Where does the squad go from here?

11 Nov

SAM_1132

By Jason McKeown

“Every time we go out on the pitch, we are representing our families, we’re  representing the supporters and we’re fighting for our livelihoods. It didn’t look like that to me today though, and I am not accepting that performance.” Phil Parkinson after the Rotherham defeat.

Well, in view of the League Cup miracle of last season, I guess we can accept three rather disappointing first round exits from this year’s cup competitions – particularly with so much focus on the league. Yet a mixture of an increasing number of Bradford City supporters holding a bizarre fixation with Rotherham United and the recent struggles in the league means a dismal surrender at the New York Stadium is not one that can be easily shrugged off.

As a furious Phil Parkinson turned on his players when speaking to the media afterwards, it feels as though the afternoon has the makings of being looked back upon as pivotal when we come to reflect on the season next May. It’s not so much the defeat, but the manner of the performance which has clearly strained the goodwill that supporters – and the manager – hold for this team. That brilliant 2-0 win over Walsall – City’s last – which placed the Bantams in fourth suddenly feels like a long time ago.

The true cost of Saturday is likely to be felt in the January transfer window. Back in August, joint-Chairman Julian Rhodes told Width of a Post that a good FA Cup run could enable the club to spend more on signings. With Football League rules stating that League One sides can spend a maximum of 60% of their income on wages, and Julian revealing at the time that City were above 55% (and this before the arrivals of Caleb Folan and Matthew Bates), any additional revenue that could be sourced is crucial. For how much money City made getting to the League Cup Final last season, it doesn’t count in this one. The FA Cup had increased in importance, given the tame exits from the League Cup and JPT.

So instead, it means that Parkinson won’t benefit from additional income and has little option but to get players off the books before he can strengthen on what he has. And with the squad stagnating of late, the desire to bring in new faces in January is probably increasing. Essentially, Parkinson has the option to sell a crown jewel, such as Nahki Wells, or to find suitors for players not in his plans (something not easy if rumours of what certain back-up players earn are to be believed).

The window is still some seven weeks away, and so in the meantime Parkinson faces some tough dilemmas over the existing squad. So far this season, he has largely remained loyal to the promotion winning side of the last one, with the majority of new arrivals brought in during the summer – when given the opportunity – struggling to impress. Then there are the remaining back up players to last season’s promotion-winning side, who have seemingly drifted even further out of the picture of late – some even having been made available to go on loan.

It is going to be very interesting to see how the squad’s evolution progresses from here. Can Parkinson get his tried and tested players to recapture their early season form? Does he see answers – short-term or long-term – in the back-up members of his squad? Or is he going to shake things up when the next window opens?

The amount of game time awarded to each player, so far, certainly offers big clues on their respective futures. Only 20 different players have featured in the league (and remember, each week Parkinson selects 18 players to either start or sit on the bench). There is a wide disparity between differing groups of players, which we can split into three categories.

The regulars

In the league, Jon McLaughlin, James Meredith and Gary Jones have so far played every minute of action (that’s 1,350 minutes of the 1,350 minutes City have played). Stephen Darby, Nathan Doyle and James Hanson have also started every game, but have been taken off early in at least one or two matches.

Nevertheless, that’s six players who have featured in the starting XI every match. And, were it not for injury or international duty, we can reasonably say that Andrew Davies, Rory McArdle and Nahki Wells would also be ever-presents. That represents a large core of players who Parkinson trusts and believes in. It would be interesting to know who, if any, of these regulars were in Parkinson’s thoughts when he made the post-Rotherham comment that, “We looked like a team, certainly a few individuals at least, who have just started to believe that they are better then they actually are.”

1

Jon McLaughlin

1,350 mins

=

James Meredith

1,350

=

Gary Jones

1,350

4

Stephen Darby

1,348

5

James Hanson

1,342

6

Nathan Doyle

1,325

The in-betweeners

Other players have enjoyed plenty of league action this season, but a fair bit on the sidelines also – the seventh-highest appearance-maker was almost 300 minutes below sixth-placed Doyle. As mentioned, there are mitigating circumstances with Davies, McArdle and Wells for not featuring more than they have, but the situation with Garry Thompson and Kyel Reid is interesting.

Both have started more games than they have appeared from the bench, but invariably have been substituted. Thompson, for example, has only completed a full 90 minutes twice. Reid has escaped the hook more often, and were it not for starting the season out of the side, as Parkinson initially preferred Yeates, he would probably be in considered the regulars. Nevertheless, the fact he lost his place in August suggests Reid is far from invincible and could easily face the chop again in future.

