Looking for more in reserve as Bantams welcome Rotherham

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Bradford City vs Rotherham United preview

@Valley Parade on Thursday 26 December, 2013

By Ian Sheard

For those who don’t know, ‘Football Manager’ offers fans the opportunity to manage and run their own football club – everything from training to transfers, corners to contracts and player interactions to international requests. I think it was Jay from the ‘Inbetweeners’ who commented how he had got Woking from the Conference up to the Champions League in six seasons, and had put this on his CV!

One mistake that I’m sure many people make is that when a familiar name comes available on a free transfer, the temptation to bring them to your club is hard to ignore. Players with a profound goal scoring record signed up, talked up and then given a run of games to prove their worth. Unfortunately this never materialises into success, and you often end up cutting your losses and releasing them on a free.

One could argue that Andy Gray fits this profile entirely and that his worth in the team is questionable. Another argument could be that he has not really been given much of opportunity, having been clearly unfit last year and desperately unlucky this season with his pre-season injury and the form of Nahki Wells and James Hanson. Phil Parkinson said himself that he would look to rotate the squad over the busy festive period and look of ‘bench players’ in order to keep the squad fresh for the difficult run in of games. Saturday’s defeat to Peterborough, however, was contrary to this and Parkinson’s hand was forced with the injury to Hanson earlier in the week.

I must admit that, whilst Christmas shopping, I checked the commentary and was in disbelief that Gray was actually playing let alone scoring, albeit from the bench. Today, it may be that with Garry Thompson struggling for a bit of form, Parkinson selects Gray to start alongside Wells. Personally I think this is a good option, as Gray has the presence to play against a very physical Rotherham team. I also think his experience could help calm the team in what will sure be a volatile match on and off the pitch.

As for the rest of the team selection, it could go a number of ways. I sincerely doubt that Parkinson will play five at the back at home with the two wingbacks. As much as I agree with analysis from the Pulse that wingers would be ineffective without the presence of Hanson, I would have still been tempted to start with Reid and Yeates at London Road, and I think that Reid may get the nod today.

I’m hoping Yeates starts on the right, as I think that Thompson is lacking the consistency he showed last season at the moment. To me, Yeates is a wonderfully influential and creative player, who reminds me a lot of Lee Hendrie when he played for a while a few seasons ago. His higher level experience is clear, and I believe he can hold the key to that bit of creativity out wide, as well as through the middle when Hanson is not available.

I assume that Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle will get the nod in midfield and I actually fancy Doyle for a goal. With the absence of Rory McArdle, it may be that Cark McHugh gets the nod in defence alongside Matthew Bates, with the ever consistent James Meredith at left back and – for me, the first name on the sheet – Stephen Darby on the right! Of the substitutes I can see Alan Connell coming on for a few minutes as he is technically a very good player, but admittedly lacks the flair and creativity of Wells. I also think Rafa De Vita will get a run out on the wing coming off the bench. I’m sure all City fans would like to see Oliver McBurnie given a go as well even for 10 minutes, but I doubt that will happen.

And so onto Rotherham! For me, they are vastly becoming the Huddersfield of the modern era: the annoying local rivals that are always there or there abouts with a deplorable manager and a knack of getting a good result against us. So how do City go about beating them? I think the key to it is silencing Steve Evans. Parkinson has won a few mind games of late, and I think this could be the key to beating Evans and inevitably Rotherham. Not getting drawn in to his pathetic cries for attention, aggressive brand of football and the inevitable time wasting that have become synonymous with away teams at Valley Parade of late, will be vital.

In terms of time-wasting; it has frustrated me greatly that teams have done this recently and I have often found myself getting angrier and angrier by these underhand tactics. It appears to me that it is no longer the referees who are ruining the game, but the players through time-wasting. It was my forever level headed father-in-law, though, that made a very good point. If teams such as Leyton Orient want to come to West Yorkshire and time waste as early as the first half, then this is a measure of how much they fear Valley Parade and City.

I compare this to a miserable Tuesday night against Accrington Stanley in 2007, where even though the atmosphere was phenomenal, the players were not. Stanley were free to run with the ball, create chance after chance and brimmed with confidence.  I have not seen as much of this ‘no fear’ football from teams visiting Valley Parade, apart from Wolves, and it will be interesting to see how Rotherham go about their duty.

The Millers, like City, may have surprised a few people this season with how high up they are in the league; but for all his flaws Evans, must be doing something right. I was excited by playing Rotherham on Boxing Day as I think the atmosphere will be electric and once again we, as fans, hold the key to success. Personally I would advise the team to attack from the off, tackle hard and ignore all temptation to be drawn in by the unavoidable ‘tactics’ of the opposition. Easier said than done I know, and I can envisage a lot of abuse from my own voice, thrown in the direction of many a person!

Everyone predicted that City would have a tough run of games of Christmas, as results have proven; but they haven’t been disastrous and neither have the performances. Nothing would make my football Christmas more than three points today, and I strongly believe this could be the beginning of a very successful spell for City – one that will leave us in contention for the play offs in the run up to the end of the season.

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