By Mahesh Johal
When you signed on loan last season I wasn’t that impressed. You were the guy that crippled Kyle Reid at Sheffield and I disliked you for that. You were a wind up merchant that thrived off annoying opponents. I don’t mind that, but you reminded me of cheap imitation of Dean Windass. At least Deano backed up his eccentric behaviour by banging in twenty goals a season.
What were you offering to the side? Was it your “versatility”? I wasn’t sure of your of position (to be honest, I still don’t) but I guess you were a solid backup who could fill several voids. I didn’t go to Doncaster on Good Friday but I heard you made an impact in the second half. Set pieces were apparently your forte, but I don’t remember seeing your full repertoire of skills. Fast forward a few months and you signed a two-year deal. I wasn’t that excited by your return.
After all the optimism of £149, we started the season pretty poorly. We lacked quality, guts, guile and leadership. Your best mate Andrew Davies had gone to Scotland. Hanson was struggling for form. Our marquee signings were either injured or off colour. We needed someone to step up to grab this team by the horns.
On a wet October Saturday afternoon in Rochdale, I saw you be that person. I saw you fly into tackles, and add a bite and nastiness that the team was previously missing. Kyle Reid got the plaudits that day but your role in that game did not go unnoticed by the travelling fans. That win was vital in starting that run before Christmas. Come May time, we may even look at that result as one of the most important three points of the campaign.
A different proposition to the likes of Morias and Anderson, you have made the right side of midfield your own. Fans raved and reminisced last week about the predecessor of that role, Will Atkinson. In the lead up to the Southend game, there was much talk about Atkinson's influence on the History Makers side. I’d argue that you have been as crucial, if not more so, for this seasons class.
You and Darby have provided us fans with a safety blanket on that right flank. It lacks the tricks and skills, but it is composed, workmanlike and tireless. Its quintessential Bradford.
Your set piece ability has been supreme all season. 17 assists for the season now isn’t it? Whenever we score a goal, you always seem to be the last player to congratulate the goalscorer. You then celebrate in front of the fans with a double handed fist pump. We hear the manager talk about togetherness within this group. You epitomise this after each and every goal.
We saw that celebration four times since last week. Your exquisite free kick last Tuesday is an odds on winner for the club’s goal of the month. A wonderful, curling effort, that free kick has been a long time coming. You’ve been close on many occasion, so it was nice to see one nestle in the top corner. You then set up Hanson from a corner for the second goal.
On Saturday you were again the go to man to provide the goals. Firstly, your driven pass into the six yard box was tucked home by Rory McArdle (what a week it’s been for him, ey?!). And then yet again, it was one of your corners, this time thudded home by Steven Davies. At 2-2, I thought we could nick it. There was a moment when you hounded a Rochdale player and intercepted the ball. It’s things like that lift the roof off our stadium. You were revved up, we were revved up. If we are going to sneak into the Play Offs, we’ll need more players to follow that lead and desire.
I don’t know if this in an apology for doubting you, or a letter of appreciation. It’s probably a mix of the two. Even those who were happy when you returned couldn’t have foreseen the impact you have had on this side. You have been one of the key contributors in getting us into the position we are in. It’s not always been pretty. But when we struggled in September, you stood up in your unique manner and helped drag this team back into form. Even with the impending return of our injured creative wingers, I am sure you’ll have an important say in where this side finishes in the table. You’ve been great all season, keep up the good work and cross us into the play-offs!Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Johal is an exiled Bradford City season ticket holder currently living in Manchester. His favourite player is a toss-up between Peter Beagrie and James Hanson.