McCall replaces sacked Hutchings

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Chris Hutchings yesterday paid the price for Bradford City's abysmal start to the season, and was sacked after five months and just 12 League matches in charge of the club.

Chris Hutchings yesterday paid the price for Bradford City's abysmal start to the season, and was sacked after five months and just 12 League matches in charge of the club.

The Bradford chairman, Geoffrey Richmond, said: "We find ourselves 19th in the Premier League, have scored only five League goals, and, very damagingly, we have lost to each of the three promoted sides.

"The board feels it is time for a change. A further delay would make it very difficult for the new manager as and when he is appointed. Chris deserved his opportunity - he has been a vital part of the success this club has enjoyed in the last five years.

"At the time the appointment was made, clearly there was a risk element attached. Chris didn't have the experience as manager - but exactly the same thing could have been said about the two previous managers, Chris Kamara and Paul Jewell, and both brought great success to the club. Hindsight is a wonderful thing as we all know, and unfortunately it has not worked out for Chris."

The first-team coach, Malcolm Shotton, has also left Valley Parade, and the assistant player-manager, Stuart McCall, has accepted the manager's post on a caretaker basis.

Richmond said McCall had declared an interest in the permanent job, although he wants to concentrate on playing and is keen for Bradford to bring in a senior figure to run the team.

The chairman's preferred candidate for such a role would be David Pleat, currently the director of football at Tottenham Hotspur, and an approach may soon be made for the former Luton and Sheffield Wednesday manager. Spurs, though, are experiencing unsettled times themselves and would not, in all likelihood be keen to release him.

While McCall would probably be the supporters' choice for the job, he is a strong-minded and independent character, which could ultimately conflict with Richmond's hands-on approach to chairmanship. As caretaker, the former Scotland international's first job will be to motivate his team against one of his old clubs, Everton, at the weekend.

Hutchings took over in the summer from Paul Jewell, and immediately added several high-profile faces to what was widely viewed as one of the weakest squads in the Premiership. City's transfer fee record and a tightly controlled wage structure were shattered as David Hopkin, Dan Petrescu and Benito Carbone arrived at Valley Parade. However, despite cautious optimism, Hutchings led the Bantams to just one victory in his 12 Premiership matches - albeit a commendable 2-0 defeat of Chelsea - a run which has left City in 19th place. Following the 2-0 defeat at home to Ipswich on 21 October, Richmond held a two-hour meeting with Hutchings after which the manager was issued with an ominous ultimatum to improve results or pay the price.

Later that week Hutchings made his final roll of the dice by signing the controversial striker Stan Collymore from Leicester City. The player responded by scoring a stunning goal on his debut to earn Bradford and Hutchings an encouraging 1-1 draw against Leeds at Valley Parade, a result which appeared to satisfy Richmond's criteria.

But three days later Bradford were knocked out of the Worthington Cup by Newcastle and the final straw came on Saturday with a disappointing 2-0 defeat away to Charlton, a game which Richmond did not attend after falling ill during the match at St James' Park.

By yesterday Richmond had recovered sufficiently to confirm what many saw as the inevitable.

Hutchings said: "Obviously it is a great disappointment to be relieved of my duties. However I recognise the club's future prospects are the most important thing to the board and they feel change is the best way to do this. I have had almost five years at the club and I still feel I have got a lot to offer. I hope to get re-involved in the game as quickly as possible."

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