WITH two wins from as many league outings, Bradford City are making a good fist of avoiding the dreaded play-off hangover that can often accompany defeat in a Wembley final.
Blackpool and Gillingham have been beaten by the Bantams already this term to suggest last May’s loss to Millwall under the Arch is well and truly out of the system.
Sheffield United started slowly a year ago and yet we all know how they finished. You can’t read too much into anything at this early stage of a season.Nicky Law
Or so everyone at Valley Parade hopes, at least, with Nicky Law knowing from bitter experience that a good start in the wake of defeat at Wembley a few months earlier guarantees nothing.
The 29-year-old, now one of the elder statesmen at Bradford after a summer that saw several familiar faces depart, was part of the Rotherham United side beaten in the 2010 League Two play-off final by Dagenham & Redbridge.
Ronnie Moore’s side then began the following campaign in fine form, the opening eight games yielding 17 points to leave the Millers occupying an automatic promotion place. After that, though, things fell away badly and Moore had left long before the season ended with Rotherham sitting outside the play-off spots.
Law remembers vividly the disappointment of that slump and is desperate to avoid a repeat this time around with the Bantams.
“I can’t put my finger on what happened at Rotherham,” Law told The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s game with Blackburn Rovers. “It often seems to be the way in football, where a team who went close the previous season fail to back it up.
“We still had good players, lads like Adam Le Fondre. But, for whatever reason, things didn’t go right. We even started okay, winning a few games. But, after that, we were always chasing. In that sort of situation – and especially on the back of what happened the previous year – confidence can go and that makes it difficult.”
Law’s recall of those struggles at the Don Valley Stadium, Rotherham’s temporary ‘home’ at the time, means he is extra vigilant when it comes to ensuring Bradford do not suffer a similar fate.
“Results-wise, we have been delighted with our start,” added the midfielder. “Two wins from two is great.
“We do know, though, that performances can certainly improve. We weren’t at the level we would hope to be in either game.
“But that will come. There has been a big turnaround of players and that always makes it difficult.”
The rapid turnover in personnel at Valley Parade this summer that saw the likes of Rory McArdle, James Meredith, Mark Marshall and Stephen Darby move on means there are parallels with what happened at Rotherham seven years ago.
“There are definite similarities between what happened back then and Bradford this season,” added Law, who saw four of his team-mates in the Wembley defeat to the Daggers move on that summer and a fifth, Kevin Ellison, depart on loan in the New Year.
“Rotherham got to Wembley, lost to Dagenham and then quite a lot of players moved on. A lot of those were big characters, as has been the case here this summer.
“Ronnie Moore brought a load of new players in, but, unfortunately, it didn’t work out. We didn’t even make the play-offs and Ronnie failed to see out the season.
“I am obviously desperate to avoid a repeat of that – and, as one of the more experienced lads, I hope I can help make sure that Bradford don’t have a season like Rotherham did.”
Back-to-back wins, of course, is a promising start in Bradford’s attempts to avoid suffering any effects from that 1-0 loss to Millwall.
A big test, however, comes today in the guise of pre-season favourites Blackburn. Tony Mowbray’s men may have lost their first two games, but Law insists no one at City is expecting anything but a tough game.
“Blackburn are a big team to come down,” said the midfielder. “They have lost twice, but you only have to look at the quality in their squad to know that won’t last.
“Sheffield United started slowly a year ago and yet we all know how they finished. You can’t read too much into anything at this early stage of a season.”
As for today’s encounter and the likelihood of playing in front of another bumper crowd at Valley Parade, Law added: “We had great games last season in front of the bigger crowds.
“The 3-3 draw with Sheffield United stands out along with Bolton (a 2-2 draw). They both brought big followings and those two games were probably two of the better ones at Valley Parade all season.
“Hopefully, it can be the same, but with one big difference – not so many goals going in our net.”
Victory over such a fancied side would, of course, be another step forward in the quest to avoid any play-off hangover.
“The summer was difficult,” added Law, who also lost in the Scottish First Division play-offs with Rangers. “I got away pretty quickly on holiday, thinking about being this ‘bad luck charm’ in the play-offs, as I haven’t won one of them yet. Hopefully, we can avoid them totally this year and go straight up.
“After a defeat like Millwall, the big feeling was disappointment at missing an opportunity. You look to try and get over it as quickly as possible. I went away golfing with my brother Josh at first and tried to take my mind off it. You can’t let the hangover follow you into a new season.
“The good thing is we were back in after four weeks and that meant minds could turn to this season. Everyone was excited and looking forward. ”