Salford City: 21st December, 2019


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

We welcome today another 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 soccer connection with our visitors. To my knowledge Valley Parade has never previously hosted a club from Salford to play a game of association football although the ground can boast other historic sporting connections with Salford. Nevertheless it is the first time that a club from the city has visited Valley Parade since Good Friday in April, 1897 when Salford FC defeated Manningham FC in a Northern Union rugby friendly. On that occasion poor weather restricted the crowd to only 3,000 and in fact the return game at Salford the following day had to be abandoned due to the elements.

Formed in 1873, Salford FC had established itself as one of the leading rugby clubs in Lancashire by the following decade which mirrored the rise to prominence in Yorkshire of Bradford FC. Those clubs had their first meeting at Park Avenue in 1886 and the fixture came to be regarded as the de facto Roses rivalry. Salford FC seceded to the Northern Union in 1896 – of which Manningham FC had been inaugural champions in 1895/96 – and the only occasion that Salford FC played at Valley Parade was the aforementioned game.

The failure of the Paraders to rebuild their squad left the club on a downward spiral that ultimately culminated in Manningham’s conversion to association football in 1903. By 1901 for example the club had been excluded from the senior level of the Northern Union. In fact the Manningham team was considerably weakened following the death of its star full-back, George Lorimer in February, 1897. Such was the strength of the Salford side at the beginning of the century that there was little prospect of Salford FC converting to soccer at that time. Likewise, with the counter appeal of Manchester United there is little wonder why Salford has not had a Football League side long before now.

1887-08-18 advert for Airedale Ath fest

In 1887 however Valley Parade welcomed an altogether different Salford team. The ground had been opened the previous year with the stated intent of hosting other sporting activities and in August, 1887 Valley Parade hosted the Airedale Harriers’ annual athletics festival (previously staged at Lady Royd).

VP Graphic Aug 1887

The event attracted contestants from across the north and at stake was an impressive array of prizes, the most prestigious of which was an attractive trophy for the winners of the three mile inter-club steeplechase. Manufactured by Fattorini’s of Bradford, this had a reported value of £40 which was in excess of the average annual wage for a workman.


There were three teams of four runners apiece competing for the prize which was won by Salford Harriers. It was said that they had ‘a ridiculously easy journey’ finishing two laps ahead of the fastest runner from the Bradford Trinity club whilst none of the Airedale team finished. The achievement of Salford Harriers was celebrated in the Manchester publication Black & White (pictured).

1887-08-26 Salford Harriers

You can read more about the athletic festivals of Victorian Bradford on VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford Sport History from this link.

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.

Details of my books.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

John Dewhirst

Photograph taken by myself at the game with Salford City that finished 1-1 (copyright BCAFC). [Link to photos of Valley Parade taken the same day]