The Bradford City 2021/22 season preview #5: The quest to score enough goals to win promotion

By Alex Scott, Tim Penfold and Jason McKeown

If Bradford City are to earn automatic promotion this season, the figures suggest the team will need to deliver an extra 20-25 goals on the 48 they achieved in 2020/21.

Derek Adams’ Morecambe side, who just missed out on automatic promotion last season, managed an impressive 78 goals overall, largely playing 4-2-3-1. 51 of those 78 goals were shared between four players – Carlos Mendes Gomes (16 goals), Cole Stockton (15), Adam Phillips (10) and Aaraon Wildig (10). This quartet provided 65% of all of Morecambe’s goals.

Cambridge, who were promoted automatically, managed 73 goals. The prolific Paul Mullin scored almost half of them (32) and fellow striker Joe Ironside netted 14. That’s 63% of United’s goals – but unlike Morecambe, Cambridge largely played a 4-4-2 formation. A bit like the Bantams’ 2012/13 promotion was fuelled by the goals of Nahki Wells and James Hanson.

If City are to replicate or ideally better the fantastic achievement of Morecambe last season – playing the 4-2-3-1 – they ideally need at least four players capable of getting into double figures.

After part one and two of the WOAP squad analysis focused on goalkeepers, full backs, central defenders and defensive midfielders, our final part looks at the top end of the park.

(Statistics from and

8. Callum Cooke

Age 24. Central midfielder and attacking midfielder. Final season of contract

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Callum CookeCity3064%366.77

By Jason

The WOAP player of the season for 2020/21, Callum Cooke made big development strides last time by becoming the focal point of the Bradford City team.

The Trueman/Sellars 4-2-3-1 really suited the 24-year-old’s talents, and he revelled in the number 10 role – the Bantams’ drop off, when Cooke was injured, further reinforced his positive influence. He ended the season with the best pass completion in the whole of League Two (84%), with six assists and three goals to boot.

Cooke’s strong run of performances followed the difficulties both Gary Bowyer and Stuart McCall found in accommodating Cooke in the side, as both former City managers struggled to find a position in their preferred set ups that suited his strengths. 

With Adams evidently favouring a 4-2-3-1 formation and known for placing a lot of trust in the creative talents of the three behind the striker, all indications suggest this should be another really good season for Cooke. He should start once more in the number 10 role without any obvious senior competition – possibly with the exception of Abo Eisa – to play ahead of him.

Despite his success last term, for City to move forwards they will also demand more of Cooke. Namely more goals. The stats suggest he will continue to be creative and lay on opportunities for others, but Adams will also be looking for him to get on the scoresheet more often himself. Given Cooke has never managed more than five goals in a season, it’s by no means guaranteed, but there were signs last season of a greater intelligence in knowing when to make runs into the box, and we know he possesses a powerful shot.

Given he’s another player in the final year of contract, Cooke could be a player in high demand next summer.

What a good season looks like: He plays well again in the number 10 role, catching the eye for his excellent passing and chipping in with a goal or two. Callum Cooke in 2020/21.

What a great season looks like: He becomes even more effective in the final third, laying on even more chances and pushing double figures in his own goal tally. Dave Syers in 2010/11.

26. Kian Scales

Age 19. Attacking midfielder. Final season of contract.

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Kian ScalesCity616%106.12

By Tim

It’s rare enough that Bradford City have one young player make a breakthrough, let alone three in one season, but that’s what happened last season with Staunton, Cousin-Dawson and finally Kian Scales.

Scales had shown impressive goalscoring ability in the youth team, playing as the most advanced of a midfield 3, and had a couple of opportunities in that sort of role under McCall, but as Trueman and Sellars shifted to a 4-2-3-1 Scales started getting the occasional game as one of the three behind the striker.

He made a reasonable impact there without setting the world alight, with the highlight being his wonderful goal against Colchester. In a Derek Adams team he’ll also be competing for those slots behind the front man and has had a decent pre-season so far, picking up some useful goals and showcasing his intelligent movement. There’s a lot of competition for these roles, but Scales will be aiming for more games than last season and a bigger impact.

