The brightest of starts

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown

Bradford City are down to the bare bones and yet are currently playing some of their best football in more than a decade. The victory at MK Dons was the result of a seriously impressive performance. Injuries may leave them short at the back and lacking up front, but for 45 minutes they dominated and outplayed a side playing Championship football last season, and with far greater resources than the Bantams

Imagine just what Stuart McCall’s men are going to be capable of when everyone is fit.

Beating MK Dons is nothing new of course. Under Phil Parkinson, City became their bogey team and rocked up four straight league wins. No matter how bad City were and how well MK Dons were performing, they’d slip up to claret and amber. Even when City were on that dreadful 2013/14 run of one win in 21, that solitary victory came at Stadium MK.

But those Parkinson wins over Karl Robinson largely occurred because the greater grit and physicality of City was too much for the short passing style of the MK Dons. This victory by McCall’s Bradford City was different. They out-footballed a footballing side. And what on paper looked to be two tricky away games in Peterborough and the Dons has resulted in six very encouraging points.

It’s early days and so much can change, but for now we supporters should feel very positive. Within the Valley Parade suites hosting a beam-back of the game, the atmosphere was terrific and the scenes that greeted Josh Cullen and Billy Clarke’s first half goals were memorable. A good start to this season was important after the summer of upheaval, and it has helped us supporters to quickly buy into this new era.

The new signings have hit the ground running. Colin Doyle and Nathaniel Knight-Percival looked poor in pre-season but were outstanding at the back. Nicky Law’s third return to the club was met with a mixed reception, but he was excellent once again. Jordy Hiwula is making a positive contribution, his pace a real asset.

And the jewels in the crown are Josh Cullen and Romain Vincelot. Cullen’s return is a huge coup, and if anything he looks a better player than last season. Vincelot is a class act, reading the game superbly and looking so composed on the ball. These two and Law can feed off each other and drive the team on. They can be the catalyst for another promotion push.

The link up play between City’s players is really encouraging. Lots of triangles, patient passing and an intelligence to find openings. With no James Hanson, crosses into the box were never going to be successful – so time and time again City got into the area by cutting MK Dons open through passing it on the deck. They counter attacked in numbers, and have great energy in how they get up and down the pitch. The fitness levels look good.

The Dons are no mugs. They came back strongly in the second half and demonstrated what a good side they are. City were second best but still were terrific in defence. For a back five that only features one member from last season to carry on the defensive heroics is remarkable. Tony McMahon deserves a special mention. On this evidence Stephen Darby will struggle to get back in the team.

The back five were aided by another terrific display from Danny Devine in front, who belies his rookie status. The 18-year-old looks a real talent and plays with so much intelligence. Right now, he is a key player who anchors midfield and allows others to get forwards.

There is a long, long way to go. The new approach from McCall still needs to be proven over weeks and months rather than just days. But it’s incredibly exciting, and with big players to come back City should logically get better and better.

Back in Bradford the final whistle was greeted with a booming Stuart chant. The uncertainty and frustration of a summer is quickly becoming a distant memory. A club and fanbase that could have fallen apart is united again. There was a real buzz in the room tonight. Everyone headed home smiling.

Coventry visit Valley Parade on Saturday. The new look Bradford City deserves a full house. The Bradford public should get right behind this promising team.

Categories: Match Reviews

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18 replies

  1. I’m thrilled by the way the squad have gelled despite being vastly understrength, it bodes well for the season ahead. After being a long term advocate of giving youth a chance, the performances of young Danny Devine have been particularly satisfying. He’ll need a break at some point but we are really blessed in midfield which is as strong as i can remember for years when all are fit. I don’t want to look back but it does make you wonder if a little more faith had been shown in our youth players what might have been but for now lets enjoy the ride, its shaping up to be a very interesting season

  2. I am SO pleased with the way the season has started. I must admit when I saw the team sheet for the game against Port Vale I feared the worst and with two tough away games coming up I genuinely thought we might be bottom of the league by 17th August. I saw the recriminations against Parkinson growing, the doubters about Stuart becoming more vocal and the positivity of the last few years draining out of the club.

    Instead we are joint top of the league, playing some great football and all of this with half of the first team still out injured. Its only August of course – and football in the sunshine never seems to matter as much – but this sure feels a lot better than I thought it would…

  3. Cant believe we conceded a goal against these McCall OUT only kidding 🙂

    Another excellent result against a team that are up there and another 2 goals including Billy Clarke’s wonder strike.

    Could Clarke and Hiwula be the partnership that gets the goals.

    Onwards and upwards and hopefully Romain gets on the scoresheet against his former employers

  4. A word of appreciation for those at the club who organised and promoted the beam back. A great occasion which should be repeated for another “long distance” Tuesday evening fixture later in the season. What about Charlton on 14th March?

  5. Always a lot of uncertainty when the ownership changes and then almost immediately the manager and entire back room staff departed. However Stuart and Greg Abbott seem to have got together the makings of a very good squad with Vincelot especially looking quality, also thought Dieng looked good in pre season and he is just coming back from injury. I am excited about the new regime and even if we could turn back the clock and have PP back I would rather not bother as we would never have seen Devine and probably Vincelot as he required a fee and I’m not sure the previous board would have sanctioned it.

    • On the basis of what we’ve seen so far, Parkinson did us an immense favour by walking. Mark Marshall barely had a chance last season and has been a revelation under Stuart. Would Devine have been given a chance if he’d stayed? Some quality signings. Let Parkinson’s tactics bore the faithful to death at Bolton, I’ll settle for being entertained.

  6. But where is Matthew Kilgallon?? Our best known signing seems to be invisible?

    • He missed most of pre-season so he’s not fully fit. Suspect he’ll be available for selection in 2-3 weeks. If he can get in the side!

    • It might sound harsh but who cares??

      Im sure once he starts to play he will do well but at the minute without him we are doing amazingly so far with only 1 goal conceded.

      What about McArdle, what about Darby again we are doing well without them who cares??

      What I will say though is it will be good to get them all fit so we have even more options

  7. You’re right, Jason, we should be feeling positive. The football played so far this season is very positive and free flowing; the players look as though they are enjoying their football and it looks as though they are being trusted to play football. Every time we have the ball we look to keep possession mixing intricate, short passing with accurate cross field passes, we look as though we can create chances every time we attack and our defence plays with a calmness and cleverness not seen for a long time. At this early stage it is unfair to pick out any individual; they are playing for each other (that was clearly evident last night) and they are playing for their manager. It is a joy to watch and long may it continue.

  8. Things are looking good and long may it continue, but let’s not be bitter eh? Let’s quit the Parky bashing. His football here might not have been the most attractive whilst he was here but he didn’t do too bad. And Bolton have got off to a pretty good start this season too.
    It’s refreshing to know that we have so many options in so many positions when everyone is fit. Just one piece of the jigsaw missing which will hopefully come next week!

    • Parkinson let himself down ….big time…and could have sabotaged our season by emptying the club of almost the entire back room staff. Good riddance!

      • Give over will you.

        Parky left suddenly and it wasn’t nice but the good far outweighs the bad.

        He turned down job offers previously to stay with us so give him some slack.

        The only club he couldn’t turn down was his boyhood club so give it a rest

  9. Forgot to mention the backroom staff didn’t have to go they could have stayed as im sure they all have their own minds and can think for themselves

  10. Well what about an opinion on the current Bradford City and not the past as im sure we would prefer to hear your thoughts on that rather than Parky bashing

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