Thursday, 24 March 2011

Club versus Country - A Recurring Argument

Come 3pm on Saturday afternoon, the vast majority of eyes in this country will be focussed on the Millennium Stadium as Wales take on England. That is, apart from about 10,000 (For 10,000 see 7,500) people who will be at Valley Parade to see a run of the mill League Two fixture between City and Shrewsbury.  The game at Valley Parade will be the only Football League fixture to kick off at 3pm on Saturday; many games have seen the kick off time changed and many moved to the Sunday, all in hope of avoiding a dramatic dip in attendances.

There has been much said in the past week or so about the fixture. People blaming City, people blaming The FA, Mark Lawn blaming Shrewsbury for the clash with England. But in reality you can’t please everyone. The most surprising thing to me is that people are still bothered about watching England. It has always been club before country for me, but since the debacle in South Africa I have been turned off by England even more. Give me Gareth Evans ballooning a ball over the Bradford End over Wayne Rooney moaning about fans any day of the week.

But it shouldn’t have come to this. There is a rule in England that states no games can be broadcast on TV at 3pm on a Saturday to protect attendances at smaller clubs, so why The FA agreed to this kick off time is beyond me. To me it shows the disdain The FA has for the lower leagues – not taking into consideration that their fixtures always have and always will be 3 o’clock on a Saturday. Why they couldn’t have kicked off at 5.30pm or even the Sunday is quite frankly baffling.

There is a feeling though that City have not done enough to move the fixture. While I’m not bothered about the England game, many are and the fact that City left it this late to rearrange shows a distinct lack of forward thinking and planning. Some are claiming it is a lack of respect for fans that have already paid for the game with their season ticket; I see it as slack management. When the fixtures came out, Lincoln had rearranged their fixture with Rotherham within two hours. City may point to the fact that Shrewsbury have a game on Tuesday so couldn’t play Sunday, but if they had had the wherewithal to forward plan, this situation wouldn’t be happening.

For what it is worth, I believe the blame lies primarily with The FA. They shouldn’t have arranged a game that clashes with the vast majority of the Football League. To do so shows the regard lower league football is held in by the upper echelons of football, but equally City should’ve had more about them to get the game moved. All that said though, I’ll be at Valley Parade getting behind the lads, probably checking my phone for the England score occasionally.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Taking In a Reserve Game

I haven’t been to a reserve game in about ten years. The last one was a trip to Elland Road to see City lose 2-0, but living in the middle of Sheffield and being a student, I had ample time to take a trip down to the Don Valley Shithole, sorry, Stadium, to see the massive Yorkshire Derby between City Reserves and Rotherham’s second string. I’ll never turn down something that is free!

I had no idea what to expect; quality wise, effort wise, standard of officiating. But I was pleasantly surprised tonight. The City team was fairly recognisable; Syers, Adeyemi, Threlfall, Bullock all started along with some of the talked about youngsters. Rotherham also had a few names on the team sheet that I recognised, namely Liam Henderson, Paul Warne (He must be 50 by now) and Mark Randall. Having seen the teams, I looked forward to the game.

What a surreal experience it was though. I don’t know what sort of crowds City’s reserves attract – I’ve never been – but I expect they pull in something in the region of 100 to 150 (Though I could be well off). There can’t have been more than 40 there tonight, though. It must be horrible to play a game like that.

On to the game though, and it started quite slowly, but Rotherham soon grew into it, forcing Dave Syers to clear off the line. It was a fairly committed performance from both sets of players, with some strong challenges going in. A fairly quiet first half was livened up towards the end though, when Rotherham went in front with a simple header.

The second half was a much more enjoyable affair though, with four more goals. Three went City’s way ensuring they ran out 3-2 winners in a reasonable enthralling game (Enthralling for a reserve game, anyway). Young striker Darren Stephenson equalised for City with a looping header over the Rotherham keeper and Syers put the team 2-1 up from the penalty spot after Stephenson had been brought down. Rotherham equalised before City’s number 7 finished the scoring from 20 yards out. I had no idea who this was during the game, to come home and find out it was a trialist. I wouldn’t expect to see him signing on with the club; decent goal, but a quiet game.

Having heard reports about youth players before the game, but having seen none of them, I was particularly interested in Dominic Rowe, a speedy winger, and Darren Stephenson up front.
Rowe is most definitely built like Shaun Wright Phillips; tiny but extremely fast. At one point, Rowe beat 3 men over a 20 yard distance and still managed to get himself 5 yards of space – he is that quick. He even has a reasonable end product and put in a few decent crosses. I don’t think he is ready for the first team yet, he clearly needs more experience and to bulk up slightly, but in a year or two City could have a real player on their hands. Stephenson is a fairly big player up front, strong and quite pacey. Not the same potential as Rowe, but could become a decent back up option at this level.

