The high stakes of high player turnover


By Jason McKeown

Kyel Reid has joined Preston North End. James Meredith has removed “plays for Bradford City” from his Twitter profile. There is still no indication over whether Jon McLaughlin will sign the new contract he has been offered.

Should all three end up leaving Valley Parade this summer, the rate of player turnover will become eyebrow-raising.

Consider this. Of the 2012/13 squad that delivered the historic double Wembley season, just 12 months ago, only four players may remain at the club when the season begins in August: Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies and James Hanson. It is often said that there can be no room for sentiment in football and that must certainly ring true of those tasked with making tough decisions, but we supporters are allowed to be different. There have been a lot of sad farewells over the past few weeks, and you wonder if ultimately there will have proven to be too many.

For beyond the 2012/13 heroics, it should not be forgotten that the bulk of the players departing this summer helped the club achieve a top half finish in the higher division of League One in 2013/14. During the best period of the campaign (which admittedly was early doors) the entire XI was the same as the one that had won promotion in the League Two play off final the previous May. We are not talking about people who were out of their depth, or who simply had to be replaced. This turnaround is either ruthless or premature – and only history will be able to tell us which one. The upcoming season is going to be very, very interesting.

Because make no mistake – expectations are increasing. Alan Sheehan’s arrival came under the T&A headline ‘Alan Sheehan signing gives rise to hopes of promotion’. Aaron Mclean was quoted in the T&A today stating the aim next season was to be “pushing for promotion”. This for a club with the playing budget cut by £500k (a-not-inconsiderable sum of money – with the club said to have had a wage budget just over £2 million last season, £500k represents a large chunk of money).

If the new-look side struggles to live up to the hype, you can easily imagine the fall out. If the players who have been let go flourish in their new homes, the wisdom of failing to keep them will be questioned. For as well as City ended last season, it wasn’t a happy ship in March and early April. Similar negativity will quickly return if things don’t go well.

Which is not to talk down City’s chances, but simply to observe how high the stakes are. Keep those heroic players past their ‘best before’ date and Parkinson would have been criticised. Let them go when they could still do a job – and a better job than their replacements end up doing – and Parkinson will be criticised. The potential departures of Meredith and McLaughlin would not be his choosing, but it all adds to a lot of experience being lost.

Parkinson knows what he is doing, and the team he is letting go is one that he originally built two summers ago – demonstrating his capability to build another successful team. But he needs a summer like 2012, not 2013, otherwise the coming campaign could prove to be an uncomfortable one for the manager.

For me, a promotion challenge in 2014/15 would be welcomed but shouldn’t be assumed. If City are not in the top six, it shouldn’t be viewed as a failure. Parkinson has two years left on his contract and is signing players on a similar length of deal – that should be a timeframe for a promotion push. Move forwards next season, absolutely, but it needs to be part of a bigger plan.

The pace of change is rapid, but we need to give it plenty of time to work. I just worry that patience is not going to happen, and fear the consequences of failing to realise potentially unrealistic expectations.

Categories: Opinion

Tags: , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. I’m glad Reid has gone, tried hard in his time here but for me (although excellent on his day) there were too many days where he was below par. More so than a case of ‘that’s why he’s playing at this level’. Yes he scared teams and would allow more room for someone like Nakhi but with a striker like Hanson (if he is to be the focal point of our attacks) he needs better, more consistent delivery. Nicky Sumerbee – Dean Windass typed partnership.

  2. Always sorry to see exciting players leave, but the team will need a couple of months to blend and the fans have to be patient and intelligent about what to expect early in the season. It is a long season and we have seen some good signings. Strong to half finish will show progress.

  3. Jason, I’m sure there are many different opinions on whether we should have hung onto Jones or Doyle and now Reid and Meredith but there comes a point when the team has to evolve and develop into its next stage. And these latest changes are part of that transition. I’m equally sure that the vast majority of fans will support PP and agree that he will do this to the best of his ability and within the resources with which he has been provided. Unfortunately, the 20% reduction in his playing budget will have deep consequences and as ML has said in his recent piece in the T&A, our budget is higher than 10 other clubs. Or alternatively, if my maths are correct, lower than 14 other clubs in our division. So it would appear we are going backwards. If the plan is still to achieve promotion to the Championship within PP’s current contract, I remain unconvinced that a playing budget within the bottom 10 clubs is consistent with the club’s stated aim of promotion.

%d bloggers like this: