The Bradford City team of the decade

By Jason McKeown

Forget the General Election this week – there’s only one poll that matters.

Last week, we asked Width of a Post readers to vote for their Bradford City team of the decade. We had a terrific response to the poll, with over 800 votes. And whilst some of the results are of no great surprise, there are some interesting voting splits.

Goalkeeper – Jon McLaughlin

Image by Mike Holdsworth

No position in the team divided as much opinion as the goalkeeper slot. Jon McLaughlin has come out on top with 29.2% of the vote, but it was very tight with Jordan Pickford only 0.1% behind (29.1%). Matt Duke and Colin Doyle also claimed a decent share of the vote.

The split of the vote seems a fair reflection of a decade of City goalkeepers, where many have impressed if not always fully convinced a demanding Bradford public. No one who has played between the sticks this decade will reach the legendary status of the likes of Gary Walsh, Mark Schwarzer or Peter Downsborough, but a handful are fondly remembered for their contributions.

None more so than McLaughlin, who also wins for durability. Signed as back-up by Stuart McCall in 2008, it was only at the start of this decade – under Peter Taylor – that McLaughlin began to make an impression. He had several strong runs in the team and was notable for being a decent penalty saver, although for a time struggled to maintain his form over a longer period.

It’s partly why he shared goalkeeper duties with Matt Duke over the famous 2012/13 season, albeit McLaughlin’s record was far superior. Over his final season at the club, 2013/14, McLaughlin became undisputed first choice keeper. It was slightly harsh that he was released that summer, and McLaughlin has since gone onto play very well for Burton, Hearts and Sunderland. Plus play for Scotland.

That Pickford was only narrowly behind McLaughlin shows what an impact the on-loan Sunderland stopper made. Pickford was young and raw, but his ability was evident. He’s since established himself at Sunderland, earned a £30 million move to Everton, become England’s number one keeper and helped the national team reached the World Cup semi finals. Had Pickford not being recalled early by Sunderland after City defeated them in the FA Cup, Pickford might have won the team of the decade starting nod over McLaughlin.

How the vote was split:

Jon McLaughlin 29.2%, Jordon Pickford 29.1%, Matt Duke 19.8%, Colin Doyle 18%, Ben Williams 3.2%, Richard O’Donnell 0.7%.

Right back – Stephen Darby

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

It was never in doubt, although the early voting suggested that Tony McMahon might achieve a respectable share. In the end, Stephen Darby recorded 94.3% of the vote. Given the former Liverpool right back’s outstanding five years at Valley Parade, it’s a well deserved victory.

Darby played a huge role in the club’s rise under Phil Parkinson. Think of a major moment or match during this period, and Darby was inevitably involved. Succeeding Gary Jones as captain, Darby helped to set and maintain high standards in the dressing room that were so evident on the field. This was highlighted even more after Darby left in the summer of 2017, and the team spirit began to erode from the start of 2018.

Darby is now facing a very different kind of battle – and the wide range of supporter fundraising initiatives taking place underline how much he means to us.

In another decade, Tony McMahon might have been a strong contender for the right back slot. He wasn’t as strong defensively as Darby, but was more effective going forwards. His set pieces delivered a lot of goals.

Paul Caddis and Simon Ramsden weren’t bad players either, but in this survey gained only a small share of the vote.

How the vote was split:

Stephen Darby 94.3%, Tony McMahon 4.5%, Paul Caddis 0.8%, Simon Ramsden 0.4%.

Centre backs – Rory McArdle and Andrew Davies

Image by Thomas Gadd ( – copyright Bradford City

The History Maker dominance continues in the centre back positions, with two of the central linchpins of the 2013 promotion, and cup runs of 2013 and 2015, Rory McArdle and Andrew Davies.

McArdle was the highest-ranking player in the centre back category, with 83.1% of fans including him in their XI. He arrived in 2012 and played a huge role in the club’s resurgence, not least for a catalogue of famous goals that included at home to Aston Villa in the League Cup semi final, against Northampton at Wembley and at home to Fleetwood in the 2017 play off semi final.

