A bitter start to a new beginning at Bradford City

Well where do we start with this?

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.

Uwe Rosler

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.

Steve Evans

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?

Stuart McCall

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.

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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.

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.