These are dark days as another Bradford City defeat increases urgency to install the next manager

Bradford City 1
Foulds 12
Harrogate Town 3
Burrell 45(+5), Page 62, Diamond 90

Written by Jason McKeown (images by John Dewhirst)

This is a story that keeps getting darker. Bradford City’s season of underachievement slumped to new depths here, as they suffered the ignominy of yet another defeat to their upstart, noisy neighbours.

By the end of this miserable night, Valley Parade was not so much angry as silent. The famous old ground almost stripped bare of Bradford City supporters. The crowd was already noticeably down at kick off, and when Jack Diamond strode through late on to seal Harrogate’s triumph a mass home exodus took place. Even the stadium announcer seemed to sigh out loud as he announced six minutes of meaningless injury time. With Valley Parade left looking a shell of what it can be, the only noise came from Harrogate’s magnificent supporters, who provided wonderful backing to their players all night.

Fear the wrath of an angry Bradford City public, but be even more fearful of the point where apathy takes over and people start to give up. Bradford City are in a worrying place with their supporters right now. Those 2022/23 season tickets are going to prove a very hard sell.

What made tonight so frustrating is that this was actually much better from Bradford City. When after 12 minutes Matty Foulds latched onto a pass and hit a low drive that flew past Harrogate keeper Mark Oxley and into the net, it was though a switch was flicked back on and everyone suddenly rediscovered their confidence.

City were lucky to go ahead at that point but began to play with a purpose and swagger that reflected well on caretaker Mark Trueman. Lining up 3-5-2, but with wing backs Luke Hendrie and Alex Gilliead encouraged to attack, City got the ball forwards quickly and were impressive with the high press. There were actually a decent amount of bodies in the box when City went forward, and several promising attacks suggested they were on the brink of going 2-0 up. For long periods, Harrogate could barely get out of their own half.

They were aided by an enforced early substitution when Tom Elliott went off injured and Theo Robinson came on to good effect, harrowing opposition defenders and showing flashes of skill. Levi Sutton rediscovered his mojo and drove the team forwards. Gilliead fared well as a wingback and for most of the first half the three centre backs of Foulds, Yann Songo’o and Paudie O’Connor were solid.

But Bradford City’s capacity to hit the self destruct button remained on show. Deep in first half stoppage time they were on top and won a corner. Bodies piled into the box, but there weren’t sufficient numbers back to cover any counter attack. Harrogate won possession and outnumbered City defenders as they broke. Foulds did make a good tackle that saw the ball go out for a corner. But from the resultant set piece, Warren Burrell wriggled free of his marker and headed home the equaliser.

The Bantams were unlucky to go in at half time pegged back, and to their credit they started the second half pretty well. But when Foulds went down injured, defensive panic again ensued and a cheap free kick was conceded on the edge of the box. Lewis Page struck a beautiful effort into the net, although the positioning of Alex Bass was questionable. The on loan Portsmouth keeper is not proving to be the force he was billed to be.

It was a hard luck tale, but any self-woe simply doesn’t wash right now. City were playing Harrogate Town. That team we used to send a mixture of kids and reserves to play in a pre-season friendly every other July. Even with their impressive rise up the pyramid, Harrogate were below City in the table, with only two wins in their previous 11 games.

If you can do little but bemoan a lack of luck in such circumstances, you really are in trouble.

The players did at least keep fighting, with Oxley making a couple of important saves from Gilliead. But with Foulds eventually having to go off, the shape of the team suffered. Callum Cooke came on for the once-again-hugely-disappointing Matty Daly, but City’s number eight is not the player he was at the start of the season.

There was plenty of huff and puff from City, but the lack of quality damns them. Gilliead should have played Cooke in on goal but took the wrong option. And then in the 90th minute the wide player’s weak cross into the box allowed Harrogate to break and Diamond made it 3-1. The defending was pathetic, and gave the cue for the early exit home of thousands of City supporters, bruised by another night of real pain.

For Trueman, this surely brings an end to any lingering hopes he might have held of reclaiming the manager position he was stood down from last May. He had to demonstrate he offered something different to Adams, and to be fair he did so to an extent here. But there isn’t time for promising performances and faint signs of life. City need results as the pressure is really growing. They are not in serious danger of going down – 45 points is usually enough to stay up in League Two and City have 40 – but you don’t want the bottom clubs to get any closer.

