Bradford Sport History

Interested in Bradford sport history? Have a look at VINCIT  an online journal dedicated to writings about the origins and development of sport in Bradford, embracing all codes and clubs. I have written a number of features that have been published, including the most recent which tells the long forgotten story of Shipley FC.

My interest in Shipley FC arose from wanting to discover more about a club that would have been my local side, playing opposite the Ring O’ Bells public house. It reveals an alternate perspective to the history of rugby in the Bradford district and demonstrates that the story of how spectator sport developed in Bradford cannot be told with an exclusive focus on Bradford FC and Manningham FC alone.

Football supporters in Bradford have tended to ignore what happened before the formation of Bradford City AFC in 1903 despite the fact that the club had its origins as a rugby organisation. (NB Prior to World War One the term ‘football’ was synonymous with both rugby and soccer but in West Yorkshire it tended to mean rugby.)

Rugby League followers have similarly tended to overlook what happened prior to the launch of the Northern Union in 1895. Going further back you find common roots between rugby and cricket in Bradford.

The history of the origins of sport in Bradford and these common links has been ignored. Likewise the subtleties of what happened have been missed altogether and it is a subject area that has fallen foul of simplistic narratives. Surprisingly perhaps it has been overlooked that Bradford sport in the nineteenth century was heavily influenced by the military and motives of charitable giving. Sport was also recognised by our Victorian forebears as an important form of expression for civic pride and identity (or what was then described as local patriotism), another theme that has been forgotten despite its relevance for today.

If you want to discover more you will find plenty online. There are links to what I have written about the origins of Bradford sport here. The drop down menu on the VINCIT site will also take you to features about different sports in the district with contributions from a number of other writers and enthusiasts.

John Dewhirst

Die deutsche Frage

For the avoidance of doubt this is a personal blog, not a news site…

Of all the nations in Europe it is Germany that has fascinated me the most, probably because what has happened in Germany in the last 150 years has had a massive bearing on the history of Europe and Great Britain. The German community in Bradford between the middle of the nineteenth century and World War One was no less a product of what was happening in Germany. The so-called German Problem dominated international relations and so it would seem, another German Question dominates the discussion of Bradford City supporters. It is all rather surreal to anyone who followed the club before the Premier League era that our dear institution would be the target of foreign ownership in 2016. Nearly three years later it seems to be ending in tears.

I have spent quite a lot of time in Germany and Berlin in particular as a student, tourist and working. I have also had some exposure to German football, albeit mainly of that in the former GDR. On my part I consider myself something of a Germanophile and was among those who welcomed the acquisition of Bradford City by Stefan Rupp and Edin Rahic. I saw them as good for the club, capable of driving a transformation at Valley Parade both on and off the pitch.

In contrast to the UK, when it comes to business the Germans have distinct cultural traits but ultimately I have found them to be thorough and pragmatic in their approach. Any criticism levelled at the speed of decision-making is countered by the fact that they are typically more focused on longer term gains than tends to be the case with Anglo-Saxon investors. Neither is wrong or right, it comes down to the circumstances and mutual understanding.

With regards to football, the Germans also have their own ways and no-one can argue otherwise that it tends to be successful. With regards club football, thirty years ago German supporters were derided by the English as sausage chompers recognisable by the mullet hairstyles and denim waistcoats adorned with badges. Nowadays they are much less fixated with English fandom and attempts to imitate the example of the Anfield Kop. Quite the opposite in fact because if you compare the atmosphere of Bundesliga games with that of the soulless grounds of the Premier League, the Germans are definitely not to be ridiculed.

I have visited Berlin on numerous occasions on an irregular basis since 1983 and found it fascinating to track the changes. I spent quite a bit of time there as a student and might have remained had I accepted the offer of a job in the then GDR in 1986. At the time it was a difficult decision because the terms seemed too good to be true for a recent graduate but I did the right thing to turn it down and after the fall of the Wall (in 1989) I discovered that I would have been in the employ of the Stasi. What I find amusing is that East German intelligence interpreted the City Gent and flag graphic (introduced by myself to the cover of The City Gent in 1986) as indicative of revolutionary aspirations and the likelihood of being ‘a fellow traveller’.

Going back to my time in East Germany I saw a number of football games and had a particular affection for 1FC Lokomotive Leipzig, producing the spoof fanzine ‘Und Nun Voll Dampf‘ (translated: ‘And Now, Full Steam‘). One club that fascinated me was 1FC Union Berlin that played its games in Kopenick, (east) Berlin. Union was a mainstay of the GDR Oberliga, rivals of the favoured Dynamo Berlin who enjoyed the patronage of leading figures in the SED ruling regime.

