As part of the pre-season coverage, I’ll be looking back at some of the players who represented City during the six seasons in League Two. First up is David Syers, the non-league gem who ran rampant against Leeds United before injuries plagued his second season.
The Peter Taylor era doesn’t hold many happy memories for City fans, and it’s not too difficult to see why. Hoof-ball tactics and a quantity over quality philosophy were employed, and what was the result? Disapproval, outrage and a mediocre side that offered very little to shout about.
And yet, there was David Syers, a complete contrast to the rest of the squad.
Plucked from obscurity in the form of a non-league outfit and with Tommy Doherty reportedly commanding a large fee for his services, no one was burdening Syers with too many expectations. He wasn’t the big money signing, the player portrayed as our catalyst for promotion. He didn’t bring a fanfare with him.
Which was odd, given what he’d turn out to be.
Syers was your classic box-to-box midfielder, with a desirable work ethic and the eagerness to make those clever runs as he surged forward. He was endowed with ball keeping ability and a technical flair rarely exhibited so uniquely in the fourth division, and his control and pace made him a fresh alternative to the ugly, long-ball style that so quickly tainted our perception of Taylor. A different attacking outlet to the combination of the winger and the overlapping full back, Syers was one of the only things worth watching in Taylor’s creativity-sapped team.
He set the benchmark for the other members of the squad to aim for. Only a handful of players – such as Luke O’Brien, Lee Hendrie, Michael Flynn and James Hanson – ever matched the blonde midfielder for effort and/or ability, and so Syers became the shining light. Our beacon of hope amidst the growing gloom and despair of Peter Taylor’s reign. The saving grace of an otherwise forgettable season. The one thing to hang onto and retain as Peter Jackson aimed to wash away the bad memories.
One could argue that our fondest memory of Syers will always be the Leeds game at Elland Road. The midfielder was at the centre of nearly everything City did, pulling all the strings and acting as a key driving force to nearly prompt Leeds to throw up their hands in surrender. Syers hounded every ball and was constantly snapping at the heels of the Whites. It’s total testament to his involvement in the fixture that Bradford only stumbled when he left the field. Injured.
Syers had broken and was rampaging forward. But his touch was heavy. Leeds goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan went to collect as Syers chased, with the pair clattering to send the Bantams dynamo tumbling to the ground.
He was out for around three months.
Eventually, Syers recovered, and came on as a substitute during the Boxing Day clash with Crewe. By the Shrewsbury game six days later, he was showing signs of returning to his spectacular form of the previous campaign, but (such was City’s luck at the time) a seemingly legitimate challenge was met with a sending off, and a Bradford appeal was unsuccessful. As for the dreaded second season syndrome - Syers never got a chance to see if he’d suffer from it. The darker forces of injury and suspension took care of that.
For the remainder of the season, Syers’ appearances came largely from the bench, as Ritchie Jones and Ricky Ravenhill forged a strong midfield partnership to secure City’s place in League Two for another season. The set up was not ideal for a player of David’s age or calibre, and Parkinson allowed the midfielder to look elsewhere.
Syers was offered a contract, and one that Mark Lawn described as ‘good’. But he never signed. Couple some ill-advised remarks on a social networking site with a few misinterpreted comments to the press, and that was it: everything fractured and Syers left for Doncaster Rovers.
And the questions remain. Were we hasty to let him go? Should we have put in more of an effort to keep him? Could we have developed him into our key midfield engine, like Stuart McCall before him and Gary Jones afterwards? Not then at his peak, Syers could have served us in this role for years to come, perhaps eventually becoming captain and maybe even a legend.
But you can torment yourself for years about what could have been.
We’re left to speculate, and perhaps we’d be thinking about Syers more often if Parkinson hadn’t recruited such an impressive midfield unit in Jones, Doyle, Thompson and co.
Maybe we could have moulded Syers into our little midfield spark, but that’s an issue for another day. Currently, Jason Kennedy seems set to provide us with the same longevity in midfield that retaining Syers would have given us, and that lack of long-term thinking appeared to be the main issue where Syers’ departure was concerned.Will we regret releasing him? Only time will be able to tell us that.