Tag Archives: James Hanson

Tied up in Knotts

27 Aug

Image by Kieran Wilkinson

Image by Kieran Wilkinson

Bradford City 2

Knott 84, Hanson 86

Leeds United 1

Smith 82

Wednesday 27 August, 2014

By Jason McKeown

What a night to be a Bradford City supporter. A long overdue victory over our biggest rivals; achieved in the most incredible, hedonistic fashion. It will be talked about for years and years to come. A night that no one of a claret and amber persuasion will ever forget.

This might be a Leeds United team in disarray. They might be a shadow of the club they once were. And, of course, the visitors were a man short for over an hour. But it is still a major scalp for City and a hugely commendable achievement – one that the players deserve all the praise in the world for accomplishing. Their names will now go down in history for being the first Bradford City side in 28 years to defeat their nearest neighbours.

And what a way to win the match. When Leeds United’s impressive Matt Smith headed his team into a late, late lead it looked set to be another Bradford City hard luck story in this irregular derby fixture. But then Billy Knott – the game’s man of the match – struck a stunning half volley into the top corner. And then, just four minutes after Leeds had gone in front, James Hanson’s diving header from Gary Liddle’s cross completed the turnaround and sparked unbridled delirium. Scenes of home celebration that will go down in folklore.

The uncomfortably nasty side of some Leeds fans then came to the fore, as chairs were ripped up and scuffles took place in Midland Road’s B block. The sight of a disabled supporter in a wheelchair having to rush onto the pitch for protection should shame every Leeds United supporter who was involved. They were disgraceful scenes, which held up the match by more than five minutes. There would have been no justice had their team equalised in the nine minutes of stoppage time that a small section of Leeds fans had added to.

Leeds fans often parade their indifference over this local rivalry like a badge of honour; they are above loathing us back and all that. But their own scenes of wild celebration, when they took the lead, betrayed any lack of interest. For many reasons beyond the fact it was those noisy Bradford neighbours who inflicted their exit from the competition, this defeat clearly hurt them and it remains to be seen what it will do to manager David Hockaday’s increasingly loose grip on his job.

And Leeds’ brief spell in front was a plot twist that only added to the ecstasy of City’s two late goals. Make no mistake, the Bantams had to earn this victory. A man down, Leeds dug in admirably and there can be no doubting the commitment of the players towards their beleaguered manager. Increasingly as the match wore on, the home side dominated proceedings but by no means did Leeds fold. An early miss by Stephen Warnock following a strong Leeds start aside, City were clearly the better side, but their opponents carried a threat throughout.

It might have been different had Luke Murphy not inexplicably lost his head in the derby atmosphere, deservedly earning his marching orders after collecting two bookings. The former Crewe man probably should have been red-carded on five minutes after a shocking challenge on Liddle. But after escaping with only a booking, it defied belief to see him haul down James Meredith with barely half an hour on the clock.

With the man advantage, City belatedly found their passing rhythm and upped the tempo. Knott revelled in the extra freedom and ran the show, popping up all over the park – he was behind all that was good from the Bantams. What an astute signing he looks to be, and although playing in a different position there is more than a touch of Robbie Blake about his play. It will be very interesting to see how his City career takes shape. He is jewel in Phil Parkinson’s midfield diamond. A player to build your team around.

Billy Clarke too was outstanding, especially in the second half, whilst Liddle and Jason Kennedy both put in heroic shifts. Kennedy had City’s best chance of the first half with a volley from an impossible angle that flew just short of the near post. Just after half time, he missed a gilt-edged chance when a side foot stab at goal from just inside the six-yard box bounced wide. Clarke too was heavily involved in the chances City created, forcing a stunning save from an otherwise hesitant Leeds keeper, Stuart Taylor. His close control and vision are valuable assets for his side, and he can really flourish at Valley Parade playing in the hole behind the strikers.

City had plenty of possession but at times struggled to create much. Meredith’s confidence continues to look low when judged against his performances of a year ago, but he and fellow full back Stephen Darby offered useful attacking support throughout. Aaron Mclean, looking half-fit, toiled hard. He was later replaced with Oli McBurnie, and the teenage striker impressed greatly leading the line and causing havoc.

In the closing stages City were building up a head of steam. Lots of corners and crosses that came to nothing; yet a growing feeling that, through persistence, a big chance was coming. But an injury to Kennedy stopped the game for too long and halted his team’s momentum. Then Liddle switched off, David Norris came forward with the ball and crossed for Smith to seemingly win it.

But as Parkinson observed after the final whistle, his team doesn’t know when it is beaten. The never-say-die culture of the club that the manager so impressively instilled two years ago remains, despite the departures of Gary Jones and co. The crowd kept roaring them on, and within two minutes Knott had equalised in memorable fashion. The former Sunderland man adding to his stunning first goal for the club, against Crawley, eight days earlier. Boring tap-ins are not his thing it seems.

Extra time beckoned, but then Hanson wrote another chapter in his own extraordinary tale with the late winner. Add this stunning personal moment to James’ goals against Aston Villa, Burton Albion and Northampton in 2012/13. He is one goal away from breaking into the club’s top 10 all time goalscorers.

