Groundhog Day

Salford City 3
Burgess 8+45, Henderson 21
Bradford City 0

By Tim Penfold

The last Bradford City game of 2019/20 was a dispiriting trip across the Pennines to Salford. Stuart McCall’s Bantams were outplayed and slumped to a poor 2-0 defeat that left it their playoff chances hanging by a thread. It would be an understatement to say that quite a lot has happened since then, but for all the turmoil and upheaval in the world since then, today’s game was very similar.

We were outclassed, again, this time by a team that is surely bound for League One.

Yes, there are injuries to contend with. There were, by my reckoning, five players unavailable – Reece Staunton, Bryce Hosannah, Callum Cooke, Billy Clarke and Lee Novak – that would’ve got into Stuart McCall’s first-choice XI. But injuries are an inevitability, especially in this season’s covid-shortened and crowded calendar.

Good squads can, to a degree, cope with these, but City’s squad is not a good squad. There is quality, but no depth – no Will Atkinson, or Carl McHugh, or Ricky Ravenhill to come in and fill a gap or push their claims to play every week.

Yes, Salford are a very good team – but this season we have only beaten the teams in 21st, 23rd and 24th in the table, as well as a cup win against the team 16th, and an FA Cup hammering of a side two divisions below us. Surely we can expect a little more than this?

With Staunton missing, Ben Richards-Everton returned to the line-up. Within a minute he’d slipped over in possession, then picked up a booking. His sloppy passing almost gifted Salford a goal, and he was hooked at half time.

Also returning, and also subbed at half-time, was Gareth Evans, who gave away possession for the third goal then laboured slowly back, not even able to get close enough to his man to foul him. He looked half-fit and unsure of his role, and that leaves another question. He was a big signing this summer, but where does he fit into this side?

City’s midfield did not function defensively, with runners from deep surging away whenever City gave away the ball. Salford’s skill and movement were too much for them, and the wave of attacks overwhelmed the weakened defence.

There were failures from City all over – failure to close down, failure to react to a loose ball, failure to mark, failure to track – and it meant that they went into half-time three goals down with the game effectively over.

The second half saw three changes then another midway through the half, as City shifted to a 4-3-3. Some of these substitutes – particularly youngster Kian Scales – pushed themselves further up the pecking order with bright cameos. Others, such as the anonymous Dylan Mottley-Henry, did not. But the game was long since over as a contest – the closest City got was when an Elliot Watt long-ranger was almost fumbled into his own net by the Salford keeper.

This game showcased all of the problems with the club’s recruitment this summer. A small squad was always going to be a risky choice considering how many two-game weeks there were going to be, but it can be done. Phil Parkinson’s squads were generally fairly small, but the backup players normally had the quality to step in and do a job (with the exception of Matthew Bates).

This squad’s quality drops off a cliff after the first couple of injuries. It also doesn’t seem to have been put together with any one system in mind – we seem to have settled on 5-3-2 that leaves no obvious place for Gareth Evans. It reminds me of January 2019, when we ended up with no wingers but plenty of creative playmakers. That fundamentally didn’t work.

This is not how smart clubs recruit. They don’t just give the manager an iPad and a wyscout subscription – they give him proper support from scouts and analysts. It’s unreasonable to ask the manager to do everything, and it doesn’t lend itself to long-term planning either, as the manager is the first to get the sack when things go wrong.

We’ve got a squad recruited by Edin Rahic, David Hopkin, Gary Bowyer and Stuart McCall at the moment and it shows. Three very different types of manager, and an incompetent megalomaniac playing at being a director of football. The result is a mish-mash of players that suit very different styles, and the poor performances that follow are inevitable.

The club needs to pick a plan and stick to it. It has the security to do this – even with this team’s struggles, the rest of the division is weak enough that relegation is incredibly unlikely. If that means we spend the rest of the season building towards next season, then I think the fanbase would accept this as long as it was communicated well.

