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 the design from 1980/81.

In 1979/80 Bradford City narrowly missed promotion to Division Three, denied following defeat in the final game at Peterborough United. Despite being tipped in the 1980 close season as favourites to be promoted, the 1980/81 campaign ended in disappointment and a 14th place finish. The last home fixture against Hereford United in May, 1981 was watched by just 1,249 – a record low crowd at Valley Parade for a league match.

The programme of that season was similarly a disappointment and aside from its garish cover it had little to distinguish it. The kindest words would be to describe it as cheap and cheerful, a common characteristic of lower division programmes of that era.

The minimal editorial content betrayed the fact that there was no-one at the club with the commitment to producing a quality issue. However, it also reflected the fact that it was more difficult to compile and produce such a publication at a time when PCs, word processing and digital design software were virtually unheard of.

Most of the content was unchanged from one issue to the next and at the start of the season the printers produced a stock of standard pages with advertising content. Pre-printed templates with claret and amber inks were also produced upfront for the cover and editorial pages as a means to minimise production costs. Needless to say, there were few photographs and they were all printed in low resolution black and white. The editorial deadlines also meant that information was not always up to date, a particular issue at Christmas and Easter.

Programmes of this vintage are readily available on ebay for little cost and they provide interesting insights about social and economic change. For example few of the businesses advertising in the programme still exist, an advert for Leyland cars being particularly poignant. Likewise, that for Worthington Sports, an independent sports business that boasted being official suppliers to BCAFC. Or Sunwin Travel at Sunwin House that advertised itself as travel experts for rail tickets, air bookings, sea journeys and express coaches. No web addresses to be seen!

The fixtures printed in the programme are also a reminder of change. Of those competing in Division Four that season, nine are no longer league clubs (Aldershot, Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, York, Hereford, Darlington, Bury and Halifax); one is now established in the second tier (Bournemouth); eight are now in the third tier (Lincoln, Doncaster, Milton Keynes as legal successor to Wimbledon, Peterborough, Rochdale, Crewe, Wigan and Northampton); and just six are now back in the fourth tier (Mansfield, Tranmere, Port Vale Scunthorpe, Southend and ourselves).

In 1980 Crawley Town FC competed in the Southern League Southern Section, three levels below the Football League and few could have imagined then that they would achieve League membership. Crawley Town FC has a long history going back to its formation in 1896 as Crawley FC (with the club’s name changed to Crawley Town in 1958) but for most of its existence operated as an amateur and semi-professional side. In many ways the club’s current status in the football world reflects wider economic changes in the UK and the relative affluence of the South East.

In 1984 Crawley Town secured promotion to the Southern League Premier Division and it was not until 2004 that the club was promoted to the Conference (what is now known as the National League). In 2011 it won promotion to the EFL and this is now Crawley’s tenth season at the senior level.

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 Forest Green Rovers 2nd 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.

The compilation of this feature has been an interesting exercise in selecting old programmes, looking at their historical context and examining the evolution of the matchday publication. I believe that they are important records not only of the history of the football club but also of social history. Above all else they are a reminder of the changes that have occurred in the sport as well as in Bradford.

Today’s programme for example is based on the cover design from the 1989/90 season which ended with our relegation from the second tier. If it wasn’t bad enough to finish second bottom of the table there was the appointment of John Docherty in March, 1990. If we didn’t know it by the end of that season, the next twenty months were not exactly going to be entertaining from a ‘football’ perspective.

Programmes that season had different colour photographs on the cover of each issue. These featured City players in the then first choice strip of claret and amber stripes and black shorts or the away kit, another traditional design, of white shirts with black shorts.

Flicking through old programmes of that season, a number of themes stand out from a modern perspective to which I draw attention.

In 1989/90 the club shirt was sponsored by Grattan, the (printed) catalogue clothing retailer. Prominent on the second page of the programme was a full-page advert for the firm who boasted being ‘League Leaders in Home Shopping’. Whilst Grattan still exists, it’s fair to say that a different form of home shopping is more commonplace nowadays.

