I caught up with Bradford fan David Kerr ahead of the fixture between our two teams this weekend and here is what he had to say…
Q. Bradford have found themselves stuck in League Two in recent seasons, with this being their 4th consecutive campaign. What is the reason behind this, in your opinion?
A. There is no single reason, there are a few key issues for me - when the club was bought by Stefan Rupp and the Chairmanship of Edin Rahic was a key contribution.
There was a period of turbulence and wholesale squad changes, and a succession of managers. Since they took over in 2016 and Phil Parkinson left, we have had about 12 managers. Each close season for a while there was a complete renewal of the squad, manager change and a lot of last minute signings.
Only once Rahic left (Rupp is still owner) have we seen some stability.
Q. Mark Hughes turned up out of the blue as your manager in 2022, was this a shock to the fanbase given his previous managerial positions were international teams or in the Premier League?
A. It was indeed a surprise. It led to a real positive feeling at the club and amongst the fans. After the non-achievement of Derek Adams (who came with great expectations) there was a lot of gloom as we had stability and focus and on paper a good manager but under-performed.
The biggest message was that as the club was able to entice Hughes, it must now be an attractive place to come and hopefully for players too.
Q. Given his time in the job so far, how do the fans see Hughes? Has he been successful or is the jury still out on him?
A. Fans are quick to judge, and even quicker to change their mind. At the moment the difference from last year is chalk and cheese – starting with quick off the mark close season recruitment to get (another) new squad together. Rather than spending all summer doing nothing, a squad was assembled quicker so has had more time to gel.
Also, the message is that he knows what he wants, and who he wants. On the pitch there looks to be a seismic change in positive attitude and a new found ability to keep the ball (well sometimes anyway), and there is an impression of togetherness amongst the team.
Q. The Bradford squad in recent years has had a few ex-Saddlers in there, including Richard O’Donnell, Caolan Lavery, Andy Cook and Emmanuel Osadebe. O’Donnell and Lavery are no longer there, but how has Andy Cook been for you?
A. A great signing overall. Previously he was fine and always worked very hard, but there wasn’t enough going on in the team to play off him or support him.
This season he is off to a great start though, he is connecting with team mates better than before, although there have been line-up changes so he is having to cope with who is around him each game.
Crucially he is taking the initiative a lot and getting better at dictating attacks.
Q. Onto Emmanuel Osadebe now, who of course suffered a serious leg break minutes into his Bradford debut (we wish him a speedy recovery!).
Many Walsall fans were glad to see the back of him, but how do you rate him based on what you’ve seen of him in the limited minutes he’s had with you, and from past games where he’s played against you?
A. He looked a great player, the little I seen him he looked a real class act and a great addition to the team, I was gutted when I realised it was him who was down after the leg-breaking challenge against Doncaster. I wasn’t aware he left under a cloud at Walsall.
I don’t recall games where he has played against us to be honest.
Q. Which Bradford players do Walsall need to be wary of heading into this fixture?
A. Andy Cook will cause your defence no end of problems In the middle of the park.
Richie Smallwood is now a key player, bringing in the wings and connecting with the forwards. He will dictate the play if given a chance.
Strangely our new goalkeeper Harry Lewis has become a key part of the team – his distribution is so much better than we have had from a keeper for many a year. Often the team keeping possession and starting attacks comes from calmness, and intelligent passes or throws from Lewis, whether long or short - and he links naturally well with the defenders for the most part.
In defence Romoney Chrichlow (load from Huddersfield) has been a stand out performer this season so far.
Q. Are there any Walsall players that you feel your team should be wary of?
A. No players that I know of, but I was pleased you got Michael Flynn as manager – he would have been a good choice for me.
Q. What is a realistic ambition for Bradford City this season?
A. Personally I just want to see a squad who develop, work well, learn from mistakes and try to play entertaining football.
In terms of the league, a play off spot would be great. I can’t see automatic promotion, and I hope we don’t fizzle out after Christmas.
Q. How do you see the game going?
A. It depends on how Walsall set out. The pattern of teams this season at Valley Parade (Doncaster, Crewe) has been to shut up shop, which is flattering however not very exciting. City will come out on the front foot and I expect we will press hard in the early stages, if we don’t score when we have had chances it leads to frustration.
If Walsall actually have a go, they will have every chance as we do leave space behind – if you have players who can exploit this then it will be a good game.
Q. Score Prediction?
A. I fully expect a 1-1 draw.
Q. Finally, for any travelling Walsall fans, could you advise of parking places, places to eat and drink, and anywhere else worth visiting if there early enough?
A. Curry – I fully recommend the Sweet Centre on Lumb Lane - Great food and welcoming to all fans. I will be there with my family plus our two Walsall supporting friends who are staying with us after the game.
For drinks - coming from the Interchange station – seek out Sunbridge Wells (at the end of Millergate), it’s an interesting underground warren with a good pub on the ground floor, there will plenty of room in there – exit via the back staircase to come out about 30 feet up at ground level then 20 mins to the ground.
There is a great bar called Record Café on West Parade on the way to the ground, it is small with bit of a standing area outside but good beer although it will be heaving.
Parking is a nightmare, Green Lane near Green Lane primary school is a good place to try, it is near the Sweet Centre and close to the ground.
Thank you to David for sparing us the time to answer these questions, and we wish Bradford well, after Saturday of course.