By Matthew Kermode
Bradford City Women are hoping to return to training on December 3rd, in preparation for a busy festive period, which sees two home games on December 13th and 20th, followed by trips to Newcastle and Stockport on January 3rd and 10th respectively.
Manny Mehmood’s Reserve side will be almost as busy, travelling to Durham and Brighouse before Christmas, followed by a home derby against Leeds United on January 10th.
City’s first team have had an improving start to the league season, starting with a 1-0 loss at home to Chester-le-Street Town, followed by draws against Norton & Stockton and Leeds United. Those draws sandwiched a disappointing exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Sunderland West End.
By the time 2020 draws to a close, City will have played six home games, and none away, creating a gruelling travel schedule between January and April.
Chris Hames was understandably disappointed to lose the momentum his team had built up, he said: “The decision to cancel football at our level was a blow. So much work had been done by the clubs, across our league, to make sure we were as safe as we could be each time we faced off in a game or turned up to train”.
Despite the break in play and formal training, Hames is keen to recognise the hard work the squad have put in: “All of our players work or are in education, alongside the commitment they have to give to playing at a good level, and football is their passion, their freedom. When that is taken away, and all you are able to do is work or study, it can be difficult.
“We have tried to combat the impact of that, as a team. We have set challenges and kept the players on their toes. The support network within the group has been great too, led by our skipper Katy Woodcock, but even more case by case for each other, and I know the girls value it.
“As a team we were making really good progress through the opening parts of the season, game by game we can see progression and looking closer to what we want to play like, so I’m excited to get back on the grass and carry on the hard work.
“As far as being ready to return, they are a committed and determined bunch, their efforts to keep fit have been superb, it’s now about our planning, as staff, to make the most of the 10 days between our return to training and our first game”.
Hames’ side currently sit second from bottom of the table, but with games in hand on all but two of their Division One North opponents, there is plenty of time for them to make progress up the table. If Hames’ squad can build on the fighting performance that left them unlucky not to steal all three points from Leeds before the second lockdown, then mid table is a possibility.
Meanwhile Mehmood’s Reserves also sit second-bottom of the Reserve Northern Division, with one draw and three defeats from the season so far. The youthful second-string began with two extremely heavy defeats, before fighting back to draw 3-3 with a strong Barnsley side at Rawdon Meadows. They tired late on in their final game at Sheffield FC, losing 5-2 despite a brace from Corina Riley.
Mehmood admits it’s been a difficult lockdown, but is full of praise for his players, he said: “It's been another tough time away from football for me personally but I think the players have done exceptionally well throughout lockdown. They have been challenged to different types of running and have all covered a lot of distance to keep themselves fit.
“I'm happy with how they have all looked after their fitness and hopefully once we're back we can start to get match fit once again and ready to go for our first game away at Durham what will be a tough test but I just can't wait to be on the touchline and I'm sure every other manager in the country has the exact same feeling.”