Another advert promoted the ‘City Chat Lines’ which offered ‘plenty of interesting chat, interviews, competitions, news and your very own opinion line’. Anyone calling the 0898 888 640 number today is unlikely to hear anything relating to BCAFC but in 1990 it was considered a fantastic commercial opportunity for the club to generate income. It was a premium call line and I recall complaints at the time it was relatively expensive. City Chat Lines was an initiative made obsolete by the internet but arguably it was a forerunner of content currently found on the club’s webpages (NB it was not until 1996 that City fans had their first online presence).

Business adverts in the programme of 1989/90 stand out for the brevity of contact details – no internet or social media addresses, nor mobile phone numbers in those days. And the telephone code for Bradford was then 0274!  It would be a long time before mobile phones became commonplace and in 1989/90 they were still referred to as car phones which is where they tended to be used. By the way, there were no adverts for such phones in the programme which said a lot about their cost.

The last programme of that season included an interesting comment about closed circuit television which had become identified as an important means of crowd control and monitoring. That season marked the completion of the installation of CCTV at every League ground (NB all 92 as this was still prior to the Premier League). The work had been funded by the Football Trust and it was boasted that the cameras had a range of 150 metres and an ability to recognise faces. The same article mentioned that the Football Trust received £9.5m every year from the ‘Spot-the-Ball’ competition run by Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters. Oh the days of analogue film media!

Printed football fanzines were then very popular at most grounds in the UK. At Valley Parade I suspect that The City Gent came close to outselling the programme at the time and the club sought to capitalise on the popularity by giving the then editor, Mick Dickinson a page in the programme to write about the fanzine scene. It was an interesting feature that regularly included contacts and correspondence from visiting supporters. Again, the internet has played its part in reducing the sales of both fanzines and programmes and the circulation of The City Gent is now a fraction of its peak.

The then commercial manager at the club in 1989/90 was Tony Thornton whose page ‘Commercial Corner’ included the proud boast ‘Come on down to the City Shop, it’s bursting at the seams with goods listed below and many more and the price is right.’  As examples of merchandise, Bukta tracksuits were priced at £22.99/£29.99; Bukta replica shirts at £9.50/£11.99; and shell pants (the then new scourge of high street fashion) at £19.99 whilst ties could be bought for £4.95. The retail revolution at Valley Parade had still to occur and it was not until 1996 that Geoffrey Richmond transformed the offering, but nonetheless in 1989/90 the club had made tentative steps to generate more income from this source.

Final mention is of the advert for the National & Provincial Building Society, then a major employer in the city. Anyone remember that big office block opposite City Hall??

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 Oldham Athletic 20th March, 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 1952/1953 when we were rivals with Oldham Athletic in Division Three (North).

During the 1950s the content of the Bradford City programme was very basic and there was little change from one year to the next. To be fair this was not unusual among clubs and neither was it confined to the lower divisions. Government control of paper supply was not finally lifted until 1956 and paper remained in short supply until the end of the decade. The size of the programme was also smaller than what had been produced before the war with an inch shaved off both the length and the width. The quality of paper used to produce the programme in the early 1950s differed considerably on occasions and my interpretation is that it was a case of using whatever paper the printer could supply.

With corresponding high costs of production, it made sense to economise and as a consequence minimal effort was invested in the programme. Higher print/paper costs forced a 50% increase in the cover price in December, 1952 and it remained at 3d until 1964 (having been 2d since 1944). It was not until the 1960s – and post 1966 in particular – that football clubs recognised marketing and commercial opportunities through match programmes and the cost of paper was no longer as prohibitive.

Midway in the 1956/57 season came a change in cover design but the content remained the same with no more than eight pages including the front and rear cover. Team cards for reserve games and friendlies were a single page issue and featured the civic crest that was also used as club badge by both Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue.

In the immediate post-war period the standard of the programme published at Park Avenue was consistently better than at Valley Parade. In some ways it was a form of proxy competition between the two clubs and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Bradford leadership was acutely sensitive to the branding of their club. By contrast the Park Avenue programme covers were much more formal, as if to imply seniority.

It was not until 1958 and the restructuring of the English lower divisions from regional to national formats that there were radical changes in programme design. Typically, the southern clubs had been more adventurous in their commercial activities – programme publishing included – and this appears to have encouraged change at northern clubs. Oldham for example embraced such change but at Valley Parade it was confined to new cover designs. Between 1959-66 Bradford Park Avenue was the more innovative in programme design, pioneering a pocket size no more than 8cm by 13cm that would also appear at Boundary Park. It was the introduction of the City Gent character in 1966 that heralded a new era at Valley Parade with a radical mid-season redesign of the cover and an increase in size to 12 pages.

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.

Valley Parade under floodlights

Photos taken in October / November, 2020.

If anyone wants to use these on social media I have no issue. I know that one in particular features on a number of Twitter profiles. However, I would ask to be credited.

@jpdewhirst

Sundry images being tweeted with the tag #floodlightfriday and also #scottishgroundsofthe80s

Thanks for visiting my blog, the content of which is mainly – although not exclusively – about Bradford City AFC. The menu above gives access to my features published in the BCAFC matchday programme, content on local history as well as my reviews of sundry sports books that have local coverage.

Those interested in the history of Valley Parade will find an extensive selection of old photographs and detail about how the ground has been developed since 1886 from this link.

Refer to the menu above for links to other blog features.

My Twitter account is @jpdewhirst – followers can expect a variety of stuff but in the main my photographs, archive images, Bradford sports artefacts and BCAFC / BPA memorabilia.

*** Details of my new book (2020) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals – A History in Colour which tells the story of the rivalry of Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue in the Football League, 1908-70. (Available only online from the link.)

Copies of my other books in the bantamspast History Revisited series can be purchased online as well as in Waterstones (Wool Exchange) and the Salts Mill bookshop when they reopen after lockdown.

BCAFC programme feature: vs Bolton Wanderers 6th March, 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 1995/96 when Bolton Wanderers were the visitors to Valley Parade for a Third Round FA Cup tie.

The cover of the programme in 1995/96 was one of the most distinctive to have been used in the history of the Bradford City publication, incorporating half a dozen archive images from preceding decades. It was nonetheless a throwback to the traditional way of producing a programme with the cover remaining unchanged – other than the name of the opposition – for each issue. The motive for this was once again that of economy and the bright cover disguised the fact that the content was minimal.

In February, 1994 the Bradford printer Wheeldens had been displaced by the in-coming chairman, Geoffrey Richmond. From the outset his motive was to minimise the cost of the programme whilst also increasing its financial contribution and there was a high advert content in the 36 pages of that produced in 1995/96. Whilst the new heritage cover represented an improvement, by contemporary standards the match programmes between 1994 and 1996 were still mediocre. It was not until 1996/97 that Richmond made a concerted effort to improve the publication and the era of ‘match day magazines’ at Valley Parade began.

There have only been 50 first team competitive fixtures between Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers with 15 games having been won by City and 18 by Bolton. Of those there have been two FA Cup ties, both won by Bolton (including a 3-0 win in January, 1996) and four League Cup games of which two resulted in a City victory and one in favour of Bolton. In the Football League Trophy in 2019 there was a draw. It means that in League competition, Bolton have the edge with 15 wins compared to 13 for the Bantams whilst there have been 15 draws.

Despite defeat by Bolton in the FA Cup in 1995/96 we still made it to Wembley that year and history was made on 26th May, 1996 when Bradford City played at the stadium for the first time in the club’s history, winning the League Division Two (third tier) Play-Off Final.

Our last League victory over Bolton was in April, 1993 when we won 2-1 at Valley Parade. Possibly our most memorable victory in modern times was on 6th May, 1985 when our 2-0 win at Burnden Park secured the Division Three Championship.

Meetings between the sides were relatively commonplace before the last war but subsequent to the 1934/35 season when Bolton won promotion to Division One, we did not meet again in League competition until 1971/72. The cover of the programme from the game between the sides in February, 1935 (a 1-1 draw) is reproduced on this page, an eight page issue that was typical of the era and indeed, until the 1960s.