Image by Mike Holdsworth

Davies arrived at Valley Parade just before McArdle, signing on loan from Stoke shortly after Phil Parkinson took over as manager. He was a class act, and it was a real coup that Parkinson was able to persuade Davies to sign permanently that summer. There were a lot of injuries that disrupted his time at City, but when fit Davies was vital at the back. He always made a huge difference. Three quarters of supporters (75.5%) picked him in their team of the decade.

No other central defenders came close, although Reece Burke did finish third, with 23.3% of fans selecting him in one of the two centre back slots. Matt Kilgallon – who like Burke secured a player of the season award during his time at Valley Parade – was chosen by 9.4% of fans.

How the vote went:

Rory McArdle 83.1%, Andrew Davies 75.5%, Reece Burke 23.3%, Matt Kilgallon 9.4%, Romain Vincelot 3.8%, Carl McHugh 1.9%, Ben Richard-Everton 1.8%, Luke Oliver 1.2%.

Left back – James Meredith

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

This was another position dominated by one player. James Meredith earned 97.3%, leaving the other contenders feeding off crumbs. It was a brilliant five years at Bradford City for Meredith, whose attack-minded approach was a vital cog in the teams built by Phil Parkinson and Stuart McCall. Even after it seemed Meredith was going to leave in the summer of 2014, after a contract dispute, he was quickly brought back into the fold.

Meredith’s departure to Millwall in the summer of 2017 hurt, given the Lions had just beaten the Bantams to promotion. But any ill-feeling towards Meredith pales in comparison with the magnificent service he provided. Unquestionably the best City left back since Wayne Jacobs. No other left back comes close this decade.

How the vote was split:

James Meredith 97.3%, Luke O’Brien 2.0%, Greg Leigh 0.4%, Robbie Threlfall 0.3%.

Right winger – Mark Marshall

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

At last, a position in the team of the decade not filled by a history maker. In what was more of a split poll, Mark Marshall came out on top with 43.3% of the vote. It’s testament to a terrific 2016/17 season, when Marshall thrived under Stuart McCall’s management to deliver a series of match-winning displays.

Phil Parkinson had failed to get a tune out of Marshall, and it looked as though he would depart in the summer of 2016. But the recovery was outstanding, and it was real thrill to watch Marshall at his rip-roaring best as City reached the play off final.

Marshall beats Garry Thompson in the poll, who managed 23.9% of the vote. This was just ahead of a player not associated with good times, but who is fondly remembered for his moments of brilliance during a tough period for the club. Omar Daley finished on 16.3%.

How the vote was split:

Mark Marshall 43.3%, Garry Thompson, 23.9%, Omar Daley 16.3%, Filipe Morais 8.2%, Tony McMahon 7.2%, Alex Gilliead 0.9%, Zavon Hines 0.2%.

Central midfielders – Gary Jones and Josh Cullen

After his surprise polling as the second most popular Bradford City player of all time, last summer, it’s no great shock to see Gary Jones earn a place in this team. 93.9% of City fans voted him in their midfield.

The story of Jones’ arrival at Valley Parade, aged 35 and out of favour at Rochdale, has been told time and time again. He proved one of the best signings in the club’s history, leading the team to stunning heights over 2012/13.

No player who has worn claret and amber this decade has attracted the level of adulation Jones received from fans. Everywhere you went that season, City fans were chanting his name.

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

The second slot, perhaps surprisingly, didn’t go to Jones’ former partner in midfield, Nathan Doyle. Instead, Josh Cullen gets the nod with an impressive 69.9% of City fans voting him in their XI. Cullen’s 18 months on loan at Valley Parade were certainly memorable. He really elevated the team, driving them forwards with his energetic box-to-box style. Like Jones, he inspired real affection from fans.

