Ollie Crankshaw’s departure adds to the storm clouds gathering over Bradford City

Image by John Dewhirst

By Jason McKeown

BBC Radio Leeds: “I thought Crankshaw made a decent impact when he came on today?”

Derek Adams: “Good. Well done. I didn’t.”

Blimey. Where do you begin assessing the escalation of Bradford City’s struggles? After such an impressive start to the season, it’s now five defeats and two draws in the last seven, just three goals scored and 13 conceded. The Bantams have dropped from 2nd in the early season table to the depths of 12th. The squad looks thinbare and the budget has apparently been used up. Oh, and now Ollie Crankshaw has elected to depart for non-league Stockport.

In the space of a week manager Derek Adams has:

  • Stated the back-up players thrown in together for the Papa Johns Trophy cup defeat to Manchester United Under 21s have “had their chance” and no one can complain when they aren’t selected again
  • Revealed that only 16 members of his 24-man squad have proved they merit starting in matches as “no one else has impressed me enough to get in that XI”.
  • Blasted the players in defeat to Crawley, adding after the dismal defeat – “This club has been through difficult times last year, year before, year before that – I can see why.”

It has not been a good week, and Adams’ decision to publicly lambast the players – and, by implication, the culture of the football club – puts everyone under the spotlight going into Saturday’s game with Rochdale, a match identified by midfielder Callum Cooke as “must win”.

Adams badly needs a reaction from his players. A season of such huge expectations is falling apart. The storm clouds are firmly brewing.

The decision to allow Ollie Crankshaw to leave – just 24 hours after the player publicly vowed to change Adams’ mind that he was worthy of starting matches – raises serious questions. The words of Adams, contained in the club statement – “We would have liked to keep him at the club and seen him fight for his place in the side, but understand and respect his decision to leave” – strongly suggest it was the player who wanted to take up the Stockport offer, rather than Crankshaw being forced out. In that way, there are similarities to the Danny Rowe situation in April, when the forward’s lack of starting opportunities led to him choosing to move to Chesterfield.

The club will argue, with some justification, that any player who doesn’t want to be here should not be forced to stay. That if the club is going to move forwards, it needs a fully committed dressing room. But there can and must be some soul searching internally about what is going wrong with the culture, where players would rather move elsewhere than fight for their place in the team. If a player doesn’t want to be here, why is that? And what lessons can we learn about it for the future? Otherwise, the club is doomed to keep repeating mistakes.

From the outside it’s hard to disagree that Crankshaw is right to feel aggrieved. The lack of opportunities Adams has afforded certain members of the squad is curious. It’s all well and good to talk about only trusting 16 players, but if you’re told the door is closed on your chances of changing that – and the evidence of team selections only reinforces this – it’s no wonder you look at your options. How do you develop a squad full of healthy competition for places if you make it seem like a closed shop and those on the fringes are publicly criticised? Especially when players who are in favour are seemingly able to under-perform with no consequences.

Take Saturday, where despite an injury to Charles Vernam, Crankshaw was once again warming the bench with Gareth Evans pushed forward to the wide left position. Crankshaw ultimately came on after 60 minutes and set up a goal for Callum Cooke, only to be criticised in public by Adams, who said he didn’t think the player performed well.

Prior to that, Crankshaw has seen his path to first team football blocked by Vernam and Alex Gilliead. The latter has, so far, failed to provide any goals or assists – and his general performances have steadily declined. Yet it seems no matter what Crankshaw does, Gilliead would start ahead of him. And so at a point where City are struggling for results, failing to score enough goals and half a team is out injured, Crankshaw is still told that he has not done enough to start games.

It’s no wonder the offer from Stockport held such appeal.

At City, as with other clubs, we supporters have a habit of hyping up players not in the team. Mis-remembering their failings and hailing them as the savour, the longer they are not involved. There is an element of that with Crankshaw – he did struggle to make an impact after signing last January – but even so, he deserved more game time. The fact he has the joint highest number of assists this season (two, with Callum Cooke) from just 108 minutes of action shows he offered a goal impact that others have not shown so far.

That said, if Adams doesn’t see him in his long-term plans, there is a logic to letting him go. Abo Eisa is said to be back in a few weeks, and Lee Angol not far behind. Charles Vernam could be fit for the weekend. Theo Robinson can play in the wide forward position and will also return shortly. Crankshaw is 23. He joined Wigan in January 2019 and started just two games for the Latics. He had a loan spell at Dundee in early 2020 and started only once. And since joining the Bantams he’s started only 11 games. That’s 14 league starts in 20 months. At his age, Crankshaw needs to be playing first team football.

