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No Such Thing As A Cupset – featuring Manchester United & Bradford

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The Capital One, The Coca-Cola, The Worthington, Carling…whichever incarnation of England’s secondary cup competition you go by, it thrust itself upon us on the first Tuesday of the footballing calendar with an air of pre-season hangover about it. Before the dust had a chance to settle on the opening round of league fixtures, the battle for silverware started in earnest.

With Premier League teams taking no part in round one, all eyes were on the Football League. Nine Championship sides were knocked out by lower-league opposition in the first round of this year’s competition, while a further six League One clubs were put to the sword by League Two opponents, in total, lower-league sides triumphed in 15 of the 36 first-round ties.

Whether this is a consequence of first-team rotation, a lack of sharpness just four days into the new campaign, or the plucky determination of ‘the underdog’, seeing lower-league sides send loftier teams tumbling out of the League Cup is no rarity.

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With close to half of those fixtures being won by lower-league clubs, are ‘cupsets’ even a surprise anymore? Big performances from League One & Two sides are becoming so common that it is hard to consider such results as an anomaly. Three seasons ago, Phil Parkinson lead League Two Bradford all the way to the final, The Bantams knocked out three Premier League sides en route to Wembley.

Brentford, last year’s Championship high-flyers were dumped out, succumbing to a 4-0 defeat at home to League Two Oxford. Elsewhere Portsmouth secured their place in the second round at the expense of Championship big spenders Derby County, while Luton, & Notts County both matched the feat, knocking out teams placed two divisions above them, beating Bristol City & Huddersfield respectively.

In round two the first wave of Premier League sides make their bow and will know not to expect an easy ride. Last season, six top-flight outfits perished against lower-league opposition at the first hurdle, Manchester United’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of MK Dons the standout result of the round.

Notts County’s reward is a trip to Villa Park, The Hatters welcome The Potters to Kenilworth Road, while Hartlepool host Premier League new-boys Bournemouth at Victoria Park. A further three League Two sides will pit their wits against top-tier opponents; Exeter, Northampton, and York face Sunderland, Newcastle and Swansea City respectively.

The second round ties are to be played in the week commencing Monday 24th August, don’t be surprised if there are a few more Premier League & Championship casualties this week…

Featured image: All rights reserved by Steve Walker

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Bradford City sign Colin Doyle from Blackpool for just £1 – Twitter Reacts

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After a failed play-off campaign in 2015-16 and the subsequent departure of manager Phil Parkinson to Bolton, the new gaffer at Valley Parade; or rather returning manager, Stuart McCall, has set about rejuvenating Bradford City for another attempt at promotion to the Championship.

The void left by goalkeeper Ben Williams was recently filled with the signing of experienced Irish goalkeeper Colin Doyle, who has experience of the Championship and Premier League with Birmingham City, as well as boasting one international cap for the Republic of Ireland.

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Bradford have seemed to do well on the goalkeeping front in recent years, and after Williams’ departure it was vital that McCall upon taking the reins filled the vacant position between the sticks quickly. They have opted for the sensible option of an experienced goalkeeper, who is sure to do a job for the Valley Parade club next season.

In the off-season, transfers in the lower divisions are dominated by free moves, so some have of course tongue-in-cheek seen his £1 price tag as an ironically high fee compared to other options. Only time will tell however if Doyle will be a real steal for his £1 transfer, and whether Bradford can emulate last season’s achievements or even go one better and reach the Championship once again.

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Whilst his acquisition signals the Bantams’ intent to come back strong in the upcoming season, it is another sad indication of the woeful state of affairs at Blackpool, as West Yorkshire outfit Bradford swooped for the 31-year-old shot-stopper by triggering his mere £1 release clause.

The sheer lunacy of the transfer has made it arguably one of the most memorable to come out of the Football League so far this summer. As the despondent Seasiders prepare for life in League Two after their relegation from the third tier in 2015-16, fans of both clubs and other Football League clubs had some interesting things to say.

The Bantams contingent were not hailing the signing as a coup, but it prompted some rather humorous reactions from all over. Let us know your opinion on the move, after checking out how Twitter reacted to the news…

Though, in an era where many transfers across the lower two divisions are generally free in the summer, the enormous pressure of his “hefty” transfer fee was also highlighted…

One Birmingham fan was more concerned about whether his club would be cashing in on the sell-on of their former asset…

Not even politics was safe from the microscope after this astonishing transfer…

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Why Bradford’s loan dealings set a benchmark for lower league clubs

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With a stark upturn in form resulting in 13 points from 6 games, Bradford City’s promotion hopes have been given a huge boost with the club sitting pretty in 6th a quarter of the season to go. The success of their 2016 form has coincided with Josh Cullen’s run of games in central midfield alongside fellow loanee Lee Evans.

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Brought in from West Ham’s academy, Cullen has started 7 games since joining The Bantams and while he may have neither a goal nor assist, his contribution is far deeper than statistics. The reliability that Cullen possesses due to his natural connection with Evans makes him one of the first names on the team sheet. And, while being a key player, his first team action can also be the bases for future deals with West Ham.

During the 50th year anniversary of England’s World Cup win that featured West Ham legends Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore, the Hammers fans will have far less concern about the form of their young guns possibly achieving promotion from League 1 in comparison. Yet, with Phil Parkinson’s  friendship with West Ham Academy director Terry Westley, securing the signing of young talent enables Bradford a unique selling point in terms of the league. Loan signings coming in and doing well boost Bradford’s appeal and seeing Cullen perform only makes City look a better development centre.

