Part two of our Review of 2012 (part one here) sees Width of a Post writers select their favourite Match of 2012 and their Player of 2012. Just one premise for the Match of 2012: no one was allowed to select the Arsenal game. It’s a given that it was the best match.
Match of 2012 – Watford 1 City 2, League Cup, August
Having been away in Australia I found it hard at times to really connect with football in general and this game really got me back into the swing of things. A post work train journey, small but fairly vocal away following and a good performance cemented by an injury time winner all brought me well and truly back into the fold. Reminding me that, when things go well, there really is very little better feeling than watching your football team.
Player of 2012 – Gary Jones
Nahki Wells has been scoring for fun, and Reid exciting every time he gets the ball, but for me Gary Jones has stood out as someone who has made a real difference. For too long we’ve missed a little bit of bite and ball retention in the centre of the park and, along with Nathan Doyle, Jones has added that. We now go into matches confident of our ability to control the game from the middle and this, for me, is an incredible boost. Add to that the fact that he will wear short sleeves in any weather, and you can see why he was such a cult hero at Rochdale and is well on the way to becoming one here.
Match of 2012 – Northampton Town 1 City 3, League Two, April
For me, the 3-1 away win at Northampton was of great significance. Going into that game, the pressure was really on against one of our relegation rivals. We were also on the back of recently going eight league games without a win, including defeat to whipping boys Plymouth Argyle. It could be argued that we needed this win to stay up – it certainly all but secured our survival before it was confirmed the week after in the home game against Macclesfield Town.
The surprise about this game was how well we played. The performance was more akin to what we have seen from the side this season. Nahki Wells’ hat trick did the business and he generally gave The Cobblers’ experienced defender Clarke Carlisle a torrid time.
Player of 2012 – Nahki Wells
It is ironic, because I didn’t list Nahki Wells in my top three when I voted for last season’s Player of the Year. My votes then went to Luke Oliver, Andrew Davies and Kyel Reid. However, those three players have suffered injuries this season and Nahki has been the player that has brought his performances from last season into this one and even taken them up a notch.
We could all see what a talent he was in his breakthrough season last year, and he has gone on this time around to be comfortably out top scorer so far. His partnership with James Hanson is the best that I have seen at City since Mills and Blake, and James deserves a lot of credit too for the way he plays and the way that the two of them seem to bring out the best in each other.
It has been a long time since we have seen a young player with so much talent in Claret and Amber. He gives the crowd a lift when he gets the ball and has the ability to win a game on his own. On top of this, his performances aren’t as erratic as other exciting players seen at League Two level. I for one am just grateful that we have him signed to a new contract and that the club are under no pressure to sell him in January.
Match of 2012 – City 3 Morecambe 1, League Two, September
I’ve chosen this match because not only was it a good match but I think it captures a number of the key factors underpinning the fantastic season City are enjoying to date.
After previous false dawns, there was some level of uncertainty as to whether City could continue their 100% winning home start for a fourth time, particular against perennial bogey side, Morecambe, themselves unbeaten on their travels at that stage.
Any fears of this were soon addressed, and City dominated the first half and, as seemed to the case in a number of the opening fixtures of the campaign, scored at a crucial time. This time a neat volley from James Hanson, on the stroke of half time.
City continued to dominate with Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle controlling proceedings, Doyle in particular could clearly be seen to be getting sharper and sharper with every match played. Things looked very comfortable when Kyel Reid scored a great solo goal on 80 minutes, his first Valley Parade goal, which he celebrated in some style, and it felt like a cloud had been lifted from him, especially after a somewhat patchy start to the season.
A few doubts crept in when Morecambe pulled a goal back a couple of minutes later, with memories ignited of the previous late comeback from Morecambe in the 2-2 draw in the previous season, but up stepped captain Gary Jones to put the result beyond doubt on 87 minutes, curling an unstoppable free kick past Barry Roche into the top corner. Cue wild celebrations, and for me, leaving the penalties to once side, the image of Jones celebrating in front of the Kop, Doyle on his shoulders and James Hanson celebrating in the background perfectly sums up the season so far.