For City, the timing of the departure couldn’t really be worse. The mood is darkening and supporter unrest is growing. There is huge frustration that the summer transfer window again appears to have left them short, and that it’s only taken a few injuries to expose the lack of depth in the squad. The deadline day business that led to Robinson coming in, with far from warm platitudes from Adams, underlines the suspicion that something went wrong. Especially when Lee Turnbull departed as head of recruitment a few days later. There’s a feeling that results will continue to be poor until injured players are back (as though there’s no chance there will be further injuries), and that we need to get to January to strengthen. There’s even been talk this week about free agents.

It’s all a bit too much like last season.

There are many factors to explore and debate here, and at WOAP we’ll do our best to look at them over the coming days – not least with a podcast scheduled to be recorded next week. But perhaps the biggest frustration right now is that this all feels a bit predictable. There was so much hype in the summer. A feeling that, because Derek Adams was the new manager, the club would automatically improve and win the league – even though the summer transfer activity strongly suggested differently.

The club fanned these expectations. Perhaps, as unpopular as it would have been, it should have been dialled it back during the summer. Yes, there are season tickets to sell, but if the playing budget is similar or perhaps even lower than the one spent on a squad that finished 15th last season, we needed a more realistic outlook. The gap to make up was significant. That’s not to say promotion shouldn’t have been the stated aim – it absolutely should have been. But by the time the season kicked off, expectations had grown to the point where anything short of winning League Two looked like failure. This is not a squad that looks capable of romping to the title, with 100 points to boot.

Talking about ambition is difficult, when we’re punching so far below our weight. We’re Bradford City, by far the biggest club in League Two. Our crowds dwarf everyone else, and indeed clubs playing at a higher level. We should be capable of winning the league, and any suggestion otherwise provokes understandable anger from many fans. But the fact is no club has any divine right to win football matches. The clubs that succeed are often the ones who are best run. That’s what we need to focus on – doing better. Pushing Bradford City in the right direction, even if it takes longer than we’d like to get to where we should be. Offer me a play off spot now and I’ll bite your hand off.

The problem is where do we go from here? It’s obvious City need a win to calm everyone down, but any club talking about must-win games in early October is clearly in trouble. There is no magic wand that is going to fix these issues, and a bumpy few weeks and months lies ahead.

The club – from chairman, CEO, manager, players and other staff – has got to get supporters back onside. Give us reason to want to support them, rather than pointing our arrows in their direction. They appeared happy to let us get giddy with expectation in the summer, but now they’re feeling the full effect of the huge power that we fans have.

World domination might have to wait for now, But, please, at least give us something to believe in.

Categories: Opinion

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28 replies

  1. “Good, well done, I don’t”……Does this bloke think he is a re-incarnation of Brian Clough?

  2. Reasons for concern, certainly with Crankshaw’s departure. I was at Crawley and he provided the only real hope of creating chances. He made the assist for the goal, and nearly scored another after dribbling past two defenders. Till then I’ve only seen him on iFollow but he always seemed quite lively and creative, when given the opportunity.
    I hesitate to criticise a previously successful manager who obviously knows much more than we can about somebody who has played so little this season, but I thought he must have started on Saturday, and having shone briefly as a sub, must surely have started against Rochdale. He certainly did not deserve the post-match criticism.
    All is not well !

    • Martin, if you follow what Adams’ says to the press he often uses “reverse psychology” using critical comments to motivate players. I think that is the possible case with Adams’ post game comments. I also suspect his comments were possibly based on knowing there was interest from Stockport to sign Crankshaw. Clearly conjecture on my part but also two valid reasons for Adams’ harsh criticism of Crankshaw.
      I strongly believe in Adams. He is head and shoulders above Rupp and Sparky in both knowledge and accomplishments when it comes to football and running a club. I said at the beginning of the season I doubted promotion and that it would likely take at least two seasons. It’s a shame that Sparky’s expectations were so unrealistic to be laughable!! Sparky’s culture and ethos ramblings appear to be in disarray. I wonder if he actually knows what those words mean? They are buzz words that are often used in the business world to impress people. Personally, I’m not impressed!!

      • Phil, I agree that both your points may well be valid, also that Adams might not have said anything had he not been asked. I also agree with your general point about Adams. However it seems an ill- judged comment that might just have turned Crankshaw off completely. I was there and I can assure you that criticising the lad would not have figured anywhere near the top ten things to say about our poor performance!

