The Michael Wood Column

Friday 18 July, 2003

On XML and modernising my view of Geoffrey Richmond

The average BfB reader does not have a clue what XML is, nor should they, but they will know it's use when after months of toiling the news section of this site is reworked in the glory of eXtensible Mark-Up Language and things become nicer around this site.

Without wanting to bored to tears the none technical amongst you - Cabin Pressure, we are technical so you don't have to be - BfB has been charged with the task of breaking down news pages like this one into single pages for each day. Like I say, we are technical so you don't have to be.

So we have ended up going through the previous 1,000 odd days worth of news that have appeared on this site since August 2000. Everything from the day that Benito Carbone signed to a 2-2 behind closed doors friendly with Barnsley and after this review I will say this: It is dizzying.

The fall of this club in some cases, but the fall of football in general. Reading it back it is stunning how this game has contracted in the past three years.

Take for an example the news for August 2000 and the headline Westwood available for 250,000. Three years ago players that vaguely promised like Ashley Westwood did cost a quarter of a million pounds. Take Ward deal off in favour of Vlad in which BfB explained how City had sent Chris Hutchings and then chief scout Andy Scott over to Russia to watch Vladimir Beschastnykh. Aside from the idea of City being able to afford two plane tickets this story is worth reading for the line Geoffrey Richmond said "In football one has to accept that you don't always win, a problem sorted out later that year when the Bantams pre-booked 75 hours flying time per year "To facilitate European scouting missions", whether it is on or off the field. We made strenuous efforts to sign Ashley Ward, but unfortunately we have been unable to agree terms with the player." and wince at the word unfortunately

Of course the outcome of those strenuous efforts to sign Ashley Ward were the strenuous signing of Ashley Ward. The story goes that Ashley kept saying no, not long out of a relegation battle with Blackburn Rovers Ward wanted to stabilise in Division One for a while, but Richmond kept upping the offer to the striker who Chris Hutchings believed would push us up the Premiership. As a side note while very few people doubt that bring Benito Carbone to Bradford came from the head of Geoffrey Richmond, Ashley Ward and David Hopkin were names on a list that Chris Hutchings gave the then City chairman to bring into the club. The relentless pursuit of those players, the upping of wage offers and slapping around of 4m on two guys who would now struggle to raise even a free transfer, was the mistake that cost Richmond dear and almost us the club.

The economics of the situation are madness. Even if one assumes a very generous 10 a seat (kids and season ticket holders bring the average down) in our 22,000 seater over a season then gate receipts only total 4m. If that side of the economic balance is madness, what was holding up the other side was insanity.

It's hard ot know which Ashley represented the most insane valuation. Ward is not and was never worth 18,000 a week or 1.5m but on the other hand recouping 250,000 for Westwood was equally ludicrous. Now, three years on, a player coming out of the reserves of a Premiership club like Ashley Westwood did can be had for nothing, they will give them away to get them out of the house and off the wage bill! Back in August 2000 Tom Kearney, Michael Standing, Ben Muirhead, Luke Cornwall, Patrick Bannister and Robert Wolleaston would have all been from the Westwood 250,000 collection. It did not matter back then if you signed a player for lots of money like we did with Ashley Ward because you could offload anyone for huge sums too. Ward in, Lee Mills out for over a million.

So get to the point already Michael Wood? The point, if there is one, is this. One year on from administration and taking a dispassionate look back at what happened to this club one sees Geoffrey Richmond in a different light. Many think of Richmond as a crook, villain, thief or whatever for taking dividends out of the club regardless of the fact that the Rhodes clan who back City now took them too but to me, looking back, he is a dinosaur.

He is a T-Rex, he is king of all he surveys and one of the top feeders of the planet as the asteroid that will wipe him out burns through the atmosphere.

Either that or he is a Roman watching the charge of the Visigoth over the hills incapable of understanding that the Roman Empire that civilized and brought order to chaos is about to fall.

This conclusion hit me as I converted to files to XML and I mention it because of all the talk of Geoffrey Richmond I have never heard this said aloud. Richmond is the Icarus who's wings melted or he is a crook taking what he can but he has never been looked at in the way I have ended up seeing him.

As incapable.

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