DEREK Adams left no room for doubt when he made the call to install Richard O’Donnell as the first-choice keeper to kick off his City reign.

Having finished last season on the bench behind Sam Hornby, the long-serving stopper was handed first dibs under the new manager.

Putting the question to Adams after the opening game about whether the two keepers were neck and neck in his thoughts, the Bantams boss made his view crystal clear.

“No, it’s a one and a two,” he said. “It was a difficult call to make, we’ve got two very good goalkeepers.”

With Hornby playing 18 times in the league from last Christmas, it was a fair assumption that the shirt might be shared again.

Adams, though, put his faith in a player now halfway through his fourth campaign at Valley Parade – pretty much a milestone length given the rapid turnover in the dressing room over that period.

O’Donnell may have lost the captain’s armband with Adams believing an outfield player would be a better fit. But he clearly had the confidence of the new gaffer.

Five months on and the picture is very different.

O’Donnell lost his place after the FA Cup exit at Exeter at the end of November and Hornby, whose action had been limited to the Papa John’s Trophy up to that point, has been in since.

Now the arrival of Alex Bass on loan from Portsmouth has really thrown the cat among the pigeons.

All three keepers were present for the much-needed victory at Walsall but only the new boy was on duty.

Bass certainly covered himself in glory by justifying his immediate selection with a couple of huge saves when City were really under the cosh in the first half.

The point-blank block from Conor Wilkinson’s header right before the interval subsequently took social media by storm with some already calling it the save of the season.

Penny for the thoughts of the two stoppers he has deposed as they watched on from the sidelines.

Hornby, at least, was on the bench as the back-up keeper.

O’Donnell was purely on spectating duty, although he had joined in with the other two in the warm-up ahead of the game.

Experts who study body language would have been fascinated by the dynamic of the trio working together. For O’Donnell, in particular, it must have been difficult.

After the game, the 33-year-old was spotted deep in conversation with City chief executive Ryan Sparks at the back of the stand. His Valley Parade departure appears to be looking imminent.

O’Donnell’s exit will mark the closure of the Edin Rahic era.

He has been the sole survivor of the class of summer 2018 – a recruitment drive that served up the likes of Josh Wright, Joe Riley and Sherwin Seedorf.

O’Donnell was one of the 11 debutants under the command of Michael Collins that triumphed 1-0 at Shrewsbury. Of the rest, only Connor Wood and Anthony O’Connor would hang on any distance in the bumpy ride that followed.

That clean sheet at the New Meadow was the first of 11 for O’Donnell as City dropped like a stone out of League One that season.

He was axed for the final four games as Gary Bowyer, City’s third manager of that doomed campaign, gave Ben Wilson a token run-out.

But O’Donnell was back between the posts for the return to the fourth tier – missing only four games in that Covid-shortened campaign after pulling his hamstring. He had kept five shut-outs in six outings over the Christmas period.

Still number one under Stuart McCall, he recorded 10 clean sheets last season but injury at Tranmere on Boxing Day saw Hornby’s opportunity and his rival would see more of the action with the dual leadership of Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars.

The vote of confidence from Adams saw O’Donnell restored once more for the first of three trips to Exeter in the opening three months of the present term.

And St James’s Park in the replay “replay” looks to have been the final destination of his City career.

That was his 136th appearance for the Bantams, which has included 34 clean sheets.

Hartlepool are understood to be keen to take O’Donnell – with the obvious connection of their head of recruitment Lee Turnbull.

If that does happen, a reunion with the club he has served longer than any other is on the cards in the north-east in mid-March.

A player who always made himself available to the fans – and an engaging interview with the media – O’Donnell has certainly bought into being a Bantam.

But his time now looks up and a new start should suit all parties.