And what more can you say about Hanson? What an incredible piece of business by Stuart McCall, bringing him in from Guiseley, five years ago. What a meteoric rise. What an inspiration. I know that we have had more naturally talented strikers over the years, but none that I have seen have meant more to me than Hanson does. For so many reasons he has become my favourite striker of all time. I feel privileged to have watched his City career.

Where are all those people who doubted him two or three years ago? Who barracked him endlessly? Where are your now with your apologises? How stupid do you feel? I’m proud to have been one of many City supporters who stood by the big man during difficult times. I’m proud to watch him enjoy moments like this.

The cup draw has handed City an unglamorous tie at MK Dons in round three, but who cares? Who can ask for more than nights like this? To be part of such a positive, vocal crowd that backed the players to the hilt. To jump up and down on top of people I am proud to call friends in celebration of Hanson’s winner. To witness a sea of happy faces around a stadium that – too often – has been filled with doom and gloom. To enjoy the players rushing over to the Kop at full time so they can take in the warm glow of pride that they had just instilled into 15,000, forever grateful home fans.

For all the disappointments we endure watching City over the years, it is nights like this that truly make it all worthwhile.

City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, Sheehan, Meredith, Liddle, Kennedy, Knott (Dolan 90), Kennedy, Clarke, Mclean (McBurnie 70), Hanson

Not used: Urwin, Routis, Morais, Yeates, Shariff

Bradford City vs Leeds preview: The players have a chance to create a new legacy

25 Aug


By Jason McKeown

Forget Manchester United, forget Newcastle. When it came to the League Cup second round draw, Bradford City were handed the best possible tie when they were pulled out of the hat to play Leeds United. It ensures a near-full house that will do wonders for the club’s financial strength, particularly in view of Sky’s decision to broadcast the derby encounter live. The Hand of Aaron at Morecambe has paid huge, huge dividends, and off the field at least this is a big victory for Bradford City.

For everyone connected with the club, the still-fresh memories of the League Cup miracle two years ago provides extra enthusiasm going into this clash. Those home games against Arsenal and Aston Villa have gone down in folklore for the achievements of slaying giants, and the superb attendances that produced incredible atmospheres. Until the day I die I will always treasure the memories of Valley Parade erupting to goals from Garry Thompson, Nahki Wells, Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh. We’d had year after year of watching City play in front of a half-full stadium, even with the commendable season ticket offer, and so it made you feel proud to take in the scene of a bulging ground, with all four stands packed out.

I always prefer it when Bradford City are the underdogs. It brings out the best in us supporters, ensuring the players are backed to the hilt without question, showing just what a passionate bunch of fans we really can be. The BBC 5Live commentator, Alan Green, stated that the experience of commentating on the City-Arsenal game was one of his favourite games of the 2012/13 season, remarking how he had rushed to the toilet at one point, only to hear a deafening roar that he believed must surely be a City goal. In fact, he would discover upon his quick return to the press box, we had merely won a corner.

Of all the things that appeals to me about playing Leeds United this week, it is the idea of recreating such an energetic and positively charged atmosphere that excites me the most. On Wednesday night, the Bradford City players can be guaranteed of being backed fervently from the first whistle to the last. Every tackle, every set piece won, every shot on goal.

And part of the reason for this is what are once again underdogs. The 2014 version of Leeds United may not be the formidable force that they once were, but make no mistake they are favourites to win this tie. The smart money will be placed on them squeezing through. In that sense, the pressure is off the home players. Simply because of who they are playing, the expectation level is lower. We do have every chance of triumphing on Wednesday night, but victory should not be assumed. This is, in many ways, a free hit for the players.

Yet equally, the rewards for winning are considerable, and how the players fare this week could go a long, long way to defining their Bradford City careers. You need only look at what those Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa victories did for the 2012/13 squad, and the high regard that they will be held in for decades to come. When bumps occurred during the promotion battle later that season, and when the one win in 21 was played out the year after, the past heroics of this group of players afforded them leeway and understanding from the crowd. This was a team deeply loved by its public, and the pay back for what they did, in reaching the League Cup Final, occurred through the majority of City supporters standing by them during sticky patches. And when many of these players were moved on during the summer, they were affectionately waved goodbye with the warmest of wishes, for what they had done for us.

Which is all fantastic to see, but does present a problem for the players who replace them – how do you follow that? Jason Kennedy and Mark Yeates could certainly argue, with some justification, that their personal struggles last season were treated very differently to those of Garry Thompson and Nathan Doyle. If they had been part of nights like Arsenal and Aston Villa, would their poor performances in 2013/14 have been met with greater patience? They were lower league players signed to compete with, and replace, lower league players. Only the latter group were superheroes for what they had done the year before.

And it will be the same for this summer signings. Let’s just imagine, for a moment, that when City welcome Notts County on December 28, recent results are indifferent Garry Liddle and Billy Knott are struggling for form. Along come County with Gary Jones and Thompson, who are guaranteed to receive the warmest of welcomes. Inevitable comparisons would be made to the current, struggling players that would not do the latter group any favours. When Jones endured a run of poor games in December and January last season, he was largely supported through them. In similar circumstances, would Liddle be afforded the same backing if he was struggling?

