Bradford City v Rochdale: Yeates is now eyeing return to the Bridge with City

THE similarities are there to see for Bradford City winger Mark Yeates.

Mark Yeates

After making his name in a flying campaign on loan at Colchester United in 2005-06 –– managed by a certain Phil Parkinson – which culminated in the U’s clinching automatic promotion and also sampling a place in the FA Cup sun along the way, a re-run in the claret-and-amber of Bradford is tantalisingly in the offing.

Retracing those steps traversed by the Essex outfit, who went up to the second tier for the first time in their history, will require an inordinate amount of hard work but the signs are good, according to Yeates.

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As it stands, Parkinson’s Bantams are in fifth spot in League One – this time in January, 2006, the U’s were in fourth place en route to a second-placed finish.

Like Colchester’s class of 2005-06, Bradford also maintain interest in the cup, with a dream trip to Stamford Bridge in the offing if they can dispose of Millwall in a third-round replay at Valley Parade on Wednesday.

Yeates strode out at Chelsea with Colchester in a fifth-round tie in West London in February 2006, with the U’s having the temerity to take the lead before bowing out 3-1.

Yeates remembers it well and a return to the Bridge would be just the ticket, although the bigger prize is hauling Bradford back to where they see as their traditional home of the Championship.

Yeates told The Yorkshire Post: “It was a nice feeling going out at Stamford Bridge and if we could play them, it would be brilliant for the fans and the lads.

“I remember hitting the inside of the post in the game with Colchester at 1-0 and if that had gone in, you never know, I could have ended up back at Tottenham (parent club).

“It was a great day and we went 1-0 up and then they brought on (Frank) Lampard and (Hernan) Crespo and Joe Cole and that was the end of us and we lost 3-1.

“We brought a great following that day, but with the following of this club, if we managed to play them we’d pack it out.

“We have a big task to beat Millwall. I know they are having a tough time at the minute but they can come away from their league form and relax away from home.

“But the prize at the end is massive for the club and we know that.”

On the comparison between his current side and that of Colchester in that vintage campaign nine seasons ago, he added: “In terms of the group, there are very big similarities. We had good footballers and players who went on to play at a higher level or the Premiership and there are some good players in this group.

“The second half of the season should be exciting and I think there’s more to come from each and every one of us and I don’t think we have reached our top level yet, which is a good thing.”

Just as Yeates’s campaign at the old Layer Road was one to savour, so 2014-15 is proving a memorable one for the Dubliner after a difficult first season at the club last term.

It was Sod’s law that a knee injury last month halted arguably Yeates’s best run of form for the Bantams, but he is ready for duty for today’s game with Rochdale, with the hosts seeking to extend their unbeaten run to 11 matches.

For Yeates, there is an incredible amount to play for between now and May, with his desire to return to the Championship and secure another Bradford deal in the process representing a driving force.

He added: “I am up at the end of the season and I would love for us to be able to get up into the Championship and stay here. That is my aim.

“Looking at the league this season, there is no reason why we cannot finish in the top six.

“We have worked hard and been on a good run and cannot let that go to waste.

“For me, this season has been a turnaround and has been great and I have loved every minute of it and I think that has shown and all the boys are enjoying themselves and it’s a good group.

“Last season is gone in my mind. It was disappointing and hard as I came up here expecting to play every week and it sort of hits you when you don’t, although there were reasons.

“I had a bad knee injury which I should not have played on with and I was just trying to get through. It was probably stupid at the time and the gaffer also had a group who he knew inside out and it was probably hard to bed the new signings in.

“But I have played in the Championship for most of my career and you don’t just become a bad player and I don’t have doubts in my own ability. I have always been strong-minded.”

On the eve of his 30th birthday, which he celebrates tomorrow, Yeates admits he has found a happy medium both on and off the pitch with Bradford, something not always the case earlier in his career.

At his 10th club – and fourth in Yorkshire – he feels in a good place.

He added: “Having kids and stuff keeps you more focused and if what happened last season had occurred three or four years ago, I might have thrown the towel in.

“I came back in pre-season and the staff saw how fit I got myself. I think they knew my ability was not in doubt.

“I am in a different place than I was four or five years ago and am settled and do like living up here. In the long run, what will happen, will happen, but I would like to stay here.

“My recent injury was obviously disappointing. But it could have been a lot worse I am looking forward to getting back in and I am an option for the manager.

“If there’s a little flaw that I have, it is that I hate sitting on the bench!

“But, listen, the lads have been great and you have to cheer the boys on.”