FC Halifax Town: “I feel like we’ll be a lot more experienced” - Bradbury has high hopes for next season at The Shay
Town defender Tom Bradbury is confident he and the team will keep on improving after extending his stay with the club.
Bradbury joined Halifax from Yeovil last summer and scored three goals in 35 league games last season.
The 23-year-old left-footed defender added balance to the Town back-line last term, playing in a three or a four, and displayed a calmness on the ball and an ability to play out from the back.
“Personally, I did enjoy it. I was annoyed with how it ended, I feel like we ultimately underachieved,” he said of last season.
“Yes, everyone keeps mentioning the budget, and it’s small, but the position we got ourselves in with five or six games to go, we were in that fifth position for quite a while at one point, and we’ve fallen short, which is a nightmare.
“That feeling after the Chesterfield game was horrendous for me.
“I thought I played well at times, improved and progressed certain aspects of my game. I’ve still got a lot more to do but I played pretty much every game up until the last month, so it was nice to feel a big part of the team, and trusted by the manager.”
Does Bradbury feel the Town fans saw the best of him last season?
“You can never say that. I believe having the crowd back in will take me up a gear, it might be seen as a cliche thing to say, but just the whole match-day feeling of having fans in, the warm-up, it just feels like you’re personally more on it.
“There’s maybe one or two per cent that your mind switches off, mentally it just feels a bit different, so I think I’ll be better this year.
“I was happy with the way I played, it got some good feedback from quite a few different managers, including Pete himself, but I do think I’ll keep improving.
“Obviously it’s another year physically to get stronger in the gym, get quicker on the pitch, so hopefully this time next year that’ll be answered in the right way.”
Bradbury feels he is a better player now than when he joined The Shaymen a year ago.
“Yeah, I’m always improving year-on-year, even if it’s just mentally, decision-making, you’re more mature on the pitch, you make better decisions,” he said.
“’ll always continue to develop physically, whether that’s little things like being a bit quicker on the pitch, or a bit more agile, moving your feet better as a defender, I always work hard off the pitch to make sure I improve.
“I definitely feel I’m better.”
And Bradbury says manager Pete Wild assistant boss Chris Millington and first-team coach Joe Sargison have played their part in his development.
“Just the detail they go into, during the course of the season I worked a lot in particular with Milly and Sarg, the gaffer’s obviously got a lot of stuff to sort out, whereas Milly and Sarg can finish training and spend time with you,” he said.
“They invested a lot in me as a player and a person, and I’ve had phone calls and discussions over the summer, outlining what they want.
“I just feel that if they’re trusting me like they do, investing in me like they are, it can only breed confidence for me, you feel like you’re wanted.
“They definitely put in the time and it makes you feel like they want to help you, and help the team get to the next level.”
Bradbury is one of nine first-team players to sign new contracts at the club this summer.
“If you keep the majority of the squad and just add three or four, everyone knows each other’s games, there’s not so much an excuse of ‘we’re a new team, it’ll take time’, that sort of thing,” he said.
“The gaffer’s embedded his tactics into 90 per cent of us last year so we should all know what we’ve got to do and we’ve got to get off to a good start because last year, we won the first game but then we went without a win in eight or nine.
“Us all being there, us all knowing what the gaffer wants, it can only bode well for a successful start.”
When asked what lessons Town can learn from last season, when they just missed out on the National League play-offs, Bradbury said: “I feel we need a bit more venom and aggression in our mentality.
“I felt sometimes we accepted defeats a little too easy.
“I’m all for sticking together, being positive and going again for the next game, but I just felt like, at times, we didn’t have that ruthlessness in the dressing room to say ‘do you know what, that wasn’t good enough, we need to dissect what happened’. Not so much that fingers need to be pointed, but people need to be told that that wasn’t good enough.
“I just think, technically and tactically we have what we need on the pitch, we are good enough, and when we’re on it, you go back to the Notts County game away, we were absolutely on it and we put in a superb performance.
“Mentally, I just feel all the best, winning teams have all got a bit of meanness about them, a bit of grit.
“Sometimes we were too soft, that’s how it’d put it.”
One player to depart The Shay this summer was veteran centre-back and skipper Nathan Clarke, and Town boss Pete Wild says it is now time for Bradbury, Neill Byrne and Niall Maher to make the step up and fill the gap left by Clarke.
“There’s been conversations in terms of more responsibility I need to take with Clarkey leaving, but I’m looking forward to it,” Bradbury said.
“I do feel that we’ll all have to chip in in terms of maybe that vocal voice a bit more that Clarkey used to be, or even though I’m relatively young, I’ll need more ownership on helping younger lads, even ones in and around my age this year.
“We did have our best run of form when us three were playing, so as long as that can continue, especially at the start of the season, I feel we need to get more clean sheets than we did last year, so we need a good start.
“From there onwards, you build confidence and potentially develop into a new role that’s made available because Nathan’s not there.”
Bradbury is positive about Town’s prospects next season, and is confident they can challenge again for promotion.
“I wouldn’t be here if we weren’t,” he said. “I had to weight that up and I just feel that, of course we can.
“If we do get injuries we might not be in a position to bring in others due to finances, but I think we do have a very strong team.
“Pete, Milly and Sarg have another year to improve players and learn themselves. I just feel anything’s possible, especially with the fans back in.
“If you get a couple of wins, get on a good run and you maintain yourself in that top seven.
“Our season last year was so up and down, and we took it to the last game, so you’d like to think we’d learn certain things, like from Barnet away and any other silly defeats like Maidenhead at home, those sorts of games.
“I feel like we’ll be a lot more experienced to go ‘you know what, this is an absolutely massive game’ whether it’s in October or April. If we take that forward then I certainly think we have to be in that top seven, it’ll be criminal if we’re not.”