The Michael Wood Column

Monday 11 March, 2002

Why I would love to blame Richmond

For some time there has been a growing body of opinion at Valley Parade that Geoffrey Richmond is something of a buffoon, that his bumbling has lead City into financial and playing ruin. That, in short, Richmond has cocked up City.

Oh how I wish this was the case.

The case for the persecution of Richmond looks at City as a Premiership club about to embark on it's second successful season in the top flight and points to events that have taken us from there to here.

They point to Paul Jewell's walk out and Chris Hutchings hasty appointment as the root. They point to the way that Hutchings was offed some four months later with hardly a hint or irony for it was a very simialr group of people who were calling for that manager's head.

They point to the signing of Benito Carbone to being a good player out of the club's reach who should never have been pursued. They point to Ashley Ward and say "why?"

They point to the new stand and call it as a folly. They point to Jim Jefferies, both his appointment and his departure, and then point back at Richmond and lay the blame.

They say that all this is Richmond's fault and I would like to believe them.

I would like to put all the problems of the game at the door of one man. I cannot do it.

I suppose in a corny way it is because I care about Bradford City too much. I'm too bothered about the club to labour under such a serious misapprehension as to try to blame our share in the decline of football outside the top division on a couple of decisions.

Cast your minds back to the start of the Premiership in the early 1990s. Remember the opposition to it? Remember what they said about the game fragmenting? About clubs going to the wall? About a gave separated into haves and have nots? Did you think that in the last ten years these issues just went away? That because they stopped being talked about they did not exist anymore? Think again.

The bottom line for 12 clubs at the moment is that without major intervention they will struggle to continue to exist in the short to mid term. Bury are the most recent to bring the issue up, but such names as Nottingham Forest can also be included on the list.

In the next ten years unless there is a huge change in the priorities of clubs and organisers of football we will see a reduction in the number of professional clubs from the impressive 92 to a figure that some experts predict may be as low as low as 44.

Some 900 players will be released by clubs who cannot afford to keep them, others will be moved on out of big contracts as City have tired to do with Ashley Ward. This is happening through all three FL divisions and at a couple of the lower Premiership clubs too. It is a football problem.

And if that problem could be solved by hounding Geoffrey Richmond I would say hound him.

If City could be saved from that problem by hounding Geoffrey Richmond I would say hound him.

But this is not Geoffrey Richmond's fault. It would be better for us all if it were.

If it was then we would not have to face a truth in this game we would call beautiful. We are not wanted. We are being marginalized, scaled down, and moved away from the centre. Phased out.

In the higher reaches of the top divisions of European football the plans that have been discussed are to created walled leagues of clubs with no promotion and relegation, no mobility between the haves and have nots. In this world England is represented by a handful of super teams at the top table: Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have already got seats, just as Milan and Madrid do in their countries. These clubs are only interested in big players joining them. A club like Leeds needs to be able to command a support base of 50k plus. The 15,000 at Valley Parade are not City fans in this world, they are targets.

And City, or Darlington or Everton or Charlton or all those other clubs who fall within the catchments area of one of these clubs that would be behemoths, are the enemy.

This is the truth of modern football.

This is not Geoffrey Richmond's fault. For every move he makes in City's favour, moves are made against him and us and all the other similar clubs. Make no mistake. Football is in civil war, and the few at the top are pounding the rest of us.

If this domination of the game by the Champions League clubs could be ended by Geoffrey Richmond leaving Bradford City I would want him to leave but it would not end.

All of which is not to say that I agree with everything Richmond does or think that you should. I would not have sacked Chris Kamara or appointed Chris Hutchings for example and on those matters I feel right to criticise the chairman.

What is pointless is to criticise him for the fact that clubs like City are being pushed away from the top end of the game. Yes City have spent badly at times, se we should have a better scouting system and yes we need to gat a youth academy in place, but do not kid yourself that had we got those things we would be breaking bread with Barca and Bayern Munich.

At this point there should of course be a conclusion to this article. There will not be.

I cannot in good faith say to you, dear reader, that you should not be criticising GR if you are or that you should be supporting him if that is your preference.

What I can ask you to do, for the betterment of our club, is to think before you speak for whichever side you are on.

Think: Is this a Richmond problem, or just a problem? Is this Richmond's success or just success?

Because the last thing that Bradford City need is another start in the wrong direction. The last think we need to a supporter's uprising to rid us of a chairman who may turn out to be the boy with his finger in a dyke stopping the flood. Who could be the King Canute keeping back the tide of bog football from swallowing us whole.

I would love it if you could blame Geoffrey Richmond for City's problems this year but even if he is at fault, other forces are pushing us down more and at the moment he is pushing back on our behalf.

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