The game against Bolton today was the first chance I have had to see the new-look Bradford City and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Following last year and despite the numerous tub-thumping articles in the T&A, I was expecting a dour, downbeat experience at Valley Parade today. How I was wrong. I forgot how much good a close season can do and the atmosphere around Valley Parade today was much different to that experienced towards the back end of last season. It was wonderful to see the team warm up with a vigour rarely seen in matches last season. Peter Jackson’s infectious attitude has clearly rubbed off throughout the club and the players seem to be lapping it up.
On the players, though, it is refreshing to see a group of individuals who are clearly as up for it as them. For a long time we City fans have been used to seeing players going through the motions and clearly not putting a shift in. And while not wanting to put too much emphasis on what was just a friendly game, it was great to see players tracking back, putting in tackles and willing to get forward. The wingers were particularly pleasing and while neither Dominic Rowe nor Jack Compton are the finished articles, there are definitely two good players to be had there with the right coaching.
Guy Branston performed how we all knew he would as well. He was a tower of strength at the back and had Croat international Ivan Klasnic in his pocket for the majority of the game. Branston, a no nonsense defender won 99.9% of all headers today and his presence seemed to bring out the best in his partner at the back Steve Williams. Williams performed today as we all know he can – and without the lapses in concentration – showing just what a good player he can be. On his day Williams is easily better than League Two and Branston looks to be the perfect foil for him. While the partnership is obviously in its infancy, it looks as if it will be a good partnership for City, and with Luke O’Brien playing as solidly as ever and a returning Simon Ramsden, City look solid in the defensive department.
Of the new signings, the Scottish duo of Chris Mitchell and Mark Stewart both looked impressive. Mitchell consistently delivered excellent corners and if he can keep this up over the season, City must be a threat from set pieces. Stewart looked like a work horse up front with his never ending running and while he didn’t get any chances to show his finishing ability, he looks a clever player who should cause problems in League Two. Nialle Rodney came on and scored a goal that would be worthy of Match of the Day status as he breezed past three Bolton defenders and coolly finished showing he could be a very important player for the club this season.
Without wanting to place too much emphasis on a friendly performance, I saw enough today to suggest that this coming season is going to be much more fruitful than the last few years. The players today looked like a team and with a vocal captain at the back, things can only get better. The new look Bradford City may not sweep everything in front of it aside this season, but it is going to be much more exciting to watch.