The new man at the helm of the wobbling ship that is Bradford City has been revealed to be David Hopkin. It was rumoured late last night and was today confirmed by the club, with the former Livingston man penning a 2-year deal with The Bantams. Hopkin is set to come in with immediate effect, with his first game being this Saturday away at Blackpool.
The name David Hopkin is one that is familiar to the City fanbase. The Scotsman joined the club in 2000, during the “six weeks of madness” period as a player from Leeds for a fee of £2.5 million; he remains to this day Bradford City’s club record signing. But after suffering an ankle injury early into his City career, he never did live up to his price tag. This left a sour reminder of Hopkin in the minds of many fans. Hopkin was also considered for the vacant head coach role earlier this summer by City after he left Livingston in the summer.
This definitely will affect some City fan’s perspective on him, but it must be said that his playing days should not define his managerial ability or potential.
Hopkin performed wonders at Livingston on an apparent playing budget of only £250,000. In his time at Livingston, he took the club from Scottish League One all the way back to the Premiership, beating Partick Thistle in a two-legged playoff to secure successive promotions. Hopkin left the club with a 52.56%-win record across 116 games; an impressive record at that.
On paper, Hopkin seems a satisfactory replacement for Michael Collins, whose performances with the squad were undoubtedly not up to standard.
So, what is Hopkin like as a manager?
In the words of Mark Burchill, the man who brought Hopkin to Livingston to be his assistant manager, Hopkin is “a nutter”. In an interview with the Scottish Sun, Burchill stated that he’s a “no-nonsense” sort of guy. “He said it like it was and wasn’t scared of anyone and he wasn’t scared of any situation”. This sort of discipline could be key to a team that across its board, has a range of younger, much more raw players; many of whom are only experiencing first team football for the first time this season with City.
So, how will City play under Hopkin?
Two words. One route. At his time at Livingston, Hopkin implemented a direct, long ball style of play, reminiscent of the football played under Phil Parkinson during his time at Bradford. Though it might not be the easiest to watch, Hopkin has proven the method to be effective, but wasn’t exempt from criticisms about ugly play. At Livingston, he set up with a 3-5-2 formation with the intent of getting the wing backs up and down the pitch with a high pressing game, which will work with the advantage of pacey players in the squad such as George Miller and Sherwin Seedorf.
However, one issue Hopkin may find with the City squad he’s inherited is the lack of players able to play in a target man role, which will be key to Hopkin’s style. Kai Brunker is the only notable player who could perform this role and will almost definitely become a key player for Hopkins new regime. City aren’t without height elsewhere on the field though, with the likes of McGowan, Akpan, and O’Connor who should be expected to find themselves at the forefront of play. This is likely to make set plays such, as corners and free kicks, a key component of City’s game plan.
Though this type of football is something we’ve seen before, it’ll be interesting to see how Hopkin utilities the squad he’s inheriting, and how long it might take the players to adapt to the system required. If the football isn’t easy to watch but we start winning games again, would anybody really care?