Newport County, 7th December 2019

PROGRAMMES OF OLD

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

Of all the fixtures this season I confess that the most eagerly anticipated on my part were those with Newport County. Today will be memorable for the opportunity to welcome back the Newport manager, Michael Flyn to Valley Parade but it is also about the renewal of an old rivalry.

There have been 40 games between our sides. City boast 19 wins and Newport, 15 with just 6 games having been drawn. Only once has there been a goalless draw. Most of the scorelines have actually been fairly close, the one exception being our 6-2 victory at Valley Parade in January, 1960.

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Not since our tragic but triumphant Championship season of 1984/85 have we competed in the same division. Our last game was at Somerton Park on 16th April, 1985 which had been rearranged after postponement in February. Our 1-0 victory put the Bantams on track for promotion to the second division but much has changed since that last meeting. Less than four weeks later there was the fire disaster and the Valley Parade of today will be totally unrecognisable to the visitors from Newport.

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Somerton Park was equally decrepit and it surely ranked alongside The Shay, Halifax and the Victoria Ground, Hartlepool as among the worst in the League. For so long Newport County had been perennial strugglers on the verge of financial oblivion to which they eventually succumbed in 1989. In May, 1976 I recall the half-time fund raising at Valley Parade to raise money for County, a gesture that incurred the wrath of former Avenue supporters who claimed that the City faithful had never extended such goodwill to their club.

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For so long City and Newport were rivals at the foot of the basement division and of the twenty seasons that we have been in the same division, all but six have been in the fourth tier. Our first meetings however were in Division Three in 1958/59 and we competed at that level for three seasons until City’s relegation in 1961. In 1979/80 we found ourselves in the unusual situation as promotion rivals and despite achieving a double against the Welshmen, County gained promotion at our expense on the last day of that season after City lost at Peterborough.

We eventually caught up with Newport in 1982/83 until we parted company in 1985. It tends to be forgotten that until 1987 at least, Newport County was the leading professional side in Wales.

Nowadays Newport County play at Rodney Park, a ground more famous as the home of Newport rugby and a venue at which Manningham FC – forerunners of Bradford City AFC – last played in December, 1893. During the course of my research into the origins of football in Bradford I was given access to the Newport sports archive that was uncovered at Rodney Parade. Like Bradford, Newport was something of an industrial frontier town in the nineteenth century and has a proud sporting heritage despite a lack of soccer glories. Welcome back to Bradford, Newport County!

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

Bradford City AFC programmes, 1945-66

During the 2019/20 season my column in THE PARADER, the BCAFC matchday programme features issues of old and those relating to historic fixtures with the opposition of the day. Additionally I am uploading features to this blog that record changes in the design of the publication in earlier decades.
Featured below are Bradford City AFC programme covers from the period 1945-66. 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 also find features about the origins of the club identity, crests and nickname.

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

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst

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The claret & amber yoke shirt

The unique colours of Bradford City and Motherwell

The origins of Bradford City’s claret and amber colours date to 1884 when they were adopted by Manningham FC to replace their existing black shirts. As narrated previously on this blog [1] and on VINCIT [2], the choice of colours is most likely explained by local military heritage and patriotism.

Manningham FC opted to wear hooped shirts with the width of the claret hoop said to have been twice that of the amber. In 1903 the new Bradford City club retained claret and amber but opted for striped shirts by virtue of the fact that hoops were more commonly associated with rugby.

In 1908, at a time when the Bradford City side was struggling at the bottom the first division, the club adopted its bantam nickname [3]. By that stage the team was wearing an all-claret shirt with amber trip.

In 1909 the club adopted a new shirt design, nowadays referred to as its ‘yoke design’ which coincidentally had a resemblance to the plumage of a bantam as the graphic from the same year shown below demonstrates.


