Bradford City’s latest home set back is more than a bad result – it underlines the need to play with much more purpose

Bradford City 0
Barrow 1
Kay 25

Written by Jason McKeown (images by John Dewhirst)

Even though it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise this was still shocking. Bradford City did what it seemingly always does when a visiting side comes to Valley Parade on a poor run of form – capitulate. They went down meekly to a Barrow side who had lost 10 of their previous 16 games, meaning they once again failed to take the opportunity of edging closer to the automatic promotion spots.

But this defeat represented a lot more than just a bad day at the office. It felt like the sort of moment that can define a season – and for Mark Hughes, the challenge now is to make sure that it’s defining for good reasons.

For what really shocked – but again, perhaps shouldn’t surprise – was the manner in which City’s set-up and ethos was trumped by a workmanlike Barrow. The gameplan was not only thwarted but exposed as deficient. The home side simply had no way around the arm’s length that Barrow kept them at bay. They were completely out of ideas long before referee Carl Boyeson put everyone out of their misery by bringing a dismal game to an end.

In the world of global financial markets, there’s talk from time to time about Black Swans. It’s a term used to describe an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is inappropriately rationalised after the event with the benefit of hindsight. In other words, something unexpectedly occurs and causes great damage, which you look back on and convince yourself you should have seen coming.

This had the feelings of a Black Swan event for Bradford City in that it’s a really bad defeat – probably the worst, performance-wise at least, of Hughes’ reign – and yet the signs were seemingly all there. The post-Christmas tweaking of formation to a diamond, and underwhelming January activity, has left that feeling something isn’t quite right. Results have in some ways masked it, and you can began to feel (or hope) that things are going to be okay after all. But then this happens, and it somehow feels as though it was inevitable.

Black Swan events do tend to happen a lot at City in recent years. A defeat so bad – with the performance dismal and supporter emotions running very high – that you’re not sure if the club can recover. Think of the Crawley home defeat last season, or the Newport humbling the year before. The earth shakes, and though the team sometimes stumble on, they struggle to truly regain their footing. Hopefully this won’t be the case with this set back for City.

The stats are damning. Zero shots on target is never a good look. And it’s not as if City didn’t have opportunities to register attempts on goal. They had a considerable 78% possession. Over the 100 minutes of action (which includes two halves of lengthy stoppage time) they produced 687 passes.

687 passes. No shots on goal. Remarkable.

Barrow didn’t have much of the ball but didn’t seem to care. They took their chance when it came in the 25th minute, when Adam Clayton had possession in midfield and was pick pocketed. Barrow broke clear, and Gerard Garner was given too much space in the box. He found the onrushing Josh Kay, who was unmarked and able to pick his spot.

Over the 90 minutes, Barrow produced 204 passes. To give you context on what type of game we were treated to, Matty Platt and Sam Stubbs collectively made 204 passes themselves. Yes, that’s right, the two City centre halves produced as many passes during the game as the entire Barrow XI, plus their three subs.

And that was the problem for City. They had a lot of the ball. So much of the ball. Yet they couldn’t use it in an effective way. They passed sideways. They passed backwards. They passed forwards, and then they passed backwards again. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. No. End. Product.

Early doors it suggested it would be a route to success. Hughes would rue after “we were dominant in the first half-hour”. He was largely right. From kick off City played with good attacking intent that saw a couple of corners won inside the first four minutes. Liam Ridehalgh was getting forward well. Richie Smallwood and Clayton were interchanging positions and finding space. Jamie Walker roamed for the ball and got involved in all that was good. Andy Cook and Abo Esia tried to stretch the Barrow backline and nearly got in behind on a few occasions.

Initially, Barrow did what Tranmere did not on Tuesday when City had possession – they pressed. It’s what Hughes wants opposition sides to do, reasoning that it will create space that can be exploited through insightful passing. And several times during those opening 25 minutes, the Bantams nearly got through. If anyone looked like scoring, it was the home side.

