Mick McCarthy extended his personal streak of never losing at Hillsborough as his Ipswich Town side grinded out a narrow 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday in an even yet largely uninspiring Championship match up.
Owls manager Carlos Carvalhal was left unimpressed by his sides poor display in front of a 25,851 strong crowd against McCarthy’s well organised Ipswich side. Deflated in the post-match press conference he stated that he hoped that the match would be just an “exception” before adding “we didn’t play to our level today. We must offer more threat and be more dynamic. We must have a better attitude.”
In truth despite the three goals scored here, this game won’t be one to stick in the memory for long. Both sides looked to play the ball around but offered little in attack as chances were few and far between.
The Owls perhaps started the brighter but weren’t too threatening going forward despite an early Barry Bannan effort that sailed just over the bar after some neat build up play from fellow midfielder Kieran Lee. Steven Fletcher also had a big chance from a David Jones corner in the 25th minute but his header went narrowly over the Tractor Boys goal.
It was Ipswich that struck first though thanks to a strike from winger Tom Lawrence, his first for the club, and what a finish it was. Intercepting the play on the half way line the young midfielder raced towards Wednesdays box before cutting inside two defenders and finding the far bottom right hand corner of the net with a bending strike.
That goal brought the game to life momentarily as the Owls replied within the next five minutes. With Ipswich not clearing a corner properly, David Jones’ speculative strike from outside the box was parried by Bartosz Bialkowski straight into the path of Gary Hooper who made no mistake from close range. The Ipswich ‘keepers mistake had handed Wednesday a massive break, one that perhaps wasn’t too deserved at the time.
The Owls looked to make the break count and minutes after half time the home side nearly took the lead for the first time in the match. It was Hooper again as he took on a few Town defenders on the edge of the penalty area before seeing his effort saved tidily by Bialkowski but into the path of Lee who skewed his rebound wide from close range. Ipswich had heeded the warning and gave Wednesday very few chances after that.
Little then happened until late on in the match when Wednesday defender Tom Lees made a huge block to deny Town substitute Johnny Williams a near-certain goal.
The Tractor Boys were to grab their winner though and all three points before the end. A corner was delivered from the left on to the head of Christophe Berra who saw his powerful effort re-directed goal ward by the head of captain Luke Chambers and past Keiren Westwood to send Ipswich home with a big away win.
Understandably Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy was happy with the huge three points, a rare win on the road this year for his side. Speaking in the post-match press conference he eluded to his sides recent poor form especially their disappointing 2-2 home draw with Rotherham last time out but stated after this victory “that is more like my team, that reflects me.”
The result sees Ipswich climb up to 15th place in the Skybet Championship whilst the Owls slip to 10th spot and out of the play-off places.
In a lively South Yorkshire derby Barnsley sealed a 2-1 at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday in their U23’s clash thanks to strikes from forwards Panutche Camara and Romal Palmer either side of a goal from Sheffield Wednesday winger Jack Stobbs.
Barnsley started the brighter side and were rewarded seven minutes in as a deflected cross from Dylan Mottley-Henry found its way to forward Panutche Camara who made no mistake from close range.
It was Sheffield Wednesday who scored next equalising on the 17th minute largely against the run of play after winger Jack Stobbs cut in from the left hand side to score a 20 yard effort which curled over Barnsley goalkeeper Tim Brown and nestled in the far top right hand corner of the net.
Sheffield Wednesday had a great opportunity to take the lead on the 41st minute as forward Devante Rodney was brought down in the box by Barnsley ‘keeper Tim Brown.
Devante Rodney stepped up himself but Tim Brown had the better of him on this occasion saving the spot kick with a great diving save low to his left hand side.
Barnsley retook the lead in the 52nd minute after another cross from Mottley-Henry this time found substitute Romal Palmer unmarked at the back post who finished calmly past Jake Kean into the top left hand corner.
In truth the second half lacked in quality and chances were few and far between after Barnsley retook the lead. George Hirst had an effort for Wednesday from close range in the 86th minute which was saved well by Barnsley’s Tim Brown but there was little else to report.
With that win Barnsley become the first team to win at Hillsborough this season as Sheffield Wednesday U23’s lost their unbeaten home status with today’s 2-1 defeat.
No one can pretend that the news that filtered through in the last few days suggesting that Phil Parkinson would become the new manager of Bolton Wanderers wasn’t disappointing. Yesterday it was confirmed that one of the greatest managers in our clubs history would be making the move to the Macron Stadium and Lancashire. Phil Parkinson ad his coaching staff brought this club back from the brink during his near five year stay with the Bantams but as they say in football, all good things must come to an end.