The yoke shirt was worn in the 1911 FA Cup final and apart from a solitary season was retained until 1928 when it was replaced by stripes. (Nevertheless, such was the affection for the shirt design that had been associated with the club’s greatest achievement that it was revived between 1948 and 1953.) [4]

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Shirt worn by Robert Torrance, BCAFC 1908-18 (NB Bob Torrance was Killed in Action during World War One)

Until 1912, Bradford City was the only senior club in Great Britain to wear claret and amber but in that year both Dumfries FC (a forerunner of Queen of the South) and Montrose FC adopted a yoke shirt in exactly the same colours and design. The following year, in 1913 Motherwell FC adopted the very same yoke shirt as introduced by Bradford City. Motherwell FC had originally played in blue and the reason for a change in colours to assumed to have arisen from the fact that there were frequent colour clashes with other sides and that the club sought a distinctive look. [6]

Motherwell’s first game in claret and amber was for a Scottish League fixture with Celtic (1-1, at Fir Park) on August 23, 1913. The Motherwell Times of 29th August reported that ‘Punctual to time the teams took the field, Motherwell wearing their new colours. The general opinion regarding the new colours is that while they may be distinctive they are by no means pretty.’

Motherwell shirt

The connection with Bradford extended to more than just the same colours because the new Motherwell shirts were manufactured by the Bradford firm, Sports & Pastimes Ltd Athletic and School Clothing Manufacturers, owned by the Fattorini family. Whilst the core Fattorini business was that of jewellery, the diversification into producing sports medals, trophies and badges had proved particularly lucrative. Tony Fattorini for example had derived leverage from his own sporting interests and Fattorinis were known as the designers of the FA Cup as well as Northern Union trophies. It was an incredible coincidence that the first winners of the new FA Cup trophy in 1911 was none other than Bradford City with whom Tony Fattorini was involved. The launch of the Sports & Pastimes business to sell sporting apparel and equipment was thus a logical extension of existing activity.

Whilst Sports & Pastimes advertised its range of sports equipment extensively throughout Great Britain, there is a good chance that the Motherwell directors decided upon the supplier following a recommendation. It is quite possible that they were impressed by the shirts worn by Dumfries and Montrose although it is unknown whether Sports & Pastimes supplied these.

The understanding among Motherwell supporters is that their club secured the shirts from Bradford City and this gives credence to the suggestion that they did not source them directly from Sports & Pastimes – in other words confirming that an intermediary was involved.
My belief is that an introduction was provided by someone whose contribution to the golden era of Bradford City should not be under-estimated. That individual was Thomas Paton, a man who was said to have been publicity shy – a factor that might explain (although does not excuse) why he has been overlooked in earlier histories about Bradford City AFC. [7]

Of course the Motherwell directors could well have written to Bradford City to request detail of the club’s kit supplier. However it is entirely consistent with Paton’s reputation that he had an involvement in Motherwell’s new colours and endorsing the Sports & Pastimes business.

Paton was probably one of the best networked individuals in Scottish football and with Lanarkshire having been a hotbed of football enthusiasm, he would have had his ear close to developments at clubs such as Motherwell. By maintaining links with Scottish sides at both junior and senior level, Paton had been consistently successful at introducing talented players into the Bradford City side and arranging player transfers. Furthermore, as a shareholder at Park Avenue it seems possible that his influence had extended to securing the appointment of Tom Maley as manager of the Bradford club in February, 1911.

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The above shirt is currently on display in the Summerlee Museum in Coatbridge – the very same as that of Bob Torrance. It was in the possession of Craig Brown who played for Motherwell between 1919-24 and now owned by his grandson, Keith Brown. A centre-half, Brown was transferred from… Bradford City who he had joined as a 21 year old in 1914. He had previously spent the 1916/17 season on loan at Motherwell. Hailing from Ayrshire he probably welcomed the opportunity to return closer to his roots and despite changing clubs he would continue to wear the same style jersey! (NB It is unknown whether he actually wore this shirt in a game.)

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Motherwell retained the yoke shirt until 1924 when the club opted for claret and amber stripes. Whether the striped shirts were sourced in Bradford is unknown but surely Bradford City can be credited with having provided the inspiration. However in 1928 Motherwell introduced a new shirt design which has been the one more commonly associated with the club, that is an amber shirt with a broad claret band.

