Bradford City's January transfer window priorities shaped by injuries, just like their season

INJURY: Bradford City captain Richard O'Donnell will need replacing in this transfer windowINJURY: Bradford City captain Richard O'Donnell will need replacing in this transfer window
INJURY: Bradford City captain Richard O'Donnell will need replacing in this transfer window
Bradford City's season has been shaped by injuries and their January transfer window is no different.

Just as Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars will have been drawing up a list of transfer targets, Richard O'Donnell forced a rethink. Welcome to football management, boys.

The Bantams captain has torn a thigh muscle, potentially leaving the League Two club with only one senior goalkeeper – Sam Hornby, who made only his 12th Football League appearance at former club Port Vale last month – for the next 16 matches.

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But head of recruitment Lee Turnbull moved quickly, signing Will Huffer on a short-term deal from Bradford (Park Avenue). Hornby will step up as No 1 in the immediate term.

If only O'Donnell was the only injury the joint caretakers had to worry about.

Zeli Ismael is also thought to be around 12 weeks from playing again after surgery on his hamstring, the muscle which is set to keep highly-rated young defenders Bryce Hosannah and Reece Staunton out until February.

At the back end of 2020 Trueman and Sellars had more look with the fitness of their forward line than predecessor Stuart McCall did. Lee Novak scored three times in their first four matches after 11 on the sidelines, Billy Clarke has missed eight of 21 league games this season and City have only had five starts out of Kurtis Guthrie. It put a big burden on 36-year-old Clayton Donaldson, lightly used since McCall's sacking.

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Trueman and Sellars actually make less use of centre-forwards than McCall did, switching from his 3-5-2 to a 4-2-3-1 and using Clarke deeper, but they must try to second-guess how much they can rely on the fitness of their leading men.

That tactical switch is the problem of changing manager mid-season, or at least changing to a manager with a different approach. Wing-backs are of little use to them, although Hosannah's qualities are sure to do the job at full-back if they can just get the Leeds United loanee consistently fit – they need full-backs and wingers.

Then there is the question of how strongly the club back a duo who are in interim control “until further notice”. The appointment of Turnbull, shortly after the sacking of McCall, who rookie chief executive Ryan Sparks had promised to get behind in the window, suggests they will be given a strong hand, or as strong as a hand can be within the constraints of a money-sapping pandemic and a salary cap. The traffic will not be one-way, and Ben Richards-Everton has been released.

But is it wise to allow them too big a say in reshaping a squad they may not be in charge of for the long-term?

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You might legitimately argue that very few managers are these days, and perhaps Turnbull will provide a longer-term vision that will outlast the pair if they do not get the job permanently, as their early results threaten to.

Certainly they have backed the pair, also allowing them to bring in Leeds United winger Jordan Stevens on loan. His Elland Road contract is due to expire at the end of his loan, so it will be a big move for the youngster, who started the season on loan at Swindon Town.

At least the Bantams did not make the mistake of last January, keeping a wounded manager until the week after the window shut and lumbering his replacement, McCall, with someone else's squad.

Trueman and Sellars have at least made their lives easier by creating the impression of an enjoyable club to join again but being in charge of their own destinies mean they have some big decisions to make. They would be as well talking to the physios as well as the transfer guru before making them.

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DONE DEALS - In: Charles Vernam (Burton Albion, undisclosed), Andy Cook (Mansfield Town, loan); Danny Rowe (Oldham, undisclosed); Matthew Foulds (unattached); Rumarn Burrell (Middlesbrough, loan); Niall Canavan (Plymouth, undisclosed); Jordan Stevens (Leeds United, loan); Will Huffer (Bradford Park Avenue, undisclosed).

Out: Ben Richards-Everton (released), Austin Samuels (Wolverhampton Wanderers, recalled from loan), Kurtis Guthrie, Jackson Longridge, Tyler French, Dylan Mottley-Henry (all released).

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