Book Review – sporting collectibles

An A to Z of Sporting Collectibles: Priceless Cigarettes Cards and Sought-After Sports Stickers: Priceless Cigarettes Cards and Sought-After Sports Stickers

by Carl Wilkes (Pitch Publishing, Durrington 2019) – £25

An A-to-Z of Football Collectibles: Priceless Cigarette Cards and Sought-After Soccer Stickers

by Carl Wilkes (Pitch Publishing, Durrington 2021) – £30

Carl Wilkes is generally recognised as a leading authority on sports cards and stickers and in particular those featuring British sports clubs and personalities. He was formerly editor of the Football Card Collector Magazine and has authored numerous articles in various newspapers, periodicals and books.

A quick glance at his website [https://www.footballsoccercards.com/] is sufficient to highlight the fact that there is considerable value in sporting collectibles with certain examples commanding big prices. Interest in old collectibles was boosted in the late 1990s by the internet and according to Carl there is currently a lot of interest in British items from buyers in America, Monaco and the Middle East which has kept values high. He makes the point quite forcibly that serious money is now chasing sports collectibles.

The Got Not Got series published by Pitch Publishing has played a big part in celebrating football club artefacts and ephemera and was the inspiration for my own book A History of Bradford City AFC in Objects (Bantamspast, History Revisited series 2014).

I have collected BCAFC memorabilia and ephemera for as long as I have supported the club and much of the pleasure of collecting the old cards and stickers derives from connecting with the club’s history. When such items were originally produced they were targeted at boys and were ephemeral by their very nature which means that only a small proportion of those originally produced still survives in mint condition.

Trade cards were included within comics, packets of tea, confectionery or indeed cigarette packets as a way of encouraging the purchase of the main (trade) product itself. That said, John Baines of Bradford recognised the commercial potential of selling sports cards – referred to by the American description of ‘trading cards’ – and the earliest football cards are believed to date from 1880 (the printer of which is thought to have been either Sharpes of Bradford or one of two Leeds firms). The phenomenon continues with such as the Pannini cards which continue to be sold. The production of collectibles came in response to a basic urge among many people to collect which appears to have been undiminished with time. Carl Wilkes refers to this as akin to the instinct of hunting.

It is unlikely however that John Baines ever imagined that his products might become traded for high prices or investments in their own right and yet a search of Ebay confirms that this is very much the case. Sadly, a collection of Bradford City or Park Avenue memorabilia is unlikely to provide a million dollar heirloom notwithstanding that certain individual items will command high auction outcomes. The big money tends to be focused on the fashionable, big clubs and their players (inevitably the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea) who also happen to have wealthy supporters. Likewise there is often a lot of value at stake for souvenirs commemorating landmark sporting events, one of the best examples of which being the 1966 World Cup.

Yet if a BCAFC collection is unlikely to yield big financial rewards the converse is that Valley Parade related artefacts are relatively affordable and hence accessible to supporters with an interest in club history. For example, cigarette cards featuring players from the celebrated FA Cup Final of 1911 are readily available on Ebay. The very fact that historically only a limited range of cards or stickers featuring Bradford City was produced also means that it is not difficult to collect most items, something unattainable for followers of Manchester United.

It struck me when writing A History of BCAFC in Objects that the memorabilia provides a story of the club from a different perspective, representing unique and random snapshots of the life of Bradford City and its supporters through the ages, some of which have been more significant than others. Collectibles evoke nostalgia as well as memories of past times, both public and private and sometimes they provide a better reminder of events than facts, figures or words. In other words there is more to collecting them than financial gain alone.

In his books Carl Wilkes provides a history of how trade cards and trading cards came about. In so doing he demonstrates how the popularity of sport became exploited for commercial benefit. Trade cards served to promote a product and were evidently effective given the persistence of trade card production to the modern era. Likewise John Baines created a business based on the sale of trading cards that featured mainly rugby, cricket and football personalities and these were originally designed for playing games or to be gambled in the hope of winning prizes. Baines cards incidentally nowadays sell for anything between £50-£500 apiece.

