Ban­tams can’t be the Christ­mas tur­keys...

The Football League Paper - - ADAM VIRGO - Adam Virgo

CHRIST­MAS is make or break for clubs in the rel­e­ga­tion zone. And if Brad­ford are still there when the dec­o­ra­tions come down, I think they’re done for.

Since los­ing in the League One play-off fi­nal to Mill­wall in 2017, things have gone from bad to worse at Val­ley Pa­rade.

Stu­art McCall was rashly sacked in Fe­bru­ary. Si­mon Grayson ar­rived but re­jected an of­fer to stay beyond the sum­mer. Michael Collins was pro­moted from the youth team, signed a load of play­ers and was re­placed by David Hop­kin after six games.

The Ban­tams were 17th when the Scot was ap­pointed. To­day, they are rock bot­tom of the ta­ble and nurs­ing a run of six straight de­feats. In fact, their record in 2018 is abysmal: won seven, drawn seven, lost 24.

Clearly, this is a big­ger is­sue than who sits in the dugout. The own­er­ship off the pitch is not healthy. There are per­sis­tent ru­mours that the chair­man, Edin Rahic, is try­ing to med­dle in trans­fers and team se­lec­tion.

Dis­as­trous

He de­nies it, of course, but there’s very rarely smoke with­out fire in these sit­u­a­tions. It hap­pened at Ley­ton Ori­ent with dis­as­trous re­sults. It’s hap­pen­ing a lot more now in the lower leagues than it ever did in my day. And if it’s hap­pen­ing at Brad­ford, then it won’t end well.

A man­ager shouldn’t tell a chair­man how to run a club be­cause he isn’t qual­i­fied for the task, and the same is true in re­verse.

Will that af­fect the play­ers? Cer­tainly. For me, though, the big­gest prob­lem is the size of the squad. Brad­ford have got far, far too many play­ers - 38 in the first-team squad, which is ab­surd for a club in League One.

One side ef­fect is that David clearly doesn’t know his best team. He’s used more than 20 play­ers al­ready.

Far worse, though, are the cracks and di­vides that in­evitably ap­pear when that many peo­ple aren’t in­volved. That’s why so many man­agers only want a core of 18 or so.

When you’re los­ing games, those cracks widen like you wouldn’t be­lieve. It’s hor­ri­ble be­ing in a dress­ing room like that. Sap­ping.

Peo­ple find ex­cuses for every­thing. The pro­fes­sion­al­ism dips. Peo­ple turn up late or don’t train with the same in­ten­sity.

I al­ways go back to my time at Bris­tol Rovers, when there was a mas­sive di­vide in the dress­ing room. No­body took re­spon­si­bil­ity, least of all the so-called match-win­ners who quickly went into hid­ing.

And ul­ti­mately, that’s the only thing that can save Brad­ford. They’ve changed the man­ager plenty of times now and got no kind of re­sponse. The owner is stay­ing put.

Re­sponse

They can buy play­ers in Jan­uary but more bod­ies is hardly the an­swer. Be­sides, will they re­ally be able to at­tract any­one of qual­ity if they’re bot­tom of the ta­ble? No - they’re now re­ly­ing on the play­ers in the dress­ing room to show some char­ac­ter and lead from the front. Right now, Brad­ford are a team who cre­ate chances but snatch at them. At the back, they crack quite quickly. You can’t keep con­ced­ing three or four and ex­pect to get re­sults. Those are con­fi­dence is­sues, and it’s up to good pros to dig in, do the ba­sics and win ugly. But it has to start now. When I got rel­e­gated at Colch­ester, we were like ‘‘Oh, we’re only seven points off safety, there’s plenty of games yet’. But if you can’t hit form, the matches quickly van­ish. Games that look winnable when the fix­ture list comes out sud­denly look a lot more daunt­ing. And by the time you’re left need­ing, say, three wins from the last 12, the pres­sure is crush­ing. That’s why the Christ­mas pe­riod is cru­cial to Brad­ford. Be­cause the longer this goes on and the longer the play­ers fail to take re­spon­si­bil­ity, the more trou­ble they’ll be in.

TIME FOR AC­TION: Brad­ford City man­ager David Hop­kin

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