The club must have been desperately hoping that Trueman could have won at least one of these last two games to give them breathing space on making this next managerial appointment. Of not facing intense pressure that risks them rushing this hugely important decision.

Unfortunately, such hopes have been dashed by these two worrying defeats.

These are set to be a really key couple of days for Bradford City. And there is perhaps hope of positive news that can bring fans together. Richie Wellens was a spectator here, which suggests he is interested in the vacancy. It hasn’t been the greatest couple of years for Wellens, but his achievement in getting Swindon promoted from League Two in 2020, coupled with a reputation for playing good football, would make him an attractive proposition to the Bantams.

Especially if Wellens joins with a bit more footballing support to help him succeed. Before the game, Paul Jewell took part in a Q&A up in the hospitality section where he talked about his passion for Bradford City and his desire to get back into football (but not as a manager).

“The club needs direction from the top,” he stated. “It needs identity. They need a manager with a vision. I’ve been manager of this place when it is full, and it is brilliant.”

Jewell worked with Wellens for a spell in 2017, when Wellens had his first experience in management at Oldham. And more relevantly, he was Director of Football at Swindon when Wellens got them promoted. There appears to be a positive relationship there. City could surely benefit from a Director of Football, and Jewell’s comments of late – not least in the Telegraph & Argus – would suggest an appetite to take on such a role at a club who, during the pre match Q&A, he kept referring to as “we”.

You have to hope that, even with the inevitable supporter backlash to this latest setback, the club makes sure it’s in a position to make a considered decision on the next manager. And of course, there might be other, better candidates than Wellens waiting to be interviewed that we fans don’t know about.

But still, Wellens (and Jewell as DoF) could be the antidote Bradford City needs to get back on track. And to bring hope and light back into a club that finds itself stuck in a very dark place.

Categories: Match Reviews

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30 replies

  1. Wellens supported by Jewell is certainly a strong application worth serious consideration 👌🏻

  2. Apathy has set in Jason and you’re right, it’s much worse than being angry.
    Normally when I’m back home I try and time it so I can see as many City matches as possible and had 4 lined up before I head back away in 2 weeks. But after Oldham I couldn’t be bothered going tonight and much to the (pleasant) surprise of my old dear mum I spent a wonderful evening in with her.
    It’s hard to describe how I feel but the disconnect between me and the club is growing and has been slowly building up since Stuart was sacked after Wembley.
    The only thing I could add is to say thank you Trueman – because of your tactics on Saturday i decided not to go tonight and had a wonderful evening in instead.
    Will i be there Saturday, with Mansfield selling out their allocation? Normally the answer would be an unequivocal Yes, come hell or high water and without a doubt. Now, sadly, it will depend on the weather and whether I can really be bothered or not in the moment!

  3. I do worry that the only way out of this is a new owner
    And the only way we will get one is bankruptcy

  4. I gave my youngest son the option of watching on the telly instead of sitting in the stands, but he opted to be there, Flanked by both my boys, we stayed until the final whistle. I’ve never left a match early as I’ve taught them to never give up, desperately hoping for the miracle of extra time City goals, but truly supporting City has become a journey of hope rather than expectation. It had the eerie feel of a Papa John’s match by the end.
    I listened to Philippe Morais on the radio on the way in, and he seemed to me making a full on pitch for the DoF role….I think we need to get for a less risky option than an inexperienced newcomer to such a role (Robbie Fowler may offer glamour, but Sparks has to stop just rolling the dice and opting for short term gambles). But I think his the inexperience of Rupp & Sparks is showing, so an experienced DoF plus the right manager (also with a track record) would be my hope.

  5. I have never once given up watching City. I have now for this season at least. Absolutely spirit crushing.

  6. Also, reflecting on the general malaise that seems to have pervaded the club for years, doesn’t Rupp need to do some fundamental thinking? Just continually churning CEOs and managers and players has got him no where over the last 3.5 years. Project Groundhog Day is not delivering.
    If he’s determined to recoup his investment or, incredibly, still want to own the club, why doesn’t he look to sell a minority stake on an incentivised basis (lets say if he paid £5m, say 15% for £300K, a steep discount to that reflecting where we currently are) to an experienced hands on pro like David Baldwin who could come in as CEO, moving Sparks to say a COO/ commercial Director role. He could build in his own exit or semi exit strategy to enable said CEO investor the option to buy a majority stake for an agreed price at an agreed point (within say 5 years) that would show him an increase in his original investment.
    Sounds a familiar plan? It was said on this forum that Rahic’s ideas were mostly good ones- it was his personality and appalling man management judgements that derailed that strategy before.