Carl’s first book provides an encyclopaedic reference of the principal producers of football cards and stickers, a fascinating business history of the different competitors in the market. The more recent sister publication published earlier this year covers a wide range of sports including amongst others rugby, snooker, cricket, tennis, boxing and equestrian as well as comparison to ‘soccer’ (revealing that his target readership is not exclusively British).

As far as Bradford is concerned, a disproportionate amount of surviving historic football cards relate to rugby as opposed to ‘soccer’ which reflects the sporting heritage of the district. (NB In West Yorkshire, football was the umbrella term used by the Victorians to describe both rugby and soccer.) Plenty examples of Baines cards featuring Manningham FC (based at Valley Parade) and Bradford FC (at Park Avenue) can be found on Ebay and it is notable that Baines cards are the principal surviving artefacts of both clubs. In fact it seems that Baines concentrated a lot of his attention on the local football and cricket sides of his home city. Hence Carl’s second book that features rugby provides insight to the pre-conversion heritage at both Valley Parade and Park Avenue.

Unfortunately there is only a limited number of City and Avenue examples in these books, a consequence of the fact that both were struggling lower division sides during the boom of trade cards in the inter-war period as well as in the 1960s and 1970s. Nonetheless it is fascinating to see the evolution in both design and form of football collectibles and most of the subject matter – ie famous players – will be familiar.

Carl features the rare cards that are valuable assets and provides tips to would be collectors about where to look and, crucially, what to pay. His advice on buying and selling is very detailed as well as candid. The caveat of course is that values go up as well as down.

The serious collector will benefit from these books as a reference of values and in the event that you come across a stash of old cards in the attic you’d be advised to check their values before throwing them in the bin. Items that might seem to have little value are quite possibly the target of collectors and capable of being sold for more than a few pence, complete albums in good condition being the case in point. However I believe that these books have wider appeal to football and sports lovers as a fabulous visual record of the history of collectibles. Both provide a fascinating read and are classics for the coffee table as books that can be dipped into. I recommend both without reservation.

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 You can read my other book reviews from here.

Details of my own most recent book, WOOL CITY RIVALS: A History in Colour (volume 7 in the Bantamspast History Revisited series) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals: A History in Colour

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.

Book Review: The Beautiful History

The Beautiful History: Football Club Badges Tell the Story of Britain by Martyn Routledge and Elspeth Wills, Pitch Publishing, 2021

Possibly my favourite football book in recent years has been The Beautiful Badge: The Stories Behind the Football Club Badge (Pitch, 2018) by the same authors. It is a publication rich in design and the product of exhaustive research that cannot be faulted for attention to detail, criteria that go a long way to earn my endorsement as my other book reviews will attest. (My review of the book can be accessed from this link.)

With The Beautiful Badge, Martin and Elspeth identified a fascinating aspect of football history that had previously been overlooked and they could not be faulted for the manner in which they tackled the subject without the temptation to take short-cuts or rely upon unsubstantiated anecdotes. Accordingly they can reasonably be described as experts in their field. The Beautiful History is their sequel, another original and well-produced title.

For football supporters of my generation, the Bartholomew Football History Map of England and Wales published in 1971 (which continued to be sold for a number of years after) was iconic and did more to promote my knowledge of English and Welsh geography than anything else or all my Ladybird books put together. Superimposed on a map were sketches of the football kits worn by the Football League clubs of that time with pointers to where the clubs were based. At the side of the map were the corresponding club badges including those of prominent non-League clubs (including Bradford Park Avenue). I swear that if Scottish clubs had been included, my knowledge of Scottish geography might similarly have been advanced and it was a shortcoming that they were omitted.

Notable in 1971 was that most club badges were still derived from the local coat of arms. In turn, the Bartholomew football map provided an awareness of the iconography of the largest towns and cities in England and Wales and clues about the local heritage and traditions of those places. However, other than providing basic information about the date of formation of clubs, it was misleading to describe it as a ‘History Map’.

