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Thoughts on Last Season
Last season had its usual highs and lows during what can be described as an overall strong campaign. A notable high point included securing a playoff place, a position City had consistently held for more or less all season in the league.
The players also turned Valley Parade into a fortress with the club finishing the season undefeated at home in the league, which is an impressive record not matched by any other team in the football league during 2016/17.
A particularly frustrating aspect of the season though was the failure to convert chances and close games out during periods of dominance on the pitch, which resulted in City finishing top of the draw charts for the entire Football League with 19. While hindsight is a wonderful thing, a few more wins could have meant a completely different outcome to the season.
The agonising defeat to Millwall in the playoff final at Wembley was also difficult to take at the time, but the bigger picture of what City had achieved throughout the season was something to be proud of.
It was quite a gloomy start to pre-season with the announced departures of James Meredith, Stephen Darby and Rory McArdle who had been so pivotal for City at the back over the years, in addition to the return of the much-loved Josh Cullen to parent club West Ham.
However, City have been quick to pounce on summer additions with the overwhelming majority of signings brought in for the start of pre-season. Such an approach will only have helped Stuart (McCall) and his team by providing much needed time with the squad, while also giving the players time to gel with one another on and off the pitch.
Noteworthy among City’s signings are Jake Reeves (Wimbledon) and Shay McCartan (Accrington). As a box-to-box midfielder, Reeves appears to be the perfect candidate to replace the hole left by Cullen and is already displaying signs of his talent and ability with the ball; while the more attack-minded McCartan has pace, flair and an impressive set piece ability as part of his talents.
The additional captures of Dominic Poleon (Wimbledon), Paul Taylor (Peterborough) and some of the younger professionals such as Omari Patrick (Barnsley), Tyrell Robinson (Arsenal), and Daniel Pybus (Sunderland), are hoped to give City that extra cutting edge in attack which seemed lacking during parts of last season.
On the more defensive side of things, the signing of left-back Adam Chicksen appears a good capture with his ability to both attack and defend; while the renewal of McMahon’s contract is an excellent move by the club. However, it is no secret that City are in pursuit of a ride-sided centre back to replace McArdle. Although City’s initial target Gordon Greer now appears unlikely to sign, fans can still be confident that Stuart and Greg (Abbott) have some good alternatives in mind.
Players to Watch
As it is incredibly difficult to say which one player is the best – especially since we have not yet seen our new signings in competitive league action – I have gone for what I think are the players to watch.
From the squad prior to our summer signings, I would highlight Charlie Wyke. We saw a glimpse of his talent during the second half of last season, but my hope is with the signings we have made he gets some much needed service upfront so he can do what he does best by scoring goals.
Out of our summer additions, I would again mention Jake Reeves and Shay McCartan. Both appear very good players with time on their side to develop even further under the watchful eye of Stuart and the team.
As for the young professionals, I think Omari Patrick shows some real promise. It would be good to see him given a chance to play some first team football through the season as this would prove invaluable for his development as a professional player.
Thoughts on this Season
With the likes of Blackburn, Wigan and Portsmouth joining this season, League One is not getting any easier. Yet, with the signings and management team behind them, I remain optimistic about City’s prospects this year.
With the investment in the playing squad so far this summer, building on last season by securing a strong finish in the league appears the likely target. Stuart will be the first to warn against any complacency though given the competition in League One and the sheer unpredictability of football.
City’s opening league fixtures will be a good test for the team with the first two home games being against newly promoted Blackpool and relegated Blackburn respectively. The quality of Blackburn’s squad in particular should provide a good early benchmark for City.
It is always difficult to predict how things will turn out before a ball has been kicked. However, I truly believe that City can build on what was achieved last season in what is becoming an increasingly competitive league.
One thing I would underline is the importance of managing expectations for the season. As football supporters, we naturally want success for our club, but sometimes things do not go our way because in this beautiful game nothing is ever straightforward. As long as the players, management and fans give it 100% (which there is never any doubt), we can continue building towards the success we all crave for Bradford City.
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