April 21, 2007

Cheery O's

Bradford City 0

Leyton Orient 2 Alexander 62, Tann 65

Attendance: 10,655

Ouch. In a season of lows, a new one. A crushing, hammer-blow of a result. All told, nothing short of a miracle is needed to avoid relegation now, and it would pretty well be confirmed by a Cheltenham win at already-relegated Rotherham next week, irrespective of our result at Chesterfield. Buoyed by last week’s win at Brighton and other favourable results, a win today would have seen City leapfrog their opponents out of the bottom four, and swing the goal difference in our favour, and with a game at Chesterfield an escape looked on.

But ‘if’ is the biggest word in football. We wondered what approach Orient would take; a draw would suit them nicely. And so they sat back with 9 men behind the ball. They time wasted from the off (there were 10 minutes of added time in the match). But City, urged on by a far larger crowd than usual, repeatedly carved them open with fast counterattacks.

In the first five minutes, Weir-Daley broke down the right for Paynter to be denied by a fine block by the keeper’s left hand. Weir-Daley had good movement, but his control was generally terrible, and frequent breaks petered out as he struggled to maintain possession. Omar Daley was also lively down the right, but his main first half contribution was on the left, where he danced past three players, to make it into the 6 yard box. With 3 players to square it to, he shot straight at the keeper from a yard. Disbelief all round. Weir-Daley was then played through the inside left channel where keeper Garner had committed to come and meet him. Weir-Daley reached the ball first but horribly sliced his attempted lob. Orient threatened only once, when a long ball caught the wind and bounced over Ricketts and towards goal before he recovered. But that was their only attempt, seemingly more content to spoil. They should have been 2 or 3 down at the break.

But as so often post 2001, a slow start to the second half proved crucial. Maybe Orient had been given a bit of a kick up the backside, but City couldn’t get the ball off them. And after 62 minutes; calamity. A misplaced pass towards Daley was inexcusably given up by the winger. The ball was worked down the Orient left for Gary Alexander to hit a strike from the angle of the 6 yard box with his weaker left foot. Which went straight through Ricketts’ hands and into the roof of the net. Three minutes later, it was game over. The utterly useless Parker dallied in the left back position, giving away an entirely needless free kick. A standard far post free kick saw the ball knocked down for midfielder Tann to find the net unopposed from almost on the goal line. Apart from the knot of Orient fans at the far end, the vociferous home crowd was silenced. Some of the part timers left there and then.

They had the right idea. The stuffing was knocked out of both team and fans. City didn’t trouble the visitors’ rearguard in the next 30 minutes as the afternoon descended back into the desperate, rudderless, mis-shapen rabble we’ve seen since October. Another poor side goes home laughing with 3 points to add to Brighton, Northampton, Crewe, Doncaster, Huddersfield and the rest

This season is proving a treasure trove of statistics. After a run of 12 home games unbeaten, we’ve now won 1 of the next 16, the sole win being more than 4 months ago. All told, since the Huddersfield game, it’s been 5 wins in the last 32. A third relegation in six years. David Wetherall is highly likely to be the first player to have played for us in all 4 divisions. In reverse order. I haven’t seen a win in seven months.

Where now? The basement is the obvious answer, for the first time in 25 years. The fear is they could, the mess the club is in, be down there for that long. The football in this division is atrocious, so the mind boggles what the like of Accrington, Rochdale and Barnet will bring. It won’t be many away supporters, that’s for sure. And so as gate receipts fall, so the club can’t afford the high earners. So once again, players are shed, to be replaced by cheaper ones who naturally aren’t as good and so the league position suffers some more and so further down the spiral we go. Of the playing squad, I might keep 5 players; Wetherall, Bower, Youga, Paynter and Eddie Johnson, who looked very tidy in central midfield rather than up front. Let’s not forget, the club doesn’t even own Paynter and Youga. So that’s three of them…as for the rest, most will end up at Halifax or somewhere.

The clearout shouldn’t be limited to the playing staff. Julian Rhodes and his steering committee may have saved the club in the administration crisis of 2004, but what have they achieved since? What money have Jim Brown (lets not forget as chairman he saw Halifax relegated from the league TWICE) and friends put into the club? What do the board of directors do? Are they “yes men” for the chairman?

At every point where a strategic decision had to be made, they have got it hopelessly, incompetently wrong. Granted, debt-rescheduling payments as a result of the CVA have had to be made, but we were told, post 2004, that the break-even attendance flgure was 7,500, and the club had “a clean slate”. The average attendances since then have been 8,839 in 2005, 8,265 in 2006 and this year it’s 8,765, yet the club continued to lose money. We were told, pre-Christmas, that the club was going to lose 600k this year, then in January we are told there are bills to pay. Jermaine Johnson was sold for £450k, Windass loaned to Hull (for a reported £100k+ fee), and now we are set to make a loss of £600k?! To get rid of the two best players in the team when it was in mid-table and struggling- allied to losing Nathan Doyle- was just insane. Sacking Todd and putting Wetherall in charge meant he had to drop himself; another of the best players gone. And as a direct consequence, the results since February have been dismal.

The club doesn’t own the ground (having fallen out with the previous owner/chairman, and now must pay £300k a year rent), doesn’t own the block that contains the club shop and ticket office (sold and re-rented), has franchised out the club shop and banqueting suite revenues for flat fees (plus a percentage of revenue received). Where has that money gone? And now the company that sponsors the stadium has been hit with a winding up petition. Add to that Peter Etherington and his disappearing ”£2.5M” fiasco of last summer, and his alienation of long-standing sponsors such as JCT600. It seems that in sheer desperation the club is jumping into bed with some very shady characters. And the “April Fool” PR gaffe did nothing for the mood of the natives. Or going on a skiing holiday while the club lost 2 hugely important games. Rhodes may be a fan, but in his stewardship he’s been at best naive and worst incompetent. In the event of the “10,000 season tickets for £138” promise, where is the contingency plan if, as seems likely, the 10,000 figure isn’t reached?

His defenders say “but there wouldn’t be a club without him”. Maybe not, but the way things are going, in a year or two there might not be one at all. The club owns nothing but the name of the club, a share in the league and a miserable rag-bag of players, widely condemned as “the worst team in 25 years”. Because they are. The chairman should do the noble thing and fall on his sword and sell up. But given all of the above, what successful business man in his right mind would invest? Everyone knows you don’t go into football to make money, but you can’t run a club that has no assets and has no control over the revenue it does create.

I might seem Mr. Angry in light of all of the above, but I’ve written this entirely calmly and rationally. What would make me buy a season ticket for next season? Nothing short of an immediate and complete clean sweep from the very top down, and someone in the hotseat who looks like he/she knows what he/she is doing. If it means everyone in the building gets their P45 well then so be it. Else the downward spiral will continue.

Bradford (4-4-2): Ricketts – Edghill, Wetherall, Bower, Youga (Colbeck) – Daley, Schumacher, Johnson, Parker – Weir-Daley, Paynter. Subs not used: Howarth, Penford, Clarke, Bentham.

Orient (4-4-2): Garner – Barnard, Mackie, Thelwell, Lockwood (Miller) – Tudor, Guttridge, Chambers, Tann – Alexander, Jarvis (Ibehre). Subs not used: Morris, Saah, Corden.

MOTM: Johnson. Just shaded Youga. Shame about some of their teammates.

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