Issue Brandon stays at City and provides an option in the middle

As told by Michael Wood

It is hard to imagine it some thirteen months on but Chris Brandon was a player to get excited about when he joined Bradford City.

A Bantam as a boy and a player who worked up through football the hard way after being released from City when young Brandon’s long return fell flat after pre-season injury kept him out of most of last term.

Unwiling to take a pay cut the former Huddersfield man – as he is dubbed when one refers to him in any way that is negative – has now been told that he can stay at Valley Parade becoming perhaps the club’s top earner following the departures of Graeme Lee and Paul McLaren along with Michael Boulding and Peter Thorne agreeing pay cuts.

The onus is now on Brandon to wear that mantel better. As a City fan and a midfielder he should be perfect choice for captain but such an honour seems to remain a distant prospect.

Having played less than a fistful of effective games last year performance seems to be key to Brandon’s season. He has yet to convince and remains an isolated figure in the left flank not fast enough to beat a man for pace, showing some guile to drift inside band make play.

Perhaps then Brandon’s talents could be used to address another issue in central midfield. The winger is not the number four we seek but he could be a second number eight.

Tucking Brandon alongside Lee Bullock would leave a midfield light on ball winning – never a good thing – but big on creative ability at this level and would more closely resemble the Steven Schmacher and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson central two of Colin Todd’s time at the club or the now infamous Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard pairing for England.

Such pairings proved limited and were forged in preference to throwing a Lee Crooks, Tom Kearney or Gareth Barry into the mix but City’s under Stuart McCall would be born from need. The manager can not find a player to win the ball in midfield as he did so effectively as a player so he changes plan and moves from a “stop them” to a “stop us” midfield.

Football is a balance and this would typically push that balance out of kilter and comes with other issues such as the question of who plays on the left hand side but it may be preferable to fielding ten players one has confidence in and another weaker name simply because he is nominally, if not in practice, a ball winning number four.

Such responsibility of tracking back would be shared by the midfield pair and one would be confident in the approach of Bullock but Brandon would need to understand the requirement to spend as much time in our half as the oppositions.

Should he do that he might just be a signing to get excited about at last.