Memories of 1977/78

My feature in the Bradford City programme published on 27 January, 2018:

Forty years ago Bradford City were in the midst of a struggle against relegation. Promoted the previous season after going unbeaten at home during 1976/77, there had been big hopes that the club could consolidate at a higher level.

A number of changes were introduced including a fairly radical new programme design that incorporated action photos for the first time (albeit in black and white). The home strip was manufactured by Litesome in Keighley but the cost of the new modern style was the replacement of amber by canary yellow. There was also a radical new away strip – a claret shirt with a yellow V, white shorts and claret socks. It turned out to be one of the least worn kits and could not have been used more than a handful of times. (For 1978/79 Litesome was replaced by Admiral and so it disappeared altogether.)

City struggled in Division Three and strengthening of the squad during February, 1978 came too late. The new record signings Mick Wood and David McNiven were popular but insufficient to make the necessary turnaround. It proved to be a disappointing campaign and the club finished 22nd to make a swift return to the basement.

It was nonetheless a memorable season and there could not have been a more remarkable game at Valley Parade than that against Wrexham on Boxing Day in 1977 when City scored two goals in the last minute to secure victory against the leaders and eventual champions. The first of those was recorded as an own goal and the second was credited to Don Hutchins but it was the City winger who made both. Having dominated the match, the Welshmen had been ahead 1-0 thanks to a 46th minute goal from Dixie McNeal but it proved insufficient and Wrexham suffered their first defeat in 18 matches.

The abandoned fixture at Plymouth was mentioned in a previous feature. Others that come to mind were games at Deepdale and Hillsborough where there were large followings from Bradford. Unfortunately both ended in defeat but at the time it made a refreshing change for the team to be supported away by good numbers.

At Valley Parade the biggest crowd was 12,825 for the Sheffield Wednesday match in October, 1977 which was well above the average 5,103 gate for league games. The lowest attendance was 3,203 against Lincoln City in December, 1977. In the FA Cup, City were defeated in the first round by Crewe Alexandra at Valley Parade in front of a crowd of 5,068.

The 1977/78 season was the first for Wimbledon FC in the Football League having been elected in place of Workington. Wimbledon struggled to attract crowds to its Plough Lane ground and in 1979 the club was even reported to have considered a move to Milton Keynes. In fact Wimbledon FC only played 14 seasons in the Merton Borough of London as a Football League club. It then spent 12 seasons in a ground-sharing arrangement at Selhurst Park between 1991-2003 before relocating to Milton Keynes, reincarnated as the MK Dons.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Apart from publishing my BCAFC programme articles I also upload occasional articles of historical interest. Scroll down for details about my books in the BANTAMSPAST History Revisited series which tell the history of sport in Bradford – and in particular football. The books seek to explain why things happened as they did instead of simply recording what occurred and readers may be surprised at the extent to which they contradict many of the myths and superficial narratives that have circulated previously. You won’t get fancy art school graphics but you will find substance and historical accuracy in the content. Of course if you prefer an abundance of pictures accompanied by text written for a Year 5 schoolchild you’ll find them ball-achingly boring.  Tweets @jpdewhirst

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