Main Menu
What's New
01/02: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 29/03/02
Bradford City
Opening sweep
By Ian Grant

There's a time and a place for everything. Well, most things. Some things, at least.

On my computer at work sits a pile of around a dozen recently acquired and regularly played CDs. It's a pile that belongs to someone with an extremely low boredom threshold, and is therefore constantly refreshed and frequently purged. Among other rather more obvious things, it currently contains Ocsid's "Opening Sweep".

A live recording from 1999, "Opening Sweep" was purchased on the basis that it involves Graham Lewis, bassist of the perpetually fascinating Wire. For the best part of twenty-five years, Wire and the countless off-shoots thereof have peppered the musical landscape, as endless and unpredictable as the English weather. And Ocsid is typically untypical fare.

One track, seventy-five minutes long. Gulp. Occasional electronic pulses...static...distorted, shredded voices...white noise...a snatch of music, vaguely identifiable as "Jealous Guy"...out-of-sync beats...a massive lump of shuddering bass...silence... more static...silence. And on, for the full duration. There won't be a Will Young cover version any time soon, put it that way.

Thing is, it's bloody immense. Not everyday listening, perhaps...but, just as there'll be moments when only the Strokes' brilliant, perfectly poised brevity will do, so there are going to be times when everything else will sound utterly small-minded next to Ocsid's vast, monochromatic survey of charred debris, interference, fragments. Like I say, there's a time and a place.

And the football pitch ain't it, obviously.

Having wasted a large chunk of a beautiful Good Friday on this thoroughly grey, tedious match, you'll have to forgive me if I'm unwilling to do the same with an equally glorious Saturday. It was very dull indeed - a game of no real importance, with no serious attempt made to keep up the illusion - and we've all got better things to do with our time. I can hear the Hoover calling me as I type....

Once again, the momentum has dribbled away. The end of the season is upon us...thoughts drifting towards summer transfers, the World Cup, pre-season fixtures, anything but this. Without a meaningful contest until August - on this evidence, a decent match requires at least one of its participants to have something at stake - there are no conclusions to be drawn, there's nothing much to say.

We can deal in the obvious, if you like. On current evidence, Alec Chamberlain could keep going until he reaches the national retirement age. Filippo Galli has turned out to be a quite brilliant acquisition, scrapping and battling and loving every minute of it. Gavin Mahon is useful too, popping up all over the pitch whether as cover for absent colleagues or as an option for a simple pass. Anthony McNamee is a ray of sunshine. Lee Cook has no right foot. And so on, and so on. But, really, what matters is how, and whether, we manage to form these parts into a coherent whole for the next campaign. There were no clues here.

So, in the absence of anything more interesting to discuss, we'll stumble into the first half. There, we'll find that my notes contain a surprising amount of goalmouth action...and thus we'll discover that entertainment is derived from tempo and intent and drama and all that, rather than where the ball happens to be. Drab is drab, wherever it occurs.

Granted, the first ten minutes promised a bit more than was subsequently delivered. From a Marcus Gayle lay-off, Heidar Helguson swivelled on the edge of the box to send a shot bouncing through to Combe. A minute later, Helguson's strength saw him fight off two defenders to get on the end of a rather aimless pass from Stephen Glass...but, having done all the work, the ball ran away from him and through to the keeper. At the other end, Wetherall's flick from a free kick dropped for Ward, who stretched and hooked it awkwardly goalwards for Alec Chamberlain to collect, and Cadamarteri sent a shot drifting over the bar.

But much of the rest was uninspired, to put it kindly. While Bradford laboured - only the tenacity of McCall and the scything pace of Lawrence catching the eye - Watford were undone by the lack of form of Stephen Glass on the left, despite eager support from Gavin Mahon and Paul Robinson, and the repeated cutting inside of Lee Cook on the right. In the latter case, it was an understandable experiment in the absence of Allan Nielsen, but it just didn't work. The crosses disappointed, the chances dried up, the game died on its feet.

