Bradford City, Where now for Bradford City and David Hopkin?

Where now for Bradford City and David Hopkin?

To blow a two-goal lead at any time during a football match is unacceptable.

Most managers would be left screaming at their players, fans would be incredibly frustrated and more often than not, a squad of footballers confidence would be shattered.

To blow a two-goal lead, with six minutes of a match remaining then, would be unforgivable; but in this sense, it hardly seems surprising with the obvious fact that the Bradford City camp is so terribly void of confidence at present.

In this weekends game against Blackpool in which the Bantams threw away 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the Tangerines, it was such a bitterly disappointing end to a game in which the tide had slowly begun to turn, after a torrid start to the season for Bradford City.

The Hopkin Effect

The Bantams parted company with their fourth manager of 2018 last Monday as Michael Collins saw his time as the Head Coach of Bradford City cut somewhat short. The club reacted quickly last Tuesday, by appointing David Hopkin as the club’s new manager, and this renewed some hope within the clubs fanbase who were hoping that the no-nonsense Scotsman will bring a gutsy regime to Valley Parade – and won’t stand for any nonsense at the helm.

Hopkin’s tenure at Valley Parade will be one which unlike in most jobs, fans won’t expect immediate success. The Scotsman has clearly inherited a team who are undoubtedly void of confidence and low on morale, but also a team who do offer some form of potential going forward.

After starting the season under the leadership of a manager who had virtually no real coaching expertise, a group of players brought in by a transfer committee at Valley Parade have clearly been confused and unorganised in terms of how they should play with one another.

Phil Parkinson’s regime at Valley Parade was characterised by a pragmatic, dogmatic style of football in which a Bradford City side would win ugly, even when not at their best. Stuart McCall brought attractive, beautiful attacking football that saw equally as much success as his predecessor in the role. Simon Grayson, whilst not having the best managerial spell of his career at Valley Parade had an identity and a plan, and that was to make Bradford City a side who did just enough to be an okay team, but failed to capture the imagination of fans.

Michael Collins had no real identity, and his players looked confused. This isn’t an article bashing Collins and whatever he wanted his Bradford City side to do, but these players have been under his instructions for the past few weeks before Hopkin has now walked into the building and stamped down his authority.

The Scotsman clearly wants to introduce a more Parkinson-like form of football, which will mean that Bradford City may need some added height in the attacking-ranks, and it showed that he has his philosophy this weekend, with Jack Payne’s goal all starting with a long ball and an Eoin Doyle flick-on.

Hopkin won’t make his Bradford City team one that’s easy on the eye, but he will make them difficult to beat and a nightmare at set-pieces.

Hopkin’s Checklist

To do this though, he needs to do several things first.

His first immediate priority is bringing a steeliness and mental-toughness to this Bradford City side, who may have become slightly disillusioned with their own capabilities after the past few weeks. He needs to put an arm around some players shoulders and get them enjoying their football, but also everybody buying into the same common-goal, which isn’t achieved in a week.

Of course, Blackpool got a penalty, heads dropped and after a turbulent few weeks the wheels came off. By January though, you can imagine a David Hopkin side wouldn’t fall to pieces in such an alarming fashion.

A good start would be naming his own captain and both Ryan McGowan and Richard O’Donnell seem to fall  comfortably into that character, with both showing a strong vocal presence both on and off the pitch. The captains armband and Bradford City is a huge deal and the McCall’s, Jones’ and Jackson’s of the past were fantastic custodians of the club and ones who knew what it meant to be part of Bradford City. Josh Wright is in early days of his time with Bradford City, but doesn’t seem to fit the authoritative, grab a game by the scruff of the neck type of captain Bantams fans have endeared themselves to over the years.

Hopkin clearly wants to play a pragmatic brand of football and could do with bringing in a strong, aerial presence in both his midfield and attacking options – but is somewhat limited with the fact the transfer window is shut.

Although there are several free-agents kicking around and Hopkin will more-or-less have to deal with the hand he’s been given, he has a big January ahead of him when it comes around.

Bradford City fans have largely applauded the clubs summer recruitment, but despite the fact they seem to have brought in talented individuals such as Jack Payne, Sean Scannell and Eoin Doyle, the transfer committee that’s been set-up at Valley Parade misses one crucial point. The manager picks the team and his style of play.

Yes, there have been rumours that higher powers pick the team at Valley Parade, but with Hopkin’s obvious movement to a more direct style of play, the transfer committee obviously doesn’t take into account that issue. Hopkin’s now limited with no real aerial presence up-front, which means he will have to adopt his own individual style to suit what he’s been given; which is not ideal for a manager who’s been successful with his personal brand before.

When it comes to January, it’s time Hopkin has the choice in who he brings in, and it really should spell the end of this ‘transfer committee’ which obviously hasn’t allowed for the scenario of losing a head-coach and a manager wanting to adopt a new style of football. Greg Abbott has been a fantastic servant to this club and has brought in some great players – but his time may well be up, and its painfully obvious now that Hopkin needs to be backed, and left to do what he knows to do.

To summarise, this weekend was for many reasons a disaster. The capitulation in the last ten minutes is worrying and shows this Bradford City team does have real frailty.

But, for many reasons this weekend was a step in the right direction. Bradford City have a manager who knows what he wants, the club took a huge away support and also things looked somewhat better on the pitch for a period in the second-half.

This is a huge rebuilding job and will take time, and it’s a good thing we’re only in September, but now its over to David Hopkin to get this club and fanbase back together as one.

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