But Barrow’s press was rewarded when Clayton lost the ball weakly for their goal, and that allowed them to spend the rest of the game keeping almost everyone behind the ball. There was no press anymore, or any great attempts to engage with a City player in possession in their own half. Let them have it, was the Barrow tactic. Keep shape, and eventually the move will break down (oh and if they do get through, go down injured and time waste as much as possible). Meanwhile, the Barrow players will have known the big home crowd would get more and more restless, making their oppontents more nervous.

City were absolutely impotent in preventing the pattern of the game. They got to have as much of the ball as they wanted, but when defensive players looked up for options to pick a pass, a wall of blue and white stood firm. It was hardly the most revolutionary tactics for City to overcome, but they were completely toothless as they tried to. “You have to threaten the opposition to win games, and we did not do that today,” bemoaned Hughes. “Certainly at home, we have to be better. You can have skill, but you need end product.”

The situation wasn’t helped when Eisa – who came in for the injured Matt Derbyshire – became the second City forward in two games to hobble off before half time. Eisa could and should have had a penalty minutes before, when he was shoved over in the box by former City defender Niall Canavan, just as he was waiting to get onto a clever Cook cut back. Whilst Eisa was hardly having a brilliant game himself, City were weaker for losing the Sudanese attacker. His replacement, Dara Costelloe, would produce another largely anonymous display.

With City so easily nullified, Hughes did try to change things in the second half. He took off Brad Halliday to give Scott Banks a welcome return to the side, nudging an underperforming Alex Gilliead to right back. It was a move that did make City more dangerous on the right hand flank, but they still looked unbalanced and easy to defend against. With not much coming from the left, Barrow could focus on frustrating Banks and Gilliead. Vadaine Oliver also came on with 11 minutes plus injury time. He touched the ball just seven times.

The quality just wasn’t there from City, and that will really trouble Hughes. Clayton has won plenty of plaudits for a strong start since signing from Doncaster last month, but this was a worrying drop off in performance levels from a player who hasn’t exactly won rave reviews from supporters of his previous two clubs. Walker became less involved as the game went on. No one was grasping the mantle.

Which leads us onto talk about Richie Smallwood. A player who has struggled for form in recent months, and who has been highly fortunate to keep his place – especially with Clayton taking on his deep-lying midfield position. Smallwood missed the Mansfield game as his partner was giving birth, and in his place Ryan East produced a strong display. Smallwood was again very lucky to be brought back in at Stevenage last week.

This was a terrible performance from Smallwood. A few early flashes of clever passing faded into a nothing game where little went right. It’s not entirely his fault – playing wide in the diamond is not his position – but as captain he has to take far more responsibility for his performances. Smallwood wasted a couple of promising set piece opportunities and just couldn’t have any meaningful impact on the game. He was eventually taken off and can have few complaints.

The big question for Hughes right now is can he really keep picking Smallwood? His strengths are too similar to Clayton, and his inclusion ahead of East or Banks is limiting City’s creative output. There are big expectations on Smallwood. He’s not delivering on them. Hughes is rightfully taking the plaudits for his management of Cook when his fitness and confidence dipped. He now needs to take Smallwood out of the firing line.

It’s just not working and it’s damaging the team.

That’s one of many considerations for the manager right now. This week Hughes will reach the milestone of a first anniversary in charge and he deserves a lot of credit for the way he’s improved the team’s style of play and the feelgood factor he has brought back to the club. City are eight points better off and three places higher than they were at this stage last season. There is progress.

But this defeat exposes the cracks in the foundations. And the Black Swan effect is strong here because it feels like there have been lessons to take from recent weeks that – from the outside looking in – appear to have been overlooked or dismissed.

The Tranmere win on Tuesday in particular seemed to be taken as a validation that the approach and set up is working, and that those who had doubts were wrong to raise them. Speaking from personal experience, a few people contacted me to say they were unhappy with my Tranmere report for being too negative. As though a fairly average performance did not deserve proper scrutiny because the scoreline looked convincing and Rovers had zero shots on goal.