  7. We’ve come to a sorry pass where putting in a modicum of effort for some phases of a game is an improvement but that’s where we are with these players. I left in extra-time: the first early exit since Sheffield Wednesday away some 20 years ago. We all talk of this manager or that. Director of Football or some other panacea. Phantom owners queuing up to buy the club. We do need to focus on the future but we also need to ensure we don’t slip down into a relegation melee because these players will not have the fight in them if that happens.
    It’s obvious Rupp is an owner but not an investor. His dad made the money; he spends it. So he isn’t going to re-capitalise the club, it seems.
    As fans, we like to keep our hands in our pockets with relatively under-priced season tickets. (Me too#) Hence our bargain basement football(ers).
    Ryan Sparks seems to understand this with his successful attempts to bring in new sponsors but how many will want to be associated next season?
    City could be a metaphor for the city.

  8. Good information about both Jewell and Wellens been present. Yes. That would be a step forward.
    However, I’m unconvinced about Wellens by himself. Let’s remember Swindon ‘won’ promotion having not played all their matches. Put another way, if it has been the 2008/9 season we’d have just missed automatic and easily got in the play-off, i.e. we’ve no idea if he can handle the promotion pressure of an entire season and then he seems to fail fairly spectacular at other clubs.
    The match (I couldn’t attend) sounds typical of lots we’ve had. Let’s not forget that matches like Bristol Rovers, Forest Green and Crawley saw plenty of good play, chances created and no wins.
    As suspected, I see detect no improvement under Trueman. So yes, Sparks needs to sort this out urgently, as each day the question gets even more shrill – why did he sack Adams after 31 games if he hadn’t got a plan in place for a replacement.

  9. Not making excuses, but as a team, we’ve looked undercooked in fitness terms ever since the Covid outbreak.
    Let’s put our anger to one side and remember that plenty of athletes have taken months to recover after catching it.
    I would assume that someone is monitoring all the fitness activity. Has anyone in the media asked about this?

    • ‘I would assume that someone is monitoring all the fitness activity.’
      Seemingly not – since he’s come back from injury Cook looks like he’s gained weight for starters.
      Fitness is a massive part of the issue here and goes back way beyond the covid outbreak – serious questions do need to be asked about that.

  10. What a mess. As I wondered up Darley St. at 5pm, I felt a sadness about what has become of my city and my football team. No one seemed interested, there was nobody there. I knew what was coming, another shambolic, disjointed patched up performance. Unless all parts of the club align (like Harrogate), we will continue to drift. Last night was the final game of the season for me.

  11. I’m going to stick my neck out fully expecting to be the minority, but I actually thought last nights performance was fairly positive, and think the score-line flattered Harrogate, who basically had 3 shots on target and scored 3 goals – one a worldly free-kick and another in the dying moments when City were desperately pushing men forward. City on the other hand had 25 shots on goal, and should have been at least 2-0 up at half-time had it not been for a couple of brilliant saves from their keeper.
    So my conclusions from this are:
    1) The overall performance and work ethic of the team was good, but the lack of quality in the final 3rd is criminal and has been all season – (a terrible touch or wrong pass from certain players at the key moment of the attack).
    2) Mark Trueman could be doing a good job – he’s gone from shaking off Adam’s shadow at Oldham, to stamping a bit more of his mark on last nights performance – despite having numerous players out injured.
    3) The improvement in performance between Oldham and last night was massive – will they continue to improve and put in an even better performance against Mansfield? – time will tell.
    4) I think we should give Mark Trueman more time to see what he can do as a manager of Bradford City. He’s a City man, he’s an honest likeable guy, and he’s only had two games at the helm and we’re already dismissing him. We would never do that with another manager who had just taken over – even at City!.
    5) If Trueman can continue to lift performances and end the season on a positive, he should be given serious consideration as our next manager (with the right support in place from above – Paul Jewell etc). We’ve tried “proven managers” for the past 5 years and looks where it’s got us.
    Thumbs down’s roll on 🙂

    • No Ed, I agree. This season seems one where all the breaks go against City.
      Adams would have been justified in saying we created all the chances. The problem is that we don’t turn chances into goals, a problem all season. A couple of superb saves from Town’s keeper last night was the difference between joy and despair. Let’s hope another improvement will be shown on Saturday.
      Of course, we have “issues” but last night was not all bad, apart from the subdued attitude of the crowd. Let’s just write this season off (again) and hope lessons have been learnt.
      Don’t blame anyone for staying away for the next games but I live in hope that the bottom of the valley has been reached.