In 1983 it was the turn of Motherwell to give Bradford City a new home shirt design. First worn in Scotland in 1982/83, the same Patrick kit was adopted by the Bantams the following season.

The Motherwell side has worn some decent shirts in the last few decades. Those responsible for the design of a future Bradford City strip could do worse than deriving some inspiration from north of the border!

Thanks for visiting my blog. The drop down menu above provides links to features on the history of Bradford sport, content published in the BCAFC programme and book reviews. Tweets: @jpdewhirst

My thanks to William Kay for his assistance with information about Motherwell FC and its history.

The following provides further detail about Bradford City’s nickname, colours and kit as well as Thomas Paton…

[1] Military heritage and the adoption of claret and amber by Bradford City AFC

[2] Bradford’s military heritage and the sporting links

[3] The origins of the Bantams nickname

[4] Traditional BCAFC claret and amber shirt designs

[5] More about Bradford City crests and nicknames

[6] Montrose FC wore a claret and amber yoke shirt between 1912-15 and Dumfries FC, 1912-19. The style was also popular at the time with amateur football teams in the Bradford district which may suggest a Sports & Pastimes connection. Similarly a surviving photograph confirms that the Bramley (Northern Rugby Union) team wore a yoke shirt in 1916.

[7] Brief biography of Tom Paton by Ian Hemmens, taken from LIFE AT THE TOP (pub Bantamspast 2016):

Thomas Paton was born in Midlothian in 1868 and was initially involved as fixture secretary for St. Bernards FC of Edinburgh, Scottish Cup Winners in 1894 and at that time credible rivals to Hearts and Hibernian. After qualifying as an accountant he came south to Bradford in 1901, appointed as secretary of Yorkshire Woolcombers Association Ltd but in 1904, after the company’s liquidation in the High Court, he established an accountancy practice, Messrs Paton, Boyce & Welch at Piccadilly, Bradford.

Whilst in Bradford he became involved with Bradford City AFC, probably introduced through his business contacts in the city. Working alongside secretary-manager Peter O’Rourke, he used his network north of the border to entice players to Valley Parade. The likes of Jimmy and Peter Logan, Jimmy MacDonald and Harry Graham all arrived from St Bernards FC. Additionally, he captured future legends of the club including Frank O’Rourke, Jimmy Speirs, Robert Torrance, Dave Taylor, Jock Ewart and Tommy Cairns from Scotland as well as the England internationals Evelyn Lintott and Dickie Bond. All of these men contributed to the club’s so-called golden age before World War One that included FA Cup victory in 1911.

He joined the board of directors just after the incorporation of the club in 1908 before resigning in 1912. In 1928 he was instrumental in helping achieve a restructure of the Bradford City board which helped avert financial disaster. In 1907 he had favoured the merger of Bradford City at Park Avenue and had invested as a shareholder in Bradford Park Avenue in 1909.

In 1925 Paton retired to Girvan, Scotland although kept his house in the Chellow Dene district of Bradford. Nevertheless, he remained involved with football and helped facilitate the transfer of Scottish International Alex James from Preston North End to Arsenal in 1929. This particular arrangement came about from his friendship with Jock Ewart (who had moved to Preston in 1928) and that with Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman who knew Paton from his time in West Yorkshire as manager of Leeds City and then Huddersfield Town. Paton died in 1946, aged 78.

[8] A bantam…

Remembrance Day reflections

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We remember

Monday, 11th November marks the 101th anniversary of the end of World War One. It was a conflict that has a particular poignancy for Bradford City supporters with three serving and six former players of the club having 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 story of the Bradford Rifles is told here on VINCIT)

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 the 1911 FA Cup heroes 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. (NB George Draycott, Ernest Goodwin and Bob Torrance were serving players of BCAFC at the time of being killed in action.)

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 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

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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 where you will find further background about the military heritage at Valley Parade.

Exeter City, 2nd November 2019

PROGRAMMES OF OLD

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

We have been rivals in the same division as Exeter City over 20 seasons of which 13 have been at this level in the fourth tier (with the remainder in the third tier). Not surprisingly old programmes for this fixture have been relatively modest. Those featured in today’s issue from between 1962 and 1983 are all from an era when the Bradford City match day publication was basic to say the least.