Even with the emergence of ‘match day magazines’ the basic content of a programme has continued to revolve around the same ingredients: statements of club health by the team manager and/or club chairman; detail of fixtures and results; supporters’ club announcements; a brief background to the opposition club including pen pictures of its players; team line-ups; and advertisements. One feature that no longer exists is a section to record half-time scores. Both the 1996 issue and that from 1935 provide a unique insight into social and economic trends, an invaluable record for future historians.

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 Mansfield Town 2nd March, 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 1992/93.

The cover of the programme is a reminder of the diagonal design shirts that were worn between 1991-93 with the distinctive two-tone blue away shirts. The striking kit design accompanied the restoration of the official ‘bantams’ identity with the current club crest having been introduced in 1991.

The new crest incorporated the traditional shield and the BCAFC monogram that had featured in earlier versions. On top of the shield sits a bantam. Unfortunately, the depiction of the bird in white overlooked the fact that when the nickname had originally been introduced in 1908, emphasis was given to claret and amber plumage!

As a publication, the 1992/93 match day programme looks very dated by today’s standards and at the time it compared poorly with those of other clubs. The kindest observation to be made is that it was economical in content. A distinguishing feature however was the colour action photograph on the cover that was changed with each issue

The meeting with Mansfield on 2nd January, 1993 resulted in a dour 0-0 draw. Having been relegated from the second tier in 1990 there had been little promise of a serious challenge at promotion but by the end of 1992 there were hopes that the outlook was brighter. The point from the Mansfield game left Bradford City in 6th position behind leaders Stoke City, Leyton Orient, West Bromwich Albion, Hartlepool United and Rotherham United.

Other sides in our division that season included Bolton, Brighton, Swansea, Burnley, Fulham, Reading, Hull, Bournemouth, Wigan, Blackpool and Huddersfield (NB bottom placed on 2nd January, 1993) all of whom subsequently played in the Premier League which was then in its inaugural season.

City finished 1992/93 in 10th position whilst Mansfield Town were relegated (22nd). Huddersfield Town meanwhile escaped the drop and finished 15th. The early 1990s was something of a doldrums period for Bradford City, finishing 7th in 1993/94 and 14th in 1994/95 before that memorable Play-Off victory at Wembley in 1996 and our return to the second tier. The prospect of playing in the Premier League however was then still something beyond our wildest dreams.

Subsequent to our meeting in January, 1993, Bradford City did not play against Mansfield Town again until 2007/08. Of course, that followed our relegation to the basement division which came only six years after our two season spell in the Premier League.

In total there have now been 65 first team contests between the sides, of which City have won 25 and lost 23. Ten of those have been cup games with City undefeated against Mansfield in the FA Cup (winning four and drawing one) and of meetings in the League Cup, City have won three and lost just once whilst Mansfield can boast victory in the Freight Rover Associate Members Cup in 1985. In league competition therefore Mansfield have the edge with 21 victories against City’s 18.

Despite securing four points from Bradford City in the 2007/08 season it was insufficient to prevent Mansfield Town finishing second to bottom and losing its League status. The Stags subsequently spent five seasons in the National League, winning the championship in 2012/13 and hence last season was the first encounter between the sides since 2007/08.

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 Leyton Orient 23rd February, 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 AFootball 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 1984/1985 when we played Orient during our Division Three Championship winning season.

The cover of our programme for the 1984/85 season was crude to say the least and appears to have been drawn by tracing the outline of an action photograph. It is highly unlikely that a design agency had been engaged for the purpose.

I doubt that I am the only Bradford City supporter delighted to see Leyton Orient back in the EFL after a two year exile in the National League between 2017-19. Relegation from the third tier in 2015 was followed by relegation from the basement two years later but the manner in which the club collapsed after the disappointment of a play-off defeat in 2014 is something that we can relate to.