Yeates’ start to life at City has been stop-start, and the former Watford man has only completed the full 90 minutes once.

The players in this group are unlikely to be leaving Valley Parade soon (ignoring the inevitable Wells’ January speculation for now), but Thompson and Yeates at least would appear to face a fight on their hands holding down a regular place in the starting line up. Parkinson spoke of his fringe players, after Rotherham, “I simply don’t think the lads out of the team at the moment have done enough  and I don’t think the lads who have come off the bench in recent weeks have done enough.”

7

Rory McArdle

1,080 mins

8

Garry Thompson

1,079

9

Kyel Reid

1,050

10

Andrew Davies

900

11

Nahki Wells

850

12

Mark Yeates

636

The outsiders

There is again a gap of almost 300 minutes between groups two and three, with eight players barely figuring in Parkinson’s plans so far. Rafa De Vita has featured in all but two of City’s league matches, starting the last three, although will need to improve on what he has shown. Matthew Bates looks a better bet to jump up out of this group, although when Davies is fit he is unlikely to keep his place in the side.

What is especially striking about the outsiders is how many of this group are summer/autumn signings (five of the eight). With the exception of Bates and, arguably, Folan, these additions have been at the club long enough now to have reasonably expected to have featured a lot more. Is this likely to change, or is the writing already on the wall for them? Again, Parkinson’s Rotherham comments are damning, “I don’t feel the lads out of the team at the moment have done enough to get in it.”

13

Rafa De Vita

364 mins

14

Matthew Bates

341

15

Luke Oliver

253

16

Jason Kennedy

113

17

Caleb Folan

74

18

Alan Connell

59

19

Ricky Ravenhill

25

20

Matt Taylor

1

Note: Carl McHugh and Connor Ripley have featured in the cup but not in the league. Andy Gray has yet to figure at all.

I have deliberately focused on the league matches only, given the fact Parkinson opted to make sizable changes for the League Cup and JPT exits (making selections for those games more difficult to judge). Nevertheless, a full aggregate minutes of the season so far still shows these three distinct groups.

The regulars – total minutes so far

League

Cup

Total

Darby

1,348

270

1,618

Doyle

1,325

254

1,579

McLaughlin

1,350

180

1,530

Meredith

1,350

161

1,511

Hanson

1,342

117

1,459

Jones

1,350

90

1,440

The in-betweeners – total minutes so far

League

Cup

Total

Reid

1,050

195

1,245

Thompson

1,079

165

1,244

McArdle

1,080

135

1,214

Wells

850

109

959

Davies

900

0

900

Yeates

636

117

753

The outsiders – total minutes so far

League

Cup

Total

De Vita

364

216

580

Bates

341

90

431

Kennedy

113

180

293

Oliver

253

0

253

Ravenhill

25

180

205

Connell

59

108

167

Taylor

1

154

155

McHugh

0

135

135

Ripley

0

90

90

Folan

74

0

74

McBurnie

0

8

8

This upcoming period of games between now and the end of the calendar year is going to prove crucial in shaping just what kind of season City enjoy. I personally still believe we are capable of challenging for the play offs (something I doubted during the summer), but the recent slump needs to be halted soon.

The question is which group of players – of the three outlined above – are the most likely to provide the catalyst for a positive turnaround? Does Parkinson stick with the regulars for inspiration (it’s hard to see any of these six players – and Wells and McArdle from the in-betweeners – losing their place anytime soon), or will the other two groups be looked to instead?

Which route he goes down will say a lot for the futures of the players in groups two and especially three. With form dipping and certain players struggling, it increasingly looks to be a case of now or never for people like Kennedy, Folan, Oliver, Taylor and McHugh. If they can’t provide the competition for places that Parkinson’s post-Rotherham comments suggest he feels is required, why would that change in future?

The stunning progress made by the club over the past 18 months never came smoothly, which is why there is no need to panic about the recent slump. Nevertheless, over the next few weeks we will find out once and for all whether the key to continuing City’s superb progression lies within or outside the club.

__________________________________

Ilogo1f you like what Width of a Post do, please vote for us in the Football Blogging Awards.

We have been shortlisted for ‘Best Football Club Blog’ and ‘Best Established Blog

About these ads

5 Responses to “Where does the squad go from here?”

  1. Mal November 11, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    Good article. I really don’t think selling Wells in January would help us. He’s not just our best player and leading scorer, he’s also the player who can lift the team and the crowd and the player who forces the opposition to try to find a way to stop him. Sometimes a club can strengthen overall by allowing a star player to leave and reinvesting the funds but I think he’s just too good and too important to us.

