Stuart McCall determined to put smiles back on faces at Bradford City

It's in: Callum Cooke celebrates after his shot deflects in off Lee Novak, right. Pictures: Simon Hulme
It's in: Callum Cooke celebrates after his shot deflects in off Lee Novak, right. Pictures: Simon Hulme
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Stuart McCall wants to put smiles back on Bradford City faces but has urged patience after being denied a perfect return to Valley Parade by Bantams product and former loanee Luke Hendrie.

McCall was greeted with a rapturous reception as he marched up the touchline to take his place in the dugout to begin his third stint as Bantams manager.

Back in charge: City manager for a third time Stuart McCall.

Back in charge: City manager for a third time Stuart McCall.

City history was made as the former Bradford, Everton and Rangers star became the first and only man to manage the club in three separate spells.

He appeared 460 times for the Bantams as a player and is the best manager that Bradford have had, in terms of win percentage, for the last 30 years.

His return was meant to be a happy occasion and despite Hendrie’s late intervention, it still was.

Valley Parade welcomed its largest crowd of the season, with 17,668 supporters – over 2,500 from Grimsby Town – providing a raucous atmosphere on a cold February afternoon in West Yorkshire.

All in all, there is a lot to work on but we have only been in two minutes.

Stuart McCall

“It’s not about me,” insisted McCall.

“It is about the club and it is about the players and it is about getting the best out of what we have got out there and trying to put smiles on faces.

“The best way to do that is by winning football matches.

“It is about maintaining the good habits, cutting out the bad habits and getting the players where we want them to be and how we would like them to play.

“It takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight but while you are trying to do that, you need to keep picking up points.

“We have got one today to help get where we want to be and we have got to strive on Tuesday to get all three.”

Bradford are now without a win in eight league games but their impressive points return on home soil has kept them within touch of the top seven.

McCall was promoted twice as a player with Bradford but has never been promoted as a manager.

City have another home game tomorrow night as they welcome bottom-of-the-table Stevenage to Valley Parade.

McCall said: “I don’t want to talk about promotion. I just want to talk about improving and getting as many points as we can to at least move up one position.

“There is a lot of work to be done. It takes time, it can’t happen straight away. I am a little bit disappointed we have lost a goal so late on but overall it’s probably a fair result.”

He added: “It was good to be back involved and in the heart of it.

“The fans, I thought, were great. Hopefully, they will come back on Tuesday night and get behind the lads and, hopefully, we can get the three points and start moving upwards.”

McCall feels his side need to manage games better as Grimsby almost scored twice in stoppage-time to claim victory.

After Hendrie’s equaliser, former Bantams hero James Hanson had his shot from a few yards out blocked on the line before being hacked away.

They were the two biggest chances Grimsby had and, after an afternoon where City were troubled little at the back, it would have been a hugely disappointing blow.

“We have got to manage the situation better,” admitted McCall.

“But then, on the other toss of the coin, they showed a lot of desire. We gave a silly free-kick away in the last minute and we threw our bodies on the line.

“Defensively, we never really felt in that much danger. They played a little midfield three and we knew we would be outnumbered there but we wanted to get two up the top of the park. All in all, there is a lot to work on but we have only been in two minutes.”

McCall is keen for his side to cut back on the errors as they are presented with a great opportunity to end their winless run tomorrow night.

They thought they had done enough on Saturday to earn their first win in seven outings when Callum Cooke’s effort deflected in off Lee Novak in the 80th minute but Hendrie pounced late on to ensure the spoils were shared.

McCall added: “We will make mistakes but we have got to cut out the errors. We don’t mean to make mistakes. As long as you look at each other and say ‘I gave my all’, that is what we have got to ask for. But we have got to improve on certain things.”

Bradford are likely to make changes to Saturday’s side, McCall continuing: “We have had 22 outfield players training with us, so I knew I was going to have to put six of them in the stand.

“A few of them would have thought they would be knocking on the door to start. We will probably look to freshen things up on Tuesday.”

Bradford City: O’Donnell; Henley, O’Connor, Richards-Everton, Wood; Connolly (Mottley-Henry 76), Cooke, Reeves, Pritchard (Akpan 85); Novak, Donaldson (Guthrie 71). Unused substitutes: McGee, O’Connor, McCartan, Middleton.

Grimsby Town: McKeown; Driscoll-Glennon, Pollock, Waterfall, Hendrie; Whitehouse (Green 85), Benson, Clifton (Grandin 63); Vernam, Hanson, Clarke (Tilley 75). Unused substitutes: Russell, Garmston, Ohman, Hewitt.

Referee: S Martin (Staffs).