The Beautiful History takes a selection of around one hundred English, Welsh and Scottish football club badges and explains how their design has been derived from local and national historic themes. Refreshing is that the selection is not restricted to larger clubs with the likes of Alfreton, Hemel Hempstead and Whitby Town included.

The end product is a book that will provide considerable content for pub quizzes but The Beautiful History is targeted at all ages and is an ideal way to encourage any football loving child to take an interest in British history. That the history of the British Isles has been made accessible in this way is a wonderful achievement. I suspect that The Beautiful History will be talked about in the future much in the same way as the 50 year old Bartholomew map is remembered nowadays.

As a stocking filler present for Christmas I think it would be a fantastic gift for schoolchildren but it will have undoubted appeal to much older readers. Priced £16.99 it is great value for money and highly recommended.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Link here to my Other Book Reviews including those planned.

The image below is from the 1971 Bartholomews football map. The following link accesses features on my blog that cover the history of Bradford football crests and identities.

Not the City Gent: other fanzines at Valley Parade

The City Gent is now among the best known fanzines in the country and recognised as a pioneering publication in the 1980s. [The story of its launch in 1984 is told here.] It was not however the first independently produced supporters’ publication at Valley Parade, predated by just over a year by Bantams Review. The latter title was launched as a monthly magazine but ran to only three issues in the 1983/84 season. Produced by Raymond Maule, Bantams Review included a lot of historical content as well as features on City memorabilia and in particular old programmes.

There have been two other printed fanzines at Valley Parade, Phil of Frizinghall and City Travel Club Magazine. The former made only a couple of appearances in 1990/91 (published by a Yeadon based supporter) whilst the latter ran to about half a dozen issues during the 1985/86 season. Phil of Frizinghall was a light-hearted publication whereas City Travel Club Magazine was essentially a mouthpiece of Patsy Hollinger and his newly-formed Star Travel Club comprising badly written tirades against Stafford Heginbotham and his fellow directors.

In 1990 came The Relegation Times, a one-off publication that expressed the frustration about impending relegation to the third division and the lost opportunity for promotion in 1988. Like the City Travel Club Magazine it was unambiguous in its antipathy towards the club’s leadership.

For completeness, mention should be made of the samizdat newsletter of the so-called Bradford City Liberation Front that circulated on the Kop during the 1988/89 season. Among the demands of the BCLF (that comprised one member) was that Bradford residents supporting clubs other than BCAFC should be classified as civic traitors and fined 10% of their weekly income. Needless to say it wasn’t taken seriously and was ridiculed, disappearing shortly after.

Notwithstanding the number of independent supporter publications at Valley Parade, the first of the kind in Bradford was sold at Park Avenue in 1946. The story of The Kick Off, Official Journal of the Bradford Park Avenue Supporters Club and later, The Avenue which was first published in 1967 is featured on this blog from this link. Unlike the latter day City publications, the content of both Avenue titles was vetted by the parent football club. At best they could only be described as quasi-independent and they had fairly tame editorials which might explain why they did not survive beyond a few issues. In the 1980s came two other Avenue publications Ay Ay Rhubarb Pie and Wings of a Sparrow which I hope to feature on my blog in the future.

Thanks for visiting. Links to other features on the history of Bradford City, my written BCAFC programme articles (NB this season, 2021/22 my programme column contains photographic content that I will not be uploading) and book reviews from the menu above.

The return of familiar routines

On 14th August, 2021 Valley Parade staged its first attended competitive fixture since 29th February, 2020, a gap of 532 days caused by Covid lockdown restrictions. Whilst unprecedented, the exile arising in the aftermath of the Valley Parade fire disaster was nevertheless longer (582 days from 11th May, 1985 until the re-opening of the ground on 14th December, 1986).

The following photographs were taken before and after the game as match-day routines were revived.

