The mystery of Matty Dolan and what is to worry about next season

Matty Dolan has signed for Bradford City with talk of the twenty one year old having a major part to play in next’s season team.

It is a realistic aim for the player who after eleven largely uneventful appearances at Valley Parade last season should be settled. If given this time on the slip road to get up to speed Dolan cannot nail down a place in next season’s side then one might expect him to never get such an opportunity again. The odd fine pass here, some tidy work there, there was nothing to suggest that Dolan was not worth the effort of a one year deal.

There is a wider question about what kind of Bradford City we will see next year.

Already Julian Rhodes has talked about two distinct differences the club want in Phil Parkinson’s playing squad next season. It must be cheaper, and more attacking.

“More attacking” first. Please save us from the joint chairmen trying to do football. Both the owners of the club consider themselves to be fans and custodians of the club but one – Mr Rhodes – has decided that part of that remit as protecting the future of the club and supporting it is to weigh in on how Phil Parkinson should be doing his job.

Rhodes would like more attacking football – probably a hope shared by all football supporters – but one doubts that Rhodes would like City to lose more and in all likelihood the Bradford City board would not accept losing more. Given the aims to be cheaper and to improve it is unhelpful to say the least for the boardroom to set the objectives of how those things will be done.

Phil Parkinson might conclude that given that remit: improve, cheaper, more attacking; that he should pay more attention to movements in the manager market in the summer. If that is the case then Julian Rhodes might live to regret his pronouncements, especially if they were just to rustle up more season ticket sales.

That is a worry.

Now “cheaper”. Bradford City have a use of the word “budget” that mocks the English language. The club set a figure what it believes it will get in through sponsorship and league games which is called “the budget”. Then the club spend more than that so are “over budget”.

A good cup run (probably not that good) eats into the gap between the “budget” and the “over budget”, or exceeds it and can be used – for example – to pay the club’s loan to one of it’s directors. We might have a respectable cup run that takes the club to Old Trafford and answers the problems.

Transfer fees work in the same way. Nahki Wells’ sale made the “budget” match the “over budget”. If Derby Country get to the Premier League and want to keep Andre Wisdom then the sell on on his move to Liverpool may do the same and a good World Cup could see Ross Barkley move on and leave a place in the team at Everton for Reserves Captain George Green to step up and start City’s pay per play deal. Oli McBurnie might leave at Christmas after twenty goals for a few million. James Hanson might sign for Barcelona. These things all might happen.

But they might not.

And if they do not Bradford City the club will once again looking to try plug the gap between what Bradford City the business’s directors hoped for and what Bradford City the business achieved. For two seasons Wembley and Wells have paid for the club to be run beyond its means and we can say that that has worked if we ignore the number of seasons that boom-or-bust policies did not (and the mess it left the club in) but while we still have some of the trapping of two good years I worry that the club is not putting anything with any permanence in place.

And that means I worry that the future of the club is down to which players the manager can pull in, when the manager is pushed into decisions by the board.

Rather than collecting the right group with the right attitude – the character of players has been decisive factor over the past three seasons – Parkinson has to sign whoever is cheaper and more attacking.

Which means I’m worry because while Matty Dolan might be the next Gary Jones the problems that come if he and the few others signed this summer do not match up to the performances of their predecessors then the ramifications could undo the progress of the last few years.

The influx of weak character players that was presented starkly

There is a debate at the moment between Bradford City supporters and a consensus seems to be forming from that debate that the woes that befall the club at the moment are because of the sentimental attachment to the players who achieved historic feats with the club at Wembley last season and that the club would be wise to move on from that.

And from move on we should extrapolate the word “players”. Move on those players from last season in order to achieve more next. If you are of a mind to believe that you can call achieving your stated aim as a woe – get up, stay up and so on – then you might buy into this idea. I cannot.

Watching Bradford City since the turn of the year has been alarming. The character which marked out last season’s team seemed to ebb away on a week by week basis culminating in Kyle Bennett’s alarming lack of commitment on Saturday which surrendered a goal.

In fact one could iterate though the players who put in spineless performances and they would make a damning list but foremost on that list would not be the team which is termed History Makers.

That list would not have Andrew Davies or Rory McArdle on it. It would not have Gary Jones on it and not have Garry Thompson either.

You can, dear reader, make another list if you want which suggests that any or all the players who were at the club last season are “not good enough” but to do so – in my estimation – is a wasted effort. At most time I will argue that “good enough” is a modern construct from the days of Championship Manager and the ability to look at players in an entirely statistical way but I need not do that here.

Simply put if a player will not put his heart, his whole heart, into a performance then his ability to bend a ball, play a pass or be accurate is irrelevant. If you’ve come to a different conclusion after watching City last year, or City under Paul Jewell, or City under Trevor Cherry then I’d have to question your grasp of the fundamentals of the game of football.

Application is genesis of success. Without it everything else is just effects.

If anyone were to tell me that Kyle Bennett could be a better player than Garry Thompson if Bennett applied himself I’d be forced to recall something that would make my Auntie my Uncle.

The Bradford City team are lacking application and this is obvious to everyone in the stadium especially Phil Parkinson who – if the talk of last year and what he does not say this is to be believed – thinks along similar lines. Is that application lacking in Jones? In McArdle? In the players from last season? It is not.