There were occasional flurries, such as when Micah Hyde darted in from the left and hit a dipping drive, which was palmed up in the air and caught with some good fortune by Combe. Lee Cook was similarly adventurous yet, typically, he struck a tame shot at Combe at the end of a nippy run. Neil Cox headed wide a couple of times, once from a corner and once from an impossible angle on the end of a Robinson centre. The defender, partnering Galli in the centre, was also called upon to halt a dashing run from Lawrence, who out-paced Mahon through the middle, with an expertly timed tackle.

Really, though, we were grateful for the early spring sunshine, for a less pleasant day would've made this painful rather than merely tedious. As too often, we shuffled the ball around out of habit rather than anything else, knocking in a cross for the first defender to clear every now and again, then starting again. It wasn't that bad...but, really, we'd probably all prefer that the extra person in the attendance of 14,001 hadn't been us. Ward headed weakly wide from a corner, before the fourth official was roundly abused for announcing that there would be two more minutes before we could all stretch our legs and enjoy a change of scenery.

The second half was better and brighter, if only for the introduction of young Anthony McNamee...who tried a few of his jinking runs with mixed results, showed some battling spirit in his own half, allowed Jorgensen to believe that he'd run out of ideas for a while, then spent the rest of the game dumping his opponent on his arse. Tremendously entertaining, certainly. Crucially, however, the quality and quantity of the crosses was fabulous and deserved rather better from the strikers, who repeatedly waited for the ball to arrive when they might've made a run and taken a chance. Whatever, no afternoon involving Master McNamee is completely wasted.

As before, the game ebbed and flowed...but the result was more muddy puddle than crashing sea. Heidar Helguson nearly connected with a Marcus Gayle header before it went through to Combe; Wetherall sent a header into the stand from a Lawrence cross; Chamberlain fielded a Jorgensen drive; Helguson thrashed a volley way wide. Fourteen thousand people checked their watches, picked their noses, wondered what to have for tea.

Actually, either side might've won it in the final half hour. That neither did is a fair summary of an afternoon that lacked anything even vaguely decisive or clinical. After seventeen minutes, Lawrence fairly belted around the outside of the Watford defence, cutting the ball back towards Kearney in an unmarked position. With Chamberlain wrong-footed, the low shot apparently hit the woodwork...but I rather prefer to report it as it appeared from the other end, with the goal-bound effort hitting the cumbersome, irksome Ward and deflecting wide via his backside. On this afternoon, you took amusement wherever you could find it.

Almost immediately, Anthony McNamee won the "cross of the day" award for delivering the ball to Marcus Gayle's forehead from deep on the left wing. Unfortunately, Gayle wasted it by smacking his header over the bar from eight yards, when greater accuracy would surely have asked too much of Combe. Still, Gayle made a positive contribution to many of the better moments here, and sent Danny Webber, fresh from the bench, through with a delightful pass five minutes later. Webber's pace took him clear, but his finish was poor and allowed Combe to fall on the ball with disappointing ease. Other than that burst of raw speed, the new arrival made relatively little impression. He wasn't alone, mind.

Still more than fifteen minutes remaining, heaven help us. So, Lawrence carved his way through the middle again, showing rare determination in such dreary surroundings, and set up Jess for a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area that beat Chamberlain and smacked against the bar. Ward lumbered onto the rebound, was flagged offside, and whinged at no-one and everyone. Shortly afterwards, a rare error of judgement from Cox let in Jess again, and his half-volley appeared destined to dip into the top corner before Chamberlain dived at full stretch and pushed it wide with his fingertips. A fantastic save, worthy of a much better - and much more meaningful - game.

The End, pretty much. Kearney volleyed seventeen miles wide from seventeen miles out; Ward sliced a drive into the advertising hoardings; McCall made Chamberlain look a bit lively with a shot from distance; Jess bounced a shot off-target from twenty-two yards; Ward picked up an idiotic booking for dissent. And, inevitably, the fourth official was roundly abused again for announcing that there would be four more minutes before we could all go to the pub.

So, to bring things to an overdue halt, the comparison with that Ocsid CD doesn't really stand, in all honesty. For it might be without structure, elegance or obvious charm, but "Opening Sweep" succeeds because it sounds so dark and ominous, so full of gravity, so damned intense. It sounds, essentially, as if it matters.

And this, while also lacking structure, elegance or obvious charm, was utterly inconsequential nonsense.