The answer, of course, is no – but here is why the Leeds game offers such a big reward. It provides these players with the opportunity to become heroes very early into their City careers  – which will stand them well over the subsequent months. The confidence they would acquire from a victory on Wednesday night could take them a long, long way, just as it did with the 2012/13 squad. Stephen Darby and Rory McArdle became true warriors after the Wigan game. Thompson’s City career was transformed by his Arsenal goal. Carl McHugh, Matt Duke, Will Atkinson, Zavon Hines, James Hanson – all these and others were able to lift their overall performances following their achievements over the League Cup journey.

That is the prize on offer. The players can go down to defeat bravely, giving everything, and they will be appreciated for that. Or they can go further. Triumph against the odds. Give their supporters a night they will never forget. And then reap the rewards of what it will do their City careers.

As for six of the key figures from the 2012/13 season who are still at the club, what a chance to build their standing even further. Phil Parkinson, Darby, McArdle, James Meredith, Andrew Davies and Hanson are already guaranteed their Youtube tribute reel featuring numerous highlights when they eventually leave, and in this game they have the opportunity to further cement their status as some of the most celebrated players in the club’s history.

Imagine if Hanson could add to his famous goals against Aston Villa, Burton Albion and Northampton with a winner against Leeds? I doubt that he ever has to buy his own drinks when out in Bradford anyway; but if he could claim this cherry on top of his remarkable City career, he could probably look forward to the Freedom of Bradford.

This is what is at stake for the players. They can lose on Wednesday and no one would be upset at them for it, or be majorly surprised. But if they could win this match…We Made History Mark II. A place in the folklore would be assured. Their names forever recalled.

Hero status is on offer this week. They know what they need to do.

Another Davies injury casts a shadow over Bradford City’s early season promise

23 Aug

Bradford City 0

Peterborough United 1

Vassell 57

Saturday 23 August, 2014

By Mahesh Johal

As the droves of supporters dispersed out the Kop this evening, there was a collective realisation that not only had Bradford City lost their first game of the season; but it also looks like we have lost defender Andrew Davies for the foreseeable future.

Davies fell heavily after a collision with teammate Jordon Pickford and Peterborough striker Kyle Vassell. Writhing around the penalty box in obvious pain and discomfort, Davies appeared to injure his arm or shoulder. He went straight to Bradford Royal Infirmary. His absence in the heart of the defence was immediately felt as Vassell then scored the game’s winning goal, calmly firing into the roof of the net.

The game started in energetic fashion, with the Posh winning multiple corners in the first minute. City also started confidently, with home debutant Filipe Morais having a couple of half chances, including a flash volley that went just wide. Morais, the former Stevenage man, played at the tip of the diamond and looked comfortable on the ball. Whilst hard to make a judgement based on 68 minutes, he initially reminded me of a more attacking version of Will Atkinson. With plenty of vigour and neat with the ball at feet, it will be interesting see if the Portuguese player will be offered an extension to his short-term contract.

It was the Posh who had the first real chance of the match, with the busy Conor Washington skiing over from inside the penalty area. Even though missing several first teamers due to injury and the obvious hole left by Britt Assombalonga, Peterborough looked a threat and maybe should have scored from a classic counter attack. After City has wasted a free kick deep in their opponent’s half, Peterborough swarmed out with Washington through on goal. Thankfully for the Bantams, Pickford stayed tall and parried the striker’s well-hit effort. The danger was not over for City, as the resulting save opened up an opportunity for Kane Ferdinand. Fortunately, Jason Kennedy was hand to block that attempt.

With the half drawing to close, the game went up a notch as a header from Ricardo Santos crashed off the post. From the resulting live ball, Christian Burgess then had an effort cleared off the line. One thought the Posh had scored as a roar burst out of the four hundred or so in the TL Dallas stand, but it was City faithful who were cheering after the subsequent clearance. Then in injury time City had their own efforts, with Billy Knott having his shot from 20 yards saved by ex-City trialist Ben Alnwick. First to react to the save was Mason Bennett – who was rewarded with the start after his midweek goal – and the on-loan Derby man attempted to send in a cross which was blocked/handled by a Posh defender in the penalty area.

From Bennett and Knott’s reaction they seemed adamant that the ball was handled, but I am unsure. A block was certainly made by the defender but due the speed of the event, I can’t confidently confirm if it his hand or not. Either way, referee Graham Salisbury was unmoved and the Kop were left outraged.

City looked comfortable going into the second half; however the bubble was well and truly popped as Davies got injured. I don’t know about you, but I always feel there is a collective gasp when Davies goes down. Today was different, however, as the gasp became a groan and then a silence. With people’s minds suddenly turning to Wednesday and the thought of Davies not playing, there was a genuine feel of deflation in the air.

Deflation then turned into dejection as Vassell scored. Matt Smith, who was becoming more influential throughout the second half, rode a tackle from Stephen Darby and the crossed to the striker who finished composedly.

