BRADFORD CITY chief executive Julian Rhodes admits learning from the lessons of the past is vital as the club look to tie down manager Gary Bowyer to an extended deal.
The Bantams, odds on to be relegated, are on course to lose £2m this season after an expensively-assembled squad flopped horribly.
Bowyer, the third manager to take charge this term, arrived earlier this month on a contract until the end of the campaign, but he has been unable to stop the slide.
Three of his four games have been lost, but the Valley Parade club are keen for the 47-year-old to remain at the helm and discussions are well under way over a two-year deal.
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There is no getting away from that. We had years and years of going in the right direction, but it now feels like we have fallen off a cliff.Bradford City’s Julian Rhodes
Rhodes, a former owner who answered an SOS call from Stefan Rupp to return late last year, knows from past experience – in 2007 when City last dropped into the basement division – how damaging delays can be.
Back then Stuart McCall could not be appointed until mid-June and Bradford went on to finish in mid-table the following year.
“Whatever division we are in – and no one has given up hope on us remaining in League One – the planning and recruitment for next season has to be under way now,” said Rhodes, who has agreed to remain at Valley Parade beyond his previously agreed departure date of May 4 in order to make some key appointments.
“We cannot be in the situation like 2007 when the future of the manager was not finalised until the summer.
“There were reasons for that. Stuart was at Sheffield United at the time and needed to discover his own future (after Neil Warnock’s departure). Plus Mark (Lawn, Rhodes’s co-owner for nine years) came in that summer, late May I think. Those factors meant we were behind everyone else when it came to recruitment. Far from ideal and not something we want to happen again.
“Everyone recognises there is a big rebuilding job to be done here regardless of whether we stay up or go down. A lot of wheeling and dealing will have to be done.
“The manager has to be the one making decisions on players, be it signings or those who leave the club.”
Bowyer’s managerial CV includes leading Blackpool to promotion from League Two at the first attempt, so he knows all about the troubles facing City.
His attempts to rebuild in the summer, however, could be hampered by no fewer than 16 of the current under-performing squad still being under contract.
These include top scorer Eoin Doyle, captain Hope Akpan and ever-present goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell. Several others, though, have not been near the starting XI in months with Jake Reeves, Josh Wright, Joe Riley, Tyrell Robinson and Sean Scannell all contracted to Bradford next season. Shay McCartan and Jordan Gibson, out on loan this term, also have deals until 2020.
“It will be a challenging summer,” said Rhodes after owner Rupp, who now boasts a 100 per cent shareholding in the club, earlier this week reaffirmed his commitment to City.
“There is no getting away from that. We had years and years of going in the right direction, but it now feels like we have fallen off a cliff.
“That fall has to stop as soon as possible. Stefan is committed to funding this season’s loss and then making us competitive next year, regardless of division. To make that a reality certain decisions have to be taken and appointments made.”