The Bradford City winds of change part four – Cook joins Bantams

By Jason McKeown

Bradford City have continued to bolster their striker options with the arrival of Andy Cook on loan from Mansfield Town until the end of the season. The 30-year-old has been in and out of the Stags team of late, especially since Nigel Clough took over as manager. Out of contract at the end of this season, his intention in joining the Bantams will be to make an impression and earn a new deal in the summer – either at Valley Parade or with another League Two club.

Cook’s background has some similarities to Danny Rowe, in the fact he has only broken into the Football League in the later stages of his career. He was part of the youth ranks at Carlisle but never got a first team chance, moving onto local(ish) non league side Barrow – initially on loan, before the deal was made permanent in January 2011. By the end of that first season in the Lakes, Cook had netted 17 goals in 39 games for the Blue Square Premier League side.

It was excellent form that made Grimsby – also in the Blue Square Premier at the time – sit up and take notice, and Cook was brought in to Blundell Park club in the summer of 2012. His two years with Grimsby weren’t great – 11 goals in 2012/13, and just three in 2013/14 – and Cook ended up rejoining Barrow when his deal ran out.

From 2015, Cook was prolific once more for the Bluebirds, with 24 goals from 45 appearances over 2015/16. It again put him on the radar of so-called big Conference clubs, and so in 2016 he went to Tranmere, where he had two terrific years. 23 goals in 44 games in 2016/17, when Rovers lost the play off final. A year later, Tranmere went one better with Cook scoring at Wembley – his 28th goal in 45 games that season.

At last, Cook was a Football League player. Although he opted against staying with Tranmere, moving instead to League One to sign for Walsall. 2018/19 was not a happy one for the Saddlers, and they were relegated along with Bradford City. Cook played a role in the Bantams infamous 3-2 loss to Walsall in February 2018 that did for David Hopkin – with the striker getting sent off after just six minutes. City couldn’t capitalise on playing with an extra man for 84 minutes.

Despite a poor season for Walsall as a club, Cook himself scored 18 goals in 50 appearances. And when Mansfield lured him to Field Mill that summer, it was seen as a coup – a sign of the Stags’ high ambition. Yet in truth, it hasn’t been a brilliant move for Cook. He scored just seven goals in 2019/20 before Covid struck (one of which was in the 3-0 win over City that pushed Gary Bowyer closer to the sack). He has only scored three times this season, one – again – against the Bantams, in the 3-1 loss in October. His last goal came on December 5.

Cook’s arrival at Valley Parade is curious given the abundance of strikers of similar style. It arguably suggests the injury to Lee Novak is more serious and prolonged than has been made public. Or it could just be an extra insurance policy. The memories of City struggling badly with just the aging Clayton Donaldson as a senior option remain vivid. At the very least, there should be no repeat of such limited options.

Whether Cook will start games is unclear. Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars have continued to favour the 4-2-3-1 approach, with Rowe leading the line impressively. Although there are some concerns that Rowe is not a targetman and likes to come deep, sometimes limiting how far up the field City stretch the play, the decent midweek win over Southend showed a team increasingly benefitting from the former Oldham striker’s strengths.

The two goals from Gareth Evans demonstrated a clear instruction for attacking midfielders to break into the box when Rowe comes deeper, with high rewards. Callum Cooke is also revelling in being given licence to push further forward. There are really promising signs from Roots Hall that the system spearheaded by Rowe can give City a more clinical edge.

Trueman and Sellars might ultimately be tempted to go with two up front – the current formation does not suit Billy Clarke’s strengths, which may seem him taken out of the starting line up – so Cook could push his way into contention.

It all leaves City in a much stronger position to score more goals than was the case over the first half of the season. Tuesday’s win over Southend pushed the relegation spots further away in the distance, and the gap to the play offs doesn’t appear insurmountable, with a fair wind behind them.

It’s all going so, so well right now. And Cook could play a part in what might yet develop into an unlikely Bradford City promotion push.

Categories: Opinion


9 replies

  1. Well done management team again, getting cover for a potential injury, eye on the ball as they say, well done

  2. We need to keep our feet firmly on the ground. Whilst the form of the team since Trueman and Sellars took over is very good, we know how quickly football can change. There’s no mention of the P word from me at the moment. Let’s keep on picking up points; another important game against Barrow this weekend. Hopefully, Cook can score against his former club.

    • I agree. We are in 18th place in the bottom division. Halfway would need a good second half of the season. Please don’t let us get carried away.

  3. Personally, I’m a bit puzzled by the focus on attacking players versus strengthening the defence. We’ve only added one experienced defender in Neil Canavan. I hope my reservations prove to be baseless.

    • The numbers of goals conceded, and with Staunton on his way back i wouldn’t be that concerned

      • Staunton is likely to be third choice at best. City lack experience at right back and we could do with another holding central midfielder. In my opinion, five strikers is an unbalanced situation. Ideally, I would like to see a holding midfielder signed in this transfer window.

  4. Great article as ever… abundance of strikers* not heard that at v.p for long time…

  5. I just wonder what is required to actually enjoy the moment, why not get carried away we have had nothing to shout about for last 3 seasons, these Young Guns including Mr Sparks have turned around the whole club around in a matter of weeks with 15 points from 21, so yes I am going to get carried away and with what I have seen in the last 2 games from Rowe, cracking shots from range and more support coming in, we are heading in the right direction looking comfortable on the ball.

    Nothing in this league and I can see confidence in an abundance and for me it is just sheer respect through the camp from the top to the bottom and nobody wants to play teams and clubs full of that, right them off at your peril but I can see a standing ovation come August if we are back in the stadium as we enter the 1st home game in League 1.

    Oh no I have said it, I will count the thumbs down and post how many come what? May to say I told you so.

    Have some Belief & Faith and get Behind Your Team, when was last time you saw it this Good…….

    • It’s great to feel good about City for a change and to actually look forward to the next game.
      The trouble is Ant that there’s a feel good factor and then there’s getting carried away.
      If we start looking too far ahead the danger is that we collectively overreact. Win a game and we”re dreaming of promotion. Lose on Saturday and suddenly our ‘young guns’ are too inexperienced and the critism of team resurfaces from earlier in the season.
      Let’s just focus on Saturday and another 3 points.

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