And that’s why this feels like it could be a defining moment in City’s season. The plan has been made to look so limited and weak that it’s hard to imagine how we can continue it. That doesn’t mean ripping everything up and abandoning passing principles – it doesn’t mean the diamond has to go either – but City have a squad full of depth and quality. It’s time to select the best XI players for the system, not the best XI players on paper or reputation. As Hughes concluded, “It is a missed opportunity, but we have to recognise where we went wrong and adjust accordingly.”

Black Swan moments like this can see Bradford City seasons implode, but not always. Think of the Exeter City thrashing in 2012/13 that kick-started a late, successful promotion push. Or the 2-1 home defeat to Colchester in 2015/16 that was followed by a superb run of form that earned City a play off place. The challenge for Hughes and City is to make this a similarly defining moment for good reasons.

There’s a really good opportunity to get promoted this season. But it won’t happen simply because our name is Bradford City Football Club. It won’t happen just because we’ve got the most famous manager in the league. We’ve got to start playing in a more purposeful manner. We’ve got to start looking more of a threat. We’ve got to start dominating matches.

We’ve got to stop talking about less than convincing performances. We’ve got to stop wondering if we’ll ever find that illusive higher gear. We’ve got to stop being such a passive football team.

Let this afternoon be the wake up call that seems to be needed.

Categories: Match Reviews

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40 replies

  1. It is becoming obvious that in the heat and fog of battle our general is not good at rallying and redeploying his troops. It’s beginning to look like they may not quite be the crack, well-drilled outfit he thinks they are. A defeat in itself should not be enough to dampen the midweek enthusiasm. It’s the manner of the defeat that is so depressing. We were not outplayed. We just never played out. We just seemed to want to pass it around at the back amongst ourselves. Nothing comes of nothing. You need strikes on target to score. I’m guessing that the unfancied pairing of Oliver and Cook up top might be more productive at home than the union of Clayton and Smallwood in midfield. I’d be prepared to give that a try before I ever went with the same bottom-heavy combination of holding players at home.

  2. A very fair assessment Jason of a dreadful afternoons football
    So many players having a shocking game, it left me unable to articulate to non attenders just how awful it was.
    It was probably summed up by Smallwood lining up a first half free kick in a dangerous position which he as usual overhit straight for a goal kick.
    The rest of the match a collection of backwards and sideways passes which quite rightly had the crowd on the players backs.
    As I said to some friends it’s games like this when I regret my Dad taking me to VP in the sixties and getting me hooked on City
    Hotel booked for Newport, I must be mad.

  3. The point about progress is an interesting one – eight points better off compared to the same time last season.

    To gain those eight points of progress, we’ve brought in a new management team, 22 new players (I think, including loans) and given them 12 months to implement their ideas. And our comparator – last season’s team – was underachieving to the extent that the manager got sacked.

    I’m really struggling to see our current position (and current state of affairs) as sufficient progress, especially as five (I think) of the seven teams above us have a new manager more recently than us.

  4. Today was a grim reminder of how poor we are when it comes to the crunch.

    The quality is poor and our lack of creativity a real worry. We got away with it on Tuesday. Tranmere were on the front foot before their keeper gifted us a game that could have run away from us. Today our luck ran out and we were showed up as the bang average outfit we are. Smallwood and Clayton are too similar to play effectively together. They pose zero threat in open play or set pieces. Hughes doesn’t fancy the Cook / Oliver combination despite Oliver looking a far better option when Eisa went off against the 3 big centre backs. Platt is poor. He has to make way when Critchlow is back.

    There’s a real opening for anyone who can make a late push. Sadly , I can’t see us being that team.

    Depressing and grim in equal measure.

  5. A well written and balanced report that will resonate with a lot of supporters. Will this be a season of, if, buts and maybes? I certainly hope not. Unfortunately we’re deep into February and yet to see more than a couple of “up and at em” performances. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t think this squad has it in the locker. The nearest we came to this, was as you say, the enforced dropping of Smallwood which brought about a more up tempo, forward thinking style of play. Smallwood has to be benched. There’s something amiss with him or he’s not what we were led to believe he’d be. No drive, no leadership, no thank you.

