By Jason McKeown
“Don’t go to bed just yet!” Transfer deadline day is, amongst many things, a series of infamous pronouncements that trigger a rollercoaster of supporter emotions. And, at Bradford City, we’ve experienced plenty of transfer deadline days of staying up past our bedtime, anxiously pressing refresh on the #bcafc Twitter feed for news of an eleventh hour signing. As the minutes ticked by to the usual 11pm cut off point, excitement fades into panic. And, often, frustration and anger.
Kurtis Guthrie, Glenn Middleton, Nathan Delfouneso and Theo Robinson are amongst the inglorious names of players recruited in the final throes of a window, eventually unveiled with more than a whiff of desperation from the club. The late scramble damning evidence of a plan gone wrong, or of not having a proper plan in the first place. The ticking clock robbing the manager of sufficient time to really weigh up if this is the right signing – or if there might have been better options available.
This year’s transfer window closed without any last minute panic by Bradford City. The club used transfer deadline day to confirm two more captures, taking the overall window tally to 17 signings. But the business was done early in the day, by 10am in fact. As others sweated and fretted late into the night, the lights could be turned off inside the Valley Parade offices. Feet up. Job done. At least until January.
It’s very tempting to hail the smoothest Bradford City deadline day in years as a positive. And on paper, the lack of a late scramble certainly feels like a good thing. But the proof is always in the pudding. The success of this transfer window will ultimately be measured over the coming weeks and months, as we find out if this revamped Bradford City squad is good enough to fulfil heady expectations.
Nevertheless, it’s not hard to find a correlation between late night captures and players who turn out to be poor signings. When the last window closed, the club claimed Nathan Delfouneso was a planned target for several weeks. But the way he was unveiled so late on, and how poorly he played in a City shirt, suggests otherwise. Theo Robinson, it was said, was a player with a point to prove (not least to his manager, Derek Adams, you suspect, who didn’t exactly offer up the warmest of words when asked about his arrival). Well, Robinson didn’t manage to prove anything. And his struggle to make an impact last season was further evidence of the club’s approach to recruitment trailing behind others.
There is genuine hope that things are different this time. That the appointment of Stephen Gent has led to a more measured, analytical and considered recruitment strategy. The club has been very busy but did the bulk of its work early. Four signings have arrived since the season kicked off, but appear more in response to a developing situation of where improvements could be made – rather than a worrying realisation the overall activity had resulted in a squad badly lacking. Remember this time last year when the number 10 squad number remained tantalisingly vacant? The window shut with that number 10 spot still going spare. And a big problem was obvious. There are no gaping holes this time around.
It shouldn’t need saying but let’s do it anyway – of the 17 signings made, not all will be a success. There’s only 11 starting places in a team, and so some will struggle just to get a place on the bench, never mind play any significant role in a promotion push. But with a squad strong in depth and some decent players retained from last season, there is capacity for some new signings to fail without damning the club to the same fate. The key to success, as always, will be the ratio of signings who work out. Gent and Hughes will need plenty of hits.
At least one of the two deadline day signings would appear highly likely to prove a hit. Dion Pereira’s return to Valley Parade after last season’s loan spell had been much discussed, rumoured and speculated on. Many of us have spent the last few months harboring an unhealthy interest in Luton Town starting line ups. Fretting that Pereira was looking too good and too involved in the Hatters’ pre-season friendlies. Nathan Jones kept saying nice things about the attacker. Luton fans were buzzing about what they saw from him. The chance for City to get him back seemed to have gone. That said, Pereira’s lack of minutes in Luton’s games so far this season kept the door slightly open.
It’s amazing to think Pereira only actually started nine games for Bradford City last season. His impact was huge, and means his return has been greeted by widespread approval from supporters. Given City’s struggles of late without Jamie Walker and in generally being a goal threat, Pereira could be that missing piece that takes the team to the promotion-standard level it’s labouring to reach.
For Pereira himself, this could be a make or break season. This is a guy with less than 20 career starts. A player who began life at Watford, moved all the way to Atlanta, Georgia to be part of an MLS side, and whose return to England and Luton in December 2020 lead to just one first team start, now finally has the opportunity to play week in week out over a full season. Pereira will be 24 next March – an age where many players have already clocked up more than 100 appearances. This season and this loan move is Pereira’s opportunity, his stage, to start fulfilling his huge potential. It will be a big test – perhaps a bumpier road than all of us are envisaging right now – but if it goes well, the rewards are huge. For both the player and Bradford City.
In many ways Pereira’s career up to now has been a story of trying and failing to prove himself at a level he might not quite be good enough for, at least not yet. But now, for this season, he has the chance to become the best player in a team – perhaps even the best player in the whole of League Two. The sky is the limit. This is going to be really fun to watch.
Tyreik Wright, a 20-year-old winger from Aston Villa, is the other deadline day capture. Wright has some experience at this level with loan moves at Walsall (13 starts 3 as sub), Salford (7 starts and 9 as sub) and Colchester (5 starts and 7 as sub). He is probably here to provide cover and depth in the way Phil Parkinson used to bring in young Premier League loanees to operate as back ups. But again, in a squad that has struggled to breakdown defensive opposition and has at times lacked players with the ability to run between the lines, Wright could well have a part to play over the course of the season.
Hughes reflected on a highly productive transfer window by beaming: “I don’t think Bradford City have had the strength of depth that we have this season in recent years.” He is absolutely right, and it’s worth pondering just how strong it looks.
The WOAP squad list at the bottom left of your page has 28 players (that 28 doesn’t include those who have been loaned out, such as Oscar Threlkeld). 29 players, when you’re only allowed 18 in your match day squad. You could be missing five players through injury and suspension and still be able to name a strong starting XI and bench. That’s surely got to count for something in the battles ahead.
Taking into account different players’ known versatility, I make it we have four goalkeepers, three players who could play right back (with a further two out on loan), three who could play left back, six who could play centre back (with two out on loan), six who could play defensive midfield (with one out on loan), ten who could play out wide, seven who could play as number 10 (plus two out on loan) and five who could play up front.
On paper this has to be the strongest squad in League Two. And on paper we have the best manager. Football often doesn’t work out so simply. But this transfer window activity has certainly pushed the odds in our favour. There’s plenty of ingredients for Hughes to work with in cooking up a winning formula, and it’s one of the reasons why there was no need for a late night shopping trip that always seems to end in rash purchases and buyer’s remorse.
I don’t want to come across as one of those naysayers on the bovine channel but I do wonder if we have over egged the pudding with the sheer number of signings. We have players who did well on Tuesday who probably won’t get another game until the next round of this minor cup competition in October. Morale is high at the moment but how long will that remain with players on the well stocked fringes? I worry too about our lack of height in the back four. Of our four excellent centre backs only Platt can be described as having the stature normally associated with this position in this league. We will come up against big rugged teams. Already we have conceded a number of goals from aerial threats.
Players are used to rotation.
It’s significant that Nathan Jones said he wants Pereira at a club where he can play 15 to 20 matches. He didn’t say 40 to 50, i.e. the likes of him Banks and other players who’ve made <30 starts, cannot expect to appear every week. Add on the congested nature of the pre and post world cup calendar and it's even more important to have a big squad
I’d be interested to know where this window leaves us financially.
The players that have come in certainly appear to be an upgrade and I’m delighted with the approach taken from a footballing view but the Bradfordian in me likes to also dwell on the negatives…
Have we broken the bank to get these players in? Does it represent increased investment / interest from SR? What happens if we don’t achieve promotion this term?
If it is another ‘roll of the dice’ investment you can start writing next year’s boom / bust article now (or maybe just rehash the last one).
That all said I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.
I am sure I read somewhere that Sparks has managed to take us to the best commercial income (excluding season tickets) we have had in x years. Can’t recall how long the x was but it sounds like the clubs generating more cash than traditionally used to which will help massively in covering the strong squad.
Rupp is more energised, simply because we’ve come out of the pandemic in a pretty healthy financial state and Mark Hughes.
He knows he just needs to give, let’s say just 5% more financial support and the club could take off.
It’s not fantasy to say that we could go through L1, like lots of others have done and be in The Championship in 2 years.
But it’s also realistic to say it’s more likely we won’t get promoted this season. But as long as we’ve made significant progress, i.e. play-offs – then I think Rupp will keep up his enthusiasm.
Yes we have conceded sloppy goals but lately, our defence has tightened. I do believe that Mark would utililes different members of his squad to suit circumstances. He does have options. Those teams playing well atm may incur injuries to key players and performance may dropl off. Whereby, City has cover. The season is not a sprint it’s a marathon. Yesterday’s signing completes the circle. WOAP needs to review progress against expectation in a month or so time. I hope with a few wins ahead of us we will bebin a challenging position. Delighted with progress so far.
