With the Iron due to face Bradford City this coming weekend at Glanford Park, lifelong Bantams fan Katie Whyatt talks to Bru’s Mark Chapman about their season so far.
Seventh in League One following a poor start with no win in your opening?four league games – also knocked out of the League Cup by York! You must be delighted with the turnaround…
It’s been refreshing. There was always hope the team would get promoted this year, and they’re starting to show the hallmarks of a top six side. They’ve got character, resilience and physicality in spades, and they’re getting points on the board.
Who has been the stand out performer for the Bantams ?so far?
We’ve got real strength in depth this season and a couple of players spring to mind – keep an eye on teenage centre half Reece Burke, a West Ham loanee. With a penchant for a mazy run, vision for a pinpoint cross and a defensive nous that belies his tender years, he’s been talismanic for City this year and we’re desperately hoping he can stay longer.
We signed ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones at the beginning of the season and I think we were all impressed by his pedigree – but his lack of recent football showed and he left by mutual consent last month.
You’re six games unbeaten now in the league and it’s been an impressive 308 minutes since you last conceded a goal. What would you put this down to?
Decent loan signings and defensive consistency. The back five struggled at the beginning of the campaign after losing former Stoke man Andrew Davies – there were doubts over the quality of his replacement, Nathan Clarke, and boss Phil Parkinson was repeatedly shuffling his pack, which probably destabilised the harmonies of the defence.
I think goalkeeper Ben Williams is benefitting from Parkinson’s show of confidence after establishing himself as the first choice goalkeeper, and a trust has been formulated that makes them very hard to beat.
Devante Cole is your top scorer with just five goals, however, Phil Parkinson will surely be delighted to see the rest of the team chipping in…
I think the main concern from a lot of fans this season is that we’ve shown a reluctance to take chances and haven’t always looked threatening in the final third. Devante Cole will develop in time, but he’s often denied decent service. With target man James Hanson injured, look out for Billy Clarke, who’ll probably start as a playmaking auxiliary striker. He’s just returned from injury and his vision in the box is outstanding.
The January transfer window is just around the corner. Do you envisage the manager being given the funds to strengthen for a big push in 2016?
I think it will depend on a couple of things: how the league is shaping up at the end of December, whether we can keep our hands on the loanees that have revitalised our side (we’ve got midfielder Lee Evans from Wolves and winger Kyel Reid from Preston, plus Burke), and whether our injury list continues to spiral.
I don’t think the treatment room has ever been this busy. Though the replacements are coping manfully and highlighting the depth of talent in this squad, picking up any more injuries would stretch us too thinly and could prove critical when we reach the business end of the season.
Which team has impressed you most this season?
Tough question! I think League One’s been interesting this year – we haven’t had the might of Bristol and Preston to face, but a lot of the games have been really open and substitutions have generally made massive differences.
I think I’ve been more impressed with players, than teams, to be honest – Connor Goldson and Zak Whitbread were superb for Shrewsbury, and I’m not surprised at all that Goldson got poached by Brighton.
Gillingham’s Bradley Dack ran the show when they visited Valley Parade and Connor Sammon was the difference between us and Sheffield United. Bury are obviously revered but City handled them well, beating them 2-0 when they visited Valley Parade.
Do you know anything about the Iron and the threats (if any) they pose?
I remember Parkinson saying, at the beginning of the season, that quite a few teams had really upped their budgets this year – and you were one of them! I know you’ve got a strong striker in Paddy Madden, so it will be a real test for our defence.
How do you feel the game on Saturday will pan out?
I actually think City tend to play more openly when they’re away – I’d argue they’ve looked conservative at times at home. We’ll try and set the tempo early and I’ll back us to get something from this, but you’ve had some good results lately, haven’t you? I think I’ll go for 2-1 City, with Devante Cole and Billy Clarke scoring.
Hand off heart – where do you think you’ll finish this season?
My heart says promotion – my head says we’re capable of reaching the play-offs, but our form could conceivably dip and we might just miss out. We’re currently sat on the fringes of the top six; this team are hard to beat and grind out results, but they’ve lacked fluidity at times.
Largely, this is due to the number of casualties in the treatment room, but they’ve bounced back well. I think things need refining, but League One is weaker overall this year. There is more of a margin for error this time, and that’s why it’s so hard to call how things will end up.
Katie can be followed @bantamsblogger