Tag Archives: Phil Parkinson

Jon McLaughlin’s departure triggers mixed feelings

23 Jul
Image by Kieran Wilkinson

Image by Kieran Wilkinson

By Jason McKeown

“We’ve come a long, long way together. Through the hard times and the good.” Praise You by Fatboy Slim

If there was one Bradford City player on the retained list who it would be assumed would re-sign with no problems, it was surely Jon McLaughlin, who has this week instead departed the club. As the longest-serving player, the Scottish keeper’s endurance was something to celebrate. He’d enjoyed a good season, where he’d finally proven himself the club’s number one. A new contract was offered to him in May, along with deals for Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle and James Meredith. But whilst the others all eventually agreed terms to remain in West Yorkshire, McLaughlin has been stuck in limbo, unable to conclude a new deal.

Width of a Post understands that the player (or at least his agent) believed there would be a fair amount of interest from other clubs. So seemingly in a position of strength, he turned down City’s initial offer and apparently requested a substantial pay rise. If the rumours are true, McLaughlin was a relatively low paid player last season (and certainly a long, long way below the club’s highest earner, Aaron Mclean). However, his demands did not go down well with the club, who withdrew the original offer when it expired following the 30-day consultation period.

It meant that McLaughlin was left in a position of training with City in the hope of continuing negotiations; his hand further weakened by the signing of Jordan Pickford from Sunderland on a season’s loan. There was not the interest elsewhere that his agent perhaps originally suggested to him, although it is good to see him ultimately receive an acceptable offer from Burton Albion. As such, the player and club can shake hands on good terms, after going through so much together.

McLaughlin originally arrived at Valley Parade in 2008, awarded his big break by Stuart McCall. Over six seasons at Valley Parade, he has played his part in achievements big and small. But it didn’t translate into hero status, or even widespread appreciation. He was not unpopular with the crowd, but far from a favourite either. Whereas some of his predecessors in the Valley Parade goal have been big presences and demanding of the attention, McLaughlin always seemed something of a supporting character.

You didn’t always notice him, and sometimes it was hard to tell if that was a good or a bad thing.

You can certainly find plenty of detractors of McLaughlin. They will tell you he wasn’t good enough, that he has too many weaknesses and that his strengths are nothing special. Equally you will also find numerous supporters of the Scot. They will point to his overall ability, and his stats – which are undoubtedly commendable. But from the majority of City fans, there is a mixture of indifference and indecisiveness over his worth. The club’s longest-serving player, and yet many of us couldn’t make up our minds about him. Is he good enough? Could we do better? Could we do worse?

In 2013/14, McLaughlin was an ever-present in the league and can take pride in City ‘against’ column: they conceded the seventh-fewest goals in the division. McLaughlin kept 14 clean sheets – a record of almost one shut-out every three games – and only conceded more than two goals on five occasions.

That is impressive, but yet the credit for that solidity doesn’t seem to go to McLaughlin. Everyone agrees that Andrew Davies is the key figure in the back five, and the stats for a City side with Davies at the helm and a City side without him demonstrate his considerable value (just one clean sheet during his four-month absence). Stephen Darby won the 2013/14 player of the season award and is widely valued, Rory McArdle is generally rated. But what of McLaughlin? How influential was Jon McLaughlin in Jon McLaughlin keeping 14 clean sheets? And if the answer is ‘very’, why didn’t he get the credit?

The season before that, 2012/13, was a similar story. Parkinson interchanged between Matt Duke and McLaughlin, and the debate raged all season about who was the better player. I was a member of the #TeamDuke camp, yet the stats showed that Duke conceded twice as many goals as McLaughlin. Famously that season, a 4-1 thrashing to Exeter in March was a watershed moment that led to a late play off surge. Parkinson made two changes to the backline for the next game, against Wycombe, which began that run. Meredith was brought back in after injury and McLaughlin replaced Duke. Meredith received a great deal of credit for the subsequent upturn in the team’s form, whilst McLaughlin barely received a mention.

So what kept happening? Why does McLaughlin look such a good player on paper, but yet was unable to fully convince us when we were watching him live?

Like James Hanson, his background has both helped and counted against him. Signed from Harrogate Railway and a former University student. McLaughlin must have been initially grateful that a club like ours would give him an opportunity. He was fortunate to be here. And for that reason, there was always an element of looking down on Jon rather than looking up to him. He was around so long that he almost became first choice keeper by default.

It took Hanson, with his own non-league background, a long time to win over his critics and prove himself as a genuine star player of the team. McLaughlin failed to reach that same status. Part of my bias for Duke in 2012/13 derived from his greater pedigree that gave you the confidence to believe he was a ‘proper’ goalkeeper. If McLaughlin had similarly joined City from Hull, would we currently view and judge him differently? Certainly, Burton Albion’s fans will have a different perspective in how they welcome him, on account of his now-lengthy Football League experience.

What I’ve often felt is lacking in McLaughlin’s game were point-winning contributions. When you compare him to some of the best City keepers of the last two decades, there simply isn’t the same list of memorable McLaughlin performances and incredible saves. Yet on the other side of the coin, McLaughlin’s mistakes were not particularly frequent or dreadful enough to differentiate him from those who have kept the Bradford City goal before him. He is basically an ordinary goalkeeper. A good all round game, with nothing glaringly lacking from his range of abilities. Still, you sometimes wish that it was more evident just what a difference he makes.

In September, McLaughlin will turn 27 and, like his former goalkeeping coach Duke, could in theory be playing professional football into his late 30s. These next four or five years in particular should be amongst his best, and there must be some sadness that they won’t take place at Valley Parade.

For a lot of investment went into developing Jon. Four managers trusted in him, numerous goalkeeping coaches spent a great deal of time improving him. The lessons learned from the mistakes he made will now be to another club’s benefit. It will be very interesting to see how both he – and the keepers who follow him in the Valley Parade sticks – fare over the coming years.

Whatever the disagreements over recent weeks, no one can dispute that McLaughlin made a very positive contribution to Bradford City. We are all better off for what he did for the club.

The brutalness of pre-season defeats

22 Jul


Ossett Town 2

Boardman 65, Blackburn 81

Bradford City XI 0

Tuesday 23 July, 2014

Words and images by Jason McKeown

The sun-baked Ossett evening was the perfect setting for a few hundred Bradford City supporters to spend a relaxing, care-free couple of hours enjoying a football match. But this tranquil atmosphere undersold the heavy burden of pressure felt by the players tasked with representing the League One club. Upon such high stakes, the sport is at its most brutal.

