Bradford City v Port Vale: Mark Hughes urges Bantams to embrace excitement of playing to big home crowds

Mark Hughes says Bradford City’s players should be feeling excitement about the thought of playing at Valley Parade, and that the nervousness should be left to opponents like Port Vale today.

The Bantams have the 18th biggest attendance in this season’s Football League, their 15,211 average only slightly below Premier League Brentford. And whilst that figure is slightly misleading because it includes season ticket-holders regardless of whether they show up, it is undeniably the case their support far outstrips anything a club 13th in League Two has any right to expect.

But it has not translated into results, having picked up one point from the last 18 available since beating Salford City on home turf in mid-January.

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If City’s players are struggling to match expectations, manager Hughes says there is no reason to.

MAKE IT COUNT: Bradford City manager Mark Hughes at the Utilita Energy Stadium Picture: James Williamson/Getty Images

“It shouldn’t be pressure, it should be excitement,” insists the former Manchester United striker. “I was always of the view the bigger the game, the bigger the challenge and the more I enjoyed it.

“I do understand some players get more anxious.

“Why would you be fearful of playing well in front of 16-17,000. I’d rather teams came to Bradford and be fearful of coming up against us rather than thinking they might enjoy it.”

And without the threat of relegation or any realistic prospect of promotion, Hughes hopes his players are looking forward to a run-in which pits them against plenty of play-off contenders such as Port Vale, having recorded their first two wins under his management against league leaders Forest Green Rovers, and Hartlepool United.

“We can test ourselves against the best in the league this season and I don’t think we’re a million miles away,” he said.

“Next season will be a season I hope everyone really looks forward to.

“You don’t just want to go through the motions and complete the season without any real benefit from fulfilling fixtures, you want to gain some knowledge from every fixture.

“We’ve got a real opportunity to understand what we need to do and where we need to be better. We’re still on a learning curve.”