City will be on the level next season - both on and off the field.

The annual accounts up to the end of this month are expected to report the good news that the club have broken even for the first time since the heady Premiership days.

And, playing-wise, Stuart McCall's men should not be playing catch-up with anyone in the race for one of those four coveted promotion spots.

The bookies certainly believe that the Bantams will be in with a strong shout of going up this time around - with the club quoted as League Two title favourites by some odds-makers.

At this stage of the summer, it may be guesswork on behalf of the bookmakers and last term's record-breaking crowds have no doubt influenced the thinking. But when have they ever been wrong?

Julian Rhodes is certainly confident of a campaign to cheer after too many years of doom and gloom. His target of back-to-back promotions to return the club to the Championship may sound slightly ambitious but City should fancy their chances of achieving the first climb.

Look around at the other runners and riders and there are no stand-out candidates. Shrewsbury have cash to splash, with the £500,000 windfall from Joe Hart's England call-up, and new Wycombe boss Peter Taylor is another with money to spend.

But there is no equivalent of Peterborough's sugar daddy chairman Darragh MacAnthony to bankroll a team through the pack.

No-one will be shelling out almost half a million quid on a goalkeeper this year.

"It will be a far more level playing field than 12 months ago," agreed City joint-chairman Rhodes. "This time last year you could pick out the clubs who would be right up there.

"I fancied MK Dons to do well straight away just by looking at the squad they had assembled. Paul Ince had brought in some great experience with players who had performed in the Premier League and Championship.

"Somebody like Keith Andrews is a fantastic player who could still be at that level now.

"Then you had Peterborough, who had spent a lot of money. It took them a while to come good but it was no real surprise to see them promoted.

"The other ones I fancied were Darlington, who again went for it by bringing in a lot of players. They ended up making the play-offs.

"The surprise ones were Hereford, who used the loan market very well, but otherwise the clubs at the top were what you'd expect.

"I hope that next season people will look at our squad and be impressed. As I've said, the quality of player that we are chasing will raise a few eye-brows with people."

None of the relegated clubs look obvious candidates to bounce straight back.

Bournemouth and Luton are still in administration and could face further sanctions - the Hatters have already been docked ten points after being found guilty of misconduct over payments to agents. And Rotherham may have a new buyer but they are not yet out of the woods and need to get a creditors' agreement sorted in time to avoid kicking off on minus 15.

Valley Parade supporters will see it as a mark of the progress City have made financially that they are not grouped among those struggling to make ends meet.

While a long-term stay in the basement division is obviously not commercially viable, Rhodes and Mark Lawn are understandably proud to see the ship far steadier than at any time in the last eight years.

Not that it would prevent either of them from willingly stepping aside should a mystery money man suddenly pop up to shower the club with cash. That may seem the unlikeliest "pie in the sky" scenario - but the same would have been said around Peterborough before their Irish benefactor decided to pick up the phone. Rhodes said: "You never know what's round the corner. Maybe somebody might come along one day and offer to double the budget - but it won't be me and Mark because we can't afford to do that.

"I'm pleased to see that we are on the map again for clubs outside the top two divisions. The success of last year's season-ticket scheme has got people looking at us in a positive way, which makes a nice change.

"People are talking about Bradford City for the right reasons.

"But I've always said that I wouldn't stand in the way of progress if somebody came in and offered to seriously invest in the team, and I know Mark is of the same viewpoint.

"We're both Bradford City supporters and want the club to do well but we're not on some big ego trip."

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