Phil Parkinson once again performed miracles in the cup last year, as if a League Cup final at Wembley hadn’t been enough, Bradford City recovered from a seemingly impossible situation at Stamford Bridge in January. At 2-0 to the runaway Premier League leaders, Bradford won 4-2 but once again just missed out on a play-off spot. Perhaps with less distractions this season, Bradford could easily be a contender this season.
Last Season: League One (7th)
Manager: Phil Parkinson
GKs: Ben Williams
DFs: Stephen Darby, James Meredith, Alan Sheehan, Christopher Routis, Rory McArdle, Tony McMahon
MFs: Gary Liddle, Billy Knott, Filipe Morais, Dylan Mottley-Henry, Mark Marshall, Josh Morris
FWs: James Hanson, Billy Clarke, Reece Webb-Foster, Steve Davies, Luke James
In: Steve Davies (Blackpool), Josh Morris (Blackburn Rovers), Tony McMahon (Blackpool), Jonathan Lewis (Fort Lauderdale Strikers), Mark Marshall (Port Vale), Luke James (Peterborough United – Loan)
Out: Andrew Davies (Ross County), Matthew Dolan (Yeovil Town), Andy Halliday (Rangers), Jason Kennedy (Carlisle United), Aaron McLean (Released), Matt Urwin (Released), Oliver McBurnie (Swansea City), Mark Yeates (Released)
First Six: Swindon Town (A), Shrewsbury Town (H), Gillingham (H), Barnsley (A), Port Vale (H), Oldham Athletic (A)
Likely Lineup: (4-3-3) Williams – Darby, McArdle, Meredith, Sheehan – McMahon, Knott, Morris – Marshall, Hanson, Clarke
A word from…Terry Dolan
On the unpredictability of the football league That never changes to be honest. My first season, in 1976, we were promoted and the following season we went down. In my career as a player and a manager can be summed up as a series of ups and downs. Coping with the rigours of the league helped having experience.
When I joined City I was 26 and had been a player for eight years, four at Huddersfield and that stood me in good stead. But even then, my first season at Huddersfield we were in the first division, four years later we were in Division Four! It was Bobby Kennedy who signed me and it was great to play for my home town club. I played mainly as a defender before the move but Bobby moved me into midfield. It seemed to work as I scored over 50 goals, though about 20 of those were penalties!
On being club captain Yes I was captain for nearly two years and it was only the arrival of Roy McFarland as player-manager and George Moore leaving that meant that I was surplus to requirements. Roy was honest and said that he couldn’t guarantee that I’d play and that, if I found a club, he wouldn’t stand in my way.
I could have stayed, but I wanted to play regularly like any pro should. When Rochdale came in I moved as I knew I’d be starting. It was different then, not the rotation of large squads that’s a feature of today’s game. Loans were very rare and squads were, typically, 15 or 16 players. So, if you weren’t playing there was a reason for it – you weren’t performing.
On the team being lower than they should be Perhaps, but you have to remember that we were only promoted from League 2 a couple of years ago via the play-offs. Last year’s cup exploits definitely, I think, had a detrimental effect on our league form because we had too many distractions on and off the pitch with the attention those achievements brought.
It would have been very difficult to have sustained a promotion challenge in those circumstances. But this year, I think, will be very different. Last season took a real emotional and mental toll on the squad and, like you said, the top teams in the league were well clear of the rest.
On being a manager at a familiar club It certainly helped. After finishing playing in 1983, and having always lived in the city, I was made youth team coach by 1985, then assistant manager. When Trevor Cherry was sacked, I was in the right place at the right time and I initially stepped in as caretaker. Knowing the club as intimately as I did was a big plus though we hauled ourselves off the bottom because I changed the system and style of play. Next season we reached the play-offs and lost in the semi-final to a good Middlesbrough side.
On Phil Parkinson He’s been superb and deserves all the credit going for what he has achieved, the League Cup run to Wembley and the FA Cup last season. To be honest I’m surprised that clubs haven’t come in with a serious offer for him.
I hear that Sheffield United were interested, but that didn’t amount to anything. You have to give credit to the board at Bradford for keeping him and for Phil for his undoubted loyalty to the club. We’re not a small club and, with imaginative pricing we’ve sold 18,000 season tickets for this season. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Phil and the team can achieve this term
On missing out last season I think, as you said, three outstanding teams were promoted out of the division last season. That means that, for me, League 1 is wide open with no obvious stand-out favourite. I think Bradford have got as a good a chance as anyone, not of the play-offs but automatic promotion.
Recruiting players like McMahon and the lad Davies from Blackpool are good signings and I really like Josh Morris. Not just that, keeping James Hanson was just as important as he is crucial to how we play. I have a personal interest in James as I brought him from Eccles United to Guiseley as an 18 year old, so I’ve had a hand in his development. To be honest, I’ve got four teams in mind I expect to contest the three automatic promotion places…Ourselves, Sheffield United, Swindon and Wigan. I think it’s going to be a good season for us.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Bradford have a squad with good quality but at the moment they look a bit thin on the ground. The injury to Filipe Morais is a huge blow given his importance last season, maybe promotion isn’t quite meant to be this season.
Key Player: Tony McMahon – The experienced player can step into the defence or midfield and performed well enough on loan last season to earn himself a permanent deal. A full and difficult season with Blackpool in the Championship should stand him in good stead for the upcoming campaign.
One to Watch: Dylan Mottley-Henry – The teenage winger was offered his first professional contract at the end of last season after making his league debut in April. With options on the wing limited, Mottley-Henry could find himself getting more chances to impress this season.