A mixture of back-up first teamers, youth players and trialists were on a mission to impress Phil Parkinson. To demonstrate their value to the manager and, in many cases, secure a future at the club beyond the slow setting of the evening sun behind the main stand. Even for youth players who cannot realistically hope to get a first team call up any time soon, they may never get a chance as good as this. This was no meaningless friendly to the Bantams who participated in it: almost all had their future at stake.

It was a near-unrecognisable team, save for History Maker James Meredith – captain for the night – Jason Kennedy and Rafa De Vita. Even a 45-minute appearance from Matt Taylor felt like it should have been marked with the handing out of collector’s badges, given the majority of City supporters have still yet to see him in action. Jordan Pickford – who signed for the Bantams on a season-long loan the day before – was held back from making his debut. Instead, Parkinson ran the rule over two trialists in goal – Jay Lynch, a 21-year-old former Bolton keeper, and Matt Urwin, a 20-year-old ex-Blackburn Rovers stopper. In total, the starting XI featured five trialists, with two more introduced after the break.

Parkinson spent the entire 90 minutes stood behind one of the goals; ruling the roost over his team of lesser-knowns, whilst assistant Steve Parkin barked orders from the dugout. Of the trialists, Reginald Thompson-Lambe was arguably the most impressive performer; linking up reasonably well with Meredith on the left flank and showing some neat touches. A first team-ready player he certainly isn’t, but his nationality – Bermuda – will curry him plenty of favour at Valley Parade. The former Toronto man, who was once on Ipswich’s books, might be worth a development contract.SAM_2083

Other trialists included right back Stuart Bramley (ex-Dallas), French centre half Christophe Routis (ex-Servette), and – of course – Rafa De Vita.

What more can be said about the Italian? Had he rocked up on trial this summer without any previous connections, would he still be in the frame for a contract? In the two friendlies I have seen, De Vita has looked largely anonymous, and he continues to display a frustrating tendency to attempt ineffective fancy flick ons that only succeed in breaking down attacking moves. Playing just off a solo striker – youth product Joe Brennan – far more should be expected of De Vita. We know that he can be a decent player, yet he offers nothing that hasn’t already been recruited this summer. It’s time to put this one to bed.

Of the youth players on show, Sam Wright once again displayed glimpses of what he can do – this time in a central midfield role. He is a player of some promise but arguably needs toughening up. A month or two on loan at a local non-league club is a must if he is to progress to first team consideration. Niall Heaton was introduced in the second half and impressed with his confident runs forward. Another trialist – Richard Bryan (ex-Aston Villa) – was also given another opportunity after his outing at Guiseley. Between him and Nick Arnold, you would expect Parkinson to sign one to provide more right-sided defensive cover for the season ahead.

In truth it was difficult to come to any overly-positive conclusions about any of the players on show tonight. Ossett Town showed spirit and character throughout, never allowing their more illustrious opponents an easy ride. Throughout the rough and tumble, you want to see stand out City performers who can genuinely show they are on a different level. It might be harsh, but other than Meredith there was no one who looked above their semi-pro opponents. It might be harsh, but these opportunities cannot be passed up. Football is brutal, and it really was here.


In a game of very few chances, Ossett Town eventually took the lead after Rob Boardman smashed a free kick past Urwin from some 30 yards out. It was a terrific strike, although not a moment Urwin could feel proud about. In the opposite corner of the ground, his trialist rival Lynch showed no emotion as he watched on keenly, whilst stood amongst regular supporters. Lynch might have kept a clean sheet during his first half outing, but hadn’t been tested and, therefore, had little opportunity to impress.

City attempted to respond to falling behind, and substitute Reece Webb-Forster – who last season scored the youth team’s winning goal in the Youth Alliance (Northern) cup final – was played through on goal. A delicate lob deceived the home keeper, but bounced agonisingly off the underside of the croosbar before being scrambled away. It was City’s best opening on the night by some distance. A minute later, Luke Blackburn tapped home a second Ossett goal after Urwin had done well to parry an initial shot from Joe O’Neil.

With almost all of the senior players and trialists replaced when the score was 0-0, it is perhaps understandable that a more youthful Bradford City struggled to cope with Ossett’s greater physicality and lost the game. But these are the standards they have to reach and reach very quickly. Football is brutal.

Defeat barely matters, not when the first XI for the opening fixture with Coventry City was never going to feature anyone on display this evening. But it nevertheless raises small levels of anxiety as the big kick off creeps closer and closer into view. Parkinson still has areas of his squad to fill, and tonight offered him very few answers – at least not in the short-term.

City: Lynch (Urwin), Bramley (Pollard), Meredith (Heaton), Taylor (Bryan), Routis (King), Kennedy (Divine), Wright, Lambe, De Vita (Jenkinson), Brennan (Webb-Forster), Chippendale


The 'ahem' first class press facilities.

The ‘ahem’ first class press facilities.



Pre-season gets more serious in Ireland

14 Jul
Picture by Kieran Wilkinson

Picture by Kieran Wilkinson

UCD AFC vs Bradford City preview

@UCD Bowl on Tuesday 15 July, 2014 

By Jason McKeown

Bradford City’s annual trip to Ireland occurs with the squad for the 2014/15 season largely formed, and with only a few obvious gaps left to fill.

As Saturday’s 3-0 friendly romp over Guiseley evidenced, Phil Parkinson has plenty of strength in most areas of the team. There are several options and combinations for the centre of the park, up front and across the back four that will ensure keen competition for places. Although the appearance of defender and striker trialists at Nethermoor suggests Parkinson is considering adding to these areas, his main focus will surely be on the positions where he is severely lacking.

Principally that is someone to play in-between the sticks for the Bantams. As it stands, there is no contracted goalkeeper at the club. With less than a month before the big kick off, that reality prompts some apprehension – given it is such a key element of the team.

The folly of placing goalkeeper recruitment at the bottom of the priority list can be observed in Stuart McCall’s final season in charge, where he had infamously budgeted just £600 a week in wages to tempt a competent keeper. Cue problems. (And though the player eventually brought in that summer, Simon Eastwood, promoted huge derision over his performances at City, it’s worth noting that he might be back at Valley Parade next week as Blackburn Rovers’ keeper.)

Parkinson will evidently be weighing more importance on filling the position than as to leave barely any of his reduced budget left over to sign the two goalkeepers needed, but he’s probably not going to splash out the cash on the number two keeper at least. Last season, with the larger budget, Parkinson relied upon loan keepers to sit on the bench for half a season as insurance for a Jon McLaughlin injury. There may have been some financial commitment involved in borrowing Connor Ripley and Aaron Jameson, but it would barely have troubled the salary cap. With austerity the order of the summer, it’s hard to imagine Parkinson dramatically altering that stance.

