STUART McCall intends to sit down with chief executive Julian Rhodes this week to talk recruitment for next season.

The Bantams boss has certainly not given up on the current campaign despite back-to-back away defeats cutting his side four points adrift of the play-off places.

With 11 games left, a top-seven finish remains a target – even if it appears to be a receding one.

But McCall’s return three weeks ago was as much with next year in mind as this one. The planning starts early as another summer reshuffle looms.

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The squad he commands currently is too big in the manager’s eyes and while quite a few contracts are up at the end of the season, the spread of those remaining looks uneven.

For example, all four centre halves will still be on the books – Anthony O’Connor, Ben Richards-Everton and Tyler French until the summer of 2021, Paudie O’Connor for a further year after that.

Up front, deadline-day recruits Lee Novak and Kurtis Guthrie signed deals for this season and next. James Vaughan, who finally broke his duck on his loan to Tranmere at the weekend, is tied down until 2022.

Clayton Donaldson’s one-year deal is understood to include an option in his favour so expect him to stay on as well.

Left backs Connor Wood, the forgotten Jackson Longridge and youngster Reece Staunton are also tied down for next season.

But most of the midfield, barring Harry Pritchard, will be out of contract as are both right backs; Sam Hornby is the only keeper whose deal will not be up. The five loanees will obviously be gone.

There look to be lopsided gaps as McCall plots a sort-out of a team who, at this moment, continue to under-achieve in a division that appeared to be there for the taking this time.

“There are certain areas that are stockpiled for next season,” he said. “But I’m going to have discussions with Julian about moving forward.

“You’ve got to start putting things into action now. We’re beginning to formulate where we need strengthening.

“There’s still enough football for people to stand up and show they deserve a contract.

“But now things have calmed down a bit going Saturday to Saturday, it gives us a little bit more time to have an eye on next season.”

Gary Bowyer signed 20 players, including loans, in a major rebuild following relegation. A similarly hectic post-season is anticipated as McCall stamps his mark.

The ever-changing thinking is becoming more and more the norm in the lower divisions with the shorter length of contracts.

McCall added: “Recruitment and man management have been the biggest things for a manager since I’ve been involved in the game.

“A lot of clubs only give players a year. Obviously, we’ve given them a bit longer to entice the people you want.

“Players are not just looking at deals financially but for a bit of security. If you’re fighting for players, they’ll take that for their families.

“It’s all about your judgement and I strongly believe in being part of the recruitment, without a doubt.”

McCall will have full control on who goes in and out this time. He admits the background checks are crucial.

“You’ve got to start doing your homework now for the summer,” he added.

“There’s a lot more than just watching them on videos. You’ve got to meet people and speak to them.

“You go back to when I’d only been in the job a few weeks at Bradford.

“Obviously I knew Nicky Law so that was a no-brainer, we brought in Banksy (Steve Banks) as goalkeeping coach and he knows Colin Doyle, another no-brainer.

“John Dreyer gave us (Nathaniel) Knight-Percival and I spoke to Darren Ferguson about his character and another manager. Allied to the clips of what he’d done, that’s a no-brainer.

“Being in Scotland, I knew nothing about Romain Vincelot. But Greg (Abbott) knew him from his Coventry days and I trusted his judgement, again a no-brainer.

“We had 10 days to look at Timothee Dieng as well as speaking to someone about his background and character.

“There was a player called Henrik Ojamaa put to me at Motherwell. I don’t think he got that many goals but you could see the passion when his team scored and it really stood out with his ability.

“We managed to get him in for two weeks over the Christmas (break), had a good look and signed him.

“The ideal scenario is if you can get them in pre-season like that to see what they are like. Obviously, it’s not so black and white when you’re rushing towards the deadline.

“But it’s not just about the player. It’s what he brings with him and about his mentality.”