Stuck in the starting blocks

Phil Parkinson

I hope the Blue Square Premier is dusting down the welcome mat in preparation for Bradford City’s arrival – because if things don’t improve it is where the Bantams are heading. With a paltry one win in their opening ten games, it is no wonder the club find themselves languishing third bottom of the whole Football League. But for the well-documented financial problems at Plymouth Argyle, there would be no doubt Bradford would be in the relegation zone rather than sitting just outside.

As I predicted a few weeks ago on We Are Going Up, Phil Parkinson has taken over the managerial reins following the sudden departure of Peter Jackson. During Parkinson’s first month in charge a lot has changed, Jackson’s assistant Colin Cooper initially agreed to reprise the role under Parkinson, but left the club a few days later to  join Middlesbrough’s coaching staff. Cooper has been replaced by Steve Parkin who brings a strong CV boasting time as first team coach at Hull City during their rise to the Premier League and spells as manager of Mansfield Town and Rochdale in the lower leagues.

Within a day of arriving at the club, Parkinson snapped up left winger Kyel Reid – who he worked with at Charlton Athletic – on a free transfer. Reid has been joined by a host of new recruits with goalkeeper Matt Duke and striker Craig Fagan, both formerly of Hull City, joining on free transfers. Another signing from the Tigers is tricky Irish winger Jamie Devitt, who has already become a fans favourite with some energetic, skilful displays.

Last week Parkinson moved to add strength to a defence which has failed to keep a clean sheet in the league this season by signing Stoke City centre-back Andrew Davies, who appears to have the attributes to be a big success in League Two. On paper all the new arrivals look classy players for this level, without doubt they bring extra quality to the squad and while results have not improved, their quality will soon start to shine through.

The new signings have had mixed fortunes so far, the star of the show being Devitt who at this level is a constant threat. Reid doesn’t appear fully fit but looks to have the ability to cause problems for the opposition, Duke looks shaky which isn’t being helped by a defence which has more holes than a sieve. Davies only made his debut against AFC Wimbledon and Fagan isn’t fully match fit.

Normally when a new manager comes in he picks up a token win in one of his first matches, but not at Valley Parade as Phil Parkinson’s winless run currently stands at five. Successive draws in his opening two games were both snatched with last minute equalisers, the first at Morecambe coming when Ross Hannah clipped home a deserved 93rd minute equaliser. Against Bristol Rovers, Michael Flynn converted two penalties won by loanee Devitt. Again a point was the least the Bantams deserved having dominated for large periods.

The boot was on the other foot away to Port Vale as Tom Pope scored a last minute winner which defeated Bradford 3-2. The defeat at Vale Park was backed up with an abject performance against league favourites Crawley Town as Parkinson’s men succumbed to a 3-1 loss, despite Kyel Reid giving them a first half lead.

With the manager threatening changes and a hard week in training before playing AFC Wimbledon, it was hoped Bradford would kick start their campaign against the newly promoted side. However another soft goal allowed the Dons to level after a Flynn spot-kick had put Bradford in front, before a long range strike on the hour was badly misjudged by goalkeeper Duke to seal the Bantams’ third defeat in a row.

The mentality of the players is certainly under question at the moment – Parkinson and his team have to work hard to turn it into a winning one. Talent in the squad suggests a change in fortunes isn’t too far away but if results don’t improve quickly City are in danger of being cut adrift near the bottom of the league. The players who joined midway through August are behind the rest of the squad in terms of match practice so it might take a few games for them to find their feet. The new faces will take time to settle in and for the team to gel but ultimately winning games will restore confidence and see the team progress up the table.

Away from the league struggles, the Bantams’ progression into round two of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is a welcome distraction, having beaten League One neighbours Sheffield Wednesday on penalties at Valley Parade. Victory over The Owls set up another derby day at Huddersfield Town, a difficult game no doubt but anything can happen in cup football.

The squad Phil Parkinson has at his disposal is more than capable of aiming for the play-offs and the club needs to start climbing the league sooner rather than later. Bradford have struggled for the last few seasons and when fans start to believe it might be a successful campaign, they have been left disappointed. Hopefully that won’t be the case this season as everything is still to play for after just ten games.

City sit eleven points adrift of the play-offs – it’s just a shame those elusive positions seem so close but yet so far away.

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

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