Team of the Decade: Bradford City

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 18: Gary Jones of Bradford City celebrates promotion during the npower League Two play off final between Bradford City and Northampton Town at Wembley Stadium on May 18, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Welcome to Last Word on Football’s team of the decade series. Today we look at the players and manager who have made it into the Bradford City team of the decade. 2010 – 2019 saw the Bantams grind their way to some magical cup moments, come within 90 minutes of being a Championship club, and, devastatingly, regress back to League Two.

The decade included a cup final against Swansea, promotion to League One, and a League One play-off final.

This is the Bradford City team of the decade.

Bradford City Team of the Decade

Manager: Phil Parkinson (Steve Parkin: Assistant manager)

Phil Parkinson took over a free-falling Bradford City side in 2011. At the time things were desperate and Parkinson was a relatively unknown manager after spending time with Colchester United, Hull City and Charlton Athletic. He came into the job with everything to do. The club was in dire straits after narrowly avoiding relegation in the previous two seasons. Phil Parkinson, and his assistant Steve Parkin, provided a stimulus that revived the club and ushered in a new era for Bradford City. You can not overstate the influence that Parkinson and Parkin had on the club and we, the fans, are eternally grateful for the work they put in. The Parkinson and Parkin pair are worthy of managing the Bradford City team of the decade.

Formation: 4-2-2

Bradford City utilised the formation for the duration of the century, with exceptions here and there. Phil Parkinson’s team defended tenaciously and formed a compact, drilled unit.

First Team

Goalkeeper:

We are spoilt for choice in the goalkeeper department with two strong candidates. However, Matt Duke edges out Jon McLaughlin due to his cup heroics.

Displaying his penalty-saving-prowess, Duke was a talisman in the 2012/2013 cup run that gave Bradford fans so many fond memories. A particular highlight being the first-leg against Aston Villa in which he received the man of the match. Duke’s safe hands were vital in the cup run and for that, he has earned himself a place in the Bantams history books.

Right-back:

Who else but Stephen Darby? A consistent performer who showed passion and dedication in each performance. Making over 239 appearances and captaining the club, the Liverpudlian would be, near enough, every Bradford fan’s choice as the right-back in this list. He rarely put a foot wrong and often got overlooked due to how easy he made defending look. The Darby-styled rendition of Don’t You Want Me rang around the stadium in every game he played.

Stephen Darby had to retire from football in 2018 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND). Additionally, Darby, alongside Chris Rimmer, has set up a foundation in order to combat the disease, you can learn more about their work here.

Centre-back:

Andrew Davies‘ imperious heading ability and no-nonsense approach has earned him a place in the team of the decade. His career has been plagued by injury but he has achieved great things nonetheless. Under Phil Parkinson, Davies won promotion from League Two and got to the League Cup final. As well as playing in the team that beat Jose Mourinho’s, then unbeaten at home, Chelsea side.

Centre-back:

Rory McCardle partnered Davies in many games and their on-the-pitch chemistry formed a solid foundation that the rest of the team worked from. McCardle is also known for his attacking contribution as goals from the near post seemed to be his speciality.

His tenacious tackling was a notable trait and stamped authority on the pitch, very much a ‘Parkinson player’

Left-back:

James Meredith always looked like a player destined for higher things when he joined the Bantams in 2012. Meredith’s scampering runs forward offered a great outlet and he offered just as much defensively as offensively.

Meredith’s inclusion is due to his nifty footwork and link-up play with winger Kyel Reid. The two players partnered up to create a formidable attacking threat.

Right Wing:

Mark Marshall wins the battle for right midfield due to his talented feet and ability to get people off their seats. Marshall was one of the players that could turn a game on its head and was a real asset during his time with the club.

Marshall was instrumental in the play-off march and for that alone Marshall is worthy of a place in the team.

Centre Midfield (Captain) :

Gary Jones, the evergreen captain that never seemed to tire. The engine that helped drive the Bantams forward, Gary Jones is potentially the first name on the team sheet when we are discussing the best team of the decade.

His endeavour and attitude exemplify what Bradford fans expect of their players. Hardworking. Determined. Passionate. Jones provided a captain worthy of the armband and deservedly takes the armband in this fantasy team.

Centre Midfield:

Josh Cullen is another one of those players that you just knew was destined for greater things. Fans were clamouring to get the young midfielder to sign a permanent deal, alas we only had two seasons of magic from Cullen as he returned to his parent club.

A midfield dynamo, the young man put in very mature performances assuring himself a spot within the team.

Left-Wing:

Kyel Reid takes the left berth of the midfield. His link-up with Meredith was a solid attacking threat throughout his time at the club. Reid will tear you apart again was often sung as Reidy tore through opposition defences and was one of the very few out-and-out attacking players that loved a direct run with the ball. Like Marshall on the opposite flank, his inclusion in the team is due to the excitability they would often bring to the games.

Striker:

James Hanson was the epitome of the Bradford side that Phil Parkinson created. Simple, yet effective. The 6ft 4 target man was instrumental in so many ways. Joining City as a young lad with a somewhat gangly frame, he progressed into a bulky battering ram. Offensively he provided an out ball, but he was more than something to aim at. He schooled defenders in the dark arts of hold-up play. Moreover, Hanson turned into a star defender when it came to corners.

Some fans criticised him due to a perceived lack of skill, but Hanson is easily one of the more talented forwards we have seen at Bradford in the last decade. He outshined plenty of hyped-up forward players who in the end sat on the bench while he went on to make 335 appearances.

Striker:

Nahki Wells – the little to Hanson’s large. The Bermudian poacher was a deadly finisher and was Bradford City’s best chance of a goal in most games. He could sometimes seem invisible in games yet he’d almost always pop up with a goal and remind everyone that he was always lurking. The best finisher we have seen in a Bradford shirt in recent years, it would be heresy to leave him out, even if he did break a few hearts by joining Huddersfield.

You can revisit some of his best goals here.

Substitutes

Who makes the bench in the Bradford City Team of the Decade?

Jon McLaughlin – McLaughlin could have easily been the number 1 starter in the team. He was under-appreciated for some time but he won fans over with solid performances.

Jon Stead – Out of all the journey-man strikers to join us Steady popped up with some solid goals including a rocket against Chelsea. Talented footballer and was a good player for us.

Reece Burke – A stand out at centre back for his age. He could have made it into the team if he had stayed longer, but it is hard to break into that pairing of Davies and McCardle.

Matthew Killgallon – Another top defender that made a huge difference to the defence. A strong candidate for the team itself.

Filipe Morais – A fine winger that was another Parkinson archetypal player. Hard-working, willing to defend, and could deliver a fine cross.

Will Atkinson – A somewhat dividing figure, Atkinson played in all seven games in the build-up to the League Cup final and deserves his place in the team.

Nicky Law – Law was another that divided opinion, but I feel that he was utilised in many different ways under Stuart McCall and was an important cog in the team’s midfield.

Main Photo

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