Bradford City odd job men do not provide a long-term fix at left back (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford City odd job men do not provide a long-term fix at left back
City’s first back-to-back clean sheets of the season will not deflect Phil Parkinson from his on-going search for another left back, according to Wayne Jacobs.
Parkinson has been in the hunt for a specialist for the role ever since James Meredith was crocked with a broken metatarsal bone.
Since New Year’s Day, the job has been shared between central defenders Matthew Bates and Carl McHugh – willing but rather reluctant replacements.
Bates admits he “doesn’t enjoy” the alien position; McHugh, who has regained the shirt in the last two games because of his team-mate’s hip problem, is “not particularly comfortable”.
With Meredith at least another three weeks in his protective boot before he can even start putting normal pressure on his foot, that’s why Parkinson is still on the look-out for a proper back-up.
Jacobs, City’s left back for over a decade, can understand the manager’s dilemma.
He said: “I know Phil has looked at the situation and is trying to solve it. I don’t know if it’s a big issue for him but I’m sure it’s one he will be looking to rectify.
“The two guys who have come in have been steady and done okay but they are two very different people when they play there. They are both recognised centre halves.
“They are helping the team and the manager out rather than hoping to cement themselves in that spot.
“Matthew’s right-footed and that causes a problem when you try to link up and get down the left wing. He is obviously tempted to drive infield.
“I’ve been really impressed with Carl’s attitude when he’s played there and his mentality when he’s in the team. That shone through again last Tuesday when he came up with such a big goal on a big occasion.
“However he is a centre half and sometimes if you come up against a real out-and-out winger, agility and movement can be an issue when you’re playing in that role.”
Jacobs made 358 appearances for the Bantams, predominantly at left back where he saw off a host of pretenders.
There is an argument that defenders should be able to operate in any of the positions along the back four.
Using a centre half or right-footed player in that role is nothing new, Parkinson himself played Marcel Seip there for a significant spell during his first season at Valley Parade.
But Jacobs argues that the thought process is very different between a full back and someone used to defending down the middle.
“As centre halves, they’re not on the front foot as much as a natural full back would be,” he added.
“You’re looking to bomb on and join in, overlap and underlap. A lot of modern day full backs, and I certainly did, see themselves as an attacking player when the team have got the ball.
“You’re looking forward and recognising times to go early and how you might break them down on the left-hand side. The natural reaction if you’re a centre half is to back up play and stay solid. It’s obviously a different mindset.
“One bonus is their height. There are six-foot left backs out there and they bring something to set-plays, as Carl did against Port Vale.
“I’m sure they’d love to be playing centre half but also they want to be in the team. But it’s not a long-term solution.”
Meredith has been a huge success since Parkinson plucked him from York during the 2012 summer rebuild that set the foundations for promotion.
His absence this time last year with glandular fever hit the team hard – they only lost twice in the final two months when the Australian was back in situ.
Jacobs said: “He’s been very consistent. One of the exciting partnerships of last season was James and Kyel Reid on the left, it proved to be really productive for us.
“As far as his recovery from injury goes, he’s in a boot and everything is okay right now.
“But until you start trying to move forward into running, turning, twisting, jumping you don’t know how well it will settle. It could still be a while before he is ready to come back.”
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