Will Atkinson reckons City’s Rochdale mafia can treat their return to Spotland as a home from home tonight.
It will be quite a reunion, with Atkinson one of FOUR Bantams players with Dale connections, including their record appearance-holder Gary Jones.
And Phil Parkinson’s number two Steve Parkin also managed the club for 279 games during two spells in charge.
Jones played 533 times in a Rochdale shirt, scoring 80 goals, and the Dale Trust plan to present him with honorary lifetime membership.
Atkinson’s record of 36 appearances in two loan stints does not compare but he did play his part alongside him in the Rochdale side that went up three seasons ago – the first time they had been promoted for 41 years.
Jones and Atkinson were both playing for Rochdale when Peter Taylor’s City beat them 3-1 on their last visit in February 2010. Rory McArdle was also on the home bench for that game.
Defender Stephen Darby, meanwhile, was with Rochdale last season before signing for City in the summer.
Midfielder Atkinson said: “When the fixture-list comes out, you always look to see when you’re playing against your old clubs. I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure the others feel the same.
“We’re Bradford City players now so it’s business as normal. You go there with the mindset to win the game and will do everything to achieve that.
“But I think it helps that you know the surroundings, the changing rooms and everything round the ground. You think back to the good times there.
“Hopefully that will give me and the other lads who’ve played for Rochdale some confidence. Make us feel a bit more at home and ready to go out and really shine.”
Parkinson insists nobody will be distracted by the close connections as City look to respond instantly from suffering their first Valley Parade defeat on Saturday.
He said: “There is a big Rochdale contingent going back to their old club and I’m sure there will be a few handshakes and people welcoming them back.
“But as soon as the whistle goes, you focus on your job. We’re professional enough to do that.”
The loss to Port Vale ended a run of four straight wins but City were positive in defeat. Atkinson could see plenty of good points to take from it.
“We all know it’s a results-based business. But if you perform to that level every week, nine times out of ten you’ll walk away with the points.
“We’ve got players coming back from injury so competition is getting more fierce. The standard in training is rising all the time and confidence is high.”
Nahki Wells was denied a goal on Saturday to celebrate signing his new contract but the Bermudian striker is delighted to get the three-year deal done.
Wells said: “I’m happy I can now focus on what we need to do, which is to get promotion. Hopefully I can help the club move forward.
“I got a lot of thank yous and that shows the fans have a lot of faith in me. Hopefully it works out and I get better as a player while the club get that promotion we need.
“As a player, you always have ambitions to get to the highest league. But there’s nothing better than climbing your way up with the club and making history.
“It won’t be easy but with the characters that we’ve brought in, the gaffer himself and the coaching staff, the fans can start to have belief. I don’t see why we can’t.”