First of all we have to thank Phil Parkinson for his time at the club. Struggling towards the bottom end of League Two he turned this club around. During his tenure we have improved season on season, rising from the doldrums of League Two to the play-off semi-finals of League One this time around. Enjoying promotion from League Two via the play-offs in 2013, Parkinson has given us some unforgettable moments and memories, the Capital One Cup final of the same year, the beating of Chelsea and Sunderland in the FA cup, the list goes on. We say thank you but now is the time to move on.
Phil Parkinson’s departure is a bitter one to swallow, the manner of it is a bit saddening and taints his image at Bradford a little; everything seems to have been done a bit secretively. Only last week the man was releasing players from our club and giving that interview with COO James Mason, everything seemed to be heading in the right direction but now he’s gone and the situation all seems a little strange.
Maybe his departure is best for all involved however. Parkinson wanted his new, fresh challenge whilst the owners, even though they said they would back him to resume his duties at the club, would have likely preferred a fresh new start with the club including bringing in their own manager. It’s evident that Parky wasn’t pushed out of the door by Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp and that this is just a natural parting of ways that suits everyone involved to an extent.
So who can we expect to be brought in Valley Parade?
Let’s start with the most likely candidate, Uwe Rosler. The German manager, former Brentford, Wigan and Leeds, is currently out of work and ever since the change of ownership at Valley Parade has been heavily linked with a switch to the Bantams. During his management career the former Manchester City player has experienced various high and low points. He led Brentford to the League One play-off final, led Wigan into the Championship play-offs and semi-final of the FA Cup back in 2014 but then suffered a torrid time at Leeds United being sacked after only 12 games in charge of our closest rivals, albeit with Massimo Cellino in charge..
With reports suggesting that Uwe Rosler has already attended several Bradford City matches in recent months, including the play-off loss to Millwall at the New Den, this move seems very likely to be concluded.
Rosler is renowned for his teams to play a high, pressing style of football and is also a fan of squad rotation among players, especially youth players. The German manager enjoys attacking play with powerful quick football accompanied with quick transitions from attack to defence, a counterattacking type of play. His arrival could usher in a real new era at Valley Parade and could prove to be a fantastic acquisition for the Bantams.
Another manager linked with the vacant Bradford City job and is high up on the betting odds is former Boston United, Crawley, Rotherham and Leeds manager Steve Evans.
This rumour has been greeted with a lot of dislike on social media by Bradford fans and to be fair, that’s understandable. Not only has Steve Evans managed two of our bigger rivals in Leeds and Rotherham but whilst in charge of Crawley his team caused chaos after the full time whistle resulting in a combined five red cards between the two then League Two sides, a English football league record. How bad would his appointment really be though?
Given a clean slate by Bradford fans, Evans could prove to be a shrewd appointment for the Bantams. He’s enjoyed 7 promotions with 4 different sides including back-to-back promotions with rivals Rotherham, his sides play appealing football and his passion cannot be called into question. With a win ratio of 43% over 831 games, Steve Evans could guide this club to further success if brought in.
Stuart McCall too has been named as one of the frontrunners in the process of replacing Phil Parkinson on Midland Road. The Bradford City legend, who played 395 times for City over two spells with the club, was previously in charge of the Bantams between 2007 and 2010 but largely struggled in his position as manager at Valley Parade.
His time in charge came as the club was struggling on the field in League Two and also financially off the pitch. McCall took charge of 133 games with City, only managing a 34% win ratio as the gaffer during his three year stay with the club. Since leaving Bradford, he went on to manage Motherwell successfully and further had a short stint with Rangers and the Scottish national side. Certainly there’s a sense of unfinished business with the Bantams for Stuart McCall but if he was brought back to the club as manager, could it all end in tears?
Out of those three names I’m inclined to back Uwe Rosler the most. His teams play nice, fashionable football and I genuinely think he could be a good shout as the next Bradford manager especially as he could fit right in with our new German owners. Steve Evans has a good record but could be too controversial if appointed whilst Stuart McCall could be a dangerous idea considering his past with the club and so on, does he have the CV to take over a club aiming for the Championship and beyond?
There have also been a number of other names linked with the job in the past few days. Managers such as Steve Cotterill, Nigel Adkins, Paul Jewell, Dougie Freedman, Gianfranco Zola have all been touted to take over at Bradford to name but a few. If I could choose a slightly realistic appointment but that is outside of the box I’d love to see someone like Karl Robinson or Tim Sherwood take over as first team manager however those appointments are highly highly unlikely.
All that needs to be said is that only time will tell if a manager is successful or not. Regardless of who is appointed as the next manager of Bradford City football club it is pivotal that the fans give the new manager enough time and support the club as fantastically as they have done in the past.
With just over two weeks left until the Euro 2016 party begins, Roy Hodgson still faces some difficult decisions in regards to his chosen England squad and to whom will be in his starting XI for our first game against Russia on Saturday 11th June. After a 2-1 win over Turkey in a close and competitive match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and with two more friendlies coming up before the England squad travel to the continent against Australia and Portugal, Hodgson is close to making some big calls on his England team and squad.
