By Ian Hemmens
Last week saw Bradford City sign youngster Lewis Clarkson from Scarborough Athletic. Released by Hull City despite a prolific scoring record in youth football, Clarkson found himself, like so many others at Premier League Academies, thrown out before his career has really started.
Trying to rebuild his confidence at Scarborough, he managed an excellent nine goals in five games which brought him to the attention of several clubs, but City have managed to nip in and get his signature on an 18-month deal. This gives the lad time to develop in a professional atmosphere; to build him up physically and mentally to augment his undoubted finishing talent.
Steve Parkin admits he’s one for the future, unlike our other recent signings from non-league such as Ross Hannah and Jake Speight, who were expected to make the step up immediately. Having said that, James Hanson and David Syers both managed to make the leap forward into professional football, demonstrating that such signings are as much a case of chance as much as they are raw talent.
Another comment made last week made by Parkin might have been missed by some fans. He admitted that City were monitoring several other players at non-league clubs, notably at FC Halifax Town. Star forward Lee Gregory was one mentioned.
This got me thinking: are we seeing a change in policy and direction by City as regards transfer and recruitment policy? The bringing in of young, hungry lads with ambition – adding to the fact that, at the moment, we appear to have a very good crop of youth team players on the horizon – shows a marked difference to the previous policy of buying established professionals.
Several previous managers, from Stuart McCall onwards, were given very competitive budgets to get us out of League Two. And, finally, Phil Parkinson managed it with a group of players who I think still have plenty of mileage in them for the most part. Yet long-term, the club needs to be looking how it can build and progress – especially as they are likely to remain without the backing of a filthy rich investor, or huge parachute payments.
The monies made from promotion and the cup runs are nearly gone, due to both the repaying of Mark Lawn’s loan and the very sound investment in the badly-needed training facilities at Apperley Bridge, amongst other things. David Baldwin confirmed this in WOAP’s excellent interview with him recently.
A lot of other clubs are now recognising that building from within has to be the way forward, perhaps as the only way to compete with the ‘money clubs’. Apart from being more sustainable – if you do unearth a gem – the profits from sell-on exist, as City have shown in the Cleverley, Delph, Wisdom and Green deals amongst others. The other players are encouraged by being at a club where it is acknowledged you will get a chance and not merely be classed as making up numbers. The recent promotion of young striker Oliver McBurnie to the first team squad – as reward for his displays – is confirmation of this.
Phil Parkinson has admitted recently that others are also close to being involved if they keep up their development. The fact that McBurnie has been included, rather than established pros like Andy Gray and Caleb Folan, shows how serious the manager is about this policy.
It remains to be seen whether the club carries this through or Clarkson is a one-off; but the signs are there that the Bantams are searching for a cheaper and more self-sustaining way of moving forward in the near future, in order to maintain recent progress.