A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS
Published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Plymouth Argyle, 16th February, 2019
This season marks the 90th anniversary of one of the most remarkable campaigns in the club’s history when it secured promotion as champions of Division Three (North) in record breaking fashion. It was the reversal of a decline that had begun immediate after the war, relegation from Division One in 1922 having been a major body-blow to the club from which it had not recovered.
During the summer of 1928 the club came close to insolvency but a board restructuring in June that guaranteed new funding allowed Bradford City to survive. There were other changes including the return of Peter O’Rourke as manager. Possibly his most important signing was that of George Livingstone, as trainer in June, 1928. A former Scottish international and player who had represented both senior Manchester clubs as well as Glasgow Rangers and Celtic (in addition to Sunderland and Liverpool), he remains the only man to have scored for both Manchester and Old Firm clubs in respective derby games. There was also investment in the pitch.
The Yorkshire Sports of 28 August, 1928 reported that ‘the ever-recurring bugbear of the ground trouble appears to have been overcome at last by the thorough preparations the playing area has undergone, and an expanse of rich, green grass is the result, while a new track has taken place of the old cinder running track, and many of the terraces have been improved.’ In order to preserve the grass at Valley Parade came the decision that the players should train on the Leyland Lane / Garden Lane field in Heaton.
How things have changed in the last 90 years!
In 1928/29 Division Three (North) was dominated by two exceptional teams and this was the season in which the historic rivalry between Bradford City and Stockport County was born, one which had a particular intensity for the best part of the next fifty years.
The League games between the rivals were reported to have been particularly tense affairs with 2-1 home advantage in each case. City derived psychological one-upmanship with a 2-0 victory at Valley Parade in the FA Cup Third Round watched by a bumper crowd of 30,171. Yet for most of the season, Bradford City sat behind Stockport County in the table.
City finished one point ahead of Stockport County, winning 27 and drawing 9 out of 42 games. However, what really set the teams apart was the goalscoring record and whilst Stockport managed 111 goals for with 58 against, the Bradford City team scored a new Football League record total of 128 goals (of which 82 at Valley Parade), conceding 43. Albert Whitehurst scored the 100th goal at Chesterfield on 16 March, 1929 and from that stage the club began to target a new record to beat the 127 goals scored by Millwall in Division Three (South) the previous season. It was an era of high scoring and Bradford Park Avenue for instance had managed to score 101 goals in three successive seasons to 1927/28.
The club also set itself new records in 1928/29 with the highest number of goals scored in a League fixture, both at home (vs Rotherham United 11-1) and away (vs Ashington 8-2). The leading goalscorer was Albert Whitehurst (pictured below) with 24 having only joined the club in mid-February and the next highest was Tom Moon with 15. However, it was the mark of a free-scoring team that as many as 16 City players scored in League games and of those, 14 got two or more.
The average League gate at Valley Parade in 1928/29 was 18,551 and this was the highest in the two lower divisions (closely followed by Fulham in Division Three (South)).
A more detailed version of this feature will be published on VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford Sport History in May.
The drop down menu above provides links to previous programme articles, archive images, book reviews and features on the history of Bradford sport that I have written.
Published on PLAYING PASTS in Feb-19: Football clubs and how they fail. (I am presenting a paper on the same theme at the International Football History Conference in Manchester in June, 2019.)
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