PHIL PARKINSON has never been a fan of a mid-season break.
The foibles of an English winter has seen to that with, as the Bradford City manager points out, no-one able to predict with even a semblance of confidence as to when the worst of the weather may strike the country.
It could be, as was the case a couple of years ago, in early December. Or it might be in the middle of January, as was the case a fortnight ago when the League Two programme was left decimated by an Arctic blast.
However, while Parkinson may not be a fan of a permanent mid-winter break being introduced to English football, he is more than happy to have been able to give his own players a much-needed break in the wake of their Capital One Cup heroics.
It is 11 days since City stunned football to edge past Aston Villa to reach Wembley and three weeks since they last played in the league. Part of the past week has been spent in Tenerife at a warm-weather training camp and Parkinson is looking for the benefits of that trip to be evident today at promotion rivals Fleetwood Town.
The Bantams chief said: “I have never been a fan of a break in a season, mainly because it is difficult to say when it should be. You could have it for three weeks in January and the weather is fine.
“But the moment you come back, the snow starts and you are without a game for a couple of weeks. That would not help anyone.
“Having said that, I think the past week has been great for us. The lads have had a break from their normal environment. Our last league game against Oxford was also quite a while ago so, in a way, we have had our own mini winter break.
“Now we have to capitalise on that, starting with Fleetwood. We have a lot of important games coming up and I sense the lads can’t wait to get going again.”
Veteran captain Gary Jones is also in agreement as to how beneficial this week’s four-day trip has been to a squad who have played more football than any other in England this season.
The 35-year-old said: “It does feel like we are just starting off the season in many ways. Not in terms of the weather, that’s for sure. But certainly in terms of looking forward to our first game in a long while. The lads are all excited.
“It has been a while since we played in the league and our form did suffer a bit at the start of the year. The stats don’t lie and after every Tuesday League Cup game, we struggled on the Saturday.
“But we are ready to get going now after a little break and ready for the bread and butter of the league. We’ve dropped out of the play-off places and Fleetwood are in there now. So this is a big game for both clubs and with our batteries re-charged we can get back into some good form.
“Going away was great as we were able to get some good training in on grass, something we just haven’t been able to do here. If we’d been in Bradford, we’d have been training on artificial pitches all week long. We also got a bit of sun on our back and that is hugely beneficial.”
City head to the coast with their league campaign needing something of a lift after taking just one point from their last four games.
That dip in form has seen the Bantams slip from fifth to tenth. Three points separate Parkinson’s men from Southend United in the final play-off place, while third placed Burton Albion sit six points ahead of the Yorkshire club.
Parkinson added: “All the lads relish the challenge of getting back in that top seven. It won’t be easy but I feel we have the squad that can make it possible.
“The top two are probably away from everyone else. I would say Gillingham and Port Vale (15 and 13 points ahead of City respectively) will take some stopping now, especially as they have nothing to distract them. But there is nothing in it between third and the middle of the table. Someone is going to go on a good run to claim third and, hopefully, that can be us.”
Meanwhile, the Football League have urged City fans only to buy tickets for this month’s Capital One Cup final with Premier League outfit Swansea City through their own club.
Bradford have an allocation of 31,000 tickets, which at the moment are being sold exclusively to season ticket/flexicard holders.
League officials fear fans trying to buy tickets from anywhere but an official source risk being left counting the cost.
A League spokesman said: “The Football League would like to remind supporters of Bradford City and Swansea City that the only official source of tickets will be through either of the competing clubs.
“Both finalists are required to record details of all ticket sales, enabling The Football League to identify the purchaser if necessary.
“Spectators with forged tickets will not be allowed into the stadium and supporters found in areas designated for the opposing team are liable to be ejected.
“It is a criminal offence to offer for re-sale any ticket that has been purchased for this game and supporters are advised not to buy tickets from websites that are illegally offering tickets for sale. It may lead to them parting with large sums of money and may not guarantee them access to the event.”