The crowd for the League Two (fourth tier) fixture was 17,264.

City won the game 2-1 through a last minute penalty. The visitors, Oldham Athletic had equalised only minutes earlier in extra-time.

Thanks for visiting my blog. You will find other photos of Valley Parade on this site, refer to the menu above.

I tweet photos from @jpdewhirst

A civic heritage museum for Bradford?

Post lockdown I have spent a good number of hours in the centre of Bradford with camera in hand as my Twitter account testifies (@jpdewhirst). Whilst Bradford is a hugely photogenic place and presents countless opportunities to indulge in photography, seeing at first hand the extent of urban decay has frankly been a depressing experience. Magnificent old buildings that hint of historic prosperity are now tired, rundown and in certain cases falling down. It is remarkable to find a street without foliage in the eaves if you look above the pavements.

For all the brave words this state of affairs is likely to get worse, an English Detroit perhaps? Given the state of retail activity in the UK, let alone Bradford, we will surely find more buildings becoming empty. And sat next to the city’s premier shopping centre and hotel is the wasteland that was once a mail sorting centre on Canal Road which has been a vacant brown site for a least a decade.

I can’t think of any quick fixes for BD1 but I believe that a solution for the Canal Road site could go some way to bring new life to the city. My suggestion is to develop a heritage park, the equivalent of a ‘Bradford Beamish’ with the following aims:

  • Safeguard historically significant small / medium buildings through relocation and rebuilding.
  • Provide for the possible relocation and relaunch of the Industrial Museum allowing its existing site to be sold for residential development.
  • Potentially unblock existing and future planning impasses that would allow development elsewhere in the district.
  • Develop a premium tourist attraction in central Bradford to attract footfall and external visitors.
  • Provide an educational resource to encourage interest and awareness about the city’s history.
  • Generate income through use of the site by film companies.
  • Possible opportunity to co-ordinate with the safeguarding of high-profile architectural assets in central Bradford.

In Bradford we have countless examples of familiar buildings falling into disrepair and becoming derelict with little prospect of being saved. These include historically significant buildings such as the Carnegie Library at Shipley, the former police station at Bavaria Place or the former Wapping Primary School.

The development of the Beamish resort – and indeed that of Gaythorpe Terrace at the Industrial Museum – has demonstrated that old buildings can be rescued and rebuilt. The site of the old Royal Mail sorting office provides a potential location to safeguard a selection of historic Bradford buildings. Obvious candidates are the examples given above of the Carnegie Library, the police station and the school. Add an old public house, a chapel and/or business premises and collectively you have buildings that once represented the history of everyday life in the city.

Relocation of the industrial museum to the site would complement the safeguarding of such buildings and allow it to become a combined civic heritage museum. The sale of the existing Eccleshill base could help finance the whole project. Whether the Moorside Mills complex could also be rebuilt in full is questionable but would be ideal.

The opportunity to relocate otherwise derelict buildings (ie Wapping Primary School) could also potentially unlock planning impasses by allowing the release of sites for development. Developers would then be required to fund reconstruction of old buildings.

A premium tourist attraction in central Bradford would complement the Odeon initiative in attracting visitors to the city centre, benefiting existing retail and hospitality businesses and allow Bradford to better position itself as a leisure destination. It could provide an educational resource not only for the district but also the region and the collection of buildings would surely be attractive to film companies.

Anyone walking through the centre of Bradford cannot fail to recognise the poor state of buildings. Take a moment to look at the upper storeys and you see the decay in all its glory. To this day people bemoan the loss of the former Swan Arcade but an even bigger architectural disaster is unfolding in Bradford. Within the next ten years buildings will probably have to be demolished due to the fact that they have become unsafe. Slowly but surely, historic assets will be lost.

Few suggestions have been offered as to how these city centre buildings can be rescued. The development of residential flats has simply failed to deliver and arguably there is already over-supply from dubious developers. The likelihood of retail development can also be discounted and few of the buildings have potential for office accommodation (of which there is already a surplus).

