The official Bradford City Facebook page posted a great stat this morning that truly highlighted the fact that the Bantams are a club on the up. The stat reads as follows.
"City reached the 50 point mark with Saturday's draw at Notts County - A whole EIGHT games, earlier than last season"
When you stop and consider this, it's quite a remarkable achievement and one that demonstrates just how far Phil Parkinson has taken the club since his arrival in 2011. Most clubs through managers or chairmen, spokespeople or otherwise continually speak of the necessity of continual improvement but putting this into place rather than just merely empty words is a much tougher task to achieve indeed. However the stats don't lie and Parkinson has clearly delivered this year in and year out. The Bantams have improved their league position every year since he arrived. Although this is just a glance at the surface of the situation. The real success behind Parkinson's reign lies much, much deeper, he has transformed the whole club inside and out. In fact it is hard to compare the club to the one he took over, they're almost separate clubs entirely. The Bradford City of 2015 are a different animal to the sorry state that greeted him in those dark times. Gone are the days of watching big name players struggle to cope with a home crowd quick to jump on any mistake they might make. If you don't perform then you don't play for Parkinson, it's as simple as that. Aaron McLean is the point in case, he had his chance and didn't take it, therefore he is out of the door and won't don the claret and amber again.
Those days where the players seemed to struggle under the expectancy of a big crowd are gone also, Parkinson made this one of his key points on arrival and stated that players should relish the chance to play on such a stage and quickly brought in players that could handle the Valley Parade crowd. The fact that opposition fans now regularly point out just how good the Valley Parade atmosphere is, is also testament to how Parkinson's revitalised the club.
There was a great interview with both the often forgotten Steve Parkin and Parkinson on 5Live before the Reading game at home where Parkinson revealed that he still has the document containing the first analysis of the playing squad he inherited that Parkin produced in the first week of their tenure at the club. Parkin stated that only 6 of those players were good enough to keep the club in league 2. It is on this note that now a few years later handily placed outside the play offs in League one with a game in hand that we now have a squad of 15-16 players who are all good enough to more than hold their own in this division. This was proven against Crawley and also after Saturday's game. Make no mistake, City should have taken 3 points vs Notts County yesterday and this was after making multiple changes in preparation for the 'small' task of an FA Cup quarter final replay against Reading on Monday night.
Have I mentioned that we are in the FA Cup quarter finals yet?
The fact that we're just 90 minutes away from Wembley for the 3rd time in 2 years is actually quite staggering. Although on one hand it could be argued that City have squandered their best chance after the home game stalemate is quite valid. Certainly Robbie Savage on BT Sport held this view quite strongly both in his commentary and post game analysis. It is a mammoth task when you look at it in the cold light of day to go to a Championship team and win. I personally felt Reading where excellent in their approach to the home tie, not in their free flowing football but in their closing down and denying of space to City's technical players such as Clarke and Knott. They embodied everything that Sunderland were not in their desire and effort and just to point out the financial gulf between the sides, striker Pavel Pogrebnyak is on £30,000 a week.
It will be interesting to see how Parkinson lines up his side for this game. Whether he will opt to pick the same side as he did for the first game or if he will revert to dropping Clarke and playing Billy Knott behind Stead with Hanson adopting his inside wide left position with Andy Haliday also restored to the side. This is personally how I would like to see City set up, as I felt that during the first tie we missed Haliday's drive from midfield and as we will undoubtedly be on the ropes for long periods we will need that extra bit of grit in midfield that he will provide.
I would expect Andrew Davies to be restored to the heart of the Bantams defence and the full line up to be the same as the one that won so historically at Stamford Bridge.
One last monumental effort, one last push roared on by the passionate City support. It won't be easy and we will have to ride our luck at times, but we have shown in the past we can go toe to toe with higher ranked teams and come out on top. 90 minutes from a semi final at Wembley against Arsenal. Let's go in hope not expectation but with confidence in our own ability and dare to dream of what might be.
Written By James Storrie