BRADFORD CITY MEETING THE OPPOSITION.
Tranmere Rovers are hoping that they can perform a resurrection of their own over this Easter weekend as their previous result, a draw against Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers, sees them placed outside of the League Two Play-offs.
On Good Friday, Micky Mellon’s men travel to Bradford to face Mark Hughes’ Bantams and with their away form a massive reason for them being placed outside of the top seven they will be dreaming of a perfect afternoon with as little as five games left.
Former Manchester City boss Mark Hughes took over from Bradford in late February and to find a little bit more out about his spell at Valley Parade so far, amidst more topics, I spoke to Freelance Sports Journalist Adam Sopf.
How long have you been a Bradford City supporter and what started your love for the club?
My dad took me to my first game (Leeds at home) when I was 14, and my love for City started instantly. A late comeback saw us beat Leeds 2-1 thanks to a stunner from fans favourite Billy Knott and the winner from James Hanson. I finally got the bragging rights at school, and I’ve loved going ever since. Even though it’s been a downward spiral since then!
The Bantams are currently positioned 15th in the League Two table, what were your expectations going into the season and how would you assess the way the past year has gone?
I think every City fan expected us to go up this season after the appointment of Derek Adams and our impressive start. We picked up 10 points in August, but since then, it’s been a terrible time to be a Bradford City fan. Since August, we’ve picked up just two home wins, which is not acceptable. Derek Adams’ dire football disconnected many fans from the club as we look to stagnate in League Two once again. I’d say the 3-1 loss at home to Harrogate Town after Adams was sacked was my worst experience as a City fan, there seemed to be absolutely no hope!
Mark Hughes is the man in the City dugout, following his appointment in late February, what are the fans’ thoughts of him and was it the right time to part ways with Derek Adams?
Fans were ecstatic when Mark Hughes was announced as our new manager. It’s the first time he’s ever managed outside of the Premier League, and it shook the football world because no one saw it coming. I think fans were even more pleased with the appointment as it restored some hope for us fans after watching Derek Adams’ dark age football all season.
The sacking of Derek Adams came a bit too late. It was obvious that he’d lost the dressing room and the fans earlier than most people thought and it’s said that he had a very negative effect on the club, not just on the pitch but around the training ground as well. His interviews towards the end of his reign lost the fans after he called out 18-year-old Finn Cousin-Dawson and club captain Niall Canavan, who left the club three days after due to an apparent bust-up with Adams. Every City fan was happy to see the back of him.
Who is the owner of Bradford City and what are the supporters’ thoughts on them?
Stefan Rupp is our owner and our supporters have split opinions on him. Many thank him for helping to keep us afloat during the pandemic but under his tenure, the club’s been in constant decline. Supporters began to question whether it was time for him to sell after another dismal season in League Two and another failed managerial appointment.
However, the appointment of Mark Hughes has stopped most of the negative talk surrounding Rupp, but if Hughes fails to succeed at Bradford City then it has to be time for Rupp to sell.
Who would you say are your side’s key players and where will the on-pitch battles be held on Good Friday?
Paudie O’Connor and Yann Songo’o seem to be creating a good centre-back partnership after four clean sheets in our last six games.
Defensive midfielder Elliot Watt continues to impress under Hughes and his range of passing is far too good for League Two. Watt has been a scapegoat all season due to his lack of concentration but if he cuts that out of his game, then he’s destined to play at a higher level.
On-loan winger Dion Pereira looks to be a special player and will be a handful for Tranmere’s defence and so will Charles Vernam if he starts.
How do you see the upcoming ninety minutes panning out and what is your score prediction?
It’ll be an interesting game due to City’s poor home form and Tranmere’s poor away form, but we have nothing left to play for whereas Tranmere are fighting for promotion so I’m going for 1-0 Tranmere. Especially as we seem to be struggling for goals.
What starting eleven will be selected by Hughes and what is his opted playing style?
We’ll be seeing Portsmouth loanee Alex Bass between the sticks with Hendrie at right-back, O’Connor and Songo’o in the middle of the defence and ex-Tranmere defender Liam Ridehalgh at left-back.
Elliot Watt is pretty much guaranteed to start as we look a poor side without him. Gareth Evans has been Hughes’ preferred choice next to Watt with Jamie Walker sat just in front.
Pereira and Gilliead started out wide in our last game, but I think we may see Vernam starting due to the impact he’s been having when he’s come on.
Andy Cook has started up front all season and is likely to again, but I’d like to see Lee Angol start due to Cook’s poor form.
Mark Hughes clearly likes to play a possession-based playing style which is nice to see after being treated to utter dross all season thanks to Derek Adams.
What moments/goals/experiences stand out for you in previous Tranmere v Bradford fixtures?
Our win at Prenton Park in 2014 which sent Tranmere down to League Two probably stands out the most for me.
Finally, touching on the January transfer window, how influential have incomings such as full-back Luke Hendrie been and what would you like the club to do in the summer in terms of their recruitment?
Our January business was generally poor, as it usually is for us. It lacked direction and that’s shown in the second half of the season. Dion Pereira, on-loan from Luton Town, has stood out the most out of all our January incomings. He looks capable of beating any player 1 on 1 and his skills get the fans going. I’d love to have him back next season, but he’s destined for bigger things.
Summer will be a very interesting time for City fans as we see how Mark Hughes will cope on a much smaller budget than what he’s previously been used to. However, he must have some great contacts and friends at the top level of the game. Expectations are huge for the summer and next season.
Valley Parade plays host to Bradford City v Tranmere Rovers this Good Friday. The last three games here between the two clubs have finished in Tranmere victories.