But at the moment it doesn’t look like we have a plan – we’re just flailing about in the hope if we try every different strategy at random we’ll eventually hit the right one. But how long will that take?


Categories: Match Reviews

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36 replies

  1. Yes it was disappointing today.

    I thought Austin Samuals had his best game for us, reguallry picking the ball up deep and making strong runs shrugging off tackles etc. O’Donnell made some superb saves that kept us from a real hammering, and then in the second half Kian Scales showed good application and desire to be on the ball or making runs.

    Ironically it was a better game to watch than Harrogate or Barrow, yet still very frsutrating. In the end I felt in Hunter and Burgess et all Salford were just a much better team man for man.

  2. Puzzled Tim, I believe the only player still under contact signed before Rahic vanished is Anthony O’Connor, Paudie was signed afterwards and O’Donnell resigned in the summer.

  3. I have seen most of the games and with the exception of Newport none have been impressive which is very frustrating as it would not take much to be a big player in this division.
    Salford were not that good. But when you give a goal to.any side within.the opening minutes then.any team is going to struggle.
    Give them two and you have little chance.
    And that’s us in a nutshell. We give early sloppy goals away and that’s game over.
    BRE should never get.anywhere near a City first team shirt again. Clumsy from the very first touch and needlessly booked within five mins.
    It set the mood.
    Another unfortunate goal conceded and very soon after another.
    The Radio L666s commentator talked up the goals..Neither should have happened.
    We.nearly score just before half time but they break.and only another superb save prevents a third.
    Not to worry? Evan’s losses the ball in.midfield and somehow the Salford striker squeezes a shot between O’Donnell and the post. Another soft goal and not caused by Salford creating it. Caused by ourselves.
    Wasnt O’Donnel caught out by Exeter in a similar.position.last week?
    So in essence cut out conceding early and cut out the annoying stupid goals and we might have a platform to build on.

    • Totally agree about BRE. Can’t remember a player regressing as badly as he has done in 18 months…I really believe his utter incompetence and inability to read the game was a huge part in that result.. he should have been locked up by West Midlands Police for impersonating a footballer

    • You wasn’t impressed with Harrogate Mark ?.

  4. When is the new CEO starting??

    I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

  5. I like Tim. He’s a great contributor to the website and a good tweeter. A solid view.

    But I cannot disagree more with many points of this article. Sorry Tim. I don’t wish to offend.

    When Stuart was appointed we were 8th and a point of the play offs. He did not inherit a bad squad. It was a squad that had been out of the play offs for one week only. The week that Bowyer was sacked. Bowyer left Stuart in the best position he would achieve in his latest reign. He has taken us from 8th to 19th. Bowyer got sacked for taking us from second to eighth.

    Can we stop with he inherited a bad squad please. See above. Also, if you take the current fit first team, he signed the keeper, the right back, nearly the entirety of the midfield and half the strike force is he plays Clarke there or Samuels.

    He inherited Wood, French and Staunton who many are lauding. And rightly so.

    Salford are not certainly bound for league one. They are just 6 points ahead of us after an equal amount of games and we are having a shocker. Hardly beaten by world beaters were we?

    The teams we have beaten have played a collective 36 matches and got 3 wins in those matches. It’s hardly even a brag to beat them. But probably means we are slightly too good for relegation. That’s something.

    There’s a disturbing rewriting of history that concerns me. “we have a squad recruited by Edin Rahic, David Hopkin, Gary Bowyer and Stuart McCall”. It’s a pub debate but our most saleable asset in Wood was signed by Edin. Stuart chose to resign others signings in the keeper and Cooke.

    I expect lots of down thumbs for this, but our better players of late were signed by Edin and Bowyer. They all flourish elsewhere whilst we flounder.

    People clamour now for a director of football, yet we had two and signed better than we do now. I knew Edin well. He was a head case. A mentalist. But did he try to implement, in a nuclear wrong way, what we all want now?

    All food for thought. I’d love to know your counters and not just thumbs down.

