Ahead of the Chelsea Bradford game, a heartwarming preview with a Huddersfield Town and Lincoln City link stirring memories of the oft forgotton 56 who perished in the Bradford fire. May the Bantams win it for them and the great British sense of fair play.
No one is giving Bradford City a prayer against Chelsea FC. However 6000 and the souls of the forgotten 56 will be there hoping for the win our national psyche and ‘sport’ needs. This in the romantic FA Cup, one that allegedy allows underdogs to go from jumpers for goal posts to the glitter of Wembley. That is why every neutral and everyone sick of the rising inequality in modern Britain should be on Bradford City’s side.
The attitude from those awash with Russian cash in SW6 is that one of Yorkshire’s most inspiring clubs should be grateful for the cash bonanza as brave Bradford gallantly get hit for five or six. But, the Bantam’s have been forged by one of the toughest journeys in football. With the Hillsborough disaster getting the column inches to earn the justice it deserves, the Bradford fire and its 25th anniversary was ignored outside Yorkshire. Even the Premier and Football League have conveniently moved the dates for the tributes around the grounds to the 24/25th April. This May the Eleventh will be the the 30th anniversary of an oft forgotten tragedy with Huddersfield’s North Stand Loyal kicking off a terrific Terrier fundraising initiative – HERE .
A brief bit of history is both respectful and due. Having won the Third Division Championship prior to the game a young Peter Jackson (one I count as a friend) was presented with City’s first trophy for 56 years. That same number would die on a day set up for celebration – some families lost 3 generations – with 256 injured as the burns unit learned the hard way to become the best in the world at what it does. The opponents that day, Lincoln. who lost two fans and named their former home end after the two victims, went to Valley Parade again 7 years ago with Stuart McCall and laying wreathes prior to the game.
There is one other massive reason people should want Bradford to win today. Where Chelsea were saved by Ken Bates, then Matthew Harding and then Roman Abramovich who has spent 100s of millions to get them success . Bradford fell from the Premiership and almost died falling into the bottom rung of the Football league. There they struggled under debt repayment plans backed by 11,000 diehards who they rewarded with the cheapest season tickets in the country – costing around a game and a half compared to those Made In Chelsea.
From a purest football perspective Chelsea undeniably deserve to win. But if passion is the fashion Hanson will give the two Blues centre-backs a game they will learn from today. The Bantam’s have an attacking trio that can do damage in any division and they will be really up for it today (fired up just did not seem the right thing to put). London may have all the money and the 12:1 job ratio thanks to the banks etc, but Yorkshire is God’s county.
Come on City! Do it for financial fair play, do it for the fans and do it for the 56.
Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire!
A legend at Leicester City, Chelsea, Burnley, Huddersfield, Wrexham and Lincoln, fans will always have a soft spot for Frank Sinclair – own goals and all. But having played at the highest level for the red, the blues and all, he is currently cutting his teeth as manager of Colwyn Bay and doing well if your ask the opinion of his chairman and left back Louis Moss
Thanks for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
During his Leicester City and Chelsea days Frank played for Jamaica before making 92 league appearances for Burnley and then 42 for Huddersfield as a loan turned into a permanent deal. He was a suave defender although his own goals meant he got more in the wrong end than the seven he got throughout his glittering career. But his dedication and, sense of humour got the lad a long way from those harsh Lambeth roots (See full biopic at the bottom).
Frank was a dark horse for the Wrexham job last season having turned the tiny club from also-rans to a team just 3 points from the play-offs again this season, with a game in hand. Sinclair, the 42-year-old player gaffer, is building a useful young squad with a terrific shut-out to earn a point against the Division’s money club North Ferriby last Saturday. This followed hot on the heels of a 4-1 win against Gainsborough and a 3-0 away at Leamington. Case in point young Moss who is as good with the assists as he is getting back to help and a chip off the old block so to speak. The full-back is simply chuffed to have received an international call up for Barbados against Haiti in the Concacaf Gold Cup in October.
Despite the lad missing two games during his international jaunt Frank, a gentleman of the game, is chuffed
“He will be a big miss for us, but I am happy his early season form has been recognised and he has an opportunity maybe to play in the prestigious Gold Cup against the likes of Brazil and Mexico.