I must commend the quality of your analysis. Week in week out your insight and knowledge of Bradford City is a pleasure to read. Well done.
Jason, thanks for another well balanced article and summation of City’s transfer window. City have signed six players on loan and I would be interested in reading your thoughts on City’s heavy reliance on loanees and the potential pitfalls and uncertainties that are created with going this route. It’s possible that City have the highest number of loanees in the EFL and I find that quite alarming.
I’m not convinced there is a reliance on loan players to be honest. We have a squad of 28 of which 6 are loans, leaving 22 players who are permanent recruits. Allied to that, a number of the permanent signings are of a young age and secured on 2 or 3 year contracts – with an option to extend in some cases. These are players with potential and can grow with the club.
When you consider the regular starting 11 in the league, only 2 are loans – Critchlow and Banks. Off the bench we see Harratt featuring but that’s it. I appreciate the latest 2 additions of Wright and Pereira is likely to see the latter starting more often than not but the only real risk this brings is to our wide areas. We have very good cover everywhere else to be honest.
Any recalls for example and again, I don’t think we need to worry too much. Critchlow goes, we have Odusina – who was excellent against Sheffield Wednesday. Harratt goes we have Young, Angol, Cook, Oliver. Pereira and Banks leave then we might struggle but perhaps Eisa will be ready and playing by then and we of course have Chapman. Odasabe is not likely to feature until late Feb early March. However, we at least have the January window to amend these area if needed.
All in all, I think the risk of taking on loans has been well managed.
I actually didn’t mind Middleton and note he’s still with a Scottish Premiership side.
Certainly, I can think of a dozen worse signings. He was more a victim of the curtailed season as who knows he might have made an impact.
I must admit i had given up on DP signing and was not expecting much movement yesterday given the early business. Prospects look much better with the width and creativity added and means we do not have to play Angol in a position to which he is not particularly suited. On paper it all looks very promising. Famous last words.
I’d become like Jason, some kind of Luton Town troll!!
It was clear to me from their opening game of the season, that he wasn’t going to get game time. In that match, they struggled to break down Birmingham, ending 0-0, and Dion didn’t even get off the bench.
It then became a case of whether Jones would insist he went to a L1 club. But Jones appreciated that we got more out of DP than anyone in the past and Hughes will had made a difference.
I’d wager that Hughes was probably a hero of Jones as because MH has a great reputation of been one of the games nice guys, that will count for a lot.
Pereira impresses me with his one touch control. I remember he took one ball out of the sky and controlled it and moved at the same time – a skill way above the normal L2 one.
I was also impressed that he played well in that very poor Bristol Rovers match, i.e. he has something about him, but needs to mature a bit more.
Back in March time, I cheekily stuck a post on Facebook with a picture of Dion Pereira & Lord Lucan, he was so invisible. Great to see when he finally got on the pitch, to see him start to really make a mark. In the 6 minutes we saw of him, Emmanuel Osadabe reminded me of that style and skill, so he cover for that injury. Dion’s remark in yesterday’s press conference that “the fans here loved me, and I loved them!” warmed the cockles of my heart!
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating” are wise words. I watched with some apprehension yesterday as Simon Parker reported the signings elsewhere…the names generally didn’t mean much to me, but plenty of strikers on load from higher leagues. To state the obvious, it doesn’t matter how strong your squad is, what we need it to be is better over 46 games than 20 other squads on the pitch…
So we’ll watch tomorrow with keen interest….
Interesting what DP said about loving the fans.
I was at the Forest Green Rivers match (away) where he made his debut for the club some 3 months after signing.
He trotted over to his side of the pitch which happened to be where the City supporters were located. He was greeted by one wag shouting “Nice of you to join us Dion – we thought you were f###king dead!”
His face was an absolute picture! First start at a new club, he must have wondered what he’d let himself in for.
Luckily for him (and us) his performances on the pitch won the crowd over. Hopefully he can stay fit and we can look forward to a full season of him in Claret & Amber. Should be exciting!
The last 2 signings of the window say to me two things, first one is that the recruitment in the club has taken a major step forward, there is a plan but the plan is for the long term, we have loans and those loans look like they can move us forward. We have players who can change the game when we need to make substitutions.
The 2nd says that in the past we have been reactive to the fans when it came to signing players last minute and look where that has taken us.
I said previously that the club need to show that it has learnt from the mistakes of the past and the recruitment this season has shown (to me) that the lessons have been learned. We have not won anything yet but the signs coming from BD8 show we have a long term plan to take the club forward.