Bradford City v Carlisle United - Stuart McCall missing the fans

There was a feeling of envy for Bradford City manager Stuart McCall as he was among those who experienced the return of football fans to stadiums this week.

Stuart McCall: Part of the crowd at Carlisle.

The Bantams chief attended Carlisle United’s win over Salford City on Wednesday as he made the trip to Cumbria to analyse today’s visitors to Valley Parade.

Supporters can return in limited capacity in areas that are under Tier 1 and Tier 2 restrictions, however, clubs in locations under Tier 3 measures are still required to play behind closed doors.

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McCall hopes that all clubs will be able to welcome fans back in some capacity in the near future as he feels teams with supporters back inside grounds have a “big, big advantage.”

“It makes a difference at our level,” he said as his side welcome Carlisle to Valley Parade this afternoon.

“I would never say we shouldn’t let fans in but it is certainly a big, big advantage to have supporters in your ground.

“In the first minute of the game, the ball went down the line, there was nudge with nothing in it but the crowd were up and the referee gives a free-kick to Carlisle.

“Take nothing away from Carlisle, they were lively, and got the crowd going and it was a good atmosphere from their point of view.

“It is something I am envious of, to be honest.

“Looking back to our game the other night against Cheltenham, I thought there was a shout for a penalty when their player went into the back of Clayton (Donaldson).

“I have no doubt, if we had fans in the ground, we would probably have had a penalty.

“It is only a natural reaction from a referee when there is a 50/50 challenge. The sooner it can be a level playing field for all clubs the better.”

McCall did note, however: “It is not a gimme that you get fans back in and start winning games.

“From my experience on Wednesday, it certainly helped Carlisle.”

McCall was impressed by what he saw from Carlisle against Salford in Cumbria.

Chris Beech’s side are fifth in the table, just four points off the top, but have struggled to put together a consistent run in recent weeks.

McCall continued: “They are in the top six and deservedly so. They have got a lot of vibrancy and energy and are playing with confidence. We will just be concentrating on ourselves on Saturday and looking to put the most competitive team we can on the park.”

The Bantams dropped to 22nd in the table following Mansfield Town’s surprise win at Cambridge United on Wednesday.

Although City’s position is precarious, McCall insists there is plenty of time for his side to turn it around.

“The league doesn’t finish on Saturday, we have still got 30-odd games. That is not being blasé, we know we need to start picking up points,” he admitted.

“Where we are at this moment in time can’t affect our confidence or how we go about our business.

“Of course we are all hugely, hugely disappointed to be where we are. We need to start picking up more points and a couple of wins will help with that. If it takes a month, or two months, we will get there.

“But the sooner we can get that victory and start building a little bit of confidence and get some players back in the group, then we can start looking up the table.

“We are in a position where it is concerning for everybody but it is not our last game on Saturday, there are a lot of points to play for. In the coming weeks and months we will be stronger and, hopefully, that will show with performances and points.”

Bradford have no new injury concerns although the fixture comes too soon for Lee Novak and Gareth Evans.

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