Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp
The German duo seem to be running a cohesive ship at the moment. Investment in players, backing of the manager, and they appear to have an understanding of how Bradford City works as a club and a community. Rupp and Rahic have forked out for a few players, even mid season to make that final push, and seem to be investing in a squad for the long term, that for me also shows they are looking to build a stronger club than the one they have walked into. Some may argue that the money they have been spending is the money from Hanson, Wisdom and the promotion of Huddersfield Town re: Wells, but after the tax man had his share, would those fees have paid for the squad McCall and Abbot have built?
Stuart McCall and Greg Abbott
We seem to be in a very fortunate position, we have got 2 highly respected managers working for the club and they both have the club at heart. McCall some may argue worked on the back of the foundations of Parkinson, irrespective how much of an influence Parkinson was last season, McCall can definitely hold his head up high and say job well done. Abbott is a manager I highly respect and rate and to have him on board helping McCall is definitely a massive bonus in my eyes, and I am sure deep down Stuart would prefer to spend more time with the squad as he can. McCall will be judged on this coming season, apart from McMahon, every single player will be a McCall/Abbott signing. Stuart did wonders with Marshall last season, you can’t fault his man management at all, and with a younger squad, that can be a double edged sword, if he keeps young heads in check, there very well could be a few smiles come May 2018. McCall is City through and through, and not taking away from Parkinson’s achievements and contribution, his achievements would be more personal whereas McCall, if he wins, it will be City winning, not him. Lest we forget to mention, the most important, continuity, I’m never a fan of sacking managers, never, the club has shown Stuart support quashing rumours, and so they should. He has earned a right to continue the work he has started, and started well.
19000 season tickets sold
With a voracious Bantam backing, McCall’s side will have a fearsome 11th man, we are one of the best supported clubs in the 3rd division, and some away games can feel like a home game, I am sure we could fill some away grounds if clubs wanted to get bums on seats rather than limiting numbers and their own pockets. With a massive backing can be a massive kick up the back side, at times City supporters can get on the backs of our own players all too easy, but on the other hand, when the chips are down, the 11th man can change a game in our favour. Whatever happens in these coming months, our players and opponents will definitely hear the Bantams.
Let’s look at this in a positive light, you can argue nothing beats experience, but how true is that? Could Ian Rush run rings around Charlie Wyke even at his age? He is more experienced after all if you are looking at things in black and white. Could George Foreman beat a young and lighter Eubank Jr? Probably not, but sure he can if you use the ‘more experienced’ single minded argument. So let’s look at youth as a positive, with youth we should have a fitter squad, players that can run that extra yard, injuries, when people are younger, they heal quicker so could we see less players joining Kilgallon in the Dr’s office? Younger athletes tend to be hungrier, finding that extra energy from the bottom of their stomachs, players in their physical peak and players wanting to prove themselves and moving forward in a tough industry. As history shows, if you don’t make it at Valley Parade, none league beckons at best. It is about mindset, and this will be down to the manager to keep young heads in check. I’ve referred to Huddersfield Town a few times before, they got it right bleeding their youth into the squad over the past couple of decades, look at them now.
Our forward line up
I may have been negative about a couple of our signings, but as a group, our attacking players have pace, this can run defences ragged. If Jones fails to score for example, get on Poleon or vice versa, Wyke struggles, get on Taylor. Both Jones and Wyke had a very positive 2016/17 scoring quite a few goals between them before and after joining City. We have players that know where the net is, and we’re backing that up with speed. I don’t care if we use the long ball tactic or pass it about with a few through balls, if we can get a player around and behind anyone’s defence and score, it’s City cheering. We may have struggled with putting the chances away last season, but the forwards we have will start from the off with City. Taylor will add a bit of focus upfront and Poleon a bit of strength and speed, so rather looking at what they may lack in what we would like in signings, look at what they can add. Hand on heart, I believe our forward line up is stronger than it was this time last year and I was a massive Hanson fan. If we score or not, one thing is for sure, teams will have to earn the right to stop us for 90 minutes.
Losing the triple M
Marshall wanted to be nearer to his roots, Meredith wanted to play at a higher level and has done for a few seasons and McArdle wanted more money. These 3 players were great players for City, but we also failed with these three players, TWICE, so is it all doom and gloom losing players that were unable to take us further? Meredith has been distracted at times with transfer rumours at higher levels, maybe he knew in the play off final promotion wasn’t a be all and end all, after all he could just jump ship. McArdle has been a marvellous player for us the past half decade and a lot of our success has to be put on his doorstep, but has the football world seen the best of him? At times he struggled to get into the starting 11, so again, should we shed a tear and drown our sorrows that we have lost a good player because he wants to play for the money and not for our club? Marshall was a 1 season wonder, let’s not forget he wasn’t all that before last season, but you really can’t knock his contribution at all last season, you really can’t and I was a bit gutted he left if I am honest, but with him feeling home sick, could he have had a 2nd season at the quality he just had? We have lost some very good players, but really, is it a bad thing? McCall has freshened things up and we didn’t want to have too many players with a play off final loss headache. In a nutshell we have lost 3 players that don’t want to wear the amber and claret deep down for whatever reason and now McCall has got in bodies that do.
Bishop Auckland’s most famous son, Tony McMahon
It really was touch and go about McMahon going, he was close to rejoining Phil Parkinson next season at Bolton in the Championship, and I think that would have been ok for him, but he chose to stay. I don’t know why, I really don’t, if it was me, I would have gone up a division and get the rewards that come with it. Instead, Tony decided to stay. Was it the safe option? Was it familiarity? Is he just settled in the area and enjoying life in Bradford? Tony will be the rock in the squad for a lot of the players, he enjoys it at City, and the City fans love him. If he performs like he has done in the amber and claret, Parkinson’s loss is our gain. I would expect a solid season from McMahon and see him as one of our best week in week out.
The division is ripe for the taking
2017/18 I can really see us finishing anything between 1st and 15th, I really can. Now, when I look at the 3rd division, we have lost some quality clubs such as Sheffield United, Bolton and even Millwall. Ex Prem Coventry have dropped to the basement division so that makes 4 dangerous clubs we have lost this past season alone. Early pace setters Scunthorpe lost their edge 6 months ago and that form could easily carry on come August, Portsmouth I fancy to do well, Blackpool and Doncaster, this season can go one way or the other for them 2. Coming down we have Wigan, Blackburn and Rotherham. So, 2 of our biggest opponents next season, Blackburn and Blackpool have massive off field troubles and because of the teams that have got promoted/relegated, I see a very open field this coming season. Wigan I’ve never seen as Premiership club and see the 3rd division their true level, which I am sure many will see as our true level. It will be purely down to one thing, the one that finishes top is the one that has taken their chances. It will purely be down to that, I wouldn’t say we are better than half the division, I wouldn’t say we are any worse than anyone at all, but it will be a year of every single game and point will count. If we stay focused, don’t drop silly points and kill off a few more games than we did last season, no reason we can’t (along with half the division) finish top of the summit.
Forward shift annually
It is plainly clear, City has been moving forward for the past half decade, and I would pinpoint it at the 2012/13 League Cup run. Parkinson drilled in a great mentality, not only into his players, but also the City faithful and given everyone associated with Bradford City a sense of pride and optimism. We’ve had a couple of cup runs and believe it or not, we have beaten a quarter of the Premiership including the Champions. For the last 5 seasons we have bettered the previous season. Last season we went a step further and got to the play off final whilst finishing 5th, season before lost in the play offs finishing 5th, season before 7th, 11th season before that, 7th in the 4th division the year before and a very lowly unimpressive 18th back in 2011/12 which was equalled from the 18th position from 2010/11. So we have not finished a consecutive season in a lower position for 7 years. The last time we finished 6 consecutive seasons in a higher position took us to Premiership safety. So as a club, we are in an ascendency moving in the right direction, even a knock back or 2 won’t be enough to knock the wind out of our sales, so even if we narrowly miss out, it won’t be the end of the world and we have no hope the following season. Our time will come, sooner or later.
The ground itself can be daunting to rival players and supporters due to it’s sheer size and over a course of the year the ground itself will gain City a few points easily. Just as our players froze at Wembley back in early 2013, I’ve seen opposing players seem to disappear during games, or struggle to get out of the blocks in BD8. Valley Parade is also a factor in attracting some players that may have had a chance of playing at a higher division and gives us Bantams some pride about being a City supporter. The ground can help us build a better squad we may not have normally been able to assemble, it can be a mental distraction for the opposition, and also is a factor in Premiership clubs willing to send out some of their highly rated youngsters out to a 3rd division club to get experience if playing in a stadium of such a size. Valley Parade in a nutshell is a distraction as much as it is an attraction.
10 reasons to be optimistic
Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp