A YEAR ago, Bradford City went into the final week of pre-season with just 14 senior players.
It was a worrying state of affairs but one rectified by a flurry of late additions as trialists were offered terms and others handed short-term deals.
This time around, the picture is healthier with manager Phil Parkinson having so far made five permanent additions and added Luke James on a season-long loan from Peterborough United.
That said, there are still glaring holes in the City squad that need filling before August 8 with a goalkeeper top of the wanted list along with a centre-back to replace Andrew Davies and more options out wide.
Parkinson, who this week lost Portuguese winger Filipe Morais to a serious knee injury for the season, has been trying to plug those gaps for several weeks but to no avail.
This has led to an air of disquiet among City fans eager for their side to build on last season’s encouraging seventh place finish and make a concerted push for promotion.
Joint-chairman Julian Rhodes, however, has urged fans to remain patient as the club looks to use this last fortnight of the close season to make the necessary additions.
“We do still have positions to fill,” admitted the Bantams chief to The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s home friendly against Carlisle United.
“But I can assure everyone that a lot of work is going on behind the scenes in an attempt to do that.
“The unfortunate injury to Filipe has been a blow and means we will have to look at the wide positions as well as the well documented need for a centre-half, goalkeeper and so on.
“But there is no panic. Phil, quite rightly, is determined not to sign players just for the sake of it. He wants to improve the squad so we can improve on last year.
“The only way to do is to bring in good, quality players. We are having to be patient but we believe all the hard work that has been going into making those signings will pay off.”
City’s pursuit of a replacement for the experienced Davies, 30, who opted to join Ross County on a free transfer two-year deal rather than accept a deal that was heavily weighted on appearances, has been a major point of the summer.
Free agent Kamil Zayatte, formerly of Hull and Sheffield Wednesday, is one of many to be linked with a possible move to Valley Parade.
City remain tight-lipped on the identity of their preferred target during a summer that has seen a number of trialists, including former Doncaster Rovers defender Jamie McCombe, appear in friendly games.
Steve Davies, the former Sheffield United loanee who has joined the Bantams from Blackpool on a free transfer, is expected to feature for at least 45 minutes today against Carlisle after returning to training following trouble with an Achilles problem.
Jordan Rhodes, whose situation is being monitored by Huddersfield Town, who have a sell-on clause for any move involving the striker, has spoken of his desire to join Middlesbrough.
The Teesside club want the 25-year-old Blackburn Rovers forward to spearhead their promotion push and are understood to have had an initial bid of £10m rejected.
Rovers are understood to be holding out for the £12m offer that they rejected from Hull City a year ago.
Huddersfield are due to receive 20 per cent of any profit on the £8m that Blackburn paid for Rhodes in 2008.
Scotland international Rhodes said: “I am ambitious and have never hidden my desire to play at the highest level possible and that was one of the reasons why I left Huddersfield Town for Blackburn.
“When I left Huddersfield, I felt the timing was right in the next stage of my career. Having seen Middlesbrough’s performances last season in reaching the play-off final and their ambition this summer in terms of acquisitions, I would have liked to have been able to talk to them and I am unhappy at not being given that opportunity.”
Blackburn’s owners Venky’s have previously adopted a hard-line stance on offloading Rhodes and he has kept his counsel on a possible move away.