What a good season looks like: He continues to push on and gets a reasonable amount of games. He’s not a regular, but he plays well enough when he gets the chance. Danny Forrest in 2002/03

What a great season looks like: He makes a big impact in his early cameo appearances and Football League Trophy games, and forces his way into the team to become a regular. Des Hamilton in 1995/96

11. Alex Gilliead

Age 25. Wide midfielder. Two seasons remaining on contract.

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Alex GillieadScunthorpe4392%146.82

By Tim

Alex Gilliead will be a familiar face to most Bantams fans after two loan spells across a season and a half in the second McCall era. Gilliead was an inconsistent young player then, offering powerful running on the ball and the ability to commit defenders but not really offering enough in the way of end product.

Now he’s much more experienced, and coming off a season where he was very much Scunthorpe’s star man, captaining the side and sweeping the board at their player of the year awards. It seems like he’s improved his consistency, but the question marks over his end product remain with only one goal and three assists last year, albeit for a Scunthorpe side that, fellow summer signing Abo Eisa aside, didn’t seem to have much going for it.

This season Gilliead will be looking to improve on those numbers and secure his place on the right hand side ahead of Ollie Crankshaw. It looks like he’ll start the season in possession of a place in the team, and it’ll be up to him to keep it.

What a good season looks like:

He’s a regular on the right flank and has a solid season, providing good defensive cover as well as a decent attacking contribution. Filipe Morais in 2014/15

What a great season looks like:

He steps his game up a level and is a regular source of assists and chances created from the flank, tormenting defenders and generally causing havoc. Kyel Reid in 2011/12.

15. Charles Vernam

Age 24. Forward. Final season of contract.

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Charles VernamBurton (L1), City2656%426.62

By Alex

The 24-year old forward enters this season at a bit of a crossroads. After the qualified successes with Grimsby two years ago earning him his move to League One with Burton, where over his first six months he established himself as a starter, he could have been forgiven for thinking his career was ready to take off. He’d had a successful youth career with Derby, and after a stuttering start as a professional he began 2021 on an upswing.

Eight months later, and it’s been two steps back for Vernam, again in a League Two side with a new manager, no guarantee of a starting role, and an expiring contract. After the promise of 2020, he now has to prove himself all over again.

That said, he should have an opportunity to start early in the season, and the team will be reliant on him for goals. There’s a big chance for him here to put together all the promise he’s shown throughout his career and be a key part of a good team. If he can put this together, he’ll certainly have suitors higher up the pyramid next year.

Yet, this is a projection based on not much evidence at all. He’s never been part of a team who’s finished in the top half of a division. He’s scored 15 Football League goals in his entire career, and half of these came within three months at the start of 2020.

It’s probably not hyperbolic to paint this as a ‘make or break’ season for Vernam; he’s shown in flashes he has the potential to succeed at this level and above, but he’s yet to really put it all together.

It’s also probably not hyperbolic to paint his success this season as ‘make or break’ for City’s chances. Playing a 4-2-3-1, without much of a goals pedigree from midfield, City need goals – and lots of them – from the wide men, especially Vernam and Abo Eisa. Yet neither has ever really delivered on the level City are relying upon them to this season. If Vernam doesn’t take the leap they are expecting of him, it’s difficult to see how they can reach their ambitions.   

What a good season looks like:

Decent goal return and establishes himself as an important player in the team if not the star man. Garry Thompson in 2012/13.

What a great season looks like:

Establishes himself as the strongest of the group of wide men, starting a lot of games, and contributing significantly in the goal tally. Jordy Hiwula in 2016/17

17. Gareth Evans

Central midfielder and wide midfielder. Age 33. Final season of contract.

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Gareth EvansPortsmouth (L1), City2041%226.47

By Jason

No current Bradford City player would have had quite the knot in their stomach Gareth Evans must have felt when it was made clear Derek Adams would be the next Bradford City manager. Four years ago, he had publicly attacked Adams, saying of the-then Plymouth boss, “I don’t like the manager”. To Adams’ great credit, he has shrugged off these comments when asked about Evans’ future, very much offering out the olive branch to the City midfielder.

Still, you suspect Evans’ won’t be feeling as great about his future prospects compared to a year ago, when he returned to Valley Parade under Stuart McCall. Rumours briefly circulated he would be moving into non-league. And with his contract expiring next summer, his current trajectory suggests this could be his final season in the Football League. With the transfer window still open, he might not even last until September.