Which makes the situation with McLaughlin all the more curious. City’s longest serving player was offered a contract to remain at the club, but for one reason or another it wasn’t signed. Clearly the club wanted him to stay when originally offering him that deal, but something stopped the Scot from agreeing to it. Without any public comment from the player, speculation reigns as to why he didn’t take the offer. Was he holding out for more money? Would he have preferred a longer deal? Had he been told that he might not be number one next season and was therefore unhappy? Was he aware of other clubs showing an interest in his services?

For the time being, McLaughlin trains with the club, presumably unpaid. If he was attracting interest from other clubs, what has stopped them from signing him, or why isn’t he at least appearing on trial for them? For these reasons, you can only speculate that offers from elsewhere have not being forthcoming, or at least any previous interest shown towards him has faded, should the keeper have been holding out for this. McLaughlin may have appeared on other clubs’ list of targets, but if other names were ahead of him on those lists, and if the club in question succeeded in signing them, there would be no need to follow up any initial interest shown towards Jon.

Such a scenario would appear to have occurred with James Meredith. In May the Aussie was quoted in Four-Four-Two as saying that although City would offer him a new contract, there was interest elsewhere that he would also look at. “I’m obviously assessing my options…Before I got injured there was a lot of interest from Championship clubs, that interest has died down a bit but there’s still a bit there.” It would appear that, as Meredith stalled over signing the deal on the table, City opted to sign Alan Sheehan instead (and on the day Sheehan signed, Sky Sports revealed Meredith had rejected his original contract offer). However, Meredith ultimately came back and agreed a revised one-year deal.

If there was interest in Meredith, it never materialised or wasn’t sufficiently tempting enough to better playing for Bradford City. Yet had Meredith originally signed the deal offered to him, would Parkinson have signed Alan Sheehan? The net result is that City now have two excellent left backs for League One level, and Sheehan – who was probably given certain assurances when he signed – is set to be first choice. By seemingly stalling, Meredith is now left with a lot of work to do earning a place in the team and winning over a doubting public. He must now have regrets.

A year ago I was speaking to the late former City Head of Development, Archie Christie, who was working for Harry Redknapp at QPR and quizzed me about Meredith. Unknowingly, I was providing him a reference about Meredith (I’m sure he also asked better qualified people than me) as he was on QPR’s lengthy list of targets for that summer. Again, nothing materialised and – to the best of my knowledge – City never received a transfer bid from Rangers. But it underlines the point that, as clubs draw up their wanted lists every close season, appearing halfway down one is no guarantee it will lead to something.

If there was still a firm contract offer on the table for McLaughlin to be Bradford City’s number one next season, he would surely sign it. He would not be training with the club, risking injury by playing in friendlies unpaid, and travelling over to Ireland, if he wanted to leave and if there was a realistic possibility of him doing so.

He has being accused of messing around the club and that’s probably true (though he has every right to secure the best situation for his career, as are you and I in our careers), but it appears that he is the loser of the situation. Simon Parker has stated the player “is still no nearer to finding out if he will be part of the club’s plans for the new season”, revealing that the balance of power has shifted. McLaughlin must now wait to see if the club still wants him, when at the beginning of June they had offered him a deal that he chose not to take.

The two games in Ireland begin with against the University College Dublin AFC (UCD AFC) Tuesday evening, at the wonderfully named UCD Bowl (can a 1,500 capacity stadium really be called a Bowl?) UCD play in the League of Ireland Premier Division (currently sitting second bottom, midway through their season) and will offer a useful workout.

Having initially being ruled out of the start of the season, central defender Matt Taylor is expected to experience some action over the two-game tour and may be fit enough to appear from the bench in the second half on Tuesday. On paper, Taylor still looks an excellent acquisition and, if he can sort his fitness issues, will add competition at the back.

Aaron Mclean, who picked up a minor knock in pre-season training, is also expected to figure at some stage of the tour and will want to hit the ground running. Last season his partnership with James Hanson saw very mixed success, and these games should be the perfect opportunity for the pair to build up a stronger understanding for when the serious stuff begins. In what is a big season for Oli McBurnie, he can’t afford to miss opportunities to impress in pre-season friendlies and will hope to be fit enough to figure on Tuesday.

Beyond Angelo Balanta and Nick Arnold, who have travelled to Ireland, it is unclear if any of the trialists from Saturday will be offered another opportunity to impress, and indeed there may be new trial players brought in for a go. Beyond that, Parkinson has stated his intention to give half of his squad 60 minutes on Tuesday and the other a full hour on Saturday, as fitness levels are pushed harder.

This is the third year in a row that Parkinson has taken the team to Ireland and it appears to work well in developing team spirit. Those supporters who have been on previous trips – after they stop talking about how brilliant the nightlife is – have always commented on an enjoyable atmosphere of openness around the matches, with players and management mixing freely with supporters.

And though some of the new signings still remain unfamiliar to us, there’s a good opportunity to meet and have your picture taken with people who might in future become City heroes. Two of my friends went to Ireland in 2012/13, and approached Ritchie Jones in the club house, desperate to have their photo taken together with the midfielder. Looking around for someone to take the picture they spotted an unassuming bloke nearby, asked if he would mind doing the honours and handed him their camera. Snap, photo completed. “Thanks very much” they said to the bloke, before walking back to the bar. “Who was that bloke?” one of them asked. “Erm (long pause) – oh he’s called Stephen Darby.”

The diamond lights up Bradford City’s opening friendly victory

12 Jul


Guiseley 0

Bradford City 3

Clarkson 12+43, Dolan 26

Saturday 12 July, 2014

Written by Jason McKeown (images by Kieran Wilkinson)

This was a very early statement of intent from Phil Parkinson. In the midst of a growing clamour to change the playing style for next season, at Nethermoor the Bradford City manager trialled a diamond 4-4-2 formation that will please the purists. A slow but considered passing style was the result of the new approach; with the tempo deliberately quickened in the final third. This was an evolution to the way the Bantams ended last season – and a huge contrast to the high tempo strategy of a year ago.

Guiseley were game opponents but limited in their resistance, making it difficult to draw any conclusions beyond guarded encouragement about the effectiveness of this new approach. But it has quickly become apparent that Parkinson already possesses the types of players that will make this formation work – in fact, you could argue he has an embarrassment of riches in his available options.