All in all it was a decent nights viewing, and it was interesting to see some of the players you hear so much about, but never get the chance to see. 

PS; The view at the Don Valley doesn't get any better in the home section.....

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Jacko Gets the Job? (For Now.....)

Having concluded his search for an assistant, it seems likely that Peter Jackson will fulfil his management dream for at least another 11 games after Saturday’s trip to Morecambe.
The weekend’s trip to Bradford-on-Sea was pencilled in to be the last one of interim boss Jackson’s reign. However, the appointment of former England player Colin Cooper as his right hand man would suggest Jacko is going to be with the club longer than the original deadline of 5pm Saturday evening.  The club would not be stupid enough to allow Jackson to appoint an assistant manager only for himself to walk away from the club 5 days later.

Cooper, himself an ex-centre half like Jackson, played over 600 games in a career spanning 22 years, for Millwall, Forest and most notably Middlesbrough. Cooper retired from playing in 2006 and has since coached at Middlesbrough. He started out coaching the reserves before moving on a year later to become a first team coach. In the summer of 2009, he became Gareth Southgate’s Assistant and also had a short spell as caretaker boss following Southgate’s departure from Boro.

Cooper will bring plenty of experience to the club and is regarded as an excellent coach. His arrival will allow David Wetherall to go back to his regular job with the Youth Team where he has performed well this year. The two games Jackson has been in charge of so far have both seen notable improvements in going forward and the addition of another ex top level defender should only serve to help the likes of Luke O’Brien, Steve Williams and Robbie Threlfall at the back.
Good luck to Colin Cooper, and may his stay with the club be a long one, as that will mean he has been successful. 

Monday, 7 March 2011

Return of the Lilt Man?

Omar Daley is like Marmite, you either love him or you hate him, but when Peter Taylor farmed Omar Daley out on loan to Rotherham United, it appeared the flying wingers association with Bradford City was over, considering that his contract is up at the end of the season.  That may be about to change though, seeing as Peter Jackson is due to talk with Ronnie Moore (Spit) about the winger, presumably after the two sides clash on Tuesday night. If it is, as presumed, about the possibility of recalling Daley, then it is likely that City would also lose the services of Kevin Ellison, who would return to his parent club.

Both clubs had initially fared better from the deal, Daley providing two goals, scoring one and having another chalked off in his first two games for the Millers. Ellison also debuted with a Man of the Match performance which saw him score the only goal of the game against high flying Wycombe to give his new club a much needed shot in the arm. However, both players have since seemed to struggle, Daley appearing a few times from the bench, and Ellison appearing in defeats to Port Vale and Gillingham, and struggling before being taken off in the nervy last minute win against Stockport.

After his impressive debut, Ellison seems to have gone quiet. It is clear he works hard and will cover every blade of grass for the cause, but it is difficult to see what else Ellison offers the team. While Daley was admittedly infuriating, his omission from the team renders it almost paceless. There is no one in the team who can now carry the ball 60 yards in a matter of seconds leaving the team slow, predictable and easier to defend against. Granted, Daley is only a shadow of his former self since coming back from the injury that cut short his 2008/09 season, but his presence seems to still worry other defences, and on his day he can be a match winner. Oxford and both Bury games this season wouldn’t have been won without Omar’s input, a haul of points which without would see the club in the bottom two.

The Ellison-Daley swap was one of the last things Taylor did while at the club, swapping flair for fight in the ensuing relegation battle. Now Peter Jackson has come in, he may want Omar back at the club, having reverted back to the 4-4-2 formation which the team have looked more comfortable with all season. With a lack of other recognisable wingers at the club, a midfield overloaded with central players will not help Jackson if he wishes to continue to play 4-4-2. Recalling Daley would give him more options again, possibly preventing players like Syers being played out of position wide.

Of course this is all conjecture, Jackson could want to talk to Ronnie Moore (Spit), confirming that he won’t be recalling Omar, but this writer sincerely hopes it is to discuss the possibility of Daley returning to the club. It’s not long since Daley was in the news stating he is now a Bradford boy. Come home, Omar. 

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Interviews with Lee Hendrie and Zesh Rehman

Trawling across the internet, I came across these two interviews last night. Interviews with ex-City players Lee Hendrie and Zesh Rehman.

Thanks to Jakarta Casual TV for the interviews.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Welcome Back

Peter Jackson starts his audition for the Bradford City job at Gillingham tomorrow, 30 years after first joining the Bantams.

