League One Club-by-Club Preview for 2017/2018: Bradford City

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2016/2017

Record Last Season + Quick Summary: 

League One - 5th; W 20 / D 19 / L 7 / F 62 / A 43 / Pts 79
(Lost in the play-off final)

 

Stuart McCall returned to the dugout for a third second permanent spell at Valley Parade after Phil Parkinson left for Bolton Wanderers in June 2016. The season was characterised by runs of draws that had just a handful of them fallen in their favour, would’ve seen them promoted at the Trotters’ expense. Of course, football doesn’t work like that but it seems harsh that the Bantams only lost seven in the league (and never in consecutive matches), conceded fewer than a goal per game and fell at the final hurdle to Millwall in a typically tense and physical play-off final after squeaking past a lacklustre Fleetwood Town.

If the Yorkshire side went in front, they seldom gave up their advantage, with winger Mark Marshall adding craft and guile to an XI that otherwise screamed ‘very good’ but often predictable. The signing of Charlie Wyke from Carlisle in January also proved to be a shrewd piece of business and it didn’t take him long to adapt to a higher level and different style of play. Fifth place was to be their position for the second season in a row.

Top Goalscorer: Jordie Hiwula-Mayifuila (9 goals in 26 starts/2,316 minutes)

Top Creator: Nicky Law (6 assists in 40 starts/3,542 minutes)

nicky-law-bradford-city_3803992.jpg
Nicky Law’s all-action displays helped the Bantams dictate the tempo of the majority of their League One matches in 2016/2017; this season, he’ll have more creative help from central positions

2017/2018

Manager/Head Coach: Stuart McCall; the former international box-to-box midfielder found himself thrown in at the deep end upon his return, with no backroom staff and a very shallow pool of first team players. Even with the new ownership and the vast backing on the terraces, he had to be canny in the transfer market and oversaw a huge but necessary turnover of personnel. His dream of returning the club to the Championship at the first time of asking was dashed but he has the grit, determination and moreover, tactical nous and personal touch to give it another go.

Ins: Jake Reeves (AFC Wimbledon), Adam Chicksen (Charlton Athletic), Joel Grodowski (PSV Bork), Alex Gilliead (Newcastle United U23s on loan), Callum Gunner (Swindon Town U18s), Paul Taylor (Peterborough United), Lachlan Barr (FC Internationale Berlin), Shay McCartan (Accrington Stanley), Dominic Poleon (AFC Wimbledon), Omari Patrick (Barnsley) & Tyrell Robinson (free agent).

Outs: Rory McArdle (Scunthorpe United), James Meredith (Millwall), Mark Marshall (Charlton Athletic), Stephen Darby (Bolton Wanderers), Billy Clarke (Charlton Athletic) & James King (free agent).

Predicted First XI & Shape:

Bradford1718.PNG

Tactics: Like all the best sides, Bradford have a veritable smörgåsbord of shapes they could line up on the 5th of August. Captain Romain Vincelot was used extensively in the heart of defence last season and his skill on the ball helps calm down situations and nullify attacks. Both Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Matthew Kilgallon are much stronger on their left foot, so it will be interesting to see how the Bantams ‘compensate’ for this fact (for want of a more suitable term). Vincelot could easily drop in and form a central three to both provide balance and stem any counters.

Tony McMahon’s decision to reject Blackburn Rovers and sign a new contract is a huge boost and he will perform much the same role as he did last season to such an exceptional level, providing an outlet for Vincelot or Jake Reeves if the midfield options are crowded out. I’m less sold on Adam Chicken at this moment in time, not because of a lack of ability but whether he has the consistency required to be first choice in a promotion-chasing side; I’d expect his movements to closely mirror McMahon’s at the outset and if there is a small potential weakness in the XI, it’s at left back.

Nicky Law (or Reeves, again) will keep the side ticking over and look to aggressively wrestle possession back and then maintain it for extended periods of time. Shay McCartan’s reputation as a long-range finisher will doubtlessly be put to the test and he is certain to receive plenty of the ball. The closest inside forward will tuck in closely to Wyke when their compatriot on the opposite flank is looking to cross or cut it back to the edge of the area. Dominic Poleon offers an intriguing out-ball on the nominal left and he has a knack of finding space in tight areas. Charlie Wyke should enjoy a very supportive ‘cast’ behind him regardless of formation and that can only augur well.

dominic-poleon-afc-wimbledon-football_3778516
Dominic Poleon’s signing will ensure more balance on the flanks; he has the pace, trickery and skill to operate as an advanced forward or shadow striker to partner Charlie Wyke and should excel in a team that look to balance strangling the opposition with chance creation

Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Gunning for automatic promotion. Almost everything is in place for success to come to Valley Parade in 2017/2018. If the exciting signings they have made can bed in quickly and if Chicksen can prove to be a competent replacement for the fondly remembered Meredith, then the top two may finally be in Bradford’s reach once all 46 matches have been completed. McCall has added strong options from the bench that he can call upon in good confidence if things aren’t going their way, including the capture of Paul Taylor from Peterborough. Wyke has a full season to assert himself in the third tier and is a good shout to be the league’s top goalscorer.

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