Thus far we have won 15, drawn 11 and lost 14 in the Football League. The one cup game between the sides was in the League Cup in 1964/65 which resulted in an Exeter victory

The first League fixtures took place during the 1961/62 season when City achieved a double. The inaugural game at Exeter in November, 1961 was won 2-1 and this was followed by a 5-1 victory at Valley Parade in April, 1962 (featured).

Our biggest victory however remains the 6-0 result at Valley Parade in August, 1993 in the third tier. In fact the games between the two sides have been relatively free scoring and only 5 of the 40 League games have ended goalless including that in February, 1976 (featured). In aggregate the League games have yielded 111 goals with City having the advantage, 59 against 52.

There was a time when Exeter were something of a bogey side for City and between September, 1974 and October, 1983 there was a series of 11 games that ended in six defeats and five draws. The pendulum then swung in favour of the Bantams and of the next ten games between February, 1984 and September, 2008 we enjoyed six victories, three draws and only one defeat.

The 2-0 vitory at Exeter in February, 1984 is remembered as a record-breaking ninth in succession that allowed the club to escape from the relegation places in the third tier, a springboard to championship success the following season.

The last three fixtures however – which have all been in the basement division – have resulted in defeats for the Bantams, the most recent of which in March, 2013 when it seemed that a 1-4 reverse at St James Park had ended our play-off ambitions.

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

The origins of The City Gent magazine

Next month marks the 35th anniversary of the launch of The City Gent, now in its 221st issue. Anniversaries invariably bring with them a combination of self-congratulation and retrospection but often the memories are incomplete. As co-founder, intimately involved with the project from its conception in 1983 until 1988 (when I handed over to Mick Dickinson as editor) this is my version of the origins and early development of The City Gent, distinct from the imagined history told in a recent podcast.

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The timing of the launch of The City Gent coincided with Brian Fox, Jon Burgess and myself returning to Bradford from university in 1984. We had talked about producing a Bradford City-centric publication the previous year and what finally brought the project to fruition was the fact that Brian was keen to establish credentials to secure a job as a journalist. He was the creative writer and I was the organiser who managed the printing and the logistics. Jon was the third member of the original team, a former fellow pupil at Bradford Grammar School who lived close to Brian in Thornton. However, he moved away to Peterborough shortly after the launch of The City Gent and so was not as actively involved. John Watmough later managed sales of The City Gent and took responsibility for subscriptions.

All three of us collected football programmes and were acutely aware of the poor standard of the City programmes as well as familiar with what good looked like. If we had been given the chance, I think we’d have jumped at producing the programme and you will find quite a lot of mention about club programmes in early issues of The City Gent. We were all members of City Travel Club ’73 (Bradford) and travelled to most away games. At a CTC meeting John Watmough had shown us a copy of Terrace Talk, a publication produced by supporters at York City (first published in November, 1981) and we had also become aware of Wanderers Worldwide, a similar publication from Bolton (first published in 1983). However, it was the Bantams Review publication sold in the club shop during the 1983/84 season and which ran to three issues that was the real inspiration for The City Gent.

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Bantams Review was published by Raymond Maul, a local programme dealer and its pages devoted extensive coverage to City collectables. The standard of the editorial was poor and we knew that we couldn’t do any worse. More to the point, the existence of Bantams Review demonstrated that it was feasible to self-publish and it gave us the self-confidence to go ahead with our own project. The choice of title was instinctive: we all had fond memories of the City programme cover from 1966-74 and wanted a return of the character – and striped shirts – to Valley Parade. (The background to the City Gent character is told here.)

Our objective was to provide news and comment about Bradford City at a time when there were few other sources. We also saw The City Gent as a means to foster positive impressions about the club. Brian, Jon and I had all just finished at university where we’d seen ourselves as ambassadors of Bradford City among our peer groups and had countered the usual prejudices about Bradford.

