Having more patience

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Ian Lockwood

We’ve been here before.

The frustration, the annoyance, the angst. Once again Bradford City have been struggling to score, lacking in ideas, bereft of inspiration. At least before Tuesday’s win over bottom club Southend. 

What adds to the sheer damned irritation of it all is how some other clubs seem to sail serenely on leaving us floundering in their wake.

How come, we ask ourselves, are Newport, Conference League journeyman not so long ago, waltzing through the league?

How can Forest Green Rovers, based in a village the size of Eldwick, be hanging around the play-offs for the second year in a row?

What on earth have Harrogate got that we haven’t?

And how in God’s name are Wycombe Wanderers in the Championship?

At the risk of reopening old debates, we are a “big” club. Accrington are a “small” club. But we’re going in opposite directions. With an average home attendance of less than 3,000 they’re surviving quite comfortably in League One. With our much-vaunted “huge” crowds we’re floundering in League Two.

So what is it? What do these clubs have that we haven’t? What could we copy from them to escape the misery of being a Bantams fan?

One answer is: a long-serving manager. All the above named clubs (except obviously Bradford City) have managers who have been there a long time.

Gareth Ainsworth has been at Wycombe for eight years. We’re on our ninth manager since Ainsworth took over – and one of them was Phil Parkinson, who was in charge of Bradford City for more matches than any other manager since President Kennedy was assassinated, with the exception of Trevor Cherry.

The longest serving manager is Simon Weaver at Harrogate. OK, there are special circumstances in North Yorkshire as having your dad as the chairman is a big help but there can be no denying that continuity and stability look to be working well up the A660.

The second longest serving manager is Sean Dyche at Burnley. Last time I looked they seemed to be doing OK.

John Coleman works wonders every year at Accrington. He’s been there for six years. It’s his second spell after his first lasted 13 years. Those spells were broken by a year at Rochdale with dire results. Had he become a bad manager? Or did he need time to instil his beliefs, patterns and players into Spotland? Whatever, he returned to Accrington (who did equally badly without him) and after three years brought them promotion. Three years on they’re still there and have made a better start to this season than we have a league below.

The next four longest serving managers in the Football League are Mark Cooper at Forest Green Rovers (approaching five years), Dave Artell at Crewe (four years) and Michael Flynn at Newport (nearly four years). Come on City fans, aren’t we all a bit jealous of the relative success of these “small” clubs?

So how long has Stuart been in charge at Bradford City? The Southend match marked his 271st day in charge of City – and about 150 of those were spend in lockdown.

Yet here we are again. The keyboard warriors are out again confirming his tactics are wrong, his recruitment is wrong, his motivation is poor, it’s time to go. If only we brought in a decent manager like, like, like……well, anyone who has been sacked after a few months at another club – then things would be fine and we’d join the Accringtons, Crewes, Wycombes, Newports and Forest Green Rovers of this world.

As you can see, I strongly disagree with those who want a change of manager now. I don’t want to see a change of manager at all. Not this season and not next – and possibly not the season after. I can take a couple of seasons of mediocrity because it takes more than another manager and a good few grand on a new striker to chase the clouds away and bring out the sun.

Give Stuart until May 2023 to mould a side; in football parlance let’s build from the back. If by May 2023 we have made no real progress, then that’s the time to consider a new man at the helm.

I’m sick of good managers getting dumped – right from the disastrous decision to sack Colin Todd. We even wanted to get rid of Parky for heaven’s sake.

Let’s try something which has worked at the clubs named above – patience.

Categories: Opinion


29 replies

  1. Where was this article in january when we were 3rd?

  2. One result against the worst side in the league doesn’t mask the bigger problems we have at the club. Whatever the budget Stuart was given hasn’t been spent wisely at all. He’s been erratic in both formation and personnel. That’s more the sign of a manager that had run out of ideas. I agree that sacking manager after manager is sure fire way to disaster, I’m just not sure the current one is the one to hang our hats on, based on his ability to build a squad from scratch.

    Hope I’m wrong, but until things change at the top and he receives more support, he’s been set to fail in my opinion.

    • Has the recruitment been disastrous?

      The good:
      Elliot Watt: Our best player so far
      Billy Clarke: Perhaps inconsistent but on his day makes the team tick
      Bryce Hosannah: Looks like a real find even if on loan

      The OK:
      Callum Cooke: Nobody was complaining when we signed him and won’t be is he finds his previous form
      Richard O’Donnell: There’s better, there’s worse out there

      The Bad:
      Dylan Mottley-Henry: I imagine he has a wage comparable to his position but doesn’t seem good enough and not sure why he was resigned
      Austin Samuels: I may be yet to eat my words on this but as the above was put on the pitch before him looks like Stuart isn’t happy.

      The jury’s out:
      Gareth Evans: Looks like a great signing on paper, potentially the leader we are looking for. Need to get him on the pitch
      Levi Sutton: Silly, silly boy. However previously was given a lot of praise for his previous appearance and given credit for adding the ‘bit of bite’ that ended up costing him.

