Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Glorious 1911

100 years ago today Bradford City won the FA Cup for the only time in the clubs history to date with a 1-0 win over Newcastle United in a replay. They were widely regarded as the best team in the country at the time as the FA Cup was held in higher regard than the league competition back then. So here is to the team of yesteryear! 

The team that day was:

Mark Mellors (GK)
Robert Campbell
David Taylor
George Robinson
Bob Torrance
Jimmy McDonald
Peter Logan
Jimmy Spiers (Scorer of the solitary goal)
Frank O'Rourke
Archie Devine
Frank Thompson

Willie Gildea also played in the first final but not in the replay.

They were managed by Peter O'Rourke

Bradford City Legends. 

Monday, 25 April 2011

An Open Letter

Now that any fears of relegation have been all but put to bed, it is time that a lot of things surrounding Bradford City are discussed properly. You would have to have been living like a hermit for the past year or so to not realise that there are numerous things at the club which are not right.

So with that in mind, here is an open letter to the club.
Dear Mr Lawn and Mr Rhodes,

Now that any relegation fears have been all but put to bed, I feel it is appropriate for a deep and thorough review of everything surrounding Bradford City AFC. And that requires answering some very difficult questions. I would first like to put on record my thanks for putting your money where your mouth is and trying to help the club progress. But with the way the proposed move to Odsal has reared its head again; real questions have to be asked.

The big issue is the proposed move to Odsal. From the media bits I have read, it isn’t clear to me as to why we are considering leaving our home of 108 years. Yes, Odsal represents a chance to get rid of almost £750,000 in rent per year, but it also means that other income streams such as the corporate facilities and catering will be lost. To me it appears that the idea is being drawn up on the back of a cigarette packet. We have also been told that in the past we have had budgets of £1.3 million, £1.9m, £1.3m and £1.5m. If this is the case, why are we not cutting our cloth accordingly to remain at Valley Parade? Dagenham went up last year on a budget of £750,000 – money doesn’t win you leagues but teams do, so why are we not tightening our belts by reducing the playing budget?

Further to this, how would you expect the club to break out of the lease? You claimed in an interview with Boy from Brazil that it would mean administration – now I am not a business man but administration is for insolvent companies and David Baldwin has told the fans we are not – so how is this a viable option? We have been in the position before as you will know in 2004 when we were told administration was ‘a formality’ and yet we were minutes away from closure. Do you not think that placing the club in administration is an unnecessarily risky strategy?

Additionally, what is the long term plan? Leaving Valley Parade would ensure that the club would never move back again. Is the plan to settle at Odsal forever – a suicidal move – or would the club begin plans for a new ground, following the path of many successful teams in the recent past – Hull, Swansea, Cardiff, Chesterfield to name a few.

Moving on from the stadium debate, why are the club not learning past lessons regarding finances? When Mr Lawn came into the club, he promised an end to overspending. However, two summers ago we had to force high earners out of the club having sealed contracts that the club could not uphold and yet again we are in the position of trying to force players out of the club. Last summer the club gladly signed a contract with Lewis Hunt which would see a years extension if he played 20 games. Why are the club handing out these seemingly inappropriate contracts when they know full well if things don’t go to plan they will not be able to honour them? It would be much more appropriate to offer contracts to players we can honour, even if that means getting players of less ability.

Finally, what are the clubs long term plans? Five years ago we were told we would be heading towards the Championship now – yet we lay in the lowest position I and many younger generations of City fans have seen. The club should be ambitious, the fans should be ambitious but it is time the club put a proper thought through long term strategy in place that would see the club rise through the leagues on a sustainable basis. I believe if the club explained a proper long term strategy the fans would be receptive and explain how it would work. An example of this would be Bury’s decision to sign players last summer who all had to be 27 years or younger – a plan which has bore fruits early.

It isn’t nice being negative about the club we all love, but some serious questions and answers are needed. This letter is by no means an extensive list of fans’ concerns and reading around some of the clubs different message boards will reveal many other concerns. We all thought the club had bottomed out when we hit League Two, then again when Peter Taylor was appointed. This summer is massive for the future of Bradford City and a serious review of the entire club is needed.

Yours Faithfully,

I don't expect a reply, but hopefully it will bring attention to just a few of the many things that are currently wrong with the club and allow us to finally attempt to progress. 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Beginning of the End?

This weekend saw Bradford City lurch from one crisis to another. Following the previous weeks shenanigans with Lewis Hunt’s contract, the club admitted that they have sounded out the Football League about the implications of a move to Odsal. Further to that, on the pitch things got even worse – comprehensibly beaten by Accrington and all teams around us picking up points. As weeks go, Bradford City have had better.

On the pitch, the Accrington game was up there with the worst I have ever seen. I wasn’t at the 3-0 defeat to Chesterfield a couple of years ago which saw us relegated to League Two, but I imagine this was similar. It took Stanley just eight minutes to penetrate the City defence and from then on, City never looked like getting anything from the game. Some players quite obviously don’t want to play for Bradford City anymore; the alleged Luke Oliver spat at Southend, Luke Oliver having a staring contest with fans at Accrington when being told he and the rest of the team weren’t fit to wear the shirt and some arsey comments from a certain Mr Doherty on Twitter. Remember him? With the apparent poor attitude from some players, the level of discontent between fans and players is at an all time high. Support, and rightly so, has been limited in recent weeks; and considering the reduction in the gap to the bottom two to four points, things are certainly very worrying currently.

The discontent is not just aimed at the players, though. The leadership of the club is receiving a lot of scrutiny from the fans. Naturally the idea of moving to Odsal is less than popular and serious questions are being asked about the regime which has overseen numerous, excessive budgets. Many are questioning the motives behind moving; considering the playing budget could be brought down to average League Two levels to compensate for the amount of rent the club is liable for.  Considering administration is for companies that are insolvent and City are not, it is clear that the situation is far from simple.

Because of all this, the AFC Bradford City route has been mentioned. This is all well and good, but is incredibly risky. It would involve setting up at a massively lower level, most probably the Northern Counties League, and would have no guarantee of rising through the leagues ala Halifax, Wimbledon and FC United. It took Aldershot 16 years to regain their place in the league – would a phoenix club be able to garner and maintain interest and support for that long? And it would involve giving up what every non league team wants – a place in the Football League. The idea is being tossed around far too much for this writers liking at the moment and has to only be considered as an absolute last resort.
But what else can we do now?

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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Sequel

Eight weeks ago we were told that the Stockport game was the biggest in the clubs history. Now just two months later we are being told the same thing, for the same reasons. Bradford City certainly don’t make it easy. Following back to back wins against Stockport and Morecambe, then the recent victory over Macclesfield, relegation fears should have been a distant memory. But a dire draw with Northampton, and two thumpings at the hands of Torquay and Southend have seen City slide back into the relegation mire. Granted, three points from Burton will see any lingering relegation fears gone, but the battle has gone on for too long.

Following Mark Lawn’s claim that the club are hoping to appoint a manager by Easter, this could well be Jackson’s last home game. Doubtful, but possible. Jackson finds himself in a similar position to Peter Taylor when he embarked on his last game against Stockport. Poor form, little belief, lacking confidence and goal shy. Which brings us nicely to the next point; Is Peter II the man for the Bradford City job?

Firstly, we have to be grateful to Jackson for providing the impetus and short term boost that lead to 7 points from his first four games. Without that boost the club really would have been in relegation trouble; Taylor had left us going down, and fast. But following the initial surge, what has Jackson brought to the table?

Coming towards the
 end of his reign?
He has made similar mistakes – ones which ensured Taylor was vilified – to the previous manager. A lack of tactical nous, playing players well out of position and dull, dire, turgid football are all mistakes that can be attributed to Jackson during his short reign.  While limited in his choices and ability to mix things up, Jackson has not been able to stamp any sort of authority on the squad. Despite numerous rallies from the players that they are behind the manager, there has been no apparent long term improvement in the levels of effort and desire from the players. Indeed, according to some fans, some players are looking forward to next season away from Bradford City.