The development of a civic heritage park could be a way to co-ordinate the rescue of buildings as visitor attractions in themselves – for example the former bank premises on Hustlergate / Bank Street might even become a museum telling the story of business, commerce and banking in the city. By attracting footfall to the civic heritage park other initiatives could be encouraged that provided new life to the city centre. With the Peace Museum and the Police Museum already in BD1 you could link a number of such attractions and have real critical mass for tourists with a selection of central museums / galleries giving credence to Bradford’s claim to be a city of culture. (Maybe the Science Museum might return a few odd exhibits to Bradford?)

What to do with the vacant land next to the Midland Hotel is an issue but as I have outlined it could be a means to unlock a number of opportunities. There has been the suggestion of developing a green city park on the site which has its merits. My concern however is that it could detract from investment in Bradford’s existing parks (ie Peel Park, Lister Park or the woefully rundown Horton Park). Ultimately a city park is unlikely to attract external visitors and I doubt that it would have the same multiplier financial benefits of a civic heritage park. On the other hand it would not be as expensive to develop – therein the core issue is that a civic heritage park will require a major financial commitment.

As part of a regeneration strategy I believe that celebration of the city’s civic heritage has other benefits, specifically to encourage a shared identity for Bradfordians. There is much in the history of Bradford that can serve as inspiration for the future and yet the city’s past tends to be downplayed and overlooked. My argument is therefore that a civic heritage park would be a strategic regeneration activity that could be co-ordinated with other initiatives. It is more than a solution of what to do with a brownfield site.

I won’t even pretend that I have details or estimates of how much the project would cost. There is however a price of not doing anything.

For what it is worth, I believe that sport has a part to play in celebrating and encouraging a Bradford identity as well as offering health benefits – refer to what I have written on this subject from here. Given that the proposed RL museum at City Hall has fallen away I would also encourage the launch of a Bradford Sport Museum dedicated to the history of sport in the city across all codes and games, but that is another matter.

I have published this feature on my blog as a way of sharing the idea and if others can be persuaded of its merits, hopefully the concept can be taken further with an investigation of what it would entail and the likely cost. If it encourages people to think of other ideas then that’s great. What no-one in the city can afford is to believe that somehow things will get better as if written in the stars. I believe that it is time to be imaginative about the future of Bradford before it is too late and we discover that nothing can be done.

John Dewhirst

Twitter: @jpdewhirst

Thanks for visiting. This blog is principally about the history of Bradford City AFC and links to books I have written in the Bantamspast History Revisited series about the history of football and origins of professional sport in the district. The menu above allows provides links to ad hoc content about the history of Bradford and in particular the eternal saga of a through-railway link.

Aftermath of the disaster at Valley Parade, 1985

Aerial photo taken early evening on the fateful day, 11th May.

The following are photographs taken by the late Gladys Hannah, a prominent supporter of the club from the early 1960s and a committed fundraiser on behalf of BCAFC. Until the 1990s she continued selling lottery and raffle tickets around the ground and few can forget her cheerful personality.

Photos of Valley Parade the day after the fire. Alan Hannah managed the club shop with Ken Gudgeon and can be seen examining what remained.

Photos of the memorial service at Valley Parade on 21st July, 1985. Shortly after the remains of the main stand were demolished.

You will find more archive images of Valley Parade on this blog from this link.

BCAFC programme feature: vs Scunthorpe United 1st May, 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 a design from 1981/82.

In the 1981/82 season the club programme had two designs with the change in December, 1981 coinciding with the club’s revival of the Bantams identity which had been abandoned as old-fashioned fifteen years before. The club had subsequently promoted its traditional nickname, the Paraders.

By the beginning of the 1980s the dilapidated state of Valley Parade served to discourage the Paraders identity but the change to ‘Bantams’ was also about trying to raise the profile of the club. As in 1974, the then chairman Bob Martin was not averse to such rebranding, albeit on the cheap.