Firstly I want to quickly disclose who the three players are that I would drop from the 26 man squad currently participating in the three friendly matches prior to EURO 2016. The three in question are Ryan Bertrand, Andros Townsend and Fabian Delph in my opinion. I think most would agree with that call. Despite having a great season for Southampton, Ryan Betrand misses out for me purely because I don’t think we need two extra full backs in the squad with Nathaniel Clyne too in the 26 man selection. Fabian Delph too for the same reason as I believe Henderson, Lallana, Milner, Alli, Drinkwater and Wilshere are simply stronger players right now and Andros Townsend misses out in my opinion as I don’t think he’s good enough to play for England currently in my honest opinion.
England fixtures at Euro 2016
England vs Russia – Saturday 11th June. 20:00 kick off
England vs Wales – Thursday 16th June. 14:00 kick off
England vs Slovakia – Monday 20th June. 20:00 kick off
The formation Roy Hodgson will adopt for his England side at Euro 2016 is further up for debate. With a lack of pure wingers in the England squad this time around I would personally play a central based diamond formation. Despite the lack of width this formation possesses it offers us stability both going forward and at the back. With Eric Dier in that central defensive midfielder slot it allows the forward five players the chance to roam and attack at will, I want to see this England side attack other teams rather than sitting back and inviting the pressure on.
Joe Hart Goalkeeper
58 England caps
England’s number one, England’s England’s number one. Arguably the most straight forward selection in this team. Even though Burnley’s Tom Heaton had a fantastic season culminating in his sides promotion back to the Premier League and Fraser Forster had another fine season with Southampton resulting in them finishing sixth this term, neither have the pedigree to really worry the Manchester City shot stopper.
Despite Manchester City’s poor performance in the league this term under Manuel Pellegrini, 29 year-old Joe Hart had another solid season for the Citizens keeping an impressive 15 clean sheets in 35 Premier league appearances. As well as that Hart put in some man of the match performances as City reached the Champions League semi-final for the first time in their history. With a low average of only 1.03 goal conceded per match and a 96% claim success rate, Joe Hart is surely a shoo-in for England’s number one spot in France at the 2016 European Championship.
Kyle Walker Right back
15 England caps
This was a difficult call because I really rate Liverpool full back Nathaniel Clyne but for me right now Kyle Walker just edges him out. The Tottenham right-back has had a great season this time around as Spurs secured third spot in the Premier League behind champions Leicester City and bitter rivals Arsenal. With his raw pace, his strength and his composure on the ball, Kyle Walker has excelled over the past few years at the London club.
Still only 25 years of age, although it feels like he has been around for a longer period of time than he actually has, Kyle Walker made 35 appearances this year for Tottenham. In comparison with Nathaniel Clyne who he is in direct competition with, Walker has created more chances, averages a higher amount of defensive actions and has a higher percentage of duels won all whilst making the same amount of appearances as Clyne. Both made 33 appearances and scored one goal each this season. For me Kyle Walker just edges out his competitor on this occasion.
Chris Smalling Centre back
23 England caps
After the solid season he’s had with Manchester United Chris Smalling is England’s number one centre back going into Euro 2016 for me. Up until the 2015/16 season Chris Smalling has had his doubters and rightly so as in past seasons he’s largely struggled to keep the high level of consistency needed to be a starting international with England. However this term he has been a rock at the back for United and would likely be claiming player of the year for the Red Devils if it weren’t for ‘keeper David De Gea.
Making 35 appearances this season for Manchester United, Chris Smalling has made 0 clear defensive errors across those league matches, has on average made three key interceptions per game and has on average completed over 7 tackles per game. Chris Smalling further has the ability to pass the ball out of defence, has developed a better understanding of the game over the course of this season and has the pace to get him out of trouble when needed.
Gary Cahill Centre back
42 England caps
Choosing a centre back to play alongside Chris Smalling was the hardest decision to be made in picking my starting eleven for England at the European Championships come June. My choice is Gary Cahill.
I’m going to be brutally honest here, for me Gary Cahill is playing nowhere near his best at the moment but we need some experience at centre back in France and Cahill has that over Everton’s John Stones. Stones is the better player here although he has struggled at points this season with Everton who had a very poor campaign by their own standards but as I said, this team needs experience and I think Roy will go down the same route.
Despite John Stones having a better pass accuracy and better average duels won stat than Gary Cahill, the youngster has made 4 defensive errors this term in the league and at the international level in a major tournament England simply cannot afford defensive slip ups.
