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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Who are the real young stars of the European U21 Championship?

We take a look at the stand out players at this years European U21 Championship.

Domenico Berardi – Striker (Juventus)

Born in Cariati, Calabria, Berardi joined the youth academy of Cosenza at the age of 13, before moving to Sassuolo at the age of 16. Berardi there made his senior debut for Sassuolo on the 27th August 2012. In 2013, he was named Best Player of the Serie B and later was described as the “undoubted star of the Sassuolo side.”

Berardi

On the 2nd September 2013, Juventus confirmed that Berardi had joined the club on a co-ownership basis that saw Luca Marrone transfer in the opposite direction for a fee of €4.5 million. Since his move to the Italian giants Domenico Berardi has since moved back to Sassuolo on loan, bagging 31 goals in only 61 appearances.

So far in the Under-21 European Championship the 6ft 1in striker has managed to get his name on the scoresheet once in two games and has played well despite the Italian teams poor impact on the tournament so far.

Berardi is regarded as one of the most talented and promising young footballers of his generation.

Harry Kane – Striker (Tottenham)

A name familiar to followers of the English Premier League after his fantastic form this year, Harry Kane is an English international footballer who plays for Tottenham Hotspur and the England national team as a forward.

Kane

The striker born in Chingford has this season rose through the ranks at Tottenham and become a key player for the North London club. Scoring 31 goals in 51 appearances across all competitions this season, Kane was the Premier Leagues third top scorer, behind Segio Aguero and Diego Costa, and has since drawn similarities to German legend Jurgen Klinsmann in the way he plays. His form this season led to Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time top scorer, saying in March that Kane “seems to have that natural ability to get goals. He’s also young, fresh and his attitude appears to be very, very good…It looks as if he could have a very good future in the game.”

Kane has in fact represented England at all youth levels, playing for the under-17, under-19, under-20 and under-21 sides and managed to score on his senior international debut on 27 March 2015 vs Lithuania.

Kevin Volland – Attacking midfielder (Hoffenheim)

Kevin Volland is a 22 year old German footballer who plays as a winger for the Bundesliga side 1899 Hoffenheim.

Volland

Kevin Volland, previously at 1860 Munchen, moved to Hoffenheim in 2012 and has since shone at the German Bundesliga side. Throughout the 2012–13 season, Volland scored six goals and provided a further 12 assists. During the 2013–14 season, Volland improved his scoring total, registering nine goals and contributing a further eight assists. As a reward for his strong start with the club, Hoffenheim extended his contract on 28 July 2013, through 2017. Since then various Premier League clubs have been said to be interested in Kevin Volland including Liverpool and Manchester City.

Kevin Volland has scored 11 goals in 20 appearances for the German U21 national side and has so far managed to grab two goals and an assist in Germanys games vs Denmark and Serbia in the group stages at the European U21 Championship.

William Carvalho – Defensive midfielder (Sporting Lisbon)

William Carvalho is a Portuguese central defensive midfielder who currently plays for Sporting Lisbon in the Primeira Liga.

Carvalho

The 23 year old has been the subject of a £28.5 million transfer bid from Premier League runners up Arsenal already this summer and is also currently the subject of interest from Louis Van Gaal and Manchester United. Various media outlets are reporting that it is highly likely that William Carvalho will not be at the Estadio Jose Alvalade next season.

His strong performances so far at the U21 Championship, especially in his national sides game vs England, have warranted much praise from both fans and pundits alike. The midfielder further made two appearances at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for the full national Portugal team.

Max Meyer – Attacking midfielder (Schalke 04)

An upcoming star in the German top flight, Maxillian Meyer is a 19 year old, German footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder or as a forward for Bundesliga side Schalke 04.

Meyer

Max Meyer has starred at all levels in the German national youth set up. The young midfielder was part of the Germany under-17 squad for the 2012 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship in which he managed to score three goals and further helped Germany to reach the final which the side would eventual lose in a penalty shoot-out to the Netherlands. Regardless, Meyer was in fact top scorer at the tournament and was duly awarded ‘best player of the tournament’. Since then, Meyer was in fact included in the 30 man provisional senior squad for 2014 FIFA World Cup and later that year on the 13th May 2014 made his senior international debut against rivals Poland.

A player that has world class dribbling technique and abilities and possesses great pace and speed, Max Meyers playing style is usually compared to that of fellow German star Mario Götze and superstar Lionel Messi.

Max Meyer has appeared in both of Germanys games so far in this year’s European U21 Championship.

John Stones – Defender (Everton)

A commanding centre back for Premier League side Everton, John Stones is an upcoming English international talent well known to followers of the Premier League. Still only 21 years old, Stones can also play at right back if necessary.

