It has been a frustrating start to life as Bradford (Park Avenue) manager for Danny Whitaker, with no points from four games so far, and he pulled no punches in his pre-match interview with the T&A.

He blasted the way injury-prone duo of Oli Johnson, who left Horsfall earlier this week, and captain Mitch Lund have been mismanaged for a long time over their fitness, and admits he is annoyed that Avenue face games today and on Monday, insisting the first team should be the priority and never be in a situation where they’re playing twice in three days.

Whitaker backed his current squad to the hilt, and hopes he has opened their eyes to all the positives from their heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to Morpeth Town last Saturday, where Avenue “played and attacked excellently and exactly how he wanted” for 85 minutes before conceding twice late on to lose.

But with that daunting Saturday-Monday double header at Horsfall looming in the Northern Premier League Premier Division against mid-table FC United of Manchester then play-off chasing Marine, and Avenue now eight points off safety, Whitaker delivered some frank home truths.

He told the T&A: “It’s weird that we’re playing Saturday and Monday and I don’t understand the logic frankly.

“It’s a lot to put on the lads and I know when I was a player, after a game on the Saturday, I’d usually feel worse on the Monday than I would on the Tuesday, so having the schedule we do with FC United and Marine has annoyed me a bit.

“It’s something I want to change going forward, because the first team should be the first priority when it comes to scheduling.

“Football is a results-driven business and you want to give your team the best chance to win.

“For me you’ve got more chance of doing that if your midweek game is on a Tuesday or a Wednesday rather than a Monday.

“We could have been away on Saturday, and that would have been even worse, if we’d had Morpeth for example, then had to travel back and prepare for a Monday night game.

“I’ll be honest, there’s a lot we have to change here, but we can’t do it overnight.”

In Whitaker’s opinion, the club did not prepare adequately for relegation from National League North and he said that has had a knock-on effect for this season, with the squad stuck in a rut of losing and that “a fear of defeat” perhaps contributed to the late collapse at Morpeth, once the hosts scored their equaliser.

He was even more scathing of the way certain players have had their fitness “mismanaged” down the years at Avenue, notably in the cases of Johnson and Lund.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Avenue centre-back and captain Mitch Lund is a hugely important player for the club, but injury issues have ruled him out of so many games since his arrival at Horsfall in 2019.Avenue centre-back and captain Mitch Lund is a hugely important player for the club, but injury issues have ruled him out of so many games since his arrival at Horsfall in 2019. (Image: Martin Taylor.)

On the recent departure of club legend Johnson, Whitaker said: “OJ has been unlucky with the way he’s been mismanaged, and not had the care he should have had before I came in last month.

“It culminated in this situation, where he couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, and you have to look after that mental side of a player’s mindset.

“I told him I’d have loved him to stick around and be an experienced head, but I didn’t want him doing that and feeling the pressure of getting back fit and contributing to a struggling side.

With that in mind, we decided it was the best thing to part ways.

“OJ hasn’t had his long-time fitness issues sorted with a proper diagnosis and that’s had an adverse effect on him, as it’s just meant injury has been much more likely to re-occur for him.

“It’s similar with Mitch, who’s someone we could really do with while we’re battling relegation.

“But with his shoulder injury, we’re almost having to start the process again, with a further scan and assessment.

“It means it’s taking longer than it should to get him back fit, when it’s an issue that should have been managed properly before.”

There is at least some news for Whitaker to be positive about, with goalkeeper Tom Scott and midfielder Ted Lavelle having had their loan deals from FC Halifax Town extended until the end of the season earlier this week.

The pair have impressed in their brief time at Avenue so far, with Whitaker saying: “It’s important to have players with you for a longer period.

“If they’re tied down, you can build with them in your squad, whereas if they’re only here on a month-long loan, you don’t always know what will happen.

“They might even get recalled out of the blue during the week, which disrupts the whole squad, losing those lads at short notice.

“That means we’re delighted to have Ted and Tom for longer than that initial month’s loan from Halifax.

“With Ted, he’s an excellent midfielder who’s got a good career ahead of him he wants it.

“Tom’s been great for us too and I’ve been really pleased with how they’ve both done.”