Doyle did finish third in the midfield section of the poll, with 13.8% of City fans voting him in their midfield. Lewis O’Brien just nudged past Michael Flynn for the fourth place slot.

How the vote went:

Gary Jones 93.9%, Josh Cullen 69.9%, Nathan Doyle 13.8%, Lewis O’Brien 4.4%, Michael Flynn 4.3%, Romain Vincelot 3.7%, Billy Knott 3.8%, David Syers 3.0%, Gary Liddle 1.2%, Jack Payne 1.1%, Lee Bullock 0.5%, Ricky Ravenhill 0.4%.

Left winger – Kyel Reid

Image by Thomas Gadd ( – copyright Bradford City FC

This position saw another landslide winner, as Kyel Reid scored 70.8% of the vote.

Reid arrived in West Yorkshire virtually the same day as Phi Parkinson, and proved to be a key figure over two spells. In that first season, 2011/12, Reid was a key attacking outlet as a cagey City just about avoided relegation. Injury problems minimised Reid’s role in the run to the League Cup final the season after, but when he did return he was vital in City making a late, successful dash for promotion.

After leaving for Preston, Reid made a return on loan in 2015/16, where he once again was a favourite for his direct wing play and willingness to run and run. Reid was a typical winger in terms of consistency, but on his day was mesmerising to watch.

With 15.8% of the vote, Reid’s closest challenger was the winger who replaced him when he picked up a serious injury in January 2014. Adam Reach signed on loan from Middlesbrough and impressed for his intelligence and free kicks. He’s subsequently gone onto establish himself as a good Championship player with an eye for spectacular goals. Nicky Law came third in this section of the poll.

How the vote was split:

Kyel Reid 70.8%, Adam Reach 15.8%, Nicky Law 8.5%, Mark Yeates 3.4%, Will Atkinson 1.5%.

Strikers – Nahki Wells and James Hanson

Picture by Claire Epton (copyright Bradford City)

No great surprises up front of course. Nahki Wells and James Hanson formed a formidable strike partnership over a two-year period that helped City stay in League Two, reach a major cup final, earn promotion to League One and then establish the club in mid-table, before Wells moved on.

Wells was voted in 97% of all supporters’ team of the decade; a brilliant record considering he didn’t depart on the best of terms, moving to bitter rivals Huddersfield Town. But there is absolutely no question he was the best striker on City’s books over the decade.

A gem of a find in 2012, the boy from Bermuda has gone all the way to playing in the Premier League. His record at Valley Parade was outstanding.

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

James Hanson was there long before – and long after – Wells. At the start of the decade he was in the middle of his breakthrough season where he would win the supporters’ player of the season. It’s fair to say there were ups and downs after that, but for his role in City’s mid-decade rise and catalogue of important goals, he is fondly remembered. 82.8% of fans gave him a starting berth in their team of the decade.

Charlie Wyke finished third in the poll, selected by 12.5% of all supporters. But despite a very strong first calendar year at Valley Parade, Wyke’s time at the club ended on the sour note of the beginnings of City’s implosion. 6.2% of fans awarded a place to Jon Stead.

How the vote went:

Nahki Wells 97.0%, James Hanson 82.8%, Charlie Wyke 12.5%, Jon Stead 6.2%, Billy Clarke 1.1%, Paul Taylor 0.4%.

Categories: Opinion


7 replies

  1. Thanks again for all the time & hard work that must have gone into this interesting & thought provoking piece. Pretty much agree with the result, I would also like to nominate Stuart as manager !!

  2. So basically pretty much the Capital One Cup run team then;-)

  3. Eight out of 11 players in my team of the decade.

    A great read on the 7th anniversary of our superb League Cup quarter final victory against Arsenal.

    Well done to everyone who organised this vote.

    Another vote tomorrow! Who remembers a famous Bradford City win on General Election day in 1997?

  4. Good topic, but how come Simon Parker has brought out the same one in the T&A this week, with the identical team? Did he see your voting results?

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