During the 1980s football came to represent an outlet for youth disaffection and restlessness in the GDR and I suspect that the regime considered football rivalry to be a way for young men to let off steam. The gang violence I witnessed at a game in Leipzig was far more vicious than anything I saw in England in the 1980s and yet nothing of the phenomenon was ever reported in the British media.

Although I saw Union play in Leipzig I had never watched them play in Berlin and as one of those bucket list items I finally made amends at the weekend. The experience was a reminder of how football can be an engaging, compelling experience. From the display of flags and scarves to the sheer noise, the atmosphere at the quaintly named Stadion An der Alten Forsterei takes some beating (translated ‘by the old forester’s house‘ – it is literally situated on the edge of a forest). The stadium has a capacity of 22,000, seated accommodation for just under four thousand with covered terraces on three sides. It is a stadium that the club’s supporters helped to construct themselves and it has a homely, utilitarian feel about it. Union is a family friendly, inclusive club closely connected with its community and the pride and passion of its fans is genuine. At the time of writing the club is unbeaten, challenging at the top of Bundesliga 2 and playing in front of near capacity crowds. For a club that has struggled financially in the aftermath of German reunification it is a heartening recovery, testament to the commitment and faith of its supporters.

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I couldn’t help but feel a number of parallels with Bradford City, a similarly unfashionable club that has struggled against financial constraints and been reliant on its supporters to overcome obstacles. The same passion on the terraces of Stadion An der Alten Forsterei existed at Valley Parade not that long ago. I came away believing that Union Berlin provided inspiration for what could be achieved at Valley Parade, a demonstration that the German example has relevance to us. It was a further reminder of the vitality of a club with strong local roots and identity as identified in Jason McKeown’s new book, Who We Are.

(NB Whilst the terraces and the beer played a big part in building the atmosphere at Union, the big difference was that the noise tended to be orchestrated by cheer leaders rather than the more spontaneous chanting of which we are familiar.)

Thus far, talk of the ‘German way‘ at Valley Parade has been restricted to coaching and youth development. The efforts of Edin Rahic will be best remembered for relaying the pitch at Valley Parade and there is precious little evidence of transformation elsewhere. All the more remarkable has been the failure to encourage the German crowd experience at Valley Parade and initiatives introduced prior to the change of ownership at the end of the 2015/16 season seem consigned to history.

What is to be done? Last week I was a signatory to an open letter published on Width of a Post urging supporters to back Julian Rhodes, something that prompted a passionate debate as well as personal criticism on Twitter. Anyone who reads my tweets (@jpdewhirst) will be aware that I have had my supporter credentials questioned and somewhat incredulously I have been described as an apologist for the affairs at Valley Parade by one individual who has sat on the fence about the Rahic issue until fairly recently. Another has even accused me of not attending games but needs to know that I am unlikely to see him at Valley Parade because I don’t frequent the hospitality lounges and have no interest in business networking or wearing a suit at football matches. If anyone needs to know when I am at Valley Parade, mine is the Triumph Bonneville parked in the motorcycle area at the back of the main stand (with the exception of when it pours down).

Another angry tweeter (who was vociferous until around Easter telling the world about how lucky we were to have Edin Rahic at Valley Parade) tells me that I am out of touch with working class supporters. Sorry, this has nothing to do with social class. I am not ashamed to say that my proletarian credentials evaporated two generations ago but it doesn’t make me any less a City supporter. I am a Bradford man first and foremost and proud that I can trace my family history back two hundred years to pre-industrial Bradford. I genuinely don’t believe that I have anything to prove about the validity of my credentials as a City supporter. My concern first and foremost is the football club and I have as much of an emotional commitment to Bradford City AFC as anyone else. What I want is to safeguard the future prospects of the club as a Bradford institution and that brings me to why I travelled to Bavaria from Berlin yesterday.

Notwithstanding that I might be seemingly out of touch with the common man, I enjoy a degree of credibility with the decision-makers at Valley Parade and I understand business. I have been in contact with Stefan Rupp since February this year and reached out to him last month to meet him. Eventually this was arranged at Munich Airport on Monday 12th November (and for the record, the meeting was confirmed ahead of Julian Rhodes being appointed as a consultant at Valley Parade). I know that Stefan reads Width of a Post and not surprisingly follows the affairs at Valley Parade online. The purpose of our meeting was with the future of the club in mind, to allow me to convey the concerns of supporters and in turn, to understand his perspectives.