  6. Jason, again thank you for a very fair and insightful game summation. The passing stats you mentioned in particular were quite telling of how inept City were. I’ve maintained since the transfer window closed that City did an overall poor job of recruitment. Tonight I feel somewhat vindicated with my negative assessment. Bluntly stated, City needed creativity and goal scoring and neither were achieved with the recruitment. Today, City were found out and the weakness of a diamond formation with no tempo or width and no pace upfront was exposed. City are underachieving and Hughes and his tactics are the reason for this being the case. In particular, City are blessed with good wingers who strangely have been poorly utilised.

  7. The performance today has got to go down as the worse I’ve witnessed in many a year.
    All set for City to get a big win. Barrow were lacking key players. Confidence low. What a good time to play them. I knew from early on that City would struggle. All the purposeless passing, backwards and sidewards were frustrating. Smallwood and Gilliead should have been taken off. Both useless today. East should play and Banks given a starting role. We were so pedestrian all match. Crosses were poor. No pace and no idea. I don’t want excuses. I want Hughes to tear up his tactic book and play his better players and not his favourites.
    Time is running out and supporters are starting to turn against the team and tactics. I don’t want Hughes to go but he must see that his first 11 is simply not good enough.

    • I reflected grimly yesterday that we should charge other clubs for the privilege of being the pivot point to turn their bad runs of form round- we seem to have a remarkable talent for it.

      It seemed to me that the VP crowd made more of an effort to support the team positively- myself included. But the growing frustration was understandable with the endless possession without a purpose and lack of shots on goal. I agree with your comments on Richie Smallwood. I despair when he steps up for the set piece kicks. Although not quite in the same performance bracket, he’s becoming Mark Hughes’ Oscar Threlkeld.

      I also think that Mark Hughes needs to take a good hard look in the mirror and reflect on the changes he should make to this team’s approach, both set up and substitutions. Stubbornness becomes foolishness without the outcome to justify it.

      I resolved yesterday as I trudged home that I would avoid extrapolating from this single match a season that would fizzle out- football is an unpredictable business. But even with games in hand, the points per game average & tracking form both surely suggest that we are under performing our estimated budget (top 3 or 4?).

      The only silver lining I took from the performance was it was good to see Scott Banks back, and hopefully his game time will increase quickly as he eases back to match fitness.

    • Even when Banks came on he was yet again played on his ‘wrong’ foot meaning he was cutting inside to 3 centre-halves if he beat his marker. Whe we actually needed width and to get behind them. Canavan loves heading the ball but is slow. Hughes got pretty much everything wrong on Saturday. His intention was poor, his set-up was poor, his tactics were woeful and his subs were very very poor. The home record shows how negative we are and suggest poor use of what we believe is an ok squad to challenge. we have gone from at least 7 wide players to Banks coming on as a sub on his wrong foot. Hughes was to blame for this result and he needs to really reflect on what he is doing imo.

      • Agreed, Danny. Why bother signing a 6 foot 2ins striker in Oliver, who thrives on crosses, when the tactic is to play wingers on their “wrong” foot, and continually have to cut inside?

  8. Proof if it were needed that there’s more to controlling a game than keeping the ball. Nobody should have been fooled by Tuesday night’s result.

  9. There are reasons why Hull and Doncaster let their midfield generals go and today highlighted them .

  10. To predictable ,no plan B, will not drop players who are out of form.We have a terrible home record playing the same tactics,you would think the penny would drop ,its not working try 442 it will brings goals and get the crowd going .We have the wide men play them in there right positions .The league is poor ,take the bull by the horns and go for it,or the crowd will turn ,be brave we will back you
    .Show the fans some spirit.

  11. No words can describe what me and my son witnessed today given the huge importance and significance of backing up this weeks 6 points.