Gary Cahill gets the nod from me over John Stones and seems to be motivated to undo his poor performances at the 2014 World Cup, this week stating; “I have never been as hungry to go. I want to make it right” when discussion Euro 2016.
Danny Rose Left Back
3 England caps
After a solid season with Spurs, Danny Rose has to be England’s starting left-back in France. This is perhaps the easiest selection for Roy Hodgson this summer as Rose has come on leaps and bounds in his last few Premier League seasons.
Due to the fact that I firmly believe Ryan Bertrand will be dropped from the current 26 man squad by manager Roy Hodgson, Danny Rose has hardly any competition for his spot at left-back at Euro 2016, even though Nathaniel Clyne can play there if needed.
Danny Rose has excelled this season, he’s been solid, put in some huge performances for Tottenham and has kept a high level of consistency throughout his 24 appearances in the league during his sides 2015/16 campaign. With only 1 key defensive error to his name this term he has improved the defensive side of his game substantially whilst still obtaining the traits needed to move forward from the full back slot. Creating 24 chances for his teammates in the Premier League this year, Rose’s lightning pace and ability to deliver a quality ball into the box will worry any defender he is put up against at Euro 2016.
Eric Dier Central defensive midfielder
5 England caps
Eric Dier is a fantastic addition to this England squad and could well prove to be one of our country’s key players in France next month. Making his debut for England back in November of last year, Eric Dier only has five caps to his name so far for his country but offers the national side something they have been missing for a long time, an anchor man in midfield. The Tottenham man can play as a central defender if needed too.
Enjoying a break out season with Spurs this year, Eric Dier has had an exceptional season and is already growing into one of England’s best prospects alongside teammate Dele Alli. Joining Tottenham for only £4 million from Sporting Lisbon in 2014, Dier has made 65 appearances for the London side, 37 of them coming in the league this term.
Dier’s presence in this England side is crucial as it allows our forward players the freedom they need, he’s a player that England have missed in recent times to some extent. With the ability to both go forward when needed and stay back defensively, Eric Dier has created some 18 chances for his Tottenham team mates this season in the league whilst suffering 0 key defensive mistakes. The defensive midfielder managed 3 goals for Spurs this year and scored the winner in England’s recent comeback win in Berlin against World champions Germany.
Eric Dier has to start in France at Euro 2016.
Danny Drinkwater Central midfielder
2 England caps
When it comes to international football, form is vital and nobody has been more in-form than central midfielder Danny Drinkwater this season. After all he is a Premier League champion with Leicester City.
Drinkwater is a complete, all-round central midfielder who enjoys both influencing the game going forward but is also prepared to put the effort in to get back and help his respective side out defensively. This year he enjoyed 78% pass accuracy on average and created 44 chances for the likes of Riyad Mahrez and fellow England international Jaime Vardy at Leicester City. As mentioned before he is not scared of tracking back and breaking up opposition play when needed and this season in the league made on average 4 defensive actions per game. His red card against Manchester United at Old Trafford highlights his rash decision making at times though, something Roy should be wary of.
Dele Alli Central midfielder
7 England caps
What an absolute star Dele Alli is. Claiming the ‘Young Player of the Year’ award in the Premier League this season, won by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale previously, Dele Alli has enjoyed one of the best breakout seasons in Premier League history. Influential in an attacking midfield role, Alli has lit up the league this season with some fantastic man of the match performances for Tottenham and arguably scored the goal of the season against Crystal Palace with an exquisite flick and volley finish from outside the penalty area.
Looking at the stats, Dele Alli managed an impressive 10 goals and 9 assists from midfield this season for Spurs in 33 league appearances as well as two further assists in his 7 Europa League starts.
Dele Alli is English footballs brightest talent right now, simple as that.
In this formation it can be expected that Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney would casually swap positions during the match from time to time.
Wayne Rooney (C) Central attacking midfielder
109 England caps
England’s captain and record goal scorer but arguably one of the players least wanted in England’s starting XI at Euro 2016 according to most fans. Wayne Rooney has suffered a major slip in form over the past couple of seasons and has rarely lived up to the standard of football the Manchester United forward once dazzled the Premier League with.
However Wayne Rooney’s position in the England squad is interesting. In a recent press conference he stated that he saw himself more as a central midfielder than a striker nowadays after a few recent positive performances for the Red Devils in a central role. Rightly so. This season Rooney can’t be compared to Harry Kane and Jaime Vardy going forward due to the sheer amount of goals the pair has in comparison but his influence is still there. Wayne is an extremely hard working player and since he lost that extra bit of pace, his defensive displays have become much stronger. His vast international experience is vital too as this England side lacks in their sheer amount of England caps.
In my opinion Wayne Rooney has more drive than Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere to name but a few and due to his nature as England’s highest ever goal scorer and captain, it would be foolish to drop him going into a major tournament. His 7 goals in our Euro 2016 qualifiers show he still has an eye for goal.
