I was desperate to return to Bradford City – Stuart McCall

Stuart McCall.
Stuart McCall.
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Stuart McCall says he was “desperate to return” to Bradford City for a sixth spell at Valley Parade.

The 55-year-old club legend has signed a contract “until at least the end of next season” to manage the club where he started his career. After a second spell as a player, he served on the coaching staff as an assistant, then caretaker manager. This is his third stint as manager.

The Bantams sacked the unpopular Gary Bowyer on Monday after a run of just three wins in 18 matches in all competitions saw them drop out of the League Two play-off places. Less than 24 hours later, club legend McCall and his long-time assistant Kenny Black were taking training again at Woodhouse Grove School.

“I am naturally delighted to be here again and am fully focussed on the 15 games we have left to play,” said McCall of his return.

“It is always difficult taking over from a manager who has lost his job, so I feel for Gary.

“But, when Julian (Rhodes, Bradford’s interim chief executive) contacted me, I was desperate to return.

“We have to assess the squad very quickly and get ready for the remainder of the season. I obviously know a few of the players from my previous spell here, so am looking forward to the challenge.

“The club is a huge one in this division and, with everything still to play for, the job is to try and get us back to where we should be. 

“We are going to get our heads down, work as hard as we can and, hopefully, get the best out of what is a strong squad.

“I cannot wait to get on the training pitch with the lads and am really excited to be back in and around the place.”

The disillusionment amongst fans with Bowyer’s cautious brand of football, as well as his results, had been growing for some time. Saturday’s defeat at Oldham Athletic was the second time City had lost 3-0 away from home in consecutive weekends. They have picked up four points from the 21 available since New Year’s Day.

McCall’s appointment could therefore be the shot in the arm the club needs.

There were plenty of supporters at yesterday’s first training session, and his first two matches are at home, to Grimsby Town on Saturday and Stevenage on Tuesday.

Bowyer’s sacking came two years to the day after McCall’s last match in charge of Bradford, ironically a defeat at Oldham, his sixth in a row.

The owner who dismissed McCall in 2018, Stefan Rupp, remains, but significantly controversial chairman and chief executive Edin Rahic has moved on.

Bradford’s plight since his last spell as manager, Rahic’s departure and the former Scotland midfielder’s personal popularity ensure McCall returns in a much stronger position than he left.

He took the Bantams to the League One play-off final, which they lost to Millwall in 2016-17, his first season back at the club, and they were sixth when he was dismissed the following February. Six mananagers later, they were eighth in League Two when the decision was made to part company with Bowyer.

Bradford are a point behind Cheltenham Town, who sit in the final play-off place with two games in hand. Bradford trail third-placed Plymouth Argyle by seven points, but again the Pilgrims have two more matches to play.

McCall had two spells at Valley Parade as a player, was appointed as a player-coach by then-manager Chris Hutchings in 2000, and succeeded him as caretaker for two matches. He took the job permanently in 2007, for three years, and walked away from a job on Scotland’s coaching staff to return again in 2016, for 18 months.

The Leeds-born midfielder made 413 appearances for the Bantams either side of moves to Everton, where he won the first of his 40 Scotland caps and scored twice in the 1989 FA Cup final, and Rangers. He finished his playing career at Sheffield United, where he joined the coaching staff, serving as assistant to Neil Warnock and reserve-team manager.

He has also managed Motherwell, Rangers and Scunthorpe United, where he was sacked as manager last March.

In November McCall was interviewed to be the manager of Heart of Midlothian, but the Edinburgh club instead went with former Barnsley manager Daniel Stendl.

Having come down from League One in 2018-19, the expectation was that Bradford would claim one of the three automatic promotion spots, and they invested heavily to overhaul their squad.

In his final week as manager, Bowyer made significant changes again, allowing captain and top-scorer James Vaughan to leave on loan, and selling Eoin Doyle to Swindon Town, where his goals on loan in the first half of the season had made him the fourth-tier’s leading scorer. Lee Novak, Kurtis Guthrie and Glenn Middleton were brought in on deadline day.

Novak played for McCall at Scunthorpe last season, scoring 11 goals under him.