By Andrew Baxter
With the recent speculation surrounding the future of Nahki Wells, how will the club cope should the striker be sold in January?
Julian Rhodes, speaking to the Telegraph & Argus, has commented that, “We have to look at any offers if they come in, whether that’s in the next transfer window or the one after that”. With the Bermudian seemingly reluctant to open contract discussions, and with his contract expiring in June 2015, January could see Wells go for a substantial transfer fee, should the board, along with Phil Parkinson, feel that selling Wells is the right decision.
Assuming that City do sell Wells, and received an amount of, say, £3 million, how would the club move forwards?
Firstly, with Football League rules dictating that a club can use 60% of its turnover on wages, the income from the transfer could be used to buy two or three Championship-standard players. However, would City be able to attract this quality of player, above sides in this division such as Wolves?
Parkinson could use the money to tie down the players who are out of contract at the end of the season. These include Nathan Doyle, Rory McArdle and Kyel Reid. With a large proportion of the squad out of contract in the summer (15, by my estimations), the money from any potential Wells transfer would guarantee that City can retain the nucleus of the current squad, as well as providing income for any further additions to the squad, both in January and during the summer.
In a post-Wells Bantams world, a change in formation could be applied by Parkinson. City could adopt 4-3-3, with Kyel Reid and Mark Yeates playing as wingers and James Hanson as the targetman. With this formation, Reid and Yeates could run at defenders, without having to worry too much about backtracking defensively, as the stability of three central midfielders will balance out the attacking play of Reid and Yeates. I do feel that Yeates’ creativity, dribbling ability and technique could be the perfect foil for Reid’s explosive pace and unpredictability; and it is hard to imagine many defences in League One relishing the prospect of facing a front three of Reid, Hanson and Yeates.
This formation would work well against sides that like to play with a compact midfield, and could potentially solve the problem of City’s “absent” midfield. Should City adopt this tactic, Nathan Doyle could drop a little deeper, allowing Jason Kennedy and Gary Jones to push forward more, thus providing more attacking impetus and defensive balance. This change could be used by Parkinson without spending money on new players, and would be a much cheaper option that splashing out on a replacement striker.
By resisting the temptation to spend heavily on player recruitment, the club could instead increase focus on youth development, by employing more youth coaches or increasing expenditure on scouting. That way more outstanding youth players would end up at Bradford City rather than other local clubs such as Leeds or Huddersfield. Youth development can be a very rewarding long-term strategy, with players being sold off to other clubs (such as Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverley), or nurtured through the system to eventually play for the first team, like the current situation with Oliver McBurnie.
As far as I am aware, the club has only two full time youth team staff; and if this figure could be increased then there is the potential for increased specialisation and a better quality of coaching at under-18 level. With better coaching comes better players, and an increased possibility of better players coming through the youth system.
The current crop of under-16s are looking very promising, with five of them being in the side that won the Bradford Schools National Cup last year. With several already appearing in youth team games (such as Oliver McBurnie’s younger brother, Xander), there is the potential for a very good set of youth team players in two or three years’ time. Should City invest further in youth development, this will increase the possibility of the best of these being nurtured into the first team.
As much as I would love Nahki to stay, it seems inevitable that he will continue his career at a higher level. If he does go all is not lost, and the club will be able to cope and manage without him.