PATIENCE has very much proved to be a virtue for Bradford City this summer.
Just three weeks ago, the mood music was disharmonious. Many among the claret-and-amber faithful were, perhaps understandably, reaching for the worry beads – with the club still coming to terms with their punishing late League One play-off final loss at Wembley in May with several key players subsequently moving on and no discernible sign of significant transfer progress.
Approaching the second full week of July and the sense of disquiet is dissipating, with the Bantams’ waiting game starting to pay off and all the tireless behind-the-scenes spadework on incoming transfers eventually reaping rewards.
Vibrant signings in the shape of Accrington ‘number ten’ Shay McCartan, AFC Wimbledon central midfielder Jake Reeves – both for six-figure fees – and forward Dominic Poleon have energised fans and for those who always had faith that the club would start to deliver once the summer transfer market opened, there is a certain amount of vindication.
On the quick-fire switch from pessimism to positivity among sections of the club’s support, Bradford’s chief operating officer James Mason told The Yorkshire Post: “The one thing that we always ask for every season – and the thing you rarely get from football fans and I don’t think we are exclusive to that – is patience.
“We have had a plan all along about what we are going to be doing and now we are delivering what we have said all along, which is a youthful, attacking-looking side with lots of pace.
We said all along that we would not be offering long-term contracts to players who are 29, 30 or 31 as it just does not fit our long-term model.Bradford City’s James Mason
“We are also buying assets as opposed to loan players and have turned the tide of concern and paranoia over the last two or three weeks.
“Losing at Wembley was really hard for us to take and to some extent, we all had the ‘blues’ for a few weeks. That was compounded by some of our long-established players leaving the club.
“It was for the right reasons for them personally, as they wanted longer, better contracts.
“We had made our mind up that we were not going to compete at the top end (longer deals), although we certainly did compete with wages.
“But we said all along that we would not be offering long-term contracts to players who are 29, 30 or 31 as it just does not fit our long-term model.
“But the players went with our blessing and we look forward to the new generation.
“We think we are building a team who can compete not just for next season, but the next two, three and four seasons.
“If there was a criticism that we lacked attacking options and goals last season, it looks like we have tried to rectify that.”
The fervent desire of everyone connected with the club to end their lengthy absence from the second tier – a stage they last played at in 2003-04 – is self-evident.
But, commendably, City are not forgetting the bigger picture for short-term gain, with their investment in the shape of McCartan and Reeves, in particular, representing strategic moves designated to benefit the club not just next season, but much further down the line too.
In the past years, the transfer approach was based around skilful manipulation of the loan market and the purchasing of seasoned ‘seen it, done it’ professionals – and enjoyed a fair degree of success in that regard too.
But the club model, orchestrated under co-owners Edin Radic and Stefan Rupp, is changing in favour of a longer-term, co-ordinated and sustainable approach.
Prudent investment in players aged 24 and under such as McCartan, Reeves, Poleon and Charlie Wyke is clearly at its core.
Mason added: “It is not a sea-change, but a completely different approach to the one we have been used to in previous years.
“In the past, we have been very clever and crafty in the loan market and done what we had to do and done it very successfully.
“I think Phil Parkinson and the previous owners were extremely skilled in getting the best out of the loan market and using players who would fit into our budget from the Premier League, such as Reece Burke and Josh Cullen, mixed in with established players who were moving down the leagues because of the times in their careers or fledgling players moving up the leagues – look at Jordan Pickford for example.
“The new owners’ approach is that they are here for the long-term. Both are relatively young men who want to buy assets such as Charlie Wyke and Jake Reeves.
“These are players who we have paid sums of money for who Bradford City own on three-year contracts. If they are successful with us, it is two-fold – the club is successful and if they go onto be sold, we can financially profit.
“It is a very obvious business model that we are going to be using over the short, medium and long term.”