Newport County, 7th December 2019

PROGRAMMES OF OLD

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

Of all the fixtures this season I confess that the most eagerly anticipated on my part were those with Newport County. Today will be memorable for the opportunity to welcome back the Newport manager, Michael Flyn to Valley Parade but it is also about the renewal of an old rivalry.

There have been 40 games between our sides. City boast 19 wins and Newport, 15 with just 6 games having been drawn. Only once has there been a goalless draw. Most of the scorelines have actually been fairly close, the one exception being our 6-2 victory at Valley Parade in January, 1960.

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Not since our tragic but triumphant Championship season of 1984/85 have we competed in the same division. Our last game was at Somerton Park on 16th April, 1985 which had been rearranged after postponement in February. Our 1-0 victory put the Bantams on track for promotion to the second division but much has changed since that last meeting. Less than four weeks later there was the fire disaster and the Valley Parade of today will be totally unrecognisable to the visitors from Newport.

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Somerton Park was equally decrepit and it surely ranked alongside The Shay, Halifax and the Victoria Ground, Hartlepool as among the worst in the League. For so long Newport County had been perennial strugglers on the verge of financial oblivion to which they eventually succumbed in 1989. In May, 1976 I recall the half-time fund raising at Valley Parade to raise money for County, a gesture that incurred the wrath of former Avenue supporters who claimed that the City faithful had never extended such goodwill to their club.

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For so long City and Newport were rivals at the foot of the basement division and of the twenty seasons that we have been in the same division, all but six have been in the fourth tier. Our first meetings however were in Division Three in 1958/59 and we competed at that level for three seasons until City’s relegation in 1961. In 1979/80 we found ourselves in the unusual situation as promotion rivals and despite achieving a double against the Welshmen, County gained promotion at our expense on the last day of that season after City lost at Peterborough.

We eventually caught up with Newport in 1982/83 until we parted company in 1985. It tends to be forgotten that until 1987 at least, Newport County was the leading professional side in Wales.

Nowadays Newport County play at Rodney Park, a ground more famous as the home of Newport rugby and a venue at which Manningham FC – forerunners of Bradford City AFC – last played in December, 1893. During the course of my research into the origins of football in Bradford I was given access to the Newport sports archive that was uncovered at Rodney Parade. Like Bradford, Newport was something of an industrial frontier town in the nineteenth century and has a proud sporting heritage despite a lack of soccer glories. Welcome back to Bradford, Newport County!

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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