Aaron Mclean and Mark Yeates were both brought on in attempt to change proceedings, but they were both ineffective. I’m sure Mclean would have loved to have scored against the team where he made his name, but a tame header on target was the closest he got. Peterborough, on the other hand, had clear chances to double their lead, but Pickford was again on hand to save. After a mis-placed pass from Knott, Joe Newell’s strike was acrobatically saved by the Sunderland loanee.

Valley Parade attempted to rally their troops, but quite frankly today was not going to be our day. To add to the already tough assignment was City’s battle with Salisbury. Maybe I am wearing claret and amber tinted glasses, but quite honestly I thought his management of the game was poor. Peterborough had a plan to put two men on James Hanson today. It worked well to counter our number nine, but at times it felt as if they were man-handling him. At no point did Hanson win a free kick and he was often the one penalised.

I could go on for several paragraphs, but it is unfair to divulge about him and take way from what was a very entertaining affair. Hanson’s stinging drive forced a good save from Alnwick, but all in all City did not have the firepower to break their resolute guest. Nine minutes added time was not enough to find an equaliser, with Yeates stabbing the best chance over the bar in the last minute.

Attentions will now turn to the arrival of our friends from LS11 on Wednesday. The loss of Davies will be big, but problems are brewing at Elland Road after today’s 4-1 defeat to Watford and what now looks to be the impending departure of manager David Hockaday. The atmosphere inside Valley Parade will be white hot. I just hope we have a referee who is strong enough for the event!

City: Pickford, Darby, McArdle, Davies (Meredith 55), Sheehan, Liddle, Kennedy, Morais (Yeates 68), Knott, Bennett (Mclean 68), Hanson

Not used: Williams, Dolan, Routis, McBurnie

James Hanson is on the road to legend status as City welcome Peterborough

22 Aug
Picture by Thomas Gadd

Picture by Thomas Gadd

Bradford City vs Peterborough United preview

@Valley Parade on Saturday 23 August, 2014

By Andrew Baxter

James Hanson’s goal on Tuesday night at Crawley was a fine example of how far he has developed as a footballer in the last couple of years. A neat piece of footwork, some very good close control and a powerful, yet precise, finish, would have been a great goal for any winger, never mind City’s 6ft 4in targetman.

Would Hanson have showed that level of composure and technique three years ago? I doubt it. It just highlights the work Hanson has done to improve his technique, and quash those accusations that he is a “one-dimensional” player. Hanson’s technique opens up a number of attacking options for City. They can feed it to his feet, knowing he’ll hold it up, and give the ball to one of City’s creative players, such as Mark Yeates or Billy Knott. Hanson can control balls fired in towards his chest, bringing them down, and holding the play up once more. The McArdle to Hanson long diagonal ball is predictable, but Hanson’s aerial ability means that he can win the header, nodding it back to a City midfielder or flicking it on for someone like Mason Bennett to run onto.

It may be a cliché, but the phrase “good feet for a big man” rings true for Hanson. He has adapted to both life in League One, and the new formation, with ease, and scoring three goals in his first three league games is an example of how the team have utilised Hanson as an integral part of the new system.

The chant “He used to work at the Co-Op” is an indication of the change Hanson has made since arriving at the club back in 2009, and this could be the season he goes from being a club icon, to a club legend. Hanson has scored 66 goals in his City career so far, just two behind Joe Cooke, and is now 20 behind Dean Windass. Hanson averages just over one goal every three games, and with a contract that has nearly three years to run, there is every reason to suggest that Hanson will surpass Windass’ mark of 86 City goals, should he stay fit. Even by the end of the season, he could be fourth on City’s all-time leading scorers list, something which would mark him as a legend in my books.

The rest of the team, like Hanson, have enjoyed a consistent, and solid start to the season, with two clean sheets in four games a sign of this consistency, and City are yet to concede a goal from open play.

Barring any last-minute injuries, Jordan Pickford will start in net, with a back four of Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies and Alan Sheehan in front of him. Gary Liddle will continue his holding role in midfield, with Jason Kennedy and the impressive Billy Knott just in front of him. Mark Yeates should play just behind the two strikers, with Mason Bennett the most likely to partner Hanson. Saturday will probably come too soon for Billy Clarke, who is recovering from a hamstring injury.

As for City’s opponents, and mixed start to the season has seen two league wins coupled with a League Cup defeat at Portsmouth, and a defeat at home to Sheffield United last Tuesday.

Their transfer activity during the summer was much more high-profile than the Bantams, with last season’s top scorer Britt Assombalonga moving to Nottingham Forest, for a tidy £5.5 million. Defeat in the play offs last year was regarded as a failure by some, but manager Darren Ferguson has the backing of chairman Darragh MacAnthony, and Ferguson has recently signed a new three-year deal.

Peterborough will be without regular centre-backs Gabriel Zakuani and Jack Baldwin, who are both injured, but the signing of Christian Burgess will provide some cover.

