Season review: Lots of chopping and changing but end result the same as Bantams languish near foot of table (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Season review: Lots of chopping and changing but end result the same as Bantams languish near foot of table
Phil Parkinson, pictured applauding fans after the final game of the season, is tasked with winning over his critics as he leads City into a sixth consecutive campaign in the lowest tier
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The 19th century French proverb could have been written for Valley Parade as the door closed on another forgettable campaign.
For all the merry-go-round of managers, coaches and players, City ended up exactly where they had done the year before.
Eighteenth again, equalling last season’s lowest finish for 35 years – and they never once got any higher, They were two points down on before and a distant 22 off the play-offs.
If progress was based purely on survival – and Julian Rhodes maintained that was the goal from the moment that Peter Jackson walked away – then City could claim some minor progress.
Victory at Northampton, thanks to a Nahki Wells hat-trick, meant safety was secured with three games to spare; a year before, they had to wait for the penultimate weekend’s draw with Hereford.
But it was still a hollow achievement and Phil Parkinson said as much after Saturday’s heartening sign-off against champions Swindon.
Staying up is seen as success at some clubs but there was no cause for bunting at Valley Parade.
The prospect of a sixth season in football’s basement is no reason for street parties.
The early changing of the guard off the field meant plenty of upheaval on it.
When young striker Adam Baker – the only apprentice to be kept on – got a late run-out at the weekend, he became the 40th different player City have used.
Chopping and changing the team is not the obvious policy for consistent results but then Swindon themselves employed 39.
The player turnover tends to be higher in League Two because of the amount of loans. Everybody does it with varying success.
In City terms, the temporary additions were a mish-mash. For Andrew Davies, you also had Michael Bryan and Adam Reed.
Davies was the poster boy of the loan signings. But then on a wage reputed to be around £15,000 a week at Stoke, he should have been.
Strong and powerful at the back, he formed a commanding double act with Luke Oliver.
There were no Premier League airs and graces about him either, Davies was just happy to be playing regularly again after years blighted by injuries.
He missed a dozen games but all were through suspension from the three red cards which ruined an otherwise impressive run.
City would love to have him back but concede there is little hope. Greg Abbott’s Carlisle are among those higher up the food chain who are thought to be taking an interest.
Of the other loan signings, left winger Jack Compton had his bright days – though maybe not as many as his fans would suggest. His decision to play hardball over an extension to the end of the season was strange, considering he then took a similar short-term move to St Johnstone.
Liam Moore, another Peter Jackson summer capture, started well but seemed to run out of steam. Others simply disappeared without trace.
The much-hyped development squad fizzled out after the sudden exit of Archie Christie.
The larger-than-life Scot and Jackson found it hard to get on. There was a sense of a power struggle between manager and director of player development, in essence the director of football.
The fact it went pop came as no surprise, though the timing of Jackson’s departure just four games in shocked everyone.
Parkinson came in and the squad he had inherited – many of them lacking league experience – was soon being reshuffled.
Kyel Reid, his first signing, was also his best and inherited the match-winning but equally frustrating winger tag from Omar Daley.
Craig Fagan’s capture caught the imagination but after a year out with injury, the former Hull man flattered to deceive. A magnificent line-leading display at Barnet showed what he was capable of but he would often cut a disinterested figure wide on the right.
Ricky Ravenhill joined for good in January and swiftly succeeded Michael Flynn in the captain’s role and heartbeat of the side. Flynn, having cruelly lost his place to a debilitating stomach illness, became an inevitable financial casualty when his contract expired.
Marcel Seip offered solid versatility at the back, where he played every position, but keeper Matt Duke looked nervous and edgy from the start. Like Guy Branston, who had kicked off in August as captain, it would be a surprise if Duke is still in the squad for pre-season.
Oliver is one that City will want to tie down after a remarkable transformation for the former Peter Taylor scapegoat. The big fella was a model of consistency and deservedly hauled in the medals from the restored player-of-the-year awards.
For previous winner David Syers, 2011-2012 was one to forget. From the moment he shattered his knee colliding with Leeds keeper Andy Lonergan, it became a tortuous test for the effervescent midfielder.
Having rejected City’s contract offer in January, it will be interesting to see how the next few weeks pan out for him. But nobody will want to see him slip away.
There were much better moments for top scorer James Hanson, clearly growing into his role as the targetman, and the young tyro who established himself as first-choice strike partner.
Wells was a name that had floated round Valley Parade for a while because of City’s strong connections with the RIASA coaching project. But Jackson needed encouragement to take him on trial after the Bermuda international had been released by Carlisle.
Initially signed as one for the future, Wells was brought on gradually by Parkinson before exploding on the scene with a memorable FA Cup thunderbolt against Rochdale.
The Hanson/Wells double act took off at Christmas when they destroyed Crewe and Shrewsbury in two memorable back-to-back home wins. Following on from a first away victory at Southend, that earned Parkinson City’s first manager of the month crown since Colin Todd in 2004.
But hopes of a strong second half to the season were short-lived. Having completed the double over Torquay, another high flier, City plunged back into trouble with only five points from a manic nine-match March.
The only fight on display was the much-publicised free-for-all with Crawley, which saw three players red-carded in the dressing room.
Goals were a problem – in six successive away defeats, the only City score came from a Wimbledon own goal.
Thankfully, the home form remained solid. Crawley were the only visitors to win at Valley Parade in the 15 games from mid-November.
That record held with a vital victory over Southend on Good Friday before the goal and points drought on the road ended in style with the Wells wonder show at Sixfields. Safety was guaranteed.
Now Parkinson will plan feverishly for next term. He knows the Valley Parade jury remains out.
They have been here before, too many times. The fans still wait for that defining change in City’s fortunes.