A new era at Valley Parade begins

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.

Julian Rhodes was the brains behind lower season ticket prices at Valley Parade. This season the club had over 18,000 season ticket holders, an English third division record.

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.

Phil Parkinson has enjoyed massive success with Bradford so far including a run to the Capital One Cup final, promotion from League Two and some fantastic wins in the FA Cup including the fantastic 4-2 comeback win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2014.
Phil Parkinson has enjoyed massive success with Bradford so far including a run to the Capital One Cup final, promotion from League Two and some fantastic wins in the FA Cup including the fantastic 4-2 comeback win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2014.

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.

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Can the Bantams really grab second spot?

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:

Burton fixtures: Barnsley (H) Wigan (H) Colchester (A) Gillingham (H) Doncaster (A)

Bradford fixtures: Shrewsbury (A) Coventry (A) Walsall (H) Southend (A) Chesterfield (H)

Gillingham fixtures: Walsall (H) Port Vale (H) Rochdale (A) Shrewsbury (H) Burton (A) Millwall (H)

Walsall fixtures: Gillingham (A) Southend (H) Swindon (H) Bradford (A) Shrewsbury (H) Fleetwood (H) Port Vale (A)

Millwall fixtures: Coventry (A) Fleetwood (H) Bury (A) Oldham (H) Gillingham (A)

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.

Bradford City have remaining home matches against Walsall and Chesterfield.
Bradford City have remaining home matches against Walsall and Chesterfield.

Current odds for promotion from League One this season:

Wigan – 1/100
Burton – 1/6
Walsall – 13/8
Bradford – 9/4
Millwall – 9/4
Gillingham – 5/2

My predicted League One tables

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.

League One table (end) 2

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

Form table League One

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.

Burke

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!

An attacking central midfielder should be top of the transfer target list for Bradford City this January

Recently I wrote an article for ‘Width Of A Post’ referring to my opinions and thoughts on what areas of the team Phil Parkinson and the board should look at improving during the January transfer window and one of the positions I outlined was the central midfield. During that article I voiced my concerns on a lack of creativity through the central midfield as one of the direct reasons as to why the team has struggled to score many goals so far this term, especially when playing at Valley Parade. For some reason Bradford City sides have always somewhat struggled in the league at Valley Parade but I think with an exciting, consistent play-maker who gets the 18,000 home fans on their feet, we can turn it into a fortress for the rest of the season. In my opinion Billy Knott can be that player on occasions as he’s one of the most technically gifted and passionate players we currently have however he lacks the consistence that a play-off fighting team needs in the centre of the park.

First of all it has to be said that the expansion of Lee Evans’ loan until the end of the season courtesy of Wolverhampton Wanderers came as a fantastic piece of news due to the importance he has for our club in that commanding central position. Many would agree that so far this season it is clear to see and state that Evans has been one of our best and most consistent performers when called upon and his ability to play a pass is second to none in this league once he gets going.

The acquisition of Lee Evans on loan from Wolves has been vital for Bradford City so far this season
The acquisition of Lee Evans on loan from Wolves has been vital for Bradford City so far this season

Other midfielders in the squad have largely struggled for form this season in general however. We currently have four recognised central midfielders in our squad in the shape of Christopher Routis, Billy Knott, Gary Liddle and Lee Evans. As mentioned before Lee Evans has been influential for the team this season as he’s always looking to bring the ball down and play it around. Despite only scoring twice and assisting once this term so far, he has been a fantastic addition to the squad and the extension of his loan until the end of the season is a massive boost in terms of our play-off ambition. In my opinion in both home and away matches Lee Evans should be starting as many games as possible because he has that eye for a key pass and certainly has the ability to make it.

Christopher Routis has only made ten appearances this season for the Bantams, six in the league and four in the cup competitions but has looked solid in my opinion when called upon. Whether playing centre back or in a defensive midfield position, Routis has come into the squad when needed this year and played well however the dilemma lays here as to whether you play him or Gary Liddle because there’s not enough room in the team for both. In my mind with a lack of creativity in the central midfield department maybe Parkinson should be looking to let one of these players go. Speculation has Liddle moving away from Valley Parade this summer and after the Oldham match on Saturday the boss stated that interest had been registered from at least one team, since revealed to be League Two side Carlisle. In my opinion letting go of Liddle would be a poor decision. For me Liddle represents the better option in the centre of the park out of himself and Routis, he has strength, the passing ability, fantastic tackling and also chips in with goals every now and again, scoring three times this season so far.