Take the holding midfield role that is so pivotal to the diamond’s success. Matty Dolan and Gary Liddle were awarded 45 minutes each in this position and both excelled. The better days of Dolan’s loan spell at Valley Parade last season came when he was instructed to protect the back four, at Leyton Orient and Rotherham. And during the first half today, the young midfielder was hugely influential in either winning the ball or receiving it from the defence, and then setting up attacks. Liddle is more of a box-to-box midfielder than Dolan and might struggle to maintain the same positional discipline, but he is an excellent tackler and on first impressions looks an inspired signing.

The first half City team featured Jason Kennedy and youngster Sam Wright as the two widemen of the diamond, and both did well. Kennedy looked as though he had finally found his relevance in a Bradford City shirt and set up two of his side’s three first-half goals. Wright lacks stature but was comfortable on the ball, catching the eye with some probing passes.

Trialist Angelo Balenta – released by QPR during the summer – was asked to play the attacking midfield/deep lying striker role and impressed. Having made his name as a winger, it was surprising to see the Columbian playing in the hole; but much of what was good about City during the first 45 minutes involved him. Balenta was undoubtedly the most notable trialist of the six players who were awarded an opportunity.


The first half diamond four helped the Bantams to quickly race into an unassailable lead. First Lewis Clarkson clinically half-volleyed a Kennedy cross home from close range, before Matty Dolan arrowed a free kick around the wall and into the bottom corner. Clarkson made it 3-0 following another Kennedy knock-down. Balenta’s crossfield ball into Kennedy’s path, during the build-up, was arguably the pass of the match.

It was a good afternoon for the young striker Clarkson, who was unable to make any first team impact last season due to a serious injury. Clarkson should have added a couple more goals, however, after spurning two excellent one-on-one opportunities either side of his opener. His movement and off-the-ball running was noteworthy, and he linked up well with the ever-fantastic James Hanson. It will be interesting to see if Clarkson can make an impact over the coming season.

After 11 changes were made at the interval, the revised diamond four was made up of Liddle in front of the back four, Billy Knott in the hole, and Mark Yeates and Rafa De Vita as wide players. It quickly became apparent why the signing of Knott is considered such a coup, as the former Sunderland man made a strong first impression.

Knott’s intelligence and confidence were the most striking, as he attempted all manner of tricks and clever passing that easily out-witted Guiseley. His best moment was a mesmerising dribble from deep and audacious chip attempt that the home keeper scrambled back to tip over the bar. In this formation, Knott should be a huge hit this season. That said, on this evidence there are question marks about how well he would fit in with a more conventional 4-4-2, similar to the questions that Yeates was unable to answer last season.


The other two permanent signings making their debuts – Alan Sheehan and Billy Clarke – also performed well. Sheehan is expected to begin the season in the side ahead of James Meredith, and brings a similar attack-minded style of play. Clarke played up front alongside trialist Callum Ball, yet most of his best work came outside the box as he dropped deep or out wide. This is why Parkinson seemingly has an embarrassment of riches to make a diamond formation work – even if Balanta doesn’t sign, Clarke looks ideally suited to compete with Knott to play in the ‘hole’ position.

Although there were no further goals in the second half, there were numerous opportunities to have at least matched City previous two pre-season visits to Guiseley, where they rattled in four goals. Clarke was played clean through on goal by De Vita, but saw his low shot scrambled off the line by a defender. Sheehan cut inside and fired a low effort that flew just past the post. After excellent work out wide, Clarke delivered a superb cross to Ball; but the former Derby striker could only head the ball onto the crossbar when he should have scored.

Ball became a second half talking point, but not in a good way. He has a sizeable frame, but lacks any real presence. There was very little pace on display, and very few effective touches. When late on he chased a 50-50 ball but couldn’t keep up with the defender, Ball could only resort to lamely grabbing their shirt. Sadly for his career, its next chapter will not be written at Valley Parade.

Of the other trialists, goalkeer Ben Alnwick (ex-Sunderland and Tottenham) didn’t have enough to do to form a judgement, whilst defenders Richard Bryan (ex-Aston Villa) and Nick Arnold (ex-Reading) looked reasonable. De Vita was nowhere near matching the impact he made in this fixture a year ago; but the door will surely remain open for him for the moment, and he will be on the plane to Ireland. Certainly De Vita’s best hope is that Parkinson was satisfied enough with the diamond formation to continue its development over pre-season.

Although two wingers are said to still be on the shopping list (loanees from Premier League or Championship clubs), these players are unlikely to arrive until just before the start of the season. In the meantime, Parkinson is building a way of winning matches without a reliance on touchline-hogging wide players. It is certainly different to before, but the greater time that the ball spent on the floor today would suggest it is an approach that can satisfy his public’s expectations.

City – first half: Alnwick, Darby, Bryan, Davies, Meredith, Dolan, Kennedy, Wright, Clarkson, Hanson

City – second half: McLaughlin, Arnold, McArdle, Heaton, Sheehan, Liddle, De Vita, Yeates, Knott, Clarke, Ball



Pre-season preview part two: Back to Guiseley

11 Jul


Guiseley vs Bradford City preview

@Nethermoor on Saturday 12 July, 2014

By Jason McKeown

Pre-season begins and ends against managers with Bradford City connections; as first Mark Bower’s Guiesley welcome the Bantams tomorrow, and Colin Cooper’s Hartlepool travel to Valley Parade a week before the season starts. In total there will be six friendlies played in the space of three weeks, all aimed at ensuring the team hit the ground running.

Cooper’s time at Valley Parade was brief. He was brought in by Peter Jackson to assist in 2010/11’s troubling relegation battle, and took caretaker charge of two matches – both won – following Jackson’s shock departure early into the following season. Yet from such a short time period, Cooper left behind quite a legacy which has being widely cited as a key factor behind the club’s success over the past two seasons: Nick Allamby.

Having known fitness coach Allamby during his time at Middlesbrough, Cooper invited him to assist with Jackson’s 2011/12 pre-season and his knowledge and expertise have really taken the club forwards in how it prepares for the season. Upon replacing Jackson and Cooper, Phil Parkinson instantly recognised the value of Allamby’s work and retained his services. When the manager’s contract situation rumbled on during the second half of the 2012/13 season, one of the main reasons for the delay was Parkinson’s insistence that Allamby and assistant manager Steve Parkin had their own futures sorted at exactly the same time. The trio sat down together to sign three-year deals.