And be aware, dear reader, that I’m not talking about mistake making or misjudgements. I’m talking about the foundation of football teams. I’m talking about the willingness of a player to put himself into your performance. I’m talking about players taking responsbility for their own, and their team mate’s, performances.

I’m talking about what drives a goalkeeper to run sixty yards to punch Claude Davies because he has started on your mate and the unwillingness to put your body into a tackle with the Oldham Athletic number three.

Which is not to single out Bennett any more than Bennett singled himself out when he decided that he would acquiesce on a 75:25 ball that favoured him. One could look at how Matty Dolan decided not to track James Wesolowski when Wesolowski scored or Jon Stead’s modest return (although mostly Stead stands accused of underlining just how effective James Hanson is).

And this is not to suggest the problem is with loan players. One could look at Mark Yeates attitude all season which meant that even when a slot in the team opened up Yeates stays on the bench. Or wonder why Jason Kennedy is back at Rochdale. And the less said about Raffaele De Vita the better.

The problem is the players of last season, its the players of this. Its poor recruitment and bringing in players without character into a team which is all about character.

As Parkinson starts to rebuild the team he needs to shake out the last twelve months and build with the foundation stones of Jones, Davies, McArdle, Darby, McLaughlin, Hanson, and so on. Make a case for any or all of them “not being good enough” if you want, suggest they should be got rid of if you want, but do not assume that Parkinson will be able to find a half dozen similar characters and prepare for your better set piece delivery to come in the context of lifeless displays like the defeats to Walsall and Oldham Athletic.

Parkinson has to build a team for next season and he has to build it on what at the club was right this season and not what went wrong and what went wrong was the influx of weak character players that was presented starkly in Kyle Bennett’s meek surrender of the ball that ultimately was the difference between the two teams on Saturday.

The worst player on the pitch

The Team

Jon McLaughlin | Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies, Adam Drury | Kyle Bennett, Gary Jones, Matty Dolan, Adam Reach | Aaron McLean, Jon Stead | Garry Thompson, Oli McBurnie, Mark Yeates

It is decision time for Phil Parkinson as he tries to decide how he will approach next season in League One for Bradford City and what Parkinson does in the next five games will set the tone for next season as surely as Garry Thompson’s blast against Burton Albion in the play-off first leg last season did for this.

Two of those five games are at Valley Parade and that will suit Parkinson fine. Once again Parkinson picked a team to nullify a side and in doing that it seemed he created more problems than he solved. Oldham’s midfield three of James Wesolowski, Korey Smith and Danny Philliskirk did not seem to possess enough to trouble the Bantams yet Gary Jones and Matty Dolan were detailed with stopping Wesolowski and Philliskirk while Jon Stead ended up spending the first half an hour making sure Smith did not create much.

In terms of tactical bargains it is another display of underweaned ambition but last week at Leyton Orient the plan worked well. For all its lack of ambition it may have proved fruitful today but Dolan stopped his job of tracking Wesolowski as Wesolowski went into the area to finish a Jonson Clarke-Harris knock down.

He was not the worst player on the pitch but Dolan added very little to the City cause being neither the defensive break up man which has been lacking in a team without last season’s Nathan Doyle nor especially adapt at going forward although his ball that played in Adam Reach to score City’s equaliser was impressive.

The Bantams had left the 4411 which seemed to directly counter Lee Johnson’s side’s 433 for a flat four at the back, two midfielders behind a row of three supporting the one up front. As fluid as this left the attacking side of City’s game it exposed the backline and City ended up with six players defending all having taken up a man watching Oldham attack with seven.

It was a nice bit of play followed by a powerful finish for Clarke-Harris but Parkinson knows that having four players up field watching an attack is just going to see your team getting beaten. At half time, walking in having nullified, then unbalanced his City team Parkinson probably though that the worst player on the field was probably in the dugout.

And so City reverted to a 442 which pressed onto an Oldham Athletic team but never looked like making a fist of things. There has been a worry that than Bantams lacked a level of commitment and that was manifest today in a performance by Kyle Bennett which fell below the acceptable standard for a player on loan leading me to conclude that the best course of action would be to tell Doncaster Rovers to expect Bennett back in South Yorkshire on Monday.

It was seen when Adam Reach came forward and looked for Bennett ahead of him only to see Bennett hell bent on hiding behind a defender. It was seen in Bennett shoveling the ball off rather than taking responsibility for performance and worst it was seen in the moment when he allowed Jonathan Grounds to take a ball he was favourite for in a City attack and then within five seconds the ball was in City’s goal and as Clarke-Harris took the applause the game was all but over.

I will never criticise a player for getting it wrong, for playing the wrong pass, for missing the goal but for constantly and consistently failing to apply the effort needed culminating in a situation where the Bantams were playing with a liability then I reserve the right to be honest and unmerciful. Playing Kyle Bennett is City wasting playing time as a resource.

I’d rather see Oli McBurnie or Jack Stockdill in the team. McBurnie put his head in where it hurt to get a chance for Mark Yeates to hit the post with and Gray Jones to finish in the last minute of injury time. I’d rather see Garry Thompson in the team. I recall reading that Thompson was the worst player on the pitch in games I thought he played well in and the attempt to replace Thompson has failed.

In fact much of Parkinson’s time now is taken up with looking at how judgement on the quality needed for League One has been wrong. From Jason Kennedy to Bennett there is much to suggest that Parkinson needs to find a better quality of recruit.

Right now he is bringing in players who are the worst player on the pitch.

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