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Monday, February 08, 2010

Bantams' wait a shining example

The former England captain in disgrace and the shambolic running of a Premier League club seeing them transferred to their fourth different owner this season.

Last week was not a clever one at the top level of the English game. It's pleasing therefore, that this one begins with a positive story from the lower leagues.

This is the story of a manager leaving a club. Not usually an act to be applauded, except from those fans happy to see the man in charge given the boot.

However, Stuart McCall's decision to quit as manager of Bradford City following Saturday's 1-0 defeat at home to Bury should serve as an inspiration to all other clubs and managers in the game.

Let me explain why.

McCall's decision to leave the Bantams with the club lying 16th in League Two is an admirable one from the former City captain.

When he was appointed prior to the 2007/8 campaign, he was charged with helping the West Yorkshire outift bounce back to League One at the first attempt.

A stalwart of the club's years in the Premier League, he was a popular choice with supporters who, thanks to some good pricing, bought season tickets in their thousands - confident of a return to the good times.

It was a frustrating experience for the majority of the 13,000 crowd who regularly turned up at Valley Parade on a Saturday afternoon though.

City finished 10th, not even good enough for a play-off place, and below the likes of Rochdale and Hereford. Never mind.

Bradford chairman Julian Rhodes stood by his man, as did the fans. Again, the club toiled in mid-table, struggling to make the play-offs.

It prompted the manager to declare he would resign if City failed to make the top seven at the end of the season. They didn't, finishing 9th, but the support of the fans and his board persuaded McCall to stay on.

However, just one win in their last seven games this term has seen the club fall 12 points off the coveted play-offs. This time McCall has fallen on his sword, saving the club from any paying any potential compensation.

In his post-match interview after the Shakers defeat, he sounded like a man who had given the job his best shot, but it just wasn't good enough, stating that he wanted to do "what's best for the club." He should be applauded.

McCall was the fifth longest serving manager in League Two

So too should Rhodes, his board, and the City fans. Some of the latter are still willing to give him more time. Perhaps it's the value of being a club legend that some fans have the patience of a saint with you.

You get the feeling this was something all those connected with Bradford desperately hoped would work out. The fans wanted to see him succeed, and will be sad to see him go despite things not going as well as they would have hoped for.

In an era where hiring and firing managers has reached a ridiculous level, the City board deserve a lot of credit too for their support and patience.

It would have been very easy to dismiss McCall, but they wanted to give him as long as possible to turn things around.

Maybe it's a sad reflection of the state of football that two-and-a-half years is considered a long stint in the modern game, but it is.

Indeed, had the club shown signs of progress and found themselves on the fringes of the play-offs this term, it's likely today's events wouldn't be happening and McCall would still be in his job.

The reality for Bradford now though is the start of a search for a replacement. It's a vacancy which shouldn't be short of applicants either.

The Valley Parade job is one of the biggest in League Two, with a club with a competitve budget who can really only go upwards from this point.

Whoever the new man is though, you hope Bradford will continue to offer the same level of time and patience to him.

For, even with them languishing in the bottom half of their division, when it comes to supporting a manager - the Bantams have set the standard.


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