The uncomfortable Aaron dilemma

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

Bradford City vs Doncaster Rovers preview

@Valley Parade on Saturday 1 November, 2014

By Jason McKeown

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, who happens to be paid a lot. No one knows for sure just how much he earns, and the rumours wildly vary, though it’s on record that he is the club’s highest earner. He and his manager might wish that people would stop talking about it, but it is an important factor in how his performances must be judged.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, tasked with replacing Nahki Wells. Whilst the Bermudian’s standing amongst Bantams supporters shrank with his controversial exit, you cannot rewrite his place in the Valley Parade history books, and what a huge, huge player he was. In Wells’ final 29 games for City, he scored 23 times. 76 starts for the club (plus 36 sub appearances), 53 goals. Follow that.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, who has so far badly failed to live up to expectations. 27 starts for the club (plus 10 sub appearances), seven goals. It is a huge contrast to Wells’ returns, and the team has suffered from this reduced goal output. Mclean might feel it is an unfair burden to be compared to his predecessor, but how can he not be? We are not talking about Eddie Johnson replacing Andy Cooke. Gareth Evans replacing Barry Conlon. There is a greater weight of expectation on Mclean, it’s unavoidable. Wells stretched the opposition backline and as such enabled City to get forward. Mclean doesn’t offer that. Teams can defend higher up the pitch, knowing City don’t have anyone who can get in behind them.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, and the problems afflicting his poor goal record are not fully his own doing. Last season Mclean was parachuted into a team that wasn’t set up to his strengths, and the diamond-led move to rectify it during the summer was hampered by an unfortunate injury ruling him out of pre-season. He has had to play catch up fitness-wise, and still looks a little short. In many games he has had no service, left to feed on scraps. He can still do a lot better, but responsibility should be shared out rather than heaped solely upon his own shoulders.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, who is not contributing in line with the investment made into him. In relative terms, Phil Parkinson was handed the largest striker budget in over a decade to replace Wells. In hindsight the manager must feel that he made the wrong call, and that Mclean’s performances have been below what he expected. Wells 23 goals in 29 games was always going to be difficult to replace, but other potential striker options probably would have made a better fist of it. And they might have proven cheaper, too.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, and the cost of employing him for two-and-a-half years is a troubling matter. It’s not Mclean’s fault that the playing budget was reduced by £500k during the summer, it’s not Mclean’s fault that finances contributed to decisions to let Nathan Doyle, Gary Jones and Jon McLaughlin leave the club. But in the summer David Baldwin told me about the aim of having a more efficient playing squad, without players on big money sat on the sidelines. This is the hub of the issue: we can’t afford to not play Mclean (he will have to be recalled eventually or released). We have to find a way for him to contribute better. You don’t cut your wage budget drastically and then allow your biggest earner to sit on the bench.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, and has unfortunately become central to all of the problems afflicting the club. Again, it’s not solely his fault. But if he wasn’t here on such high wages, Parkinson could probably afford two if not three players for the same budget. If he wasn’t on such a long contract, there could be a serious look at moving him on. If he was a different type of striker, there might not be the current compromises to the playing style which increasingly does not seem to be working. If it wasn’t a team that was so badly reliant upon goals from Wells, his goal output might seem reasonable. It is an expensive problem lacking an obvious solution.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, and it is difficult to see how he could be moved on. His performances to date would not tempt a club higher up the ladder to swoop in and take over this contract. Clubs below might be interested were he available, but would be unlikely to be prepared to pay his wages. There’s no point loaning Mclean out and still paying the majority of his salary, as it stops Parkinson affording a replacement. For better or worse, we are seemingly stuck with him and need to make it work.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, and is undoubtedly the best finisher at the club. Five of his seven goals in City colours were terrifically taken, some of them were half-chances at best. Get the ball in the right place for Mclean, and he is indeed a goal machine. Parkinson and the players have to work on vastly improving his service. On making sure he can be threat. If Mclean is missing opportunities or not showing desire to get into good positions, that is a different story. But by and large this isn’t the case.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, who has to show a lot, lot more. I’m not knocking his work-rate or effort, but he has to play smarter. He loses the ball too often, gets caught offside frequently, fails to show enough movement. He needs to be prepared to make 99 brilliant off the ball runs a game, even if he is only suitably found by a team mate on attempt number 100. He needs to give the defender marking him a much tougher 90 minutes. Perhaps at other clubs he has received fantastic service which meant he didn’t need to cover as much of the final third, but here he needs to be more demanding of the ball. If he’s not getting the right service, tell those who are letting him down rather than hiding. Look like a higher league player. Be like the other high earner, Andrew Davies.

