SIMON GRAYSON is challenging Bradford City’s chastened players to respond to his stinging weekend criticism by sticking the equivalent of ‘two fingers’ up at him against League One high-fliers Shrewsbury Town tonight.
The beleaguered Bantams head into this evening’s televised Valley Parade encounter with criticism still ringing in their ears following Saturday’s shambolic 5-0 seaside thrashing at Blackpool, a performance which Grayson labelled as ‘pathetic and embarrassing’.
It represented a nadir in the desperate fortunes of City since the turn of the year, with just one win in a disastrous 14-match sequence since New Year’s Day, with the run incorporating 11 defeats.
So far, 2018 is proving to be an annus horribilis for last season’s beaten League One play-off finalists, who now find themselves in the bottom half of the third tier for the first time since 2015 after being in fifth place following the January 1 action.
It means that City are effectively playing for pride between now and season’s end, starting with tonight’s character test, which comes just five days after Bradford’s players were subjected to loud and angry chants of ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ from the 2,331 visiting contingent at Bloomfield Road.
Grayson, who held a further meeting with the players on Monday morning after a frank post-mortem in the away dressing room on Saturday, said: “When you have suffered humiliation, if you have got anything about you, the next thing you want to do is prove people wrong.
“I would love it if one or two players turned to me after the (Shrewsbury) game and stuck two fingers up and said “I have got the bottle to be part of this club.”
“I did question that with a few of them on Saturday. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than them proving me wrong. That is what I want them to do.”
Off the pitch, a growing sense of disconnection between sections of the club’s support and chairman Edin Rahic is compounding matters in a fraught 2018 thus far, with City in major need of a lift ahead of the start of a six-game run, which includes five home fixtures.
Also lingering in the background is the issue of Grayson’s longer-term future, with his deal only running until the end of the season, although the former Huddersfield Town and Leeds United chief has been emphatic in his view that his contractual position is not related to the team’s recent nosedive in form.
Any footballer has to start with the bare minimum requirements of working hard and showing the right application.Bradford City manager, Simon Grayson
As it stands, Grayson’s immediate priority is ending City’s horrendous run of form, hopefully starting with a positive result in front of the live TV cameras tonight.
Grayson added: “I spoke to Edin on Saturday and Sunday and he is just as frustrated.
“There is nobody connected with Bradford City at this moment who is happy with what is happening.
“From the owners to the management staff, the supporters, the players, the cleaners, the tea ladies.
“You have got to stick together, roll your sleeves up and come through the other side through grit and determination and character.”
Adamant that uncertainty regarding his own future should not been seen as a potential reason for the club’s several recent poor results and performances, Grayson added: “It does not matter if a manager is staying or going, if you are in contract or not. You are still playing for your future.
“You are playing to stay at the club or to get away.
“We had a quick meeting on Monday morning and addressed a few issues. Then that was put to bed very quickly.
“Any footballer has to start with the bare minimum requirements of working hard and showing the right application.
“All the things I have spoken about were answered by the players. But it comes down to them putting words into actions.
“There is no better game than playing live on the television against a team pushing for promotion.”
Given events at Blackpool, veteran defender Stephen Warnock admits that it has felt like a particularly long week for Bradford’s players, who were keen to make amends at the earliest available juncture after what he accepted to be a shameful performance on the Fylde coast.
Warnock said: “You want to play a game the next day to put it right straightaway. You have got to walk around with the shame of knowing you have been beaten 5-0 and comfortably as well.
“We were nowhere near it. You want a game as soon as you can to put things right. We are no different and it feels like a very long week already.
“Hopefully, we have said what we have needed to say in public and between ourselves and we need a performance now.
Citing motivation from this evening’s opponents, he added: “We have to take inspiration from Shrewsbury. They are one of the lesser budgets in the league and profile squads, if you like. But their work-rate, application and spirit has got them to where they are. They all believe in each other and back each other up.”
Last six games: Bradford LLLWLL; Shrewsbury WDWLWL.
Referee: D Webb (Co.Durham).
Last time: Bradford 2 Shrewsbury 0, October 8, 2016; League One.