Our fixture with Leyton Orient last March never took place due to the Covid emergency and so today is the club’s first visit to Valley Parade since the meeting in November, 2014 that ended with a 3-1 home victory and this is only the second season that the two clubs have been rivals in the basement division. Of the previous twenty-one seasons that we have been matched at the same level, twelve have been in the third tier, eight in the second and one (last season) in the fourth.

All of the meetings in the old Division Two were before the war with the first game between the sides in December, 1905 (a 3-0 home win in Bradford) and the last in September, 1926 (a 1-3 home defeat). Before World War One we defeated Clapton Orient (as the club was then known) four times and lost only once in six meetings between 1905/06 and 1907/08. Bradford City finished as champions of Division Two in 1908 and achieved a double over the London side in that season.

During the 1920s Clapton Orient was something of a bogey side for City who lost five and drew five of the ten games between 1922/23 and 1926/27. Following the Paraders’ relegation to Division Three (North) in 1927 it meant that our paths did not cross again until September, 1969. Since then the results have been pretty even with City winning ten games compared to nine by Orient / Leyton Orient.

In aggregate City have won 14 and lost 15 league games and 12 have been drawn (including that last season in London). The one meeting between the sides in the FA Cup was at Valley Parade in November, 2008 which the visitors won.

Our highest victory, 4-0 was achieved in March, 1991 (the programme of which is featured). This was the third home game in succession that the Bantams had scored four goals against the O’s with the two preceding meetings at Valley Parade in February, 1985 and January, 1984 both ending 4-1. The game in 1984 is remembered as the ninth game in a run of ten successive victories that saw the club rise from the relegation zone in meteoric fashion. The programme for the game in 1985 – the season when Bradford City finished as champions of Division Three – is also featured. When the clubs had met the previous September in London there was little indication that City might top the division after a disappointing 0-1 reverse.

The programme for our meeting in December, 2013 which finished 1-1 had Jon McLaughlin (now at Rangers) on its cover and is also reproduced below. 

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.

History makers?

Under the new management team of Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars, Bradford City’s points haul of 27 from the last 12 games is consistent with promotion form. Over a 46 game season on a pro-rata basis it would yield in excess of 100 points and the uplift in performances has lifted the club from 22nd on 12th December to 11th. Whereas in December the talk had been of a possible relegation battle, now there is credible discussion about reaching the play-offs. Given that only five points and a game in hand separates BCAFC from Salford in 7th position it is entirely possible.

Historically, around 75 points has been sufficient to guarantee a play-off place and 85 to secure automatic promotion from the fourth tier under three points for a win. This season it seems far more open such that 70 and 80 points respectively may suffice. To reach the play-offs this season means that City would need at least 30 (and surely no more than 35) points from the remaining 18 games – hardly a massive stretch based on current form.

Parallels have been made with the 1983/84 and 1986/87 seasons when Bradford City lifted themselves from the bottom of the table (third and second tiers respectively). In 1983/84 for example, City finished 7th having been 23rd on 12th November, 1983 when they looked doomed with only eight points from 15 games. In 1986/87 there was a similar transformation. On 3rd January, 1987 the club was bottom of the table, three points adrift from safety – with 20 points from 22 games – yet finished the season in 10th place.

In neither 1983/84 or 1986/87 did the club mount a realistic promotion challenge, in the main due to the fact that the turnarounds came too late. In 1983/84 the side came within touching distance of promotion but by Easter in 1984 it was accepted that we had only an outside chance. In 1963/64 however City went from 22nd on 9th September, 1963 (when they had just six points from nine games based on three for a win) to finish 5th. The 1963/64 campaign was one of the most dramatic in the club’s history even though it did not end in success. Had the team (pictured above) not stumbled in its penultimate game that season it seems pretty certain that promotion from the fourth tier would have been achieved.

Back in 1963/64 the recovery had started much sooner and by the end of 1963 City were already in a midtable position (15th). Over the new year there was a similar period of peak form as now with 27 points from 12 games that lifted City to 6th by the end of February, 1964. Between 25th January and 18th April, 1964 there were only two defeats in a 17 game spell that yielded 41 points and which included five consecutive wins.