 The benefits of Allamby should be obvious to even the biggest sceptic. 2012/13’s 64-game marathon is the stuff of legend and it is to Allamby’s credit that the team looked as fresh as they were the previous August during their play off final demolition of Northampton. Simon Parker recently provided a superb stat about City being League One’s fourth-best second half team of last season, and we saw it with our own eyes. Recall, for example, the recovery from 2-0 down at Sheffield United in January when the team had looked beaten. What could easily have developed into a 5-0 hammering was turned around in the second half as City claimed a useful point. Credit to Gary Jones and co for dogged determination, but equally such comebacks were the result of the scientific fitness approach that Allamby has instilled.

It has helped to give pre-season a more serious edge to the days of old, and the friendlies – particularly the week-long stay in Ireland – are all part of a tried and proven plan. We have come a long way from going to Guiseley under Stuart McCall, with the manager, his assistant Wayne Jacobs and Mark Lawn’s son getting a run out. Allamby is a key figure all year round, none more so during pre-season where City do everything on their terms without a fixture list dictating the schedule. Nick told Width of a Post’s Nick Beanland last summer, “I try to give them ‘football intensity’ so we get them straight into playing football – there’s none of the old fashioned stuff where you’ll just run for two weeks before you get to see the football.” As the previous two seasons have proved, the work taking place now will stand this group of players in good stead for the battles ahead.

Beyond that, pre-season can from the outside appear fairly chaotic. The gaps waiting to be filled by new signings, the early judgements to form on new players, the uncertainty over who will be in the manager’s first choice XI when the season begins, the youngsters given outings, the trialists, the endless substitutions. Games, especially early doors, lack rhythm and tempo. Goals are applauded rather than cheered. Inevitably, someone will get injured and it often sets back their entire season.

Tomorrow will be the opportunity to take a first look at the new arrivals, with Billy Knott, Alan Sheehan, Gary Liddle and Billy Clarke expected to make their first outings in claret and amber. Matty Dolan is another new signing, but a player we are familiar with following his low-key loan spell last season. By 5pm there will probably be much talk about names that, at this moment, we have never heard of – the joy of trialists.

Other players who figure will have a point to prove and will aim to make the most of the fresh start. Jason Kennedy and Mark Yeates have a lot of people to win over and will want to impress – whether it be to figure more in Parkinson’s plans or to attract interest from other clubs. We’re looking for signs of a sharper and more settled Aaron Mclean up front, and that Rafa De Vita – who made a big impact on trial in this fixture last summer – is worth awarding another contract to.

The focus will also be on the man between the sticks. Jon McLaughlin continues to train with the club but has still yet to agree a new contract. Is he hoping to secure a move elsewhere or simply unhappy with the terms offered by Parkinson? His presence – or lack of – at Nethermoor tomorrow will offer some indication. Either way, expect a trialist of some sort to figure for 45 minutes at least.

Beyond that, it will be great to re-acquaint with the familiar faces of those who have done the business for City over the past two years and who remain a part of Parkinson’s plans. Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies, James Meredith and James Hanson – all know the Guiseley turf well from previous pre-seasons, and the journey ahead. As the warm up to a campaign full of unknowns begins, it is comforting to know that we have a core group of players who have consistently proven they can be relied upon.

For Guiseley – who over recent years have become a home for discarded Bantams players – there will be a few blasts from the past. Kyle Harrison and Danny Ellis were once in City’s youth ranks. Ben Parker spent the 2006/07 on loan at Valley Parade from Leeds. Danny Forrest made an explosive impact 11 years ago, scoring on his City debut. Andy Holdsworth was on trial at City under McCall in 2009 but was snapped up by Oldham before City could act. It will also be a special day for Bower, as he takes charge of a team against the club that he grew up supporting and represented for over 10 years. Last season, Guiseley were unfortunate to once again lose in the play offs.

At this stage of pre-season, Guiseley offer the ideal first test. Not least due to Nethermoor’s close proximity to Leeds-Bradford airport – last year the team flew straight to Ireland after the match.

Let the left back battle commence!

7 Jul


By Gareth WalkerSAM_2850

This afternoon, James Meredith has signed a new one contract with Bradford City after attending training this morning. In doing so he put an end to a bizarre summer of speculation regarding his future.

Having been in Australia on holiday, Meredith had left his agent in charge of sorting out his future and it became a long drawn out process. Unlike Gary Jones and Garry Thompson he was not “released” by City in the early stages of the summer break, and it became clear from the onset that – along with Steven Darby and Rory McArdle – Meredith was a player that City wanted to keep.

However, whereas Darby and McArdle committed themselves to the club relatively swiftly, Meredith’s future continued to remain unresolved with no announcement either way for some time.

Eventually, news broke via sky sports that Meredith had turned down City’s offer of a new deal and was in fact attracting interest from Championship clubs. In turn, the Bantams’ signed fellow left back Alan Sheehan seemingly as a replacement for the Australian. Phil Parkinson revealed that he had told Meredith that, due to the shortage of left backs being available in the transfer market, he couldn’t wait all summer for a decision on his future.

However, time continued to pass and unlike what happened with Jones, Thompson and Nathan Doyle’s departures, there was no official announcement from the club that Meredith had gone. There was also no news of Meredith signing for a new club, unlike what had happened with Carl McHugh.

Last week there seemed to be a twist in proceedings as Simon Parker broke the news that City were still in contract with Meredith regarding discussions of him staying in West Yorkshire. This morning the rumours of him staying gathered pace – and indeed he signed a new one-year deal this afternoon.

There will be those that see the delay in the deal being agreed as a bad thing, and there are sure to be concerns that Meredith saw us as a last resort when that so-called Championship interest didn’t materialise.

However, with the player having been on the other side of the world for most of the summer, we can be unsure how much of a role his agent had to play in these negotiations of bluff and counter-bluff.

After being one of the standout performers in the 2012/13 promotion campaign, Meredith did struggle defensively at the start of last season – often being caught out of position and costing us a goal here and there.

However, he has also never had any real competition for his place during his two years at the club, with McHugh always looking more comfortable playing at centre back. Sheehan will definitely offer that competition, and the pair’s flexibility will also be key in what is likely to be a smaller squad next season.

Both are known to be able to play in a couple of other positions. Sheehan is adept at playing on the left side of a centre back pairing, and Meredith can cover in central midfield and on the left wing.

What is clear is that on his day, Meredith is a quality lower league left back, but on the other hand so too is Sheehan and there is bound to be a some fierce competition between the pair for a place in the starting XI next season. This ultimately can only be a good thing for Bradford City.

Speaking to Michael Flynn

3 Jul
michael flynn

Picture courtesy of Bradford City Football Club

By Jason McKeown

Some numbers become iconic to certain clubs, and at Valley Parade the number four means a great deal.

