Bradford City v Stevenage: Return of the legend has already made a difference to Bantams

Goal: Callum Cooke celebrates his deflected shot putting Bradford ahead. Picture: Simon Hulme
Goal: Callum Cooke celebrates his deflected shot putting Bradford ahead. Picture: Simon Hulme
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Having Bradford City legend Stuart McCall back at Valley Parade has given the Bantams squad a huge lift, according to midfielder Callum Cooke.

The 22-year-old thought he had claimed his first Bradford goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Grimsby Town, only for his shot to take a deflection off Lee Novak en route.

Grimsby scored a stoppage-time equaliser to deny McCall victory on his return and extended City’s winless run to eight games. But Cooke hopes, after a buoyant atmosphere on Saturday, City can end their wait for three points when Stevenage visit West Yorkshire tonight.

“You saw what the stadium was like on Saturday. It also helped with Grimsby bringing a fair few as well because that obviously added to the atmosphere,” said Cooke.

“When you were stood in the tunnel beforehand, it did really hit me. He’s (McCall) a club legend, there are pictures in the canteen at the training ground and he’s got a suite named after him at the ground.

“You see how much he means to the club and everybody involved at Bradford City.

“To have him back and play under him has given everybody a lift. I know he’s only been back a few days but you can feel the difference.”

Cooke admitted he was “shocked” by the news of Gary Bowyer’s sacking.

The 48-year-old was dismissed by Bradford last week after a 3-0 defeat to Oldham and Cooke feels McCall’s return has given City renewed confidence.

“We were all shocked to hear the news about Gary Bowyer,” said Cooke.

“We all did love him and it was a shame how things happened. But we all know football is a results business and, unfortunately, he lost his job.

“The new gaffer has come in and has not had the chance to get all his ideas across because it’s been a short time frame.

“He just told us to go out and play our normal game and enjoy it. He’s tried to just give us an injection of confidence.”

The former Middlesbrough player was used higher up the pitch by McCall on Saturday and admits that is his preferred position after being utilised in a deep-lying midfield role by Bowyer.

He said: “I can remember when I first came in, I said that was my game, getting forwards, getting shots away and getting goals and assists. Thankfully, I’m off the mark. I know it’s been a long time coming. But I had to change my game before and I was playing a lot deeper.

“Gary Bowyer, the old gaffer, liked to play with one sitting in front of the back four trying to make things happen.

“I didn’t have a problem with that because, ultimately, I was still playing. But, personally, I want to be doing my damage a bit further forward. That’s my natural game.

“With Stuart McCall coming in, it’s given me a bit more of a licence to get forward.”

Stevenage sit bottom of League Two after picking up just three wins from 32 games and have lost their last five league fixtures.

Cooke added: “It’s no wins in eight games now. We have to be honest and say that’s not good enough. We’ve got to turn these draws into wins. It will take time.

“I still don’t think we created enough on Saturday but we’ve got this game at Valley Parade now, so, hopefully, we can put things right then.”

Last six games: Bradford City DLDLDD; Stevenage LLLLLW.

Referee: P Wright (Merseyside)

Last time: Stevenage 0 Bradford City 1; August 20, 2019, League Two.