New book about Bradford Park Avenue

This season marks the 50th anniversary of when Bradford lost its second Football League club. After an ignominious decline, Avenue unceremoniously lost their place to Cambridge United in 1970. The collapse of the club was unprecedented although the demise of Bradford City in 2018 demonstrated just how a club can be overcome by crisis and decline.

A new book by a former supporter of the old club is being published at the end of this month. The book is being self-published and given the effort invested by the author it deserves success. It is  story that needs to be told and has been long overdue. Full details of how to order as below:

BPA Book

Something completely different…

During the summer of 2019 I travelled to North Korea having previously visited in 2005. Photographs of my trip have been uploaded to a separate blog DPRK IN THE VIEWFINDER and photos are also being tweeted from @EscapetoNorthK1

Back in 2005 I distributed Bradford City shirts to a youth team in Pyongyang having presented them initially to surviving members of the North Korean 1966 World Cup team (as below).

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North Korea is a fascinating place although I won’t make excuses for its regime. Many of the stereotypes in the western press are wide of the mark and as a destination it is certainly thought provoking, not to mention a photographer’s paradise.

I hope you visit the blog!

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Northampton Town: 7th September, 2019

PROGRAMMES OF OLD

Published in the Bradford City AFC match day programme for the above fixture

Like Cambridge United, our first games with Northampton Town were during the 1972/73 season which followed our relegation from Division Three in 1972. The home programme with the City Gent in the team’s all claret strip is featured.
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We have played Northampton on 30 occasions in the Football League and of the 15 seasons that we have played in the same division all but three have been in the fourth tier. Of course the most high profile game between the sides was the Play-Off final in 2013.

Before relocation to their current ground at Sixfields in 1994 the club had played at the County Ground since 1897, home of Northamptonshire Cricket Club. The fate of the venue had been determined by the implications arising from the Valley Parade disaster. The cost of health and safety repairs to bring the ground up to date was not economically feasible and hence the attraction of a new stadium to relaunch the club.
The County Ground was three-sided by virtue of staging cricket, a characteristic that it shared with the original layout of Bramall Lane in Sheffield prior to 1973. Such design was favoured by the Victorians: Park Avenue in Bradford similarly staged cricket and football and had it not been for lack of finance in 1892, plans existed to redevelop the football ground from being contained as a conventional four-sided enclosure to become three-sided (ostensibly to increase its capacity by building a much larger stand on the low, Horton Park Avenue side).
Northampton’s programmes in the 1970s and 1980s were typical of many struggling lower division sides. In 1979/80 for example many clubs resorted to printing its programme in a newspaper format and then, like others, in 1980/81 the Cobblers adopted a format produced by a Devon firm that provided the semblance of a magazine publication. However it had just 12 pages of club news and the remainder was general football content that appeared in maybe a dozen other club programmes.
Northampton Aug-79
Those featured are for the fixtures in August, 1979 and September, 1980. Both games were City victories, 2-1 and 1-0 respectfully in front of crowds of only 2,555 and 2,293.
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The first fixture with Bradford City at Sixfields was in October, 2006, in League One. It has since proved to be a lucky venue for the Bantams with only one defeat in seven visits.
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That game between our sides at Wembley in 2013 seems a long time ago. From the perspective of Northampton Town however, the new ground undoubtedly revitalised the club’s fortunes.

John Dewhirst

You will find other Bradford City archive images by following the links in the drop down menu above. Also published on this blog are my features in the BCAFC programme from previous seasons, book reviews and sundry content about the history of Bradford sport.

On this blog you can find features about the origins of the club identity, crests and nickname.

Details of my books.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

Curtains at Odsal

Today – 1st September 2019 – was an historic day for Bradford sport. Bradford Bulls played Sheffield Eagles in what was billed as the final game of professional rugby at Odsal Stadium thus marking the end of an 85 year tenure and with it questions about where the club will play next. Given the historical significance I headed to Odsal with my camera and a wide angle lens to record the occasion for posterity.

