By Katie Whyatt
As the curtain falls on the eventful 2013/14 season, six Width of A Post writers – Andrew Baxter, Gareth Walker, Katie Whyatt, Mahesh Johal, Mark Danylczuk and Nick Beanland – took to the pundit chairs to look back on the story of Bradford City’s return to the third tier.
How would you rate Bradford City’s first season back in League One?
Gareth: Ultimately, mid-table has to be considered a success and job done. However, there are many lessons that will have to be learnt and improvements to make if we are to even match this achievement next season.
Nick: 6.5 out of 10. I expected better than mid-table back in the balmy days of late summer but, even before Nahki jumped ship, reality bit and the quality of the division leaves me feeling content with our final position.
Katie: It’s difficult to come to any conclusions, as I never really made a prediction. I think you could view it as successful – it’s been a mixed bag, but it’s all part of the standard football learning curve and, in the main, City have never looked to be punching massively above their weight. It was never going to be easy and the headiness of the early days understandably skewed expectations, but we’re on track to where we ought to be and it’s a good platform for the club to build upon.
Mahesh: City’s return to League One has been a huge success in my opinion. Consolidating our position in this league was imperative after last season’s successes. At times, we showed we could compete and beat the best in this league; at others, our vulnerabilities were clearly evident. The main thing was stay in this league and an 11th position finish is promising!
What was the biggest surprise?
Gareth: Probably how evenly matched a lot of the teams are. Barring the top five or six, most of the teams can beat most of the others. There is also a decent jump up in quality from League Two, but I expected that.
Nick: Just how little the new signings have contributed. Mark Yeates in particular is someone I expected to be too good for this level. Not so far…
Andrew: Probably how well we started the season. The results over Brentford and Sheffield United at home, especially, were quite surprising, given how well Brentford have done both this season and last. I suppose we were somewhat of an “unknown quantity” at the start of the season, and once opposition defences knew how we played, that contributed to our dip in form.
What’s been your highlight of the season?
Mark: Two for me. One being the improving James Hanson in scoring, leading the line and his work ethic – he is a fine player indeed. For an individual game, it has to be the Orient away win. A superb team performance, crowd atmosphere and a key three points to ensuring safety.
Nick: The 2-0 win over Sheffield United. Glorious to see 18,000 inside Valley Parade watching us outmuscle the Blades. The atmosphere was unrelentingly positive and the season promised much.
Katie: The celebrations after Carl McHugh scored against Port Vale to end City’s winless run. I was sat on the front row with my uncle that night and it was simply incredible.
The theatre of it – Doyle pounding the hoarding, Darby following suit, every single one of them skidding right in front of us and screaming at us as we screamed back at them – marked the greatest sense of unity I’ve ever felt supporting the Bantams. Being there, witnessing that – hearing my heroes, feeling their pride and their joy, them absorbing our ecstasy and catharsis – was beautiful. It reminds you why you go through it all: because when things go right, really right, we have something very, very special.
Andrew: The form and consistency of our number two, Stephen Darby. Darby has epitomised what it means to wear the claret and amber shirt, and has been far and away our best player this season. His bravery and commitment (as well as his actual ability) is why I, and countless other City fans, love him.
What was your lowlight of the season?
Gareth: The three away games and performances at Notts County, Carlisle and Shrewsbury were all equally as dreadful.
Andrew: Some of the abuse aimed at Parkinson, and the team, during our dip in form was unnecessary and out of order.
Nick: The 3-2 home defeat to Oldham was particularly depressing. Latics, 18th in the table at that point, were a coherent, fluid unit who passed the ball crisply and efficiently. Our combination of loanees and tired heroes from the 2012/2013 season looked lumpen and clueless that day.
Mark: Inconsistency as a whole; and lower table teams making a mockery of their position, coming to Valley Parade and getting points.
What do you think was to blame for the one win in 21?
Nick: This sounds over-simplistic, but I can’t help but feel that our style of play (get the ball wide, cross to Hanson and look for the knock down, or angle a long diagonal ball to Hanson and look for the knock down) was increasingly nullified by opposing teams. Once that tactic became less successful, we struggled badly to win games.
Mark: Partly the players and partly the manager. Confidence will play a factor and with each game not getting a win, the players needed to get over the psychological barrier. I would also say Parkinson’s tactics, which I have not been impressed with at certain points of the season. For many a game, we played the direct style and when it didn’t work, we didn’t change it.
Mahesh: One in 21 sounds horrendous and at times we were. However, we had a really tough set of games in October and performed fantastically in many of them. I think back to Wolves, Preston and Coventry – on another day, we could have picked up more than we did.
The loss of Andrew Davies was also critical, as was a mounting injury list. It became clear we lacked the strength and depth to compete consistently in this league and we were unable to freshen up the squad at times. I look back to November and December when people questioned our central midfield – that period was when changes were needed but quite frankly our replacements weren’t good enough. The loss of Nahki obviously impacted the team, as did the departures of others in the January transfer window.
What’s your view on Nahki Wells?
Katie: The day after Nahki left, my grandma uttered the immortal words: “You’ve got to be nice about that Nahki Wells – he might end up playing for England!” Excusing the obvious slip, she might be onto something here.
I understand why he did what he did. I don’t like what he did, but I get it, and, in many ways, Huddersfield was the only plausible move for him: guaranteed game time, total football and a differing strike style, all at a level that offering a challenging but comfortable jump that would expose him to new prospective buyers. More importantly, I’m interested in his ceiling. When – or if – he makes it big, I want to be able to sit back like a proud parent and say, “We gave you a chance, Nahki Wells, when no one else would. And look at you now.”
Mahesh: He started the season on fire and it became quickly evident that he was a class above this league. I have no qualms for him wanting to leave and understand why he did. It does hurt that he left us for them, but this is sport and people need to recognise that most players aren’t as loyal as us fans. I have some great memories of Wells during his time at the club and will remember him fondly. I really hope he continues to score goals and that he fulfils his ambition of playing the Premier League.
In part two, the panel discuss the performance of Phil Parkinson, the opposition teams and players who impressed, and their summer transfer expectations.
Categories: 2013/14 season review