Having been appointed as player-manager during the 1981 close season, the former Derby County and England centre-half Roy McFarland had made an immediate impact at Valley Parade and by December, 1981 Bradford City was well placed for a promotion challenge from Division Four. The new Bantams identity was intended to proclaim the club’s ambition that, having narrowly missed promotion in 1980, the goal would be achieved in 1981/82.

The programme at the start of the season had been called ‘The Parader’ and featured a silhouette of a floodlight and football stands on its cover. Ironically the image was not that of Valley Parade but of Park Avenue, the designer – Pete Bell – having been a former Avenue fan. If you look closely, the finials of the former Dolls House pavilion at Park Avenue can be clearly seen but this point of detail was overlooked when the design was authorised by the club. The chances of this having occurred when the two Bradford sides were rivals in the Football League would have been close to zero!

The new programme cover likewise had a basic design and was called ‘The Bantams’ with the club’s new crest being prominent. In an era that predated computer clipart or graphics, the image approximated more to a hen than a bantam. (Of the three different bantam-themed crests used by the club in the early 1980s it was evident that no-one at Valley Parade at the time knew what a bantam looked like.) The other feature of the cover was a primitive sketch of three players, two of whom wore the club’s white shirt with claret trim (a design that we can expect to see more of next season).

The programme cover for the fixture with Scunthorpe United on 14th February, 1982 featured the new design. Other than the change of cover, the content and internal layout of the programme in 1981/82 remained unchanged. For that matter, despite the new nickname there was little change at Valley Parade although Bob Martin would probably claim that the new Bantams identity was inspirational in helping to secure promotion as runners-up behind Sheffield United.

The switch of identity mid-season was probably more notable for the change in editorial in the Telegraph & Argus. All of a sudden, there was a shift of reference in match reports from Paraders in favour of the Bantams as if that had been the nickname all along.

Other than a new range of souvenirs, the new programme cover was the most obvious display of the new identity at Valley Parade. However, Bradford City AFC was not the only club at that time resorting to design and rebranding on the cheap. In 1982, Scunthorpe United introduced a new ‘Iron Fist’ crest having launched a competition for a new design which was advertised in their programme. Mine was the winning design having been sketched on a sandwich wrapper whilst travelling back to Bradford on a CTC’73 coach from our game at The Old Show Ground in October, 1981. Oh, how football branding and marketing has evolved in the last forty years!

You can read more about historic City crests and nicknames on my blog from this link

John Dewhirst

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.

BCAFC programme feature: vs Crawley Town 13th April, 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 a design from 1981/82.

In the 1981/82 season the club programme had two designs with the change in December, 1981 coinciding with the club’s revival of the Bantams identity which had been abandoned as old-fashioned fifteen years before. The club had subsequently promoted its traditional nickname, the Paraders.

By the beginning of the 1980s the dilapidated state of Valley Parade served to discourage the Paraders identity but the change to ‘Bantams’ was also about trying to raise the profile of the club. As in 1974, the then chairman Bob Martin was not averse to such rebranding, albeit on the cheap.

Having been appointed as player-manager during the 1981 close season, the former Derby County and England centre-half Roy McFarland had made an immediate impact at Valley Parade and by December, 1981 Bradford City was well placed for a promotion challenge from Division Four. The new Bantams identity was intended to proclaim the club’s ambition that, having narrowly missed promotion in 1980, the goal would be achieved in 1981/82.

The programme at the start of the season had been called ‘The Parader’ and featured a silhouette of a floodlight and football stands on its cover. Ironically the image was not that of Valley Parade but of Park Avenue, the designer – Pete Bell – having been a former Avenue fan. If you look closely, the finials of the former Dolls House pavilion at Park Avenue can be clearly seen but this point of detail was overlooked when the design was authorised by the club. The chances of this having occurred when the two Bradford sides were rivals in the Football League would have been unheard of.

