BRADFORD CITY manager Phil Parkinson believes the unpredictability of League One is why a chasing pack that includes Sheffield United cannot yet be discounted in the race for the play-offs.
The Blades, despite soaring up four places to eighth last weekend, are firm outsiders in the battle for a top-six place thanks to being eight points adrift of Millwall in sixth with just 18 points still up for grabs.
Bradford sit one place and one point above the Lions, while Barnsley are seventh with a game in hand on all their rivals due to being involved in Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final action last weekend.
The Reds, four points adrift of Millwall, look by far the most likely side to force their way into the play-off places.
But Parkinson insists a chasing pack that includes Nigel Adkins’s Blades, Rochdale and Southend United could all yet make a late dash.
“I find that the table in League One can change quite quickly,” said the Bantams chief to The Yorkshire Post. “That is why you can’t discount anyone below us.
“Look at Rochdale: prior to their defeat at Wigan they had won five out of six and everyone saw them as play-off contenders. People might discount them now, but it is dangerous to do that.
“I was also reading a few quotes from Sheffield United recently and how they are still talking about their chances of doing it.
“For me, though, it is not about others. It is just a case of concentrating on ourselves so that when the six games are up we can look back and say we’ve done everything we can to be successful.
“If someone beats us, like Wigan did, we came off the pitch and say we played well on the day. That’s all you can do.
“What we don’t want to do is help teams beat us. They have got to deserve the victory.”
City have hit form at just the right time. Their recent defeat at Wigan is the only blemish on the club’s record over the last six games.
Four of those outings have also brought a clean sheet for the Bantams, who thanks to this fine form have reeled in Walsall and Gillingham to such an extent that victory tomorrow over Swindon Town could, if results go their way elsewhere, lift Parkinson’s men up to third place.
It is a remarkable turnaround considering not so long ago Bradford looked destined for a mid-table finish.
Parkinson believes the entire squad, even those not in the starting XI or even the match-day squad, buying into the spirit of togetherness he has worked so hard to foster at Valley Parade has been a major factor in that charge up the table.
“Man management is part of the job,” he added. “All you can do is speak to the players individually and explain decisions to them.
“You don’t expect players to agree because they obviously think they should be in the team.
“But I have got to make the calls within the best interests of the team for each and every game.”
One of those big calls could come tomorrow thanks to Rory McArdle being back available after several weeks out with a dislocated shoulder.
The Northern Ireland international came through a midweek reserve game with no ill effects and is now pushing for a recall.
Nathan Clarke would, it seems, be the most vulnerable, but the 32-year-old has been in such excellent form alongside Reece Burke that he was this week nominated for League One Player of the Month.
Another selection headache surrounds Steven Davies, whose winner last weekend against Scunthorpe was the fifth time in eight appearances that he has come off the bench to score.
Davies, understandably, wants to start but Parkinson has several other strong options with Jamie Proctor and Billy Clarke having impressed in recent weeks to such an extent that talisman James Hanson has also had to be content with a place on the bench.
“There were lads who didn’t make the squad last week,” explained the Bradford chief. “It is the hard part for me at the moment.
“All I can do is explain decisions as honestly as I can (to the players). It is not the time or the moment for individual grievances if you are not in the team.
“It is about pulling together and driving the squad forward and see where that takes us at the end of the season.”
On Davies, whose goals have come in the wake of two lengthy absences through injury, Parkinson added: “He is a big match player. He has got a lot of experience from playing at a higher level and he’s looking fitter all the time.
I am really pleased with him. He has had a funny year when you document it, but you can only look forward. And he is getting stronger all the time.
“Let’s not forget the games he played earlier in the season. Rochdale away, in particular, was one of our best wins. He made a good contribution before this run of goals he has had.”