Grimsby Town 8th February, 2020


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

Grimsby Town FC was the first opponent of the newly formed Bradford City AFC as members of the Football League, in September 1903. That game ended in a 0-2 defeat but the visit to Cleethorpes for that opening fixture evidently had a profound impact on the visiting Bradfordians, previously unfamiliar with the mores of soccer as opposed to those of rugby.

1903 Sep Gainsboro teamsheet (3)

Writing in the Bradford Daily Telegraph after the game, ‘Sportsman’ – a confessed rugbyite – remarked on a man with a cornet who led the ‘Pontoon Chorus’ at Blundell Park which was the Grimsby Town anthem. He declared ‘We should like to see such enthusiasm in connection with football in Bradford.’ The Grimsby supporters impressed the visitors with their singing and again in April, 1904 the Yorkshire Sports reported that the Valley Parade regulars were amused by the ‘Hello‘ chorus sung by the Grimsby ‘Pontoon Choir‘ during the return game. It explained that the origin of this had been the visit in 1901/02 for an FA Cup tie reply of Portsmouth supporters who sang the Cambridge chimes using the words ‘Hello, Hello‘. The chorus was henceforth adopted in Cleethorpes but also at the Boulevard (rugby) ground in Hull. The ‘Hello, Hello‘ chorus was subsequently embraced at Valley Parade and became such a favourite that in 1946 it was even recorded on a 78rpm vinyl.

To my knowledge there is no surviving programme or souvenir from that opening game on Tuesday 1st September, 1903 but the following Saturday the Yorkshire Sports published the featured teamsheet for the first League fixture at Valley Parade against Gainsborough Trinity.

This is the sixth season that Bradford City has played Grimsby Town in the fourth tier, the previous occasions being the three seasons, 2007/08 to 2009/10 inclusive when we won four and drew two of the six games. Prior to that you have to go back to 1978/79 and 1968/69. What is remarkable is that the fixtures at Blundell Park in each of those seasons resulted in the record scores between the two sides – a 5-1 victory for Bradford City in 1969 and a win by the same margin for Grimsby Town in 1979. By contrast, the game in August last year was relatively uneventful!

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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