STUART MCCALL’S superstitious side is something his family know all about.
As a player, the Scotland international had all manner of pre-match rituals that he would stick to religiously for fear of antagonising the footballing Gods.
It was a trait that followed McCall into management, which is why several members of his close family have missed Bradford City’s unbeaten start to the season.
McCall’s sister and eldest daughter are just a couple of family members who have stayed away from games for fear of jinxing the Bantams after missing the opening couple of weeks.
“It wasn’t me who stopped the family,” said the 52-year-old when speaking to The Yorkshire Post. “They stopped themselves, to be fair. Probably because they know what I am like.
“My sister, my daughter who lives in Scotland and a few others. As the run kept going on, they would be saying, ‘We better stay away’. They didn’t want to jinx it.
“I was really superstitious as a player, even when I was captain I wanted to walk out of the tunnel seventh. Which wasn’t ideal when I am supposed to be leading the lads out!
“I was a big one on lucky clothes, too. As a manager, you try to think you are above that and much too mature. But I still do certain things. And that is why the family decided to stay away once we had gone a few games unbeaten.”
City’s unbeaten run, of course, ended last weekend with a stoppage-time defeat at Oxford United. McCall’s men now have back-to-back home games against Southend United and Sheffield United this week to make amends.
The full family are likely to be back in attendance for that Valley Parade double-header, prompting the Bantams chief to quip: “All it means now is I need more tickets – though at least our crowds will be up!”
Tonight, the McCall clan will see James Hanson leading the attack for only the second time in as many months.
Last season’s leading scorer has endured an injury-plagued start this time around. Now, though, he is ready to do battle with a side he has taken a liking to over the years.
In each of his last three appearances against Southend at Valley Parade, Hanson has found the net. He is also unbeaten in six games against the Shrimpers.
“It has been a frustrating time,” said the 28-year-old. “I missed two weeks in pre-season through a niggle and that then played a part in me having a couple more injuries because I haven’t been fit enough.
“I did my calf, was out for four weeks. And then I came back but did the other one. I just want to get my season started.
“Southend are a team I have done well against in the past. I have a decent record. I just hope I can add to that total, if selected.”
City’s loss at Oxford allowed Scunthorpe United to open up a four-point lead at the top but Hanson added: “We are in a great position as a club and have two cracking home games coming up.
“To me, there are no real standout teams (in League One) this season. I do believe the division is there for the taking. Anyone could make it to the top two.
“I don’t particularly fear anyone in the league, where maybe over the last couple of years we have wanted to avoid teams. We are definitely one of the strongest.”
Another player who has endured a frustrating time at Valley Parade but could make a rare start tonight is Matthew Kilgallon.
James Meredith limped out of the Oxford defeat with an ankle injury that, although much improved since Saturday, nevertheless makes the Australian a major doubt.
Former Leeds and Sheffield United defender Kilgallon is ready to step in for his first league start since joining last summer from Blackburn Rovers.
McCall said: “I knew ‘Killa’ from his days at Sheffield United but I also spoke to people at Blackburn before I signed him and they said what a good professional he was. Even coming in on a Sunday and being diligent in everything he did. That is exactly what we have found. He had a slow start here. Killa wasn’t up to speed on his fitness because he hadn’t had a pre-season.
“Unfortunately, he pushed himself too much – or maybe we pushed him too much – and he had a setback. He was out for three weeks with a hamstring. Now, though, he has settled in and has minutes under his belt.”
Last six games: Bradford City DWWWWL, Southend United LWDWLW.
Referee: T Kettle (Leicestershire).
Last time: Bradford City 2 Southend United 0; February 16, 2016; League One.