Gary Liddle still has an important role to play at Valley Parade.
Gary Liddle still has an important role to play at Valley Parade.

When you look at our central midfielders we only have one real attacking option, Billy Knott. Making 22 appearances so far, Knott has managed a single goal in the cup and only three assists all term. To compare that to similar players that our ‘rivals’ have, those teams also vying for a play-off place, we don’t have a central midfielder capable of dictating the game and contributing both with goals and assists. Bradley Dack of Gillingham has 13 goals and nine assists so far this term whilst Michael Jacobs of Wigan has 8 goals and four assists, we massively lack a player of that ability in the centre of the park. These two examples are just two out of many in League One this year that are out playing our whole central midfield selection and that’s worrying. It can easily be argued that one of the main reasons for the lack of goals this season is the fact that the central midfielders have offered very little going forward this season and as a result of that we have created few clear cut chances during matches so far this campaign.

In my opinion, there’s a hole in our team this season that needs addressing this January if we’re going to push on towards the end of the season and take a play-off place come May. I seriously believe that the four main strikers we have in Hanson, Clarke, Cole and Davies when he returns from injury are good enough to propel us into that play-off equation if we bring in a creative midfielder. In my mind generate money through letting either Routis or Liddle go, even though I am a fan of both it’s just the case of the situation where we don’t really need both players and send Luke James back to Posh because it’s not working out. On the back of that then spend that money going big in this department because I really think that we need to shake it up in the midfield going into the second half of the season. We don’t have enough attacking inspiration in central midfield and in the long run, this really could be our short fall.

Results are results but fans want to be entertained at the same time which has lacked this season for the Bantams. As a result no Bradford fan can whole heartedly say that we’ve played exciting football this season especially at Valley Parade and I genuinely believe that if Parkinson brings in an attacking central midfielder our play style will start to evolve. If we sign a player that is capable of running at defences along with our attackers and wingers we will see that the ‘long ball’ style which has been overly used so far will eventually regress to a lower level of use as we will have that central midfielder that we’re lacking, a player that links our attack and defence together cohesively. I’m not having a go at how we play on the whole but to have the ability in the team to mix it up and to keep the opposition guessing would be very helpful because on occasions this season we’ve been too predictable and we’ve been found out over it.

If we can’t obtain a new attacking central midfielder in the January transfer window I would start to partner Gary Liddle with Lee Evans. This partnership would work well in my opinion if Parkinson plays Evans as a free roaming playmaker as with Liddle covering it means Evans can get forward more often and with his fantastic passing ability he is more than capable of setting up key scoring chances, the type of chances that have been few and far between this season.

On the whole this season we’ve proved we are one of the better teams in the league and are more than capable of obtaining a play-off place come May. Our defence is solid, the third best in League One, and with a few tweaks we can become a real force in the second half of the season if we start creating and finishing more chances.

Capital One Cup: Quarter Final Preview

Tonight see’s the return of this years Capital One Cup campaign with three of the four quarter final matches kicking off at 19:45. The three matches in the competition tonight see three in-form Championship sides face tough tasks in playing Manchester City, Everton and Stoke respectively with Southampton taking on Liverpool at St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday night.

Although nothing is certain in cup competitions in England as upsets are becoming common place in the various different tournaments that are played out throughout the course of the season, I can only envisage three wins for the Premier League sides in tonight’s showdowns.

MANCHESTER CITY VS HULL CITY

In positive news for fans of the Manchester outfit, Manchester City playmaker David Silva could make his first start in nearly two months in the League Cup quarter-final against Hull. The Spaniard came on as a late substitute in City’s last outing against Southampton in the Premier League last Saturday.

David Silva could start for the first time in two months.
David Silva could start for the first time in two months.

As for their opposition, Hull sit fourth in the Championship after a very strong start to the season in which Steve Bruce’s side have conceded the fewest goals, alongside Derby County, in the league. Despite this, the Tigers will be without experienced centre back Michael Dawson who is struggling to overcome a hamstring injury.

Michael Dawson is out for Hull. Will his experience be missed in the heart of their defence?
Michael Dawson is out for Hull. Will his experience be missed in the heart of their defence?

Manchester City boss Pellegrini: “Maybe for teams that are out of some competitions – the Champions League or the Capital One Cup – it is easier to play in the Premier League. But we always want to continue in all the competitions.”