After Bradford City’s greatest-ever number four departed for a second time in 2002, the gap he left behind proved colossal. Many people subsequently tried to fill Stuart McCall’s number four jersey, often with very little success. Meanwhile the club continued to tumble down the leagues; at times seemingly sleepwalking its way towards oblivion.

It was left to the club’s greatest number four – by now the manager – to solve that conundrum. And in 2009, Stuart McCall unearthed a real gem in recruiting Michael Flynn. The experienced midfielder was exactly what was needed to lead a young team through some difficult times. Flynn played a key role in putting the brakes on the club’s decade-long slide. He gave everything to the cause and was warmly loved by supporters for it.

At last, a number four you could rely upon.

Across three seasons, Michael Flynn played over 100 games and netted 14 goals for the Bantams; it would have been more but for a bad injury picked up at the beginning of his second year. If you include caretakers, he played for six different managers over that period. Turbulent times for sure, and it is a shame for the player that he was not around to experience the club’s long overdue success.

Now playing for his hometown club Newport County in League Two and recently awarded the additional responsibility of managing the club’s youth academy, Flynn took time out of pre-season to talk to Width of a Post about his three years at Valley Parade.

WOAP: You joined Bradford City in the summer of 2009 after a season at Huddersfield. How did the move come about?

MF: Well basically once Stan Ternent had left Huddersfield that season, we had a new manager come in (Lee Clark) and he wanted his own team – even though at the point he came in I was the top scorer. They sent me on loan to Darlington at one point, but I returned and managed to stay at Huddersfield until the end of the season.

That summer, I heard that Stuart McCall was interested but, to be honest, I left it a few weeks. Eventually I came to an agreement with Huddersfield; and as soon as I spoke to Stuart, Bradford was the only place I was going. I had a couple of offers to stay in League One, but I decided to sign with Stuart. He was unbelievable; such a gentleman, and he seemed really honest. That and the chance to play for Bradford, who were a huge club even though they were in League Two, was too good to turn down.

WOAP: At the time it was a squad that had just been rebuilt due to budget cuts. What were your first impressions of the club and the players in the dressing room?

MF: It was hard times to be fair. During my time I think the club were close to administration a few times. It was a bit frustrating to be honest because I would have loved it to have been my time when Bradford got promoted. But it wasn’t to be.

We had a really good team spirit that first season, a good bunch of lads. It’s just unfortunately the quality wasn’t there. We were missing probably three or four players.

WOAP: What did you make of Stuart McCall as a manager?

MF: He was unbelievable. He was absolutely superb was Stuart. So honest, so determined. He loves the club inside out. Wayne Jacobs was great as well. Stuart had the same thoughts as I did when he went to Bradford – letting his heart rule his head. He wanted to get them promoted, as did I. Unfortunately we didn’t get our dream, but I guarantee that we were both as happy as each other when Bradford did actually go up.

WOAP: Peter Taylor came in and made it clear you were a key figure for the club. What was he like to play under?

MF: Peter Taylor was brilliant. He was a lot firmer than Stuart, but one thing I loved with Peter was you knew where you were with him. There was no airs or graces: if he didn’t want you he was honest about it.

Peter was very tactical and I’ve taken a lot of things that I learned from him into coaching. In terms of tactics and preparations, he was spot on.

In the summer that he was made permanent manager I had a chance to go back to League One with Leyton Orient, for more money. But I decided to stay and signed a new two-year deal. I wanted to carry on playing under Peter, and we both genuinely thought we could do something that season. But it was just one of those things, it didn’t happen.

WOAP: Why do you think that was?

MF: I think we were short up front, to be totally honest. We only really had James Hanson, and he had been playing in non-league only 18 months before. He has done really well and come on leaps and bounds, but with just him I don’t think we were good enough up front then.

WOAP: Taylor went and then in came Peter Jackson. What was your relationship like with him?

MF: It was fine, I got on really well with Peter. If I’m totally honest, I think Peter was there to be shot at. He wasn’t the choice of manager that everybody wanted, but he did his best like the man he is.

He’d never do anything half-hearted. But being brutally honest I think he was the cheaper choice of manager. Still, I’ve got a lot of time for Peter and I still keep in contact with him. He’s a top guy.

WOAP: The 2011/12 pre-season began with a Development Squad friendly at Silsden where you, Luke Oliver and Robbie Threlfall were involved – apparently all on your way out of the club. What was happening during this period? Were you being pushed out?

MF: Yeah, I was being pushed out. They wanted me off the wage bill. I had a bad injury the season before, which was supposed to be a three to four-month absence. There was a lot of messing about with injections here and injections there, when I should have just had the operation straight away. I was actually out for nine to ten months.

So it took me a while to come back. I wasn’t as good as I was in the first season, I’m happy to admit that. But I’m not one to give up and didn’t that pre-season. I obviously won Peter Jackson around and I won the chairmen around, and I went on to score another six goals that season. That includes the goal against Leeds, which was one of my highlights of my time at Bradford.

WOAP: Indeed that goal against Leeds is warmly remembered, as it was part of such a brilliant night for us supporters. What are your memories of that night?

MF: It was an unbelievable night. The Bradford fans were amazing, as they always were. Let’s be honest, Bradford fans had been through a lot. The fire, the administrations – but these things seem to bring the club and supporters closer together.

If only we could have held on against Leeds that little bit longer at the start of the second half, I still think we would have caused an upset. The last thing we said before we came out after half time (City were leading 1-0) was ‘do not concede early’, but then we go and concede after 30 seconds. It was just a bit of naivety in the squad: we had players from non-league, and it was a young team. But we were unlucky to lose.

As I said it was a great atmosphere, and the Bradford fans made that.

WOAP: And then barely two weeks later, there was yet another management change. From your point of view you had only been at the club a couple of years but were already playing under a fourth different manager – what was that instability like?

MF: Well we actually had six! We also had Wayne Jacobs and Colin Cooper as caretaker managers. All of the change was a nightmare to be honest. It was really hard. A lot of the players didn’t know if they were coming and going. The new manager wants to bring in his own players. It’s hard and unsettling.

But at least now, with Phil Parkinson there, it has all settled down. I know there has been some changes this summer, but Phil has got the players in that he wants and I’m sure they will do well again this season.

WOAP: What did you make of Phil Parkinson?

MF: Phil and I got on really well. There was talk of me extending my contract, but then I got ill and was out for a while (December until mid-February). It was a tough time for me. Even though I came back and did quite well, we had already signed Ricky Ravenhill. And then in the summer there was myself, Ritchie Jones and Ricky who were probably among the higher earners, and one of us had to go. Unfortunately I was out of contract, and so it was me who went.

