Weekend Interview: Stuart McCall is relishing being back on parade

Bradford City legend Stuart McCall returning to Valley Parade this week for a second stint as manager.
Bradford City legend Stuart McCall returning to Valley Parade this week for a second stint as manager.
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GIVEN his experiences managing in the west of Scotland goldfish bowl at Glasgow Rangers, most would not expect Stuart McCall to be cowed by a second return to Bradford City.

And he most definitely is not.

The 52-year-old returns to Valley Parade as a more seasoned and savvy managerial operator by his own admission, with the bright lights and fanfare which proved dazzling when he was first appointed as manager in May, 2007 having now dimmed.

At the end of his maiden stint in the dug-out at City in early 2010, McCall famously spoke of the toll of failing to sate the appetites of supporters with promotion, three years after realising his cherished dream of managing the club where he was idolised as a player in two separate spells.

Upon parting company with the club after City’s match with Bury in February, 2010, the Yorkshireman, someone who always wore his heart on his sleeve when it came to all things claret and amber, spoke about the pressure that he put himself under to achieve success being ‘immense’.

Managing the Bantams became a weighty personal mission.

Fortified by his admittedly brief but eventful time at Ibrox when the spotlight was as intense as it gets in leading one of European football’s big institutions, McCall now feels truly ready for anything that comes his way at Bradford – good or bad.

In his time at Rangers, McCall handled the brickbats and the bouquets, with his stint in Govan having a big impact upon him.

Despite plenty of uncertainty and tumult behind the scenes, McCall managed to steer the club into the play-offs in 2015 – only for the Gers to suffer a heavy loss against his former side, Motherwell.

It was the cue for ugly post-match scenes with that defeat ultimately costing him his long-term hopes of sticking around.

It proved that sometimes at a club like Rangers, you do not just operate in a goldfish bowl, but you also swim with the sharks.

This week, it was the head and not the heart which dominated McCall’s utterances at his Valley Parade press unveiling.

While there will be pressure in striving to continue the club’s upward momentum, McCall is ready to carry the burden of leading what will always be a special club for him.

The job fits rather more comfortably on his shoulders nine years on from him first taking over.

On his time at Rangers – and further experiences north of the border with Motherwell – McCall said: “I learned so much.

“That experience and being around the international set-up and learning from Gordon (as No 2 to Scotland chief Strachan) and the success we had at Motherwell when we improved season after season and had a record points total and got into Europe was a great success.

“I went to an outstanding football club (in Rangers) but in my 35 years in football, I have never known a club so low on morale throughout because of what had happened with the owners and where a lot of people lost their jobs.

“The morale and confidence wasn’t there. When you go to a club, you have to get an environment right and everyone onside.

“At Rangers, you had to change the mindset to get positivity. To do that, you just had to get results and we did that and got the belief and confidence and momentum back and were playing to full houses of 50,000 by the end.

“I took a lot of positives and things on board from that and coming back to Bradford doesn’t faze me. It is more a case of relishing it.”

On his strong belief that he is now a much more mature and rounded manager, he added: “I am a lot more equipped now and streetwise.

“If you don’t learn by your experiences, you are a very naive person in whatever walk of life you are in.

“There’s things I would have changed when I was first here and didn’t. But, also since then, I have had fantastic success in Scotland.

“I feel I am a lot more knowledgeable manager.

“Yes, we are going to lose games and there will be disappointments. Phil (former City chief Parkinson) had those here, but had a great deal of success and every manager will go through their ups and downs.

“It is not a disaster if you lose two games and not unbelievable if you do. But you must have focus and an ambition of where the club wants to go.

“I have come here with a focus now on doing a job – less of the emotion and more of the action.

“It is a professional decision to build on what we have done in the last four or five years and, hopefully, carrying on the progression that the club have made.”

His experiences north of the border, more especially at Rangers, have undoubtedly made their mark upon McCall, but so did those during his first time at Bradford – facing events which would have tested any manager who had been around the block, let alone one with precious little experience.

Thankfully, for McCall’s sake, the landscape has also changed since his earlier stint at BD8.

The club is a much stronger entity in terms of personnel behind the scenes and infrastructure, exemplified by its training facilities at Apperley Bridge, which McCall acknowledges are ‘like night and day’ compared to what he first experienced.

Crucially, also, Bradford now find themselves as an established, upwardly-mobile third-tier outfit with aspirations to return to the Championship at some point in the not too distant future, having lost out to Millwall in the play-off semi-finals just gone.

Unlike before, timing is more an ally to McCall, whose arrival at City came amid the fall-out of the club slumping to the bottom division for the first time in a quarter-of-a-century.

Conscious of the fact, he said: “I came at probably the worst possible time. The club had gone rock-bottom into the bottom division.

“In the second season, we had a good budget to do better and missed out on the play-offs by two points and thereafter we went back to the old budget which was difficult.

“We managed to bring in James Hanson and John McLaughlin on 250 quid and they have gone on to be good players. There’s always a little bargain out there, although it is not where we are going to be shopping this time, although there’s bargains to be had as well.

“The structure and basis to have success is there. I came to a few games last season and the support was incredible and we have just to build on that, look forward and be positive.”