As mentioned before his positioning in this formation if it were to be adopted by Roy Hodgson would be flexible as him and Dele Alli would frequently swap positions during matches.
Jamie Vardy Striker
6 England caps
Mr Roy of the Rovers himself, Jamie Vardy has brought a fresh of breath air with him into the England set up. His true underdog story has inspired a nation and his inclusion in the England squad has excited many a fan since his debut against Ireland back in June last year. On his day Jaime Vardy can be lethal, best highlighted with his 24 goals for new Premier League champions Leicester City in his 36 league appearances this year. Jaime Vardy finished as the second highest scorer in the Prem this season coming only second to England partner and Spurs striker Harry Kane.
Vardy has all the key attributes a forward needs to succeed at the highest level. His pace is electric; his finishing is magnificent whilst his decision making is strong for a forward. As well as his 24 league goals for Leicester, Vardy further assisted on 6 occasions and created a further 40 chances this season for the Midlands side. Vardy had a total of 93 attempts on goal this season with 57% of those efforts landing on target, a higher percentage than Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. The striker is not shy to get his foot stuck in either, winning 37% of his duels this term which for a forward is very good reading.
With 4 goals in his last 4 England matches Vardy could prove to be England’s talisman in France. In this selection I fully believe that Jaime Vardy compliments Harry Kane very well and could form an explosive partnership with his England colleague at the European Championships in June.
Harry Kane Striker
11 England caps
Last but not least comes Tottenham forward Harry Kane. The striker, who largely carried Spurs to their highest ever Premier League finish, has been in scintillating form this season once again. With 25 goals in 38 league appearances, Harry Kane deservedly grabbed this seasons Premier League golden boot award from under the nose of England counterpart Jaime Vardy.
Over the last two seasons no player in the Premier League has scored more goals than Kane who has 46 goals in 70 league appearances for Spurs. His impressive goal scoring record has led many a football fan and critic alike to believe that Kane will overtake Alan Shearer for the title of most Premier League goals later on in his career. With 124 attempts at goal over the course of the 2015/16 EPL campaign, with a 60% shots on target ratio, it is evident that the Spurs forward is not shy in front of goal. At the international level the talisman has further impressed since making his debut against Lithuania last March, scoring on five occasions in only 11 matches for England’s first team.
Alongside Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane could be prolific; the pair complement each other perfectly. Kane is a complete centre forward. He has the finishing, the height, the strength and the composure that all world class forwards need and with the Tottenham man still only at the young age of 22, Harry Kane has a very bright future ahead of him for the England team.
With the news that broke on Sunday evening regarding a takeover at Valley Parade, the club has ushered in a new start and hopefully a new exciting era under new ownership. Although details are still sceptical on the takeover and our two new German based owners a keen sense of intrigue has been widely felt among Bantams fans.
First of all we have to thank the Rhodes family and Mark Lawn for their help in stabilising our great club. The significance of both Rhodes and Lawn cannot be overlooked. The amount of time, effort and investment the pair have put into Bradford City saved a club that was tumbling down the football league pyramid, it’s as simple as that. Julian Rhodes especially deserves credit. Taking full charge of City back in 2002 the Rhodes family inherited a club leaking money after the Premier League overspend during Richmond’s time with the club, picked up the pieces and built the club from the ground up, all whilst risking their own livelihood. A phenomenally selfless act that not too many fans truly know about.
Julian Rhodes is further responsible for the way that the club changed their philosophy on season ticket pricing, an aspect of the club still hugely appreciated by their own fans and widely admired across the whole of the British footballing landscape. It was a fantastic idea at first from Julian Rhodes to introduce the £138 ticket offer back then at the start of the 2007-2008 season at a time where the club was struggling in general and was lacking any real support as the Bantams plummeted through the football league but he leaves Valley Parade knowing that his idea was a complete success and a key aspect as to how the club has grown in recent times.
Our new chairmen come in the form of Stefan Rupp and Edin Rahic after the German based businessmen reportedly bought Bradford City for a fee in the region of £6 million according to reports. As of yet information on both individuals is scarce and it is thought that their involvement in the footballing world before is lacking although Rahic was a scout for a short while at Bundesliga side VFB Stuttgart. It is being said that Edin Rahic currently owns a recruitment company in the German city of Munich whilst Stefan Rupp’s background is in the world of manufacturing and helicopter seats. Our friends at Width Of A Post understand that as part of the takeover deal, the pair want James Mason to stay on for continuity and for his expertise in the club.
Every Bradford City supporter has their own set of changes they want to see at the club with this takeover and rightly so as football is a sport where different opinions are always welcomed. Personally I believe our football club is functioning very well at present although I further think that investment has been needed. The low season ticket prices work for both fans and the club alike whilst on the pitch under Phil Parkinson and his coaching team, our status is only growing; enjoying improved league finishes every season under the manager during his time at Valley Parade.