So as we go into the ‘biggest game of the clubs history’ for the second time in two months, hopefully this Peter will pick up a result similar to the last one, all but ensuring the clubs football league status for a further year and completing the job he was brought in to do. But hopefully in the near future the club will be saying ‘Thanks Peter, but no thanks’ for the second time this season. 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Valley Parade-Odsal Conundrum

Following on from a previous blog entry about the crippling Valley Parade rent, today’s Yorkshire Post article about the possibility of the club quitting Valley Parade in favour of another ground, most likely Odsal, has seen the subject rear its ugly head yet again.

But what are the possibilities?

Remaining at Valley Parade
Everyone’s number one choice. Nobody wants to leave Valley Parade – it’s the club’s spiritual home, having played there since the clubs formation and since 1886 in the clubs former guise as Manningham RFC. It is where the club belong and is synonymous with the club. Remaining here, though, is becoming increasingly difficult with increasing overheads and dwindling income. Lower ticket sales, coupled with lower takings from merchandise and extras (Through the clubs % take on any profits) has seen the club forced into a corner. The chances of remaining at Valley Parade at the current rates in the long run are slim and would probably see the death of the club. Getting a reduction in rent is in everybody’s interest. This though, is looking highly unlikely at the moment.

Administration and Odsal
Without knowing the intricacies of the lease that sees VP rented back to the club, it is likely that the only way out of it is either; A) Buying Valley Parade outright – unlikely, or B) Administration and breaking the deal leaving Gordon Gibb with an unused football stadium. This would allow the club to move up to Odsal, cut costs massively and in theory allow them to invest more in the team and become more financially stable. This is a highly risky strategy though, for more than one reason. Firstly, the Football League would not take kindly to a third period in administration in ten years. They would throw the book at the club which would likely see City relegated. Secondly, the administrators are legally obliged to pick the best offer for the club – thus it is highly likely that Gibb – if he sought to protect his investment, or any other interested party could take over the club for nothing, seeing Lawn and particularly Rhodes leaving the club with mass loses. Something both the chairmen will want to avoid.

Status Quo
Everything remains as it is now. And that will probably signal the death of the club. It has been more than a decade of decline now - increasing costs coupled with decreasing revenue is making the clubs position more and more fragile each year. Lawn even states in the Yorkshire Post article that the club ‘faces extinction’ should the club remain at Valley Parade under current rates. A situation no one wants.

Outside Investment
We can hope! Messrs Lawn and Rhodes may be posturing about moving up to Odsal, but it could all be a smokescreen. There have been murmurings of parties interested in investing of the club lately – which was associated with the Stockport £1 ticket offer – supposedly a showcase of the clubs potential - and will no doubt be linked with today’s news that Tuesdays game against Burton will also be £1 a ticket. Investment may be a possibility, but it may hinge on whether or not the club can reduce levels of rent it is liable for currently. Anything along these lines would be hugely positive for the club, and could finally see that long awaited turn in fortune. But for now they remain as unfounded rumours.

Whatever the outcome, things down at Valley Parade could soon become very messy, very quickly. 

Odsal - Valley Parade; No Competition 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

That Time of Year Again

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when players begin to worry about where the next contract is coming from. We’ve already seen this displayed in interviews by two of the current crop at City, firstly Kevin Ellison and then latterly Jon Worthington.

What makes it worse for City this year though, is the obvious lack of a permanent manager and any forward planning. The club are back to square one when they waited and waited to appoint McCall in 2007 leaving us with a scratch squad for the season. Messrs Lawn and Rhodes have left the club in the perilous position of having no one to properly plan ahead for next. It is clear that Worthington’s press release was nothing but a bit of back scratching for the current incumbent of the manager’s post. If Jackson stays on, expect Worthington to sign up and be made captain. Immediately.  I wouldn’t be particularly averse to that outcome; Worthington is a decent player at this level and the type of scrapper that the team needs to be built around.

Unfortunately, for whoever is the next permanent manager, not that many players are out of contract this summer. Which makes it all the more important that a full time manager is appointed sooner rather than later, enabling him to begin the process of moving any players who he doesn’t want to keep are on.

All of which brings us nicely onto who is worthy of a place at City next season. In between the sticks, I think McLaughlin is more than adequate at this level and with another years experience under his belt, he will be fine. Pidgeley can go, though.

