Pioneering black players in Bradford

Bradford has a proud record where black footballers have established themselves as pioneers in English professional football.

Ces Podd (pictured below), who made 494 league appearances for Bradford City between 1970-84 is the best known and in fact Ces holds the club record for the most appearances made by any player. Born in Saint Kitts in 1952, he was a student at Bradford College of Art when he made his debut and having established himself as a regular in the side was virtually ever-present at full-back during the ten seasons from 1972/73 and in 1981 became the first black player to be awarded a testimonial in English football. His testimonial saw Bradford City take on a Black XI and it raised a total of £5,147, a then club record.

During the 1970s, Joe Cooke (pictured below) was another pioneering black player at Valley Parade who made 245 league appearances in two separate spells between 1971-79 and 1981-84. Born in Dominica, Cooke’s family had emigrated to Bradford in the 1960s and he had been a member of the Bradford Boys side before signing professional at Valley Parade. During his first spell he played as centre forward and his 39 league goals between 1975-77 was a record for a black player, exceeding the 35 scored by Jack Leslie for Plymouth between 1927-29. In 1975/76 he scored a total of 24 in league and cup games and then 18 in 1976/77. During his second spell at Valley Parade he played as centre-half.

Joe and Ces were both members of the Division Four promotion winning teams in 1976/77 and 1981/82 and at the time it was relatively unprecedented for there to be so many black players on the same pitch, let alone the same side yet on 10th May, 1972 there were three black players in the Bradford City team that played Bolton Wanderers. Wingrove Manners was the third player but it proved to be his only appearance for the club.

Previously, Eddie Parris (above – image colourised by George Chilvers) made a total of 142 league and cup appearances for Bradford Park Avenue between 1929-34 (the most memorable of which was his debut on 12th January, 1929 when he scored in the FA Cup Third Round tie at Hull, aged just under 18 years). In 1931 Parris was selected for Wales against Northern Ireland.

Nevertheless it was William Clarke (below – image colourised by George Chilvers) who was the first black professional footballer in Bradford, playing 92 league games for Bradford City between 1905-08 and Clarke was the scorer of the club’s first goal in Division One in September, 1908.