Date:Monday February 1 2010
If a week is a long time in football then the three years Stuart McCall has sat in the Valley Parade dugout have been aeons. And, over those ages the faith placed in the former midfield general has been tested.
We have, it is universally suggested, under performed. We are, the mythology states, a big club...massive no less. The minnows of English football should fall at our feet and be steamrollered. That we find ourselves 84th out of 92 clubs must mean that Stuart McCall is a failure, that his departure from Valley Parade can not come too soon.
I do not subscribe to this theory yet the prospects of my writing an assessment of a performance that culminated in Stuart's departure and the crowing of a small, but vocal, element of the Bantams faithful was looking increasingly likely right up until 16.45 on Saturday afternoon.
Prior to the game the numbers did not make pretty reading. No win in almost two months, 4 points from the previous 18, a defence leaking embarrassing goals (only three clubs have conceded more), strikers low on confidence and plagued by injury and closer to relegation than promotion.
But there's a long way to go in the season, and if Gareth Evans' late, late brace gave the Bantams an entirely undeserved three points it may be that the stay of execution that Stuart McCall is feeling can breathe some life into the remainder of the season.
This week sees Bury visit Valley Parade. Only three games ago did we lose to the Shakers. So, what does this weekend's three points mean for the week ahead? Have things changed?
Let's be honest, we were outplayed by Paul Buckle's men for almost the entire game. That we were still within touching distance on 82 minutes was down to their own profligacy in front of goal. The Devon club have found the adjustment to League Two much harder than their neighbours Exeter who have enjoyed this season and are establishing themselves at an even higher level. Torquay was a match we were expected to win but almost left with nothing.
Bury will be an entirely different proposition. It was before that 2-1 reverse at Gigg Lane that Stuart McCall declared that we had to win 3 of the next 4. We promptly recorded back to back defeats to ramp up the pressure on Stuart even more.
Against Lincoln Stuart played the wrong side in the wrong positions for 45 minutes whilst a double substitution at Plainmoor suggested something else significantly wrong with how his side had been sent out.
However, gone is the cautious Stuart McCall of substitutions in the last ten minutes. Increasingly the game plan has gone out of the window in the opening 45 minutes leaving McCall and his backroom staff to identify, and put into action, a Plan B.
Why we keep needing back up plans is anyone's guess. The confidence of players takes a beating when you go on a depressing streak like this. The fans get uptight, or worse, start to lose interest and the season drifts off into a meaningless grey fuzz.
Our expectations are high, of course they should be. The reality is that the playoffs are a long way away. However, a bit of history might be helpful. 14 years ago, as 1995 gave way to 1996 the Bantams had 37 points from 26 games, that season ended with playoff victory and began the rollercoaster ride from which we're still recovering.
Doing that meant picking up 36 points from a possible 60. We're 4 points down on that. We're 9 points down on where we were last season but a similar period to the one we've just experienced saw us take 3 points from 8 games. Stuart has set a target of 2 wins from every 3 games.
If we do that we'll make 72 points. I don't agree with Simon Parker that this season is over yet. There's a lot of football to be played. The talismanic Peter Thorne played some minutes, during which we scored two goals; Omar Daley is getting fitter; Steve O'Leary is going to get onto the pitch. Somehow we need to plug the defence.
For the time being the obituary of Stuart McCall's time as manager of the club he loves is put on hold. The knives are slowly returned to their blocks but let us be under no illusions whatsoever, a meek end to the season will continue to increase the trickle of concern into a torrent of dissatisfaction.
Whether or not we make the playoffs I'm City 'til I Die, whether or not Stuart stays at the helm he continues to be a legend, full stop. We can still do this, as implausible as it might seem. Three points doesn't fix systemic issues but it certainly puts a smile back on our faces, and more importantly the faces of the club!
Date:Monday February 1 2010
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