ONE win in 15 league games is not the sort of form to send a team to face a derby rival in fine heart.
But Bradford City and a sizeable travelling army of their fans will head to Bramall Lane today in buoyant spirits thanks to the signing of Aaron Mclean.
The 30-year-old’s arrival at Valley Parade on Thursday perked up supporters and players alike, something that was badly needed following the sale of Nahki Wells to Huddersfield Town the previous week.
Suddenly, a sense of anticipation surrounds Bradford and manager Phil Parkinson is determined to utilise that in the derby with the Blades.
Parkinson said: “Aaron coming in has given everyone a lift. It has been really good for the club and, I believe, it shows how far we have come.
“There was a lot of interest in Aaron, as you would expect for a striker like him. So, we had to sit him down and tell him about the club and what we want to achieve.
“He clearly liked what we had to say and the signing has given a big lift to us all. We needed it, as it is never easy losing your top scorer. That is always going to hit a club hard.
“But with a quality player like Aaron now in the door, you can sense a bit of anticipation in the air. Our results haven’t been great, everyone knows that. But we now have a great chance to get things going again in a Yorkshire derby.”
City sit 12th in the table, nine points adrift of Walsall in the final play-off place after the Saddlers beat Oldham Athletic in midweek to move up to sixth.
Parkinson’s men occupied that position as recently as the end of November, even though at that stage they had won just once in their previous eight games.
The Bantams’ manager said: “Results lately have been disappointing, but, in the bigger scheme of things, 12th position in our first season after winning promotion isn’t the worst performance.
“Obviously, we would all prefer to be higher, and a couple of wins would be a big help in that respect.
“We started the season really well. Unfortunately, we have not been able to maintain that momentum. There are reasons for that, but I do believe we can start winning again soon and, hopefully, get back up that table.”
City beat Sheffield United when the White Rose rivals met at Valley Parade in August.
For the Blades, it was one of many demoralising defeats in the opening weeks under new manager David Weir.
The Scot was sacked in October, paving the way for Nigel Clough’s arrival as manager.
United have improved markedly since then, as illustrated earlier this month when Premier League side Aston Villa were knocked out of the FA Cup on home soil by the South Yorkshire outfit.
That said, defeat at Notts County a week ago means they sit just one point above the relegation zone – a position that Parkinson certainly did not envisage United occupying when the season got under way in August.
The Bradford manager said: “It has been a surprise, how Sheffield United have done.
“You would have expected a club of their size to be up there challenging.
“But this game isn’t about Sheffield United, it is about how we play.”