    If we do find a way to add to the squad in January, we could definitely find a use for a central midfielder able to get forward and make things happen – preferably by scoring. Gary Jones definitely has a role if we need to manage a game when already ahead or playing tough opposition but his mobility isn’t great at the moment and that stops him from playing on the front foot.

    It’d also be good to get a bit more pace around the team if we can make changes; we can be ponderous going forward without Wells and it gives the opposition too much time to get organised.

  2. Chris Herbert November 11, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Great article Jason (yet again) and spot on with the analysis. I think we are starting to see the lack of the depth in the squad which though understandable is worrying nonetheless.I think we could make the play offs with a following wind, but more likely to settle into a mid table position as I think Nakhi will go in January.
    Much more worrying is the reputation our abundant away support is getting for causing trouble wherever they go (or should I say, a tiny minority of this support).No-one can condone the opposition fans chanting of provocative “fire” related items.That does not excuse the moronic behaviour of a small section of our away support , who on top of their sexist, racist comments (over use of the C word in close proximity to our female fans , and over use of the F word in front of our fan’s children) seem to think it ok to inflame (sorry for the pun) the situation further by throwing flairs etc towards opposition fans and chanting their own inflammatory, vile comments.
    I reported this trend amongst a tiny section of our away support at the start of last season in our opening game in the Capital Cup vs Notts County away and was roundly reviled on this forum.
    It really is time for real fans to stand up and denounce these morons (and report them to the nearest steward/police when they overstep the mark) as the narrow minded bigots they are.
    Do nothing and in 5 years, parents will stop their children coming to games….then we have no game anymore.
    Cue abuse!

  3. Dave November 12, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    An excellent piece Jason. I was surprised to see Rory McArdle in the middle group, as it felt like he had been ever-present so far. Kennedy is the biggest surprise for me, even though Jones and Doyle have been solid so far and understandably have not been dropped, because my sense was that he completely ran the show for Rochdale when they visited and beat us well last season. From what I’ve seen of him so far, however, he hasn’t shown enough to be the future replacement for Jones that I thought he was going to be. Early days perhaps. I agree with the above comment about a forward thinking central midfielder, and it’s hard not to think back to David Syers being that ideal person. I also support Chris’s points about crowd behaviour from the minority, which unfortunately seems to increase in size as the team does better.

  4. Richard Johnston November 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    I agree entirely with the comments regarding the behaviour of some of our ‘fans’. At Rotherham the behaviour of some was completely out of order and I was embarrassed to be a City fan. The constant use of vile language, the fighting in the corner (no matter what the provocation, we should be better than to stoop to that level) and the throwing of the flare made this one of my worst experiences of a City away match.

    On the issues of flares and smoke bombs – whatever our own personal opinions on them, it is illegal to take them into a football ground. The persistent use of such devices will result in disciplinary action being taken against the club. Those who are setting them off need to think of the potential repercussions against the club. They should also be especially mindful of their impact on their fellow City fans, some of whom will no doubt react badly to being surrounded by smoke for blatantly obvious and distressing reasons.

    The flare on Saturday was actually thrown into a crowd of City fans. The perpetrator was extremely lucky that it didn’t hit anyone. I don’t know what kind of idiot throws flares at his own fans, but it’s not someone that I want associated with my football club.

  5. Gareth Walker November 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    To me, the clamour for a new central attacking midfielder is just the latest bandwagon that people are jumping on. In my mind there is nothing at all wrong with the two central midfielders that we have playing regularly at the moment. Nathan Doyle, along with Stephen Darby, has been our most consistent performer this season, whilst I feel that to “have a go” at Jones’ age/legs is all too easy. The simple fact is that the midfield two in our side have never been about getting forward and this is fine so long as the wingers are doing their jobs properly by creating chances, being an outlet and offering a threat/spark. I’ve been saying for weeks now that the only wide player in our squad who has shown any kind of good form at all this season is Reid and I was worried what would happen when he went off the boil. Now that has happened, we are struggling. Yeates, Thompson and De Vita have been largely poor and they need to up their games in order to show their worth to the team.

    When players are brought in to the club in January or more likely next summer it will be a real test for Phil Parkinson too. Yes, he built a fantastic squad in the summer of 2012, but his recruitment from January 2013 has been questionable to say the least.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,509 other followers

%d bloggers like this: