I USUALLY steer clear of commenting on football. There are people far more qualified than me to write about it but, after more than 25 years of supporting Bradford City, I feel I’ve earned an opinion.

And, yes, I’m mainly an armchair fan. Circumstances have meant I’ve been able to attend only a handful of matches in all those years but that doesn’t mean I have any less interest in their fortunes or any less pride in their achievements.

I’m perfectly prepared to be shot down by those who know better but, like many, I feel compelled by the sacking of Stuart McCall to stick my head over the parapet.

I’ve met and known a fair few football managers in my career, some of them in the top flight, but I doubt I’ve ever met another one as dedicated, passionate, gritty and determined as Stuart McCall.

I know for a fact that I’ve never met one who was a nicer guy.

The gallery above from the T&A archive, covering his playing days with City, sums him up: there are as many pictures of him getting involved in the community as there are of him on a football pitch.

I still have a picture on my office wall of one of my proudest moments as an editor when I tossed the coin to start the “All Stars” match we helped organise, along with the City Supporters' Trust, in 2004 to raise urgent funds for the Save Our City campaign after the Bantams plunged into administration.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Stuart was playing for Sheffield United at the time but returned to captain the City side and that great footballing gentleman, Wayne Jacobs, led the pro-celebrity opposition. Despite its serious purpose – and my recollection is it raised a fantastic total of more than £90,000 – it was immensely entertaining and huge fun.

But it was still a football match which meant Stuart still wanted to win it.

That desire for victory at all costs is what marked him out as a great footballer and put the iron in his soul as a manager and coach.

Let no-one for a second doubt that City losing their last six matches has been anything but absolutely gutting for him. Stuart is a battler and a warrior and he will have felt it bitterly – it will also have made him even more determined to shake off the bad run of form and get it right next time.

To be sacked at this stage of the season is a huge blow for him, personally, and only time will tell what it means for the club.

We have to question, though, the thinking behind such brutal decisions. This is League One, not the Premiership.

Yes, if you’re paying managers and players in millions and forking out obscene sums of money in transfer deals you have, to a certain extent, a right to expect instant results and consistent success.

If you pay £50 million for a striker and he doesn’t get a goal in his first few games, you must start to question his ability and the manager’s decision to buy him.

There are exceptions even at this level, though, and you have to admire the way Arsenal have stuck with Arsene Wenger despite his failure to achieve the same success as the likes of Manchester (City or United).

Back here on earth, it has to be remembered that City have barely been out of the top five in league One since Stuart took the reins.

Yes, they’ve had a bad run so far this year (not that uncommon in City’s history) but they’re still in the top six, for heaven’s sake, and still in with every chance of making the play-offs, even if automatic promotion looks an unlikely prospect.

What’s more, there’s been no time yet for the new blood – such as it is – to settle in. New players always unbalance a team; they take time to get to know each other and adapt their individual styles to suit.

The best person to manage that process is someone who knows them intimately, someone who works closely with them day in, day out on the training pitch, who listens to them in the dressing room, understands their fears and insecurities, their foibles and idiosyncrasies.

It’s not a process that can be carried out remotely from the boardroom. Players aren’t chess pieces or just tradeable commodities that can be added to the pack and played off like Top Trumps cards; they’re human beings that need to have their egos stroked and their backsides kicked in equal measure.

Getting them all to function and perform in the right way at the right time is, of course, a manager’s job. But the lower down the leagues you look, the less able, adjustable and adaptable players become. It’s human nature.

Bad runs are part and parcel of football at this level and managers that can keep a team in the top five for 18 months don’t suddenly lose their skills overnight.

As City fans, we have to hope that whoever succeeds Stuart can pick up where he left off and that the shock of his departure will galvanise the team into a better response than they’ve so far produced in 2018.

Whatever the outcome, most will agree that Stuart McCall had earned greater loyalty from a club that is built into his DNA.

There’s no doubt that he’ll continue to support Bradford City and will the next manager to succeed. And if they ever need him to turn out for a club-saving charity match, you can be sure he’ll be back like a shot, because the club will always be bigger than those who become its custodians – and some people will stay City ’til they die.