfielder in Watt and Clarke. The Bolton match was by no means a classic performance by City but they showed grit in the second half and nearly came away with something which they deserved. Yet Stuart made 3 changes non of which came off.

    As a player Stuart was without doubt a city legend. As a manager he is poor. His last roll at Scunthorpe is mirrored now at city. I can only see one outcome if performances continue in a similar vein, Stuart will have to go.

  10. There’s no structure or identity at the club. Get this in place ASAP! As many predicted in the summer, recruitment has been ridiculously poor. Seeing the line ups is confusing to everyone, the formations are confusing at best.The kids in the youth Cup set up with a 4-4-1-1. If those lads were to go into the first team they’d be confused. All teams at the club should be focused on a style and formation and as the kids get older they slot straight into the first team after years of playing in a certain way. We have no way of playing, we have no way of setting up. We have no leader on the pitch, we have no leader off the pitch. Stuart needs to stop with the excuses, they give the players a reason why it went wrong and not to look at themselves as the reason. As long as there’s no accountability it wont change. My under 14s played yesterday in the sideways blizzard and never once mentioned the rain, the wind or any conditions. They did however keep the ball on the floor out of the wind. We taken another forward on loan who is raw and unknown and hope it works out, our experienced players like Donaldson, O’Donnell, A O’connor not stepping up and leading. Sutton was crap at scunthorpe, mottley Henry couldn’t get a club,Ismail is constantly injured, our right back is on loan, our central back four is pitiful and wouldn’t pick any given a choice. If we don’t go down it will be due to someone else being even more pitiful than us.

  11. The worst aspect of all of this was that Barrow looked poor too. A measure if how bad we were.
    Harrogate and Newport for all the rave reviews are not that good either andvacdecent team would walk this league. That’s the most worrying aspect.

  12. When a business fails, as City are failing, the fault is generally speaking that of the people at the top.
    The people at fault for City’s demise are
    1. Rupp.
    2. Rhodes.
    3. McCall.
    In that order.
    Most supporters blame the manager, but the fault is more that of those who appoint, fund and direct him.
    I know City need to change ownership and chief executive, but have no idea about who could take over, or how it could be done.

    That is why I feel so helpless and depressed. I see another Chesterfield or Hartlepool coming for us.

    • John, I agree with your sentiments but I doubt most fans realise that Stuart McCall is ranked sixth for win percentage at 38% for City managers in the last 50 years. Higher than Phil Parkinson at 34.7%. I think Stuart deserves more than is current term of 19 games to turn things around. In total Stuart’s managed 250 City games the third highest in the history of the Club.

  13. Before any relegation issues are settled this season then we have to have played the whole campaign
    For that to happen we will have to see all the clubs in the two bottom divisions.
    Many involved in the game are forecasting that many clubs in both L1 and L2 will not survive.past Xmas
    Andy Holt the Accrington Chairman has been very public about this and he is well respected in the game.
    If this happens then expect several scenarios

    Less clubs with lots of players looking for new clubs. Less divisions and even regionalised divisions to cut travel.and hotel costs. Even.players becoming part time
    A complete re-organisation.of the bottom.rwo divisions.
    Success this season could be survival into 2021.
    This might explain a lot of what’s been happening at VP

    • “This might explain a lot of what’s been happening at VP.”…. Mark, City are in free fall and it’s got nothing to do with Covid.

  14. We will see..

%d bloggers like this: