Heading towards Christmas and Bradford City have just sacked Stuart McCall for the second time in two years.
The fans unrest and frustration towards continuous disastrous and half-hearted performances from players is fast growing, and the board have opted to blame McCall as his own shortcomings have resulted in the dismissal. The names currently in line to takeover at Valley Parade include Sol Campbell, Jonathan Woodgate and surprisingly Ryan Lowe, who’s job is in imminent danger at Plymouth Argyle.
Nevertheless, the Bantams current squad lacks depth and quality, which are the two main ingredients for an actual good performance. Whichever gaffer comes into West Yorkshire has a monumental task on their hands, but who could come through the door to make his task somewhat easier.
One position which has a bit of consistency is the City midfield, with Callum Cooke and Elliot Watt forming a formidable partnership within the centre of the park. However, competition is healthy, and the new manager could achieve this with the free transfer of former Swindon Town midfielder Michael Doughty.
Doughty was released at the end of the Robins promotion season by Richie Wellens, and is yet to find a club. At the age of 28, he’s in the midst of his prime and has even posted on social media about how he’s been staying fit. The talented playmaker broke into senior football at Queens Park Rangers back in 2010, coming off of the bench against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup.
Throughout his career he enjoyed loan spells at seven different teams, including Woking, Crawley Town, Aldershot Town, St Johnstone, Stevenage, Gillingham and Swindon Town, before he was eventually released by QPR and snapped up by Peterborough United to help bolster their play-off hopes.
After a single season at the Posh, Doughty was signed by Swindon and even scored a hattrick on his debut against Macclesfield Town. However after two season there he is now a free agent, and may be intrigued by the opportunity to play at a football club the stature of Bradford.
Perhaps an option to cover for Staunton, Lloyd Jones would be a fantastic addition to a shaky City defence.
Fans disappointment in seeing Ben Richards-Everton name on the team sheet is beginning to become a regular occurrence, and Paudie O’Connor and Anthony O’Connor are lacking the third centre-back (with Staunton injured) if they are to provide competition, so Jones could be the signing to sharpen up the back line.
A defender who once cost Liverpool £150,000 back in 2011, Jones has matured since he was regarded a prospect for the future at the reds, but was once included in the Premier League squad against Fulham and captained the Under-23’s side.
Jones had various loan spells in the lower reaches of the game, including Cheltenham Town, Accrington Stanley, Blackpool and Swindon before he was snapped up by Luton Town for undisclosed fee, in a time when the Hatters were on their rise through the football league. However this hindered his career at Kenilworth Road, as he was unable to break into the first team and made just six appearances before being forced out on loan to Plymouth Argyle and Northampton Town.
The centre-back has just been released by Luton and is therefore a free agent alongside Doughty, so his wages shouldn’t be too steep for a very capable defender who could shore up the back-line with his leadership and dedication, and he can finally settle down at a club and make a name for himself- in West Yorkshire.
A player similar to Doughty, Matt O’Riley is also a free agent who will be eager to find first team football at a club the stature of Bradford City.
O’Riley is just 20 years old, but would prove a pivotal signing in steering the Bantams away from the sense of relegation, as the young midfielder is in search of first team action. O’Riley came through the youth ranks at Fulham after joining their academy in 2009 from NPL Youth, and even became the club’s youngest goalscorer for the Under-23’s side, as he netted at just 16 years old.
He eventually broke into the first team after 8 years at the club, starting in a 2-0 EFL Cup victory over Wycombe Wanderers in 2017, but upon being offered a three year contract extension O’Riley rejected as he was hoping to become more regular on the team sheet.
Several Championship clubs were said to be interested in his abilities, but no offer materialised and O’Riley may feel desperate to get back involved with football.
Touted the next Yannick Bolasie by Everton fans, Manasse Mampala could be the striker Bradford fans have been calling out for.
Since James Vaughan’s departure at the start of the season to Tranmere Rovers, supporters were in uproar over McCall’s trust in Kurtis Guthrie to become the next City frontman. It’s also proven a decision that’s gone wrong, as Guthrie is yet to register a single goal in the league.
With Lee Novak currently injured, and Clayton Donaldson and Austin Samuels struggling to form a dangerous partnership, youngster Mampala could be the solution.
Originally of Everton, Mampala scored 12 goals in 18 games in his first year in the academy, and was therefore promoted to the Under-23’s side despite being just 17 years old. He was offered his first professional contract in 2018.
However with Bassala Sambou and Ellis Simms also in the academy scoring goals for fun, Mampala struggled for opportunities and to prove his worth, and found himself being released. However he didn’t find it hard to find a new club, with several Championships sides vying for his signature. Mampala eventually settled down in the QPR under-23’s setup, where he remains to this day, but has been impressing as the main attacking outlet. He’s proven he thrives as the main man, which can surely be offered to him at Valley Parade with a squad that’s struggling to find goals.
Whilst it would only be a loan, it could prove a critical one in the future of the club.
A midfielder who’s already had a chance in the EFL, Sam Barratt dropped back down to the National League in 2020.
Having built his career in the non-league spotlight, Barratt began his footballing dream at the heights of Bracknell Town in 2011, where he would break into the first team primarily as a winger and spent three seasons at the club, becoming a fans favourite. However his talents hadn’t gone unnoticed, as he joined National League south side Maidenhead United, even winning the league in his second season with the Magpies. Barratt flourished at the club, acting as the star player as they achieved promotion to the National League and were one step away from the EFL, which was a monumental achievement for the part-time club. Barratt also doubled as an artist, which may be where he gets his creativity on the football pitch, but he departed Maidenhead before he had a chance in the National League with the hopes of finding a full-time club.
After failed trials at Crystal Palace and Bristol Rovers, Barratt was snapped up by then-League One side Southend United on a free transfer. However, Barratt never really shone in League One and after just ten appearances in a cash-stripped team he parted ways with the Shrimps, with the hopes of rebuilding his career.
Barratt recently re-signed for Maidenhead in the National League, and has prospered in England’s fifth tier. As a left-winger, Barratt has scored nine goals and is currently the leader of the golden boot race, despite his position, and even achieves a goal every 97 minutes.
Whilst it may cost City money to bring in Barratt, he is able to play on the left-wing or in the centre and could be a crucial signing, as a player of his quality is sure to generate interest from other clubs in the football league if he keeps up his incredible form, but along with that it could allow the new manager to experiment with formations, perhaps one that includes wingers, as City have a number of players, such as Harry Pritchard and Dylan Mottley-Henry, who are wingers but have been forced to play out of position.
Another signing from a lower league team who could cost money, Matt McClure could be the striker Bradford fans have been begging for.
With the departure of Gloucester City manager James Rowe to Chesterfield, the Gloucester squad, who top the table, have been dropping like flies, with Akwasi Asante and George Carline already leaving, McClure could be next.
He has proven his worth at the Tigers, having scored 10 goals in 9 games and averaging a goal every 66 minutes, McClure is becoming one of non-league’s hottest prospects and Bradford could snap him up.
It’s unknown whether McClure is on a full-time or part-time contract with the club as Gloucester as a part-time club, but it’s more likely to be the latter so the Bantams could acquire his services on a free transfer and not have to worry about a risky transfer fee that could add unwanted pressure on the 29-year-old.
McClure is also no stranger to league football, as the frontman made over 100 appearances for Wycombe Wanderers and will be sniffing at the chance to represent a club the stature of Bradford.