Let me put on record that I like the guy who is down to earth and without pretensions. For want of a better term, he is something of an enigma to City supporters and he confessed that his preference is to avoid publicity. What I wanted to do was build a degree of trust and understanding with him to allow a frank and open exchange between us. I conveyed my observations in no uncertain terms and he listened. I am not going to betray any confidences but I have peace of mind that he understands the need for change. Equally important, he has assured me that he will stand by the club financially to avoid any prospect of cash crisis or insolvency.

No doubt there will be people who read this and express scepticism but if I did not believe him I would not be going on record with these comments. I am independent minded and in no-one’s pocket; my tweets and the articles / book reviews published on this blog should confirm that I don’t suffer fools. I have also told Stefan Rupp that I will give my time to work with Julian and other staff members at Valley Parade should it be required – I hasten to add in a financial management capacity and not on the football side. For those who declare the need for action maybe ask of yourselves. All I can say is please get behind Julian’s efforts and things will take care of themselves.

John Dewhirst

Home page: http://www.johndewhirst.blog

 

Remembrance Day reflections

Poppyremembrance

We remember

This Sunday, 11th November marks the centenary of the end of World War One. It was a conflict that has a particular poignancy for Bradford City supporters given that three serving as well as seven former players of the club lost their lives. The fatalities included Jimmy Speirs, team captain and scorer of the winning goal in the 1911 FA Cup Final replay as well as Bob Torrance, acclaimed as man of the match in the replay.

Whilst it is important to remember the sacrifice of the club’s players we should also recognise that the so-called Great War of 1914-18 impacted greatly on the football club. Indeed, what tends to be overlooked is that numerous supporters of the club were also among the war dead and injured. In turn the war touched upon the families of Bradfordians. In the aftermath of the war nothing was quite the same for either the city of Bradford or Bradford City. Aside from the personal tragedies, the city had lost its German community and the finances of Bradford City AFC were depleted to the extent that the club lost its first division status in 1922.

Historic links between sport and the military in Bradford

The war also redefined the links between the football club and the local military. When I undertook my research on the origins of football in Bradford, it became apparent that the historic ties between sport and the military in the district had long since been forgotten. This is ironic given the constant reminder provided by the traditional club colours of City and Avenue / Northern having been derived from military connections. My belief is that after the carnage of the Great War the military heritage tended to be overlooked, not necessarily for ideological reasons but because it was probably seen as outdated, if not irrelevant as people looked to the future.

The early history of Manningham FC – established in 1880 and the predecessor of Bradford City AFC in 1903 – had strong links with the citizen soldiers of Bradford. The generation of men involved with establishing ‘football’ clubs in Bradford during the second half of the 1870’s was typically connected with the Volunteer – or territorial – army units in the town and ‘athleticism’ in the widest sense was considered to be a form of military training by virtue of its health benefits.

The Volunteers had been established in 1859 to provide a home defence force to protect the UK from invasion and in Bradford the principal units were the 3rd Yorkshire (West Riding) Rifle Volunteer Corps and the 2nd Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteers Corps.

One reason for the popularity of the Volunteers was that they provided recreational opportunities and in particular access to new sporting activities such as gymnastics and ‘football’ (which in Bradford meant rugby). There was even a dedicated side, Bradford Rifles FC established in 1875 which comprised of a high proportion of Bradford Caledonian FC players (one of the oldest clubs, established in 1873 and also the biggest), a number of whom subsequently became associated with Manningham FC in leadership roles.

This connection encouraged a natural sympathy towards the military but so too did the proximity of Valley Parade to Belle Vue barracks where the 3rd YWRRVC was based. Closer still were the artillery barracks adjacent to Cottingley Terrace just off Valley Parade. Both were used on various occasions for meetings as well as changing and training facilities by Manningham FC and the infant Bradford City club.

The dominant political culture at Valley Parade and Park Avenue prior to World War One was unquestionably Conservatism and it was second nature for the two clubs and their membership to espouse patriotism. A good example of this was the decision to adopt claret and amber in 1884. This came at a time of patriotic fervour associated with the Sudan crisis and the excitement that Bradford men might actually go to war. Arguably it was the same enthusiasm thirty years later with spectators at Valley Parade being actively encouraged to enlist to fight on the western front.

The traditional sporting colours of Bradford were red, amber and black whose origin can be traced to the original Bradford Volunteers of the Napoleonic era. The colours of the local West Yorkshire regiment with whom the 3rd YWRRVC was affiliated were claret and amber.