Peterborough will line up in a 4-4-2 formation, with former City trialist Ben Alnwick in net. In front of him will be the back four of Michael Smith, Shaun Brisley, Christian Burgess and Kgosi Ntlhe (Ntlhe scored a fantastic goal when the two sides met at London Road last December). In midfield, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing will start on the right hand side, with captain Jack Payne and Jermaine Anderson in the middle. Jon Taylor will start on the left, and Darren Ferguson has a dilemma upfront. Kyle Vassell will start, with three goals so far, but the out-of-form Conor Washington and Tyrone Barnett will compete for the other starting berth.

City have had a great start to the season, but this week will be a test of how good this side is, starting with the visit of Peterborough to Valley Parade.

Away day joy as the transformation continues

20 Aug

City v Crawley 1

Crawley Town 1

Walsh 55

Bradford City 3

Hanson 50, Knott 62, Bennett 77

Tuesday 19 August, 2014

Written by Mark Danylczuk (images kindly provided by Thomas Gadd, see note below)

“We’re Bradford City – we’re passing the ball”. A sarcastic chant from the City faithful last night but oh so true and a pleasure to watch. It’s not quite Barcelona or Arsenal, but to see City transforming into a composed, solid passing unit with new-found confidence is a pleasure to watch. We are changing – it’s not League Two players in League One, it’s League One and, dare I say, Championship-level players, playing in League One.

On a cool summer evening in Crawley, the Bantams sparkled with a superb second half performance giving a deserved away win and continuing the unbeaten start to the season. Both teams came into the game without loss – City with a win and draw and Crawley with a 100% record. City made a number of changes, with Alan Sheehan, Filipe Morais and Aaron Mclean in for James Meredith, Mark Yeates and Mason Bennett respectively. The team continued with the 4-4-2 formation and diamond midfield – Gary Liddle at the back, Billy Knott on the left, Jason Kennedy to the right and Morais in the hole behind the two strikers.

The early exchanges were even, with both teams trying to settle into the game. City’s opening chance came from a ball slipped through to Mclean who capitalised on a spill from Crawley keeper Brian Jenson but was penalised for a foul on the shot stopper in trying to retrieve the ball. As the half continued, both teams settled with City getting a grasp in midfield with some neat passing and Sheehan and Stephen Darby providing useful support on the wings. At the back, Andrew Davies and Rory McArdle had their hands full with Crawley strikers Gavin Tomlin and Izale McLeod, but coped with a number of crosses into the box.

The best chance of the half came to Crawley in the 26th minute when a long clearance from Jensen was flicked on by McLeod and Tomlin got between the City defence to fire a shot high over the bar. As comfortable as City were looking in possession, Crawley still looked to cause trouble on the counter being particularly effective on the right-hand side. The superb midfielder, Gwion Edwards, was a handful all evening using his explosive pace and skill to provide output to the forward line. It was right on half time when Edwards used his pace to run through on goal before the onrushing Jordan Pickford made an excellent tackle to clear the ball into touch. Half time came with neither side forcing the keeper into a save.

City v Crawley 2

The second half began with a City substitution with the in-effective Mclean being replaced by youngster Mason Bennett. Again, Mclean’s effort could not be faulted and his reading of James Hanson’s headers to run onto was good, but the sharpness is still not there and, to be fair, he didn’t get the run of the ball. A somewhat unexpected change so early on but the injection of pace and vibrancy in changing the game proved a masterstroke by Phil Parkinson, as Bennett was to have quite an impact.

Ready for this? I could barely keep up myself scribbling ferociously with the action of a second half performance that will do well to be rivalled this season.

It all started just three minutes into the second half when Morais released Stephen Darby down the right, and his intercepted cross towards Bennett came loose to Hanson, who smashed the ball into the top of net. Cue jubilation from the 284 strong City support of the 2,285 crowd. However, the jubilation was short lived as only minutes later, some sloppy defending allowed Crawley’s Joe Walsh to glance in a near post header from Ryan Dickson’s corner.

As the action calmed down, Crawley surprising substituted the excellent Edwards for Conor Henderson, which limited their attacking threat and gave the impetus to City, who in the 62nd minute, regained the lead. It was a superb left-foot half volley from Billy Knott outside the box which went in off the left post with the keeper rooted to the spot. What a goal. Most of us thought it had gone wide including the keeper but no way – it was a thing of magic.

City continued to dominate, coming close again in the 71st minute when a Sheehan shot was diverted by Jason Kennedy onto the crossbar and Crawley scrambled clear. Shortly after Mark Yeates was introduced for Morais, who had an excellent game. Full of running and invention, he will provide stiff competition for a place in the line-up on Saturday to Peterborough.

The game was ultimately sealed moments later with City’s third goal in which Bennett coolly chipped home over the onrushing keeper and it was job done. City’s final sub saw Matty Dolan come on for new crowd favourite Billy Knott, whose tireless display and rapport with the fans was reflected with a round of applause from the City fans. Crawley huffed and puffed to chase a comeback but it was not to be.

