Bradford City: Football tests are a boon for Syers

After endless years of swotting, exams and essay deadlines, Dave Syers is now busy emerging with honours in his soccer sojourn with Bradford City – after putting the books to one side to focus on the far from cerebral pursuit of League Two football.

The industrious Bantams midfielder is one of several brainboxes in the Valley Parade dressing room – and if ever there was a University Challenge-style quiz for football teams, you sense that City would wipe the floors with all-comers – with Syers' scholastic presence augmented by fellow 'intellectuals' Tom Adeyemi, Jon McLaughlin and Chibuzor Chilaka.

Syers, 23, who has a degree in classics from Leeds University, heads the list of noteworthies on the footballing front this term, with loan ace Adeyemi – who gained A-star grades in biology and chemistry last summer alongside an A in mathematics – not far behind.

McLaughlin, a sports coaching degree graduate from Leeds Metropolitan University, was a regular between the sticks ahead of the arrival of Lenny Pidgeley, while Hull University graduate Chilaka, currently on loan at Bradford Park Avenue, has also featured in City's first team.

Most Bantams followers would say that Leeds-born Syers, who played for the likes of Farsley Celtic, Ossett Albion and Harrogate Town in the non-league before trying his luck with City, has already made the grade after signing a 10-month deal following a successful trial late last summer.

The man himself is loving life as a professional footballer, both on and off the pitch, with the sabbatical having refreshed his batteries fully after years of study – but it remains to be seen how long his 'break' lasts.

Syers, who is also busy learning to cope with the quick-witted banter of a dressing room, said: "For now, I'm enjoying the fact that after school, sixth form and university, I'm having my first year in a long time where I haven't had to worry about exams and coursework and stuff!

"You don't have to work, but play football, which is amazing. I don't have to worry about a deadline coming up.

"You get a fair bit of abuse from the lads – and there's a lot of banter about at the moment – but there's obviously Chib (Chilaka) there as well, who is doing his masters, and Jonny McLaughlin has had a couple of years at uni as well.

"There are quite a few of us and we give just as good as we get – there are not many who are going to mess with Chib!"

He added: "I'm loving it as a professional footballer, although it's weird finding things to do, really, with all the spare time!

"Especially for someone like me for whom rest is just as important as the exercise in a sense. I've got to make sure I use my time off to make sure my body is the best (shape) it can be, so I can get ready for training next day. But it's been great so far."

Football is not the only string to Syers' considerable bow with the accomplished all-rounder a more than useful cricketer in the best traditions of yesterday-year sportsmen who regularly donned their cricket whites when the football season ended, Yorkshire's Ken Taylor and the late Chris Balderstone to name but two – not to mention former Scunthorpe United centre-half Sir Ian Botham!

Syers has achieved plenty of success in the Bradford League as a wicket-keeper, batsman and captain with top-flight side Farsley, having previously played for the likes of Spen Victoria, Pudsey St Lawrence and Collingham.

And while he is happy not to be thinking about winter nets in preparation for the start of the new cricket season in April – not to mention revision and hours of cramming ahead of his usual summer exams –

Syers does admit his mind will wonder towards thoughts of leather on willow once the days get longer.

The former Bradford League young player of the year, who missed out on an appearance in last year's prestigious Priestley Cup final despite playing a leading role in Farsley's cup run due to commitments with Bradford City, said: "Normally, in January when winter nets start, it's a bit more of an annoyance – you've got to start netting when you're just wanting to concentrate on football.

"It's quite nice for the early few months not to have to worry about it but once the football season's ended I'll be waking up and saying: 'I really should be thinking about cricket now!'

"You never know, we'll have to wait and see (about playing cricket this summmer). But I wouldn't change anything for what has happened at the moment."

While Syers' footballing preoccupation is exclusively with Bradford, he admits to keeping his fingers crossed that Farsley AFC can continue their sterling exploits at the top of the Northern Counties East League after being formed from the ashes of the old Farsley Celtic last year.

Syers, a popular figure during his time at Throstle Nest, said: "I definitely hope Farsley do it this year. I obviously keep in contact with a lot of the Farsley lads, a lot of whom were there last year when I was there.

"At that level, the fact they are out in front early is a big thing. There might say be teams behind them who have games in hand, but when you have three games in a week at the end of the season, it doesn't mean you are always going to pick up points from them.

"Hopefully, they can stay out in front and get climbing back up the

pyramid."

Liam Cooper. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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