Bradford City must get managerial appointment right this time if they are to climb out of League Two

MARK TRUEMAN and Conor Sellars’s permanent reign at Bradford City lasted all of 78 days.
Out: Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars on the touchline. Picture: Simon HulmeOut: Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars on the touchline. Picture: Simon Hulme
Out: Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars on the touchline. Picture: Simon Hulme

The question is perhaps not why were the pair sacked after just 19 games in full-time charge, but more why were they named as the permanent successors to Stuart McCall in the first place.

Hindsight can be a wonderful thing. But when things were going so well during the duo’s interim spell at the helm at the start of 2021 which saw the club produce a fine run of results to pull away from choppy relegation waters, why not just carry on regardless and keep things as they were?

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‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ as the saying goes. It made sense.

Made decision: Ryan Sparks, Bradford City chief executive. Picture: Bradford City AFC.Made decision: Ryan Sparks, Bradford City chief executive. Picture: Bradford City AFC.
Made decision: Ryan Sparks, Bradford City chief executive. Picture: Bradford City AFC.

Barnsley did exactly that after another ‘rookie’ in Paul Heckingbottom was handed caretaker control following the departure of head coach Lee Johnson when the call of Bristol City, his club in many respects, proved irresistible in the immediate aftermath of the Reds reaching the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final in February, 2016.

Heckingbottom won eight of his first 12 matches in temporary charge in all competitions, the final one being a JPT final win over Oxford United at Wembley.

The consistent line from the Reds’ hierarchy on Heckingbottom’s future was that it would be resolved in the summer, even as the good results continued to flow – culminating in the club’s promotion via the League One play-offs and another glory afternoon at the home of football.

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Heckingbottom himself was relaxed about the situation and there were no unnecessary distractions. His long-term future would be resolved in the close season was the mantra and it was.

Roy McFarlandd: Got ball rolling.Roy McFarlandd: Got ball rolling.
Roy McFarlandd: Got ball rolling.

The data shows that prior to being named as City’s permanent team in the dug-out on February 22, Trueman and Sellars picked up an outstanding 24 points from a possible 33 during 11 games in interim charge.

In 19 matches following that, they amassed 21 points out of 57 that were available and, damningly, one point from the last 21.

During those highs in late winter – Trueman and Sellars were nominated for the League Two manager of the month award for February – there was surely the realisation that nothing lasts forever and that the true test for the pair would arrive when they encountered their first sticky run.

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So it has proved, with chief executive Ryan Sparks critical of the City squad and going on to claim that ‘the players appeared to some degree to down tools’ after the pair were handed the “permanent” job in late February.

Trevor Cherry: Maintained momentum.Trevor Cherry: Maintained momentum.
Trevor Cherry: Maintained momentum.

However well-intentioned the decision to hand the full-time ‘gig’ to Trueman and Sellars was, it proved a mistake and City badly need to get the next appointment right with several calls having backfired – for different reasons – in recent years.

Next season is ‘hugely significant’ in the words of Sparks as the club prepare for their third season in football’s basement, something which has not happened since the late Seventies and early Eighties.

City need a talismanic figure in the dug-out. A leader with vision.

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Plenty of good work behind the scenes has been done to reconnect the club with the city, but it desperately needs to go hand in hand with success on the pitch.

Older supporters may recall this time 40 years ago when City played a proverbial blinder in bringing Roy McFarland to the club as player-manager.

It proved a visionary move with the club promoted from the old Fourth Division in 1981-82 .

McFarland may have gone on to depart in controversial circumstances which he would later regret, but the club’s on-pitch fortunes had undeniably taken a turn for the better and Trevor Cherry and Terry Yorath went on to build on that success.

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City require another winner and someone with clarity of thought who is driven, inspirational and hungry.

Looking across the League Two landscape, it is not just the Bantams who are seeking their own game-changer after disappointing campaigns.

Three other clubs with defined ambitions to get out of League Two are on the look-out for new managers in Salford City, Leyton Orient and Walsall.

A fourth in Tranmere Rovers are likely to be if their play-off quest ends in failure with caretaker duo Ian Dawes and Andy Parkinson having assumed temporary charge following the axing of Keith Hill.

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Swindon Town are also seeking a new manager after relegation, while in League One, Doncaster Rovers have completed a first round of interviews, with three successful applicants to be interviewed later this week. There is plenty going on.

Former Salford City chief Richie Wellens has been linked with several posts, alongside the likes of Mark Cooper, Kenny Jackett and Phil Parkinson, a figure who many City fans would dearly love to see return to BD8.

In the here and now, Bradford are well advanced in their own search and are inviting no applicants.

It is imperative that this one is the right call.

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