Following part one, WOAP pundit team members Alex Scott, Andrew Baxter, Gareth Walker, Mahesh Johal and Nick Beanland share their views on the first half of Bradford City’s 2014/15 campaign, including the players who have impressed and disappointed, and future expectations.
Which players have impressed/disappointed you?
Nick: The history making back four have been superb and I’ve been particularly impressed with James Meredith seeing off Alan Sheehan (for now). Gary Liddle goes about his business very professionally though I remain unconvinced he’s an upgrade on Nathan Doyle. Mark Yeates has clearly knuckled down and appears to be relishing the responsibility of being the side’s main creative outlet. His bravery in constantly asking for the ball is a pleasure to see.
Andrew: Rory McArdle has really impressed me this season. He appears to have cut out most of the mistakes that have seen him attract criticism from some fans at Valley Parade, and I believe Parkinson’s decision to tie him down to a three year deal was a fantastic move.
It is rare that McArdle is beaten in the air, and whilst he isn’t blessed with raw pace, his reading of the game has much improved, and I believed he has matured as a player in the last few months.
Jordan Pickford and Mark Yeates have impressed me too. I’ll be honest, I was unsure about Pickford’s arrival as our first choice keeper, but it is evident that he is a class above, and surely will play in the Championship (or even the Premier League) soon. Any flaws in his game seem to be down to inexperience rather than a lack of talent, and his command of the area and communication with the back four is very impressive.
Yeates is probably our most technical player, and has the ability to conjure up something special out of nothing. He tends to play best when he has a free role, or plays just off the front two, but is effective out on the left wing, providing a perfect foil for James Meredith’s runs down that side.
Alex: Rory McArdle has been almost uniformly excellent, and probably the pick right now for Player of the Season. The more you see of this league, the clearer it becomes how strong he and Andrew Davies are as a pair at this level. They’ve been mostly unlucky to have conceded as many as they have, but with Pickford improving, and Stephen Darby and James Meredith settling, a strong second half could be ahead.
Further up the pitch, Mark Yeates and Filipe Morais have acquitted themselves very well on the flanks, after the shelving of the diamond, and Billy Clarke and Jon Stead have each played important roles.
As disappointments go, Alan Sheehan has failed to nail down a place in the team after a string of inconsistent performances, eventually losing his place to his back up James Meredith. Mason Bennett was disappointing given his high-billing upon arrival. The answer, though, is Aaron Mclean who has proven nothing short of a disaster.
Gareth: Stead and Pickford have been hugely impressive. Knott and Liddle have shown their abilities in patches and the history making back four (with a, dare I say it, a reasonable fit Andrew Davies), keep going from strength to strength.
Rory McArdle in particular appears to be making a case for himself as a POTY contender. Mark Yeates and Jason Kennedy deserve some credit for the way in which they have seemingly turned their City careers around, and Yeates in particular is a realistic challenger to McArdle for the award of POTY so far.
On the other side of the coin, obviously Aaron Mclean continues to be a huge disappointment and it is to be hoped that we can get shut of him as soon as possible without suffering too much financial damage. Alan Sheehan too has been a bit of a let down and I am much happier with James Meredith being back in the side than I was when the Irishman was playing at left back.
Mahesh: Out of the summer signings, Gary Liddle has been the stand out in my opinion. I love watching him play and thought his showing against Notts County is up there with as one of the individual performances of the campaign so far.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for his former team mate Alan Sheehan. He looked an accomplished signing earlier in the season; however he has been completely outplayed by James Meredith as of late. I maybe being a bit harsh, and his constant switching between centre half and left back might be a factor for his inconsistencies. Either way I was expecting a lot more.
I’d agree with both Gareth and Alex regarding Rory McArdle being the POTY candidate, whilst Mark Yeates has really become a force in this side. His resurgence has been great to watch and his goal at Preston will no doubt be one of the highlights of this season come May.
Do you feel more or less confident about the future compared to 12 months ago?
Alex: Far more confident. Not just because of what is happening on the field, which has been encouraging to say the least. Perhaps I was a little pessimistic coming in so am benefitting from the bias of low expectations, but the side have been far better than I thought they would be. And if you had offered any of us fifth at the turn of the year, we would have all taken it.
