The Calvin Report: Reality bites for cup stars Bradford

Southend United 2 Bradford City 2: Bantams get back to the routine grind with a draw against Southend in League Two

Searching for talent in the lower Leagues can be a dispiriting chore, but occasionally it has its compensations. As late Christmas presents for a discerning football manager go, Nakhi Wells would be an acceptable alternative to a cashmere sweater from the sales.

The Bradford City striker, fresh from making Thomas Vermaelen wish he had never visited the self-proclaimed curry capital of the UK, looked to have played a pivotal role in inflicting Southend's first defeat in 12 games.

His substitution, to protect a knee problem, coincided with the late loss of a two-goal lead, which manager Phil Parkinson placed into the context of a breathless week. Wells's first-half goal, his 15th of the season, added to his burgeoning reputation, and justified the presence of a posse of scouts.

The Bermudan, who found an unlikely outlet at Carlisle before joining Bradford, thinks more quickly than the Neanderthal defenders of League Two and, at 21, has significant resale value. His natural game intelligence, fluidity of movement, and ability to finish with either foot will make him an inevitable target in January.

Parkinson, however, has the luxury of being able to resist overtures. "Nakhi is a good, good player who is better than this level," he admitted. "But no one is going anywhere. I can now go the other way, and bring people in."

Bradford eased seamlessly back into business, their role in the martyrdom of Arsène Wenger an afterthought. The PR stunts, involving Diana Ross and Dynamo, a tiresome graduate of the Uri Geller school of self-promotion, were placed into perspective.

This was a dose of reality, beyond the comprehension of pampered Premier League players and the plutocrats who use the game for personal advancement. There are few airs and graces at places like Roots Hall. Southend's Paul Sturrock, presented with his League Two manager-of-the-month trophy before kick-off, uses his last such award as a doorstop. He has managed to coax an unbeaten run out of players who are becoming accustomed to not being paid on time.

Worries about the mortgage in the run-up to Christmas were eased for the majority of Sturrock's squad when overdue payments were settled from receipts from the midweek FA Cup replay win over Bury, and an unexpected bonus payment from the transfer of Gary Hooper from Scunthorpe to Celtic.

However, the chairman, Ron Martin, is not one to offer false hope: "I know people say I should plan things better but that isn't always possible. I can't promise it won't happen again."

The wage bill is £100,000 a month. Coincidentally, this is the amount Martin turned down when West Ham wanted to buy Bilel Mohsni in July. When the chairman's bluff was called – he demanded £250,000 – he was forced to allow the French- Tunisian defender to leave on loan to Ipswich, who have yet to give him a start.

Mohsni is the classic lower-League maverick. He has picked up 19 bookings and three red cards since arriving in England in July 2010 and twice walked out during games, taking the train home. Sturrock will not have him back at the club.

Contracts at this level are short- term, minuscule, and dependent on fate. Bradford's win over Arsenal will bankroll the club for at least a season. It was worth up to £1 million in TV income, prize money, sponsorship revenue and gate receipts.

A limited amount will be reinvested in a team which took a mere £7,500 to assemble, but Parkinson is parsimonious by nature. He cancelled the players' Christmas party because of fixture congestion, without a murmur of discontent, and will ignore the opportunity presented by Bradford's FA Cup reprieve by playing a below-strength team in Tuesday's second-round replay against Brentford.

"I want to rest as many players as possible, rather than chasing more money in another cup competition," he said. "I can only push these players so far. They put themselves on the line for the club today, and the chairman is happy for me to play the kids. The whole ethos and culture of this club has turned round."

Just as he has to deal with the increasing interest in Wells, Parkinson must be aware of a sudden chance to indulge his own ambitions. He has six months left on his contract, and bigger clubs can use a manager with his ability to build functional sides on a restricted budget.

Bradford went two up on the hour, when Luke Prosser sliced a James Meredith cross into his own net, but ran out of legs in the final 10 minutes, when a clubbing header by centre-back Ryan Cresswell and Gavin Tomlin's ninth goal in as many games rescued the point.

By that time the scouts had departed. They will be back.

Southend (4-1-3-2): Smith; Clohessy, Cresswell, Prosser, Barker (Eastwood, 87); Mkandawire (Corr, 69); Hurst, Laird, Timlin; Tomlin, Assombalonga.

Bradford (4-4-2): Duke; Darby, McArdle, McHugh, Meredith; Thompson (Forsyth, 60), Doyle (Ravenhill, 80), Jones, Atkinson; Wells (Hines, 71), Hanson.

Referee Stephen Martin.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore