Rotherham United v Bradford City
@The Don Valley Stadium on January 2, 2012
Jack Compton has seemingly played his last game for Bradford City after manager Phil Parkinson elected not to offer him a permanent contract; while Liam Moore has returned to Leicester. With Leeds United left back/left winger Charlie Taylor joining the Bantams within hours of the transfer window opening, a month expected to herald plenty of change has begun at a frantic pace.
23-year-old Compton, who has started 15 times and made six substitute appearances since joining on loan from Falkirk in the summer, was according to BBC Radio Leeds’ Derm Tanner unwilling to consider a further loan deal with the club. Given he is not in Bairn manager Steve Pressley’s long-term plans back in Scotland, Compton will be on the look out for a move elsewhere and Sheffield Wednesday were previously linked with him.
His time at Valley Parade will have done him no harm on that front. Initially struggling but in good company during the club’s first few league games, Compton made a quick and lasting impression by scoring for City against Leeds in the Carling Cup. He soon after found some promising form and was unfortunate to lose his place when Parkinson came in as manager, signing Kyel Reid on his first day.
Compton was something of a bit part player in September and October, but he always performed well when called upon and enjoyed arguably his best game for the Bantams in the JPT victory over Sheffield United in November. A week later his superb run and cross enabled Chris Mitchell to score against Rotherham – but when he was set to be dropped the following week after fading in that same game, he took it badly and Parkinson elected not to let him travel with the team to Gillingham.
That episode hinted strongly of a fractious relationship between the player and manager, something which Compton has alluded to on a few occasions via his Twitter account. He is clearly not someone who can hide his frustration at been left out of the starting line up or getting substituted. Yet while there is no doubt he has made a tremendous impact at times and proved a valuable player, Compton has struggled to provide consistent 90-minute performances and can often fade out of games.
Rightly or wrongly, Compton does not seem to feature in Parkinson’s long-term plans. So although in the short-term City are undoubtedly worse off and likely to miss him over the coming weeks, it doesn’t justify offering Compton an 18-month contract in order to persuade him to stay. Taylor – who made his Leeds debut against the Bantams in that aforementioned cup tie – comes straight into contention to replace him on the left flank, with the forgotten Luke O’Brien also an option.
This changeover in personnel is the first of what could be several more during the January transfer window. Despite the recent upturn in form, Parkinson has made no secret of his determination to press ahead with bolstering a squad which – overall during the first half of the season – has clearly underperformed. Yet with the City ‘machine’ firmly up and running, signs of disruption to results and performances could quickly see Parkinson come in for criticism. How many times have there been complaints about a City manager changing a winning team? Over the next four weeks, Parkinson looks set to be doing just that; though long-term improvement is, of course, the ultimate aim.
For now the machine continues minus Compton for the trip to Yorkshire rivals Rotherham United – the last League Two side to beat the Bantams, when Michael Flynn gave us that late hope and then triggered utter despair following his two stoppage time penalties. Selection changes beyond just Compton’s position are likely, as Parkinson aims to make the most of a sizeable squad. Jon McLaughlin will keep goal with centre backs Andrew Davies and Luke Oliver certain starters, but the full back positions may be an area where players are rested.
Simon Ramsden is still returning to full speed, though following a series of accomplished displays you wouldn’t know it. Marcel Seip could also make way for Taylor or the fit again Robbie Threlfall, who made a stoppage time cameo from the bench on Saturday. Other than the immensely promising Andrew Burns, Parkinson is without a natural right back to enable Ramsden to have a breather.
In midfield City’s decision to contest David Syers’ red card on Saturday means he is eligible to play again until his appeal is heard. However, it would be fair to assume that two games in three days is too much of an ask following his lengthy lay off, and that Ricky Ravenhill will be reinstated into the team following his one-match suspension. Ritchie Jones has enjoyed two superb displays that played a big part in the club’s back-to-back Christmas home wins, and will continue in the centre next to Craig Fagan on the right.
Up front, the James Hanson/Nahki Wells partnership enjoyed another fruitful afternoon on Saturday; though Ross Hannah could earn a recall over the Bermudan international to keep it fresh. Hannah was desperately unlucky on Saturday that – minutes after coming on a sub – the game was changed by Syers’ red card and he was no longer the most suitable person to toil up front; thus being substituted himself near the end. As it stands, he is third choice striker and needs to make a quick impact in order to avoid being pushed further down the pecking order when the new forward arrives.
This will be the last time City play at the bizarre and always bitterly cold Don Valley Stadium, with Rotherham set to move back into their home town and to a new ground during the summer. From O’Brien’s first ever goal for City back in 2008, Rhys Evans’ Gordon Banks-esqe save during the same game, James Hanson’s stoppage time header in 2011 and last season’s hard-thought 0-0 in the middle of a difficult run of form, the Don Valley and its running track have featured happy memories for City.
At the start of a month of sizable change, completing an unbeaten record at the Don Valley will be a very welcome way of maintaining the status quo.