The Width of a Post writing team conclude our season preview series by sharing their views on who will be key man this season, and their changing attitude towards life in League Two.
Who do you see as being the key man in the squad?
Nahki Wells is vital to any chance Bradford has of success this season. He is the one player who can make the big difference in the most important part of the game, scoring goals. Obviously Davies is the big name signing but I think centre halves are much more easily replaced at this level than goal scorers. Elsewhere, the midfield needs to contribute a lot more goals than last season and with Syers leaving the likes of Reid, R. Jones, G. Jones, and Thompson will have to replace the goals he would have most likely got but rather than this weight falling on one individual it will now be a joint responsibility.
James Hanson. About to begin his third make-or-break season in a row, (yet to produce a definitive answer either way), Hanson is finally showing signs of becoming the player we need him to be.
Over the last five seasons, the average Playoff team has scored 67.2 goals and conceded 51.5. (The automatic promotion teams have averaged 74.2 and 42.7, respectively). Last season Bradford scored 54 and conceded 59. So in a crude comparison, to have a shot at the play offs we will need to cut away seven goals conceded, which with their heavy recruitment in this area, shouldn’t be too hard. However they are going to need to score around 13 more goals, and if they are looking at automatic promotion, about 20 more.
Looking at the squad, Hanson, Wells, Hannah, Reid and Atkinson will all be key factors, and they were in the team which struggled offensively most of last season. Connell, Thompson and Gary Jones should aid this cause, as should a philosophical attacking shift from the manager (although that is a double-edged sword). But twenty goals is a lot. And City got relatively lucky with injuries last year. A double Reid-Wells layoff early on, and that 74 goal target will look a long way off.
Of course, one can get promoted scoring fewer goals, there are always outliers, but we all witnessed how playing to keep the game close hurt us last year with a plethora of ‘undeserved’ 1-0 reverses. Wells, Hannah, Connell, potential new striker and Hanson will have to contribute around 45 goals in some combination for this side to succeed.
James Hanson must become the player, and the man, we need him to be.
This is what I really like about this squad, there is more than one key man. We don’t need to pin all of our hopes on one person to perform and get us through games. I think we will have key players all over the pitch this season. Oliver and Davies at the back, the two Joneses, Ravenhill, Reid and Thompson in midfield and all of our strikers Wells, Hannah and Hanson are proving in the pre-season that they all have goals in them. I feel spoilt for choice to pick one so I’ll just leave it at those 10.
Whilst many will say Andrew Davies, and I agree he may well adopt an almost talisman-like stature, I would plump for one of the midfielders, eg Gary Jones, as I think we have previously missed someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and drive us forward. I also feel Nahki Wells could have a massive impact – we saw enough last season to justify our very high hopes for his development and the fear he strikes into opposing defenders.
Real cliché punditry here, apologies. I think that City will not have a ‘key player’ this year but, much in the same way as the promotion in ’99 a number of key players. The two/three centre backs of Oliver and Davies need to show the same consistency as they did before Crawley-gate. Ravenhill, for me, needs to boss the midfield a bit more and dominate the game. Reid needs to show the same pace and creativeness his did last season but needs to ensure that his crossing is as good as Beagrie’s, so Hanson can get on the end of it and Hannah or Wells are there to pick up scraps.
I’m hoping for big performances from the aforementioned as well as some of the new signings to stamp their own place in the squad.
This will be City’s sixth year in League Two. Have your thoughts and attitudes towards this division changed over that period?
Without a doubt yes! I think you certainly adapt and we’ve had plenty of time to acclimatise! To be honest, though, I don’t see League One as some form of Holy Grail and would rather the team does relatively well, with some good local fixtures and derbies. Having said that, some form of momentum with subsequent promotions to the Championship and beyond, obviously whets the appetite a bit more!
I feel like every year my attitude towards this league has changed. Like moving to a new city it takes a while to get used to your new surroundings, to find out where the best take away is and the quickest route to work. I have come to enjoy some elements of League Two for none footballing reasons, like seeing first-hand the passion of new clubs climbing up into the Football League for the first time, or visiting grounds for big away days that most higher league clubs would laugh and snoot at.
League Two feels a bit like home now, but this is probably because the thought of League One and the Championship feels a bit more daunting now than it did when we first arrived here. Some things remain the same like the general standard of football or the standard of the officials, but then that has been a consistent since we came down.
