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.