Stuart McCall couldn’t see the wood for the trees at Bradford

Bradford City boss Stuart McCall made a dignified exit from Valley Parade last week, but it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying in West Yorkshire.

McCall still has a deep affinity for the Bantams and I believe this closeness to the club hindered his chances of success. The flame-haired boss is a Bradford legend. His efforts on the pitch were monumental and when he arrived as boss two-and-a-half-years ago it was the return of the prodigal son. Season ticket sales soared – the club still regularly attracts in excess of 11,000 fans for home games in the league’s bottom division.

A tenth place finish in McCall’s first season was accepted and hopes for the following season were high, especially with the club’s well-documented increased wage budget. But after a good start McCall’s men fell away in the crucial final third of the season and the Bantams were left in ninth place.

McCall had already threatened to resign after a midweek defeat at Bournemouth but, after speaking to the club’s joint-chairmen and receiving hundreds of letters from fans, he decided to stay on and give it another go. This campaign McCall had to work with a considerably smaller budget and took a significant wage cut himself as the club attempted to stay on an even keel. However, performances on the pitch suffered and the 1-0 home defeat to Bury – City’s sixth at Valley Parade this term – was the final straw and McCall parted company with the club he holds so dear to his heart.

His failure certainly came as a surprise to himself because failure in his career as a player was not on the agenda. The midfield dynamo helped Bradford to promotion from the Third Division in the mid-eighties and almost fired Bradford into the top flight in 1987-88 – the Bantams only failing in the play-offs. The Scotland international moved on to Everton and Rangers before returning to captain Bradford to promotion to the Premier League in 1999.

Sadly, I believe his emotions got the better of him during his time as manager. The 45-year-old was so attached and focused on driving the club forward that ultimately he couldn’t see what was going on at close quarters. McCall would often sit through hours of DVDs of opponents and his own side, analysing what went wrong. His workload was immense and desire unrivalled, but he simply couldn’t see the wood for the trees. His thoughtful approach and involvement made him blind to the footballing basics of finding your best team, the best way to play for the players and sticking with it.
It’s true football is about opinions and everyone has their own verdict on who should be playing and where, but McCall’s decisions simply didn’t pay off and that’s obvious looking at the club sitting in 16th place. However he was probably not a million miles away from building a successful squad. A new face, who has been able to take a step back and make a few key decisions, will probably be successful. A couple of new additions and different approach could have the Bantams sailing up the table – maybe the play-offs are not out of reach yet, even if Bradford’s League Two odds might suggest otherwise.

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Meanwhile, in horse racing news, Cheltenham Festival pundits have a lot to think about after Gold Cup challenger Denman fell in his last warm up race before the big event.

Written By Phil Tomlinson