The Valley Parade War Memorial

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In addition to Jimmy Speirs and Bob Torrance, the war dead included England internationals Evelyn Lintott and Jimmy Conlin, James Comrie, George Draycott, Ernest Goodwin, Gerald Kirk and Harry Potter. Unfortunately the status of Ernest Kenworthy who played two games for the club in 1906/07 was not established until after the erection of the memorial in the Valley Parade reception in 2015.

Subsequent to the war, Jimmy Speirs and others with a Valley Parade connection were remembered first and foremost as fallen soldiers among comrades in arms. So many men had been killed that there was a reluctance to differentiate former professional football players as deserving of unique attention and I believe that the players would have concurred with this treatment. Nowadays the fallen players are afforded particular prominence whereas prior generations tended to remember them among countless others who never returned. The distinct commemoration of footballers killed in action has thus been a more modern phenomenon.

A memorial to the war dead of Bradford City was not erected at Valley Parade until 2015 and this hangs in the Valley Parade reception. (The person who made this possible was supporter John Barker of Farsley who arranged its production.) The memorial was funded by a badge sale that I helped organise through Bantamspast and the proceeds also helped fund a stone memorial to the Bradford Pals at Serre near the Somme battlefield in France.

bantamspast Bfd Pals badges

Further detail of Bradford’s military history is told my book ROOM AT THE TOP, available from Waterstones and Salts Mill or direct from BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS.

John Dewhirst

I have written widely about the history of sport in Bradford: Links to my features on the history of Bradford sport

Read about Jimmy Speirs and Bob Torrance (published in BCAFC programme 2017/18).

Read about Bradford City’s tour of Germany in 1914

The role of the military and the Rifle Volunteers was so integral to the story of the origins of sport in Bradford and such an influence on the Manningham / Bradford City club that I am unforgiving of anyone overlooking the theme and particularly so when the individual otherwise makes bold, vainglorious claims to be an authority about sporting history in the north of England. To ignore the importance of the military influence on the history of Bradford sport beggars belief (although it isn’t the only glaring omission by the author concerned).

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The drop down menu above provides links to features published in the BCAFC programme, book reviews and sundry articles about the history of Bradford and its sport.

If you are interested in local sporting history, visit the dedicated online journal VINCIT

The Tragedy of War

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Bradford City v Portsmouth, 03-Nov-18

The tragedy of war

In April and May, 1914 Bradford City AFC embarked on a tour of France, Germany and Switzerland. This included ten games of which all were won except the third of the tour in Frankfurt am Main on 2nd May against Frankfurter Fussball-Verein (a predecessor club to Eintracht Frankfurt who were formed in 1920).

The fixture had been arranged at short notice and the City team included a number of reserve players. Defeat was later attributed to the distraction of a Zeppelin flying overhead as well as the combination of hot conditions and a ground that was hard as stone. The crowd was reported to be around four thousand. The local newspaper reported that the visitors were so annoyed by the defeat that they did not attend the post-match banquet!

1914-05-02 Bradford City COPY FOR WCR

Of the players in this photograph no less than four were killed in World War One including Bob Torrance (standing, far right) who was killed in Belgium in April, 1918. Among the German fatalities was Rudi Schlüter, scorer of all his team’s goals in the 3-1 victory, killed in Galicia in 1915. Others included Alois Braun who was injured on the western front in August, 1914 and died shortly after as well as Dr. Friedrich Claus who died of injuries sustained in Mesopotania in 1915.

Other players who featured in the above game included Dickie Bond, (third, left) who later became a prisoner of war and Jock Ewart, (fifth, right) who suffered shell shock.

A total of ten current and former Bradford City players were killed in the war. This included the 1911 FA Cup final goalscorer and former captain, Jimmy Speirs, Bob Torrance, England internationals Evelyn Lintott and Jimmy Conlin, James Comrie, George Draycott, Ernest Goodwin, Gerald Kirk and Harry Potter. Unfortunately the status of Ernest Kenworthy who played two games for the club in 1906/07 was not established until after the erection of the memorial by Bantamspast in the Valley Parade reception in 2015.

John Dewhirst

John’s book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (vol 1 in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series) provides background about City memorabilia. In future issues of The Parader he will feature objects that tell the history of the club. If you have a City artefact in your possession that you would like him to feature in the programme contact him at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com or tweets @jpdewhirst
John has written widely about the history of sport in Bradford: Links to his features on the history of Bradford sport 

Elsewhere on this blog you can find his programme articles from earlier games this season and last.