    Must be a league record 77% possession with no shots on target.

    Walker needs deploying as a second striker he is the best finisher we have after Cook. Chapman totally left to rot on the bench for weeks needs to play behind at least his energy and desire to press and creativity is there and surely must be a goal coming from him at some point. He can count himself very unlucky in my opinion not to be brought on especially today crying out for some legs and guile. East not playing instead of Smallwood is bordering on incompetence by now it’s beyond baffling. Richie is just out of form and confidence even he would admit that! The tactics we played today and Tuesday were shelved over Christmas by MH admitting they weren’t working so why an earth go back to them. It’s clear the players aren’t enjoying them either??? It’s a tactic that can work with the right and capable players but we haven’t got them surely MH knows this?? No midfielders or defenders have a goal in them so it’s pretty easy to play against us to be fair. It’s a huge concern for me that it’s clear MH is yet another stubborn manager that is incapable of changing tactics mid way through a game like today. No desperation no plan b no kitchen sink! Too much loyalty to underperforming players. Sorry all but only a huge and unlikely shift in mindset from management is going stop this being a nearly what might have been season. Thankfully 4 out of next 5 are away so who knows what that might mean for us! Here’s hoping (just about)

  12. Fantastic and spot on report.

    Play 3 defensive midfielders anywhere and you’re not going to create much. I’m losing the belief in City at home when we have Gillead, Smallwood and Clayton all starting in midfield. Only one should (probably Clayton).

    The formation doesn’t help as well. Halliday rarely passed it forward today because there was literally no one in front of him to pass it to – no winger. It was a similar story on the left.

    I remember under Adams the football became very boring and we weren’t creating anything. I stopped going to matches as I didn’t want to spend 4+ hours of a Saturday afternoon watching what was served up. Today, I (and I think many others) came away with the same feelings as back then. And that simply shouldn’t be the case with this squad.

    • Smallwood has operated on his own in the dfensive role all his career. This season he finds himself partnering Gilliiead and then out on the right. its a total tactical mess imo. Ype Gilliead has got better in recent games, (was poor on Saturday though and ended up right back????). but we have now 3 players who do not create much and do not score goals so what does Hughes expect? it’s like Trueman has told Hughes what to do :). Works away but at home is far too negative and frankly boring. I had some friends attend Saturday (they just wanted to attend a football game) and said afterwards it was painful to watch and i guess that they won’t be coming again anytime soon.

  13. Very very disappointing- losing to a very poor side. Barrow came for a 0 0 and we gave them all 3 points. You’ve said it all I don’t need to say any more.

    However, I cannot understand the antipathy towards Smallwood in particular. I thought he was one of our better players today, which maybe says a lot. He just shouldn’t be on free kicks! Today Clayton would get 0/10 from me, he slowed every move, gave the ball away repeatedly. Halliday also had a shocker. Platt was poor. It was just one of those days. Chapman probably our most creative player stayed on the bench. I don’t get the love-in with East, I haven’t seen enough of him, but I thought he was anonymous against Mansfield.

    We need to play some width and some pace. 3-5-2 maybe when Crichlow is back?

    And you touched on it Jason but surely that was a penalty on Eisa and if so a red card?

    We’re still in a good position. We have thrown away 3 points today but we still can do it.

  14. I agree with all Jason has written. I’m not even sure our tactics were wrong, in fact I think our tactics were alright. I look at our lads performance & the fact that the players are lacking in desire, determination & passion just leaps out out me. Without those team attributes, we could employ any tactics invented, & we’d still fail. Barrow love playing us, it’s a big match day for their lads, a chance to match themselves against one of the leagues big sides, a litmus test of their own abilities, & it’s shows. They were dogged, determined, & played as a unit. It hurts me to say it, but we have alot to learn from the ‘Barrows’ of the league, & if we don’t, & fast, then we can look forward to yet another season in the football League’s basement.
    It really isn’t rocket science, but it’s avoidable, & incredibly frustrating to see.

