frozen out of the team since October and left in no doubt that a recall was unlikely, Guy Branston was widely expected to leave Bradford City long before the loan deadline closed last month.
Offers duly came in for the 33-year-old, who less than a year earlier had been named in the PFA League Two team of the year when sporting the colours of Torquay United. It seemed just a case of him choosing the next stop-off in a career that has already taken in 17 clubs.
Branston, however, was determined to stick around due to not wanting to repeat a mistake from earlier in his career that the defender admits to still regretting today.
“I failed at Sheffield Wednesday,” says the City defender about the six months or so he spent at Hillsborough under Paul Sturrock, who today brings his Southend United team to Valley Parade.
“By that, I mean I gave up the opportunity too early and went to another club for money. I have never done that since because I know it was a mistake.
“I wasn’t getting in the team under Paul Sturrock, who I have to say was great with me. He is a top, top bloke.
“I left in the year (2005) they went up (from League One). I had bashed my knee up quite badly when I slipped over on the Christmas ‘do’ and they then went on a 10-game unbeaten run or something like that.
“Paul said, ‘I have to stick with the lads as they are doing so well’. He was honest with me and said I could go and I felt I couldn’t turn the money down.
“But going to Oldham meant I went from 25,000 crowds on a wet Tuesday night to 5-6,000. The Oldham fans were also still living off the Premier League days and because I wasn’t Richard Jobson, who had been a favourite there, I came in for a bit of stick.
“It was a weird thing to go from such a positive environment in Sheffield and a real vibe about the place to that. It was a mistake to give up that opportunity and until joining Bradford I had never had another chance to play for a big club.
“I felt the same vibe here when I joined last summer as I did in Sheffield and that is why I didn’t leave when maybe people thought I would.
“There were a couple of chances to go out on loan when I wasn’t quite fit. Then, by March I was properly fit and playing behind closed doors. I felt I was ready and hoped to get a chance.
“But I spoke to the gaffer (Phil Parkinson) and I wasn’t going to be anywhere near the squad. I was a bit disappointed but I just thought to myself, ‘There will be an opportunity somewhere, injuries or whatever’.
“So I decided to hold tight and obviously I made the right decision because I have come back for at least one game and, hopefully, more.”
That opportunity came via the post-match brawl against Crawley Town that led to not only goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin having to serve a lengthy suspension but also central defenders Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies after all three players were red-carded for their part in the mayhem.
Branston’s return came in last weekend’s defeat to Plymouth Argyle, a result that means Bradford remain far too close for comfort to the trapdoor into non-League football – and possible oblivion due to the huge shortfall in income from television revenue and so on – with just four points separating Parkinson’s men from second-bottom Macclesfield Town.
Ahead of an Easter weekend that sees Bradford take on fifth-placed Southend and fourth-placed Shrewsbury Town, the Bantams face a tough challenge to end a damaging run that has brought just one point from the last six games.
Branston is determined to play his part in grinding out the points needed to secure safety and will do so buoyed by words of praise from manager Parkinson, who loaned the defender to Rotherham United towards the end of last year.
The City manager said: “Branny had been out in the cold for a while but what he had done was approach training in the right way and played hard in a reserve game.
“He is a good lesson to any young players about how when out of the team you can be disappointed and speak to the manager but still prepare properly because a chance can come along.”
Told of the manager’s comments to the Yorkshire Post, Branston’s face breaks out into a smile. He said: “Those words are great to hear. To comment on my professionalism like that is something I have to thank him for.
“It is a boost and makes me think, ‘I want to tell the missus what the gaffer said’. It gives me a boost and I want to show him what I can do.
“You can’t hold grudges in football because things change so quickly. I have a year left and want to be here next season as captain.
“The Football League is where it is at. This club can turnaround and get back up the leagues. I came here wanting to be part of that and I still hope to be.”
Last six games: Bradford City LLLDLL, Southend United DDWLLW.
Referee: E Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).
Last time: Bradford City 0 Southend United 2; August 27, 2010; League Two.