The header photograph shows the Manningham FC squad, Yorkshire Senior Competition champions in 1894. Two years later they were winners of the inaugural 1895/96 Northern Union championship. It was a time when Manningham FC enjoyed life at the top.
There are few surviving images of the era but this one is my favourite for the characters and personalities that it reveals. The photograph captures the pride of the triumphant players and club officials. These men were the prime athletes of their time, individals who could later – from 1895 – overtly claim reimbursement for lost (broken) wages from playing rugby. But look closely at their build and stature – by today’s standards a number of them appear puny, even sickly and few exceed 12 stone in weight. It seems highly unlikely that they had the stamina or the power of their modern counterparts. Yet for all the differences they were no less competitive and this photograph records Manningham’s ascendancy over its bitter rivals, Bradford FC who had consistently sought to deny the Valley Paraders room at the top.
Discover the origins of football in Bradford and of how the rivalry of the two senior rugby sides determined the fate of twentieth century soccer in the city. The latest Bantamspast books in the History Revisited series – Room at the Top and Life at the Top – are now available.