BCAFC programme feature: vs Cambridge United 19th December, 2020

Football programmes have traditionally been a staple of the match day experience, historically a collectable for many supporters. At Valley Parade, programmes have been produced for first-team fixtures since 1909 and the sale of single sheet team cards dates back even further. This season the match day magazine celebrates the rich heritage of old programmes from earlier years and today’s issue is based on the design from 1972/1973 when we first played against Cambridge United.

Cambridge United were elected to the Football League in 1970 at the expense of Bradford Park Avenue who had been forced to make a fourth consecutive application for re-election having finished bottom of Division Four (for the third time in a row). Four years later, Bradford PA went into liquidation and in 1980 its ground at Park Avenue was finally demolished.

There had been voices within the Football League arguing that there should be only one senior club in Bradford and that it made no sense for the city to have two struggling sides. The Chester Report of 1968 that made recommendations for the future of English professional football came to the same conclusion and even within Bradford, the leadership of the Corporation had tried to encourage a merger of City and Avenue.

Merger talks stumbled on the indebtedness of the two and the argument that amalgamation of struggling clubs did not guarantee that a new combination would be successful. Indeed, there was a recognition that the missing ingredient was money to provide much needed funding.

In the first half of the 1960s it seemed that Avenue might be the club that would survive and that City would disappear. However, under the chairmanship of Stafford Heginbotham it was City that staged a revival and the turnaround at Valley Parade benefited from people abandoning Bradford Park Avenue. A new chairman at Park Avenue, Herbert Metcalfe did little to persuade the doubters that recovery was possible and it came as little surprise when the club was voted out of the Football League.  

The programme cover at Valley Parade between 1966-74 featured the City Gent character which was actually based on Heginbotham himself and in 1972 it was printed in the all-claret strip that was worn that season. At Park Avenue the club had its ‘Avenue’Arry’ character but it was never used to the same extent as at City.

Meanwhile at Valley Parade, Bradford City were promoted to Division Three in 1968/69 and remained at that level until relegation in 1972. Hence our final League derby with Avenue was in 1968 and we didn’t host Cambridge United until March, 1973.

Bradford Park Avenue are now virtually forgotten. Despite supporters having reformed the club in 1988 it has made little progress in the non-League pyramid and attracts relatively low crowds with very few younger supporters to ensure future continuity.

Nowadays it is common for people to abbreviate Bradford City to ‘Bradford’ when referring to the club but historically, it was Bradford (Park Avenue) who were known as Bradford and there was acute sensitivity that it should be anything else but. The brackets in the club’s official title was the clue – the suffix of Park Avenue being adopted to avoid any possibility of confusion with Bradford City.

Traditionally Park Avenue had been the home of the senior club in Bradford. From 1880 until 1903 when Manningham FC at Valley Parade converted to soccer there had always been an intense rivalry with Bradford FC of Park Avenue.

Of course, Cambridge United is not the only club in that city and in the 1960s it was their rivals, Cambridge City who were considered the stronger of the two. I am sure that abbreviation of club names in Cambridge is equally a sensitive matter!  

The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.

Link here to galleries of historic BCAFC programmes on this blog

Link to feature about the historic development of the BCAFC programme since 1909 published on VINCIT.