The record League attendance at Valley Parade, September 1927

The following was published in the Bradford City AFC programme (vs Rotherham United) on 16 September, 2017:

On 17 September, 1927 Bradford City hosted Bradford (Park Avenue), the first meeting of the sides in a Football League fixture since the 1920/21 season when the two were members of Division One. Such was the interest that it attracted a reported crowd of 37,059 to Valley Parade, a record for a League fixture at the ground. (The record attendance is recorded as 39,146 for the FA Cup quarterfinal tie with Burnley in March, 1911.)

The attendance was a measure of the enthusiasm for derby football in Bradford but it also revealed the pent-up demand for success and excitement. In the six seasons since they had last been in the same division, both clubs had been relegated twice: Avenue had dropped out of the first division at the end of 1920/21 and the following season City had been relegated from Division One and Avenue from Division Two. With City’s relegation at the end of the 1926/27 season, Bradford found itself with two clubs in Division Three (North).

The collapse of the two clubs had been remarkable and the back-to-back relegations of Bradford PA was unprecedented. City’s record in 1926/27 was also notable for the fact that the side had won only 7 of its 42 League games, an unenviable ratio that remained the club’s worst until 2000/01 when City were relegated from the Premier League with only 5 wins out of 38.

For a city that had boasted such a strong pedigree in sport it was a real low point in its sporting history. Neither were Bradford Northern doing much better at Birch Lane, struggling at the bottom of the Rugby League and in a weak financial state. By far the most successful side in Bradford was the amateur Bradford Rugby Club at Lidget Green, winners of the Yorkshire Challenge Cup three times in succession 1923-25 and regularly enjoying five figure crowds.

Older sportsmen in the city must have questioned the wisdom of rugby having been abandoned at Park Avenue in 1907 and besides, Bradford Rugby demonstrated the continuing affection for Rugby Union. At Valley Parade questions had also been asked about whether Bradford could support two professional soccer clubs although the suggestion of merger was dismissed by supporters of both.

Avenue won the derby at Valley Parade by 3-2 and later achieved the double at Park Avenue in January, 1928 defeating City 5-0. By the end of 1927 the club sat at the top of Division Three (North) where it remained for the rest of the season. It marked the beginnings of a new era and judged in terms of League performance, Bradford PA remained the top side in Bradford for the next quarter century.

City finished 1927/28 in 6th position but the following season secured promotion as champions in record fashion, scoring 128 goals. The recovery of Avenue and City – and their return to the second division – convinced soccer followers that there was room for both clubs after all and talk of amalgamation was abandoned… at least until the next crisis.

John Dewhirst

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