Hard times for Bradford

THESE are hard times at Bradford City. They gambled heavily on Premiership survival, failed to stay up and have found themselves on a slippery financial slope.

THESE are hard times at Bradford City. They gambled heavily on Premiership survival, failed to stay up and have found themselves on a slippery financial slope.

Although Brighton, Grimsby, Stoke and Sheffield Wednesday are all odds on for the drop, Bradford are best-priced at 11-4. It looks as though they will survive because manager Nicky Laws has maintained a terrific dressing room spirit despite the financial nightmare.

Today the Bantams are seeking their first League double of the season having won 2-1 at Portman Road in August.

As Ipswich have also discovered, paying some players Premiership salaries on Nationwide League income is a massive drain on resources. It becomes even more frustrating when top earners are ruled out by injury or suspension.

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Today Laws must do without three experienced defenders who would feature in his first choice back four. Peter Atherton, the 32-year-old former Wigan, Coventry City and Sheffield Wednesday central defender is suspended after being shown a red card at Rotherham.

David Wetherall, who cost £1.4 million from Leeds United in 1999, has a hip injury while Andy Myers, who cost £800,000 from Chelsea, has a pulled hamstring.

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The midfield zone is also under strength. Andy Gray, the former Nottingham Forest player currently in goalscoring form with five goals in four games, is serving a one-match ban for five bookings. Gray has played in every match this season. Lewis Emanuel, one of the youngsters round whom Bradford must build their future, has a torn hamstring.

The most encouraging news for Bradford is that Danny Cadamarteri, formerly of Everton, is likely to return alongside Ashley Ward after tendinitis. He came through a midweek reserve match successfully.

On paper Ipswich should be too strong for the Bantams who now blend experience with promising youngsters who have been relishing the opportunity to play League football.

Juanjo, born in Barcelona, joined Bradford from Hearts for whom he scored nine goals in 72 League games.

Goalkeeper Aidan Davison is now 34. He had a spell on loan at Portman Road in 1996-97 season without making a senior appearance and has won three caps for Northern Ireland. He made his debut for Notts County in 1988 but did not play another League match until establishing himself in the Millwall first team in 1991. He also played for Bolton Wanderers and Grimsby Town. New signing Stefan Magnusson from Farum Boldklub will be on the bench.

Right-back Gus Uhlenbeek is well known to Ipswich from his days at Portman Road so his pace on the overlap will not come as a surprise.

He was signed by Town from Tops SV for £100,000 in 1995 after experience with Ajax and Cambuur. Then he helped Fulham on their rise to the Premiership before making 51 League appearances for Sheffield United.

Another Dutchman at the back for Bradford is Robert Molenaar, formerly of Volendam and Leeds.

The vastly experienced Wayne Jacobs is the probable left-back with youngster Mark Bower a candidate for central defence. Bower has had league experience while on loan to York City.

Seventeen-year-old Simon Francis, discovered in Nottingham, has already made quite an impression in midfield while Claus Jorgensen, a Dane, was signed on a free transfer from Bournemouth. Michael Standing, a 21-year-old, was a trainee at Aston Villa who is now making a name for himself. Winger Jamie Lawrence, once of Leicester, is ruled out by a facial injury.

Bradford City have been forced to cut costs at every turn. That has meant some cruel decisions have had to be made, one of which was the departure of assistant boss Ian Banks at the turn of the year due to 'financial constraints.'

Banks had followed manager Nicky Laws, his brother-in-law, from Chesterfield.

This week 31-year-old Andy Tod went on loan to Dundee United until the end of the season. Tod had played only five first-team matches this season.

One more appearance would trigger a payment of £25,000 to Dunfermline which Bradford just could not afford.

Tod had been in football limbo in recent weeks which was most frustrating both for him and the club.

The recent sale of Benito Carbone's luxury club house at Alwoodley brought in a bit of cash to tide things over for a short while.

Bradford scored a last minute winner at Grimsby last Saturday. Jorgensen netted an injury-time winner from 25 yards, his fourth goal in five games.

Trying to keep the wage bill as low as possible, Bradford have loaned experienced midfielder Paul Evans to Blackpool.

Since their Premiership days City have parted company with big earners such as Stuart McCall, Robbie Blake, Peter Beagrie, Matt Clarke, Andy O'Brien, Dean Windass, Lee Sharpe, Gunnar Halle, Dean Saunders, Dan Petrescu and David Hopkin. Eventually they came to an agreement terminate their commitments to Benito Carbone, who now plays for Como.

Other Bradford youngsters knocking on the door include Marc Danks, Craig Fishlock, Nick Beach and Andrew Lee.

Bradford is notable for having more curry houses per head of population than any other town in England, one for every 2000 inhabitants.

Let's hope Ipswich don't have too hot a reception today.

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