IT IS tinsel and not training which has been occupying the thoughts of Bradford City players for most of this week.
Afforded the opportunity of a rare break in the club’s arduous schedule, Bantams chief Phil Parkinson gave his players a few days off earlier this week and ordered them to get festive.
The motto has very much been ‘preparation is relaxation’ ahead of City’s return to action at home to Brentford in the second round of the FA Cup tonight, although it is debatable whether Christmas shopping falls into that bracket for your average footballer.
Parkinson, whose League Two game at Bristol Rovers on Saturday was their 11th game in all competitions in a month, said: “Once Friday is over, it’s Saturday-Tuesday again and there will not be a great deal of time over the Christmas period for the lads to have off. This period was a bit of a break for them to do the Christmas shopping and do whatever they had to do with their wives and kids.
“It was good to have a few days off, so that everyone could recharge the batteries.
“Physically and mentally, it was a chance to switch off and we even gave the lads who have not been playing the time off as well.
“It was much-needed with December being such a busy month with the Christmas period.
“With teams at the top level, a lot of their work is getting teams to recover properly.
“With the volume of games we have had, we fall into that category. Our time on the training pitch has been limited and it’s mainly down to tactical stuff rather than physical training.
“Now we are ready to go again for another round of games and we are looking forward to it.
“I am actually quite pleased the game is on Friday as we get the extra day to prepare (for midweek) and it also gives the management staff a chance on Saturday to watch some games and do some homework on the opposition.”
Tonight’s tie with the in-form Bees, who recently signed former Bantams loanee Rob Kiernan from Wigan, is City’s first of eight until the end of the year.
That could be nine if they draw with the West Londoners, with a provisional replay date being December 18.
That would represent their third long trip ‘down south’ in the space of a week, with league games scheduled for Southend on December 15 and Wycombe seven days later.
If a replay transpires, Parkinson says he and his troops will deal with it.
The City chief, who confirmed injured wingers Zavon Hines and Kyel Reid are still a few weeks off returning, is expected to freshen up his side tonight, although he admits he has one eye on selection for Tuesday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy televised game at Port Vale.
Parkinson, still hoping for permission from Watford to field loan player Craig Forsyth tonight, added: “We have given many lads a game in the cup matches and have tended to make five or six changes. It’s been good for the morale of the squad and quite often, the players who are fresh with a point to prove have also got a chance.
“But I have difficult decisions to make because of Tuesday, the ruling is you have to play six players you have played in most of the games this season or in the previous game. But we will get there.
“We hope it is not a replay with the scenario of another trip to London. But while the best way is to win first time, the second best is a replay. If it is a replay, we will deal with it.”
On Uwe Rosler’s Bees, unbeaten in eight matches and having beaten League One high-fliers Sheffield United 2-0 at Griffin Park last weekend, he added: “Friday is a big opportunity, but it will be a really difficult game because Brentford are flying. In the games, we have had them watched, they have been superb. They have a good chance of promotion.
“But for me, playing a team in the league above you is a good test for you as a team.”
Parkinson is delighted that influential midfielder Nathan Doyle has been freed to play tonight after having his controversial red card at the Memorial Stadium rescinded.
He immediately decided to appeal the decision after TV replays showed no evidence of Doyle kicking Rovers midfielder Seanan Clucas in a stoppage-time fracas after the home player made a late challenge on James Meredith in last weekend’s 3-3 draw.
He said: “It was important we have Nathan available. It was more of a principle thing really.
“He ran over to the player, but did not do what the referee said he did, which is kick out at his opponent.
“When we read the report, we knew that clearly Nathan had not done that and we owed it to ourselves and Nathan to appeal and we did.”
Last six games: Bradford City DWLDWD; Brentford WWDWWW.
Last time: Bradford City 1 Brentford 1; April 4, 2009; League Two.
Referee: G Sutton (Lincolnshire).