First of all as most City fans will agree the new investors have to keep the faith in manager Phil Parkinson. Parkinson has driven this club forward, with the help of Rhodes and Lawn, on every possible occasion. Under his leadership Bradford fans have seen history made on more than a few occasions with the Capital One Cup run and final appearance of 2013, the FA Cup wins against Chelsea and Sunderland last season and the League Two play-off victory of 2013 against Northampton. With Parkinson at the helm the excitement of the fans is heightened due to the clubs recent history and if our new investors first move was to replace him, Rupp and Rahic wouldn’t be welcomed by fans in the manner that all involved should want. As we’ve seen over Phil’s time with the club, stability is key to success in football.
The concept of cheaper season tickets needs to be kept too. Our club has thrived this season once again under the brilliant £149 season ticket deal, bringing in some 18,000 season ticket holders which for a League One club is an unbelievable feat and has massively improved the atmosphere around the club and the city in general. It gives the team on the pitch a better chance of winning in my opinion with the huge support they receive coming out of the tunnel at Valley Parade and a clear advantage over travelling opposing teams. It must be said though that I do support any decision by the club to increase season ticket prices if we are promoted in the coming seasons by a small percentage as extra revenue is always vital to any clubs success.
Going forward with our new German investors, I among other City fans would love to finally see some money transfers and signings made by the Bantams. Ever since our drop from the Premier League back in 2001 the club has spent little to no money on transfer fees despite selling some key players during that time such as Nahki Wells to Huddersfield and so on. What better way to introduce yourself to a new fan base than to splash the cash and bring in some talented players. Imagine if we were the club to be loaning out stars like Lee Evans, Reece Burke and Josh Cullen in the coming years..
Lastly I would love for our youth setup to be upgraded as I feel that it’s an aspect of the club that is sometimes overlooked. For a club based in a city with an estimated population of around 528,000, the fourth largest metropolitan district in the country, not enough youngsters are brought through the youth set up at Valley Parade. The Bantams have brought some talented players to light through their youth recruitment in the past in players such as Andre Wisdom, Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverley however none of those mentioned actually went on to make an appearance for the first team at Bradford. The volume of quality youth players still lacks massively at the club and should be a concern for a team with ambitions of reaching the Championship next term. Mistakes seem to occur at the club in terms of letting youth players leave too soon as well. Take Matty Foulds as an example, the 18 year old full back left the Bantams at the end of last season, moved to Bury, made a few first team appearances for them then was recently sold to Premier League side Everton for a decent fee. For me this is an area of the club that needs to be upgraded urgently and should be a focus for our new chairmen.
It must be said too that I wouldn’t half mind the club selling Bratwursts at half time either along with some crisp German beer instead of a half warm crappy pint of Carlsberg..
In all seriousness though of course the thought of new owners can be a daunting experience however everyone should agree in the fact that this club desperately needed some form of investment to carry on its journey back towards the upper echelons of English football.
With the likes of young English Premier League stars such as Dele Alli securing much of the recent footballing limelight thanks to his impressive performances for both Spurs and England, we take a look at five more promising talents England has to offer that have perhaps been flying under the radar until this current season.
To start off in a somewhat biased manner due to the fact I am a Bantams supporter of 15 plus years, we have 19 year old central defender Reece Burke first up on the list. The 6ft 2in West Ham centre half whom has been on loan at League One side Bradford City for most of the season is enjoying a fantastic loan period with the Bantams as an influential figure in their push for promotion to the Championship next season. Featuring in 30 league games so far this term, scoring twice in the process, Burke is enjoying his time with the West Yorkshire side as he looks to gain valuable playing experience for his future career. With him potentially taking the ‘Player of the season’ award at Valley Parade which has recently commenced it’s not difficult to see why the young defender is being touted as a future England star.
With a similar playing style to that of Everton star John Stones, Reece Burke has fantastic positioning and strength for a young lad and further possesses great footballing prowess for his age. An old head on young shoulders, Burke is comfortable in possession and regularly dribbles the ball calmly out of the back line to alleviate pressure on his team.
From defence to attack and next up on the list is 19 year old striker Adam Armstrong. Currently on loan at League One side Coventry City from parent club Newcastle United, Armstrong has enjoyed a successful season with the Sky Blues which has seen him net on 19 occasions since his loan spell began with the Midlands side back in August.
A fast and tricky forward, Adam Armstrong has already represented England at the U16, U17, U18 and U19 levels making a combined total of 39 appearances, netting 23 goals in them. Touted as a ‘natural born goalscorer’ by most of those who have seen him in action, Armstrong’s mixture of pace and agility is enough to cause any defence a problem.