Reviews of books

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Details here about the new bantamspast History Revisited book by Jason McKeown and other volumes in the same series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

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Discover more about Bradford football history at www.bradfordsporthistory.com

Other Bantams

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Bradford City v Coventry City, 23-Oct-18 

Coventry City is the only other Football League club to have adopted the bantams nickname, albeit swept aside at the time of Jimmy Hill’s relaunch of the club as Sky Blues in 1962. According to Wikipedia: ‘Coventry were first called the Bantams in December, 1908 after the local newspaper noted that they were one of the few clubs who did not have a nickname. Being the lightweights of the Southern League, the Bantams was suggested and stuck with the press and supporters.’

What is notable is that Coventry adopted the nickname only a month after Bradford City. As I mentioned in the Sunderland programme, it came at a time when it was the fashion for clubs to adopt animal and bird identities. However, given that Bradford City chose the nickname because of association with the bird’s fighting qualities, Coventry did so for apparently different reasons.

In 1962 Coventry considered the nickname to be old fashioned and there was a similar decision at Valley Parade not long after. The bantam identity was retained by Bradford City until 1966 when it was swept aside by the City Gent and the restoration of the ‘Paraders’ nickname. In practice the bantams identity had faded with more relevance for headline writers and journalists writing match reports. Apart from featuring in a Bradford City Shareholders’ and Supporters’ Association badge design in 1962, and on the cover of the programme in 1963/64, the bantam identity had become almost incidental.

1981

The subsequent bantam revival by Bob Martin in 1981 was more remarkable for the introduction of three different club crests in as many years. Frankly all three designs were poor and bear testament to the difficulty in the pre-internet era of securing a realistic drawing of a cockerel, let alone a bantam cock. The crest of 1982 for example has an abundance of ribbon in the shield as if the designer was desperate to fill the space. Furthermore, if you take into account the relative proportions of the cockerel and the ball it suggests a giant bird that is almost certainly not a bantam.

1982 logo

The circular design was introduced mid-season, in December, 1981 and despite new crests being introduced in 1982 and 1983 this continued to be used on merchandise and in the club programme.

1983 logo

What seems unusual is that despite the rebranding of Bradford City a bantam crest never featured on the club shirt at this time. Instead supporters had the indignity of the TOY CITY shirt advertising. At least in 1983 this was replaced by the Bradford Mythbreakers logo of the Bradford Council’s Economic Development Unit.

In 1985 Stafford Heginbotham revived the boar’s head identity for the club that survived until the introduction of the current crest in the 1991 close season.

John Dewhirst

John’s book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (vol 1 in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series) provides background about City memorabilia. In future issues of The Parader he will feature objects that tell the history of the club. If you have a City artefact in your possession that you would like him to feature in the programme contact him at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com or tweets @jpdewhirst

John has written widely about the history of sport in Bradford: Links to his features on the history of Bradford sport

Elsewhere on this blog you can find his programme articles from earlier games this season and last.

===============================================================

Details here about the new bantamspast History Revisited book by Jason McKeown and other volumes in the same series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

==============================================================

Discover more about Bradford football history at www.bradfordsporthistory.com

The first game of soccer at Valley Parade

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Bradford City v Rochdale, 20-Oct-18

It may come as a surprise that the first recorded game played by association football rules at Valley Parade was on 7 May, 1895 and that it was a women’s match. As such it would best be described as an exhibition game by so-called ‘Lady Footballers’ that formed part of a series of matches staged across the country. The motives were entirely commercial, organised to exploit the curiosity of people in women’s football at a time when ‘soccer’ was fast emerging as the dominant winter code.

The organiser was the so-called British Ladies Football Club that had been formed in January, 1895 and which toured Great Britain during its brief existence until around September, 1896.

A crowd of between two to three thousand people came to watch the spectacle that had been arranged at the Manningham FC ground at relatively short notice. The Bradford Daily Telegraph however was pretty dismissive about the match falling a long way short of being a competitive contest and did not disguise the fact that a predominantly male audience had attended for reasons other than to watch a serious sporting spectacle: It was fun that was expected by the spectators, and fun was all that was forthcoming, the attempts at football being feeble and farcical.

Its comments were equally sexist: There was nothing in the costume of the lady footballers to shock the sensibilities of Mrs Grundy, but all the same the attire is not likely to become popular with the fair sex, for the simple reason that it is not becoming. Had the lady footballers been less favoured by Nature they would have presented a ‘dowdy’ appearance, but the natural beauty and grace of several saved the team from this.

