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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Inside Line: Bradford City (11/01/2014)

Over to Lewis Hancock again for this week’s 'Inside Line’ on the Bantams, Bradford City

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions since the opening day of the season and now halfway through the campaign, it’s about time things started going City’s way!

Steve Cotterill’s appointment divided fans’ opinion, but after only one loss in all competitions since he took over and two wins on the bounce, Cotterill is certainly turning heads.  Securing Karleigh Osborne on a permanent basis and Tyrone Barnett on loan until the end of the season won't have done him any harm either.

However, let’s not jump the gun. The same was being said about Sean O’Driscoll prior to his sacking and, on paper, January is set to be a very tricky month in League One, starting with Bradford City away.

Having flirted with the play-off places for most of the season, the Bantams seem to have tailed off of late and now find themselves in mid-table.

City haven’t won against Bradford for 18 years and the task to gain points at Valley Parade will prove a tough task considering 1989 was the last time City collected all three points there.

Your expectations for the start of the season were a mid-table finish.  Being 12th in the table at present, are you happy with your position or annoyed the side have slipped out of the play-off positions?
I am personally quite happy with our place at the moment. We started the season superbly but have tailed off as of late due to a lack of form and injuries to key players. That has been a bit of worry but I think it's to be expected from a newly promoted club to go through a bad spell. As mentioned in my first ‘Inside Line’, I am quite happy to consolidate this season, understand what we need to further improve the squad and aim to be more competitive in this league. 

Is everyone at Bradford still pleased with the work Phil Parkinson is doing? Are you surprised that managerless Championship clubs haven’t asked to speak to him?
There is a very small undercurrent of discontentment at present. With one win in sixteen, some are starting to get frustrated however I think these fans are short sighted. Admittedly we haven't played well lately but he's the best manager the club have had in a decade and I believe he should be given the time and funds to get us out of this current rut. On the whole I think the majority of fans are still very much behind him.

I'm not surprised he's not been linked with other jobs to be honest. Parkinson and his key back room staff signed three year deals in the summer and the club have invested, both in him and behind the scenes (new training equipment for example). I think (hope) a plan has been put in place by the club’s hierarchy and I think Phil is a person who wants to steer that ship.

It’s been seven games since Bradford last registered a win in the league, why the recent dip in form?
There's a few contributing factors to why we've dipped. We lost the heartbeat of our team in Andrew Davies. He's been out since October and we've missed his commanding presence and character at the back.

Niggling injuries have demonstrated that our squad, whilst solid, is not strong enough in terms of depth. This has coincided with people losing form and we haven't had the same quality of player to replace them.  I'm sure confidence is a big thing. We haven't played horrendously badly (in the games I have seen) but when things don't go our way I think players are starting to second guess themselves.

Finally we keep going behind in games. It's hard enough to win games in this league without giving opponents a head start.

Since opening his account against City on the opening day of the season, Nahki Wells has scored a further 14 goals in all competitions. How influential is he and will Bradford struggle to hold onto him in the transfer window?
I think Nahki’s goals speak for themselves and demonstrate how influential he is to our team and club. We could have lost several games during our recent run, however he has been clinical in gaining us points we would traditionally lose.

I am fairly sure he will leave this transfer window. With eighteen months on his current contract (he has refused to look at the new one offered) and he has stated he wants to play in the Championship or above, the club will be looking to cash in. We can't risk keeping him and letting him go on a free. It's a shame but you can't begrudge his ambition or criticise the board.

Pretty much all the teams in the Championship have been linked with him, whilst Aston Villa and a few Premier League teams are apparently interested. It's going to be a matter of waiting for the best deal and cashing in.

Has any Bradford player surprised you so far this season?
Nahki has taken to this league very well and looks a class above. However, a lot of his success is down to the hard work of his strike partner James Hanson. I picked out Hanson at the start of the season and he has been brilliant so far.

The one that has really shone though has been our right back Stephen Darby. In a time where our defence has made mistakes and not performed to its best, Darby has consistently been fantastic. Slender in stature, he is a ferocious tackler and someone who reads the game wonderfully well. He won't ever get the plaudits like Wells or Hanson but I think every fan who has watched him this season has been impressed by his leadership and consistency.

Other than Wells, who has the potential to cause City some harm on Saturday?
I'm not sure if Wells will play yet. He picked up a hamstring strain before the New Year and with transfer talks ongoing he may sit out (although Parkinson says he won't).  Speaking to [The Exiled Robin] recently, he mentioned your defensive frailties, so with this in mind  James Hanson will severely test them and will be the person to look out for. Kyle Reid -our left winger- also has the potential to cause problems but he is hit and miss.

Where in the side should Parkinson look to strengthen this month? Who are realistic targets?
We are short in the midfield so I would hope for both a centre midfielder and a winger. Also with the impending departure of Nahki, we'll need another forward. 
We have an out/in policy, so everything depends on who we can shift off the wage bill. Parkinson has mentioned that he may look to bring in young Premiership loanees. He has been tight lipped at the moment but things should become a lot clearer once the Wells situation has been clarified and sorted.

After two Wembley appearances last year, do Bradford have what it takes to sneak into the play-offs this time around?
After last year, I believe anything can happen! It's important the confidence picks up soon because if we continue to play as we are, we could be dragged into a relegation battle. We proved last year with ten or so games to go that a season is not over, but it's important we start to pick up some wins. Also, a lot depends on how the team cope without Nahki. It really could go either way.

Finally, can I have a prediction for the match?
If Wells plays, he scores the winner in what could be his last game at Valley Parade. If not, a score draw.

A romantic prediction from Mesh if their golden boy makes it onto the pitch. For City's sake, let's hope he doesn't for one reason or another and we can keep the momentum up.


The Exiled Robin

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