But I do have a lot of time for Phil, Steve Parkin and Nick Allamby. I still keep in touch a lot with Nick. There were no sour grapes about leaving.

WOAP: It must have been bittersweet to then see the club go on to enjoy such an amazing season in 2012/13. Did you follow their fortunes?

MF: To be fair it was a win-win situation, because I wanted Bradford to do really well. I knew a lot of players. I have always wanted my old clubs to do well. The summer I left they seemed to clear their debts with the stadium lease and things, and they were able to get better players in. And they got their reward with the great cup run and promotion.

WOAP: And meanwhile you have been having a great couple of years at Newport County…

MF: That summer I made the decision to drop out of the league. I could have stayed in League Two, but I wanted to go home as my daughter had started high school. I had been away for 12 years, so I thought the time was the right time to go back.

Thankfully joining Newport has paid off because getting promoted (to the Football League in 2012/13) via the play off final at Wembley was unbelievable. I have had other promotions, but that was something special. I didn’t enjoy the day though, only when the final whistle went!

WOAP: You have recently being appointed manager of Newport’s youth academy, what does the future hold for you?

MF: I will play as long as I can to be honest. I imagine it will be a lot less this season than last, where I played over 40 games. I have just done my A licence (coaching badge) which is something I have always been keen on. I am looking ahead to the next chapter of my life, but if I can play for another two or three years I would be delighted. If not, I will put in everything I’ve got into coaching.

WOAP: Finally you have played for eight different clubs over your career, how did Bradford City compare?

MF: Being totally honest, my time at Wigan was the best of my career – even though I wasn’t playing regularly. The team spirit was the best I have been involved in. We got promoted twice and reached the Premier League. I played with some brilliant players such as Jimmy Bullard, Leighton Baines, Lee McCulloch, John Filan, Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington.

Then I went to Gillingham which was great. I would say that Gillingham and Bradford were equal in terms of how much I enjoyed them. I felt wanted and appreciated, so I’ve got a lot of time for both clubs.

I loved my time at Bradford even though it wasn’t the most successful for the club. It’s great to be able to say that I played for a club like Bradford. I am very proud of that.

Click here to follow Michael Flynn on Twitter.

A mid-table budget should reflect the season’s objectives

26 Jun


By Jason McKeown

The Bradford City chairman, Mark Lawn, is rarely dull when he speaks out, and today’s comments urging supporters not to panic about next season, in the wake of concerns over the growing number of players leaving the club this summer, were certainly very revealing.

The budget reduction has become the talking point of the close season so far. When judged against a playing budget said to have been just over £2 million in 2012/13, the £500k cut represents a significant proportion of the resources manager Phil Parkinson was previously able to call upon. There has been talk that some of the players let go this summer were partially because of their high wages. It would be great to think that everyone who the club has chosen to release have departed entirely due to footballing reasons; but without clarification from the club, speculation has been allowed to grow.

Still, as Mark Lawn told the T&A, new signings will be made to strengthen the squad, “We’ve got a competitive budget so we’ll have a competitive squad – it’s as simple as that. I don’t understand why everyone is panicking over something which will be sorted out before the season gets underway. Obviously we are going to bring more players in because we’ve not got enough at present.”

Although no one likes the idea of the playing budget being slashed, the prudent approach of the club should be congratulated. It is almost 10 years to the day since the Bantams were hours away from going out of business forever; in the midst of a second spell in administration, less than 18 months since the first one. For the past decade, the club has undertaken and maintained a route of living with its means, taking what Chief Executive David Baldwin describes as “calculated risks”. Setting playing budgets higher than the business can afford, with variants in place to recoup these losses later, if needed.

Bradford City must continue to live within its means, and if that means a reduced budget for the upcoming season then so be it. There is a separate debate raging about whether the club should abandon its principled policy of cheap season tickets in order to give the manager more funds (for what it’s worth, I’m against pricing supporters out of buying season tickets), but in the immediate term that cannot be changed. This is what Bradford City can afford, so this is the budget Phil Parkinson must work with.

Which brings us to the most interesting aspect of Lawn’s T&A comments. “We have a competitive budget this year which is higher than at least ten other clubs in League One this coming season.” Accepting that the chairman is unlikely to have an accurate picture of every other League One club’s 2014/15 budget, by his reckoning City’s wage budget is going to be around the 14th highest in the division. In other words, Phil Parkinson has a mid-table budget to work from.

It can be easy to become overhung on budgets and assume they will dictate the divisional outcome – when in fact, year-on-year, there will be clubs with large budgets who don’t perform and others on low budgets who overachieve – but they are clearly important. And it must be a key point in the expectation levels set for next season. Can we, in the Boardroom and in the stands, justifiably expect Phil Parkinson to achieve promotion in 2014/15? Do we have a right to be disappointed if City are not in the top six? Is a mid-table finish considered acceptable?

Because the worry remains that, if City’s league position is judged against unreasonable expectations, it will prove to be a bumpy ride. Parkinson is tasked with making more from less, and improving a squad which, over the previous two years, had lifted the club 30 places up the ladder. It will not be easy and patience is going to be needed. As a club we cannot stand still and tread water, but slow progress shouldn’t be judged as failure against the true backdrop of the budget constraints.

Instead, it should be made loud and clear: Bradford City 2014/15, a mid-table budget, but a realistic objective to perform better. It might not set the pulses racing, but it is a sensible next step for a club that should have a sound, long-term plan to ultimately get back into the Championship.

Kyel Reid played an important role in the rise of Bradford City

24 Jun
Picture by Claire Epton

Picture by Claire Epton

By Jason McKeown

Joining Bradford City on the very same day that Phil Parkinson took over at Valley Parade, it seems hard to believe that Kyel Reid will no longer be a feature of the manager’s squad. The flying winger brings an end to three seasons in West Yorkshire by joining Lancashire divisional rivals Preston on a two-year deal – an offer that would have been impossible to turn down.

The alternative, of returning to the Bantams on a week-to-week contract, trying to prove his fitness, hardly offered the same security. At Deepdale, Reid will receive all the rehabilitation support he needs to recover from that dreadful injury picked up at Bramall Lane last January. He will then be part of a side that was unfortunate not to be promoted last season – 2013/14’s League One was a tough one, and a top five finish was no small achievement – and who go into this season with strong, credible ambitions of returning to the Championship. For a player whose career was in some doubt, this is a great move.

