“‘An old head on young shoulders’ – that’s become the common phrase when talking about Josh Cullen at Bradford,” Telegraph and Argus Chief Sports Writer Simon Parker wrote in an email to Brace The Hammer.
“It was the first thing Phil Parkinson said when Cullen turned up at Valley Parade in February and Stuart McCall, the current manager, repeated it as the midfielder returned for more in August.”
West Ham have announced that Cullen will finish the season on loan at Bradford City. The 20-year-old central midfielder finished last season with Bradford before joining the club for the 2016/17 campaign.
“Cullen is quite simply the man who makes this team tick,” Parker said. “His fresh-faced appearance may strike you as a choir boy but the 20-year-old knows what it’s all about. He finds time on the ball when there is none, he keeps the play moving and the team on their toes.
“But he can also dish it out. League One is no place for the faint hearts or Premier League ‘starlets’ not prepared to get mucky – Cullen, as the saying goes, ‘likes a tackle.’”
Cullen has made 23 total appearances for the League One club this season, adding to his 18 with Bradford last season. Cullen scored his first goal as a senior player in Bradford’s 2-1 victory over Milton Keynes Dons in mid-August.
Cullen has missed only two fixtures with Bradford this campaign, coming from international duty with Republic of Ireland Under 21s. Last season, he played a part in Bradford’s playoff push, and this season Cullen extends his loan deal to continue Bradford’s good form. In 37 matches in League One, Cullen has only been part of a defeat on six occasions.
The Bantams currently sit in 5th place in League One, 11 points off of Sheffield United in first.
“‘Our player of the season by far,’ said experienced defender Tony McMahon this week. And yet Cullen is only starting off – his career is still in its infancy. The exciting prospect, certainly for West Ham, is that there is a lot more to come,” Parker said.
Despite spending so much time on loan, the midfielder has made four appearances for the Hammers’ first team. Cullen made his first-team debut against FC Lusitanos in the EUFA Europa League first qualifying round in 2015, appearing in both legs of the 4-0 aggregate victory.
Cullen also started the second leg of the 2015 third qualifying round against FC Astra Giurgiu, before making his Premier League debut as he replaced Diafra Sakho in the 3-0 away victory over Liverpool.
“Cullen could comfortably be playing Championship by now. He will, probably next season. He will, and I’ll put my house on this, go on to establish himself in the Premier League,” Parker said.
“Cullen is learning his craft so quickly – a pleasure to watch on a weekly basis in a league where you don’t take prisoners. West Ham will definitely reap the benefits.”