By Jason McKeown
So, on Saturday was it a case of Bradford City being utterly magnificent, or AFC Wimbledon being utterly woeful? The answer, as is so often the case in these situations, probably lies somewhere in-between.
Nevertheless, on an afternoon where there was so much striking about the Bantams, there was one aspect about the game that stood out to me more than anything. And although you have to temper any praise (or criticism) at this stage of the season with the disclaimer “it’s early days”, the destruction of Wimbledon offered so much encouragement for the many battles ahead.
And it went something like this: against a backdrop of five years watching Bradford City play League Two football (where each year I saw around 75% of the 46 matches), I’ve never seen such an evident mis-match of ability between two teams as I did on Saturday. It was just one afternoon, of course, where one team was in top form and the other in disarray, but the Bantams stood head and shoulders above their opponents. A different level. A gulf in class.
And it wasn’t a case of Wimbledon being the worst League Two side we’ve ever seen, or of City’s performance ranking amongst the best since dropping to this level, either – they are not, and it did not. All of which should help to fuel the rising mood of optimism. We will probably play better than this (you could argue we did against Fleetwood), and we will face worse teams than Wimbledon. Yet we won 5-1 – in a match where 45 minutes were spent with the foot off the gas.
As the players knocked the ball about in impressive fashion, I found myself looking around the pitch and feeling hugely confident about our chances this season. The Width of a Post has already spent plenty of time discussing how strong City look as a team and how there seem to be no weak areas; and on Saturday’s evidence you certainly wouldn’t have swapped any of Wimbledon’s players with our own.
Beyond that, how many League Two centre halves are there who are better than Andrew Davies? Can anyone boast a central midfield to match Gary Jones and (a still half-fit) Nathan Doyle? Is there a better striking partnership in the division than Nahki Wells and James Hanson? Time will tell, but – at the risk of displaying ignorance about our rivals – in all areas of the park City probably rank amongst the top five in this division (especially when you throw in the options in reserve).
Over the last few days, both Mark Lawn and Phil Parkinson have attempted to play down the expectation levels. But afternoons as enthralling as Saturday completely undermine such talk. We utterly dominated a team who we finished below last season, while still playing within ourselves. It may be early days, but there are very few reasons, so far, to believe it’s going to be anything but an excellent season.
Strap yourselves in for the ride, and scream if you wanna go faster.