Hull boss Steve Bruce: “We have got to have the belief that we can go and take them on. Last year in the Premier League we caused them a few problems. Up until Friday we hadn’t been beaten for four months. We’ve had a really consistent run – we’ve only lost three out of 22 games, and so we can feel a bit confident.”

Although I fully expect Hull to play a tough game and make it difficult for the Premier League leaders, Manchester City should overcome the Championship outfit at the Etihad Stadium tonight. Manuel Pellegrini will recognise that with the other ‘bigger’ teams already out of the tournament, the opportunity presents itself here for Manchester City to take the first piece of silverware on offer this season.

MIDDLESBROUGH VS EVERTON

Aitor Karanka has a full-strength Boro squad to choose from after their 2-0 win over Huddersfield on Saturday. Striker Cristhian Stuani could make his first start since he recovered from an injury sustained on international duty. Middlesbrough are currently second placed in the Championship this season and are one of the free scoring teams in the second tier of English football. The side from the North-East also beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the last sixteen round of the competition and will be confident after their success against the Red Devils.

Middlesbrough beat Manchester United on penalties to reach tonight's quarter final tie.
Middlesbrough beat Manchester United on penalties to reach tonight’s quarter final tie.

Roberto Martinez will give James McCarthy (groin) and Gareth Barry (shin) late fitness checks ahead of the League Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough. The Toffees boss has also confirmed keeper Joel Robles will start in goal.

Ross Barkley has been in impressive form for Everton this season. Could he help the Merseysiders win the cup this season?
Ross Barkley has been in impressive form for Everton this season. Could he help the Merseysiders win the cup this season?

Middlesbrough boss Karanka, whose side have beaten Manchester City and Manchester United in cup competitions in the last two seasons: “That can be our biggest problem – to think that because we beat Manchester City and Manchester United and played well against Liverpool and Arsenal, the game will be easy. The reason we did well against those teams is that we worked hard for 90 minutes or more. Just because we are close to the top of the table and we beat Manchester United in the last round and we’re playing at home and will be feeling the atmosphere, to be over-confident would be a big mistake.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez: “In this competition I don’t think divisional status gives you a benefit. You need to be ready for the game with a clear understanding of how to perform. Clearly the mentality in our camp is to be ready – we can’t not be ready after the feeling at the weekend [drew 3-3 at Bournemouth].”

Along a similar vein to Manchester City vs Hull City, I think Middlesbrough will play well against their Premier League opposition but I fully expect Everton’s class to shine through and win the game for Roberto Martinez and the teams travelling supporters. Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley are in great form for the Merseyside club and if they feature in the match, I can only see an away win.

STOKE CITY VS SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

Stoke City will be without skipper Ryan Shawcross for the League Cup quarter-final visit of Sheffield Wednesday after he was dismissed in his sides loss to Sunderland last weekend. Mark Hughes will also be without goalkeeper Shay Given (knee) and centre back Marc Muniesa (hamstring) for this Capital One cup tie.

Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross was dismissed at the weekend against Sunderland.
Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross was dismissed at the weekend against Sunderland.

Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal has only one injury to contend with as the Yorkshire sides manager is without key midfielder Barry Bannan (knee) for the trip to the Potteries who has been in great form this season for the Owls.

Sheffield Wednesday outclassed Arsenal in the last round of the Capital One cup.
Sheffield Wednesday outclassed Arsenal in the last round of the Capital One cup.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes: “We won’t underestimate Sheffield Wednesday in any way, shape or form. If you look at their progression in the competition they have beaten two Premier League sides already. We’re at home and when the draw was made if we’re honest enough we can say they were one of the teams we wanted to have. You can’t argue about that. If we’re going to progress it should be in our favour.”

Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carvalhal: “It will be cold and there will be rain probably. It’s not a good day to go to the football. There will be 4,000 fans in the rain and cold and they pay for a ticket to see us play. This means we must play to them. It happened at Blackburn on Saturday and it will happen again. We must play to all the fans. We will give 300%, give everything on the pitch and we will do that.”

In my opinion this will be the closest tie of the night in the Capital One cup as Sheffield Wednesday have already dumped Newcastle and Arsenal out of the competition en route to the quarter final stage this season. However much like the other two encounters tonight I think that the Premier League side will have a narrow advantage and expect Stoke City’s Premier League class to shine through on the night.