Nigel Clough has empathised with Phil Parkinson’s predicament at Bradford City ahead of today’s Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
While victory could see Sheffield United secure play-off qualification, the visitors appear destined to miss the cut despite stunning Chelsea and Sunderland en route to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
United have also struggled to translate their success in knockout competition, where the likes of West Ham, Southampton and Queens Park Rangers have all been beaten this term, into consistent League One results.
But Clough, the United manager, said: “Bradford are not out of play-off contention yet, but the cup run has hindered it certainly.
“Like us they have a reasonably sized squad, similar to us. Once you go beyond your first 12, 13 players and then are dipping outside of that, it then becomes difficult.
“They also suffer a little bit because they are one of the biggest clubs in the division as well.
“When you beat Chelsea, then everyone wants to get one over on you. When people saw us play against Spurs, win at QPR, beat Southampton, they want to beat you. We are one of the biggest clubs in the division anyway, but they want to beat you even more.”
The unpredictable nature of third tier football was starkly illustrated in midweek when, 10 days after ending Barnsley’s nine match unbeaten run, United succumbed to a shock 1-0 defeat at Yeovil Town.
Clough, whose team nevertheless remained fifth and eight points clear of seventh-placed Rochdale, later expressed displeasure at both aspects of its performance and the end result. But he also made no attempt to disguise his frustration at claims it was a sign of impending disaster with leaders Bristol City, Preston North End and Swindon Town among United’s recent victims.
Bradford, managed by former Reading and Bury midfielder Parkinson, are 11th after suffering three straight defeats including Tuesday’s 6-0 thrashing by City at the Coral Windows Stadium.
“The mental (fatigue) is something you can’t measure. We know it’s a factor, but you don’t know how much it’s taken out, or how much it’s affecting the players.
“It’s not excuses, it’s a factor in both our league forms this season.
“All teams find it very difficult to marry the two, cup and league success. It’s as mental as it is physical, without a doubt.
“That means we have to be a little bit more patient in the league. We might not be able to replicate what Bristol City have done, but we are hoping to do it another way through the play-offs.
“We still hope we can achieve both.”