As regards the influence of punk fanzines I can categorically state that this was not a factor, despite being fond of new wave and punk music (and a keen Stranglers fan to this day). Although I was familiar with self-published music fan sheets, I found a lot of them pseudo-intellectual and arty. If I had to cite an influence it would have been involvement with a college magazine whilst at Oxford and it wasn’t until around 1986 that I had even heard of ‘fanzines’. From the start we described The City Gent as an independent supporters’ magazine.

There was never any thought given to the sort of abstract titles that later became commonplace among fanzines elsewhere. From the outset we were practical and focused on financial viability. For instance, the choice of title was considered suitable to appeal to a wide audience and yellow covers were adopted so that the magazine could be seen on the terraces and sellers made visible. The editorial style was also deliberately responsible and whilst we didn’t shy from controversial comment, we sought to be balanced and fair in what we wrote. For the record, the Soviet style iconography adopted by The City Gent is not to be confused with ideological leanings. It was entirely tongue in cheek, inspired by my own travels behind the Berlin Wall as a student.

Initially The City Gent was published as the magazine of CTC but it was later made stand alone to avoid the impression of being too narrow based or cliquey. Nonetheless, strong links with CTC continued and its away trips were given coverage in The City Gent. The CTC had been established in 1973 in response to the parent club declining to arrange coaches to away games and was fiercely protective of its independence. In 1984 for example the members rejected overtures from Bradford City AFC (encouraged by the police) for away travel to once more be co-ordinated by the football club and it is fair to say that The City Gent shared the same independent mindset.

In the late 1980s the emergence of football fanzines – publications produced independently by supporters and on a non-commercial basis – was an unprecedented phenomenon in British football and it didn’t take long before academics began offering profound explanations about what had given the impulse to their emergence. Inevitably it all started to become contorted as a major sociological affair, frankly unrecognisable to what I remember having occurred. It seems that people are still fond of attributing deep and meaningful explanations for what, as far as we were concerned was virtually an impromptu and spontaneous initiative.

As one of the first and now the longest surviving fanzine at any club in Great Britain, The City Gent has been held up as an example of one of the pioneering publications at the vanguard of the so called fanzine movement that had emerged by 1987. I won’t deny that The City Gent was considered influential in those formative years – I was told as much by supporters of other clubs during my time as editor – but we never considered that we were riding a wave of fashion as a generic football fanzine. My explanation for how the phenomenon came about is that supporters at different clubs wanted to emulate what was happening elsewhere, including imitation of what had been achieved at Bradford. It was a basic competitive impulse that harnessed the passion of supporters for their club and seeing that it could be done elsewhere provided the inspiration. (NB It’s hardly different nowadays with regards to the phenomenon of internet blogs.)

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Pictured: Observer magazine feature on football fanzines at Highbury in 1986

For sure The City Gent became extensively networked with fanzines around the country and it brought us in touch with people with similar ideas and attitudes. We were open in sharing our publishing experience, but I don’t believe we ever saw ourselves as part of a movement as much. We remained polite but in private you could not ignore a massive gulf in standards between fanzines (and more than a few of them were poor).

We always identified first and foremost as a Bradford publication and indeed, The City Gent was essentially about a Bradford identity with its own curry guide. As far as we were concerned The City Gent was a partisan publication with an agenda driven by pride and loyalty to the city. There were other unique circumstances and it is surely no coincidence that The City Gent came of age in the aftermath of the Valley Parade fire disaster at the end of our first season. The best way to describe the publication at that time was as the flag bearer of a revivalist spirit at Valley Parade, what I later described as ‘Bantam Progressivism’.

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Any doubts that we had shared about the launch of an independent supporters’ publication were soon dispelled and The City Gent was more successful than we ever imagined. By the end of the 1984/85 season we had a print run of 1,800 for example. Whilst all of this was very satisfying it felt as though we had created a monster that increasingly demanded more of our time.

