Written by Jason McKeown, Editor of Independent Bradford City website Width of a Post.
First of all, how did you get into supporting Bradford City?
My first game was actually 20 years ago last month. One morning, a group of friends told me they were going to watch Bradford City and I invited myself along.
I didn’t think I would get a great deal out of the experience, but that first glimpse of the ground from the back of the Kop was a powerful, life-changing experience. In that split-second I knew I was going to be a Bradford City fan. I instinctively checked the match-day programme that I had just bought to find out the date of the next home game.
That first match was a 0-0 draw with West Brom, but a good 0-0. The atmosphere was amazing and I was blown away that something so wonderful and accessible was available on my doorstep. I’ve never looked back, following the club through thick and thin ever since.
What do you make of your season so far?
It’s a tricky one. Expectations are fiercely high after coming so close to promotion last season, but we lost a lot of good players during the summer and some of the new arrivals have yet to truly make their mark. Despite this, we’re sat in the top six and in with a great chance of another play off finish.
Away from home we have been outstanding, but at Valley Parade we’ve been coming unstuck against teams who set up to contain us. We don’t really have lots of great attacking options, which has meant we’re more suited to playing in a measured way on the road, rather than going all-out attack at home. We’ve also been curiously poor at reacting to going behind in games – something I know we have in common with Argyle!
Nevertheless, to be fighting for promotion is a great achievement. If we can sort our home form out, the top two might be a possibility.
How has Stuart McCall done in charge since arriving in June 2016?
For me he has been fantastic. This is his second spell managing the club. His first period was at the start of his managerial career, where his passion sometimes saw him take things too personally and he struggled to lift his players when they lost; promising seasons would be undermined by long winless runs he couldn’t end.
This time around, McCall has yet to oversee back-to-back defeats, which says it all. He took charge during a period of great uncertainty, but steadied the ship and took us agonisingly close to promotion at Wembley last season – we didn’t lose a single home game. This season we are pushing on again despite a reduced playing budget, which is arguably an overachievement.
McCall has also implemented a more expansive, pleasing-on-the-eye style of football than what we experienced under Phil Parkinson. We were brilliant to watch last season, although more pragmatic this time around.
As with every football manager, McCall has his critics. But he’s Bradford City’s most popular player of all time, a wonderful ambassador for the club, and it means the world to have him succeeding in the dugout. A promotion under McCall would be something else.
How seriously are Bradford City taking the FA Cup?
Last season McCall was guilty of playing an under-strength side in the FA Cup first round against League Two Accrington Stanley. We lost the game, and the owners were very unhappy. There was no danger of a repeat this time around.
There’s been a lot of build up from the club this week trying to attract a big attendance on Saturday – even Santa’s going to be there! The prize of getting to the third round, and potentially landing a glamour tie, is massive. There’s also a bit of needle between McCall and Derek Adams after your manager said a few silly things after the league victory last month. So I’d expect us to be at it on Saturday.
Who should Argyle fans keep an eye out for on Saturday from within the Bradford ranks?
Charlie Wyke, our top scorer, is someone you’ll know about from his exploits at Carlisle last season. He has handled the step up a division really well since we signed him in January and looks a quality player.
Our most in-form attacker right now is Paul Taylor, who will play in the hole and has a welcome habit of netting spectacular goals from distance.
Alex Gilliead, our winger on loan from Newcastle, is attracting interest from other clubs. McCall started him on the bench when we played you recently, which in hindsight was probably a mistake.
What do you view as your side’s strong spots and weak spots?
Other than Charlie Wyke, our other strikers haven’t really delivered this season. There’s been flashes of promises, but a better strike partner for Wyke has to be a priority in the transfer window. We also lack players with the ability to run at opponents with the ball, taking them on and creating space.
Defensively, we have generally been strong, with the form of Matt Kilgallon and Nathaniel Knight-Percival a huge positive.
Are there any Argyle players you would like to see Bradford try and sign in January?
I was very impressed with your centre halves Ryan Edwards and Sonny Bradley, and midfielder Yann Songo’o, in the recent league encounter. But we’d love someone like Graham Carey. He takes people on and scores from distance. He’d really enhance our side.
What did you make of the last game between the two sides, when Argyle came out 1-0 victors?
Prior to the game, I had attended the Bradford City press conference to record interviews for local radio. McCall, Kilgallon and Romain Vincelot were all preaching the importance of patience and emphasising just how difficult it would be to break you down. Perhaps we took that patience message too far and could have played to a higher tempo in the first half; but the goal you did score – through our mistake – was completely against the run of play.
Up until the penalty miss, I thought we dominated the game and were unlucky to hit the woodwork twice. The game was always going to be about who scored first, and had we got the opener I think we would have gone onto win by three or four goals.
I’ve rarely seen a team park the bus to the extent Argyle did. I work with a big Argyle fan who tells me you play like that every week. It can’t be much fun to watch!
What do you make of Argyle’s season and our chances of avoiding relegation?
I’m surprised by the extent you have struggled, because typically newly promoted teams to this division fare pretty well. You’ve obviously improved from a dreadful start and your solid defence gives you a chance, it’s just whether you have enough up front.
Keep Carey in January and you’ve got a chance. Lose him, and it’s back to away days at Cheltenham and Crawley next season I’m afraid.
Finally, a score prediction for the game?
1-0 obviously! I’m not saying who to though!