Jackson had the ingenuity to call Mark Lawn once he had heard Peter Taylor was leaving and offered his services as temporary manager. A shrewd move it would appear as Jackson is now in the driving seat to make the job his own. Perhaps it is odd then, that Jacko is still only 2nd favourite for the job, behind John Still at Dagenham who is 1/2 favourite.

But back to the real business. Jackson comes in at a time where a lot of supporters are disillusioned with the club which is staring a fifth season in League Two in the face. What back in 2007 should have been a short vacation has turned into the holiday from hell. But Jackson can use this to his advantage. He comes in at a point where it should be impossible to take the club any lower, in the words of Yazz, The Only Way is Up!

At 20, I never saw Jackson play in the claret and amber, but I know enough about the man to know that he is a legend at the club and deserves the same sort of praise as McCall and Hendrie receive. His flirtation with the team in blue and white may have tarnished his reputation for some, but a quick look at some of his interviews on rejoining should show you how much he cares for the club. City are in safe hands, whether that is for the next week, year or decade and the club will receive no less than 110% from the manager while Jacko is here.

Jackson has always been a great motivator. A quick look down memory lane will reveal his Huddersfield teams that were always ‘well up’ for the derby games against City, a motivation that this season has appeared to be lacking.  Jackson brings different skills to the job than Taylor did, and with the squad he is inheriting, Jackson should be able to get results out of it. A team which should be higher in the table. Jackson has two difficult games to prove his worth though, but 4 points from the two games will surely see him given the job till at least seasons end.

If Jackson can get results against both Gillingham and Rotherham, he can then implement his ideas properly on the team and show what he can really do. I see Jackson getting the job full time and he needs to quickly sort out who does and who doesn’t figure in plans for next season. City will get the 10 or so points required to secure safety this season and the fans need to get behind Jackson and the boys. Players and manager alike need to prove themselves and with our backing they can show what they can do.

That is not to say they haven’t had the fans backing already this season, but now it appears the season is going nowhere, much better for the players to play in a welcoming environment showing what they can do, than playing in a hostile environment unlikely to produce anything.

So let’s get behind Jackson, one of few players to lift silverware in the Claret and Amber. And here's to the 3 points he'll be returning to West Yorkshire with from Kent come 5pm on Saturday. 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

When Gareth Evans joined Bradford City, he became Stuart McCall’s second cash transfer when he joined for £35,000 from Macclesfield Town. At the time of signing, Evans epitomised everything that Bradford City needed to become. Following the 'not so nearly' season of 2008/09 when big spending and big players failed to produce, the cost cutting the club embarked upon meant the manager would be shopping at Asda rather than Waitrose. Evans, though, having just over 80 appearances and 19 goals to his name, was young and most importantly experienced. He was the cheap replacement for the expensive flops. 

However, as Evans comes towards the end of his two year deal, he has come in for some, arguably warranted, criticism. Everyone knows a striker’s job is to score goals, and in 60 appearances for the club, Evans has scored a meagre 14 goals. 3 of those came in the last 6 games of last season when under no pressure, and just 4 have come this season. It could be argued that Evans, though, is a victim of his own versatility. 

When McCall signed Evans from Macclesfield, he stated he could play up front or as a winger, both left and right. From the start Evans was earmarked for a filling in role. He joined the club with high expectations; he was wanted elsewhere in League Two, most notably by Peter Jackson at Lincoln. Peter Thorne had just completed another season and it wasn't clear as to whether he would be staying on. Evans was coming in to be his replacement, to get the 15-20 goals a main striker needs. 

Unfortunately he has not come close. 

And now he is starting to get the stick that strikers get when they don't score. Over the past few weeks, many things have been labelled at Evans. A lack of composure, a poor first touch, no footballing brain. All traits which he unfortunately displays with an alarming regularity. 

Evans' supporters would point to the fact that you never get less than 110% from him. A bundle of energy, pace and commitment. All excellent attributes. But it comes to a point whereby effort is not enough. City fans have suffered for 10 years, and now the patience is wearing thin. We want out of League Two and a striker who fails to hit the net is not going to last long. 

But this is where Evans may suffer from his own versatility. He came as a striker, and started playing at City as a striker. But the more he has played, the less he has scored, and the more he has been used as a winger. Many games Evans is deployed as a winger rather than a striker, and while still expected to chip in with goals, his job is then to produce. And in his year and a half with the club, he has contributed 11 assists. A sizeable amount. 

Perhaps it is time Evans nailed down a permanent position. For his benefit and the teams benefit and we may finally see a player prosper with the full backing of the crowd.