    • you really think our tactics were ok?

      Really? please state how. We have won 6 out of 16 games at home which suggest that this game was not a one-off. I would like to know how having no shots on target equates to good tactics?

    • Tactics wrigh? We must have been watching different games. Hughes doesn’t do Tactics very well and never has a plan be. It’s clear that his relationship with his players isn’t good. City will finish out of the play- offs in my opinion and Hughes will/ should go at the end of this season.

  15. As usual a spot on article Jason and I agree with the majority of comments made by other contributors.
    As we can all see, the statistics you quote regarding possession and touches by players are shocking from a City perspective. As we all know it’s what you do with the ball that counts. Your article mentions how Platt and Stubbs had 204 passes between them ( the same as the whole Barrow team). I would be very interested to know , if you have the information, how many touches did Cook have ? I would guess relatively very few in comparison. That surely tells a story.
    Like most City fans, I want to see both an attacking entertaining and successful team. Sadly at the moment, I feel we are getting neither.

  16. We’d like City to win and get promotion. However, at the business end of the season we are seeing boring football. Nobody near me could work out the shape of the team or tactics. The performance lacked energy, excitement and commitment. Expectations were high but we ended up feeling deflated. We need to see City players making an impact, for the game to be read better and changes made earlier in personnel, formation and tactics.
    I want to be mesmerised by skill, athleticism and excitement but what we’re getting at the moment falls well short. Nothing beats VP rocking. As the guy next to me keeps shouting, ‘Come on lads!’ as yet another halfhearted games slips into obscurity.

  17. Predictable, ponderous….pathetic. What a dismal afternoon’s football. I wished I had stayed at home, painted a wall and watched it dry. There was only going to be one outcome once Barrow scored and so it proved to be. We could have played another 6 hours and not managed a shot on target such was City’s ineptitude.
    There is a clear consensus emerging; City do not have the quality to play Hughes’s preferred approach. The evidence is there for us to see on the pitch (and not just yesterday) and admirably backed up with Jason’s insightful statistics. We lack balance, width, pace and when players have off days (Smallwood, Gillead, Clayton, Halliday, and others) we look awful..
    The key points have been made by other contributors so I will not repeat them….except to compliment Mboro Rich on his suggestion that not playing East is “bordering on the incompetent”. Lovely turn of phrase. Does anyone have the slightest inkling as to why Hughes is so reluctant to play him.
    Sadly, my respect for Hughes is hanging by a thread. The chant “Mark Hughes’s Bradford Army” had a distinctly laboured feel to it yesterday. The army is stuck in the mud, going nowhere. It is looking more and more like another year in League 2. Hope will linger on but there is simply not enough evidence to suggest it is anything other than a vain hope.

  18. Mid season also rans , can anyone seriously be surprised . SHAMBLES
    Same old same old city …..🤦🏼‍♂️🤷🏼‍♂️💩

  19. I wrote on here, earlier on the season, that Mark Hughes was a disappointment. In fact he’s a massive disappointment.

    Everything about him and the team yesterday was inept. How long does he expect fans to turn up and watch what is, in effect, an exhibition of “walking football”?

    One thing that nobody has commented on was, when Clayton was dispossesed on halfway, for their goal. When Barrow broke, it looked like Clayton was running backwards as he tried to retrieve the situation, such was the lengthening gap as Barrow raced forward. The reason Doncaster got rid, could not have been more starkly illustrated.

