Rochdale v Bradford City: Why Wyke is hoping to make it double celebration

CHARLIE WYKE'S time at Bradford City is yet to stretch into a fourth month but the striker already has a host of fond memories to look back on.

Bradford City's Charlie Wyke (Picture: Tony Johnson).
Bradford City's Charlie Wyke (Picture: Tony Johnson).

Two goals on the February afternoon Phil Parkinson made his first return to Valley Parade since walking out to take charge of Bolton Wanderers is certainly one.

So, too, is the victory over AFC Wimbledon last weekend that guaranteed a place in the play-offs to set up what Wyke has described as “probably the biggest three games of our lives”.

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Then, there is the home game against Swindon Town last month that saw Wyke net twice in the final five minutes to grab victory from the jaws of defeat in the most dramatic of fashions.

Such were the celebratory scenes stirred by his late double that comparisons were even made with a genuine ‘I was there’ moment for Bradford fans from almost two decades earlier when Gordon Watson, taking his first few tentative steps after a horrific career-threatening injury, had pulled off a similar rescue job against Barnsley.

So, when The Yorkshire Post asks the 24-year-old for his favourite moment since joining from Carlisle United, there seems a fair chance one of these will get the nod.

Instead, Wyke plumps for a game that, come any post-mortem into City’s season, is unlikely to receive anything but a passing mention. Gillingham’s visit to West Yorkshire on the first Saturday in February ended amid what, at the time, was a familiar feeling of disappointment after the points had been shared in a 2-2 draw.

It was the fifth in a run of seven draws from eight consecutive home games for Stuart McCall’s men that left everyone at Valley Parade frustrated. Wyke, however, sees that stalemate against the Gills as a hugely important step in his career with the Bantams.

“The move has been great for me,” said Wyke, signed in a £250,000 deal on the final day of the January transfer window.

“But, sometimes when a deal like the Bradford one comes along, you do wonder: ‘Will it go okay?’ or ‘What happens if I don’t score straight away?’

“Thankfully, I did score straight away on my debut against Gillingham and that helped a lot. That is why that goal is my favourite.

“Scoring on my debut was the perfect start and I felt settled really quickly. Things then kicked on from there.”

Wyke’s close-range header against the Gills was the first of seven he has managed in 16 appearances for the Bantams.

It is a tally that puts the Middlesbrough-born striker joint second in the City scoring charts, two behind Jordy Hiwula. Factor in the 18 goals he netted for Carlisle before the move and it has been a big year for Wyke.

The 24-year-old still has the chance of picking up two winners’ medals, even if the Cumbrians’ goal-scoring problems since his departure mean they sit one point outside the play-offs with two games remaining.

“I would love it if both clubs went up,” said Wyke, who joined Carlisle permanently from Boro in January, 2015. “I could end up with two promotion medals, that would be special. They have some good players and I hope they can make it.

“Obviously, my focus is on Bradford and how we do. League One is a really tight league so to be where we are is a big thing.

“It is a division where anyone can beat anyone on their day. We just have to keep doing what we are doing.

“As for me, the step up has been okay, not too much different. There are more athletes in this division but I have enjoyed it.”

Wyke’s possible promotion double comes after several years spent mostly battling relegation in League Two.

Two loan spells at Hartlepool from Boro either side of a four-month stint at AFC Wimbledon represented a tough start to life in senior football but the striker believes the experience has been a big help.

“Before this season, I was at teams who were struggling,” added the striker. “The pressure is different, especially when things aren’t going your way on a weekly basis.

“It can be a tough environment, with team spirit not being the best. The exact opposite is the case when you are near the top of the table. I know which one I enjoy the most.

“Being near the bottom of League Two is not nice at all. Everyone is down around the place and training is something people don’t look forward to, mainly because it is repetitive stuff about improving the team’s defending.

“When near the top of the league, you can have a bit more fun because you are enjoying your football. The lads are certainly feeling like that here. It is a great environment to be in.

“What I will say about those early years in my career is they gave me invaluable experience. At the bottom of League Two, people are fighting for their lives. There are mortgages to pay and all sorts.

“I had been at Middlesbrough, so had no idea about that side of things. We were well looked after there. The difference hit me hard and I learned a hell of a lot, it is probably why I took so long to find my feet.”

Wyke’s threat in the air has already drawn comparison with one of Bradford’s favourite sons and the 24-year-old admits to being flattered.

“Bobby Campbell is a name I have had mentioned to me, especially on Twitter,” he added. “To be mentioned alongside someone who was so popular is a big thing.

“The Carlisle lads always said my head was my best foot so maybe they had something. I don’t care what the goals go in off, just as long as they go in.”