Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Hello Taylor

There is no love lost between Bradford City and Hull City, but if wishing Peter Taylor well today also means wishing Bradford City well, then so be it.

Bradford have appointed Taylor as their manager until the end of the season. They have picked absolutely the right man, providing their board of directors have the requisite faith in Taylor to do the job he needs to do. He was appointed by Adam Pearson to the same role at Hull City almost eight years ago and entirely transformed the side.

The Tigers were 18th in the bottom division when Taylor arrived as a replacement for the unprepared Jan Molby, who had been given the job in the summer but quickly acknowledged as a mistake by Pearson. Taylor's immediate promotion record with Gillingham and Brighton was excellent and he was very highly thought of at the FA too, maintaining his control of the England under 21s.

There followed three and a half seasons of tough decision-making, spirit building and no little money spent, especially for a club in the lower reaches. Taylor steadied Molby's ship and then started the regeneration process that took the Tigers out of the bottom division after seven lonely seasons. He then, to everyone's shock and absolute delight, repeated the feat a year later to get the Tigers into the Championship. And perhaps the most memorable game, for footballing and emotional reasons, was the win at Bradford City.

It was a Sunday lunchtime fixture and, poetically, the travelling Tiger Nation had been given an enormous allocation that allowed them to fill one side of the ground as well as the regular away end. It didn't please Bradford fans, but the memories of Martin Fish, one of Pearson's dubious predecessors, giving play-off chasing Bradford the South Stand at Boothferry Park in 1996 were still raw. Bradford won the game, got promoted and City were relegated. Inevitably, scuffles broke out. It was a nadir few thought would be matchable, though subsequent High Court appearances and winding up orders soon put it to shame. But there were fewer occasions in the awful 1990s when Hull City fans felt so useless and unloved.

So the turnaround was quite remarkable to observe, especially as it was a late season game and City were on the brink of a second successive promotion. The game started perfectly, with Stuart Elliott ramming home a goal in the opening five minutes. The noise when that goal hit the net was beyond explosive.

Nick Barmby sealed it midway through the second half and the 2-0 win was crafted by an awesome team display, with career-defining outings from Damien Delaney, Craig Fagan and even the much-maligned Junior Lewis, and it typified Taylor's tactical policy - play pretty when it suits, and play percentages the rest of the time. Many bemoaned Taylor's style of football when it got ugly, but at times the Tigers were capable of some fantastic stuff and Taylor deservedly got the credit, especially as either way, he got results.

There was real joy in seeing the Tigers do over a fierce Yorkshire rival (a rival that included Dean Windass in their ranks, who spent the game bantering with the Tiger Nation) in spring sunshine while on their own turf, filling their stadium and doing so as part of a promotion campaign which was sealed as successful a fortnight or so later. Bradford were a club in decline, having been in the Premier League and lost all their money, and City would soon be a top-flight club as the Bantams sunk to the bottom. It was a mirror image of the contrasting progress of the two clubs in the 1990s.

Taylor left the Tigers a year later, but the upward-mobility he started was maintained enough to give Phil Brown the tools he needed to earn promotion to the Premier League, for which he and countless others offered Taylor a good chunk of credit.

Now Taylor is charged with getting Bradford's ambition up and running again. It would be no surprise if he did exactly the same job there as he did with the Tigers and, even though it is Bradford City, many will hope he succeeds. Meanwhile, Bradford fans whose eyes de-misted as playing hero Stuart McCall failed as a manager should now realise they have got a proper boss in charge.