      Not every signing works where Jewell signed Mills and Windass he also (and spent £1.3M) on Isaiah Rankin. Where Parkinson signed Davies and McCardle he also signed Matthew Bates. Get more right than you get wrong and you’ll do alright.

      And I don’t disagree that Stuart has got things wrong and have criticised him myself for not replacing Vaughan, however how many strikers at this level are genuinely much better than Novak? I also know I have rose tinted spectacles when it comes to McCall I desperately want it to work out for him but similar to the striker situation who are we actually going to go out and replace him with?

      Out of contract in 2021 includes:
      Jackson Longridge
      Ben Richards Everton
      A O’C
      Harry Pritchard
      Lee Novak
      Clayton Donaldson
      Zeli Ismail
      Tyler French
      Billy Clarke
      Kurtis Guthrie

      I think everyone will agree on 6 of those that should definitely be gone and of the remaining 5 I can’t guarantee anyone staying nor would I think it’s a disaster if they left. If A O’C was to stay I would imagine on a much reduced wage.

      • Just to add in the rider with regard to recruitment that we are less than a quarter of a season in and there is time for some underperforming players to kick on. Patience again is needed. I think you have got your player assessments bob on. The striking situation needs sorting but we are not that far off the window in reality and SM has left petrol in the tank for that. Overall your sentiment is sound and will be shared by most. Stuart will at the very least see out his contract and deserves our support in the meantime

      • I agree Luke. McCall needs the opportunity to grow the squad. Good write up by the way. Mr. Peers

    • Very good, hope you’re well Mr.Peers!

  3. In agreement with you on this Ian. We have to play the long game, chopping managers hadn’t brought us the success we all crave. As the saying goes “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity”

  4. Thank you for writing this.
    I would find great difficulty in agreeing more.
    But my biggest problem with City is that we don’t own the Valley Parade stadium, and that means we lack assets.

    • Totally understand your point John but owning an ageing asset can soon turn into quite a liability. The stadium ownership (or lack thereof), in my opinion, is an overstated issue.
      As with everything in football the balance of on field and off field success has to stay in equilibrium in order to keep making progress. I hate to sound like a broken record but the damage that was done by rahic’s destructive negligence of the club will take a decade to recover from. The balance is so fine at our level. Everything we had built up was halted and reversed. We have to start trying to turn the rusty flywheel again from scratch. This takes massive effort and a lot of people pushing in the same direction. CTID

  5. Stuart McCall has his weaknesses but his strengths are not those that we could easily find in a replacement. As argued previously on WOAP surely the answer is to give him the support in terms of other appointments at VP. As regards sacking him, let’s not deceive ourselves that being manager of BCAFC is a dream job and that a new candidate could miraculously transform the club. A lot of potential candidates may be wary of applying for fear of risking their reputation and not wanting to step into such a difficult environment. That wouldn’t stop unemployed managers putting their names forward to get themselves a salary and just like we have accommodated mercenary players, there is no shortage of mercenary managers…

    In a week when the club has just announced that members of its staff have been placed on furlough let’s put this into perspective. Having a man in charge of the team whose commitment to BCAFC is unquestionable is precisely the sort of stability that is needed at Valley Parade in the current circumstances. Stuart McCall’s contract is up at the end of the season and a decision about his future will have to be made in the new year but in the meantime let’s get behind him and give him the support that he deserves. The constant criticism of him must be incredibly demoralising and only serves to make his job harder. Let’s not forget either that there is a large proportion of fans (the silent majority?) who remain firmly behind him and that it is far from being a consensus of opinion that he should not remain manager.

    • As they say John, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Despite the vitriol on social media, I doubt more than 15% of our fans want McCall to be sacked. It’s just those 15% shout the loudest whenever they can.

  6. Don’t want to be critical because fundamentally I agree with the article but you can reverse the argument. These managers have remained at their clubs because they have been successful not these clubs have been successful because they have retained their managers.

    • Whilst I take your point, it’s a logical possibility if taking records at face value, your comment rightly means you have to look at the stages of each managerial reign to allow for possibility of your point to be ascertained in each example.

      I am not aware of the details around each of the specific managers used above, however looking closer to home…

      if we look at Parky he started badly, (or to use an elite example, Fergie too)but both managed to find the characters they needed to improve the team.

      So looking back on either of these you might think they had long reigns because they were very successful, but neither were setting the work alight in their early days.

      The one thing they both shared was a premium on attitude and character above pure skill levels. Both dropped talented players and worked with some times lesser talents just because they showed the values that they wanted in the team…these values are ones you can’t always identify before you sign the player..and maybe shows why it took time for them to succeed

  7. It’s all right you saying give him until 2023.Of all the players out of work he brings back the poor players he had before covid ended last season early.Who in Thier right mind would make a second rate keeper captain.did he buy a leader I havn’t seen one on or of the field.Unfortunately Stuart was a cheap option and so was the players he recruited.Ive followed city since 1957.But in that time I’ve seen proper battlers on that pitch might not have been great footballers but they gave thier all.This lot don’t have a clue.But they’ll know where to collect their wages.