The fate of the club was determined by a 0-2 defeat at home to promotion rivals Workington on 22nd April, 1964 in the penultimate game of the season which attracted a bumper crowd of 17,974 to Valley Parade – a defeat that was attributed to nerves and big match pressure. The outcome of that game meant that the club’s hopes depended on other promotion rivals, Exeter City failing to get a point in their final match at Workington and City winning their game at York City.

A 0-0 draw at Borough Park rendered the result at Bootham Crescent academic and, given that the evening kick-off at York came after the finish of the Workington v Exeter match (which was played on the same day but in the afternoon), the City players went into their game in the knowledge that promotion had been denied. Of course, had City beaten Workington and then drawn at York it would have made their position unassailable and there could have been a party to remember in York that night. To add insult to injury, City suffered a second consecutive defeat for the first time in seven months and the season ended in disappointment.

The outcome of the 1963/64 season was cruel after the club’s revival under manager, Bob Brocklebank. To have come so close to promotion was a remarkable achievement, all the more so considering that Bradford City had finished 23rd in Division Four twelve months before.

The recent transformation at Valley Parade has drawn comparison with the 1983/84 season when there was a similar turnaround, in that case one inspired by the return of Bobby Campbell from Derby County. That campaign is best remembered for the record-breaking ten consecutive wins between 26th November, 1983 and 3rd February, 1984 and whilst the next ten games yielded only 16 points, the club was defeated just twice. Thereafter some of the momentum was lost with only five points in the last six games (which included consecutive defeats in the last two games) and the club’s cause was not helped by fixture congestion that required nine games to be played in a three week period between 21st April and 12th May, 1984. Exhaustion was therefore probably a factor for the drop in form. Nevertheless, had the transformation come sooner there is little doubt that the club would have challenged for promotion.

In 1986/87 the transformation in the second half of the season was less marked but nonetheless in the last ten games the team was defeated just once and won seven times. The significance of the 1983/84 and 1986/87 seasons however was that they provided a springboard to promotion challenges the following campaign. In 1984/85 for instance City finished as champions of the third tier and in 1987/88 finished fourth in the second tier, narrowly missing promotion through defeat in the play-offs. (By contrast, in 1964/65 City finished 19th in Division Four, explained primarily by the failure to replace Rodney Green – scorer of 29 goals during the 1963/64 campaign – who was sold in the 1964 close season to meet financial pressures.)

The graph below shows that after 28 games and 40 points we are narrowly tracking behind the 1963/64 and 1983/84 seasons when we had secured 43 points in each at this stage. By contrast we are well ahead of 1986/87 when we had only 28 points. (NB In the 1986/87 season there were only 42 games played in the old second division.)

In 1963/64 the club managed 12 wins and two draws from the final 18 games, equivalent to 38 points and to repeat that (which would give us a total of 78 points) would most certainly secure a play-off place this season, maybe even put us within touching distance of promotion. To put this into context, in the last twelve games the club has had eight wins and there have been three draws.

To sustain the current form would be truly remarkable but it is unrealistic to believe that there won’t be setbacks with the occasional surprise result in the next three months. We can expect more difficult games like the one last night against Leyton Orient with visitors coming to Valley Parade and adopting similar tactics. What counts in our favour is that we have a rejuvenated squad and you sense that some of the teams that were among the leaders in the first half of the season are beginning to tire. The congested fixture list is a potential risk but on the face of it the size of the squad allows for player rotation. The confidence and self-belief in the team is also another massive advantage. In other words, the prize is there for the taking.

The two seasons – 1963/64 and 1983/84 – are the only ones where the club has recovered in spectacular fashion from the foot of the division to within touching distance of promotion places. In those years there was no play-off at the end of the season which gives more chance that 2020/21 could yet be a promotion season. If we did achieve that goal, the mid-season transformation would be unprecedented and 2020/21 could rightly be described as history making. However, irrespective whether promotion is achieved or not there is already a strong platform upon which to build for next season.