The new programme cover likewise had a basic design and was called ‘The Bantams’ with the club’s new crest being prominent. In an era that predated computer clipart or graphics, the image approximated more to a hen than a bantam. (Of the three different bantam-themed crests used by the club in the early 1980s it was evident that no-one at Valley Parade at the time knew what a bantam looked like.) The other feature of the cover was a primitive sketch of three players, two of whom wore the club’s white shirt with claret trim (a design that we can expect to see more of next season).

The programme cover for the fixture with Scunthorpe United on 14th February, 1982 featured the new design. Other than the change of cover, the content and internal layout of the programme in 1981/82 remained unchanged. For that matter, despite the new nickname there was little change at Valley Parade although Bob Martin would probably claim that the new Bantams identity was inspirational in helping to secure promotion as runners-up behind Sheffield United.

The switch of identity mid-season was probably more notable for the change in editorial in the Telegraph & Argus. All of a sudden, there was a shift of reference in match reports from Paraders in favour of the Bantams as if that had been the nickname all along.

Other than a new range of souvenirs, the new programme cover was the most obvious display of the new identity at Valley Parade. However, Bradford City AFC was not the only club at that time resorting to design and rebranding on the cheap. In 1982, Scunthorpe United introduced a new ‘Iron Fist’ crest having launched a competition for a new design which was advertised in their programme. Mine was the winning design having been sketched on a sandwich wrapper whilst travelling back to Bradford on a CTC’73 coach from The Old Show Ground in October, 1981. Oh, how football branding and marketing has evolved in the last forty years!

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.

Glorious 1911

In 1911 – only eight years after soccer had been launched at Valley Parade – Bradford City AFC won the FA Cup against Newcastle United in the replay at Old Trafford, Manchester on 26th April. It remains the club’s greatest achievement and a defining part of the club’s identity.

1911 FAC Final replay

Until the emergence of the Premier League in 1992 the FA Cup commanded enormous interest both domestically and abroad and prior to World War One the FA Cup overshadowed the Football League Championship in terms of prestige. Numerous commemorative items were produced to capitalise on the interest.

On 27th April, 1911 under the headline ‘Twas a Famous Victory’ the Bradford Daily Telegraph reported: ‘Never in the history of Bradford has such a sporting triumph been consummated… The eyes of the English speaking world are upon Bradford today; the team have brought honour and glory not merely to themselves and to the club, but to the city of their football adoption.’

telegraph

WH Smiths published a team card for the final at Crystal Palace and the other example was published by The Sportsman. The latter is notable for the number of adverts evidently aimed at a London based readership. My understanding is that a single, definitive or official programme was not published until the 1920 FA Cup Final at Stamford Bridge. Hence it is quite possible that these team cards were not the only ones available in April, 1911.

1911 final good scan

The following is an account of the achievement published in the club’s own match day programme:

The 1911 FA Cup success followed in a tradition of earlier sporting achievements by the senior Bradford clubs, most notably Bradford FC winning the Yorkshire Challenge Cup in 1884 and Manningham FC the inaugural Northern Union championship in 1896. However what was unprecedented was the assembly of people – estimated to be 100,000 – who greeted the successful team on its successful return from Manchester to Bradford on 26th April, 1911. That same evening there was a celebratory dinner at the Midland Hotel, the first of many.

front cover

We also remember the fact that two members of the FA Cup winning team were killed in World War One: Jimmy Speirs who had scored the winning goal and Bob Torrance, man of the match in the Cup Final replay. 

1911 FA Cup medal replica.jpg

1911 fac final team.jpg

John Dewhirst

The drop down menu above provides links to previous programme articles, archive images, book reviews and features on the history of Bradford sport.

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst

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Details here about the bantamspast History Revisited book series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS  including the latest volume WOOL CITY RIVALS – a history of the Bradford City / Park Avenue rivalry in colour

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The Midland Hotel where the victorious Bradford City squad and officials celebrated after returning from Manchester with the trophy on 26th April, 1911.