The signs of a revival under Phil Parkinson are there for everyone to see. Unbeaten at home in three months and with an away win recently at high flying Torquay under their belt it would suggest that the tide is slowly turning for Bradford. Last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Hereford United kick started a week of relegation six-pointers for the Bantams with away trips to Barnet on Tuesday and next Saturday at Dagenham & Redbridge. Ideally we could have done with all three points in front of a bumper crowd in excess of 17,000 at Valley Parade due to the ticket offer which the club put out for the game, but in the end we were grateful for David Syers’ header a minute from time rescuing a deserved point in a scrappy, nervy game.
Late drama seems to be the ‘in thing’ at Valley Parade in recent games, Andrew Davies scored a stoppage leveller in the previous home game against Port Vale, whilst against Burton and Morecambe both games produced late equalisers for the visitors, frustratingly so as had we had the extra 4 points on the board the threat of relegation wouldn’t be half as real as it currently is. Despite not notching up the wins as freely as one would have hoped for, one thing is clear under Parkinson is as a team we are a lot harder to beat if a team is going to take maximum points off the Bantams they will have to work hard for it. I believe credit must go to Parky who having taken over the reigns from Peter Jackson just a few weeks into the season has effectively had to bring in a brand new squad of players, and proof that it’s slowly working was he was rewarded Manager of the Month for League Two in December.
In my opinion had Jackson not resigned when he did Bradford could have been dead and buried now, I like him as a person but a lot of his signings have been shipped out and replaced and you’d have to worry had we still had the majority of Jackson’s players competing for the points just how badly we’d be doing now. Under Parkinson he’s brought players into the squad that provide that extra bit of steel to the spine of the side, bringing in Andrew Davies at centre half has been a master stroke arguably the best central defender we’ve had at Valley Parade in a long time and without a doubt he could easily ply his trade at a higher level. The likelihood of keeping hold of the on-loan Stoke defender is extremely unlikely, despite Davies being out of contract it’s hard to believe we can compete financially to keep him at the club long term.
In midfield he’s signed Ricky Ravenhill; Ravenhill initially arrived on loan from Notts County but the deal was made permanent in the January transfer window. He’s a player that likes a tackle, not afraid to get stuck in and breaks up play he’s another one who has achieved success both at County and also at Doncaster Rovers so hopefully going forward into next season he can have further success in his career down at Valley Parade. Up top, Parky seems to have rejuvenated James Hanson, the big target man had gone stale under the horrendous Peter Taylor regime and then the short Jackson tenure, but Parkinson has clearly worked with Hanson and both the player and club are reaping the rewards of a striker in form.
Unfortunately with Hanson out for the next few weeks the attacking options are limited, Hanson has at times being subjected to flak from the terraces at Valley Parade but take him out of the side and its evident how much we miss his presence in the team. The attacking department is somewhat light, so far Craig Fagan hasn’t set the world alight although in fairness he has played the majority of his games for the club on the right hand side of midfield. Young Bermudan striker Nahki Wells has been a revelation since breaking into the side during November, but we badly miss a 15-20 goal a season striker.
We had pretty much secured a deal to bring Paul Benson to the club from Charlton terms were all agreed and at the last minute the Bradford club doctor had concerns about one of the strikers previous injuries and in the end we pulled out of the deal. Subsequently Benson has signed for Swindon and scored a few goals, I think the fee was around the £100k mark had we signed him, which in my opinion would have been far too much given that he’s 30+ and was going to be out of contract in the summer anyway. Another striker that we lost at the end was apparently Chris Dagnall, pipped to his signature by Barnsley near the end of the transfer window. Its an area in the summer that Parkinson will need to strengthen significantly if we are to be challenging next season.
On the pitch results have been steady since the turn of the year, with only one win so far in 2012 which was away at Torquay and draws against Morecambe, Burton, Hereford and Port Vale. Mixed in with those results have seen defeats in the FA Cup away at Championship side Watford and league defeats at Rotherham United and Bristol Rovers. Looking ahead hopefully we can secure survival sooner rather than later but for the time being we are still nervously looking over our shoulders, as previously mentioned this week is huge for City if we lose both games at Barnet and Dagenham then suddenly the league looks a darker place, ideally a return of at least 4 points would be the target to keep the rest of the strugglers at arms length.
Not all City fans are yet to be fully convinced by Parkinson but without a doubt we are a lot harder to beat and at times are playing some really good football. We tore both Crewe and Shrewsbury apart over Christmas and if City can continue to perform the majority of the remaining games in that fashion avoiding relegation will be straight forward enough. He has said things won’t be pretty as he battles to get the points on the board, and if the game against Hereford is anything to go by he’s true to his word. But I honestly believe that Parkinson is the right man for the job, providing we stay up this season I firmly believe we will be up there challenging for the play-off positions next season.
The nucleus of the side is there, so the usual merry go round of players in the summer months at Valley Parade hopefully won’t be as vigorous this time around. If we can add a proven goal scorer into the mix and a decent right winger then the squad will be strong enough for a serious challenge.
Over the years the fans have had plenty of false dawns but for me it feels different this time around, hopefully I’m right. I just hope the revival doesn’t start in the Blue Square Premier!
Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger
Mark tweets at @scully87