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Although I am not a Rugby League fan the Odsal saga has long fascinated me. This is not due solely to the ground’s significance in the history of professional football in Bradford, but because on a number of occasions it seemed that Bradford City AFC might relocate there. Thankfully it has never come to pass that Odsal became a permanent home for the Bantams. Indeed, Odsal is not a ground that I have particularly enjoyed visiting and between 1985-86 I was active in campaigning with other City fans against the prospect of our club abandoning Valley Parade in favour of Odsal.

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The layout of the current stadium is pretty much the same as that developed ahead of the 1985 Speedway World Championships with the exception of the hospitality block at the southern end, constructed between 2001-03. The speedway track has long since been covered in tarmac and there is little trace of speedway remaining.

This was my first visit to Odsal in nearly five years and I confess that I was surprised at the extent to which the ground is run down. It is evident that there has been minimal maintenance and repair undertaken in recent years. Whilst it is by no means derelict to the extent of the disrepair at football grounds in the 1980s, it is a long way from the standard you would nowadays expect even at clubs in the basement of the Football League. It seems pretty clear that the stadium has no future. Just about the only feature in the ground’s favour is the standard of its PA system (which is very loud) – take that away and it really would be a soulless place. The bank of terracing at the northern end of the ground (as below) is condemned and entry forbidden but recent crowds have been insufficient to justify upgrading even if the cost could be afforded.

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What also shocked me is the extent to which the Bradford Bulls set up is a pale shadow of the glory era. It reminded me very much of the state of Bradford sport in the 1970s when all three Bradford clubs were on their knees. The collapse of Bradford Bulls is lamentable and sad but this is not the place to apportion blame.

The RFL has reportedly made the Bradford Bulls subject to ‘special measures’ and it doesn’t take much to guess the concerns of the sport’s governing body. On the basis of what I saw today it is fanciful to believe that the Bulls could finance a new stadium and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if the next headlines were downbeat about the club’s future options.

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The following photographs have been uploaded in chronological order, consistent with my wandering through the stadium. They record the quirky features of the ground, the multitude of portakabins and the Anderson shelter inspired toilet blocks. It was a day of big skies and Odsal was certainly the place to watch the clouds. Bradford Bulls defeated Sheffield Eagles 30-10 and the crowd was reported as 7,531. Unfortunately other results meant that the club failed to secure a final play-off place which could prove to be decisive in the short term.

As regards what happens next, there will be plenty more cloud gazing to come…

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You can find archive images of Valley Parade and soon to be added images of Bradford City AFC at Odsal in 1986 from this link.

To read features written by the author about the early history of rugby / soccer and the origins of sport in nineteenth century Bradford go to this link.

For details about my books on the origins of rugby in Bradford and the early history of Bradford FC and Manningham FC go to this link. I am currently working on a history of the City / Avenue rivalry, 1908-74 which will include previously overlooked detail of the origins of the Rooley Avenue / Odsal Stadium just over 90 years ago.

If you are interested in the history of Bradford sport: VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford Sport History.

John Dewhirst

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

PS I have no objections if people wish to download any of the images on this page but I would ask that I am credited.

Forest Green Rovers: 24th August, 2019

PROGRAMMES OF OLD

Published in the Bradford City AFC match day programme for the above fixture

We welcome today a club with whom we play our first ever fixture. By virtue that this column features historic matchday programmes involving games between Bradford City and the opposition of the day, it’s been something of a challenge to find a connection with our visitors. However it did strike me that what our clubs have in common is origins in areas that were – and arguably still are – rugby strongholds.

In terms of Football League membership, Forest Green Rovers is a relatively young club – this being only their third season in the competition. However, with a history dating back to 1889 the club’s origins predate the playing of association football in Bradford on a competitive basis by six years as well as the formation of Bradford City AFC eight years after that. In 1889 Bradford was firmly a rugby town with a fierce rivalry between Manningham FC at Valley Parade and Bradford FC at Park Avenue. Indeed rugby overshadowed and crowded out association football in West Yorkshire, a state of affairs that arguably persisted for much longer in Gloucestershire.

Lorimer Baines Card.jpgValley Parade was the home of Manningham FC between 1886 and 1903, hosting Rugby Union and, after 1895 Northern Union rugby games. Surviving artefacts relating to the club are few and far between, the most common examples being Baines trade cards which display the claret and amber hoops of the Manningham team (Bradford City AFC retained the colours in 1903 but adopted stripes on account that it was a style more commonly associated with soccer). It was the practice in the 1890s to print team cards for high profile rugby games and it is highly likely that they were sold at Valley Parade although I have yet to see one. These examples are from two other areas of Great Britain where professional soccer emerged in the twentieth century, in Newport and Hartlepool. Of course Newport County now play at Rodney Parade, the spiritual home of Newport Rugby.

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You can find other features about the history of Bradford City AFC on this blog as well as links to other content that I have published previously. The menu provides links to archive images featuring historic photographs of Valley Parade as well as old programmes.

Details of my books.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

John Dewhirst

Oldham Athletic: 17th August, 2019

PROGRAMMES OF OLD

Published in the Bradford City AFC match day programme for the above fixture

Although we have previously played against all but Forest Green Rovers and Salford City in the Football League, what is notable is that our first fixtures against the vast majority of other League Two sides took place after the last war. The exception to this comprises Grimsby Town (1903/04), Port Vale (1903/04), Leyton Orient (1905/06), Oldham Athletic (1907/08), Crewe Alex (1927/28), Carlisle United (1928/29) and Plymouth Argyle (1930/31).

Of our rivals this season, Oldham Athletic and Port Vale are the clubs with whom Bradford City is by far the most familiar. We have played Port Vale on 100 occasions in the Football League and Oldham on 98 – a degree of familiarity previously reserved for Stockport County (102 meetings between 1903-2011).

We first played Oldham in September, 1907 – the Latics having only been elected to the Football League the previous June and we have played them in every decade since. What is notable about our rivalry with Oldham Athletic is that we have played each other at every level of the Football League, including the former Division Three (North). Between 1910/11 and 1921/22 the clubs were both members of the first division. Nevertheless this season is only the third that we have competed with Oldham in the fourth tier, the last meeting being in December, 1962.

BCAFC v Oldham 1910-11

BCAFC v Oldham 1920-21

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Oldham 85-86

Featured are the home programmes at Valley Parade from 1910/11, 1920/21 and 1933/34 as well as at Leeds in March, 1986.

John Dewhirst

 

You will find other Bradford City archive images by following the links in the drop down menu above. Also published on this blog are my features in the BCAFC programme from previous seasons, book reviews and sundry content about the history of Bradford sport.

On this blog you can find features about the origins of the club identity, crests and nickname.

Details of my books.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

Bradford City AFC programmes from the 1980s

During the 2019/20 season my column in THE PARADER, the BCAFC matchday programme will feature issues of old programmes and those relating to historic fixtures with the opposition of the day. Additionally I will be uploading features on this blog that record changes in the design of the publication in earlier decades. Through the menu links above the blog will provide a point of reference to those interested in the history of Bradford City AFC.

Featured below are Bradford City programme covers from the 1980s. My book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (BANTAMSPAST, 2014) includes other examples not to mention a full range of historic City memorabilia and relics…

You will find other Bradford City archive images by following the links in the drop down menu above. Also published on this blog are my features in the BCAFC programme from previous seasons, book reviews and sundry content about the history of Bradford sport.

On this blog you can find features about the origins of the club identity, crests and nickname.

The drop down menu provides links to other features I have written published elsewhere including on VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford sport history

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst