As Bradford City debuts go it was up there with the most anonymous. Ricky Ravenhill came immediately into the starting line up against Rotherham after signing on loan in November, and was barely noticed during the subsequent 90 minutes. But having since made a valuable impact, today’s news that Ravenhill has signed at permanent deal at Valley Parade is a worthy reward for an increasingly valuable player.
In fact the 30-year-old midfielder – who had been expected to sign until the end of the season – will be a Bantam until the summer of 2014. Ravenhill’s lengthy contract is a sign of how much he figures in manager Phil Parkinson’s long-term plans. His experience will be called upon as City attempt to kick-start an upwards journey over the next two-and-a-half years.
It is hard to remember the last time where City had such a strong array of central midfield options, relatively speaking. Ravenhill has looked impressive in the holding midfield role that Michael Flynn was carrying out effectively over the first half of the season, while attacking midfield responsibilities will be entrusted with either David Syers or Ritchie Jones. Then there is Lee Bullock in reserve, plus youngsters Luke Dean and Scott Brown. Competition for places is fierce.
The decision to sign Ravenhill permanently from Notts County would appear to suggest a less certain future for Flynn. Having apparently turned down moves elsewhere during the summer, Flynn recovered from a bad injury and poor form last season to become an instrumental player. Over Christmas he suffered an illness serious enough to leave him in hospital, and Ravenhill has been able to take advantage by fulfilling Flynn’s defensive midfield role. The current form of Ravenhill, Jones and Syers means it is hard to see the Welsh midfielder getting immediately back in the team.
If the Rotherham defeat was an unpromising beginning for one player, it was also the beginning of the end for another. Steve Williams has today completed a loan move to Scottish Premier League side Inverness, after failing to convince Parkinson he should be picked in front of Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies. It seems unlikely that he will play for City again.
Williams’ last appearance was in that Rotherham game. A solid first half in which he impressed suggested he could revive a Bantams career that had been hindered by poor form in the second half of the previous season and a long-term injury at the start of this campaign. Yet during the second 45 minutes against Rotherham Williams struggled badly, as the visitors’ powered their way to three points. Davies returned from suspension for the next game at Gillingham, with Williams failing to make even the coach trip down to Kent because Parkinson felt he hadn’t taken been dropped positively enough.
You need only go back to the second half of 2010 to recall what a promising player Williams was looking. He was outstanding during the first three months of Peter Taylor’s doomed promotion push, even getting linked with moves to Championship clubs. A bad injury at Colchester in the FA Cup saw him miss the next three months, and he was unable to recapture his previous form when fit again.
Still only 24, there remains a promising future in the game for the former barber – providing he can rediscover his confidence. The challenges of the Scottish Premier League, with trips to Ibrox and Celtic Park – not to mention a reunion with the man who signed him for City, Stuart McCall – offer an interesting next chapter.
Fond memories of his debut for the Bantams while on trial, against Premier League Burnley in a friendly, prompt a smile when recalling the story of Clarets’ manager Owen Coyle mistakingly believing Williams was Zesh Rehman and telling McCall after City’s 2-1 win that “Rehman was outstanding today”. From day one at Valley Parade he looked every inch at home as a professional footballer, rather than a starry-eyed non-league defender, and it’s to be hoped this can be continued North of the Border.
Completing a busy day of transfer business is the arrival to City of Bury’s winger Andy Howarth. Having played 45 times for the Shakers in their successful promotion from League Two last season, 23-year-old Haworth arrives with the ready-made capability of making an impression in the first team – something which the inexperienced Charlie Taylor, on loan from Leeds, has struggled to achieve so far.
Having failed to make the grade at Blackburn Rovers, Haworth has also played on loan for Rochdale and Oxford. He will be at City until at least February 14.