By Jake Verity
David Hopkin became well-known in Scotland for his pragmatic style of football which is akin to what Bradford City fans got used to under Phil Parkinson. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but equally, it was incredibly effective. During his time with Livingston, the 48-year-old’s long-ball routine saw his side routinely lump it up to his strikers and attempt to get his other attackers to run off them. It was simple, but it became a nightmare for defenders in the Scottish Leagues – and it saw the Scottish side gain back-to-back promotions from League One up into the Scottish Premier League.
The Scotsman built his Livingston team to suit that style, but the interesting thing about his recent success with Bradford City is that Hopkin’s changed his philosophy, to suit a team that he’s inherited. Fans became frustrated with Hopkin during his first few weeks at the club. Watching the likes of Eoin Doyle and George Miller have to deal with long-balls was too much for some, on top of a toxic situation at Valley Parade and for many, it meant the jury was out regarding the manager’s credentials.
Credit is due to the Bradford City manager though, he stuck through a tough period, he worked out his style and the ‘Hopkin Press’ has started to bring evident success to Valley Parade. Most importantly, the fans are really beginning to buy into the Scotsman’s work at Valley Parade – and it’s brilliant to watch.
Inevitably, as we now find ourselves in 2019 there’s one thing on fans’ minds and that is the transfer window. We are all naturally going to grow curious as to who Hopkin will bring in. This will be his first transfer window at Bradford City. However, it will take on extra significance. This will be the first transfer window for a Bradford City manager in which he’s got full independence as such since Phil Parkinson, as the days of Edin Rahic’s transfer committee are a thing of the past.
It’s to be expected that when a new manager will come into a club with their own philosophies and ideas, they’ll have a list of players who they will want to fit ‘their’ vision of Bradford City (See: Phil Parkinson and Kyel Reid, or Stuart McCall and Nicky Law). David Hopkin’s done so well recently with the tools he’s already been provided with, it’ll become interesting as to whether he brings in support for what we already have, or whether he wants a complete overhaul of his squad.
It remains to be seen whether he’ll bring in the players that would support the style of play he endorsed so heavily at Livingston and will eventually move to a more pragmatic style of football; or whether he’ll stick with the free-scoring, defensively solid game-plan he’s succeeding with at present that’s terrifying defences in League One – I think most of us would prefer the latter. David Hopkin will of course have an idea of the players who he wants to bring in though, and it’s quite likely the club will have been discussing moves already, with it being clear he wants his business done early.
Here are some types of players that we’re likely to be looking towards during this transfer window:
An energetic left-back
Top of the bill is more than likely going to be bringing in a new left-back. Adam Chicksen has come in for heavy criticism from Bradford City fans recently, and with the squad’s turnaround and efforts on the pitch, he still isn’t showcasing the ability that fans were hoping to see in a world without James Meredith in Claret and Amber.
A fast, energetic left-back who is prepared to slot into either a high-pressing system, or to also work as a wing-back when Hopkin chooses to rotate his team would be a brilliant signing. With the assurance Paul Caddis has brought to the Bantams back-line, it’s likely to expect that it’ll be an experienced left-back if one is to join during the window.
A target man
Despite the troubles at left-back, something that concerns Bradford City fans at present is that our bench is looking very thin on the ground. Edin Rahic’s transfer committee brought in some very questionable signings in the likes of players such as Thomas Isherwood and Kai Brünker. Although the latter has become somewhat of a fans favourite with his hard-working displays, his lack of return in front of goal suggests that the Bantams could do with looking to bring in a strong, experienced target man similar to the likes of Jon Stead or Jamie Proctor.
Somebody who can contribute goals to the squad, but equally offer an alternative dimension to both Eoin Doyle and George Miller would be welcomed at Valley Parade. George Miller won’t be able to consistently produce the displays he’s been doing at the energy levels he’s been displaying week in week out, and we need a back-up plan in case of injuries. Another option on the bench would be brilliant.
To expect Hopkin to pull out a striker who’s fast, offers a big physical presence and can also add goals to the team would be unreasonable, but if somebody can add two of those to the current squad; it’d be a brilliant piece of business.
The Bantams aren’t short of creative ingenuity with the contributions of loanees David Ball, Lewis O’Brien and most notably Jack Payne in recent weeks. But, if David Hopkin was to want to change his formation or wanted to play wider on larger pitches, he could do with the option of a winger. Somebody in the mould of Kyel Reid or Mark Marshall, who can get at defences and has the energy levels to fit into a high pressing system Hopkin’s has endorsed would be an excellent acquisition.
A left-sided centre-half
Nathaniel Knight-Percival has been consistently inconsistent during this season thus far, and with Thomas Isherwood being the only other option at centre-half besides Ryan McGowan and Anthony O’Connor – it would be sensible to bring in another player who could offer a calm and reassuring presence at centre-back.
The introduction of Paul Caddis has brought a real steeliness to the Bantams’ back line and a big warrior in the heart of central defence and the presence of mind that the likes of Andrew Davies and Matthew Kilgallon displayed would be a valuable coup.
There will be the players out there to bring in; it’s just a case of hoping we’ll be able to do so in a highly-competitive January window.
Jack Payne, Lewis O’Brien, David Ball or all three?
It’s glaringly obvious that these three players have all been excellent loan signings. As Stuart McCall said a few weeks ago, Jack Payne is probably one of the best players in League One and it’d be a huge signal of intent if we were to bring in the incredibly talented attacking midfielder.
His Huddersfield Town counterpart Lewis O’Brien, who was once seen as the most uninspiring signing of the season, has been a revelation and has played well beyond his years in the middle of the park. It’d be gigantic if we could prise either player to make the short-trip to Valley Parade on a full-term basis. David Ball has equally been impressive and has fit into Bradford City’s squad like a glove. If Rotherham see him as surplus to requirements, he’d be a great addition on a full-term basis; but as many will expect, there’s likely to only be so much we can spend.
Shay McCartan is performing well at Lincoln City and it’s reasonable to expect that we may need to call him back, should one of our three star loanees return to their parent clubs. But if we could hold onto the above three until the end of the season at least, it would be fantastic.
Stefan Rupp is prepared to spend money and to back David Hopkin. This should make Bradford City fans feel optimistic and also excited in this transfer window. The club will have learned lessons from last year’s January window and the presence of Julian Rhodes will certainly make a huge difference.
Expect several new bodies at Valley Parade – and enjoy the ride; it’s going to be an interesting one!