Had the fire not occurred there is a good chance that The City Gent might have been a short-term phenomenon and set aside. However, the aftermath of the disaster provided a purpose to maintain the commitment to continue publishing. Brian’s parents had been badly injured in the fire and we both recognised that we had a part to play in the club’s recovery by continuing to produce The City Gent. Hence if The City Gent had originally been an opportunist venture, by the beginning of its second season it was positioned to play a part in the revival of Bradford City.

By 1986 our circulation averaged around one in six of those watching Bradford City – probably one of the highest readership ratios in the country – and evidence that The City Gent had popular appeal across a broad range of supporters. By virtue of the circulation we were taken seriously and respected by those in charge at Valley Parade. It would be wrong to say that we were part of the establishment but we definitely had a foot in the door because Stafford Heginbotham knew that we could not be ignored or ostracised. All of this was achieved because we didn’t set out to be anti-establishment per se and we were responsible as well as considered in our editorials.

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The City Gent has had seven editors since 1984. Each of us has shaped the publication in our own vision but it is wrong to say that we have necessarily shared the same outlook or emphasis. To retrospectively project a later vision to ‘explain’ the origins and early development of The City Gent constitutes a remarkable leap of the imagination, one that is entirely at odds with what I remember from back then.

When it comes to people attempting to contextualise The City Gent in broad brush strokes alongside punk fanzines or underground anti-establishment samizdats I just roll my eyes. It is what I describe as sloppy, pretentious history telling for anyone to paint such a picture. In the desperate search for complex, profound explanations to somehow intellectualise and romanticise what happened 35 years ago, the more mundane yet fundamental elements of the story have been overlooked.

We never produced a manifesto but had we done so, the objectives of The City Gent would have been defined roughly as follows:

  • To provide a positive impression of the city of Bradford, its football club and its supporters.
  • To provide a link with the club for exiled Bradfordians and a contact for supporters of other clubs.
  • To encourage constructive debate about the club and its reconstruction.
  • To provide quality reading about the club and its history.

It was as simple as that. The success of the publication came from two basic ingredients: (i) a refusal to compromise on standards; and (ii) hard graft.

The development of The City Gent benefited enormously from securing a cheap printer. From the second issue until the end of the 1984/85 season we used the services of a couple who happened to have a printing press in their basement in Saltaire. It was an unconventional arrangement and on occasions the print quality and rejects left something to be desired. Crucially however it allowed the size and circulation of The City Gent to be expanded without impact on cover price. From the second season we opted for a high street printer which made life much less fraught.

By 1988 I was close to burnout from the effort and handed across to Mick Dickinson as editor. I could no longer afford the time commitment and felt that I had taken The City Gent as far as I could and that it needed new energy and direction. The circumstances of the nearly season (1987/88) were demoralising and hadn’t exactly boosted my enthusiasm to continue. I was also fed up of the petty politics at Valley Parade which had impacted on enjoyment of the football. However, by that stage it was also becoming apparent that the publication was at a watershed.

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During the first couple of seasons The City Gent had been produced through a combination of ‘typewriter and letraset’. In around 1986 I had invested in a Canon Typostar which was an electric typewriter that printed on thermal paper. The disadvantage was that if the paper output was left in the sun for too long the content on the page would disappear. On the other hand, the technological advance was that the machine had a memory that allowed you to correct anything that had been mistyped on the preceding couple of lines. The savings in Tippex were immediate but it remained a laborious task to type up articles and letters for publication. The following year I invested in an Amstrad home computer and whilst this was primitive by today’s standards it nevertheless represented another leap in technology and getting things done. It also opened the door to new opportunities.

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Around that time I recall having had conversations with someone who had suggested that a Bradford listings publication could be spun out of The City Gent. In 1986 and 1987 there had already been diversification to publish a range of publications such as the six issue comic series Bernard of the Bantams; an away travel guide; a handbook to promote the relaunch of Bradford Park Avenue; a blank tribute to L666ds United; and even a one-off tongue in cheek fanzine, ‘Und Nun Voll Dampf’ based around the East German side, Lokomotove Leipzig. The concept of a listings magazine was a step too far but I can’t deny that it would have been an interesting project. (NB Even now I think there would be mileage in The City Gent linking with the likes of the Bradford Review to embrace its design and distribution.)

