Match Report 2003-2004

Saturday 30 August, 2003, Division One

Sunderland at Valley Parade

Players suffer for Law's mistakes

Bradford City 0
Sundlerland 4
Breen 0-1
Stewart 0-2
Arce 0-3
Kyle 0-4

Not long ago I made a list Nicky Law's strengths and sighted tactics as his weakness and concluding that list I said that we made do with his lack of acumen for the sake of the other positives he brought to the club. In this 4-0 mauling by Sunderland, yet another mauling that we have witnessed at Valley Parade under Law, Law's tactics got worse and now I see no point in continuing to have him as manager.

Law's team spirit building is admirable but this team's spirit, or lack or it, was on display when the abysmal Jason Gavin allowed Julio Arce a free run and deft chip at goal only to point to Michael Standing's losing of the ball sixty yards away as the prime reason why his captain, David Wetherall, should not be tearing a strip of the woeful former Boro quote central defender unquote.

Law's ability with the kids is impressive but Danny Forrest is learning nothing in the reserves and Lewis Emanuel and Ben Muirhead's relegation from first teamers last season to bench warmers this leaves the kids at City as Simon Francis being thrown into any position by Law as he works his tactics with all the grace of a boy banging a piñata.

Law claims that he does not have the players to play the formation he wants but every single player we own was given a contract by Nicky Law. If we lack a flying left winger then I'm sure in the summer we would have been able to recruit one and not get Fraser McHugh, Robert Wolleaston, Luke Cornwall, Patrick Bannister or one of the other players who seems set to sleep though their contract at Valley Parade lest Law wake them up.

Law's reasons for this defeat would seem to be that Sunderland are returning to the Premiership and that we could not live with them but that is a half truth. Sunderland might be on the way back but if they do they will miss the free headers at the far post afforded to the likes of Gary Breen after ten confusion strewn minutes or the gaps in a aback line that presented old foe Marcus Stewart with a chance to beat Mark Paston with an impressive shot across his body.

Sunderland did not have the plethora of attacks that suggest they are Premiership bound, they were not streets ahead but they were shown to the goal so frequently that we made it easy for them to paste us.

Gaps left by Law's switch to 352 from 442 which seemed like an idea worth pursuing until you saw it in action. I confess I know very little about what goes on on a football training ground but if it is not marking at set-plays or understanding new tactics or confidence/team spirit building or creating attacking set-plays or finding out who can at least get a corner to the front post then I am baffled at what Nicky Law does with the players from Monday to Friday. The players seemed confused by a new tactic that Law has been working on since the back end of last season. That is unacceptable.

Law's excuses are unacceptable.

Of course when 2-0 down Nicky Law changed things around but stupidly he employed defensive players wide in his midfield - namely Francis and Paul Heckingbottom - and left a soft centre of Michael Standing and Dean Windass. After Arce walked sixty yards to pop in the third Law came to the realisation that he should probably go back to the 442 with two holding midfielder that we started the season with, in itself an admission of defeat. Law has chanced his arm to try get more goals out of his hand picked charges and the result was the that best he could manage at half time was to stop the goals going in. One can only hope he never raised his voice in the dressing room because if he had then who could blame David Wetherall from replying that the goals, the confusion, the bad defence, the lack of structure, the lack of inventiveness was his fault.

So Sean Thornton knocked in a rebound in the second half to illustrate that even though things had picked up after the break, City were still not in this game despite some impressive work from Paul Heckingbottom inside midfield.

This is another black mark, strike two in my book for Nicky Law and frankly I think that it is just a matter of time before strike three. Law's tactical inability was there for all to see today and while one tries to stay away from emotive expletives in a wait-a-day balanced article, it was embarrassing.

Solutions suggest themselves, such as getting along a coach to work alongside Law, but why keep the manager? Yes he does good things but other managers can do good things too. Other managers can bring kids through and spot talent to bring to the club.

At the moment I stop short of an all out call to sack Law because the culture we have of sacking managers every two years is bad, the work that Law did for the club during administration should be remembered and frankly there is much that is right at City and with Law but I cannot see how he can keep the job of football manager when he cannot manage a team on match days.

Perhaps that call will not have to be made. City have two weeks off now which is plenty of time for Gordon Gibb to add the fact that Law is stalling in contract talks, the fact that communication between the board and the manager is breaking down, the fact compounded bad decisions brought about today's result and that those decisions were made by Law and decide to move for a new manager now.

The look in Gibb's furious eyes at the end of this humiliation suggested he might.

Man of the Match
Paul Heckingbottom

Did well second half.

Bradford City Team
  • Lewis Emanuel for Standing
  • Robert Wolleaston for Windass