Bradford City v Gillingham: Shay McCartan determined to justify his decision to stay

SHAY McCARTAN was a man in demand on transfer deadline day and he hated every single second.

Shay McCartan: Glad he stayed at Bradford. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Shay McCartan: Glad he stayed at Bradford. Picture: Tony Johnson.

No fewer than nine clubs were bidding to sign the Bradford City midfielder as the January window edged towards closure.

Luton Town and McCartan’s former club Accrington Stanley were among the suitors eventually rebuffed, though only after one potential permanent deal got a long way down the road before the plug was pulled.

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The 23-year-old, again expected to start today as a makeshift striker as the Bantams look to end an 82-day wait for victory when Gillingham head to Valley Parade, admits all the interest left his head spinning.

“It was horrible to be in the middle of it all,” last summer’s £200,000 signing from Accrington informed The Yorkshire Post.

“As a player not knowing where you will be or where you are wanted is not nice. It is difficult.

“There were offers on the table. I had the option to go, it was in my hands what I did next. At the time I thought things were done. Things happened in the end and it fell through, but the whole experience was not nice.

“My head was in a total mess. Then, come Saturday, I was starting against Oldham. It shouldn’t be like that.”

Transfer deadline day may be one that supporters up and down the country savour. Jim White and Sky Sports may also relish the opportunity to crank up the hyperbole and drama as the clock ticks down towards 11pm.

But for those whose futures are on the line as clubs scramble to get deals completed, the final few hours of a transfer window are no laughing matter.

“I didn’t enjoy it at all,” added McCartan when asked about his own brush with what has become a biannual free-for-all in the football world.

“Maybe some would, but I didn’t. If a painter was working for six months in London and then told that tomorrow he will be off to Newcastle that wouldn’t be great for them.

“Footballers are no different – and especially those with families. I was lucky in that it is just me, but if I had a family or girlfriend working here then that would be totally different. Not nice at all.

“Deadline day was tough for me. I didn’t know what was happening and seemed to be on the phone all day. The whole experience was something new for me as a footballer and I am just glad to still be here.”

McCartan’s state of mind as those nine clubs, two of which are understood to have submitted firm bids, clamoured for his services was not helped by the struggles he had endured since joining Bradford the previous summer.

He had netted in the festive wins over Oxford United and Fleetwood Town, that latter triumph on New Year’s Day being the last time Bradford claimed maximum points.

But McCartan had still not nailed down a permanent place in the team as the offers started to flood in. He still has not, the starts in City’s last two outings having only come about due to a lack of options up front for manager Simon Grayson due to suspension and injury.

Top-scorer Charlie Wyke remains out against Gillingham so the former Burnley trainee is expected to be given another run out today on a pitch that he admits makes decent football impossible.

“The pitch is very bobbly,” he added about a surface that has been in a wretched state for a couple of months. “The time to play football on it has gone.

“If anything the pitch at Accrington was better than this one. Nowhere near as bad. Oldham was bad, Newport maybe, but Accrington was fine compared to this. I wouldn’t say it was Wembley, but it was fine.

“You could still pass the ball on the Accrington one. But we can’t use that as an excuse. It is hard for other teams as well. We have to play the way the gaffer wants us to.”

As for the contrasts between Valley Parade and Accrington’s homely, if basic, Crown Ground, McCartan added: “I am privileged to be at a club of this size. A lot of lads would love to play in front of our crowd.

“Not the pitch maybe, but definitely the crowd. The switch from Accrington was difficult at the start. Not just the size of crowd, but the training as well. It took a bit of getting used to, but I feel a lot stronger thanks to all the work we do here.”

City’s defeat on Monday in front of the live Sky cameras at Doncaster Rovers, their eighth in 10 league outings, means victory is surely a must today if the play-offs are to remain a realistic target.

McCartan is not giving up just yet, insisting that gatecrashing the top six would fully justify his decision to stick around at Valley Parade amid all that interest from elsewhere in January.

“Bradford is a big club and it would be great to be successful here,” he added. “I am glad I stayed. The team has not been doing well, but things will change. I still believe we can get in the play-offs. Once we get everyone fit it is a totally different Bradford.”

As for all that drama in January, McCartan may have hated deadline day, but he admits the interest was flattering.

“It is nice that clubs are interested in me,” he added. “But I didn’t really want to go. Certain things were happening that were out of my hands. Difficult but, at the same time, a nice feeling to have numerous clubs interested.

“Now, though, it is all about Bradford City. I am delighted to still be here and if we can get in the play-offs all that went on will have been worth it.”