So a good performance, great goals and the first proper evidence of the change in mentality within the players and the club, which has underpinned the progress made so far.
Player of 2012 – Nathan Doyle
When City signed Nathan Doyle last August, immediately prior to the pre-season friendly against Bury, few people can have fully comprehended the impact he would subsequently have on the City side.
Whilst City fans had good memories of Doyle’s loan spell at City in 2006/07 season, turning out at right back, making 33 appearances and winning player of the year, Doyle’s emergence since then as an influential midfield holding player for Hull and Barnsley, perhaps may have escaped many fans. At the time of signing, with Doyle seemingly carrying some excess timber given a lack of pre-season, it was felt he may initially spend some time on the fringe of the squad.
This was soon totally dispelled, the 25 year old Doyle rapidly impressing in each game and if he was unfit in the opening games, I would very much like to be that unfit! Doyle looks totally assured and unflappable, can pass the ball with great accuracy and vision, is as strong as an ox and can get stuck in and mix it with the best of them, as Arsenal will no doubt testify. He also has a great shot on him, though he is yet to find the back of the net.
City have lacked real drive from midfield for many years, and the emergence of the partnership of Doyle and Gary Jones has been pivotal in the success we have seen from the City side to date, and must be amongst the best pairings in the lower leagues.
Somewhat prophetically, at the time of signing Doyle, Phil Parkinson was quoted as saying he said he could come here and be a hero. Report so far – on track, well on track…
Match of 2012 – Bristol Rovers 3 City 3, League Two, November
I choose this for a mixture of reasons. One it showed how far we as a team had come under Parkinson to be trailing three times and to come back each time showed real character. Would the team of last season have been able to do that? I’m quite confident in saying they wouldn’t have.
The second plus of the afternoon was the quality of ours goals, all three were superb finishes. Another huge positive to the game was that it was, in my opinion, the turning point in Garry Thompson’s Bradford career. Thompson has come in for a lot of flack with some under par performances, but that afternoon at The Memorial Ground, whilst getting soaked alongside Jason McKeown, I saw the former Scunthorpe man produce a superb second half performance – and since then his form has been massively improved.
Player of 2012 – Gary Jones
There are some real contenders for this, you look at the form of Andrew Davies and Luke Oliver over the past twelve months, alongside the emergence of Nahki Wells upfront. Throw in the likes of James Meredith and Nathan Doyle, all of who wouldn’t look out of place being crowed the WOAP player of 2012.
However, this season we have seen a player join who is in my opinion is a piece of the jigsaw which we have been missing since the departure of Stuart McCall. None other than the magic man Gary Jones, a true leader of men. I was sceptical when the signing of Jones was announced, largely down to his age; but I am a fully signed up member of the Gary Jones fan club. Alongside Nathan Doyle, he is a driving force and without a doubt one of the main reasons why Bradford City is shining this season.
Match of 2012 – Wexford Youths 0 City 4, pre-season friendly, July
There are plenty of games I could pick from 2012, particularly from this season. Not that there weren’t good performances the previous season, Northampton away comes to mind, but there’s been so much to celebrate this time around; cup and league. However, I’m going for a pre-season friendly that was part of City’s tour of Ireland.
The Wexford Youths game wasn’t a classic by any means. In fact many of The Faithful said the second half was poor, which was understandable given the amount of changes and trialists. It was more the occasion that involved meeting many City fans along the way, including former player Jamie Lawrence, and discovering the first indications of the new ethos and application that Phil Parkinson and his assistants were encouraging in the team.
The game offered a unique chance to meet the players, and both my good friend Rick and I were struck by how friendly they were, their unity, and the positivity towards the season ahead. So it’s a great memory to look back on, and to think that much of what we are seeing now was being shaped in Ireland and the other pre-season friendlies.
