Bantams’ Yeates has no axe to grind as Blades call

Mark Yeates
Mark Yeates
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WHEN a familiar voice got in touch offering him an attractive footballing proposition earlier this summer, Mark Yeates was quick to make up his mind.

Some managers bring the best out of players and that has most definitely been the case for the Irishman whenever he has hooked up with his current one, Bradford City’s Phil Parkinson.

Yeates’s career had barely started out when the then Tottenham Hotspur youngster headed to Colchester on a season-long loan at the behest of a young manager by the name of Parkinson in time for the 2005-06 campaign.

It proved a momentous one in the history of the U’s, who clinched promotion to the second tier for the first time in their history.

At the start of the following season, Parkinson was in situ at Hull City – who came calling following his stellar exploits at Layer Road – with one of his first decisions being to again contact the Spurs hierarchy about securing the temporary services of Yeates on another season-long loan.

That may have ultimately been cut short when Parkinson was dismissed by the Tigers in the winter of 2006, but Yeates remained grateful for his first opportunity to dip his toes in at Championship level, where he has plied his trade for most of his career.

Now the pair have linked up for a third time, with the Bradford manager not having far to look when he sought some attacking midfield nous and was poring over the list of options following the Bantams’ thrilling promotion which crowned an unforgettable 2012-13 campaign.

After being released by beaten Championship play-off finalists Watford, for whom he played 30 games last term, Yeates’s was a name which featured on scores of managers’ wanted lists.

They included those at several second-tier clubs, including ambitious Millwall, who were keen on landing him.

But the persuasive tongue of Parkinson won the day with the duo now aiming to recreate their heady times at Colchester and help Bradford back to a more befitting stage.

Yeates, who in July signed a two-year contract to join the Bantams, his 10th professional club and fourth in Yorkshire, said: “I played 46 games in the season we got promoted at Colchester and for a manager to give a young player that sort of game time and trust, I will always be grateful.

“I did well for him and I am sure he will say that himself. A manager doesn’t take a player three times if he doesn’t fancy him.

“I am a bit older now and not the same player as I was at 20 and 21 (at Colchester) and have more experience.

“But me and the gaffer have a good relationship and I respect everything he does and when he sends me out there, I know I have 110 per cent backing behind me and trust in me. When it’s like that, he knows I am going to deliver for him.”

He added: “I did speak to people in the summer and was obviously a free agent, the first time I have been in that situation. But I have come here and really enjoyed it.

“What the club did last season, they got a lot of credit for. It got everyone aware of what a big club it was again with the exposure of the games on telly.

“Bradford always seemed to be on the box and they were a good side. For myself, going to the club was something that appealed to me and since I have been here, it’s been brilliant.”

Yeates will be aiming to bite the hand that used to feed him this afternoon when his current club take on one of his former ones as Sheffield United arrive at Valley Parade for a league fixture for the first time since September 2003.

That was played out in the Championship, a level both White Rose sides are desperate to reach in the near future with League One very much a means to an end.

Yeates endured a decidedly mixed time at Bramall Lane where circumstances largely conspired against him.

It culminated in his number being up with manager Micky Adams in the winter of 2010 – a season which ended in a painful relegation to the third tier for the South Yorkshire club.

Yet Yeates’s memories are largely positive and he does not have a bad word to say about anyone there.

Signed by Kevin Blackwell from Middlesbrough in early 2010, Yeates pinpoints the decision made by Blackwell’s successor – the late Gary Speed – to take over the Wales job just a few months into his Blades reign as having big implications for his own career at S2, which nosedived under Adams.

Yeates said: “If I look back or any people involved with the club or any fan does, you’ve got to look at Speedo going (to Wales).

“He showed his full support to players and what he believed in.

“He got offered the Wales job and if he’d not moved on, it could have been different.

“John Carver, Speedo’s assistant, came in as caretaker for three games and even if they’d given him the job, I think we’d have probably kicked on as we had a good bond with him and Speedo.

“Obviously, Micky Adams came in and it didn’t work out the way he wanted and, with me and him, things went a bit funny and I moved on.

“I have got a lot of time for Sheffield United, but I got offered a way to get back into the Championship when Watford put in a bid. Other than that, I would have had no problem staying and trying to help them get out of that league.

“It’s a club full of top people from top to bottom and the fans are great as well and there were no hard feelings. I’ve good memories.

“Stephen Quinn was a good friend and he’s moved on as well. But I saw him this week and obviously he knows we are playing Sheff U and we talked about our time there.

“I have got a good few friends who are still there and they have spoken highly of the new manager there.

“Bradford versus Sheffield United should be a Championship game. They have a lot of new players in and will see it as a work in progress, but we are two massive clubs and with the quality of players we have, you’d like to think we’ll be in and around the top six. It would be nice if we both went up.”