  8. Brilliant! Great research and great argument…. Stuart has had success at VP (or at least been within a few mins of the Championship, despite a difficult chairman, which is good enough for me ) and has most of the fans’ support. Lets just stick with him as Ian suggests

  9. We definitely need some stability and a long term strategy . I think with a proven striker I think we could be a decent team

  10. I’m neutral on Stuart staying beyond this season. The Club needs Stability and Continuity per this article but we also need good Leadership re. CEO and Money re. Owner.

  11. “I can take a couple of seasons of mediocrity” – how many more do you need ? We aren’t probably even good enough to be called mediocre – we are a rudderless ship with a complete lack of vision, strategy and purpose – each game is a random formation drawn out of hat ? We play possession when we need to be direct – go longball in the wind when possession would be the more intelligent strategy
    Stuart McCall as a player ranks as one of the best to ever a pull on the shirt – as a manager and person in charge of recruitment – he is the opposite. We were in the market for a striker and we took on Austin Samuels – who didn’t score a goal in National League North on loan last season – on the basis that he scored against us in a meaningless competition? – no-one seriously believes we scouted him and decided he was the missing piece of the jigsaw. He can’t even get game-time ahead of Mottley- Henry
    The club needs a complete clean out from the top – we need a competent commercially focussed person AND a competent football knowledgeable person to work in partnership with a clear, focussed vision and a pathway. Do that and we might have a future – at least we could at least say we tried.
    Do the same we have previously done – we will get what we got previously mediocrity – and that’s being generous
    Remain with status quo it’s going to be “when” we get relegated in next few years not “if”

    • In fairness mediocrity right now is actually a step up. We have been in critical decline for three years. Stopping the rot is all we can ask for now. Unfortunately the disruption to Last season and the current restrictions on football clubs mean that external forces are also contributing to our decline. Salary cap is bad for City. No fans In stadia is disastrous for City

  12. Calm heads required in all areas for life no certainly at our great club for now. As I said before we won’t go down, we probs won’t go up but we will have a club this time next year unless something is brewing that we can’t see.
    Who in their right minds expected or would predict SM to come into the end of a 2 year shambolic storm. Turn it all around in 1 transfer window! Then I will do to that a transfer window of wage cap COVID uncertainty and no fans to Will us on the extra mile in those early games. Unless we are 1 win above the drop zone then panic not. Give him at least 2 more windows to get his players in and Decide what system to go with and then judge. Basically this time next year at the very least. He in the end he to get some bodies in – that is very different to getting his ideal players in of which he probs has about 7-8 of right now in my opinion.
    It’s hard to keep the faith bud not go mad at times I know. But we simply must…


  13. If City don’t finish in the top half of the League Table it is going to be very difficult to justify giving Stuart a new contract. Consideration must be given to last season’s ninth place finish and nine players (40%) of the current senior squad are his signings.

    Stuart’s managerial history at City is highly ranked when compared to his predecessors. However, with 251 games and a 38% win percentage it’s actually quite modest when looking at the big picture. I sincerely hope that Stuart finishes this season.

    • Phil, I think you have to be pragmatic. Goodness knows whether the season is going to be impacted by the C19 emergency and whether all clubs in L2 will survive. There are three outcomes: a promotion challenge; a relegation battle; or none of the these. So much needs to happen in terms of developing younger players and building for the future that I wouldn’t be so prescriptive about league position alone.

    • I think a recent article or comment pointed out that Stuart has one of the highest win ratios amongst city mgrs so whilst 38% might not sound fantastic, it’s certainly “more fantastic” than what we have had under most mgrs 🙂

    • yet higher up Woody you were saying that you were neutral about this?? its like all your t and a posts i.e. always coming from a negative angle and contradictory

  14. I’m so tired of reading comments from people who work in a pickled onion factory or something similar deriding Stuart’s decision making, motivation or anything else he does.. Stuart craps out more football knowledge in a morning..nay he wipes more football knowledge on a roll of Andrew than can be read on TCA or Bantams Bollocks.
    There’s not a manager born that doesn’t have strengths and weaknesses and Stuart is no different. Some on social media would employ an Uber eats driver if he had a foreign name as a n example of ambition!!
    What crap..Peter Taylor, Frank Stapleton and Bryan Robson were all ambitious managerial appointments and they were all failures to some degree or other…I long for the days before social media when all you had to put up with was an occasional letter in the Telegraph from the local village idiot…rant over

  15. Totally agree with this article.

  16. Agree completely. To many people expect instant success when all evidence shows continuity is best. Maybe people expect Ronaldo to turn up and solve all our problems.
    Realism has never been out forte though

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