“I played in that for Jamaica so I know the standard of the tournament.”
Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero faced no further action when the ref failed to deal with his two-footed tackle on on Chelsea’s David Luiz last April. The norm for violent conduct is a 3-4 match ban but governing bodies can add longer to set an example. Let us hope the FA will also not want to add to the ban Lincoln City Captain Alan Power is sure to face after his two-footed studs up challenge on Cambridge Utd’s Taylor yesterday.
Thank you for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
The FA could not have acted in the case of Aguero incident due to a loop-hole although they can with Power. Under FA regulations, if the official is deemed to have seen the episode as a whole, the incident cannot be re-refereed following the match. However if it had happened off the ball and away from referee Foy’s field of vision then Aguero would have peen punished retrospectively. Power has seen red of course so he will get a ‘three’ unless the ref’s report is damning.
Power put in a two-footed challenge on Taylor in injury time to end any lingering hopes the Imps had of salvaging a draw. The linesman immediately put his flag up with the straight red inevitable even before the ensuing challenge. The Sergio Aguero two- footer, described as a stab tackle, divided the football world but the FA decided against setting a precedent and ordering a retrospective ban. The FA have the prerogative to add to the mandatory 3-4 match ban handed out by referees who supply a report of the incident to the powers that be.
It was an ugly challenge, no doubt about it, but there was no malice as Power is not that sort of player. He has strengthened the defensive side to his game this season, but the mistimed tackle looked worse than it thankfully was. Taylor, on as a sub was overlapping at pace, with both players going for the ball – indeed both had studs showing.
The captain certainly merits a mandatory ban for his poor choice, but anything further would be unjust. Luke Foster looks a good candidate to take the captain’s armband for Monday.
Good luck Alan.
The Stoke City job appears to be going to former Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, QPR and Fulham boss Mark Hughes, although Roberto Di Matteo (who has managed MK Dons, WBA and Chelsea FC) looks to be the latest of the ex-Chelsea contingent (Gus Poyet has been approached too) to be linked with one of the Premiership’s toughest asks. Chelsea charm comes with cash, whilst Stoke’s Premiership lineage has been forged as much through perspiration as inspiration. Pulis power is about physical prowess, under him the realism of the artisan’s toil, reaps hard won returns and the reliability of regular rewards. But that is not enough for some, who chastise long ball football and the stiff necks that come from looking skywards. But how many ex-Premiership chairmen later lament reaching for the very same sky.
Thankyou for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs.
Tony Pullis has never been relegated as a manager, but image and perception is so much more than substance, facts & stats and the boring, solid day-to-day stuff that goes on behind the scenes. We live in a media-orientated world alright, where the people’s game seems to be less and less about traditional values and the virtues of hard-work, particularly once the Premiership glitz and glamour has caught owners in its midst. Stoke’s owners may feel they are secure and ready to take the next step, but in reality they start on zero points in three months time like everyone else. Ambition may also be a great virtue, a wonderful way to fill a stadium, but failure empties a stadium of the fickle fans, faster than a winger can skin a full-back.
If carpet football is the top priority for Stoke City, then Roberto Di Matteo is the man to bring it. But he, like favourite Hughes, who will bring a more physically robust approach to the table, will need plenty of cash to take the Potters to the next level. Many have tried and failed to break into the Premiership’s platinum plated cartel. Failure in the Premiership brings a short sharp shock to many sides who fall not once but twice before steadying the ship again. Ask Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City, Norwich, Charlton et al. But football is about theatre, dreams and optimism, so here is a run down of the two who could take Stoke City to the next level.
Mr Di Matteo started his career well at MK Dons, succeeding Paul Ince in 2008. He took the, perhaps unfairly nicknamed, Franchise club to the League 1 play-offs in his first season, losing the semi to Scunthorpe. It was enough to get him the WBA job, where he repaid the faith with an instant return to the Premiership, as runners up behind Newcastle. Despite getting hammered at Chelsea on the opening day of the 2010/11 season the Baggies recovered well earning Mr Di Matteo a manager of the month award in the September. The swashbuckling style was superb, sweeping counter attacking carpet football, played, perhaps, as only a sweet-toothed Swiss-Italian can conjure. The defensive side of the Italian game let him down when the wheels well and truly came off the cart. One win in ten cost him his job, with Michael Appleton replacing him, steadying the ship sufficiently to finish 11th.