In all honesty, no they haven’t. I remember saying when we were relegated from League One that I thought League Two was going to be very tough. I am firmly of the opinion that there is very little difference between teams in the Conference and League Two, barring a few that have a lot of money to spend. Teams that are promoted from the Conference always seem to fare well in League Two and teams relegated from the League struggle to bounce straight back. This shows that League Two is probably the most competitive of all the divisions.
I enjoy travelling to grounds in this division and I knew I would; but we have been here long enough now and I’ve seen enough of them.
League Two is a lot like Leeds City Centre,: appears to be easy to get out of; but if you approach it too arrogantly and don’t think about it carefully, you can be stuck there for a while.
I think the things that have changed is that the quality of the teams has improved slightly or we have got worse! It also seems that there is a lot of money banded about from various chairmans in bids to get out of this league. I do think there is a big gap between top three teams and bottom teams, but this only comes apparent after Christmas.
Apart from money the one thing that I now believe gets teams out of this League is confidence, we have been short on this in recent years, and now need to have some believe and push on.
It’s hard to say how I felt about something six years ago without indulging in my own revisionist history to make myself seem prophetic. I don’t remember what my attitudes were, I’d guess at ‘walk-in-park’, but today I would describe this division as tough, but nowhere near as tough as we have made it look.
We have seen time and again, the manager is the key. Sure, sides with lots of money (relatively) have flown through and succeeded, but City have had lots of money (relatively) and failed (repeatedly). You live and die in this division with the manager, and the situation he has built. The football axiom of league tables equating to wage expenditure may hold true to an extent, but in this division I feel money tends to be helpful rather than a necessity. If you get a good manager, with a good strategy, who can get himself and his charges organised and together, you’ll be fine.
I was very much of the opinion when City got relegated into League Two that it would be a jolly up for a season and then back into League One. I was looking forward to trips to ‘micky mouse’ clubs, visiting new grounds and romping away with the title. Now that simply hasn’t happened.
I do think the league is better than I originally gave it credit for, however at the same time I don’t think it takes much to get promoted. Some of the teams over the last few seasons that have got promoted haven’t been particularly good, but they have been effective at what they do…teams like Exeter and Bury spring to mind.
What have you missed most about Bradford City since the end of last season?
Having a few hours away from the wife? No not at all – it’s the other way round!
I think the match day as a whole is like a tradition now and it’s the whole day I enjoy, made more enjoyable by a win. Getting up and have a bacon sandwich, shake off hangover, Soccer AM, early SKy kick off, Beehive pint and pre match optimism, the match, post match analysis, tin of beer, take away and a decent film followed by MOTD and FL show if we win.
Without sounding like Harry Redknapp when discussing the England job, I have missed the day to day news and reports from the club and Width of a Post, as well as the build-up and release of matches that soon flood over your normal life like waves in the sea. Luckily we have had the Euros and the Olympics to help distract us temporarily, but I cannot wait to wake up on Saturday 18th August and get on that train to Gillingham.
Certainly not ‘High Ho Silver City’, honestly can whoever controls the sound system please change the entrance music this season? It’s embarrassing.
What I miss most as every season – other than the off moments of jubilation – is the discussion and debating amongst other City fans. Not the idiots on the message board who are blinkered to their view and their view alone, but constructive, structured discussions with the bloke at the ground, the colleague at work, the mate down the pub or my dad round the dinner table. That’s really what being a fan is all about!
The heightened level of banter pre and post match! Social networking, such as Twitter, seems to have really ramped this up, and, whilst a lot is said about the negatrons and whingers, there seems to be a great community of people around the club. Should the club have a successful season this could take off even further!
I have missed the banter with the lads and the away days on the beers watching City, the buzz of seeing City score a goal or bagging all three points has also been missed over the last couple of months. One thing I haven’t missed is looking at the bottom half of the league table to see where Bradford are in the league, hopefully that’s a thing of the past and it’s top half of the league only this coming season.
I miss the routine and the Saturday matchday feeling. As someone who travels over from Accrington for games, my whole weekend tends to revolve around City. Ultimately, City games give me an opportunity to see friends and family, as well as enjoying my favourite pastime; and I miss that during the summer months, when I am forced into trying to put off DIY jobs whilst watching cricket.
Watching people play football.