  3. Great write up Jason!

    In a way, Crankshaw leaving is neither here nor there. You can make a case for him staying – half a team out injured, his two assists – or for him going – poor number of starts for several clubs maybe pointing to other issues. Personally, I liked watching him play and would have given him a chance, especially given how poor we’ve been in the last seven games.

    But the real issue is deeper, once again concerning the culture, structure and strategy of the club. Before Adams was appointed, Sparks spoke at length and with great authority about building a club that didn’t rely upon one manager. We needed a long-term vision and structure to support a turnover of managers that is inevitable in the next 5-10 years.

    Now Adams is here, that policy (only a few months old) seems from the outside to have been replaced with one where we are totally reliant on Adams’ assessment of things. Turnbull has gone, with Adams – and not Sparks, which seems hugely significant to me – promising to explain in early October exactly how he wants scouting and recruitment to work.

    And now, in the middle of an injury crisis where we cannot create / score, a player who is a decent short-term solution to that problem is forced out by Adams. And I say “forced out” deliberately because though it may well have been Crankshaw’s decision to leave, did Adams really give him any choice after his Radio Leeds interview on Saturday?

    So there is a pattern here and it stems from Sparks, who for the record I really admire and want to see succeed. McCall is given a long-term extension; gone in weeks. T&S given new contracts, gone at end of season. Turnbull appointed as part of a new club structure that is not reliant upon one manager; gone inside a year with just that one manager given license to explain how it should work. No wonder fans are confused and growing angry.

    In any business, you cannot keep asking people to back you and believe in a narrative that keeps changing so dramatically. It just stops being credible. I do get the desire to back someone with Adams’ promotion record, I really do – but fans are being asked to trust a new vision / structure that has been torn up three times already inside 12 months.

    For all the new commercial activity underway, that is a really, really hard sell.

    • Has Adams had a better offer? Has that feel. Has he supped from the poisoned challice that BCFC has become? Without doubt.

  4. Something is not right at the club right now. I know it is early days and there’s still time to turn things around but i just can’t see that happening. On social media a lot of people are having a go at Sparks and Rupp for not recruiting a good squad, but these are the same people who were saying we would get a 100 points this season! This squad is easily good enough for the play-offs, if not the top three!
    I just cannot take to Derek Adams. I know he’s got a great record with other clubs, but i just don’t think he’s the right fit for Bradford City. I’ve always given managers a chance in my time supporting City (apart from Michael Collins) but i’ve never turned against someone as quickly as Adams. He just seems so set in his ways and unwilling to adapt and change. I really want him and the team to succeed this season, but things are looking bleak already. I hope he can turn things around.

  5. I love this club and I love this city but here’s the truth: we are a terribly run, amateur club with dreadfully outdated facilities (a stadium that cripples us financially, training ground borrowed / rented from a school) and a seemingly outdated and unfit for purpose structure on the business side of the club. We have cheap people doing the top jobs (did Rhodes work for free or as near as damn it in hi s last stint?) and are probably relying on too much good will of the staff rather than having true professionals recruited from other successful football clubs who can bring in fresh, tried and tested methods to make the club more efficient and more successful. We are in an unfashionable city with below national average prospects for children and so how can we expect to compete for the best talent? Staff will choose to live and work in other cities given the choice and locate their families to safer, more prosperous cities.
    Now despite all of that we have made good progress off the field in close season but it further reinforces just how low the bar had previously been set.
    I wish I had the expertise, the money and the time to truly help the club. Unfortunately I don’t.
    I’m a very frustrated bradfordian at the moment. Tomorrow my positivity will return. But the club must find a way to improve drastically in order to be successful.
    We’ll always have that underdog fighting spirit because deep down we know we’re the unfashionable ones.
    I’m also disappointed at Adam’s’ style in interviews. David hopkin. Simon Grayson. Throwing players under the bus constantly cannot be good for morale. I think we all hoped for so much more at this very early stage of the season. But it’s a recurring pattern now every season for the last four / five years.
    I’m not suggesting we can change overnight and I’m not suggesting there’s money to throw at everything but the harsh reality is we need to invest in every area of the club as it’s been woefully neglected for decades. The positive view should be that we can take a long term view and make incremental improvements every year in areas that desperately need it most. A long term plan. maybe sparks has that plan. I’d love to hear his thoughts on it.

    • Spot on – you’ve just said what no-one else wants to say – we are totally tin-pot and have been for years – just look at all the tiny former non-league sides outperforming us in Leagues 1 and 2 year after year – look at Leeds United. And I agree it comes from the culture and mentality of the city – resigned to failure – the city has been run by amateurs for years and so has the football club – its no coincidence nobody wants to invest properly in this once great city and once great football club.

  6. Great article Jason. The fans certainly deserve better and this season seems to be a continuation of what’s gone before. Its early days into Adams reign however , after a great start the discontentment coming from fans and within the club from Adam’s is unpalatable, contradictory and worrying yet again.

    Nobody seems to know what the direction of travel the club is travelling in relation to what the actual working model is and we continue to flounder in ever decreasing circles trapped in a maze and going nowhere.

    The club has sold around 13k STs and there are 2/3k paying on the gate. I understand VP cost over 1 million a season to run. What is the actual budget for this season for players and wages? Is it competitive? Is at the top end middle or lower end of the division scale? This would certainly help manage what the expectation are for the club. Sparks has gone on record as saying this will be a promotion season but what’s this based on? The clubs Budget? Or City employing a manager delivering promotion to a smaller club on the lowest budget in the division last season? It certainly is not based on the players brought in over the Summer and the squad again looks set to underachieve and it the heights expected.

    I don’t know what money Rupp has sunk into the club since buying in 2016 however, it must be approaching the £10 million mark. Can the club continue to have an overseas owner with no real knowledge of the game and a real plan to move the club forward? Or are we now at the mercy of Adams trying to deliver success with an uncompetitive budget, high expectations and players that in reality just aren’t good enough.

    • Andy R, in general I agree with your comments and in particular the questions you ask. However, you made two comments which I respectfully differ on.
      1. “2/3k paying at the gate.” Based on the official attendance figures that is a reasonable figure to estimate. However, I suspect many of these tickets are freebies to local charities and actually inflate the official attendance figures. It certainly can be considered misleading.
      2. “Rupp since purchasing the Club having invested close to £10 million.” I’m assuming your not including the purchase price. If you did include the purchase price and we are talking “net” figures you would be in the ballpark of being correct. Revenue from players sold re. transfer fees is about £9 million and is a significant factor in determining what Rupp’s put into the Club since taking ownership. My estimate would be £3 to 5 million.

  7. Everyone should just calm down and let the dust settle and judge our season at around Christmas time.
    When new manager comes in with a proven record of success in getting teams promoted we have to trust Adams is making the right decisions not just for now but the long term. Yes i find it strange that so early in the season a player would want to leave lge 2 and the biggest club at that level for the National League.
    We don’t see the squad train or the type of personality players bring to the group.

    • Thank you for bringing some sanity.

      • Agreed. We are not out of September and fingers are trembling over the panic button. I do not remember any promises of the League 2 title or 100 points just a well thought out ST campaign and one piece in the jigsaw in place. Sparks would have been slaughtered for lack of ambition if he had talked down our prospects by some fans. All football fans expect their club to achieve and we are no different. Sadly at the level we inhabit a few hundred thousand extra in playing budget is less important than canny management. Hopefully DA will bring this in the long term if given the chance. As for Cranky he looked decent with the right attitude but presumably DA wishes to eek out the budget elsewhere. He is at the sharp end and will have welcomed the opportunity to move on a player he did not fancy.

  8. The salient question is why would a player elect to drop out the league to “develop”?
    He may never get another chance to play in the league, so it’s an enormous risk to the player.
    That says he knew his playing days for City were over.
    Desperation maybe.
    If so the question ‘why’ should be asked of the club. Ok they are trundling out the expected excuses.
    “He didnt want to be here” and “You cant keep a player that’s unhappy”.
    But he was happy on Monday with his words in the T&A.
    The club have messed up.big style as they did with Rowe. They should be asking the question.” What are we doing wrong that players would rather be with a non league club”.

    • Rowe is bench warming this season. Maybe we quickly rectified a mistake there.

      • I think that says more about Rowe.
        He showed playing against us for Oldham and for us what he 8s capable of.
        He also showed he could not be bothered.
        It seems he has reached that point at Chesterfield.
        My point is why players who have made it the league prefer to drop to non league risking their career in the process.
        The chances are they wont play in the league again.
        We need to know why this has happened twice.

    • All seems very fraught. What did Morecambe have that we haven’t apart from very little through the gate.