After failing to get the Birmingham job, Chelsea cast him a lifeline as assistant manager to AVB. Upon his sacking in March 2012 Mr Di Matteo took the helm, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Although this was a fantastic and unique double, many will argue he did little but reverse the square pegs that had been put into round holes by AVB. That Chelsea side was and still is, nothing short of breath-taking on their day, with a midfield that is a credit to world football. To follow that first three months anywhere, would be a tough ask, but then to please Mr Abramovich is a whole different ball game. After just 8 months in charge he was gone ,dividing fans and pundits alike. Even a champion of the glass half-full club five minutes before closing time, could not envisage Stoke being able to give him the head start he enjoyed at MK Dons and Chelsea. To change the style of the side to his way of thinking will take the sort of time and cash they will not have in the Potteries next season. The romantic in us hopes so for the underdogs sake, but surely it is to dream the impossible dream?
|Milton Keynes Dons||2008||2009||52||27||11||14||51.92|
|West Bromwich Albion||2009||2011||83||40||19||24||48.19|
Mr Hughes has a decent win percentage (39.53%) but he has had the money at every club he has been at. After the less than dreamy, perhaps impossible and deary, dragon’s den days in the fiery Wales job, he guided Blackburn to a top six finish and UEFA cup qualification. The expensive rebuild in the summer of 2005 saw Rovers finish tenth, with a somewhat physical reputation. In the four years Mr Hughes held the helm at Ewood Park his side finished bottom of the Premier fair play League, but never finished outside of the top ten and managed three FA Cup semi finals. Mr Hughes then chose Manchester City over Chelsea (2008/9) but, despite spending tens of millions (Robinho alone cost £32 million) City could only finish a disappointing tenth. They did reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals but alas, decent home form cannot make up for frequent no shows on the road. Mr Hughes card was marked, much to the benefit of his bank balance one supposes.
After a year out he also managed just a season at Fulham, before questioning the club’s ambition. Will Stoke be able to afford him that level, or will it end in a spat similar to the one at the Lillywhites, one that saw owner Mohamed Al-Fayed call Mr Hughes a “strange man” and a “flop”? Mr Hughes soon returned to management with awash with money club QPR in January 2012 and kept them up. An expensive rebuild saw Rangers worst ever start to a top flight season, as they went 12 without a win. Stoke, at a crossroads, will certainly hope history does not repeat itself should he get the job.
The Mark Hughes Clues.
|Wales||Sep 1999||Sep 2004||41||12||15||14||29.27|
|Blackburn Rovers||Sep 2004||Jun 2008||188||82||47||59||43.62|
|Manchester City||Jun 2008||Dec 2009||77||36||15||26||46.75|
|Fulham||Jul 2010||Jun 2011||43||14||16||13||32.56|
|Queens Park Rangers||Jan 2012||Nov 2012||34||8||6||20||23.53|
Tony Pulis Record
Just for the record, here is what Tony Pulis has done. One has to feel that some club will be lucky to have him. Bournemouth (Div 3 Champions 1986/87), Gillingham (Promoted as runners up Div 3 1995/96 and Div 2 Play-off winner 1998/99) and Stoke (Promoted as Championship runners up 2007/8, FA Cup runner up 2010/11) all did well under him, albeit ‘enjoying’ some physical, long ball tactics.
|Bournemouth||9 June 1992||5 August 1994||107||31||38||38||28.97|
|Gillingham||31 July 1995||1 July 1999||216||94||62||60||43.52|
|Bristol City||5 July 1999||14 January 2000||33||10||14||9||30.30|
|Portsmouth||13 January 2000||12 October 2000||35||11||10||14||31.43|
|Stoke City||1 November 2002||28 June 2005||131||47||32||52||35.88|
|Plymouth Argyle||23 September 2005||14 June 2006||39||12||15||12||30.77|
|Stoke City||14 June 2006||21 May 2013||333||122||98||113||36.64|