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Mark Hughes Announced As New Bradford City Manager

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RR’s Match Preview: More fun in the sun as Sunderland take on Mark Hughes’ Bradford City!

It might be the hottest day on record, but that’s not going to stop hordes of Sunderland fans travelling to Bradford for a ‘friendly’ game of footy this evening!

Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

This heat is just absolutely unbearable, so even just writing this feels like a huge chore - so you can imagine what it’s like to play football in it?

Alex Neil and his band of merry mackems will find out first hand this evening as we head on down to West Yorkshire to take on League Two opposition in the form of Bradford City, a club we’ve had many run-ins with in the past - and a club, like ourselves, who have probably underachieved for a little while now.

They’re dreaming of a promotion-winning season in 2022/23, and who can blame them - they’ve got Mark Hughes sat in their dugout, a household name in Britain who has held some massive jobs over his managerial career, but now finds himself further down the pyramid than he probably thought he’d end up at. To quote a famous floppy-haired berk, “them’s the breaks”.

It doesn’t feel like two minutes since Hughes was the man with the keys to the Manchester City empire, spending big and bringing in some of the best players in the world to play for his side. He was the first manager of the City Football Group era, signing the likes of Carlos Tevez, Nigel De Jong and Robinho for what was then huge money.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester City Press Conference Photo by Manchester City FC via Getty Images

What he’s got at his disposal right now is a far cry from the riches he possessed back then - as decent as Vadaine Oliver is, he’s no Emmanuel Adebayor, let’s be honest - but with a modest budget, a big fanbase and high expectations, plenty of people are expecting big things from Hughes and Bradford in League Two this season.

Regardless of the fact that they’re two divisions below Sunderland now, they should provide Alex Neil’s men with a stern test on what is sure to be a swelteringly hot evening at Valley Parade.

They’ve brought in no fewer than ELEVEN new first team players, the pick of the bunch probably being the aforementioned Oliver - a centre forward on a free transfer from Gillingham who was one of the top scorers in League One over the past two seasons - and Richie Smallwood, the former Middlesborough midfielder who played almost every game for Hull City last season in the Championship.

Those two in particular are quality bits of business, and would have been good signings for almost anyone in the League above - perhaps a show that Hughes’ side are serious.

They’ve played three times in pre-season so far, with mixed results - a 2-0 victory over local non-league side Bradford Park Avenue to kick things off, a 2-0 home loss to League One newcomers Derby County, and then a 4-1 away win at York City at the weekend.

Sunderland therefore are by far the toughest side they’ve faced to date, and with plenty of new faces hoping to show their new manager what they’re all about, it could be tough.

Bradford City v Newport County - Sky Bet League Two Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Fresh off the back of Saturday’s 2-0 win away at Dundee United, Alex Neil knows he has to spread the minutes around with his players - and with three games in the space of the week, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do just that.

Aji Alese made his first appearance in a Sunderland shirt as a substitute up in Scotland, and I’d expect him to start in the heart of the defence for this one alongside Danny Batth, who was also named amongst the substitutes at the weekend.

Also hoping for a start after missing out from the beginning in Dundee will be Luke O’Nien, Jay Matete, Carl Winchester, Lynden Gooch, Elliot Embleton, Jack Clarke and Jack Diamond, with each of them likely coming straight into the side.

No matter what team we field it’ll be a strong side - and whilst the importance is always on getting vital minutes into the legs of our players - we’ve seen Sunderland playing some high-tempo, high-energy football at times during pre-season so far, so I’m expecting more of the same.

Here’s hoping for another win, another clean sheet, and maybe a goal or two for Ross Stewart to get him off and running - oh, and plenty of beer in the bellies of the fans who’ve made the trip. It’s warm out there, so you need to stay refreshed and hydrated!

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