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Another young loanee performing to the highest order this season for Bradford comes in the form of Reece Burke, a teenager hailed by Bantam fans due to his sheer maturity in the middle of a defence. Burke, who has received praise on numerous occasions this season, also has the ability to carry the ball from defence creating opportunities for the men at the business end of the field. Burke has notched 2 goals this season and while being wanted on a permanent deal at Valley Parade, his strong performances will only push him closer to Premier League contention with Champions League chasing West Ham as oppose to plying his trade with The Bantams.

The second and final young central midfield loan star comes in the form of Welsh 21-year-old Lee Evans. Described as a player who’s ‘strong, good on the ball and a great passer’ by Phil Parkinson has appeared 31 times this season in the heart of midfield. Evans received his marching orders for a rash challenge against Port Vale earlier this season and his presence was duly missed. He came back to an instant impact vowing to maintain his tough playing style.

Resigning a former favourite Kyel Reid has also resulted in success. The tricky and pacey winger has scored 3 times this season but as a constant outlet on the left wing, the width and connection with Meredith causes a constant threat, as shown during the build up to Proctor’s 2nd goal against Doncaster.

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The success of 4 loan signings is no coincidence. City’s strength in creating an environment for ‘borrowed’ players to succeed has been maintained over numerous seasons. Sam Allardyce had words of praise over City’s development of Jordan Pickford. Yet, still the failure of Reece Brown and Oliver Gil from Manchester United provides a reminder regarding the lack of impact a loanee can have when he isn’t cared for. Since then, Bradford’s dealings have been tremendous. Will Atkinson another who lit up Valley Parade, although after signing permanently he had failed to recapture his form.

This consistent success is becoming a benchmark for other team in the lower leagues of Englsih football. The Bradford City ‘model’ which may result in promotion can only be admired, if not followed.

Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Robbie Jay Barratt.

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Can Bradford City push for promotion to the Championship this season?

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Since gaining promotion to League One in the same season that The Bantams reached the Capital One Cup Final, Bradford have beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Sunderland at home. Results like this may suggest a Premier League quality squad emerging from the North, yet the Valley Parade outfit couldn’t be further from the likes of Manchester United and Leicester.

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Results last season put Bradford on the map with many astounded by the comeback against Chelsea then going on to get a clean sheet against Sunderland. The League 1 team certainly represented smaller clubs in the cup but could’t replicate the results in the league.Results against the better teams in their own league conveyed how little quality the Bantams had. A 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Bristol City and a 3-0 loss to Preston during the final push for promotion highlighted why the team missed out on the play-offs by 4 points. The squad lacked depth, pace and experience after losing Jones in central midfield.

The 2015/16 season started with the youth of Devante Cole, Jordan Bowery and Lee Evans all being added to the squad while experienced players such as Brad Jones and former Bantam Kyel Reid added to the squad. Parkinson seemed to have added more depth to the squad as well. The signs were positive for the season ahead.

Instantly, City stumbled into the league with a 4-1 loss to Swindon on the first day of the season which was certainly not what Parkinson had planned. In fact, the league’s first five games were win-less for the Bantams with 3 draws and 2 losses, the Bantams sat 20th in the league with a few moans and groans at Parkinson’s management. The long ball tactic wasn’t working with the loss of John Stead. The Citizens had to find a way to expose Devante Cole’s pace. Since the poor start City have only lost 4 games in 18. Currently sat in 10th heading into the New Year with Cole top scorer with 6 goals, what will the first half hold for The Bantams.

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3 points of the playoff positions, City are entering 2016 off the back of a 3-1 loss to fellow Cup giant killers Sheffield United. The result is a damaging one due to it being a derby but Parkinson is looking ahead to for an instant ‘response’ in the games ahead after the turn of the year. The result however does show an improvement compared to the results against strong teams last season. Another result that portrays improvement is the 0-0 draw with Coventry City.

2016 could be the year of Championship promotion for Bradford with fans hoping for a more progressive, passing style of play that will see the Claret and Amber plying their trade in the Championship next term.

With the depth installed by Parkinson in the summer suggests that the Bantams have the legs to spread the weight of the frequent games ensuring there’s no burnout towards the end of the season. However, with many being loan signings, some may leave on expiry while will the ones staying the whole season have the motivation to push for promotion when the tiredness kicks in.

Another worry is the lack of goals. Cole has 6 of 24 scored this term. The goal difference is at a meager +1 which may mean more 0-0 draws than impressive wins. Yet still, there are positives to take from the lack of goals with City only 3 points from the play off positions at the half way stage having scored the fewest goals of any of the top ten. What are the possibilities when the attacking unit finally click and the goals start going in? A style of football where the focus is having the ball on the floor and an attacking intent with Clarke, the player of 2015 as voted by City fans, and Cole, the top scorer signed on a free from Manchester City, as oppose to having the height of Hanson up front may lead to improvements while maintaining the same defensive security that’s possessed at the back.

With a push for goals during the push for promotion, the Bantams may reap the rewards of a change in style. Ultimately, the season will hinge on the goals Bradford get. A better return in the second half of the season would lead the way to a possible promotion party at the climax of the campaign. This could be the term that City fans see how adaptable the squad is, before the fans can dream of Championship football, the players must show that they can change to fit the circumstances of individual games as oppose to the long ball football that left City short of the play-offs last season.


 

Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Steve Walker.

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