Sutton’s Signings: Odusina would be a stellar acquisition for Bradford City

Mark Hughes’ job as Bradford City boss is his first managerial role outside the top flight, so the wily Welshman’s task this summer is to build a squad that can challenge for promotion.

The Bantams are hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of ninth, 15th and 14th-place finishes since relegation to League Two in 2019, so their summer recruitment is as important as it has ever been.

The West Yorkshire outfit have moved quickly already, bringing Colin Doyle back to Valley Parade as goalkeeping competition for Harry Lewis, signed from Hughes’ former club Southampton.

Attacking midfielder Jamie Walker – who was on loan from Hearts last term – rejoins permanently, while defender Matty Platt, midfielder Ryan East and forward Jake Young round off the other additions to date.

Before looking at who would complement these arrivals, we caught up with Matt Kula from The Bantams Chirper.

Firstly, how would you assess last season?

MK: “As standard, football fans are fickle creatures. After a bright pre-season and positivity surrounding the appointment of Derek Adams, failure to win promotion at the third time of asking, left fans of League Two’s best supported club understandably disappointed.

“The mood was again lifted towards the end of the season with the appointment of Mark Hughes as the club finished strongly with 3 wins.

“We also set a new club record for a 4th division attendance with a staggering total of 18,283 against Carlisle, for what was all intents and purposes a “meaningless” game.

“Although it was disappointing not to be at the top end of the table, I do see enough signs around the club that it’s beginning to stabilise, and it’s only a matter of time before we reap the rewards from the ongoing efforts of CEO, Ryan Sparks.”

What do you make of the released/retained list and your business in general so far?

MK: “Very impressed. Unlike last season, the manager is already in place and there’s been a real aggression to getting business done early. Including players who have announced they’ll re-sign, a total of 10 signings have been announced to date.

“After a host of draws last season – scoring goals was a real source of concern, and the permanent signing of attacking midfielder, Jamie Walker from Scottish Premiership side Hearts is promising.

“Loan signing of 19-year-old striker Kian Harratt (who scored for Port Vale at the League Two Play-Off Final) is also exciting.

“From the players who have been released, the only one who I was slightly surprised with was Callum Cooke.

“He was many fans player of the year for the 2020/2021 season – only to fall out of favour in a Derek Adams side, who consistently blamed the starting XI’s ability to score goals. He’s still only 25 – and I’m sure could have contributed more to the squad.”

What is the aim for this window and what positions would you like to see strengthen and why?

MK: “The aim is to add more of an attacking threat and build on a solid core group of players.

“With Lee Angol unlikely to be able to stay fit for a full season, and an over reliance on Andy Cook – we’ve already signed 2 strikers in Jake Young from Forest Green & Kian Harratt.

“As we normally only play with one striker, this does leave the club at risk of “stockpiling” forwards.

“Still, for me you can never have enough goal scorers in the squad, and I’d like another experienced physical striker with mobility who can hold the ball up and bring others in to play.

“Otherwise, it largely depends on who re-signs (centre midfielder Elliot Watt, winger Charles Vernam and centre half Paudie O’Connor have all being offered new deals – pending their acceptance).

“Again I’d tend to be more forward thinking – and hope we’d sign at least another couple of forward players, be it wingers, or attacking midfielders to help bolster the attack.”

What should be the target for next season?

MK: “Aside from the obvious, promotion, I think it’s absolutely vital that we can stop the merry go round of changing managers, and give Mark Hughes 2 or 3 years to actually build a squad, and vision.

“If we can finish the season with the same manager who started it – that would be absolutely huge for the long-term aspirations of the club.”

With that in mind, here are my picks for the rest of the Bantams’ business…


Centre-back:

Timi Odusina (Hartlepool United) –

The left-footed centre-back won multiple man-of-the-match awards at Hartlepool last season but, having stalled on talks over a new contract, could be available this summer and has been linked with Bradford.

Quick, strong, accomplished in possession and adept with both feet, Odusina has it all: he would be a stellar signing, arguably an upgrade on Paudie O’Connor.


Winger:

David Ajiboye (Sutton United) –

Ajiboye’s career so far has been carved in the south, but if the Sutton United wide man could be lured to Yorkshire, he might make a huge difference for the Bantams next season.

The 23-year-old can attack the byline like a classic winger, but he’s also capable of cutting inside and creating via a chipped cross which, combined with quick feet, makes the former Brighton academy graduate a devilishly tough player to predict.

5’8”, Ajiboye can struggle with the physicality of the game at times, but his work rate is impeccable and if he can use the summer to build his upper-body strength, then he could be one of the best wingers in the division.

Central midfielder:

Kieran Green (Halifax Town) – 

Bradford have missed a leadership presence in midfield for a long time, arguably going back to the days of Gary Jones. They are not exactly short of midfielders, with Yann Songo’o, Alex Gilliead, Levi Sutton, Reece Staunton and Kian Scales in the mix, plus Elliot Watt if he renews, but Kieran Green would bring something different.

Halifax Town conceded just 35 goals in the National League last season and Green was a key part of that, shielding the back-line with smart positioning and strong organisational qualities, whilst moving the ball forward quickly.

If the 24-year-old can be lured half an hour up the road, he could become a key cog for Bradford, as they look to shake off recent years of disappointment.


Striker:

Danny Hylton – (Luton Town)

A stretch? Perhaps, given that Hylton started five Championship games last season, scored four league goals across the 17 appearances and will not only have League One offers, but also the opportunity to stay in the south.

There may be a chance, though, that the 33-year-old can be swayed up north and to League Two, because Bradford have in Mark Hughes a manager who will attract high-calibre players.

Hylton is a proven goalscorer in the fourth tier, having hit 21 in both his previous two campaigns at that level, and his link-up play and knowhow would really complement younger forwards like Kian Harratt and Jake Young.

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Author: Paula Bryant