The great drawback to ladies’ football, however, seems to lie in the fact that it seems a physical impossibility for ladies to run quickly and gracefully. As an exhibition of football the play was a miserable travesty of a splendid game and as an entertainment it soon became tedious.’

Women’s football received a boost during World War One when teams were formed by munitions workers and indeed, on 6 August 1917 Park Avenue staged an exhibition game between two such works sides. It was during the war that the famous Dick, Kerr Ladies came to prominence and in the immediate aftermath was successful at attracting large crowds to its games. On Boxing Day, 1920 for example 53,000 came to watch the Preston side at Goodison Park. The example of Dick, Kerr’s inspired the formation of other works teams including those at Manningham Mills and Hey’s Brewery in Bradford during 1921.

The next game of women’s football at Valley Parade was on 13 April, 1921 when the Manningham Mills Ladies’ side (also known as Lister Ladies) was defeated 0-6 by the Dick, Kerr team in front of 14,000 spectators.

Dick Kerr v Listers at VP Apr-21Thank you to David Wilkins for sending a photo of that game which shows DKL in stripes.

In October, 1921 Hey’s Ladies were defeated 1-4 by Dick, Kerr’s at Valley Parade and the crowd of that game has been variously reported as 4,070 and 10,000 (the higher attendance claim may have been exaggerated for effect).

The following December the Football Association enforced a ban on women’s football that endured for 50 years and which prevented women’s football being staged on the pitches or grounds of FA registered clubs. Similarly, FA registered referees were barred from officiating women’s football games.

The story of the origins of women’s football in Bradford is told on the VINCIT website  where you will find other features about the origins of sport and football in the district.

 

John Dewhirst

John’s book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (vol 1 in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series) provides background about City memorabilia. In future issues of The Parader he will feature objects that tell the history of the club. If you have a City artefact in your possession that you would like him to feature in the programme contact him at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com or tweets @jpdewhirst

John has written widely about the history of sport in Bradford: Links to his features on the history of Bradford sport

Elsewhere on this blog you can find his programme articles from earlier games this season and last.

===============================================================

Details here about the new bantamspast History Revisited book by Jason McKeown and other volumes in the same series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

==============================================================

 

Book Review: One Year, Two Seasons

‘One Year, Two Seasons’ by Richard Wardell (City Gent Publications, 2018) £3.00

Author Richard Wardell had long thought about writing a book about supporting Bradford City and he could not have chosen a more eventful period to write about. In fact some of us would say that he has successfully written a horror story featuring Bradford City!

It is a long, long time since the Wembley Play-off Final in May, 2017 against Millwall when it seemed that Bradford City supporters were assured of a bright future. Fast forward to the beginning of the 2018/19 and it feels as though the world has been turned upside down. Optimism has been swapped for despondency and rancour. How we will look back upon this period in the future is anyone’s guess but Richard Wardell has done a mighty fine job of documenting the change in outlook during the twelve months that followed the club’s final game of the regular season at Rochdale on 30th April, 2017.

Put together in the same format as The City Gent, it is better described as a booklet (72 pages in size) but with the splendid cover by Paine Proffitt and a good selection of photographs One Year, Two Seasons is well produced and equally well-written. Published to raise money for the Plastic Surgery & Burns Research Unit and the Huntington’s Disease Association it is richly deserving of support.

Richard is a longstanding supporter and one who is unlikely to have his commitment to the club shattered by what has happened at Valley Parade of late. His loyalty to the club and infectious enthusiasm is writ large on each page despite the tangible evidence of the implosion and dramatic loss of form from the end of December, 2017 about which we are all aware. This is a man who should be a positive thinking coach, if not a therapist.

Written as a journal Richard reveals the extent to which supporting his team has come to dominate his life and despite the bad results and disappointments, he demonstrates how it can be a satisfying experience with its various routines. It is something of an understatement when he writes that ‘football is so much more than the 90 minutes on the pitch. It’s about forming and maintaining friendships, it’s about sharing stories with strangers, it’s about communities, and it’s about creating history and making happy memories.’ 

Amen to all of that. Richard demonstrates that without people like him we wouldn’t have a football club and in truth, it would not be worth following. Long after foreign owners have got bored by their dalliance it will be the likes of Richard Wardell who will help Bradford City AFC begin the process of recovery and rebuilding.

John Dewhirst

You can find other book reviews on this blog – refer links from HERE

 

 

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