The writing has, in truth, been on the cards for a number of weeks now; but there is still something very sad about seeing Robbie Threlfall depart Valley Parade last week, after his contract was settled with the club.
The right-footed central defender, Marcel Seip, has become first choice left back ahead of Threlfall, and Matt Fry has been signed until the end of the season, taking the number two slot behind the Dutchman. Threlfall has not featured since City lost to Watford in the FA Cup back in January. At the time it was a second start since recovering from a two-month injury. He looked rusty, but not yet finished as a Bradford City player.
Threlfall’s two years at Valley Parade can be looked upon as something of a missed opportunity for club and player. Signed by Peter Taylor immediately after taking over as manager, who – present that night – could forget his outstanding debut at Rochdale, where he netted a crucial goal via a stunning free kick? Threlfall was not just some anonymous kid about to be released by Liverpool, he had his own squad number at Anfield. And when you talked to Liverpool fans (even now) they knew him and about his abilities. Not good enough for the Premier League, but a promising talent nonetheless.
Taking Luke O’Brien’s place in the team, Threlfall continued to impress during his initial loan spell at the end of the 2009/10 season, and making the move permanent was a no-brainer during the summer. But as the team struggled to live up to lofty expectations early on the season after, no one looked more unsure or hesitant than Threlfall. Out of form, he was eventually out of the team. O’Brien it seemed was the main man, and when Peter Jackson took over as manager – despite giving Threlfall a run in the team at the end of last season – he began this campaign telling the Liverpudlian he could leave the club.
It was said that personal problems for O’Brien cost him his place in the side, and Threlfall began this season first choice and put in some of his best performances since joining the club. Phil Parkinson retained faith in him when he took over as manager, and left back only became a problem again when Threlfall suffered a bad injury at Macclesfield in late October. After recovering, he would only played 181 more minutes for the club.
Throughout Threlfall’s time at the club – and in keeping with so many of his current and former team mates – there has been a fierce debate over his ability. But it always seemed strange that someone who started so well at City, and who looked such a hot prospect, could become a bad player overnight. Give him time in the team and work on some of his weaknesses, and you had a reliable and consistent left back with a long career ahead.
Were Taylor and Parkinson too hasty in dropping him? Aside from O’Brien’s problems, why did Jackson go from trying to bomb Threlfall out of the club to making him first choice left back?
It will be interesting to see where he ends up next. Because his departure leaves a heavy question mark over whether Threlfall has left Bradford City because he wasn’t good enough, or whether Bradford City wasn’t good enough to make him a better player.