  20. Well written and insightful article as always, as well as comments from others. There’s something reassuring about reading Width-of-a-Post articles following a dismal defeat like yesterday and collectively trying to process what’s just happened. Sort of a therapy session for bitterly disappointed Bradford City fans 🙂

    Most of my thoughts on the game have been said perfectly well above, but one thing to add as a more general observation that’s been on my mind lately…

    I’ve been supporting city for 5 years now, and I’m always amazed by how manager after manager seems to end up going down this route of stubborn refusal to see the obvious. So much could be said about this, but what I mean in summary is the situation where as a fan you are sat in the stand watching a game and thinking “Why on earth is X player not starting”, or “Why isn’t he making a substitution now”, or “Why don’t we play it long every once in a while to ease the press/mix it up a bit” etc. These thoughts go on for a few games, and then you look online and see that everyone else is thinking the same as you. Then you start thinking “Oh well, the manager knows what he’s doing much better than I do”, or “He’s obviously seeing something in training that I’m not”. But then a few more games pass, and nothing changes, and you just can’t shake these thoughts that seem so blindingly obvious, and you continue to read/listen online people thinking exactly the same things. Next thing you know, the team are slipping down the table, and the manager gets fired, and you’re left thinking, how did it come to this? Why did the manager not see these things and do something about it? I wonder if there is a danger as a manager of a football team when you are so close to everything that you lose perspective on things perhaps, because you are so involved in the detail?

    All this to say, it feels like when Hughes first came to the club his decisions, tactics and substitutions made sense, and on the whole you would sit there thinking, “Yep, that makes sense”, or “I can see what he’s trying to do there”, which meant even if it didn’t work, or we ended up losing the game, you could walk away, thinking “Oh well it didn’t work out this time, but I’m onboard with what he’s trying to do”. However, it feels like as the season has worn on, his decisions are becoming increasingly more confusing, and it ends up culminating in a dreadful display like yesterday, where you leave feeling like we’ve basically gifted a very poor team 3-points. I’m desperate for Mark Hughes to succeed at this club, but I’m worried that if this trajectory of baffling decisions/tactics/substitutions continues, it’s going to end up as another season where we all walk away thinking “how did it come to this?”.

    Apologies for the ramble, but hopefully that makes some sense.

    • Excellent comments Ed! You’ve expressed my feelings better than I could have! Trouble is I can see no solution to our present problems. It’s happened at Valley Parade every season since Parkinson (wisely) chose to leave us at the start of the Rahic/Rupp takeover. It’s become the Bradford City Curse — keep doing the same things wrongly and do them again next game. Ignore the ble*ding obvious and keep going in the forlorn hope it will come right in the end. But of course it never does, does it.

      My friend Mike and I, as we do at the start of every home game, made a quick guess as to what would be the score today. It was probably 3-0 to City. It often is. We are optimistic and always start with an unreasonable hope. Every game it turns out to be wrong. A player does something daft, clumsy, brainless, the opposition score, our players heads drop and we sit there waiting for the inevitable boos at the final whistle.

      I like Mark Hughes. He’s a decent bloke. He knows the game. He’s done it all before. He’ll come through in the end. We’ll turn the season round next game. But will we? We’re Bradford City and shouldn’t be in this sh*tty league. But why not? What’s the unwritten rule that says we’re a ‘big club’ and shouldn’t be in this league? There isn’t one. Get over it.

      So where does that leave us then? Same place as we were last season, and the season before, and the one before that. Cross your fingers and hope we do better next game, or next season, or whenever. That’s the Bradford City Curse, that’s lower league football and we’d better get used to it.

  21. It’s looking like yet another failed season at VP. 17,000+ fans turned up & 4,000 will be heading to Doncaster. Frankly the squad doesn’t deserve this level of support. It’s time that the club stop feeding us the BS of getting ‘players with character, leaders in the dressing room’ There were no leaders on or off the pitch yesterday.

    Like you rightly said in the article Smallwood seems to be untouchable, yet Cooke is dropped for a ‘rest’ when we are struggling for goals. East was brilliant vs a Salford away, yet dropped. Came in vs Mansfield and brought balance and a difference in Midfield. The poor lad was even put in front of the media for the next game to say how good it was to be back, when Hughes clearly knew he would be bringing back Smallwood. As for Abo Eisa… I think yesterday provided a point. Chasing down their goalkeeper when he had a free kick & the only header he won was from a Lewis goal kick, while Abo was too busy looking into the main stand!

