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Luke Oliver on Bradford City centre backs’ friendly rivalry
Luke Oliver is too much of a nice guy to try smothering his defensive rival with a pillow.
City’s gentle giant has been room-sharing with Rory McArdle in Ireland and jokingly admits he did think of taking selection matters into his own hands.
Oliver may be the reigning player of the year – and deservedly so – and started more games than anybody last season. But his place in the side that trots out at Notts County on August 11 is far from guaranteed.
But that’s just how he likes it. Having penned a new two-year deal last month, Oliver knew he was signing up for a real fight for the shirt.
It is hard to see Andrew Davies being sidelined too often, so Oliver is ready for a straight shoot-out with his room-mate.
He said: “I spoke to Rammers (Simon Ramsden ) when we signed Rory and he had nothing but praise for him as a top player and man. That’s coming through in the first couple of games and the training sessions.
“The gaffer wants it to be competitive in every position and that way you can pull each other along. I see it as a friendly rivalry, which can only be a good thing.
“If another player is in the team and doing well, you’re not going to begrudge them their place. They are only trying to do the same as you.
“Without that competition, you can become lax and complacent. If you’ve played badly but know you’re still going to be in the team the following week, that’s a dangerous frame of mind and you can switch off mentally. But look all over the pitch now and there are battles. You want that pressure to keep pushing yourself every week.
“I don’t want to stay where I was. I’m looking to progress like everyone and hopefully we can give it a right go this time.”
Davies remains the stand-out capture of a busy summer, given the general feeling that he would be going upwards and onwards elsewhere.
Oliver, too, was “pleasantly surprised” with the news that his regular defensive oppo was staying put.
He added: “I think Dava was one of the gaffer’s best signings. Everyone knows the qualities he has.
“It came as a really nice surprise when I got told he was staying. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with him last season because he’s an excellent defender.
“He was happy to get that many games in last year and he wants to build with us. That shows the ambition that we’ve got.”
Oliver, too, insists he always wanted to come back to Valley Parade . The delay in doing the deal, he said, was down to geography more than anything else, with his family’s roots based in London.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision for me because I always wanted to stay at Bradford. For a League Two player, in my eyes they are the only club to play for in this division with their size and history.
“But family commitments can be tricky and you have to take that into consideration.
“I’m just delighted they wanted to keep us on and I’m still in a job for the next two years.”
The Oliver clan were perhaps persuaded by the warmth of public reaction to his much-improved performances last term.
He said: “My family don’t get up to a lot of the games but they were dead proud to hear the nice things people were saying. The fans have been top class to me.
“Some players make out that it doesn’t matter but of course it does. When you’re on the pitch, it gives you a real boost if you make a good challenge and the crowd pick up.
“Bradford fans just want honesty and committed players who are going to work hard. Give your all and they will get right behind you.”