Boy From Brazil Bradford City Hall of Fame

Inductee April 2002

Stuart McCall

Stuart McCall was the greatest football ever to play for Bradford City.

City have had more technically gifted players, Chris Waddle would be the greatest if that was the sole criteria for the title of the greatest football ever to play for Bradford City, and perhaps the Bantams have had players who gave more than McCall although none spring to mind.

What makes McCall the greatest is one quality that the firey haired midfielder brought to his career: balance.

Staurt McCall was a player with an acute sense of the balance of a football game, perhaps as much as any other player of his era.

In every area of the game Stuart McCall would apply the ideal force in the correct way. When City needed to sit back and defend a lead, McCall would do so, when we needed a goal, McCall would move forward. Most of the time Stuart would switch between these postures imperceptibly. The same can be said of other elements of his game. His tackling was well judged as was the fact with only a single exception, he never put in a second bookable tackle.

He was a talented footballer, a fact that is often forgotten in talk of commitment and "giving your all", his passing was outstanding, his judgement in breaking up attacks peerless, but there was a whole other side of Stuart McCall.

When Stuart McCall played in a team he made the rest of the team better. He set an example of how to play the game, the attitude to have, the approach a player should have to the game. On the field he boosted his teammates and gave encouragement where needed, never pulling rank or shifting the blame. A memory of the first season in the Premiership that sticks in the mind is McCall geeing up his teammates after another goal had flashed into the City net. He made the players around him better.

Stuart McCall started at Bradford City aged 16 in the early 1980s. He came into the team at right back for the fist game of the 1982-83 season and quickly impressed. Trevor Cherry gave McCall a role in central midfield in the 1985 third division championship side and the captaincy when Peter Jackson left for Newcastle United. Stuart rewarded Cherry by becoming the heart of a team that stayed stable on the field when all was chaos in the post-Fire side that wandered West Yorkshire looking for a place to play. McCall emerged as the rallying point for his peers: John Hendrie, Bobby Campbell et al. McCall made Bradford City tick.

At this point it is worth pointing out for younger readers and those who only remember Stuart the second time around what type of player the young McCall was. Stuart was the classic box to box midfield. Solid when defending, creative when attacking and chipping in with a fair number of goals from midfield.

Stuart's emergence was noticed. He would have played for England under 21's after accepting a call up had he not hidden at the end of the field in the 90th minute when he was to be blooded. Scotland had an informal policy of not picking non-Scots born players, they changed that for Stuart.

After Trevor Cherry was replaced by Terry Dolan at City and the side pulled away from second division relegation Stuart McCall was the key player in City's play off place in the 1987-88 season. The 2-0 defeat at Middlesborough that kept City down was Stuart's final game in claret and amber before a £850,000 move to Everton.

It took Stuart McCall half a season to settle into Everton, a time that included the only game to date that Stuart played against City, a 3-1 win for the Bantams in the League Cup, and his time at Goodison Park was most notable for the two goals he got in the post-Hillsborough FA Cup final that the Toffee men lost 3-2.

McCall went to the World Cup of 1990 and scored against Sweden in the Tartan Army's second game. He moved to Rangers for £1.2m going on to win a string of championship medals in the famed nine in a row team at Ibrox. McCall's partnership with Paul Gascoinge on the field was the stuff of legends, as was his off the pitch partnership with Ally McCoist.

Stuart returned to in 1998 after many attempts by Geoffrey Richmond to bring him back. His debut against Stockport saw him pick up and injury and half a dozen games later with Paul Jewell's side struggling speculation had Stuart taking over the manager's job at Valley Parade.

As with Trevor Cherry's team that was built around McCall's leadership Paul Jewell's promotion side thrived on the desire of Stuart. He had said that he returned to Bradford City with "Unfinished business" after the so called nearly season. A sunny Sunday afternoon in Wolverhampton saw Stuart McCall make good his affairs and lead Bradford City to the Premiership.

Stuart McCall made his Premiership debut at Arsenal following a long summer after injury. His influence was noticeable throughout the season. Every week presented the Bantams with another smack in the teeth but every week McCall rallied his troops until City stayed up. That year the Bantams never went on a run of wins, never went through a good patch, but picked up points here and there with the odd draw and a few homes wins. It was characteristic of the McCall attitude that went though the club. Scrap for everything.

The Premiership went wrong. Stuart ended up in charge of the Bantams for two games and never saw eye to eye with new manager Jim Jefferies. After a training ground bust up one got the feeling that either the boss or the skipper had to go. Stuart McCall was not moving.

BfB named Stuart McCall player of the season for his final year at Valley Parade. We feel he deserved it for the same reasons that we feel that we will miss him: He made the players around him better and provided a rallying point for the Bantams.

There is a chance when praising McCall that one can lose the thing which the skipper is credited with. Balance.

Stuart McCall was not one of the greatest midfielder players to play the game. He did not have the vision of a Platini or Hoddle and could not beat men like Gascoigne or Scorates but one doubts that even the greats of the game can point to as marked an influence on the clubs they called home.

Simply Stuart McCall has made Bradford City the club it is today. Geoffrey Richmond, Paul Jewell, Trevor Cherry, Stafford Heginbotham, Chris Kamara, Terry Dolan, Bobby Campbell are all big names in the history of the club, but Stuart McCall has for twenty years been a yard stick for everything that we consider good and right in football.

Stuart McCall became a symbol of what we want Bradford City to be, even when he was away at Everton and Rangers we pointed his him, wanted players like him, wanted the club to run in a way that is famed around him. Our heroes at Valley Parade are all images of Stuart McCall: Edinho's place in our hearts not down to his flair but rather the way that was balanced or contrasted with his sprinting around the field trying his all. Dean Windass, Peter Beagrie even Benito Carbone all share the McCall work ethic that endears them to the faithful.

Paul Jewell's team of 1999 were all from the McCall mould and even Geoffrey Richmond, when he was at the height of popularity at City, followed Stuart's example of "rolling his sleeves up and getting stuck in" to make something better out of what you had.

In it's history a club has a single player who describes it more perfectly than words can. Liverpool had Kenny Dalglish epitomising the creative flair of the 1980s Anfield side, Manchester United had George Best, West Ham Bobby Moore.

We had Stuart McCall and believe me when I say we will never see his like again.

Tributes to McCall

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