Bantams 2 Whites 1
Twitter bubbled with rage and psychosis dripped from every pore. That was before a ball had even been kicked. Firstly but not foremostly was SKY Sports decision to employ a studio guest list made up solely of pundits with a Bradford City persuasion. Many cried foul and you could see their point but it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Our monopolisation of the channel’s Football League output is hardly down to our silky style or their concern for our welfare. We are a car crash waiting to happen and they know it.
Mr Hockaday’s team selection was the detail that spawned incandescence and saw our ‘scrotum faced’ coach accused of arrogance. Fans fumed at the sacrifice of new tricks for old dogs and even our foremost fanzine ventured the opinion that our beleaguered boss was as good as signing his own death warrant. On his arrival ‘The Hock’ claimed to encourage and nourish youthful vigour but this cautious and unimaginative line up betrayed a desperate man fighting for his life. The ignominy of defeat was expected and indeed inevitable following Luke Murphy’s reckless abandon but the nature of another capitulation was as ridiculous as it was painful. The sight of Don Massimo scuttling away after the Bantam’s dramatic winner left us in no doubt that it was all over. The Hockaday Experiment had unequivocally failed.
Whites 1 Trotters 0
The arrival of Bolton concluded another shambolic week in which howls of derision had again been thrust our way. Don Massimo’s heavy handed and capricious approach to team affairs had yet again created an unedifying spectacle. One fan summed up the mess supremely well when comparing our troubled club to the woes of Iraq……’a once proud and progressive kingdom laid to waste by a succession of tyrants, maniacs and lunatics’. There was a sliver of sympathy from those who professed to care about the disciples of a club being ‘ripped apart’ by another charlatan but even that felt like an insult. Where had those descending voices been during a decade of Bates and Bahraini bandits?
The Hockaday affair had been as cruel as it was illogical. Not only did it land another damaging blow to our already punch drunk psyche but it also cast a decent man to the more feral of our number. This toxic attitude had become so ingrained that our former coach had endured a torrent of vitriolic bile and personal abuse which went much deeper than the perceived failure on the pitch. Some players were reported to have sought clemency for their embattled boss but the die had been cast.
Spirits for the Trotters tussle were lifted by news that Academy Director Neil Redfearn would be delivered to the first team dugout. As a player the Dewsbury lad enjoyed a nomadic existence trawling a variety of unspectacular Northern outposts before retiring to his native West Yorkshire. Recent years have seen his passion for youth football oversee the regeneration of our once great academy and for the third time in as many years this steady rock of a man had been thrust into the face of farce.
Mr Redfearn’s team selection did much to justify Don Massimo’s decision to dispense with David Hockaday’s services. A youthful side led by home-grown starlets Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt bossed large parts of the encounter and battled stoutly to resist the Lancastrians’ frantic efforts to spark a recovery. Our leader also sprinkled an influence on a crucial victory. Casper Sloth and Mirco Antenucci showed promise while keeper Marco Silvestri proved an exceptional game winner.
Blues 1 Whites 1, Cherries 1 Whites 3
To many supporters’ disappointment the international hiatus did not conclude our search for a third manager in three months. Instead our ‘confused’ owner opted for a brief sojourn to Miami in a bid to collect his thoughts. As usual a catalogue of names were mentioned but nothing concrete materialised amid growing concern about Don Massimo’s reputation and the difficulties it can bring on such occasions. Those fears were summed up by Johnny Giles comments labelling the Italian as a ‘head banger’ and given some credence when supposed favourite Oscar Garcia chose Vicarage Road.
A more considered approach to the problem was perhaps wise under the circumstances and represented a welcome departure for an individual often enveloped by ‘unfathomable chaos’. It seemed to not only betray a man who realised the importance of his next move but also one that felt comfortable in his choice of surrogate coach.
Difficult trips to Birmingham and Bournemouth would test everyone’s resolve but the subsequent outcomes paid testament to Mr Redfearn’s temporary redeployment. Both encounters displayed our propensity for sluggish starts peppered by early confidence crunching concessions but on each occasion the coach and his young charges repaid their president’s faith. At St Andrews astute substitutions wrestled a deserved point from the jaws of tepid defeat. Two days later subtle tactical changes saw us recover from a murderous opening half an hour to inflict clinical destruction and misery upon the Dean Court faithful. It is very rare that Leeds fans spend Tuesday evening suckling on the teat of victory but this powerful south coast revival allowed just that.
Whites 3 Terriers 0
Saturday saw another humiliating Elland Road humbling for our dog bothering cousins but this one seemed to suggest something more tangible. In February the same opponents gleefully found us embroiled in another maelstrom driven by protests, phantom sackings and the sight of wealthy Italians fleeing mobs through the dead of a Beeston night. That victory however robust provided nothing more than a brief moment of respite in a relentless storm.
Eight months later uncertainty still lurks but an exhilarating show was the culmination of a period that points to better times ahead. It also provided a fitting conclusion to Neil Redfearn’s third and most impressive stint at the helm. In his final post match interview the coach displayed the quiet confidence of a man whose stock has grown markedly in little more than a fortnight because of his ability to blend our collection of misfits, starlets and rough diamonds mined from the coal face of continental football, into a competitive force. While he spoke of a calm and ‘measured’ display fans pointed to an ‘organised rampage’ that tore our former captain Lee Peltier and his battered Terriers ‘a new arsehole’. We were confused, bemused and basking in the warmth of our own potential.