  9. We need to pass this to Harry Kane’s agent so he can find a way for him “to elect” to join Man City in January.
    Oliver Crankshaw is (was) contracted to Bradford City FC. If they did not want him to leave he wouldn’t as he has a contract. That’s why it was a bit tricky getting Kane out of Man City, despite the hundreds of million being offered, the super agents and the lure of him playing at arguably the best club team in Europe.
    Simply, because he was under contract so cannot “elect” to leave. The gift lies with Spurs.
    We mere fans will never know the truth, but how about this as a spin on the events. It may or may not be true but it’s an alternative for balance sake.
    Adams, a manager who has a decent track record, has pulled OC and his agent in and said find yourself a new club. Nothing was done so he upped the pressure publicly to show his time at the club was up. As soon as his comments were aired he’s back on to the agent saying again that he’s no future at the club and to get him a move.
    This in turn means we now have some spare budget to find a player Adams wants. Before people say this can’t happen until January, it can, in the same way this has happened. A player who was previously reluctant to cancel their contract can now do so and make themselves a free agent.
    Time will tell I guess.
    Up the City and keep the faith. The team needs us as fans Saturday. Okay, have a whinge and worry all week- if that’s your thing- but let’s back them on Saturday.

  10. I have said it before and I will say it again; this club cannot be fixed in a season and love him or hate him, we must give Adams time. It is not a popularity contest and some of his decisions may look strange and his style is a bit severe but he has a good track record and I for one will back him.
    I am more worried that Ryan Sparks is out of his depth; many of his decisions look knee jerk and his much lauded improvement in communication (including on this website) is now looking suspect. I know for certain he was offered substantial free consultancy advice from a long term fan with much experience in Sports Management and didn’t even furnish a response to the person who made this generous offer ( and in case Jason is worried about libel here, I know this fan can prove this assertion). It is a lonely job being a CEO and someone of his limited experience must need a decent mentor; I hope has one and I wish him well. BUT……….I am worried he may knee jerk another poor decision and remove Adams which would be mad.
    I like your article very much Jason but time for WOAP to question and investigate Sparks leadership and ask him to properly communicate with the fans. In the absence of decent communication, the void will be filled with some of the nonsense we see on the T&A board and beyond.

  11. The manager should be left to manage.
    If he seems ruthless so be it.
    This player has hardly ripped up mountains at 23.
    We have no right to know why Adams did not fancy him.
    But in that same post match interview he alludes to knowing what has been wrong with the club in 4 years.
    Shipping one out may well be part of that process of change.
    Footballers can be very disruptive individuals at times.
    As I have said we have no right to know.
    The manager sounds like he will try to sort the culture problem his way.
    As Clough early days did.
    Single minded individual Mr Adams
    Takes no prisoners or passengers.
    This kid could not even get a game at Dundee.
    Hardly played anywhere.

    • He should be left to manage, primarily, yes. But the modern game means media commitments as part of the deal. Although we may not have a “right” to know about these things, As a paying fan base, and a crucial income stream for the club, we are therefore the largest stakeholder of the club. So providing as much transparency as possible To the fan base is a very wise thing for the club to do

      • You are correct.
        Football is not like a supermarket.
        If you dont like what is going on at Morrisons, there is always Asda.
        Supporting a football.club is different and involves a emotional as well as a financial investment.
        Clubs cant have it all theyr own way.
        If they want our money they also accept that we care for and even love the club.
        And part of that is telling us what is happening.
        I am not naive and in fact was involved in the club for over 30 years. The club sanitises what they say to the fans and only really tells us what they think we want to hear and what they want us to know.
        Clearly Adam’s was saying something about the club culture and he also said something specific about Crankshaw.
        To then go to the T&A and claim he had been given full backing by the owner and CEO is revealing in itself. The club obviously thought that they were damaging remarks and my guess is that Adam’s was told to make a statement ASAP. Some fans will accept that is fact but the fact that the statement was made shows that cages had been rattled

    • Remember Clough at Brighton or without Peter Taylor.

  12. It’s becoming ever clearer why Morecambe didn’t fight too hard to keep Adams or, understand the fall outs prior to his sacking at Plymouth.

    Of course, some fans will say “It’s just tough if he upsets people along the way, as long as he’s successful”.

    His behaviour reminds me very much of Clough’s when he replaced Don Revie at Leeds, and we all know how that ended.

    It’s going to be very interesting what the future holds but, right now, there appears to be something of a toxic atmosphere developing at the club, and we all know what happened to the bloke who caused the last one. I hope he’s successful, but the indications don’t look too good at present.

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