Hands-on and brilliant for morale: What Blackpool can expect from Bradford City legend Stuart McCall
It’s not often a manager leaves a club on three separate occasions yet is still held in such high regard - but that’s definitely the case with Stuart McCall and Bradford City.
The 57-year-old, Blackpool’s new assistant head coach, has been out of work since he departed Valley Parade in December 2020 after an unsuccessful stint in League Two.
The former midfielder, who began his playing career with the club and made over 400 appearances in West Yorkshire, previously had spells in charge between 2007 and 2010 and 2016 to 2018, narrowly missing out on promotion to the Championship during his second time in the hotseat.
He is most fondly remembered for his time playing for the club though, having captained the Bantams to the top flight in 1999, one of two promotions he won.
He now moves to Bloomfield Road to link up with Neil Critchley’s backroom staff, where he will work alongside Mike Garrity and goalkeeping coach Steve Banks, taking on the role vacated by Colin Calderwood last month.
Blackpool is a club he already has links to; his father Andy featured for the Seasiders between 1947 and 1951,playing alongside Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen, and his sister was born in the town.
The Gazette caught up with Simon Parker, who covers Bradford City for the Telegraph & Argus, to get the lowdown on Pool’s addition to their backroom staff.
“There’s still a McCall Suite at the ground, which they’ve actually done up this summer. That tells you everything you need to know,” he said.
“There aren’t many clubs that would sack a manager and five months later are renovating a Suite named in his honour.
“He’s loved though. He was originally here during the Bradford Fire and that team is obviously close to the hearts of every supporter.
“He came back and skippered them into the Premier League for the first time in their history and helped them stay up, so he’ll always be a legend at the club.
“The reaction to his appointment at Blackpool has all been positive, everyone is wishing him well and saying how pleased they are, wishing him good luck, hoping it works out etc.
“There’s no ill-will towards him whatsoever and there shouldn’t be.”
In Calderwood, the Seasiders had an experienced and studious assistant that was able to stand back and allow Crithcley and Garrity to be more hands-on - offering tips and guidance as they worked.
But, according to Parker, that’s unlikely to be the case with McCall.
“When I spoke to him after he left Bradford last year he said that would probably be it for his management career,” he added.
“You could say, a manager that gets sacked by a League Two club, is he going to be marketable for clubs looking for a boss? I can’t imagine Stuart dropping to the National League, either.
“But I’d imagine the coaching really appeals to him because he loves being hands-on out on the training ground with the players.
“He’s not one to stand by the side. He might do it occasionally but he will get involved and he’s very much part of the daily routine. He’s very much in the middle of it and that’s what he enjoys.
“When he was out of the game he was always saying the one thing he missed was being out on the training ground working with the players, enjoying being part of the atmosphere and being with the players.
“He’s brilliant for morale. He can make players feel really good about themselves because he’s just such a nice, positive guy.
“On the training ground, coaching-wise for Blackpool he’ll be fantastic. They’re obviously going to have to pull up some trees this year to survive in that division, but he’s the sort of guy who is very good at getting players to believe in themselves.
“He’ll certainly help with the group camaraderie and the feelgood factor, which will probably be important when they face some tough times.”
Parker is also keen to see if McCall has any influence on Blackpool’s style of play in the Championship this season, given his desire to play attacking football in his previous roles.
“He spent most of his second spell in-fighting with the owner Edin Rahic, but despite all that he still got Bradford into the League One play-off final where they lost very late on against Millwall in 2017. They played some cracking football that season,” the Bantams reporter explained.
“If he has any input into Blackpool’s style of football, they’ll play some superb football for sure because it’s always very attacking.”
First and foremost, and perhaps most importantly, McCall is described as a lovely and genuine man that lives and breathes football.
“He’s a fantastic guy,” Parker said.
“I’ve done this job for over 20 years and I was in football before that and Stuart is certainly the nicest, most pleasant manager I’ve ever dealt with.
“When he wasn’t at the club, he always kept in touch.
“Sometimes people say he might be too nice, which might be why he didn’t succeed. I’m not sure if that’s right or not though.
“But he’s certainly a very decent guy. He’s very honest, he says what he thinks but there’s no sort of agenda behind him and he’s absolutely passionate about his football. He absolutely loves his football.
“That’s what will rub off on the Blackpool players. He’s 57 but he absolutely loves the game and that excitement he has being involved in football will rub off on those around him.”
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