    • Ben Richards Everton signed by Bowyer….that should be enough to blow that argument out of the water…

    • I’m not sure at any point I say “Stuart inherited a bad squad” – my point on this is not “Stuart can’t be expected to do better with the rubbish that he was left”, it’s “when you have four very different people with very different priorities recruit a squad you end up with a disjointed mess”. It’s really an argument for a Director of Football – the issue with Rahic wasn’t so much that a Director of Football system was a bad idea, it’s that he was fundamentally unsuited to that role. Hence our 2018-19 squad of decent (albeit expensive) individuals no thought on how they fit together as a team.

      I have Salford down as clear favourites for promotion tbh – they’ve got a great manager in Wellens and a large amount of money, so even if they make errors they can just throw more money at the issue to fix them. As long as the owner keeps the funding in and isn’t a complete idiot they will eventually reach League One, and as they are one of the few teams spending this season due to Covid I think this will be their year.

      I think I make the same point on you about the teams we’ve beaten this season – they aren’t exactly world-beaters and we should expect better than what we’ve got so far.

      Honestly, I’d take a reasonable amount of Edin’s plan – signing young players to sell for a profit, a Director of Football/head coach system where we have some level of continuity in recruitment rather than resetting to zero when a new manager takes over, developing our own youngsters. It all sounded good until you realised that the person running it was an idiot.

      • Hi Tim,

        The reasoned response I would expect from you. One questions if I may. How can they just throw money at it? There’s a wage cap. And if you could flout it before it came in, then surely they can’t now?

        What this wage cap shows is that recruitment, managers and clubs are laid bare. If you’re good then you’ll prosper. If your found wanting then it’s brutal.

      • Is it an argument for a director of football or just an argument to stick with a manager for several seasons to allow him to recruit and implement a strategy?

    • I’m fairly sure that the biggest part of Salford squad were already signed before the salary cap which meant they didn’t count towards it giving them an invaluable head start against other clubs….and the comments about French , Wood and Staunton being inherited by Stuart? French was nowhere near the first team until Stuart took over, Staunton the same and Wood has flourished under Stuart. What the wage cap has done is exposed passengers like Richards Everton, passengers that can be ill afforded against a decent, and expensive team as we saw today. O’Connor, another contracted player when Stuart took over, looks half the player at the side of Richards Everton. Takes more than 6 months for a manager to make it work…Phil Parkinson anyone?

      • French wasn’t signed by McCall. He’s therefore benefited from him being at the club. He’s only had to play him as he was very lazy in recruitment until Brice who’s far superior. Wood has positively lost 80% of his powers in this team. He’s awful compared to last year. But, still a good manger would want him. Thanks to Edin for that. Staunton has been brilliant. Well done to that young man. The fact we rely upon him says far too much.

        A wage camp doesn’t out players. It outs mangers.

    • I have to disagree I’m afraid, as you point out Bowyer had a team that were slipping down the table. I think we slipped to 8th after winning 2 games in the next 2 months. In my opinion that was a side that wouldn’t have made the top half under either manager. I think we were getting a truer reflection of this team’s abilities.

      In that team Bowyer also had one of the best strikers in the division to call upon (another 2 goals today). Momentum is a funny thing in football we had it at the beginning of that season. Just like Hopkin’s brilliant December where we looked like fantastic didn’t represent a good squad, Parkinson’s 1 win in 21 games run didn’t represent a bad squad but a squad struggling to replace a goalscorer that the team was built around.

      I’m not saying Stuart is doing well, he is not. However, I think there are many reasons for this – Vaughan leaving which I think was right (could we have even got a decent replacement), an inept defence, and bad luck with injuries and suspensions. I don’t think we get a different result with Cooke and Staunton today but I think we get a different performance. (An unfit) Evans gave away 1 goal and BRE was BRE. I’m not writing Evans off on 1 performance where he was rushed back but I’m writing off BRE after watching him for 18 months.

