By Jason McKeown and Alex Scott
Every Width of a Post writer was asked to name their top five Bradford City players of the season (11 writers responding), which saw 10 different players receive votes and a very clear top five. Our winner is no real surprise, but here’s the countdown anyway…
In 5th place – James Hanson
Hanson remains the figurative (and perhaps literal) lightning rod for the squad, as he will likely always be, but this past year we have witnessed him grow in stature into something resembling a talisman. Only he could lead the team’s scoring charts, whilst remaining under the radar (definitely figurative this time) and still a figure of ridicule for an unfathomably large section of the City support.
This season has seen Hanson mature into a far more effective forward, his link up play coming on leaps and bounds in addition to his movement which is a far cry from the ungainly, statuesque figure he represented at times last season. He has developed into a legitimate target man at this level, competing and succeeding against the best in the division. As the second half of the season unfolded, his burgeoning partnership with Nahki Wells proved fundamental to any success the club witnessed.
Beyond his development as a player, Hanson has also grown as a character. When in previous seasons he showed the tendency to shy away from the ball, this year he demonstrated a rebellious streak, careering around the field with a gigantic chip wherever he shoulder used to be. He has had to withstand a lot in his short career, from vicious character assassination from within the club, to repeated public speculation on his replacement, all on top of the omnipresent vilification he receives from his own supporters.
This season Hanson has been able to harness that frustration, evolving from the derisory figurative into the invaluable literal, an easy target.
Other comments from Width of a Post writers included: “Considering the stick he’s had from some quarters, including Jacko publically treating him like a schoolboy in the media and a mid-season injury, he’s done well to keep developing his game. His return of 14 goals and the most fouls in the team shows he’s toughening up.” “Perseverance and More Perseverance.”
In 4th place – Nahki Wells
The impact of Wells at Valley Parade was both immediate and slow in coming. An impressive cameo from the bench against Barnet back in August included a well-taken goal and hitting the post, while his FA Cup stunner against Rochdale in November easily wins goal of the season. However, international commitments for Bermuda during autumn meant Wells did not become a first team regular until Christmas.
But what a player. Nahki quickly became a crowd favourite and has netted a range of wonderfully taken goals, including a hat trick at Northampton which virtually guaranteed survival. Results and performances were notably better when Wells was on the field, and scouts connected to higher league clubs have come flocking to watch him.
Wells has a terrific low centre of gravity in that he thinks with his feet quicker than those around him, particuarly opposition defenders. The raw side to his game occasionally leads to mis-control or the wrong option taken, but more often than not it triggers a positive contribution with either the ball ending up in the net or a chance on goal created. Few City players in recent years have had such a magnetic effect on your eyes and generated such a buzz of expectation when they receive possession. You dare look away when Nahki is on the ball.
Other comments: “One of the most exciting young talents we have seen at Valley Parade for a while, Nahki should be a key player next season.” “This fella has got it in him to be a seriously good player in this league and higher. He is the most natural finisher I have seen at VP for a good few years. His ability to beat a man and strike the ball has given us some real excitement this season.”
In 3rd place – Andrew Davies
It looked a real coup when Parkinson announced the loan signing of Andrew Davies from Stoke last September. Although his near-full season spell at Valley Parade has featured some low moments, no one would argue with Davies’ ability and the difference he has made. Andrew has been rock solid in the centre of defence and proven well worth his high wages. Three red cards have seen him miss 12 games through suspension, but that would be an unfitting way to remember what he has given the club this season.
Davies is a Championship player, performing like a Championship player. He gave a defence that was creaking badly early season with greater assurance and composure. He puts his body on the line in a manner that completely blows apart the theory loan players do not care as much. We know in our heart of hearts that there is no chance of Davies remaining at Valley Parade next season – and, in truth, the remergence to form of Guy Branston means we need him less – but his contribution to the cause has set an impossibly high benchmark that future loanees will be judged against.
Other comments: “His future obviously lies at a level higher than League Two. Disciplinary issues aside, he has brought a touch of class to our team.” “His strong performances are not only determined by his quality but also by his attitude. No other player for Bradford City has shown quite as much drive and determination right up to the final whistle.”
In 2nd place – Kyel Reid
Surely Parkinson’s most impressive signing to date, Kyel rocked up at Valley Parade virtually the same day the new City manager was installed, adding pace and trickery to a team badly lacking on both fronts. Reid’s performances during the first half of the season showed strong promise; but after returning from a six-week lay off at the turn of the year, the 24-year-old really found his rhythm and destroyed several opposition full backs with devastating wing play they couldn’t live with.
Wingers by their nature are inconsistent and Reid is no different, but on a good day – and he has had more good days than bad – he is unplayable. What’s all the more remarkable is the pitiful support he has received from his fellow full backs. While Marcel Seip did work well with Reid, after he was ruled out injured for the season Reid had to contend with being double or triple marked and having no full back to provide him with an option for the short pass.
Yet Reid has carried on, unfazed, and now Parkinson goes into this summer surely looking for another Reid to play on the opposite side, to give greater balance to the side. Regardless of whether he succeeds with this aim, we can’t wait to see what further damage Reid can do next season.
Other comments: “Unpredictability and Productivity.” “His energy and desire to run at players makes watching Bradford City fun and exciting.” “A look at the team’s form when he was out injured and the fact that he’s got the team’s most assists tells us why next season he’s a key player.”
And so, the Width of a Post Player of the Season 2011/12 goes to – Luke Oliver
What more can you say about the 6ft 5inch defender? Having cleaned up at the official player of the season awards, the accolades for Luke have been plentiful in recent weeks – and rightly so.
Oliver’s 2011/12 campaign began in a Development Squad friendly at Silsden, where he and the other senior starters – Michael Flynn and Robbie Threlfall – were seemingly surplus to requirements. But Oliver kept his head down and, after injuries opened up the opportunity to start at Oxford in August, he never looked back. A mistake-prone defender in 2010/11, Oliver was the model of consistency this season, producing outstanding performances week in week out.
They say that footballers are at their peak between 27-30, and there is no doubt that 28-year-old Oliver is playing at the top of his game right now. With a superb ability to read the game and make timely interceptions, while also having the clear confidence to know when to go in for a tackle and when to stay on your feet, Oliver looks comfortable and happy in his job. He also provided the team with a stability that has been badly needed this season.
To turn around his Bantams career so impressively makes Oliver the biggest success story of a poor season for the club. Now we just need him to sign a new contract.
Other comments: “His transformation from last season to this has been nothing short of incredible.” “Oliver is a City Legend in the making. The fact that he has been the outstanding player of the season from as early as Christmas is testament to his performances this season.” “Proof it’s never too late to be who you might have been.”
The Width of a Post Player of the Season 2011/12 was judged by Jason McKeown, Ian Sheard, Tim Roche, Gareth Walker, Rob Craven, Alex Scott, Damien Wilkinson, Ron Beaumont, Luke Lockwood, Mark Scully and David Lawrence.
Categories: 2011/12 season review