Football: McCall copes with passing years better than Gascoigne
Bradford City 1 Middlesbrough 1
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Monday 06 December 1999
On the one hand, there are Peter Beagrie, Stuart McCall and Neil Redfearn - combined age 103 - upon whose unbowed shoulders their club's prospects of Premiership survival rest. On the other, there is Paul Gascoigne.
At a mere 32, Gazza has a few years' advantage over the Bradford trio, but it is he who is experiencing the mid-life crisis. Given a starting role in the absence of Paul Ince, he did his best to be involved but found himself hopelessly off the pace for much of the game.
His botched back-header that set up Bradford's equaliser for Lee Mills was just a symptom of that. Although Bryan Robson showed more sympathy than anger over that blunder, he must know that his generous assessment of Gascoigne's contribution before that erred wildly on the charitable side.
There was the occasional touch that hinted at the back pages, but his efforts suffered cruelly by comparison with Juninho, whose imagination and movement produced the goal and could have ensured a Boro victory.
That, however, would have been harsh on City, and particularly on their triumvirate of midfield elder statesmen. Once an early injury to Dean Windass forced a beneficial change of formation, McCall and Redfearn worked relentlessly and effectively in the centre of the park, with Beagrie hardly less involved from the right flank. More than any of them, it is McCall who represents the dogged, bloody-minded determination that could still keep them in the top flight.
At 35, he might have appeared to be the sort of player that gets you into the Premiership but cannot really be expected to still prosper there. That has turned out to be as far off the mark as Gascoigne's header. Apart from retaining his mobility in a way that other 30-somethings can only envy, McCall epitomises the "us against the world" attitude that can be City's salvation. "The spirit's good," he said, recognising that it is not enough in itself. "But we need some good performances as well. If we play like we did today, we won't get despondent."
There are some hopeful signs at Valley Parade. While still not exactly prolific, they at least look at times as though they might score the odd goal - and Mills' equaliser was his fifth in eight matches after a barren start to his Premiership career. He looks happier playing alongside Robbie Blake, but the real strength of the side is the know-how behind them. If the relegation struggle turns into a dogfight, that hard edge of experience could be invaluable.
"It looked at one time as though there might be six teams involved, but now it could be down to four," is McCall's analysis. "We knew Newcastle would pull clear and Wimbledon had a good win today."
If his assessment is correct, then there is just one place in the lifeboat. It could be those who know how to jostle and elbow their way around who claim it. "But we need to start turning some of these good performances into wins," said McCall. "To be honest, we probably nicked three points up at their place at the start of the season, but we thought today that we should have had all three."
Goals: Ricard (13) 0-1; Mills 60 (1-1).
Bradford City (4-4-2): Clarke; Lawrence, Wetherall, O'Brien, Myers; Redfearn, McCall, Windass (Halle, 24), Beagrie (Sharpe, 85); Mills, Blake. Substitutes not used: Davison (gk), Whalley, Saunders.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Fleming (Maddison, 49), Vickers, Festa, Ziege; Stamp, Gascoigne (Summerbell, 74), Mustoe, Juninho; Ricard, Deane. Substitutes not used: Beresford (gk), Armstrong, Gavin.
Referee: R Harris (Oxford).
Bookings: Middlesbrough: Deane, Stamp.
Man of the match: McCall.
Latest in Sport
Frank Lampard was RIGHT not to celebrate Manchester City's equaliser against Chelsea
All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Five reasons why Louis van Gaal is a worse Manchester United manager than David Moyes
Comment: Louis Van Gaal struggled at start of Bayern reign, but Manchester United's problems run deeper and Premier League is less forgiving
- 1 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 What are your fingerprint words?
- 5 Gary Lineker involved in Twitter row after presenter rubbishes claims he will be warned by BBC over foul-mouthed tweets
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...