Friday, 5 April 2013

Looking Back

How a rare room tidy lead to a trip down memory lane

Luke O'Brien was once a regular for the Bantams
   Tidying my room is a mammoth challenge that I undertake once in a blue moon. It involves being ruthless, being resourceful and being reminiscent of football seasons gone by, as it is seemingly inevitable that an old City programme or newspaper cutting will be unearthed.
   This time, it was a stack of football cards from the 2007-08 season that entertained, as a certain City talisman was at the centre of the pile.
   “No! Is that… Our Andrew Davies?”
   The blond hair had been shaved off, the trademark beard was nowhere to be seen and he was sporting the red and white strip of Middlesborough, but it was still the very same Andrew Davies who is now such an instrumental part of Phil Parkinson’s squad.
   I knew of his Premier League history, but I had no idea that he’d been immortalised on a football card.
   There was one of Kasper Schmeichel in his Manchester City days, and Glen Johnson as a Portsmouth player. A floppy-haired Gareth Bale, who is now Tottenham’s shining light, was a three-star defender with an “attack” rating of merely 40.
   The moral of the story? Football is fickle. A lot changes in six years.
   In terms of Bradford City, the guarantee of change has been the only certainty throughout the League Two stint, with McCall, Taylor, Jackson and Parkinson all bringing their own plans to the club in hope of securing that evasive promotion. Hanson and McLaughlin have been the closest things to constants, and each reformation has seen new talent drafted in and other players released.
   Bradford under Stuart McCall, for example, differs greatly to the present incarnation of the club.
   Joe Colbeck and Omar Daley paced down the flanks, and Mark Bower shaped the defence alongside David Weatherall and Paul Heckingbottom. Ex-City dynamo Luke O’Brien is at Oxford, but Bantams fans still fondly remember his time in the team and the way in which he charged up from left back and whipped crosses into the box. The teenager who clinched the winner when City took on Macclesfield, David Brown, now lines up for Bradford Park Avenue. Scott Loach is currently plying his trade for Championship team Ipswich Town.
   Dean Furman, such a superb player for City in the McCall era, has since captained Oldham (though, at the moment, he's on loan with Doncaster) and represented South Africa at international level. He may be returning to Valley Parade if Athletic survive the drop and the Bantams win promotion, or if Bradford stay in this division and Oldham don’t avoid relegation.
   More recently, tough-tackling Michael Flynn waved Bradford a fond farewell, joined by Craig Fagan and Chris Mitchell. Personally, I always felt that the latter was unlucky not to figure more in the line-up – 3 assists in one match clearly indicates a footballer of calibre – as he could create chances and knew how to exert influence on the game.
   Yet, Mitchell wouldn’t fit into Parkinson’s squad, and that is why he was given the chop at the end of last season. Under the League Cup miracle man, the team play more flowing, passing football. Gary Jones catalyses City’s offensive efforts. Kyel Reid and Zavon Hines whiz up and down the wing to create chances. Will Atkinson’s link-up play with Jones can perplex defences, and it certainly did cause trouble for Paul Lambert’s side in the Villa home leg. The team is entirely different.
   Football evolves and changes so fast, and is begs the question: is there room for sentiment in football?
   Yes, one could argue. Players will always have their favourite clubs and the magic of representing their boyhood team will never fade. Passion, emotion and spirit drive a team to success – the Bantams team that we’ve got now always admirably give 100% to every game; players like Jones and Ravenhill are a credit to City in terms of work rate. However, players don’t know how long their time in the first team will last, let alone their tenure at the club, and they’ll have to be ready to face the possibility of a move.
   When the transfer window opens and Parkinson makes changes to the team, we’ll all have our personal pick of who to keep and get rid of – just like my room tidy, coincidentally. I’d quite like to retain this whole squad, because we’ve enjoyed so much success this year and we are in possession of a set of players who are capable of beating any side. I expect to win every game, and I’ve never really felt that about City before.
   Bradford City is a magnet for players, especially after the publicity generated through the club’s part in the League Cup final. Phil Parkinson himself is a massive draw, and the huge fan base, the one that was out in such voice at Wembley and which dwarfs the number of supporters of nearly every team in this division, is even more of a pull.
   Thanks to the cup run, we’ve got the money to keep our assets and to recruit that extra talent to strengthen our bid for success next year.
   We’ll have to wait with bated breath to see what Parkinson has planned for the team, but, until then, there’s a promotion battle to fight.

Oh, and if you’re curious about that Andrew Davies football card, here it is:

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