Football: McCall copes with passing years better than Gascoigne

Bradford City 1 Middlesbrough 1

MIDDLE AGE in the middle of the field can affect you in different ways.

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.

Attendance: 17,708.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Reconciliation Analyst

£200 - £250 per day: Orgtel: Reconciliation Analyst Gloucestershire

Soutions Architect TOGAF - Reading

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Excellent Corporate Benefits: Progressive Recruitm...

CAD Design Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Progressive Recruitment: CAD Design Do you have a...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on