An outstanding performance. Pickford was little troubled, Davies and McArdle marshalled the back superbly, the midfield diamond excelled, Hanson again was superb in his support play and Bennett will provide competition for Aaron McLean with an assured display and well taken goal. As high as the confidence is with this positive start, I am sure Parkinson will keep a lid on things as we all remember last season’s positive start which faltered and led to the unwanted winless streak which dominated the middle part of last season.

Let’s finish on an optimistic note, however, and praise this evolving footballing side, our Bradford City. Onwards and upwards to Peterborough on Saturday.

City: Pickford, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Sheehan, Liddle, Kennedy, Knott (Dolan 80), Morais (Yeates 73), Mclean (Bennett 46), Hanson

Not used: Williams, Meredith, McBurnie, Routis

With special thanks to Thomas Gadd for allowing us to use his superb photos. Please visit Thomas Gadd’s website for more details)

City v Crawley 3

Dawn of a new era as City travel to Morecambe

12 Aug


Morecambe vs Bradford City preview

@Globe Arena on Tuesday 12th August, 2014 

By Mahesh Johal

The introduction to this match preview has been a difficult one to write. With Phil Parkinson taking his men to Morecambe for the First Round of the Capital One Cup, it is tough not to tread over old ground and reminisce about the ‘History Makers’ (last time I use the phrase – maybe). Let’s be honest, the start of this competition serves as an annual reminder of their achievements. Conversing over social media, some believe that fans have clung on to success of that campaign too much whilst others are more than happy to recall their memories. With this in mind, I have genuinely struggled to find the line between recalling, and boring you with events of the 2012-13 season.

In the end, I have decided to plug the Width of a Post marvellous coverage of the League Cup Miracle and give you the opportunity to hark back to those famous nights at your own leisure. With the majority of those ‘History Makers’ (last time – honest) leaving the club, this year’s First Round acts a nice point to end one successful chapter and hopefully start another one. Whilst the personnel bearing the claret and amber shirts are different from the ones we are familiar to watching, Saturday proved that under Parkinson stewardship, the club is entering a new and exciting dawn.

“New kids on the block”

If Saturday was the start of the new chapter, Billy Knott may well have been introduced himself as one of the new lead characters. A bundle of energy, Knott buzzed around the pitch all afternoon and was the player that caught my eye the most. With the ball at his feet, he looked comfortable, whilst his mobility and persistence was the instigator for the first goal. The first newbie to get their own chant, Knott certainly looks to have won the Valley Parade faithful over quickly.

A knock may force him miss tonight’s game but this could open the door for Matty Dolan to get his first start of the season alongside Gary Liddle. A rangy player who gives the side a presence in midfield, Liddle seemed to be in the right place at the right time throughout Saturday’s game. Whilst I am already a bit bored of the constant chatter about ‘the diamond’, it was clear to see the interchangeability within the Bradford engine room, and the positive affect it had in our play. Our midfield still has the vigour and attitude of its predecessors, but there was a mobility, slickness and intricacy that at times tore Coventry apart.

Jason Kennedy and the second coming

Tonight’s midfield should be completed with Mark Yeates and Jason Kennedy. It’s funny what a difference a week makes. Kennedy rightfully got the plaudits in the Monday press but it was only last week that he was rumoured for a move away to Hartlepool.  Seven days later, his wonderful dribble and delivery set up the winning goal for James Hanson. Coming into the club last season, there was a pressure on Kennedy. Many, me included, saw how influential he was during his Rochdale days and saw him as the heir apparent to Gary Jones. Compared to last season version, this Kennedy looked relaxed and added balance to the midfield. Maybe this style of play can help get the most of last season’s buys?

Admittedly it may sound that I am getting ahead of myself but I can assure I am not. It is imperative that these midfielders build on the promise shown on Saturday. However I don’t watch this club to moan. I was buoyed by their performance and look forward to their offerings in weeks to come. Whilst it hurt to see some players leave in the summer, the style in which City’s midfield played maybe justified Parkinson’s decision to release some of those familiar faces.

“The Usual Suspects”

With all of last season back four returning, there is a real steel about the side. Albeit two sloppy moments; I thought the defence looked solid on Saturday with Rory McArdle looking his assured best alongside Andrew Davis and Stephen Darby. Added to those is the nonchalance of Alan Sheehan, City have a fantastic defensive foundation for this season. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way to Sheehan either. I just got the feeling watching his cool penalty and general demeanour around the pitch that he is an extremely relaxed and calm individual.

With Christopher Routis yet to receive clearance to play, one would expect Saturday’s back four to start; unless Parkinson wants to give James Meredith or youngster Niall Heaton a run out. The goalkeeper they’ll be guarding is also an unknown. With Jordon Pickford’s loan arrangements making him unavailable, either Matt Urwin or Ben Williams will be make their debut in place of the Sunderland youngster in net.

Finally James Hanson will lead the line after his double heroics on Saturday. My praise cannot be higher for our number nine; both his work rate and his headers to win Saturday’s game were fantastic. Together with Billy Clarke, the forward partnership looked in tune and a threat. Unfortunately Clarke appears likely to miss the game through injury so Aaron McLean has an early chance to reclaim his position in the starting eleven. The response he got from the Kop demonstrates that fans are still behind McLean. But after Clarke’s impressive showing, the competition to partner Hanson is starting to hot up.

Whilst the Capital One Cup and Bradford City will always be synonymous together, I go back to my preview of this January’s Preston North End game. After the signing of three loan players and the exits of Ricky Ravenhill and Alan Connell, I discussed how it was the beginning of the end of the side we loved so much. A full two years on from the start of the competition that made their names, change is complete.

What it’s all about

9 Aug


Bradford City 3

Hanson 27 + 90

Sheehan 49 (pen)

Coventry City 2

Johnson 41+ 89

Saturday 9th August, 2013

Written by Katie Whyatt

It’s why you’re a football fan, days like this. Days when everything just seems to fall into place, all at once, and everything looks to work. Days when you can forget about the budget cut, forget about the challenges ahead, forget about the finances, the numbers, the scars from last season – forget about everything else but the present, this game. This beautiful, beautiful game. Age-old escapism, that oldest form of catharsis – forgetting the world for 90 minutes. Aptly, my iPod clicked Clean Bandit onto shuffle as the car rolled towards Valley Parade. When I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be.

That’s the wonderful thing about the opening day. That immortal notion, anything is possible, the sentiment that lures us back every season, rises from the stomach as soon as Saturday comes. Positivity, hope, fun, ambition – the cornerstones of being a football fan thrown down for all to see. And why not?

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that football is supposed to be fun. We go through what we go through because we love Bradford City, and we love what it means to be a football supporter. It’s days like this, when you’re thrown through the whole gamut of emotions, that you discover that topsy-turvy feeling. It’s days like this, when you’re treated to such energy, such passion, such diligence, from your starting eleven, that everything seems right in the world. It’s days like this, when you scroll down a Twitter feed littered with impromptu marriage proposals to @billyclarke7, that you know being a football fan is something special. It’s days like this when you love supporting Bradford City.

City’s first opening day victory for six years had all the spice, speed and sparkle of a winning performance. The diamond worked impressively. Kennedy and Yeates, for whom last season was a year to forget as they stumbled through a crooked personal campaign, looked revitalised, catching the eye with some neat football and reading the game superbly. This latest Bantams incantation are enthrallingly intelligent, and knocked the ball around with all the vigour and swagger of a proficiently organised and experienced unit.

But what stood out most was their willingness to work for each other. To move for each other, to pound the pitch for each other, to win back possession for each other. There was an understanding, a cohesion, that looked new, looked renewed. And that sat hand in hand with an awareness of the fact that this crowd – this amazing, colourful crowd that supported the team so vocally today – will back to the hilt any player that performs with meaning.

Fears about team spirit were absolutely assuaged. Tackling with conviction, tackling for the team – every single one of them.

Parkinson deployed the diamond formation he had been honing over pre-season. Jason Kennedy and Billy Knott made up the wings as Gary Liddle anchored, with Mark Yeates deployed in the hole. Billy Clarke and James Hanson formed the front two at the head of the side.

Coventry were to provide a stern test. While they might have been generally weaker than they were this time last season, there was quality within their ranks. For all the fans’ downbeat caution – downtrodden after losing top scorers Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson in January and July respectively, and disillusioned following their well-documented off-field problems (the impassioned ‘we want to go home’ song on 35 minutes in protest at their upheaval from the Rioch, was a moving outcry) – Pressley has recruited wisely. As Jordan Clarke pinged a shot just over the crossbar on two minutes, you began to fear the worst.

But City brushed off the early scares and found their feet in incredible fashion. Even in these early days, with new faces to integrate and a new formation to embed, the hallmarks are totally promising. These players look to know each other inside out and backwards. At their high points today, Bradford paraded the pitch with a militant swagger and confidence under which almost every run and every delivery was bang on the money. For a comparison, think of when Swansea City are on it – think of how organised they look. How efficient everything is. How every movement looks tried and tested, practiced a thousand times over. Everyone is aware, like there’s some telepathic understanding –  and that’s what it was like. Balls played and runs made miles before Coventry knew what had hit them. This squad seems so clever and so creative, and these boys are working so, so well together.

Today was one for the purists. I keep closing my eyes to see Sheehan despatching Mark Yeates, Jason Kennedy laying off for Stephen Darby, Billy Clarke knocking balls to feet. Chances were being created, but in new and inventive ways. Crosses from the wings, the long ball from the back, the big kicks from Pickford, motions forward from midfield. All this variety, all this energy.

Billy Knott and Alan Sheehan looked beautifully compatible, with Sheehan finding Knott on the overlap and the winger sending a teasing cross to Clarke. Gary Liddle broke up the play well and has Doyle’s eye for a pass, but his increased mobility allowed him to roam the pitch to alleviate the pressure in all areas. In the second half, Liddle scrambled a ball off the line to deny the visitors, before moments later charging forwards to send through Hanson.