      My point is I don’t think Stuart is the best manager ever to have taken charge of City but I don’t think we will end up with someone much / if any better. I don’t think great managers are available at this level, but more lots of mediocre managers who either get time and a bit of luck (or momentum) or don’t. I do think there are also bad managers – I don’t think Stuart is one of those.

      When Parkinson took over we gave him time to build his squad and he had a season like we are having now to begin with – after Crawley I remember thinking we were going to be relegated from the football league. He then brought in a spine of the team that turned us around. That team was built on a solid defence – today we had BRE and the O’Connors.

    • Plenty food for thought Ben but what do you propose happens next?

      • I’m not sure. I think first things first is to announce the new CEO. We then have some clarity moving forward in that role. When results are so bad there’s a temptation to sack the manager to try and stop the rot. Many will advocate this action. I’ve recently been swayed by arguments on here that we need stability. Also the argument that no one probably cares more than Stuart. So I have no hesitation in admitting I’m stuck between the two camps.

        We are saving a hefty amount of cash with the wage cap so maybe there is now money available for. DOF at the club. Maybe taking a bit of the stress from that process may free him up to deal with just first team matters.

        With a new CEO in place and a DOF, we may have a successful January window. The last decent player we signed in one was probably Charlie Wyke.

        I aren’t going to pretend I have all the answers but I think we all agree we have to stop the rot, and fast.

    • Bowyer had Doyle and Vaugahn. Left us with Guthre and Novak Wasn’t something like 11 of Bowyers players released? iStuart was left with 3 left backs and no right back. Sorry but yo are way way off with this one.

  6. What a mess we are ,the Salford manager pre match comments that he had been to the Exeter game and they should have been out of sight before halftime,today his comments post match where the only disappointment was the score it should have bee 6 or 7 ,I hope those of you with any hope for a promotion run now realise it’s a relegation battle ,and I didn’t expect much from this lot ,as I have been saying all season but I expected to see Stuart to get the best out of them ,and if this is the best we are in real trouble ,I would like Stuart to come out and tell us not how much the Budget is ,he would not do that but as a guide to the other clubs in league two where we are ,it could take s lot of pressure of him and lay the blame where it should be with the owner ,there’s a old saying you get what you pay for ,you pay peanuts I will leave it there.

  7. Groundhog Day indeed. Another season, yet another poor recruitment period, another set of players we can’t wait to get rid of, another manager failing and fans calling for a change.

    Well the change needs to be above. Said it before and have been shot down by some on this site, but will say it again until a new CEO comes in modernises the club from top to bottom, recruitment and infrastructure etc. nothing will change. The next manager will fail and the next and the next.

    We can’t use the ‘It’s all Edin’s fault’ excuse forever. How about the club moves forward instead of blaming the past. Julian Rhodes had 13 years of blaming Geoffrey Richmond. It’s time he took responsibility for his failure. It’s not the fault of toxic Twitter.

    Season Ticket sales for 2021/22 will be tough. People are tired of Bradford City failure & in a tough 2020 have found other things to do with their time & money.

    The relegation battle starts Tuesday.

  8. The question is January is fast approaching. Based on recruitment leading up to the start of this season can we trust a better recruitment strategy going forward. You could argue injury to key players has not helped. However, question marks over team selection has been evident even with so many injuries. Defensively we are very poor. Forward and midfield players have a duty to defend but it’s evident they contribute little.
    I still believe in McCall but time is running out. He needs help especially in January. He needs to recruit the best that’s available and avoid those players with past glories and have lacked game time. We need hunger and ability. I know these are few and far between. We do not need players like Sutton. The new director (if we recruit one), need to recruit someone with a knowledge and contacts to help Stuart with recruitment.

  9. Go back to 2000 and there was criticism of BFG for the lack of investment in infrastructure and resource. This didn’t start with JR, there has been chronic under-investment at VP in living memory. The same frustrations expressed about Simpson and before him Stafford/Jack who ran the club on a shoestring. No comment about Bob Martin.

    Your frustrations and those of others come down to the fact that there hasn’t been the generous benefactor willing to throw money at BCAFC and not ask for it back. We will soon have a new CEO but how can she/he modernise the club without a massive injection of money? Who is going to fund it all? More to the point who in their right mind would want to be CEO of BCAFC to do an impossible task with unforgiving critics and the rants on the toxic twitter you refer to.

    • GR re-developed VP. The last investment in VP was paid for by fans (Changing Rooms & Scoreboard) I still remember the club complaining that fans didn’t back an internet based competition to get the toilets refurbished in one of the stands as they couldn’t afford to update them. Think we were up against York City, Welling Utd & another non league club I forget. But yep, let’s let them off as it has always been bad. In 10 years when Steeton FC have overtaken us, McCall is on his 5th term at City, Rhodes continues to look for a new CEO while we prepare for a local derby vs Ossett, buy me a pint and tell me how bad it could have been if we had changed.

      • GR redeveloped VP with other peoples money but didn’t invest in the infrastructure that you bemoan the lack off. Besides he probably had his own incentives to build stands we were unlikely to need. The constant change of managers has led to a revolving door of backroom staff etc al. You seem to expect a magic wand that everything can change overnight and we get a reset in a close season just like that. It’s not Football League Manager or whatever other PC game you play.

    • Gary, the lack of money should not be a drag on City operating successfully in League 1/2. The salary cap will result in a significant six figure savings due to a reduced payroll. These savings should be used to restructure recruitment and scouting. Plus improve youth development programs. That’s assuming our benevolent owner doesn’t decide to pay himself by reducing his “loan.”

      • The problem with you commenting on financial matters all the time Woody is that you don’t ever use facts to support it. Then you end up contradicting yourself. You have said that City are in a good financial position and even made a profit last season but also on here said that Rupp has lost on average 400,000 every season he has been with us. This contradicts each other. Why would someone losing money and with no interest in the CLUB not want to recoup as much has he can? Its hard for me and other city fans to hear/acknowledge but the evidence since last January’s transfer window is that the squad is not going to be financed, at least in the short term, to what we’d like or probably need. Its why i wish in many ways Stuart had not returned at this time as whomever was in charge was inheriting a squad and situation that was not geared to promotion. An owner who would sell if he could. A CEO who wants out. Communication has stopped altogether it seems. All leaving Stuart out to dry. Your constant criticism on here and elsewhere and supposed knowledge of the clubs internal financial matters have very little factual content but leads to toxicity and negativism.

  10. Things are not that bad at Valley Parade. All we need is a new manager, a DOF, a new owner and above all else, a new CEO and we will be back cooking on gas. With a new stadium the transformation would be complete. Poor Geoffrey Richmond was misunderstood and maybe we have got it wrong about Edin too. Julian Rhodes has so much to answer for! What is even more encouraging is that we have the experts with the 20/20 hindsight and insight to fix things. All it would take is for City fans to pay their wages whilst they take a break from their day jobs to fix the club (although with all the savings from the salary cap the club could afford it anyway). It’s that simple it would take five days at the most. We could even make it a reality TV programme as the cameras follow the members of the panel of wisdom around Valley Parade watching them in their search for levers to pull to make the changes. It won’t take long before the good ship BCAFC is leaving behind the Dead Sea of history and cruising in the sunshine. Clap harder everyone, salvation is in our midst and our horrible owner can even get his ”loan” repaid. Let’s Make City Great Again!!!

  11. Lot off talk about spending on scouting and analytics without an appreciation of where it might be funded. I suspect we are no worse off in this department than most of the rest of the division (apart from those clubs who can run a deficit budget covered from outside) and there are plenty of clubs run on a shoestring at the top of the division just now. Any additional spend will come at the expense of a haircut to other areas. Accrington are pushing onto to play off territory in L1 operating a very traditional operation.At this level it is about getting outstanding individuals in key positions. Sadly that is easier said than done.
    The present position is gutting but slaughtering the club now is the surest way to National League.
    You suspect we are waiting on DB for the CEO ? That appointment cannot come soon enough now

  12. I watched the Cup game sat 3 rows behind Stuart (I played the Last Post). Before that night I thought the manager was causing many of the problems, I quickly changed my opinion

    The players lack composure at the start of the game, just like yesterday. The ball is a hot potato & they don’t want it. Everything is rushed, Stuart was trying to get them to compose. In the Cup game they did settle after 20 mins but why are they so nervous? I’ve never seen a worse start of a City player than BRE yesterday,

    There’s no leader. BRE was captain on the (Cup game) night but nothing from anyone. You could hear the players word for word, and was absolutely no leader on the pitch. OK it was a Cup game but Levi, French, BRE, P’OC & DMH all played.

    Tracking runners – it didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen yesterday. No fans & to me they are coasting, because the whole team is coasting so where do you start? Evans typified that at the end of the 1st half yesterday.

    Finally, Stuart was giving them instructors, not too many, 2 mins later they had forgot. It was like telling a goldfish. Who to mark, or who to close down. The manager said ‘how many times do I have to tell them’… real simple instructions & they couldn’t do it esp DMH.

    Going forward, sign a big, phat hard as nails captain in January. Doesn’t matter about skill, we need a leader. Really hope we can turn this mess around.

    • Many will be derisive but Big Kev scored the 90 plus six winner for Newport yesterday. Exactly the sort of character for a scrap we lack now.

      • We all knew the centre half’s weren’t good enough and that we had glaring weaknesses elsewhere but for one reason or another McCall chose not to address them. It leaves us wherw we are now, a ship lacking a Captain and the navvies around that Captain to get the job done. That job now being fire fighting a relegation battle as opposed to a promotion challenge. We aren’t very proactive in January but this one could be pivotal depending on how the next half a dozen games go. I think a few were hoping we could scrape through this season and start afresh in the summer, it might well be that stop gap buys have to brought in just to steady the ship.
        Those fundamental problems we’ve had for years won’t write themselves by being ignored.

    • Rory McArdle.
      His ‘Hello Billy’ tackle on Clarke was exactly what this squad lacks. I can’t believe he sees his future at Exeter and I am sure he would invigorate the defence (or maybe pick them up and throw them off the pitch)

      • Did the same to Stephen Fletcher in the first minutes of the Sunderland FA Cup tie. Set the tone for the match. Sadly he has settled his family there now

  13. Bradford City are in this position because there are no leaders on or of the pitch.We have people who don’t want to be here,and people we don’t want here.We have people who just mull along till their contract are up,and get a decent wage doing it.Theres no Stafford Higinbottoms. No Jack Tordoffs any more, people who used to fight for the club.All we have now is hangers on and if we aren’t carefull they will take us down.Whick when you think of it may be a blessing in disguise.

  14. Dear me im worried with 1 win in 16 league games away from home ! That is not just relegation form its bottom of the league and set adrift form if we don’t change things soon I don’t think we will get out of the bottom 2.if we lose on Tuesday I would sack Stuart no one is bigger than the club .I would try and get Lee Johnson former Bristol City manger or the Cowley brothers.

  15. Lots of good discussion above – thanks everyone.

    Anyone know SMcC’s record when in a relegation battle? I’m not yet in the sack him camp but I have a very big question about his and Black’s capability in such a situation – and, when we look at the performances thus far, that’s exactly where we are. Stuart says himself that he prefers attacking, positive football and so do we as fans. But when needs must we need to grind out 0-0’s, 1-1’s and, if by a stroke of luck, we go ahead then show steel, determination and nouse to defend what we have. Won’t be pretty but surely it’s better than relegation. Maybe wing backs have to go and surely there is someone in the squad who could play as a ‘tough as nails’ defensive midfielder….and perhaps be captain. If we can stop the rot then last third / quarter of season could see a move back to a more adventurous style of play, preparing the ground for next season. But McCall and Black have to lead such an approach. Will they ? Can they ?

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