The most encouraging thing though has been the manager. He has shown now definitively that his initial success here was not down to stumbling onto a diamond in Nahki Wells, if that was even a question. The side have evolved and improved this season, showing different strings to their bow, and now look ready to kick on.
And this is pretty much all without their two most expensive players in Hanson and McLean. If it wasn’t for the foot-shooting at home late in games, you suspect City fans in general would be far more confident. When your main issues are your home form (15th) and your record against lowly opposition (16th), you’re doing alright. And as problems go, they should be relatively easy to fix. The arrow is pointing upwards.
Gareth: It’s hard l say whether I am more or less confident, and like most fans I find it difficult to ignore our current form when making predictions for our future. I will say however that the current side look more like a League One outfit than the side did once we had lost Reid and Wells a year ago. However, financial constraints make it difficult for me to see a way out of this league in the near future.
January will be a huge month for us; not just in the context of this season, but also with regards to looking forward over the medium term. Mclean’s future, as well as that of Tom Cleverley, will be decided over the next five weeks and these will both have a huge impact on our club and our ability to keep hold of players who are currently only with us on short term contracts or loans.
The FA Cup game against Millwall also looks winnable and if we could get through that and draw a “cash cow” of a tie in round four then the future would obviously look even brighter.
Mahesh: For me personally, I feel confident if I see progression. Compared to last December I see this squad progressing both in its quality and stature. However, I would wait until the end of the transfer window to give you my full thoughts.
I think Gareth brings up important points regarding Mclean, Cleverly and the medium term. There are also rumours reaching WOAP ears about Jon Stead being recalled to Huddersfield, whilst Morais contract needs extending. Rightly or wrongly I have always bought into the notion of the “three year plan”. If City are to progress to The Championship (whether this or next season) this current squad needs to be kept together, and built upon.
Andrew: If January goes well for City, I will be much more confident about the future. A win at Millwall could set up a money-spinning FA Cup tie, and rumours about an Aston Villa bid for Tom Cleverley could also provide a cash injection for the Bantams.
On the pitch, I feel that this side has the ability to reach the play offs, and when the whole team are playing to the best of their ability, there is no reason why they can’t do that. Impressive performances away at Bristol City and MK Dons have proved that City can match the best that this league has to offer, if they play to their full potential.
Nick: I feel slightly more confident – we now look a fairly well established League One club and our management team continue to do an excellent job. I think they consistently come close to maximising the resources at their disposal.
Finding a consistent goalscorer remains the key to further progress. Aaron Mclean is not that man, James Hanson is great at what he does but needs a scorer alongside him and Billy Clarke is more a creator than a regular scorer. Jon Stead has been excellent but isn’t our player yet and I’m not sure he is the medium term solution.
What would class as a good 2014/15 season for you?
Nick: If we remain involved in the play off mix until April I would consider that success, especially bearing in mind the budget cuts. I am confident that if we stick by Parkinson we will continue to progress and be in a position to make a strong challenge for promotion next season if we don’t stay the course this time around.
Mahesh: Again, I go back to the season preview I was involved with in July and quote; “If we were to equal or better 11th place again then I would be very happy”.
However, this run of nine unbeaten has put us into a great position to challenge for the play offs. We’ve created an opportunity that we should look to take. I feel a lot of questions surrounding the sustainability of this current league position, and credentials of this squad will be answered after the January transfer window.
Gareth: With the budget having been cut last summer, any kind of improvement on league position has to be seen as a successful season. The optimist in me would like to see clear foundations laid so that we can make a push for promotion in either the 15/16 or the 16/17 season.
Andrew: A play off finish would, clearly, be a good season for City, but for me, I’d class a “good” season as one where we contend for play off places, with possibly a good cup run too.
I feel that City will have to compete for the two play off spots left, with the top four in the league appearing runaway leaders, and whilst City do have the ability to grab one of these spots, I just think we lack the consistency to reach the play offs.
Alex: Given the constraints on the side, a top ten finish would be great achievement, but anything in the top half has to been seen as a “good” season compared to the perceptions coming in.
Looking at the players in particular, it would be nice to see Billy Knott kick on over the second half of the season (and after Sunday’s performance against Notts County, this bodes well), Andrew Davies to stay fit (less well), and perhaps if we’re being greedy, one of the centre forwards to separate themselves as a consistent goal scoring threat.
If all three of those things happen, mid-table may be a bit of a conservative prediction.
Categories: The Verdict