It was a mystery why Evans proved so disappointing last season. Forget the previous City connections, on paper the signing of a player so well regarded at Portsmouth – and who had played a big role in their League One play off pushes – looked a clever piece of business. After re-signing for the Bantams he experienced injury problems almost straight away, and it wasn’t until last January that he finally started more than two games in a row.

But even accepting the fitness disruption, far more was expected.

It’s fair to say that the 4-2-3-1 formation approach deployed by Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars meant the wide players struggled, no matter who was picked in these positions, but Evans’ especially failed to make an impact. He was also tried as a number 10 and further flattered to deceive.

And that leaves Evans seemingly starting the season on the fringes. His versatility is a useful asset that Adams’ might tap into – for example, the manager has tried him in a deeper midfield role in pre-season, suggesting that is Evans’ most likely route into the first team – but the role of utility man can be thankless. Ultimately, if he can’t nail down a regular position in Adams’ side, he’ll always be the man to step aside when everyone is fit.

What a good season looks like: He plays around 30 games – often as sub – and proves himself to be a valuable member of the squad who makes a difference at times. Mark Yeates in 2014/15.

What a great season looks like: With a full pre-season behind him he rediscovers his Portsmouth form and proves a huge asset in terms of providing goals – becoming one of the first names on Adams’ team sheet. Nicky Summerbee in 2004/05.

23. Ollie Crankshaw

Age 22. Winger. Two seasons remaining on contract.

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Ollie CrankshawWigan (L1), City1332%236.24

By Alex

Still only 22, Crankshaw will be looking to consolidate himself as a Football League player this season. He has a couple of years to run on his contract, offering him the luxury of time, but by the end of this season Crankshaw will surely be looking to have established himself as a starter in the team ahead of next season.

Like many of his peers, however, this would be a projection for him. After a non-league career with Colne and Curzon Ashton where he achieved a good goal return, Crankshaw’s league appearances have largely been limited to substitute appearances. With his pace and direct approach, it’s easy to see why both Wigan, and City, last season saw him as neatly fitting the niche of an impact sub. But from Crankshaw’s perspective, he will know that if he is to establish himself in the League, his role needs to be bigger than this.

As above, his contract does provide some security, and an acknowledgement from City that with only 13 starts in the Football League to his name, Crankshaw will still need time to prove himself at this level.

Yet again, with only Gilliead, Vernam and Eisa for competition in the two wide spots, City will be relying on Crankshaw to contribute, and change games from the bench throughout the season. With only two goals and three assists to his name in his 28 league appearances, City are again banking on him stepping up to a level he’s not yet reached.

What a good season looks like: Continues his important role of impact player off the bench, with increased contribution in terms of goals and assists. Jack Compton in 2011/12

What a great season looks like: Seizing the opportunity in front of him, keeping more experienced players out of the team, for spells across the season providing a good source of goals and creativity from the flanks. Zavon Hines in 2012/13.

7. Abo Eisa

Age 25. Winger. Two seasons remaining on contract. Projected starter.

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Abo EisaScunthorpe2868%936.67

By Alex

I think there’s a compelling argument that City’s success this season essentially hinges on Abo Eisa.

As we’ve alluded to earlier, the key to City making the jump they are attempting to make is more goals. None of City’s midfielders and attacking midfielders have a consistent track record of goal scoring. With only one centre forward in the formation, Andy Cook, Lee Angol and Lavery will obviously be heavily relied upon. But with only one of them ever playing at one time, they will be limited in the overall goals they can score.

Which leaves the wide men. Simply, if the wide men, specifically Gilliead, Vernam and Eisa, cannot contribute goals – and lots of them – this team will not reach their ambitions. Even if this defence evolves into the stingiest defence in the division, the numbers still don’t add up without a big contribution from the wide men. City went a 10-game stretch in the second half of last season with two wide men contributing three goals between them in 1,800 minutes. In this structure, that’s not going to get it done.