Stones

John Stones signed a five and a half year deal with Everton on the 31st January 2013 for a transfer fee reported to be in the region of £3 million from then Championship side Barnsley. Stones made his league debut as a late substitute in a 1–0 home win over Chelsea in September 2013 and started his first Premier League game for Everton in a 1–1 away draw against Stoke City in January 2014. His impact during his early spell in the first team at the Merseyside club warranted a new 5-year contract that will keep him with Everton until 2019. It is widely believed that the contract is worth around £30,000 a week to the young English star. Since then John Stones has been linked with a transfer to both Premier League giants Manchester United and Manchester City.

Stones made his first senior England start in a friendly against Norway at Wembley Stadium on the 3rd September 2014 and five days later made his competitive debut in a 2–0 victory away to Switzerland.

John Stones is yet to feature in an England shirt so far in this year’s European U21 Championship finals.

Emre Can – Defensive midfielder (Liverpool)

Emre Can is a 20 year old, German footballer who plays for English club Liverpool as a natural central midfielder. Known for being a versatile football player, Emre Can can also play as a defensive midfielder, centre-back or full-back.

Emre Can began his career at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, playing mostly in its reserve side before transferring to Bayer Leverkusen in 2013. A season later, Brenden Rodgers brought the German youngster to Liverpool for a transfer fee of around £9.75 million, activating his release clause at Leverkusen. Emre Can has enjoyed a strong start at Liverpool despite playing at central defence under Rodgers, a position he is less natural to.

Can has represented Germany from Under-15 to Under-21 level but is yet to make his full debut for the German senior international side. Many football experts have compared him to fellow German midfielders Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger, because of his ability to attack and defend whilst playing in central midfield.

Can has played in both games so far for the under-21 team at the 2015 European Championship in the Czech Republic. In their opening game in Prague, Can scored with a 17th minute equaliser from the edge of the penalty area in a 1–1 draw against Serbia and has since assisted once in the country’s game vs Denmark.

Who will be Champions League victors, Barcelona or Juventus?

The 2015 UEFA Champions League Final will be the final match of the 2014–15 UEFA Champions League and the 60th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA. The final will be played at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany, on the 6th June 2015, between Italian side Juventus and Spanish side Barcelona.

The winners will also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2014–15 UEFA Europa League, Sevilla, in the 2015 UEFA Super Cup and will further qualify to enter the semi-finals of the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup as the UEFA representative.

The 2015 Champions League final is a battle between two major European powerhouses who this season have both won their individual domestic titles. Once again in the 2014/2015 season, Juventus eased to a fourth successive Serie A title in Italy with consistent performances both in the league and also at a European level where they defeated Barcelona’s rivals Real Madrid over two legs at the semi-final stage, 3-2 on aggregate. Barcelona too eased to the La Liga title in contrast to other tighter seasons in La Liga history as Luis Suarez, Neymar and of course Lionel Messi hit top form towards the end of the season. Barcelona beat Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregated to advance to the final in Berlin. Both Barcelona and Juventus have also won their respective domestic cups this season meaning that a win in the Champions League final for either side would see them complete a famous ‘treble’.

Possible line-up for Juventus:

Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, Vidal; Tévez, Morata.

Doubtful: Barzagli (thigh)
Out: Cáceres (ankle), Asamoah (knee), Rômulo (thigh).

With Andrea Barzagli doubtful for the Champions League final in Berlin and Marin Caceres out with an ankle injury, Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is relying on squad depth in defence to fill out his sides bench on Saturday evening in the German capital.

Possible line-up for Barcelona:

Ter Stegen; Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitić, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.

Unlike Massimiliano Allegri, Barceona manager Luis Enrique has a fully fit squad travelling to Berlin for Saturday nights Champions League final and is expected to pick the same team that has performed well throughout the season so far. His only selection headache is whether to use the experience of departing captain Xavi from the start in Berlin.

Where the game can be won and lost

Juventus’ defensive line will have to play exceptionally well to keep out Barcelona’s front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar who have been in sensational form for the Spanish giants this season. Star forward Lionel Messi has once again staked his claim as the best player in the world with a season of record breaking scoring. The Argentine has an incredible 58 goals in 56 appearances for the Catalan giants this season which has led to Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon claiming that Messi is in fact ‘extra-terrestrial’ hoping that the forward would ‘become human again’ on the 6th June 2015.

Can Juventus keep out Messi, Suarez and Neymar?
Can Juventus keep out Messi, Suarez and Neymar?

Not only do Juventus have to cope with Lionel Messi but Luis Suarez and winger Neymar as well. Although experiencing a slow start to his Barcelona career, Luis Suarez has thrived playing under the Camp Nou floodlights. Scoring 24 goals in 42 appearances for Barcelona, Suarez played a pivotal role in the teams semi-final against Bayern Munich where he set up both goals in the second leg of the match up to send the Spanish club to the final on Saturday night. Tricky Brazilian winger Neymar Jr has further been in scintillating form this campaign bagging 38 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions.

Unless Chellini and his back line for the Italian champions can deal to some extent with Messi, Suarez and Neymar then only a Barcelona win is surely conceivable in the Champions League final in Berlin on Saturday 6th June.

Prediction – 3-1 to Barcelona.