BCAFC programme feature: vs Barrow 30th January, 2021

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 1969/70 – the last visit of Barrow AFC to Valley Parade.

A welcome back to Valley Parade

Barrow AFC first played at Valley Parade in January, 1906 in an FA Cup tie. Bradford City were then members of the second division having been elected to the Football League less than three years before whilst Barrow was a non-league side, members of the Lancashire Combination. City defeated the visitors by 3-2 and progressed to the second round proper of the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history. It was reported that it was a narrow victory with ‘wretched play’ by the home side and according to the Leeds & Yorkshire Mercurymiskicking, hesitation and bad shooting spoiled one opportunity after another in a way which really merited defeat.’ The Barrow players on the other hand were credited with a plucky display.

The two sides did not meet again until the 1927/28 season following City’s relegation to Division Three (North) of which Barrow had been founder members in 1921. Prior to the outbreak of war there were eight games between them in two separate spells of which City won five and lost only once that included a record 8-0 win in March, 1929.

With the resumption of football competition in 1946 they were again fellow members of the northern third division. Prior to the formation of the national four division structure in 1958 there were 24 meetings between them in which honours were even with nine wins apiece.  

In 1958 City became founder members of the new Division Three whilst Barrow joined Division Four. With City’s relegation in 1961 the rivalry was renewed and there were twelve games between the sides up to and including Barrow’s only promotion season in the Football League in 1966/67. Of those games, City won five – which included a double against Barrow in that last season – and lost four.

Following City’s promotion in 1969 the two were fellow members of Division Three in 1969/70. At the end of that season Barrow AFC was relegated and in 1972 lost its membership of the Football League with Hereford United being elected in the club’s place.  Prior to this season therefore our last meeting had been in April, 1970 and the programme of that game is reproduced for today’s issue. For the record, the game was drawn 3-3 in front of 4,451 whilst the fixture at Holker Street the previous December had resulted in an away win with a crowd of just 2,836.

The cover of the programme in 1970 featured the City Gent, a caricature of the then chairman, Stafford Heginbotham. The 1966 World Cup tournament had a major impact on the emergence of new identities among English clubs and the World Cup Willy character inspired the City Gent at Valley Parade. It was introduced to Valley Parade in November, 1965 (the month after Stafford Heginbotham and George Ide had taken control of the club) where it was used on posters advertising forthcoming games. The character appeared on the cover of the club programme from March, 1966 and continued to be used until 1974.

At the time of its introduction, Heginbotham was only 33 years old which explains the fresh face of the City Gent. Beyond any doubt the City Gent character proved popular with supporters and it was the unanimous choice of title for the supporters’ magazine when we launched it in 1984. The City Gent was a common choice for a tattoo design among a good number of fans but there was an alarming inconsistency as to how the character was depicted.

The City Gent character symbolised modernisation and change at Valley Parade and the portrayal of a character with bowler hat and briefcase also implied that Bradford meant business (a slogan later adopted by the local chamber of commerce in conjunction with Bradford Corporation, to promote the city). It is quite possible that Stafford Heginbotham saw himself as the personification of a modern entrepreneur and hence the City Gent was something a narcissistic expression. Even Geoffrey Richmond did nothing similar.

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.