Grimsby Town v Bradford City – Gareth Evans determined to show Bantams his ‘better side’

WHEN YOU think a lot about somebody and witness them suffer doing the job that they love, it is a difficult sight.

BACK IN THE GAME: Bradford City's Gareth Evans. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

If you can do little about it, it makes it doubly worse.

That was the position that Gareth Evans found himself in as he watched on helplessly for the most part as Stuart McCall’s third spell in charge at his beloved Bradford City unravelled and culminated in his dismissal in the wake of the recent defeat at Oldham – the club’s sixth in a row.

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Evans, brought to the club for a second spell in September, was the epitome of frustration as he saw City and McCall suffer while he was attempting to return from a problematic hamstring issue.

ON THE UP? Bradford City's Lee Novak celebrates scoring at Crawley Town. Picture: Adam Davy/PA

During the club’s travails, the 32-year-old featured just a couple of times with his involvement being limited with McCall conscious that a relapse could see Evans sidelined for a further significant spell as he was nursed back into the first-team fray.

Now hopefully over his injury issue, Evans is sad that the man who brought him back to the club is no longer around and that he could not do more.

Evans said: “I have got a lot of time for him. He was excellent with me.

“I could not contribute as much as I wanted to, but I still saw him every day and spoke to him and he is a ‘people person’ and a lot of the lads felt like that.

SACKED: Former Bradford City manager Stuart McCall. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“He is a great bloke and I think everyone is in agreement with that. But football-wise, it was not going great on the field and that is why he ended up losing his job.

“I’d like to think I will keep in contact with him. I have spoken to him and just said: ‘Good luck for the future, keep in touch and thanks for everything – you have been brilliant.’ That sort of thing. I am sure he will be fine.

“It has been frustrating for me. I am not an injury-prone person, touch wood and have not suffered throughout my career with injuries (before).

“Being injured is not really something I have been used to and it is something I have had to get my head around.”

Sad that McCall is no longer at the helm for sure, but Evans has plainly been around the block in football long enough to know what happens to managers when results go badly awry.

Fortunately, heading into this evening’s game, City’s last two results under the caretaker command of Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars has delivered a chink of light by way of four points from a possible six.

The pair have impressed in their work on the training ground with City and have successfully settled upon a 4-2-3-1 system.

Confidence is starting to be gradually replenished, with the scenes at the end of Saturday’s cherished 1-0 win over Cambridge United – City’s first in 10 matches – something to behold as the relieved players were handed a welcome transfusion of hope.

That will be fortified with victory tonight which would lift the fourth-from-bottom Bantams up three places to 18th.

Evans added: “The mood is much improved than what it was and winning breeds confidence and the lads seem in quite a buoyant mood.

“Mark and Conor have come in and brought a lot of organisation to the training ground and a lot of lads seem to be buying into what they are doing and we just seem a much better defensive unit and we look dangerous on the break.

“Hopefully, it will be a continuation of that (at Grimsby) and we will get another good result.

“I am enjoying it under Mark and Conor and hopefully I can get on the pitch a lot more in the coming weeks and the fans will see the better side of me.”

City report no fresh injury issues for tonight’s trip to face the Mariners – a welcome development given their problems in that regard for McCall.

For Trueman and Sellars, it is something that certainly helps in terms of their preparation as they continue to ‘mind the shop’ until City settle on appointing a permanent successor to McCall, with the likes of ex-Ipswich and Shrewsbury manager Paul Hurst among the prominent candidates for the vacant position.

Alongside the importance of their tactical work, Sellars is conscious of the need for the players to display a strong mindset amid testing times at a big lower-division club, whose supporters naturally expect better.

Only the precious currency of wins can truly build belief, with the emotions at the final whistle on Saturday speaking volumes.

Assistant Sellars, son of former Leeds United midfielder Scott, added: “It just showed the honesty of the players and how much they are working for their goals and they are playing for the club, each other and the staff.

“It is a really pleasing thing to see players put their bodies on the line and willing to get hurt.

“Passion is a massive word and if you can get that and a real fire in your belly, it is really strong.”

Last six games: Grimsby LLLDLW; Bradford LLLLDW.

Referee: J Busby (Oxon).

Last time: Grimsby 1 Bradford 1, August 10, 2019; League Two.

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