BRADFORD CITY head coach David Hopkin believes the vast size of Yorkshire makes it a stretch to describe trips such as today’s to Doncaster Rovers as a genuine “derby”.
But the Scot still wants to see the same intensity and work ethic at the Keepmoat Stadium that supporters expect when local bragging rights are, in his opinion, genuinely at stake during encounters between clubs from the same city.
“Yorkshire is a big place,” said Hopkin ahead of his first taste of an all-White Rose clash since sporting the colours of Leeds United against Bradford as a player just a few months into the new Millennium.
“It makes it a bit like Scotland in that every game could be classed as a derby.
“At my old club Livingston, we were in the middle of a dice. You had Hearts, Hibs, Rangers and Celtic, and then Livingston in the middle as the smallest club.
“We didn’t have a big derby game. Twenty-five minutes or half-an-hour in the car and you were there at most stadiums.
We need to make sure that we are ready defensively and match them. It is going to be difficult but players should remember that and treat it like a derby.David Hopkin
“Apart from those in the far north, we were only half-an-hour away from our nearest teams. I see the same thing here in Yorkshire.
“If you are talking about derbies, you are talking Everton and Liverpool or Manchester United and Manchester City. You are talking clubs in the same city.
“To me, that is classed as a bigger derby than playing someone 45 minutes to an hour away. No disrespect, just another game. But it is important we push on and try to pick something up from it.”
Bradford make the short trip to Doncaster desperate to end a four-game losing run that has dumped the 2017 play-off finalists in the bottom four of League One.
To do so, the Bantams will have to improve what has been a poor recent record on the road when tackling clubs from their native county.
In the past seven years, City have had 13 away derbies in the league and won just two. Just 10 goals have been scored in those trips to the Keepmoat, Bramall Lane and Oakwell, plus the New York and Don Valley Stadiums.
Those two victories, however, did come at Doncaster, both with Phil Parkinson at the helm – 1-0 in 2015-16 and 3-0 the previous season.
If today is to make it a hat-trick of recent wins at the home of Rovers, Hopkin needs the intensive work of the past fortnight on the training pitch to come to fruition.
Being without a midweek game since he succeeded Michael Collins earlier this month has helped, as it has meant extra hours at Apperley Bridge to instil his new ideas in the squad ahead of tackling a Doncaster side who sit fifth in the table.
“I am seeing a culture change and people buying into what I want to do,” he said. “As long as we keep doing that in the performances then results will follow quite quickly.
“Doncaster had a great result last week at Walsall (where they won 4-1). They are a very fluent, attacking team and we know it is going to be difficult, especially with them being at home.
“We need to make sure that we are ready defensively and match them. It is going to be difficult but players should remember that and treat it like a derby.
“Doncaster can be physical but they are also a good footballing side. We need to make sure things we have worked on in training because we can cause Doncaster some problems.
“They will attack you from down the sides and in middle areas. They have got very good players.”
Doncaster, meanwhile, have had a heartening start to the season. After opening with back-to-back wins over Southend United and Wycombe Wanderers, Grant McCann’s men went four games without a win before registering victories over Luton Town and Walsall this month.
The Rovers chief said: “Bradford are a huge club. Them and Barnsley are former Premier League clubs and they will both be definitely expecting and demanding top six.
“I would imagine Barnsley will definitely be up there. Bradford have got a bit to do, but I can see them coming strong.
“They have been well backed in the summer. To bring people in like Eoin Doyle, Jack Payne and Josh Wright, to name but three, means the manager has definitely been backed.
“They have brought good players in, players who know this league. David Ball is another one who has been promoted from this league. They will get their act together soon, 100 per cent.”
Derby preview: Page 5.