CLAYTON Donaldson only has to walk to the top of Valley Parade to see that he has come full circle.

Manningham Middle School may no longer be there but the City striker could not have grown up any closer to the club.

Two decades on from leaving as a scholar, he has finally come home.

After a career that has taken him all over, Donaldson is enjoying letting his past catch up with him again.

“It was a very weird feeling when I came back to sign and walking past where the school used to be,” he said. “But it’s just like I’m home now.

“I’ve got old school friends popping up that I haven’t seen for years. They’ve all been messaging me and I’m going to meet up with a few of the boys again.

“I’ve been away for so long and you lose touch. But coming back, you’ve got the chance to catch up with them again.”

His family have remained in the area and Donaldson’s brothers still play locally.

“My older brother Lincoln is at Campion and they are doing all right.

“It’s nice for my family that I’ve come back. But it’s always been in the back of my mind.

“I’ve been here, there and everywhere so they haven’t really been able to come to most of my games.

“As a family guy, I always want them there watching me play and now they’ll be able to do that every week.”

Being a local lad always brings added expectation – just ask James Hanson. But Donaldson’s biggest critics are closer to home.

“My family are the worst,” he laughed. “They are the ones who will say that I was cr*p today or didn’t do this or that right.

“But any criticism is good and I try to take on board and use it to my strength. I’ll just have to try and prove them wrong next time.”

Donaldson has been linked with City regularly down the years. He even claimed there was interest during the last transfer window in January.

Peter Jackson made the most public move for him eight years ago but lost out to Brentford.

Donaldson added: “I remember meeting up with him and I would never rule it out being my home town and I’m a Bradford City fan.

“I don’t think it was at the right time for my career. They were in League Two and I was looking to go up a level.

“I was still fairly young and wanted to see how far I could go.

“But it’s always been there. Two or three years ago, I got a call from the chief executive trying to get me to go.

“I think they also came in January to try to take me on loan.

“Once I knew they were interested, it almost made up my mind to come back.

“I think now is the perfect time for me. I’ve got the experience and there’s still plenty of life in the legs.

“I didn’t want to leave it too late to the point where I can’t finish a game. I’m still fairly fit and hungry as ever.”

Gary Bowyer is also tapping into Donaldson’s wealth of knowledge and is happy to see him passing on tips to the youngsters. The 35-year-old recently pulled Paudie O’Connor to one side after training to advise him against marking too tightly.

“Paudie kept diving in and it was making my mind up to spin him straight away,” he said.

“I don’t think he’d seen me play before so I just had a little word after.

“Every time we’ve trained since then, he’s kept a yard apart and made it a bit more difficult. That feels like my job done.

“It’s those little percentages that can help your team-mates. Those are the players who are going to walk on to the field with you and help get the results, whether it’s defenders, midfielders or strikers.”

Donaldson is dipping his toe into coaching and recently passed his UEFA B licence in Ireland. He believes more should get involved while still playing.

“It can take a year or two to complete the courses so while it’s there, why not? I think it’s a great opportunity.

“Football is what we do. We’ve definitely got the knowledge from playing so many years, so I don’t see why more players aren’t taking up that role.

“Football has changed. More of the experienced pros now are helping the youngsters whereas before it was more ‘I’m doing my stuff, you get on with yours’.

“It was a case of the manager trying to develop players. Now you’ve got senior pros getting more hands on.

“If you’ve got a few coaches that are still playing, it helps the team.”