By Paul Hodgson
As 2013 drew to a close, it was obvious to everyone connected with Bradford City that Nahki Wells was on the verge of leaving the club – and so it transpired.
In terms of a fee, £2 million was talked of as the starting price. Some said £2.5 million and others even predicted that £3 million would be coming our way when he left. Unfortunately the club were manoeuvred into a position where the player said he would only leave to join one other club – Huddersfield. This assertion effectively gave the Terriers’ control over the fee they would pay. We didn’t receive £3 million, we didn’t even get £2 million. The deal has never actually been revealed, but an up-front fee of £1.3 million is the widely accepted figure.
A big chunk of the fee was used to balance the budget, so Phil Parkinson wasn’t left with a huge amount to bring in a replacement. In the end, two possibilities appeared to be left on the table: paying a fee for a young lad from the 4th tier who had been making a name for himself (at Rochdale if I remember rightly) or a 31-year-old Aaron Mclean. He was out of favour at Hull, wouldn’t command a fee but would require (for City) high wages.
Now here I have to admit an interest. I adhere to the old football adage that a good young ‘un was better than a good old ‘un up front. Added to this, I had trouble recalling any strikers who had hit a purple patch past age 31. The manager went for Mclean. That was his right; he was the man at the sharp end who knew infinitely more about what he was doing than I did. And anyway I was, and still am, a fervent supporter of Phil Parkinson.
Yet City’s form continued to suffer badly post Wells. The new striker bagged only four goals from 20 appearances. Patience was the order of the day – quite rightly. We all fervently hoped for better things from Mclean in 2014/15. So far, the signs are far from promising that the lad will step up and be our one in two goal man to compliment James Hanson’s ever reliable one in three.
I know that it’s early days, but I for one am already worried that a lack of goals over the season might cost us a place in the play offs. We have no money left in the kitty to bring a front player in permanently, and we have no youngster on the books who looks realistically likely to step up and score us 20 goals. So, if we’re still going to go for it this season, we have two possibilities. By an amazing fluke, we can find someone for free that no one else has spotted – highly unlikely! Alternatively, there is the loan market.
Now remember this: a Swindon striker, previously on loan from Tottenham, scored two goals against us at Valley Parade – and an Arsenal loanee at MK Dons did the same in the League Cup. Now I appreciate that London’s premiership youngsters fear the lands north of Watford, but we have top notch premier clubs “up north” as well. Two in Manchester and two in Liverpool immediately come to mind. If they want to loan out any of their young strikers to gain experience, then isn’t the best destination a “big club” at this level? I seem to remember someone saying that, at this level Bradford City are a big club!
Whatever happens – and although it’s still early days – the season already shows signs that it might begin to drift away from us. If we’re to avoid that happening and make this a really successful campaign, we have to do something sooner rather than later.
Otherwise we’ll be marking time this season – looking at a mid-table finish again, and another nearly-season will have come and gone.
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