    • Having read all the negativity before your comment I was wondering whether people had actually been to the match. The football wasn’t pretty but surely no one could fault the effort and application of the players. It has always been said about City supporters that they can forgive a defeat providing they see the players giving their all for the club. I felt that was there in spades last night but certainly not reflected in the final score.
      I don’t think Trueman should be given the job beyond the end of the season but last night’s defeat (or Oldham) should not be used as a reason for relieving him of his duties. The matches after securing the club’s status last season and the 30 working as number two to Adam’s this season should see to that.
      Whoever gets the job now and trying to win matches without Walker, Vernam, Angol, Eisa, the invisible lad from Luton and now Elliott will find himself up against it. They will need plenty of luck which to date has been in short supply.

  12. I’m with you Jason ,a much improved performance last night and but for their keeper i thought we could have won the game. First half was good ,not pretty but aggressive, quick ,first time balls into box and plenty of effort. I agree i felt the positioning from Bass was poor on the 2nd goal ,sat in the kop you could see where the ball was going before he took it. We did suffer from the equaliser i thought and our levels dropped after their 2nd but to be fair we should have equalised with the chances ,Cook was unlucky with 2 headers. When your pushing on its easy to get caught out.
    Overall i took the positives from it ,we were better.

    • I agree totally with Dave R. I expected a rout knowing they now have Sunderland’s Jack Diamond to add to Muldoon and Armstrong’s goals tally. And their goal keeper made some brilliant saves when we played them last time and he’s done it again. I’m not sure about Bass. I think his positioning has let him down on more than one occasion. I don’t like the boos and don’t think they help.

  13. To be fair to the players, there was effort last night but again weren’t helped by the officials. Cook gets clobbered and gets nothing all the time. He should have had a penalty right before harrogates 1st goal. Robinson their number 29 shoved Paudie into the boards and elbowed Songo in the head. Seems they get nothing and any misktake they make gets punished. It just feels whatever can go wrong will go wrong and has been that way a while.
    We deserved more last night

    • Armstrong was their 29 not Robinson

    • The first half was encouraging and the goal gave the team a lift but the manner in which self-belief drained from the players after conceding the second goal was there for all to see. Injuries didn’t help last night but it’s the fact that the tactics are so predictable and easy to counter that is so alarming. Essentially it means that the initiative is invariably given to the opposition.
      Harrogate were not a great side but they had everything that we don’t have in our side and what we need – spirit, workmanlike attitude, fitness, quick on the ball, agility and hunger. None of this is to do with playing budgets as opposed to attitude and I can’t understand what the manager and his team have been doing. It is almost as if enthusiasm has been sucked out of the players although at one stage in the first half last night I did think that our players looked as though they were enjoying playing which is something that hasn’t been evident for a long time.

      • They started very sedately. Harrogate passed it around unopposed. It felt like a training match. Once the goal came it was like a switch was flipped, pressure was lifted and they started playing. Once Harrogate scored that they lost it again. Confidence is so fragile.

  14. Please not Richie Wellens, his win ratio is very mediocre,he had success at Swindon but that’s it, he was a disaster at Doncaster. We have a manager on the doorstep called Pete Wild who’s win ratio including at Oldham as caretaker is in the mid 40s. His record at Halifax considering their budget is excellent and if we could link him with Paul Jewell as DOF it would be an ambitious statement from the club. However the club as usual will disappoint and no doubt choose out of work Wellens ,and I guarantee that within 12 months we’ll be back to square one and looking for another manager.

  15. On the podcast only a week ago you seemed to suggest Trueman was a reasonable candidate for the job that shouldn’t change in 2 games especially after what sounds like a positive performance for much of last night but a team with fragile confidence once again capitulated.
    I agree with comment from Ed – while never actually thinking Trueman was/is the man for the job I’m happy for him to show improvements and prove me wrong. Being honest I thought our football with him in charge wasn’t great even when we were winning last year – as this site regularly pointed out through Adams favourite XG stats. I think he and Sellars had one key ingredient for managers on their side for that run – luck.
    In addition to confidence a couple of problem I believe we have at the moment. You mention Cooke’s form – Tim or someone more deep into stats might be able to prove a theory for me. Cooke is a better player with Charles Vernam on the pitch and creates more ‘key passes’ with Vernam on the pitch. At Crawley he was sensational but he picks out players who stretch the pitch and create space. In turn Vernam gets into positions where Andy Cook thrives – players out wide getting balls into the box.
    Both Vernam and Cooke have 7 goal contributions this year (assists/goals) and only Cook / Angol can match that probably as the recipients of their assists.
    Similarly to Windass and Johnson leaving under Todd, Wells laving starting off the infamous Parkinson barren run – do we miss the key ingredient that makes our team tick? Vernam never lacks confidence and may have off days but gives the defence something to think about. Similar to Kyle Reid – who I never loved relative to the rest of that team – stretched the pitch, offered something different and was a focal part of Parkinson’s game plan.
    The other thing is injuries (perhaps recruitment if injury records suggest). While I never liked Adams as a bloke he has a style which I think we saw earlier in the season. Mendes-Gomes as much as Adams was the reason Morecambe got promoted. Vernam/Eisa/Perreira are probably the players to fulfil this role but none of them have been able to get on the pitch.

  16. Very good points about Adams style and the fact we never saw much of it thanks to the injuries to those wingers.
    Apparently Eisa has never had a injury’s like this before – that’s just bad luck.
    I also love how yesterday’s performance is getting talked up as if this is the first time, we’ve played decently for half the match.
    It’s only as recently as Salford at home, that we gave the best 2nd half performance I’d seen since Christmas 2018. Yes, it was 10 men – but we’ve seen how poor us and Sutton were playing against 10 men earlier in the season.
    It’s interesting how lots are now airbrushing the, admittedly few, good performance we had – in this need to castigate everything Adams did.

  17. I find the match report headline even more worrying than another defeat, if ever there was a time to make sure we get the right man now is surely it so becoming more ‘desperate’ to install a new manager could be disastrous; the new manager would have the same group of players(!) and the same injuries to deal with so would have limited influence…..I think most of us can agree that on a playing front our issues are more than just ‘lacking a bit of confidence’ that a new face through the door would necessarily change.
    I like the idea of bringing in someone like a Paul Jewell/DoF to give support to Mark Truman in the short term and to shape our on-field future strategy for the longer term with a permanent manager appointed at the end of the season.
    An obvious concern is the current decline into a relegation fight, whilst I agree that is a worry, who is to say we might not end up there if a new manager is appointed now given their lack of options to change a great deal…….imagine that, the new manger takes us down into non league, that really could be the end of the club as we know it, and would almost certainly see another sacking!

  18. With 5 minutes left, I turned to my son and said ‘be thankful for small mercies, it has at least been entertaining’. City tried hard but are out of confidence, out of luck and out of ideas.
    I would not have sacked the manager. I certainly wouldn’t have sacked the manager with no replacement ready. Absolutely crazy!
    I believe that what we are seeing now is what people criticised Adams for alluding to. The problems behind the scenes are there for all to see, Morais said it on the radio too, there is noone who knows anything about football at the club and by sacking the one person who did, unsurprisingly we aren’t in a stronger position.
    There are loads of good coaches out there. We are playing one on Saturday, one who would have been sacked if he was at City after the start he had to the season.
    Whoever it is – Wild, Wellens, Fowler, Woodgate, whoever – they need the structure, they need the tools and they need to be backed.

  19. Now feels like Bradford City are not looking hopefully up the league table but fearfully down the table. Bristol Rovers currently on the kind of late-season winning run that many City fans were hoping for…

    • LOL! You have to or cry. I remember how terrible Rovers were in that first half and how great we were. Apparently at half time, Barton congratulated them on not been 5-0 down!! Cheeky upstart!!
      I’m sure we’ll have a surge back up the table, er, one season.

  20. You moaned about DA and help fan the fires to get him fired.Now you’ve got what you moaned about draws,now we cant get them now. Who will you drag down next?

  21. An interesting link, below, on how Barton was being criticised by Bristol Rovers fans earlier in the season. I had to keep going back to make sure the article was actually about Barton and not Adams. Fortunately for Barton he had the owners support and patience. Patience and confidence in a managers ability to deliver is, as we all know, something that has been absent at VP since 2016. This is despite Rupp’s claim, at the time he took over ownership, that no league 1 club/business could be successful in the long-term if they changed their manager every 10 months and that is where he and Rahic would be ‘different’. Oh the irony!

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