Bradford City have sacked another manager; it’s miserable being a Bantam these days.
There are big clubs in League Two but there aren’t many more sizeable than Bradford City. Yet the Bantams are in a perilous and perennial cycle of fourth-tier woe which shows no signs of slowing with the dismissal of outspoken manager Derek Adams.
Bradford recorded five successive top-half finishes in League One between 2014 and 2018 before finishing rock bottom a year after that run; it has rarely been better since. Having gone through the usual cycles of a fallen giant to make their way back to the big time, Adams seemed on paper to be the most sensible option to bring success to Valley Parade.
They had tried hiring the club legend and a manager who had been there and done it before – Stuart McCall fit both criteria – as well as going for the up-and-coming coach Conor Sellars, whose link with Mark Trueman filled the lesser-spotted joint head coach square.
Gary Bowyer underwhelmed hugely in attempting to get Bradford back to the third tier at the first time of asking despite coming with a League Two promotion under his CV with Blackpool a couple of years before.
In appointing Adams just days after he surprisingly led minnows Morecambe to League One for the first time in the club’s history, there were echoes of Plymouth taking advantage of Bury’s demise and hiring Ryan Lowe in the summer of 2019. Whereas that move worked a treat for both club and individual with subsequent promotion (with Argyle now chasing promotion to the Championship and Lowe taking the shortcut with Preston), Bradford and Adams has rarely looked like working.
Adams has never been backwards in coming forwards. From the beginning of this failed marriage, Adams was his typically outspoken self. It works well when the ride is smooth, but that has rarely been the case in West Yorkshire this season. He has never been shy in reminding Bradford fans how ‘lucky’ they were to have him; it’s fair to say the feeling hasn’t been entirely reciprocated over the course of their eight months together.
After his final game in charge, a 1-0 defeat to Exeter on Saturday, Adams quite correctly stated that if the hierarchy at the club decided to replace him, they would find it almost impossible to get anyone as successful. Few can refute this statement, although many would be much more modest about making such a boast having won just nine of 31 games in charge of one of the pre-season promotion favourites.
Bradford’s next man up can certainly be a much better fit for the club than two-time League Two promotion winner Adams, who must be wondering why he left Morecambe eight months ago and dreaming of being back at the Mazuma Stadium – not that he’d ever admit it.
For Bradford, the story continues. Two seasons of mediocrity at this level look certain to become a third with the Bantams eight points off the play-off places, having played without an identity for much of the campaign and seeing fans rapidly lose interest in events at the club after successive years of struggle for the 2012 League Cup finalists.
Whoever comes next will have perhaps the most difficult job of any manager since the club’s relegation to this level. Walsall’s glorious appointment of Michael Flynn shows there is the capacity to make good if not potentially great managerial decisions. This is exemplified further by Grant McCann and Steve Evans leading the odds to take to the Valley Parade touchline according to early reports. Both have previous when it comes to promotion.
But Bradford are fast becoming a club who transcend and contradict what any manager has achieved before, as Adams can attest. Fans are unhappy with the running of the club at a level far above what Adams or any manager could hope to change. Wrong decision after wrong decision at board level has been proven by the club looking for a seventh permanent manager in as many years while the fans are beginning to vote with their feet.
There have been far more missteps in recent years than steps in the right direction, but hiring a manager who can offer some respite and hope for the future will go some way to paving over a multitude of cracks. Get this decision right and there will be credit in the bank at last.
And if all else fails, they could do an Oldham/Sheridan and appoint Stuart McCall for the 47th time. Right now, it could only get so much worse.