Enter, Abo Eisa. The younger brother of MK Dons striker Mo, the Sudanese-born attacker failed to break through at Shrewsbury and got his first sustained taste of first team football on loan to Colchester three years ago as they made an ill-fated run at the play offs. After this brief spell, he followed former manager Paul Hurst to Scunthorpe where he quickly established himself as a starter, scoring five goals in 24 starts, and contributing three assists. Last season was a breakout season for Eisa at Scunthorpe, where he notched 9 goals (including 2 penalties), in only 28 starts. 

It’s this production that City have gambled upon for this season. Entering his age 25 season, Adams and City’s Head of Recruitment Lee Turnbull have gambled that Eisa can outproduce his previous returns given more playing time and become their star man.

These are the types of informed gambles you will be wanting the club to take, but we should all acknowledge it for what it is. Eisa wasn’t overwhelmingly popular at Scunthorpe despite his production, and he did only start 28 games last season in the league for a reason.

To reach their goal of promotion, City need Abo Eisa to perform at a level he’s not yet reached and become their star man. How Eisa takes that responsibility will go a long way to defining how far this team goes.

What a good season looks like: The way this team has been constructed means they are reliant on Eisa being a productive contributor from the start, so by any measure, he needs to contribute goals for his season to be a success. Kyel Reid in 2015/16.

What a great season looks like: Not only becoming an important player in City’s frontline, Abo takes a step forward beyond what he’s done before, becoming the star man in a good team, contributing goals and assists. Mark Marshall in 2016/17.

9. Andy Cook

Age 30. Two seasons remaining on contract.

By Jason

After all the hype and plaudits of the January 2021 transfer window, the stark truth was that only two of the mid-season arrivals actually made a notable impact – Niall Canavan was one, and Andy Cook the other.

When Cook was brought in on loan from Mansfield it seemed to be as a back-up and no one really expected a great deal, especially with Danny Rowe quickly rising towards cult hero status. Three months and eight goals later, Cook had very established himself first choice and Rowe hurriedly exited to non-league.

The quick departure of Rowe might have made less sense had Cook not returned this season, which is why his summer arrival on a permanent deal is such a boost. The 4-2-3-1 needs an athletic, mobile and powerful striker to lead the line – and what Cook showed over the second half of last season were these qualities and more.

In some ways he has been talked down in recent weeks – over pre-season there have been lots of calls that the Bantams needed a clinical forward to come in and complete the jigsaw. Perhaps because of the way both he and the team faded at the end of last season, some of Cook’s qualities have been forgotten. He will certainly expect to lead the line this season – and back himself to deliver.

If Cook can continue to thrive in the 4-2-3-1 formation, he could be a real star this campaign. After all, in five years spanning 2014 to 2019, Cook netted 18 or more goals every season. There is every reason to believe he could be similarly prolific this term.

Cook is an excellent lone striker and should thrive in a team set up to create him chances – especially as he has already proven he doesn’t need a lot of opportunities to find the net. The prize is a big one and there is every reason to believe he will grasp it. 

What a good season looks like: He plays most matches and scores at a decent rate, never letting anyone down. Andy Cook in 2020/21.

What a great season looks like: He revels in being the main man and gets brilliant service that enables him to score a hatful. Dean Windass in 2004/05.

19. Lee Angol

Age 19. Forward. Final season of contract.

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Lee AngolLeyton Orient716%106.44

By Tim

Lee Angol was something of a surprise summer signing, but has had an impressive pre-season and looks like he may have a decent chance of starting the season in the first team.

Angol has had a journeyman’s career so far, bouncing around loan spells and the reserve sides in the league before following where many others had gone before – using a fine season at Boreham Wood in the Conference South to get a deal at those prolific spotters of non-league talent, Peterborough. His first season there was decent, but he faded out of contention and has dropped down to League Two level since, most recently in an injury-hit spell with Leyton Orient.

Most City fans weren’t hugely impressed with him on paper, but he’s had a good pre-season on the pitch, starring against Guiseley when moved out to the left flank and impressing against Blackburn as well. With Andy Cook looking like the main man down the middle, Angol’s ability to play wide as well gives him a better chance of starting regularly while also providing decent cover up front.

Angol is decent aerially and a good dribbler, if a bit inconsistent in front of goal. At worst, he offers competition and cover in multiple positions. At best, if he repeats his pre-season form, he could be an excellent find.

What a good season looks like: He’s not a week-in week-out starter but he plays a lot of games either through the middle or on the flank, and returns a decent amount of goals and assists. Robbie Blake in 1997/98.