POSTSCRIPT – The season 1961/62 was another where the club had a turnaround in the second half of the season. During the first 27 games of the season there were just seven wins and seven draws (28 points) but the last 19 games brought 15 wins and two draws with just two defeats (47 points). The club finished 5th, just outside the promotion places. Strictly speaking it managed 75 points under three for a win but of those, the three derived from games with Accrington Stanley were expunged arising from the club’s liquidation mid-season. I didn’t include the season in the analysis because strictly speaking the bulk of it was spent in midtable and there was only one weekend when the team came close to the re-election zone. For the record refer graphs below.

John Dewhirst

Thanks for visiting my blog, the content of which is mainly – although not exclusively – about Bradford City AFC. The menu above gives access to content published in the BCAFC matchday programme, features on local history as well as my reviews of sundry sports books that have local coverage.

You can also find content about the history of BCAFC , archive photos of Valley Parade as well as features about the origins of sport in Bradford.

My Twitter account is @jpdewhirst – followers can expect a variety of stuff but in the main my photographs, archive images, Bradford sports artefacts and BCAFC / BPA memorabilia.

*** Details of my new book (2020) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals – A History in Colour which tells the story of the rivalry of Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue in the Football League, 1908-70. (Available only online from the link.)

Mean Old Scene: Lumb Lane, Bradford 1987

The following images were taken in February, 1987 with an Olympus OM40. I rediscovered them recently whilst having a tidy and found it fascinating to see how things had changed, not least with the disappearance of Drummonds Mill which burned down in January, 2016. They are not excellent photographs but I have uploaded them as an historical record.

As the photographs show, the area was badly run down with undisguised poverty but clues remained of the fact that it had once been a prosperous and fashionable part of Manningham.

Around this time initiatives were starting to get underway to refurbish many of the properties, in particular on Southfield Square but considerable work was left to be undertaken. Peel Square which dated from 1851 is featured in the images but had yet to be renovated.

Speedy Tyres stood at the corner of Southfield Square and Lumb Lane.
The gothic building in the centre of the above photo was the old Bradford Grammar School (latterly Hanson GS) which was by then derelict and burned down shortly after.
A mosque now stands on this area near Westgate which then served as a car park.
The Perseverance was nearby Speedy Tyres but was closed down in 1985 following a drugs bust.

Thanks for visiting my blog, the content of which is mainly – although not exclusively – about Bradford City AFC. I am interested in local history and in particular industrial, sporting and railway history but you will also find content about my favourite band, The Stranglers. The menu above gives access to content published in the BCAFC matchday programme, features on local history as well as my reviews of sundry sports books that have local coverage.

I have unearthed other old photographs that I took of Bradford as well as my travels in the Soviet bloc around this time and will upload those also on an ad hoc basis.

My photos of Salt’s Mill at the time of closure in 1986

For something else completely different, you can find my photographs of the DPRK from this link.

Refer to the menu above for links to other blog features.

My Twitter account is @jpdewhirst – followers can expect a variety of stuff but in the main my photographs, archive images, Bradford sports artefacts and BCAFC / BPA memorabilia.

*** Details of my new book (2020) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals – A History in Colour which tells the story of the rivalry of Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue in the Football League, 1908-70. (Available only online from the link.)

Copies of my other books in the bantamspast History Revisited series can be purchased online as well as in Waterstones (Wool Exchange) and the Salts Mill bookshop when they reopen after lockdown.

Why is Bradford City AFC known as the Bantams?

A lot of visitors find this blog after asking that question in Google. The following page provides links to features that tell the story of the different identities that have been adopted during the history of the club and its predecessor, Manningham FC:

About BCAFC colours, crests and nicknames – Wool City Rivals

The principal identities have been the civic boar and the bantams nickname and you can discover the origins of both. You can also discover the various monogram badges that have been used.

I occasionally get questions from people who have inherited or discovered old Bradford badges and I am happy to assist as best I can. You can contact me via this site or by Twitter DM to @jpdewhirst