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Nationwide Division One, 29/03/02 3.15pm
Bradford City
Getting what you're given
By Ian Grant

Orwellian ör-wel'i-an, adj. relating to or in the style of the English writer George Orwell (1903-1950): characteristic of the dehumanised authoritarian society described in his novel 1984.- n. a student of Orwell or his ideas.

Of course, it's fair to say that becoming part of the English language is a fabulous achievement in itself, and that you shouldn't be too concerned if you're not completely satisfied with the word that you've brought into existence. You're there, and your mum would be thoroughly proud of you.

Nevertheless, you suspect that, were he alive to look himself up in the dictionary, Eric Blair would be slightly frustrated by the word that's been derived from his pseudonym. "Orwellian" doesn't really suit him, frankly. In part, that's because it's a rather ugly word. Mainly, though, it's because it has such an inaccurate meaning - a futuristic vision of authoritarian tyranny, a kind of politicised science fiction.

If you want to find the essence of George Orwell - that is, the writer who spent most of his life offering more than visions of a future that's now in the past - you need to go further back than 1984 and Animal Farm, very fine though they both are. There, you'll find the writer who was totally of his time, who set out to document it, to expose it, to analyse it, to demand justification for it. One of the first - and, without doubt, one of the finest - investigative journalists, in fact. An astute, sharp novelist too.

From the British Empire (Burmese Days) to the Spanish Civil War (Homage To Catalonia), from poverty in the industrial North (The Road To Wigan Pier) to life on the road (Down And Out In Paris And London), Orwell writes from first-hand experience on the gigantic, politically-charged themes of his time. And even if the lesser novels (A Clergyman's Daughter, Coming Up For Air, and particularly the greatly under-valued and personally treasured Keep The Aspidistra Flying) are too rarely read, they reward those who do pick them up with some delightfully cutting observations and wry social comment. Nick Hornby with teeth, or something.

That is George Orwell...and he's not terribly Orwellian, strangely. Not a visionary, but an observer of his time. A conscience, really. Often controversial, sometimes contradictory, never less than thought-provoking. But, just as you don't get to write your own epitaph, your dictionary definition is out of your control. You get what you're given.

Bradford ought to know this better than most, obviously. Currently flopping about in lower-mid table, it's fair to say that their rather embarrassing attempt at defining themselves as a Premiership establishment should be over. Should be...but, if their involvement in the Albatross League was any indication, probably isn't.

Naturally, it'd be foolish to forget that we've suffered from similar delusions of grandeur at times. That said, the Hornets have spent the season looking upwards in vague hope, whereas the Bantams have been glancing downwards with a bit of a nervous twitch. And, despite the defeat at Barnsley, there have been signs that we've begun to shed our airs and graces, to recognise ourselves in the mirror that the First Division remorselessly thrusts into club's faces.

Since leaving Chesterfield to take over from a besieged Jim Jefferies in December, Nicky Law has just about kept Bradford out of trouble. While laboured in beating Crewe on Saturday, they're on a three match unbeaten run as they come to the Vic, and relegation is no longer a serious threat. Like us, Bradford will be looking to make a better fist of it next time around.

With Gary Walsh and Aidan Davison both injured and Matt Clarke flogged to Palace for big bucks earlier in the season, there's been something of a goalkeeping crisis at Valley Parade recently. Therefore, the current wearer of the number, erm, twenty-nine shirt is Alan Combe, on loan from Dundee United until the treatment room clears. His deputy is nineteen year old Jon Worsnop, a still-fresh youth team product.

No shortage of injuries in defence either, with Robert Molenaar, Andy Myers and Peter Atherton all sidelined. However, spirits were lifted by the scoring return against Crewe of Chemistry graduate David Wetherall after months of being troubled by a groin injury. His partner, Mark Bower, is another from the youth ranks and made his first team debut this season.

At left back, Wayne Jacobs is City's longest serving player, having watched and waited while numerous pale imitators have come and gone. On the other side, veteran Norwegian Gunnar Halle is described as "slow, very slow" and will therefore be thrilled by the possibility of a substitute appearance from Master McNamee. Youngster Lewis Emanuel provides cover along with Andy Tod, a utility player who even took a turn in goal while on loan at Stockport last season.

As anyone who saw the Worthington Cup tie will know, Bradford's midfield revolves around thirty-seven year old Stuart McCall. He didn't start that night...and neither did Bradford's midfield. Alongside him, Gareth Whalley is the more creative option, while ex-Bournemouth Dane Claus Jorgensen is the preferred option. Gary Locke - one of, at a rough guess, forty-seven former Hearts players in the Bradford squad - is injured. Another of the forty-seven, Spanish play-maker Juanjo, is on the bench.

Easy-to-spot Jamie Lawrence remains the right winger of choice, and his seven caps for Jamaica apparently make him the most internationally honoured player in Bradford's history. That has a suspicious feel to it, as if it's bait for trivia thieves like me. Eoin Jess, a Scot who hasn't played for Hearts, supplies a similarly attack-minded option, and two recent signings - Tom Kearney from Everton and Michael Standing from Villa, both young and talented - will be hoping to play some kind of part in proceedings too. Lee Sharpe still exists.

My attempts at thinking of fresh abuse to chuck Ashley Ward's way were rendered pointless by the marvellous "Boy From Brazil" site - an article entitled "The elephant in the corner is Ashley Ward" tells all, better than I can. A Stuart Ripley of a player, no less. His partner is former Everton acrobat Danny Cadamarteri, signed on a short-term deal until the summer...when he'll be performing somersaults for kids at Butlins, or something. Gareth Grant, a skilful left-sided attacker, has fallen behind the pace somewhat after showing much youthful promise. Benito Carbone is on loan at Boro; Robbie Blake is still not as good as he ought to be, but is now not as good as he ought to be at Burnley.

A bit of a pre-season friendly, then. Well, kind of. These are two clubs that'll be making a big hullabaloo about promotion at the start of August, yet ought to be very concerned indeed about finding some form and confidence before then. For Watford, in particular, the opportunity to grasp the nettle before it flies the nest cannot be allowed to slip away like so many grains of sand.

Or something.