Let’s face it, there is no way of getting around the past few months haven’t been the best for City. Three wins in ten, second lowest goal scorers and with our games in hand slipping away you could say the outlook is bleak. Cue the keyboard warriors and Parky out brigade.
Well, I’m not going to entertain this nonsense because, in my opinion, it’s delusional to want him out as he is the best thing to happen to City for over a decade, fact. To coin a phrase from Tom and Dom, he is OUR Good Lord Phil Parkinson. However this isn’t to say he can’t be held accountable for a certain number of things. He himself admits that for the amount of plaudits he has received over the past few seasons, he has to be able to take some criticism on the chin.
The focal point of this criticism has been team selection which admittedly has been puzzling at times recently. First I have to say the mandatory cliché of “he sees the players every day” but like any decision, it is up for evaluation. At the moment there doesn’t seem to been a clear plan or consistency in his selections.
The first stop in evaluating team selection is the noticeable absence of Billy Knott, prior to the past two games. We don’t know what goes on on a daily basis but for me he would be one of the first names on the team sheet and somebody to build a team around. He can be inconsistent and give the ball away but without a run of games this is inevitable! Every minute Billy is on the pitch he puts in a quintessential Bradford City performance. He’s attacking, creative and never stops running. This is why we love him. (Oh and maybe because of THAT half volley in front of the Kop)
Forgetting the diamond against Burton, as I think it will be short lived, a return to the old faithful 4-4-2 has been much welcomed by fans but fans expect two wingers in this system. Tony McMahon is aggressive, tenacious and has a good set piece but he is no Kyel Reid… or Mark Marshall. Marshall’s absence has been equally baffling as he doesn’t stop running and always poses an attacking threat. He’s had a run in the team recently, before Saturday, but I would like to see him and Reid on one wing each getting a proper run in the team, together, and them being given the freedom to attack. The whole team will feed off this positivity. If there’s one thing that gets Valley Parade rocking, it’s waves of attacks towards the Kop in the second half.
Central midfield. Where to start? Gary Liddle? I thought when Knott and Liddle played together we looked at our most balanced as Liddle sat which gave Knott more attacking freedom. I don’t want to dwell on the past but this kind of combination is exactly what we need. As I’ve said earlier Knott needs to have a proper run of games next to someone who can support him defensively, Routis? McMahon? Evans? Burke? What we don’t need is two defensive midfielders playing in a two man midfield because we look far too static and lack creativity. Our good run around October/November saw intelligent rotation between Liddle, Evans and Knott deepening on whether we were home or away. A return to this is what we need. Knott and Evans at home to appease the fans, and maybe Knott and McMahon away from home to sure things up a bit.
Our return to the Pirelli stadium on Saturday brought back memories for all of us. It was, for me the euphoric crescendo to that wonderful history maker’s team. A day that I will never forget. What juxtaposition to the 6th of February 2016. There is, though, a key difference between the two days. In 2013 after Swansea we all believed we could get promoted but I never got the impression that there was expectancy. In contrast, this season there is belief but it’s alongside expectancy which is weighing down on everybody. Fans are frustrated, players don’t want to take a risk and Parky’s nerve is being tested. This is creating an unhealthy negative and downward spiral which could be this season’s downfall.
We all know that we perform best as the underdog but the problem this year is that in most games we are not. With a different kind of player recruitment in the summer Parky has struggled to manage a team that should be going out and beating people. I think this is where the source of fan frustration is coming from. I do not doubt Parky and the player’s commitment but I do believe they have been underperforming, with the odd exceptions (Mcardle). What we can’t lose is the relationship Parky has built back up between the club, players and fans, as this is an anomaly in modern football and the power/impact this can create is something that shouldn’t be underestimated on and off the field.
The point of this article is not to pretend everything is alright, brush it all under the carpet and declare on the back of Wembley, Promotion and the FA cup run. Quite the opposite. This is more of a reality check for everybody. Things will get better so let’s not get at each other and especially not at the team. We are consistently inconsistent, so let’s just enjoy the ride and get behind the team. This season isn’t a write off but we can’t expect play offs, it must be earnt. We don’t have a divine right to be there just because we sold 18000 season tickets. As fans we need to create an atmosphere and environment that players can thrive under. For this reason alone it is clear Parky is the man to take our club forward because he knows better than anyone nothing comes without hard work. If we are going to need to be dragged over the line in May, it’s only going to be him that can do it.