His impressive displays have not gone unnoticed by his parent side Newcastle United who this season have reportedly come close to bringing him back to St James’ Park to help the club in their own battle against Premier League relegation. If the likely scenario is to play out and Newcastle are relegated to the Championship at the end of the season expect to see Adam Armstrong leading the line in a Newcastle shirt next year.
Ben Chilwell is another England star in the making. Still only 19 years old, the left-back currently plies his trade with runaway Premier League leaders Leicester City and is a product of the Midlands side academy. Winning Leicester’s Academy Player of the Year award at the end of the 2014–15 season, Chilwell has gone on to make a handful of appearances for the side so far this term in both the League and FA Cup.
It was during his loan spell with Championship side Huddersfield Town however where the youngster shone this term. Making eight appearances in his short spell with the Yorkshire outfit, Chilwell put in some solid displays for the Terriers under manager David Wagner. Wagner was so impressed with the youngster during his stay at the John Smith’s stadium that the German himself put in a good word to fellow coach and former Dortmund friend Jürgen Klopp whom is now proposing a transfer to Liverpool for the young left-back.
Already short-listed for the Football League Young Player of the Year, Rico Henry has had a fantastic first full season for League One outfit Walsall. Making 37 appearances in all competitions for the Saddlers so far this season, Henry has been a key member for the Midlands side in their quest for promotion come the end of this term.
Likened to both former England internationals Ashley Cole and Kenny Sansom in regards to his playing style, left-back Rico Henry is small in height standing at 5ft 10in but is both extremely quick and agile. In defence the full back gets stuck in when necessary, is calm in possession of the ball and has the ability to both run and dribble out from the back. Going forward his pace gives him the possibility of taking on players when possible and his two goals from left-back this term for Walsall prove that Henry can finish when in the position to do so.
Already being watched by some of the top English teams including likely Premier League champions Leicester, Arsenal and Tottenham among others, Rico Henry has a very bright future ahead of him.
Even though Kemar Roofe turned 23 back in January, the Oxford striker is still considered a fine young English talent whom has largely been ignored since his early days at West Bromwich Albion. With his Oxford United side vying for promotion from League Two and his recent fantastic performance at Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final against Barnsley, Roofe is now being courted by some of the biggest clubs in English football thanks to another impressive season from the forward.
Over the past couple of seasons with Oxford, the young striker has lit up League Two with some stunning strikes and some top drawer performances. This season alone Roofe has managed to bag himself 25 goals in all competitions and is now reportedly firmly on the radar of teams such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Sunderland to name but a few.
With the ability to play both as an out-and-out striker and as an attacking midfielder, Roofe has made 62 appearances for the U’s over his two spells with the League Two club. In those 63 appearances for Oxford United, the pacey forward has bagged himself 31 goals in all competitions, a fantastic return from Kemar Roofe.
I can’t really believe how quickly our fortunes have turned around this season. From the absolutely woeful performance and loss against Colchester at Valley Parade back on the first day of March I thought there was no hope and I don’t think anyone was quite expecting us to be within a shout of automatic promotion come the end of the League One season. Sitting just six points behind second placed Burton with five games left to play and fifteen points still up for grabs, the Bantams are gunning for a second placed finish and a return to Championship football next term.
First of all, for those mumbling and pointing out that we’re not even guaranteed a play-off position, I know and I understand your concerns but with only five games remaining, an eight point gap to Barnsley in seventh even though they have a game in hand on us and a similar goal difference to the Tykes, we’re looking highly likely to obtain a top six finish in League One this season. Further if you factor in each clubs remaining fixtures it is very unlikely that Barnsley are able to catch us but then again, anything can happen in football.
It has to be said too that we’re not the only ones breathing down the neck of Burton Albion who are currently sat in second place, Millwall currently sit a point behind us on 69 whilst Gillingham and Walsall are situated on 68 points but both have games in hand, one fixture versus each other this midweek.
First of all lets assess the five teams remaining fixtures:
If you’re ranking how difficult each teams remaining fixtures are then Burton have to go top. Already somewhat out of form the Brewers start with a visit from in-form Barnsley then face probable champions Wigan the week after at which stage City could have leap frogged them into second place if we defeat lowly Shrewsbury and an out of form Coventry in our two fixtures and turn around the goal difference. Burton also face a tough home match against Gillingham in between two difficult away matches versus Doncaster and Colchester, both of whom are fighting for League One survival.
On the other hand you’d have to say that Millwall probably have the ‘easiest’ run in. The South Londoners should overcome Coventry and Bury with relative ease but they too face difficult home encounters against teams fighting for survival in Oldham and Fleetwood. The Lions also face Gillingham at the Priestfield on the last day of the season which could potentially be a huge match if both teams are still battling for second spot themselves.