The back four is pretty solid. Looking at the stats this year, despite being in the lower half they make reasonable reading. In fact, City have only shipped 7 more goals than Chesterfield, who are running away with the league. Shane Duff should be released though, having spent more time injured than on the pitch, and despite being arguably the best right back in League Two, Simon Ramsden who has appeared for just 180 minutes this season, needs to prove his fitness. Luke Oliver comes in for a lot of unjust stick in my opinion, most likely due to his relationship with the previous manager, but a new signing; a horrible git ala Guy Branston alongside him would see City with arguably one of the best defences in the league. Certainly more than good enough to compete.

Midfield is where the inevitable savings are going to be made. Peter Taylor ensured his squad was top heavy with central midfielders. Doherty, Flynn, Worthington, Bullock, Syers, Adeyemi all capable of playing in the middle of midfield. Bullock can go, Adeyemi on loan will be gone, and it is likely that Doherty, despite being technically the best player at the club by a country mile, will be gone due to his high wages. Most likely being reunited with the man his team mates ridicule him for being his ‘Daddy’ – that being wherever Taylor turns up next. Pick two from the three of Worthington, Syers and Flynn, added with a couple of wide men should see the midfield competitive next year too.

Up front City only have one striker worth anything - Hanson. Speight can go, Dobie on loan will be gone, Evans is useless and Chilaka – well what is the point in him being at the club? It is here where the manager will have to be resourceful. Unfortunately this is the area of the team needing most improvement. With the impending cuts in playing budget, releasing all these players will still see the club struggling for cash, and it is likely that there will be some loanees here. City have struggled in recent years with loanees, but they can work, as proven by Cody McDonald at Gillingham.

Whatever the outcome of the annual merry-go-round though, the new manager has a hell of a job on trying to reshape this squad. With the Valley Parade crowd sick of the decade of decline, I do not envy him in trying to turn around this stricken club. 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Here We Go Again

Today saw recent rumours on the World Wide Web confirmed by David Baldwin that City had indeed failed to pay last month’s rent on time. Baldwin concludes the article with ‘We’re not being alarmist. We’re not in debt’ and while defaulting on rent does not necessarily signal the end of days, it is getting a bit close to the bone again.

All of which makes you wonder what the club are doing. We’ve all heard plenty of discussion about the budget, and since dropping into this league we’ve had budgets of £1.3m, £1.9m, £1.3m and this year £1.5m. In those seasons we’ve never taken more than roughly £1.3m in season ticket sales when accounting for junior discounts and the free tickets for U11’s. Mark Lawn categorically stated that we’d never risk the future of the club again, and while I’m not privy to all the financial information, spending more on the playing budget than you take in season ticket sales cannot be a good start. This automatically means that resources have to come from elsewhere, be that corporate income, match day tickets sales or income from merchandise and at the end of this chain something, somewhere is going to end up short. That being the rent this time.

Getting Gordon Gibb back involved, as many have suspected for a long time, looks to be common knowledge now as the best way of helping City back up the leagues. City claim that the level of rent we currently pay would only become a reasonable rent if we we’re to return to the heady heights of the Championship, currently a long, long way away.

Odsal was suggested a year or so back, until we realised that City would still be liable to rent, whether they played at VP or not. I remember the autumn day when Gordon Gibb claimed profoundly that Valley Parade will always be home of the Bantams. Well if he is to fulfil this promise, it looks as if he may have to reassess the level of rent the club currently pay. 

While Valley Parade is purely a business venture for Gibb now, who has zero connections with the club, it is in his interest for the club to be playing at a higher level. In the 8 years the club have been paying rent on Valley Parade, Gibb has recouped his initial £2.5m outlay and then some for his pension fund. Therefore having City higher up the leagues will make his life much easier. The rent is more likely to be paid, be paid on time, and the club are likely to be more accepting of the deal the higher the leagues they go, thus earning Gibb’s pension fund more cash.

Obviously I have no idea as to how the rent level could be changed; rumours of a league or attendance based fee have been murmured. What is clear though, is that City are struggling, and remaining in League Two is in nobody’s interest.