Player of 2012 – Rory McArdle
It was whilst at Wexford’s Ferrycarrig Park I met my player of 2012. Rory McArdle is my pick amongst many that have been outstanding, but I’m giving him my support because he doesn’t always get the credit that he deserves.
While players such as Doyle and Jones are drawing the praise they deserve, they are playing at their level of skill. Nahki is also showing that he is at this ‘Championship level’. Meanwhile, Rory as arguably 3rd choice centre-half and is playing well above expectations. He’s playing ‘out of his skin’, so to speak, as he fills the void left by our two ‘star’ defenders.
That he doesn’t get more praise is not a real surprise. Having chatted to him after the friendly game, he comes across as someone who’s friendly and grounded and has time for people. Not one to shout his name from the rooftops. So I am doing it for him. Rory McArdle is my player of 2012.
Game of 2012 – Barnet 0 City 4, League Two ,February
This was a cold Tuesday night and City destroyed Barnet coolly and calmly. It wasn’t the best atmosphere I have witnessed in 2012, but the professionalism of the Bantams was again something that filled me with confidence that we were moving in the right direction.
Player of 2012 – Andrew Davies
Despite him being currently injured, Andrew Davies. His leadership qualities and desire to succeed is something that has stuck firmly in my memory from late last season. We were losing away to Wimbledon, and there were seconds left to play, but he was still screaming encouragement at his team mates. This attitude is now replicated all over the park, but it was such a revelation to see it in the first instance.
Game of 2012 – City 3 Cheltenham Town 1, League Two, October
Why would a mid-October home win in front of one of our lowest home crowds of the league season by my pick of the year? Well, to be honest, it was an easy choice. It didn’t have the raw emotion of the some of the epic cup games of 2012, nor the decibel levels of the 17,000 or so home supporters earlier in the year. The visit of Cheltenham to Valley Parade, and the eventual victory over them was sweet on a number of levels:
1. Many a time over recent years have we lamented City’s poor home form. Too often, we have seen late winners against us, very poor refereeing decisions go against us and next to no luck. The phrase ‘you make your own luck’ is one that rings true more and more as City put together a genuine promotion bid this season. It is games like this that City would have lost in previous years; trigger happy referee, penalty against, second good penalty shout for the away team…we’d have been 2-0 down and beaten by then. However, that second Cheltenham shout didn’t yield a penalty and City went down the other end and bagged one for themselves. The rub of the green was finally with the Bantams.
2. Cheltenham came to Valley Parade in an automatic promotion spot, four points above City. They were a capable team on the day, and as the season has gone on, they have further proven their credentials as strong promotion candidates. A 3-1 victory against any team in this situation is a great three point haul. The victory put City 4th and with a quarter of the season gone, it began to signal undeniably that City would themselves be likely to be pushing for promotion this season.
3. Sky Sports’ Goals Express did no justice to the move of the game, which in my mind was crisply finished off by the goal of the season so far. James Meredith’s finish was the final act in a sweeping, penetrating and ornate move involving almost every Bantam on the pitch. Brazilian passing, classic Dutch positional sense and teasing Argentinian dribbling combined superbly with good old fashioned League two brawn, as Meredith smashed the ball into the top left hand corner on the half-volley, sending the VP faithful into ecstasy and Phil Parkinson waxing lyrical about the quality of the move. Remember it?
Player of 2012 – Gary Jones
To keep this simple, in few words, Gary Jones brings heart, desire, commitment, passion, energy, a footballing brain and huge commitment to the football club. It’s something that very few City players in the recent past have been able to label themselves with consistency. A professional footballer who is prepared to give up the comfort of a long, successful stint at another club, in order to create, and strive to achieve new goals is a sure fire sign of a ‘winner’.
City fans love these kind of players (your Stuart McCalls and Nathan Doyles, for example). Gary Jones might not always get it totally right on the field, but he is a workhorse, who wears his heart on his sleeve. All I ask of our players is that they show me that they care, they give their best and want to win as much as I do. Stand up Gary Jones – you usually do!