Aaron Mclean is a Bradford City striker, and we all need to work on fixing this increasingly unhappy marriage – otherwise there are going to be serious repercussions. There are two striker lists at Valley Parade: those who succeeded and who were loved for it, and a longer one of those who failed. Look up John McGinlay and Ashley Ward, but on a more positive note read up on Peter Thorne and Dean Windass.

We all know which of the two lists Aaron Mclean is heading towards appearing on. His pedigree suggests he should have has the capacity and the ability to turn this very poor start around. But in 10 months at the club, he has not nearly shown enough to suggest that he will do so.


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6 replies

  1. He gets so little service because of how desperately poor his movement off the ball is.

  2. Parkinson has to take some of the flack here. We all knew that Nahki was going long before he actually left. There was plenty of time to find the right replacement and we failed miserably.
    One main criticism of PP during his time at the club has been his failure to a sign successful striker.

  3. I think there’s a few things to bear in mind. First, however long we knew about Nahki’s departure, replacing a prolific goalscorer at this level is difficult and requires a huge slice of luck (for every Patrick Bamford who comes down on loan there must be 20 who don’t cut it!). It is a daunting task for any player, to replace such a scorer. Nouha Dicko didn’t fancy it.

    Second, he does seem game, but he actually doesn’t look quality. As pointed out, he doesn’t seem to make clever runs.

    Whilst not slow, he doesn’t have the pace that Nahki had. That’s not the end of the world, but given there is no pace or width in the team, it is becoming a big problem. A problem that our rather patchy forward play from midfield has not helped.

    In terms of judging him, factors like his wage and the reason he was brought in are not unreasonable sticks with which to beat him (and maybe Parky). McLean was brought in to do a job. He knows what it is. He is failing. Everything else is peripheral. I think this to a certain extent mirrors the Pickford situation. He got stick not because he’s a bad ‘keeper, but because he replaced a ‘keeper who was deemed not good enough to kick us on to the next level. Pickford looks really good and is clearly set for a decent future, but in terms of ‘doing what its says in the tin’, being an obviously better ‘keeper than JMac right now, he isn’t (had he been an investment in the future – A future at City – it might be different).

    And finally (sorry), given that we have McLean with few to no options of moving him on, why not send him on loan and pay most of his wages? Even a small contribution from a club might help us bridge someone like Ebanks-Blake’s wages for a short-term deal. With a recall option on McLean, who perhaps drops down a division, gets fit and who knows, scores for fun, how do we lose out given the current unhappy status-quo?

    • I agree with Dan. I think Aaron is a busted flush and it would actually be folly to continue trying to get “the best from him” and moulding a team around him just because he is our highest wage earner. I think it much braver to hold hands up and admit it was a huge mistake (and hopefully one from which our highly talented management team can learn). Let him drop a division or two on loan and as Dan says who knows he may find again the magic formula. Problem is he is the wrong side of 30 and not getting quicker or fitter.
      I’m afraid I am also – as a matter of policy – not in favour of providing someone else’s hugely promising keeper with experience at our expense. I think the scales so far are quite evenly balanced as to Pickford’s contribution. He has made some outstanding saves and his distribution in general is a real asset. But he has cost us in several games none more so than at Bristol last week. I was there and the body language of some of the players who had absolutely run themselves out when he fumbled a routine cross to gift them the 2nd goal was interesting. We are shipping so many goals from set pieces and in the JMac era we simply didn’t…

  4. A well written piece that conveys everyone’s frustrations……

  5. Aaron Mclean is a bradford city striker!

    Interesting, well written article. However, starting every paragraph with the same sentence sounds a bit daft

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