Bradford City v Sheffield United: Blades target Parkinson hoping for derby upset

Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

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PHIL PARKINSON is adamant his much-touted summer switch to Sheffield United “was not as close as many think” but admits to being left unsettled at the time by the possibility of Bradford City being taken over.

The Bantams chief is the sixth longest serving manager in the country after recently celebrating his fourth anniversary at Valley Parade.

At one stage in late May, however, Parkinson appeared destined for Bramall Lane after United made an official approach to speak to the 47-year-old following Nigel Clough’s dismissal.

City, who were the subject of failed takeover by Italian businessman Gianni Paladini in those early summer months, rebuffed the enquiry and last week agreed a new three-year contract with not only Parkinson but also his entire coaching staff.

Tomorrow will see Bradford and the Blades meet in front of what could be Valley Parade’s first 20,000-plus league crowd in more than 13 years.

“It wasn’t as close as many think,” said Parkinson to The Yorkshire Post when asked about a saga that dominated the agenda of both clubs for several weeks. “It was around about the time of the takeover and, in my mind, I was a little bit concerned about that. I will be honest with you about that.

“Things did come out in the press and people think things are further down the line than it actually is. It was an unsettling period at the club, full stop. That month was certainly unsettling for myself and my family. But the good thing about me, Julian (Rhodes) and Mark (Lawn) is that we have a very open relationship.

“We had a good chat about things and, in fairness, Julian said then that he would like to sort a contract out. The only reason it took so long to do is I wanted all the staff to have the same.

“I said when I signed the contract last week that we are continually looking to build the club. I am the fifth or sixth longest serving manager. The club has also been in the same hands for a long period of time, and that is unusual. Certainly not the norm.

“I am enjoying working with Julian and Mark. We all have a good relationship.”

City go into tomorrow’s high noon derby on the back of an upturn in form that has taken Parkinson’s men into mid-table after a disappointing start.

As pleasing as the current four-game unbeaten run is, however, the Bantams manager remains vexed by what he views as unfair treatment that James Hanson is receiving from referees.

Parkinson has prepared a DVD of fouls given against Hanson that he feels should have gone the other way and plans to meet Football League referees’ chief, David Allinson, to seek answers.

Parkinson said: “It has been going for a while, some of the decisions going against James are totally unexplainable. At least two or three times a game, we look round at each other (on the bench) and think, ‘What is that about?’

“I can’t work them out so have decided to make a compilation DVD of certain incidents. I will give Dave Allinson a call and see if he will come and meet me to explain some of the decisions.

“Hanson is the most honest player in how he attacks the ball and people are dragging him all over the pitch. At times, he has two or three pulling at his shirt.

“But the free-kicks are then going against him. It is getting to the point where it is totally ridiculous.

“Whether teams are looking at him and every time he goes for the ball, they throw themselves to the floor. Maybe they work on it in training?

“James Hanson needs more protection from the referees. We keep moaning about it but, this week, I have decided to do something about it. I want to ask Dave, who is head of the referees, what more can we do?”

Brad Jones could make his first start for Bradford following his arrival last month but Josh Morris is out with knee ligament damage.

Ahead of what could be City’s biggest league gate since 20,209 that watched West Brom win promotion in April, 2009, Parkinson replied: “Everyone says Sheffield United are outright favourites to win the league and with the squad they have got that is probably correct.

“But we all want to upset them and let’s hope we can.”

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