Bradford City have been in good form lately and although they were comprehensively beaten at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United on Monday, they could well be on for a serious play off push.

Fans are optimistic, the players believe and The Bantams can climb up the table with victory in their games in hand.

However, much of this relies on one vital cog in Bradford’s defence in West Ham loanee Reece Burke.

The 19 year old centre back, highly regarded at Upton Park, has taken to League One like a fish to water.

Reservations could well have been raised about how a young ball playing defender would cope in the third tier of English football, due to the physicality of strikers and the long ball style used by so many teams at that level.

However, Burke has taken to League One exceptionally well. He now looks like the leader amongst Bradford’s defensive line and he has managed to transfer to the third tier, whilst still keeping his playing style at the forefront of his game.

He plays out from the back, brings the ball down in defence and on the ball, is as good technically as any of The Bantams outfield players.

Not only this, his defensive skills are also superb. Burke has been strong in the tackle and in the air since signing for The Bantams, adding much needed solidity to the backline after the loss of Andrew Davies. He was part of a defence who conceded just two goals in 15 hours of football.

His 6′ 2″ frame is a valuable addition to any side and also makes him a threat at the other end of the pitch, with the youngster unlucky to have not added to his tally of one goal for The Bantams.

Burke also is yet to make an error which has led directly to a goal for The Bantams, incredible considering he is a young player who is experiencing his first consistent spell of first team football. He has dealt with the pressure of performing for one of the biggest crowds in League One very well and has shown a maturity beyond his years with performances of strength, composure and professionalism.

With his parent club West Ham apparently keen for him to find Championship football on loan in January, rather than staying in League One, the next step for Burke could be vital.

What he needs now, more than anything, is a club who will give him the game time he so desperately needs, as well as allowing him to play the way he wants- out from the back, on the floor and with composure and guile.

West Ham fans may well have their reservations about Burke. They have seen him feature for the first team and do a decent job, but the lesson he got taught by Romelu Lukaku towards the end of last season also serves as a reminder that he is far from the finished article.

However, Burke has proven in his Bradford loan spell that he has all the raw attributes to make it as a top level defender, who is also capable of playing an attractive brand of football.

Bradford have had other stand out players this term, particularly Tony McMahon, but you would be hard pressed to make an argument against Burke being their player of the season so far.

His loan deal runs out after City’s trip to Gillingham on Saturday and it is important that the decisions made after this are correct, as Burke needs to continue playing regular football.

He is far from the finished article but if the correct decisions are made and Burke is afforded game time and opportunities, the sky really is the limit for the 19 year old from Newham.

This is a boy with all the attributes to go to the very top…


About Author

First year Journalism Studies student at The University of Sheffield. Bradford City supporter. Lover of all things football.