Carlisle United: 21st September, 2019


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

The first game between Bradford City and Carlisle United at a senior level was in August, 1928 on the opening game of the season. Carlisle had been elected to the Football League only months before, replacing Durham City and thus the game with Bradford City was the club’s first in the competition.

carlisle-28-29.jpgCity had been relegated to Division Three (North) in 1927 and newspaper reports attest to the fact that club officials had been generally unimpressed with the standard of facilities at other clubs in comparison to what they had been used to. On the other hand the visitors from Bradford had nothing but praise for Brunton Park and were said to have been most impressed with the hospitality and the state of the pitch. The return game was at Valley Parade (pictured) the following month which the Paraders won, 4-2 in what was to be an historic championship winning season.

Bradford City were relegated back to Division Three (North) in 1937 and played Carlisle United in each of the subsequent 14 peacetime seasons before the structure was replaced by the national third and fourth divisions in 1958. The programme featured is that from September, 1957 which was won by the hosts, 3-2 and the cover featured the yoke style shirt worn in the FA Cup final of 1911 which had been revived in 1949 (and in the opinion of the writer is long overdue another revival).1957 0902 Carlisle H prog.jpg

Scan_20190702 (20).jpgIn August, 1985 Brunton Park staged another opening game involving Bradford City, a game memorable for the fact that it was the first after the Valley Parade fire disaster the previous May. Our 2-1 victory felt like a cathartic moment after the experience of the preceding months and I will never forget the atmosphere on the away terrace in the sun that afternoon. The fixture has remained a favourite away destination, not least by train from Shipley and via Settle.

We have played Carlisle United in the Football League at every level other than the first tier although this is only the third season in which we have met in the fourth division (and to date, Carlisle United have never beaten Bradford City at this level). Older supporters will remember Carlisle United’s brief stay in Division One in 1974/75, all the more memorable for the club winning its first three fixtures to briefly top the Football League. Among the players in the Carlisle team that season was Les O’Neill who had been signed from Bradford City in 1972 and let’s just say that it was pretty rare for former City players to play at that level in those times!

The programme from 1963/64 (below) is a reminder of the times when finances were so stretched that as an economy, Bradford City AFC resorted to printing its own programme internally and dispensing with staples. The standard of the paper was poor and inevitably few survive in decent condition.

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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

Having been involved in the production and publication of ten books about Bradford football I am keen to help anyone who seeks to self-publish their own efforts and particularly a story that deserves to be told and by someone who knows his subject. The book worth looking out for is that by Jeremy Charnock who narrates the story of the sad demise of Bradford Park Avenue at the end of the 1960s. Details of how to order as below.

BPA Book