Meanwhile, Billy Clarke is clearly inventive enough to make things happen and anticipates everything superbly, linking up with Hanson in ways McLean unfortunately struggled to do last year. The opening goal came when Knott intelligently found Clarke, and the Irishman turned and teed up for Hanson to direct the cross home. There were understandably worries Hanson could be inadvertently phased out while the diamond comes to sparkle, but Clarke’s ability to find pockets of space and generate movements meant Hanson was as involved as ever.

Today, Clarke staked a massive claim for a place in the team. That he played somewhat out of position – he cites his favourites as either slightly off the frontman or just behind the front two, in the hole – is indicative of his desire to take one for the team. Clarke’s versatility suddenly entails a plethora of attacking options for Parkinson. Potentially, he could counter any defensive formation. Both Aaron McLean and Billy Clarke look like origins, players who want to make things happen and set attacks in motion. Whoever wins the starting jersey will help to characterise the success of City’s season, but, until then, the team are by no means treading water until McLean’s return. Hanson and Clarke is a totally viable partnership.

Most strikingly, Jason Kennedy looked a new man, hounding back possession with crunching challenges and insightfully feeding Billy Clarke and Stephen Darby using probing passes. The midfielder looks to be entering something of a second coming, and what a perfect antidote today will be to his hugely frustrating first year in claret and amber. Don’t give up on him yet.

Coventry equalised just before the break. City defended slackly from a dubious corner, overlooking Reda Johnson’s imposing presence and allowing the Sky Blues centre half to exploit the space. Pickford came to meet the cross when, arguably, he should have remained on his line, but it was too late. Johnson nodded home at the near post.

It was a crushing blow for City – Pickford in particular, whose kicking was beginning to win over the home support. At one point, he young goalkeeper’s superb kick from his box found a solitary Clarke, who held the ball up before crossing for Kennedy to backheel to Allsop. Pickford found a man every time, and quickly, always looking to fuel a counter-attack. The Sunderland loanee later came into his own with a string of excellent second-half saves: after handling a free kick strongly, he dived superbly to deny John Fleck from distance. Pickford is still learning, but he’s learning fast.

Following a hugely engaging run of play from the hosts as the second half got underway, Sheehan teasing corner was curling straight to the path of Hanson, but the striker was pushed. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Sheehan tucked away the penalty – City’s first, incidentally, since this same fixture last November.

But it was all square just moments from time, as Reda Johnson knocked home from close range with a tidy effort. As Steve Pressley and his cohorts plunged into celebrations on the sidelines, it all felt over, City cruelly robbed of the three points they’d toiled so hard for. Everything tinged by that goal, all the merits about to be tainted.

We felt glum for less than a minute.

You can never switch off in football. It’s a cliché, a tired gimmick, but it’s so cruelly, ruthlessly, perfectly true. Kennedy surged up from the halfway line and delivered a textbook cross to Hanson, and the forward dutifully nodded in to send a packed Valley Parade into raptures.

Disbelief, mania, pandemonium. The tides had changed in an eyeblink. That spirit, that trademark, hallowed spirit that has defined the sides Parkinson has assembled over the past three years, is still there. Anyone else would have rolled over then – tied at 2-2 with a minute on the clock – but they didn’t. There was a comforting familiarity about it, seeing City recharge and go again so soon after utter heartbreak. But that’s this club. That spirit is their trump card.

Today dispelled a number of the anxieties that had staggered pre-season. The club are still light on the numbers, and it remains to be seen how Parkinson plans to approach next week’s cup tie in terms of preserving players, but the squad’s core is unyieldingly strong, and recent additions mean it no longer looks so painfully thin. City were composed and committed, playing with a new sense of guile and tenacity. The diamond flows well – it’s beautiful to watch and far less rigid than last season’s stricter 4-4-2. These players are technically astute enough to be handed a license to break free, and, though they worked in packs, interchanged and moved seamlessly.

For the moment, De Vita, too, is still in the picture: the Italian could be a solution to the depth problem, but the reality is that he isn’t much better than the alternatives, and doesn’t seem to offer anything not catered for. The jury also remains out on Jordan Pickford, though the 20 year old showed huge promise today.

It’s easy to get carried away by the opening day, but why not? Let’s not lose perspective or run away with ourselves, but let us relish this feeling. There will be trials this season, moments when things don’t fall our way or things don’t go well, and there will be times when we want to pack it in and end up questioning why we bother.

And the answer is today. Games like today, with the atmosphere and the weather and the diamond and new season enthusiasm and last minute winners and converted penalties and new signings and a totally unpredictable stream of events that leave you gasping for breath and begging for more. We all felt like children again today: ridden of cynicism and scepticism, and just taken away by the showing on a day devoid of anticlimax.

Today was special. The football was special, these players were special – the fans, us, our atmosphere, was special.

Because this is what it’s all about, days like this. Being giddy and optimistic, young and transfixed, taken aback and taken away.

This is what it’s all about.

City: Pickford, Davies, McArdle, Darby, Sheehan, Knott (Dolan 71), Yeates, Liddle, Kennedy, Clarke (McLean 86), Hanson

Not used: Meredith, Shariff, Morais, Urwin, Heaton


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,751 other followers