What a great season looks like: He takes a place in the team and makes it his own, being a consistent attacking force and getting plenty of goals. Robbie Blake in 1998/99.

29. Caolan Lavery

Age 28. Forward. Final season of contract.

Last SeasonTeam(s)StartsMins %GoalsAssistsWhoScored Rating
Caolan LaveryWalsall2252%636.36

By Jason

Having signed for City at the start of this week, 28-year-old Caolan Lavery appears to be the final member of Adams’ much-discussed 24-man squad and, with it, the last piece of the jigsaw. Although the fact the number 10 shirt continues to be vacant suggests Adams has something further up his sleeve between now and the closing of the transfer window.

The Canadian-born target man Lavery will be relied on to push Andy Cook and deliver positive contributions from the bench, with the 4-2-3-1 meaning it’s unlikely both strikers will be on the field at the same time.

For Lavery, his arrival at Valley Parade comes almost a decade after first nearly joining the Bantams, when in December 2011 Phil Parkinson held advanced talks to bring the-then Ipswich youth product to West Yorkshire. Lavery’s agent tweeted a deal had been done – a claim later disputed by Mark Lawn. In the end, the move fell through and Lavery signed for Sheffield Wednesday the following summer.

Over the subsequent decade, Lavery has proven himself to be a decent lower league forward – if far from prolific – with loan spells at Southend, Plymouth (pre Derek Adams), Chesterfield, Portsmouth, Rotherham and Bury, plus three years at Sheffield United. He’d never started more than 16 league games for one club, at least not until signing for Walsall in the summer of 2019 – ironically to replace the Mansfield-bound Andy Cook.

In what was a very average Walsall side last season, Lavery started 20 times and came off the bench a further 19 times, netting six goals overall. It’s not exactly the most eye-catching of contributions – nor is it overly encouraging that Lavery spent pre-season on trial at expected League Two strugglers Hartlepool and Oldham, seemingly failing to win a deal. He’s also had quite a lot of injury problems over his career.

Still, Adams will be banking on Lavery being comfortable playing the back up role in a way that Danny Rowe wasn’t happy to be under Trueman and Sellars last season. When you generally operate with only one striker vacancy in your preferred formation, you need forwards who won’t sulk or drop off their intensity when they are left out. Some players just suit being a sub and that is probably part of the attraction with Lavery.

At 5 foot 11, Lavery is not the tallest and his attributes are said to be more playing slightly deeper and linking up with others – so more Steve Davies or Edinho than James Hanson. Certainty if Lavery can make the sort of impact Davies regularly made from the bench in 2015/16, he could make a real difference at crucial moments.

What a good season looks like: He thrives on the bigger stage of playing at Valley Parade and performs well enough to be deemed worthy of rotating between starting and being on the bench. Jamie Proctor in 2015/16.

What a great season looks like: He takes his opportunity leading the line and proves hugely effective playing in a team built for his strengths, confounding his low goal return of recent years by netting plenty along the way. Jon Stead in 2014/15.

Categories: Season Preview


3 replies

  1. Thanks to all contributors for this detailed and informative summary of expectations, the state of the club and the analysis of the players.
    In the 55 years I’ve been watching/ following the Bantams promotion seasons have often been somewhat unexpected, after fairly inconsequential seasons before them. The overriding impressions of successful seasons have been a coming together of a core of established players having a solid season, some talented individuals giving that extra spark, a few younger players coming into their own and the whole team gelling into something greater than the sum of its parts.
    I don’t necessarily predict this will be one of those seasons, but the pieces are there, and given the drive and attitude of the manager and coaching staff and the ethos within the club there are fundamentals in place for it to be so.

  2. Enjoyed the style of these preview pieces (again) with the comparisons to the past players.
    Although I am optimistic for the season there are a lot of unknowns about this squad still. I’m very much looking forward to finding out more about them and what they can do as individual players and as part of a squad over a long season.
    Good luck to the players and the management staff.

  3. Nearly at the end of the perfect close season – the time we can dream without any football spoiling it all!!!
    Thanks for the brilliant preview – mostly for the nostalgic glow of remembering those past players, faves, forgottens, legends, and so many good memories.

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