Technology had become a decisive factor in the production of supporter publications by the end of the 1980s. When I retired as editor there was already a growing divergence between a number of titles becoming commercialised and those continuing on a more traditional, amateur basis. By then the fanzine boom was probably past its peak and it seemed that many had become identikit / formulaic with little originality or distinctiveness.

CG back to VP

Looking back, I am proud of what was achieved and the way in which The City Gent helped champion interest in the history of Bradford City (which also led to my own book writing). I believe that we played a big part in bringing supporters together and encouraging a sense of pride. However, what gave me the greatest pleasure was to contribute towards the revival spirit at Valley Parade after the fire. I make no excuses that we were deliberate in fostering and channelling a spirit of positive thinking about how the club could be rebuilt after 1985, including a successful campaign to return to Valley Parade.

The critical success factor of The City Gent was that it did not become overly dependent upon a small number of contributors and this allowed standards and variety of content to be maintained. Likewise, its survival has been due to a succession of people willing to assume responsibility for its production. However, The City Gent benefited enormously from the fact that it never had any serious competition and as a consequence, there was never a fragmentation of effort in Bradford among rival titles. The advantage undoubtedly accrued from the rapid growth of The City Gent in its early existence that gave it a monopoly position at Valley Parade (at least in printed format) it has never lost.

It seems a long time since The City Gent first went on sale at Valley Parade and much has changed since then. However, the emotional commitment of people to their favourite football club remains undiminished. To re-read the pages of The City Gent from those early years is a reminder that the basic experience of supporting a club is much the same and that people do not change, whether directors, supporters or players. The City Gent provides a valuable historical record of life at Valley Parade and yet for all the change so much remains the same in BD8.

Thanks for visiting my blog. The drop down menu above provides links to my features in the BCAFC programme, book reviews and content about the history of Bradford football.

Details of my books in the Bantamspast History Revisited series

Port Vale, 22nd October 2019

PROGRAMMES OF OLD

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

Port Vale and Bradford City have met on 100 previous occasions in the Football League going back to the first fixture between the clubs in October, 1903 – only the sixth game of City’s debut season in the competition. Between then and the most recent game in February, 2017 there have been 42 wins for the Bantams and 29 for the Valiants.

Of our rivals this season, Port Vale is the club that Bradford City has played the most – Oldham Athletic follow close behind with 99 League games to date – and this season will bring the degree of familiarity level with that of Stockport County with whom they were 102 meetings between 1903-2011.

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There have been five meetings in the FA Cup albeit with only two wins for City. Forty years ago it seemed that the two clubs could not avoid each other and we were drawn together on three occasions in five seasons between 1978/79 and 1982/83.

October seems to have been a good month for contests with Port Vale. On the first day of that month in 1932 Bradford City secured the club’s highest victory against today’s visitors, a 7-0 win at Valley Parade. This was followed by a 5-0 triumph on 23rd October, 1937.

More recently came a 4-0 win on 29th September, 1998 which was memorable for the brace of goals scored by Lee Mills against his old club. The victory was the third in succession for Bradford City and by the end of that year the club was well placed among the promotion contenders in what was to be a memorable season. What seems remarkable is that the crowd for the game with Port Vale was ‘only’ 13,245, a measure of the extent to which discounted tickets have sustained attendances at Valley Parade.

Scan_20190703 (3).jpgThe programme for that fixture is featured on this page. In contrast to those produced at Valley Parade in earlier years, that for the 1998/99 season marked a distinct improvement in standard. In fact it has only been in the last twenty years that the match day publication of either club could reasonably be described as a ‘match day magazine’.

Until the 1970s there had been little change in the content of either the Bradford City or Port Vale programmes which were equally traditional in their design. The other featured programmes on this page are from September, 1930; December, 1952; and October, 1979. With the exception of a glossy cover on the latter there was little to distinguish them and when compared to the quality of today’s publication they are distinctly minimalist. The irony of course is that despite the leap forward in standard, fewer people nowadays buy a match day programme.

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.

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