Walsall are somewhat sitting pretty right now with their two games in hand but in football you would always rather have the points on the board as City have and as a result they sit in sixth despite having to play extra matches versus Gillingham and Shrewsbury. Whilst Gillingham too have a mixed bag of fixtures left with big games against Walsall, Burton and Millwall, a difficult trip to in-form Rochdale and two games against Port Vale and Shrewsbury.
If you’re a betting man, you’d probably go with City at this point as the outsiders with the now decent odds of grabbing second position. Over the last eight matches in League One Bradford have taken the most points from what has been available grabbing five wins and suffering just one loss, an unfortunate 1-0 loss to Wigan at the DW Stadium. Since then however the Bantams have won four straight matches in the league all by a 1-0 score line proving that they can grind out wins even when not necessarily playing at their best. The main problem comes in the form of goal difference for Bradford. The Bantams sit on +9, a decent total but nowhere near that of all the other teams involved. As the league currently stands it basically makes the gap to Burton Albion seven points rather than six, a tough ask then if we are to overcome them.
Something that is interesting is the fact that all five teams involved in the push for second place have to face at least one rival during the remainder of the season and some have to face each other on more than one occasion still.
Maybe we have made our move to grab second place a little too late. If the gap sat at three points with five games left then I’d say we would probably be favourites over Burton Albion due to both teams differing form but a six point gap could be difficult to overcome irregardless of how difficult Burton’s remaining fixtures are compared to ours.
Current odds for promotion from League One this season:
The two tables below represent what my best case and worst case scenarios for Bradford result in over the coming weeks. For both I’ve entered the results I believe Bradford will get in their remaining fixtures. All other opposition results are based on recent form and are entered by the website itself.
The table above represents our best case scenario in my opinion. It has us taking four wins out of our last five League One matches. This set of results would see us winning our huge match against Walsall at Valley Parade but would see us lose away to Coventry next mid-week. Regarding the Walsall fixture, I believe we can take all three points from that game if we’re still in the same form as now as we usually win the big matches when they occur just like we have in our recent history in both the League Two play-offs and our major domestic cup runs.
This is the worst case scenario in my opinion. With our remaining fixtures, our fantastic form and a return to fitness for key players in the last few weeks, ten points is the minimum we should be aiming for from our last five league matches.
League form over the last ten matches
Over the last ten matches out of the five teams of concern, City have the best league form. With seven wins out of ten, the Bantams have picked up 22 points from a possible 30 and have conceded the fewest goals thanks to their tight defensive line whom have also kept seven clean sheets in the process. Milwall too have done well during their last ten matches as the Lions have only lost on one occasion but Gillingham, Burton and Walsall have seen a drop in form at the crucial time.
It’s perhaps surprising that out of the five teams Bradford are not the lowest scorers over their last ten matches. With 47 goals this season the Bantams are the lowest scorers overall but over their last ten they have managed 10 goals and to outscore or equal all Burton, Gillingham and Walsall respectively.
What we have to do for the final five matches?
The players need to just maintain the pressure on Burton. Despite struggling in some of our last four matches, especially against Swindon in the second half, we’ve managed to grind out four 1-0 wins in a row. The backline is extremely solid for this level, Burke and Clarke have been fantastic in recent weeks especially Nathan Clarke whom has stood in admirably in the absence of injured Rory McArdle. In the midfield Evans and Cullen have both excelled during their loan periods at Valley Parade and have the serious ability to change a game at the drop of a hat. On the wings we have a lot of depth, McMahon has shone this year and has back up in the form of Reid, Morris, Morais, Marshall and Anderson whilst up front we also have various options in Clarke, Proctor, Hanson, Davies and Thomas.
Rory McArdle this week has said that “if anyone at the top starts slipping up a little bit, without getting too far ahead of ourselves, we want to be in a position to take advantage.” He has also further hinted at the fact that he himself will stay away from obsessing over other results in the league for the remainder of the season. When asked about if he would be keeping up with other results the defender answered; “I’ll probably leave it be. I might have a little glance (at the scores) every now and again but it’s nothing we can control. We’ve got ourselves in a position now where it is in our hands. We’ve not really had that all season.”
As for the fans, well we have to stay calm and behind our team until the last kick of the season. We need to make Valley Parade a horrible, intimidating ground to visit for Walsall and Chesterfield especially Walsall in that huge game in two Saturdays time. Just remember that a few months ago we weren’t even expecting a play-off finish so the position we are in now is almost a sort of bonus that surely no one can complain about.
In my opinion this team can grab second spot from under the nose of Burton Albion. We have the form, we have the manager and we have the players and squad depth to make it happen. We need to take each came as it comes but with a lot of hard work over the last five games and a bit of luck, anything is still possible.
Support the team and we can achieve promotion together!