Forest Green Rovers: 24th August, 2019


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

We welcome today a club with whom we play our first ever fixture. By virtue that this column features historic matchday programmes involving games between Bradford City and the opposition of the day, it’s been something of a challenge to find a connection with our visitors. However it did strike me that what our clubs have in common is origins in areas that were – and arguably still are – rugby strongholds.

In terms of Football League membership, Forest Green Rovers is a relatively young club – this being only their third season in the competition. However, with a history dating back to 1889 the club’s origins predate the playing of association football in Bradford on a competitive basis by six years as well as the formation of Bradford City AFC eight years after that. In 1889 Bradford was firmly a rugby town with a fierce rivalry between Manningham FC at Valley Parade and Bradford FC at Park Avenue. Indeed rugby overshadowed and crowded out association football in West Yorkshire, a state of affairs that arguably persisted for much longer in Gloucestershire.

Lorimer Baines Card.jpgValley Parade was the home of Manningham FC between 1886 and 1903, hosting Rugby Union and, after 1895 Northern Union rugby games. Surviving artefacts relating to the club are few and far between, the most common examples being Baines trade cards which display the claret and amber hoops of the Manningham team (Bradford City AFC retained the colours in 1903 but adopted stripes on account that it was a style more commonly associated with soccer). It was the practice in the 1890s to print team cards for high profile rugby games and it is highly likely that they were sold at Valley Parade although I have yet to see one. These examples are from two other areas of Great Britain where professional soccer emerged in the twentieth century, in Newport and Hartlepool. Of course Newport County now play at Rodney Parade, the spiritual home of Newport Rugby.

Manningham v Hartlepool.jpg

Manningham v Newport.jpg

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.

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John Dewhirst