Graham Alexander cites the key ingredient Bradford City need for success - and his relief at not leaving it too late after making a quick return to management

IT is not doing Graham Alexander a disservice to say that he has not managed a club of a comparable size as Bradford City before.

What he has had is the pressure of being the leader at a club that everyone wants to beat. Or as he put it when once reflecting on his time in the National League in charge at big-spending Salford City - owned by Manchester United's 'Class of 92' - the 'big bad wolf' and 'everyone's cup final.'

It proved no millstone back in 2018-19. Salford commendably held their nerve to reach the Football League for the first time, beating Fylde in the play-off final at Wembley.

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To be fair, his new club do have another big fish for company in the present League Two in the shape of Wrexham. Two if you count Notts County.

New Bradford City manager Graham Alexander with CEO Ryan Sparks. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.New Bradford City manager Graham Alexander with CEO Ryan Sparks. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
New Bradford City manager Graham Alexander with CEO Ryan Sparks. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Yet there is no denying that City are a team who all of their rivals take great endless delight in turning over and always will at this level.

For Alexander, it's about finding not just the right tactical approach for the players he has inherited. On that count, he is prepared to be adaptable.

First and foremost, it's about mentality.

Alexander told The Yorkshire Post: "My focus is on my club and my players rather than what opposition's motivation is.

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"We want to get our mentality right. I understand in each division that there's a food chain and bigger clubs and more support and finance and so forth and bigger name players throughout the levels. But I always try and focus what we can bring to a game of football.

"Mentality is one of the biggest things I look for when we are looking at players. I think everything starts in the mind and you always need to understand that someone wants to rip the points from your hands.

"It's who wants to win that fight and also taking on the tactical side of it and the support and crowd - home and away.

"We focus a lot on the mindset and the individual and team.

"Ultimately, over the course of a season, you look back to the successful seasons we have had as managers and players and there's points where it comes to your mindset, not talent and how fit you are."

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Alexander found himself back in work just 21 days after being sacked by League Two rivals MK Dons - following a mere 16 matches in charge.

Such is the volatility of modern-day management that Alexander, a legend in an exemplary playing career at the likes of Preston and Burnley, was named manager of the month in the fourth tier in August - only to be sacked a month and a half later.

Alexander harbours new recriminations and is just glad for the chance to be back in straightaway - after being out of management for almost a year following his departure from Motherwell in the summer of 2022.

Alexander, promoted from League Two with Fleetwood in 2013-14, while also reaching the League One play-offs in his time at Scunthorpe in 2016-17, commented: "I was in work for two minutes, out for two minutes and back in again. I am really excited.

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"When I left my last club, I spoke to my agent straightaway and was ready to go back in.

"I knew the Bradford job was available - or I presumed it still was - and asked my agent to make a call to see if they would be interested in speaking to me as I knew it would be a great opportunity for somebody.

"I thought it was possibly too late as it had been available for a few weeks.

"But after a couple of interviews and meetings, it was all systems go. I have lots of energy and am a working man and wanted to get back."

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With a strong record in the lower divisions at Scunthorpe, Fleetwood and Salford, it is also self-evident that Alexander would not have been out of work for too long and could have expected to field phone calls from a few chairmen in the winter months, for sure.

That will have been in the mind of Bantams CEO Ryan Sparks when he spoke with the Midlander.

The impressive way in which he sold himself in an extensive interview process - City took their time and did 60 hours of due diligence before plumping for Alexander - convinced him that he was the stand-out candidate.

Sparks continued: "If you look at Milton Keynes in the summer, they had been relegated in a poor manner and wanted to come straight back up and felt Graham was that person. It's about taking a name, but knowing it has got to be right.

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"Everything considered, there was no doubt in my mind that Graham was the number one candidate for this job and we are thrilled to get him over the line. It was a long process, but we are here now."

"When we arrived at our decision, it was about which manager was the best fit for the club and matched our ambition and mentality and we believe that Graham and Chris (Lucketti – assistant) do and we believe they can get the best out of the squad they have got.

"It is about the future, but also this season and we certainly haven't turned up to finish 16th."