Yet Reid – or at least the Kyel Reid prior to taking the field at Bramall Lane that day – leaves behind a huge hole at Valley Parade. His bad injury occurring just a week after Nahki Wells’ departure to Huddersfield, the lack of pace in the team over the final five months of the season was an obvious problem. Adam Reach was a good replacement for Reid in the circumstances, but direct pace was not amongst his attributes. When City were under pressure defensively and attempting to counter attack, they lacked a player who could run with the ball and leave a trail of defenders behind. Goalscoring opportunities dried up. As Aaron Mclean struggled for goals, there was some regret that he only crossed paths with Reid for half an hour in South Yorkshire.

When on form, Reid was one of the club’s most exciting players. It was no surprise that Reid was Parkinson’s first signing, after the misguided move of his predecessor, Peter Jackson, in letting Omar Daley depart and not bothering to replace him. Perhaps, on his absolute best day, Daley was a better player than Reid – but for consistency and overall game, Kyel was an improvement. He would also be blighted by inconsistency and inevitably be singled out for abuse by supporters, but those occurrences were less frequent. Reid’s final ball wasn’t always the best, but he so often made things happen.

In season one (2011/12), and with a relegation battle to win, Parkinson leaned heavily upon Reid. The defence was set up not to come forwards, and in the centre of the park were two ball winners flanked on the right by the positionally-solid Craig Fagan. The attacking spark either came from direct balls to James Hanson and Wells, or through Reid. He embraced the responsibility to deliver numerous match-winning contributions. When the chips were down, he could be counted upon.

Being truthful, Reid was not amongst the stand-out performers of 2012/13. He endured another bad injury at Rochdale in October, and wasn’t seen again until January. With the League Cup run in full flow, Reid remained on the sidelines, almost making a sub appearance in the Wembley final against Swansea before another Swans goal caused Parkinson to change his mind over his choice of substitution. But he was back in the side and starting at Wembley three months later, enjoying arguably his best ever game for the club in the 3-0 demolition of Northampton that sealed promotion.

2013/14 started with Reid the only promotion winner displaced from the starting XI, which was where his determination really came to the fore. He won back his place from Mark Yeates (who, despite having a disappointing season, did actually start well) and produced some electrifying performances. None more so than at Deepdale in October, where he ran his future employers ragged with a dazzling display. On that evidence, it is no surprise that Simon Grayson is taking a chance on his fitness with the two-year contract.

As City’s form fell away, so too did Reid’s. Like so many other wingers in the past – even Peter Beagrie – Reid had more than his fair share of critics in the stand. We all know he couldn’t do certain things, that he should be better in his delivery, and that his form could be too erratic. But at the end of the day, that is why he was playing for Bradford City and not still at his first club, West Ham. He was a League One winger, and a bloody good one at that.

But with Reid, merely knowing what he was capable of would cause you to perch yourself on the edge of your seat in anticipation, when he ran with the ball. There is nothing like the sight of watching a winger charge past defenders, beating them through skill and raw pace. Reid may have been frustrating to watch at times, but more often he was simply great to watch.

Parkinson simply has to find a replacement of Reid’s style and ilk. We got by without him last season, but our attacking play suffered and we now have a first choice front two who badly need good service. Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish – a player who caused havoc against City when on loan at Notts County last season – has been mentioned as a loan option. As we reported last week, Reach is also said to be interested in a return should he not figure in Middlesbrough’s immediate plans – but he would be more effective if there was a pacy winger on the opposite side to him, as at times we were too reliant on Reach to play like Reid.

Whoever comes in, Reid will be fondly remembered. Parkinson’s first signing for City proved to be one of his best, and the 26-year-old leaves Bradford City as a much stronger club than the one he joined three years ago.

The high stakes of high player turnover

24 Jun


By Jason McKeown

Kyel Reid has joined Preston North End. James Meredith has removed “plays for Bradford City” from his Twitter profile. There is still no indication over whether Jon McLaughlin will sign the new contract he has been offered.

Should all three end up leaving Valley Parade this summer, the rate of player turnover will become eyebrow-raising.

Consider this. Of the 2012/13 squad that delivered the historic double Wembley season, just 12 months ago, only four players may remain at the club when the season begins in August: Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies and James Hanson. It is often said that there can be no room for sentiment in football and that must certainly ring true of those tasked with making tough decisions, but we supporters are allowed to be different. There have been a lot of sad farewells over the past few weeks, and you wonder if ultimately there will have proven to be too many.

For beyond the 2012/13 heroics, it should not be forgotten that the bulk of the players departing this summer helped the club achieve a top half finish in the higher division of League One in 2013/14. During the best period of the campaign (which admittedly was early doors) the entire XI was the same as the one that had won promotion in the League Two play off final the previous May. We are not talking about people who were out of their depth, or who simply had to be replaced. This turnaround is either ruthless or premature – and only history will be able to tell us which one. The upcoming season is going to be very, very interesting.

Because make no mistake – expectations are increasing. Alan Sheehan’s arrival came under the T&A headline ‘Alan Sheehan signing gives rise to hopes of promotion’. Aaron Mclean was quoted in the T&A today stating the aim next season was to be “pushing for promotion”. This for a club with the playing budget cut by £500k (a-not-inconsiderable sum of money – with the club said to have had a wage budget just over £2 million last season, £500k represents a large chunk of money).

If the new-look side struggles to live up to the hype, you can easily imagine the fall out. If the players who have been let go flourish in their new homes, the wisdom of failing to keep them will be questioned. For as well as City ended last season, it wasn’t a happy ship in March and early April. Similar negativity will quickly return if things don’t go well.

Which is not to talk down City’s chances, but simply to observe how high the stakes are. Keep those heroic players past their ‘best before’ date and Parkinson would have been criticised. Let them go when they could still do a job – and a better job than their replacements end up doing – and Parkinson will be criticised. The potential departures of Meredith and McLaughlin would not be his choosing, but it all adds to a lot of experience being lost.

Parkinson knows what he is doing, and the team he is letting go is one that he originally built two summers ago – demonstrating his capability to build another successful team. But he needs a summer like 2012, not 2013, otherwise the coming campaign could prove to be an uncomfortable one for the manager.

For me, a promotion challenge in 2014/15 would be welcomed but shouldn’t be assumed. If City are not in the top six, it shouldn’t be viewed as a failure. Parkinson has two years left on his contract and is signing players on a similar length of deal – that should be a timeframe for a promotion push. Move forwards next season, absolutely, but it needs to be part of a bigger plan.

The pace of change is rapid, but we need to give it plenty of time to work. I just worry that patience is not going to happen, and fear the consequences of failing to realise potentially unrealistic expectations.


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