    ‘Early Bird’ Season Tickets for next season will be on sale soon, a season that will most likely be in L2 again, only this time a stronger league with the likes of Wrexham, Notts County. Yet another wholesale rebuild on the cards?

    The honeymoon is over for Mark Hughes & his ‘name’ can only buy him so much time. Lose the VP faithful & they turn and there is only one outcome. I’m not saying he is on his way out the door yet, but he needs to start performing as well as his lacklustre squad, especially with those early bird season ticket sales being the prime source of income at the club.

  22. It is pretty obvious at the moment that we are not equipped to play through teams at home. The Stubbs/Platt stat is most damning. There is rarely a forward pass on for them. Surely in the absence of Crichlow Gilly/Smallwood and Clayton have to be showing for the ball far more often to get things moving.
    The full backs are solid enough but neither has the quality to deliver enough in the final third when the formation relies on this. The diamond looked a decent option with East in it as he has the legs and the inclination to make a forward run/pass. As it stands Clayton and Smallwood are shoe horned into the same team for no apparent reason. RS is a good player if you play to his strengths ie a proper CDM. He does not have the mobility to play where he is asked.
    You get the distinct impression that Cook gets increasingly frustrated/static as the game wears on with no service. Movement was lacking from the front two all game.Walker and Banks were the only players with the confidence/inclination to take a defender on or try to pick anything other than an easy pass.
    Tranmere was not great and in reality the performance level was not much different from yesterday. In that sense the performance result should not have come as a surprise

    • the recent praise around Clayton, who was very poor on Saturday btw, forgets that Smallwood has never had the chance to play this role by himself whihc he has done pretty much throughout his career. Him been stuck on the right is a nonsense imo, Gilliead was woeful 1st half yet he continues to stay on and even at right back. This defensive formation is ok away and has proven so, but at home maybe only one of those players( 2 if Hughes goes with his favoured 4231) should be in the starting line at home. Hughes like previous mangers needs to be more positive as city fans are tired of this pragmatic, boring, at home unssuccesfull football

  23. Yet again a good analysis. I don’t think Smallwood is a bad player but I think he may need a little time out to recharge, in much the same way that Cook has done. I can’t help but think that Clayton and Smallwood might work OK in a formation away from home, but probably only one of them in a diamond in a more attacking home game. Neither are wingers.

  24. A dire performance but as the gentleman sat behind me pointed out, we did succeed in winning the “palindromic attendance of the day” award-17071.

  25. Excellent report, and unfortunately it has got to the point where it is more of a surprise when a team on a poor run doesn’t beat us.

    I think the game just showed up one of our biggest weaknesses, in that when we concede 1st, we appear to lack the character and belief to get back into the game, and have a manager who seemingly has no idea how to change things to a positive effect when we are behind.

  26. A fairly accurate summary of the game Jason.
    As this was my first trip to VP this season and only my second live game I hoped that the recent results would bring some sunshine to my Saturday. In typical fashion City flattered to decieve. (Ironically the other live game was Barrow away!)
    Square pegs in round holes, no shape, no plan B, no service to the in form striker – the stats don’t lie with just 14 touches – and being unable to break down the opposition who were happy to sit back after scoring on the break after a mistake.
    All of the above we have witnessed with many previous managers, all who have come out after the game to reflect on the frustrating nature of the opposition tactics visiting VP.
    As previously stated, it obvious to those sat in the stands what’s going to happen yet the manager and the backroom staff appear blinkered to this notion. Its disappointing that clearly there are players on the sidelines that have not been given a fair chance and those who are on the pitch who are seemingly untouchable. One bloke sat near me shouted out after Smallwoods first half free kick “I’ve seen better deliveries from Amazon!”
    What is the solution ? 442 ? 352?
    Sadly I’m unable to provide this as I’ve seen very little of City live this season as stated above but the manager has to come sit in the stands and see what the supporter sees to understand their frustration, understand why as a city faithful we want players to play for the shirt, give 100% for the cause and ultimately provide the entertainment for 17000 plus people to send them home happy!

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