By Jason McKeown
As many people in Bradford work up on Thursday morning with a sore head, an unsettling question was pushed to one side in preference for re-living the stunning events of the night before. But as the warm glow of pride in the Bantams finally defeating local rivals Leeds United inevitably dims, that question will ultimately need to be faced: We don’t want a second round League Cup victory in August to be the high point of this season, do we?
Such was the unbridled joy that emanated around Valley Parade on Wednesday evening, there is every possibility that the season may in fact have already peaked, just six matches in. But that cannot be allowed to happen, and for the joint chairmen, and manager Phil Parkinson, the focus should be obvious – how to build on such a memorable evening, and to take from it a legacy more lasting than supporter bragging rights.
It has been suggested that the Bantams have earned £250,000 for the derby cup match, due to a combination of gate receipts and Sky TV appearance money. With the August transfer window set to close on Monday evening, speculation is inevitably growing about whether this windfall will be handed to Parkinson to strengthen what remains a worryingly thinbare squad. He may be interested in signing another striker (Morecambe’s Jack Redshaw – who recently rejected a move to Peterborough for family reasons – has been linked with City). Or, after failing to bring in wingers during the close season, the manager may turn his attention to adding a wide player that would offer greater squad versatility.
Then again, the club has once again committed to a playing budget that is higher than its balance sheet break even point. Chief Executive David Baldwin has told Width of a Post, on numerous occasions, about the variants the club has in place to recoup this deficit over the course of the season – with a cup run amongst them. The lack of a cup run last season had some influence over the January departure of Nahki Wells to Huddersfield Town. Perhaps holding back the windfall now would mean there would be no urgency to sell a key player, such as James Hanson, when the mid-season transfer window opens up.
Potentially changing the picture completely, however, are the events taking place down the M62 at Old Trafford. Angel De Maria’s British transfer record move to Manchester United might seemingly have unlikely connotations at Valley Parade, but the Argentine’s arrival looks increasingly likely to push Tom Cleverley out of the door – causing West Yorkshire ears to prick up.
And the Bradford City youth player’s departure from United would trigger a sell-on clause that his former club would benefit from. The exact details are unknown (all I know, from interviewing Mark Lawn in January 2011, is that the terms are not as lucrative as any future Liverpool sale of Andre Widsom would prove), but it gives extra reason for City fans to scan newspaper gossip columns and keenly watch Sky Sports News over the coming days, hoping the England international leaves. Aston Villa are in the driving seat to sign Cleverley, reportedly for a fee ranging from £7-£8 million.
Clearly it would benefit City to see Cleverley move to Villa Park, and the windfall would likely clear the season’s budget deficit and potentially provide Parkinson with a tidy sum of money to strengthen the squad. It might all come too late in this window should the move only go through at the eleventh hour; but ultimately it could boost the club’s longer-term prospects, after a summer of supporters feeling anxious about cost-cutting measures.
With the opening month of the campaign coming to a conclusion in the shape of Saturday’s trip to Rochdale, it is still unclear what to expect from Bradford City over the coming months. An encouraging start has certainly eased the pre-season pessimism that a season of struggle lies in store, and it seems as though the Bantams have a squad good enough to be competitive in this most competitive of divisions. But it remains to be seen how City will cope with a couple of further injuries or suspensions – right now, you suspect that lack of strength in depth will hinder promotion aspirations – and, with a number of non-contract players in reserve who could leave at any moment, there looks set to be a heavy reliance on the form and fitness of a small group of first-teamers.
This is where the Leeds windfall – and potential Tom Cleverley transfer – could prove vital, giving Parkinson a stronger hand to utilise in the coming months. The August transfer window clock is ticking, and over the next four days we will find out if City are going to make their move.