Revival of white

In July it was announced that Bradford City AFC will adopt a predominantly white shirt as the club’s away choice in the 2019/20 season…
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In 1974, club chairman Bob Martin was anxious to launch a fresh start for Bradford City for the beginning of his first full season in charge. Having been relegated from the third division in 1972, the Paraders had failed to challenge for promotion. With public interest waning, Martin knew that change was necessary.
Earlier in the year it had been confirmed that Bradford Park Avenue would be wound-up at the end of the 1973/74 season. The club had ground-shared at Valley Parade after vacating Park Avenue in 1973 but its own attendances had plummeted. Sensing an opportunity presented by there being only one senior club in the district, Martin had proposed a controversial change of name [More from this link: The story of when it was proposed to rename Bradford City AFC as Bradford Metro] which was emphatically opposed by City supporters, led by former chairman Stafford Heginbotham (a man with no love for Bob Martin).
As part of the new identity, Martin had proposed introducing new club colours of amber and brown, the same as those adopted by the new metropolitan authority. It is unknown whether the new colours were to be worn as stripes – a style traditionally associated with City, as opposed to Avenue – or in some other configuration. With the rejection of the new colours, claret and amber were retained as the primary colours of Bradford City which had originally been adopted by the former Manningham FC in 1884 [More from this link: The military heritage of Bradford City AFC].

Palace 1972-73

Nevertheless Martin was still able to introduce radical changes to the club identity with a new club crest and a predominantly white strip supplied by Litesome of Keighley. The design of the shirt was not dissimilar to a style previously worn by Crystal Palace in 1972/73. Yet whilst the new shirt was promoted as a new modern identity, in reality it restored the club’s traditional third colour – white – to the strip.

For a start, the club’s shorts had traditionally always been white. Furthermore, under Football League regulations every club had been required to have white shirts in the event that a colour clash arose. To that extent white was the club’s de facto away shirt. On certain occasions before World War One, the team even wore a plain white shirt at Valley Parade, presumably for practical reasons of the other shirts not being available at the time.
Pictured below the Bradford City squad at the beginning of the 1909/10 season. Both the yoke and white shirts were worn with the city’s coat of arms which was the club’s crest.
1909-1910

1923

Besides, in 1974 it was not the first time that the club had opted for a predominantly white shirt as first option. As long ago as 1923 the club had introduced a new predominantly white shirt as its first choice. In all likelihood the change at that time had been a matter of expediency based on economy rather than branding and similarly it has to be remembered that the shirts were not sold as consumer items for supporters to purchase. From the evidence of old team photographs this distinctive white strip with claret/amber ‘V’ was retained for at least three seasons until it wore out but the traditional claret and amber yoke strip design was retained as the alternative (and the club reverted to this).

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Pictured wearing the new shirt in 1974 is Keighley-born, Welsh international Trevor Hockey who became Martin’s celebrity signing in the 1974 close season when he re-signed for the club having previously been on the books in 1960/61. Hockey, who was 31 at the time of returning to Valley Parade spent two final seasons with Bradford City.

The new strip did not create an immediate uplift in fortunes in 1974/75 and the following season the club found itself struggling near the bottom of the fourth division with finances dictating its fate.
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However it was the FA Cup run of 1975/76 that rescued the club from financial disaster and also encouraged a revival in public interest. By this stage there had been a subtle change to the design of the shirt with changes to the collar as well as the width and position of the stripes. A new version altogether was introduced for the FA Cup Quarter Final tie against Southampton at Valley Parade (pictured). Even at that time however it was uncommon for supporters to purchase replica shirts and they tended to be available only in schoolboy sizings.

With the momentum provided by the FA Cup run, in 1976/77 Bradford City achieved promotion from Division Four whilst wearing the new white strip. Don Hutchins is pictured wearing the promotion strip – note the lack of a club crest, only the Litesome motif.

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Back in Division Three, white was abandoned in 1977/78 but restored in 1978/79 when the club secured a supply arrangement with Admiral and adopted a style of kit more commonly associated with Leeds United that was based on a standard template. The Admiral strip was the first to be made available through active merchandising. In 1981/82 came a new predominantly white strip, albeit with claret shorts that bore an uncanny resemblance to the style then being worn by Derby County – presumably more than a coincidence given that the club’s player-manager was Roy McFarland, formerly of Derby.
Once more, in 1981/82 a white strip became associated with a successful promotion season, in this case from Division Four. Maybe there was a degree of superstition that the predominantly claret and amber strip of 1977/78 had been linked with relegation. That kit had been supplied by Litesome but in 1983 the club secured a supply arrangement with Patrick based around a predominantly white strip and a second that featured claret and amber stripes. The white strip was that commonly associated with the 1984/85 championship success.

S. McCall v Wolves

In 1985 Stafford Heginbotham restored claret and amber stripes. At the time it was the focus of a campaign by The City Gent for a stripes revival but it was very much a case of kicking an open door because Heginbotham was firmly a man in favour of the stripes as well as the traditional boar’s head crest [Background about the boar’s head crest from this link]. Since then, claret and amber has remained the primary colours of the home shirt. Nonetheless there has been a revival of a white away strip based around the style introduced by Bob Martin in 1974. Both were introduced by Geoffrey Richmond, a man with an eye to commercial opportunity in 1996 (Beaver) and then in 1999 (Asics), the latter being closely associated with our Premier League promotion success.

The new away shirt differs to the classic style by virtue of the central stripes but this has much to do with the fact that the shirt has been designed for sale as leisure wear. It was recognised that two individual stripes in the style worn by the team in the late 1970s would not necessarily be flattering on contemporary supporters with less than athletic physiques.
I think it’s great that the club’s heritage is being revived in this way and I hope that in future we’ll see a return of white shorts with a traditional claret and amber shirt.
For what it’s worth my preference is a claret and amber striped shirt but given that this isn’t everyone’s favourite and mindful of the commercial pressure for change, I’d like to see the club rotate its home shirt design between the three generic styles that have been worn since 1903. That is: (i) a striped shirt; (ii) a predominantly claret body with amber collar or yoke; and (iii) a predominantly white shirt with claret and amber stripes / detail. Either way, after the disappointment of last year’s home strip – with the final design understood to have been dictated by Edin Rahic against the advice of club staff who had recommended a style similar to that of 1907/08 – in 2019/20 we will have a combination of shirts likely to be well received.
John Dewhirst
Tweets: @jpdewhirst
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Billy Bantam wears the new white shirt.

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Thanks for visiting my blog. You will find links from the menu above to other features I have published online about the history of football in Bradford and Bradford City in particular. I contribute to the BCAFC match day programme and you can also find archive images as well as a number of book reviews. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.

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If you are interested in the history of Bradford sport then visit VINCIT www.bradfordsporthistory.com where you will find features about the history of different sports and clubs in the district.

Recent articles published on VINCIT written by myself include:

The Paraders’ record breaking season of 1928/29

Centenary of Scholemoor Ground, Lidget Green and revival of Bradford RFC

The story of Shipley FC and Bradford’s other c19th junior rugby clubs

The origins of women’s football in Bradford

The significance of sport in shaping a Bradford identity

History of the Bradford Charity Cup

Compendium of Bradford sports club names

The late development of soccer in Bradford

John Nunn, Bradford physical aesthete

The story of the Belle Vue Hotel, a nineteenth century pub adopted as a sports headquarters in Bradford

The history of Bradford rugby and the case to reassess the split in English rugby in 1895 My findings from investigation of the origins and development of Bradford football provide sufficient evidence to challenge the orthodox view that the split in English rugby was driven by social class as opposed to the economics of sport.

The myth that the City – Avenue rivalry was based on class politics

The political origins of Bradford Cricket Club in 1836: Blaming the Tories

Cricket: the DNA of Bradford sport
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Details of my books published in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED SERIES

When Thomas tried to get to the other side of Bradford

The following image will be familiar to many, often annoted with the caption ‘Oh Shit’. The incident dates from 1895 at the Gare Montparnasse, Paris. Of course such incompetence could never have occurred in Victorian Britain, or could it?

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I confess a combination of surprise and amusement to have come across the following illustration in the Bradford Illustrated Weekly Telegraph of 1891 featuring an accident much closer to home in Nelson Street, Bradford. In its day this must surely have been quite a sight to behold.

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Nelson Street, Bradford – 1891 

The Fat Controller was so cross with Thomas that he said he would never allow a cross-Bradford rail link. Sadly this meant that Thomas could never meet his friends on the Midland line.

POSTSCRIPT. What happened in 1891 was not the end of it. I have been informed that there were at least three other instances in the Bradford district of runaway trains and spectacular crashes. In November, 1964 there was an incident at the former Adolphus Street station (picture below – thanks to Kieran Wilkinson for bringing this to my attention). In 1916 as well as in 1885 there were accidents involving runaway trains at Windhill. (Detail of the Windhill accidents from the Bradford T&A)

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Henry landed with a big bump.

 

John Dewhirst @jpdewhirst

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Thanks for visiting my blog.

Link to other features on this blog about Bradford railway history

You will find links from the menu above to other features I have published online about the history of football in Bradford and Bradford City in particular. I contribute to the BCAFC match day programme and you can also find archive images as well as a number of book reviews. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.
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Tradition and the return of striped shirts

In June it was announced that Bradford City AFC will return to a striped shirt for the 2019/20 season…

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I was both amused and saddened by the quote credited to a club official a few years ago in respect of the design of team strip: ‘It is difficult to determine what is traditional given the various changes in recent years’. My observation is that given the embedded practice of radical changes every year there is a risk of this statement becoming self-fulfilling and before long we won’t have any identifiable tradition beyond the kit manufacturer’s design studio.

The commercial imperative is now to change the design for the sake of it and then to accommodate a template design provided by the manufacturer. Surely there is a strong argument that the choice of team strip is too important to be left to the club and its kit manufacturer alone.

So what is the club’s traditional strip? Is it the favourite shirt that we recall from our early years supporting the club and by definition something unique to everyone of us? Is it the City Gent strip of the 1965/66 to 1971/72 era, the 1911 FA Cup Final shirt or the reincarnated hoops of our celebrated League Cup campaign? Each of these examples have been popular and significant in the club’s history and could be described as ‘classic’. Maybe the best way to answer the question is ask the same of other clubs. For example we would have little difficulty identifying the traditional shirt design of Liverpool, Newcastle United or Manchester United for the very reason that whoever is in charge of those clubs knows that the one thing they can’t – or indeed shouldn’t – change is the generic shirt design.

With the exception of Cardiff City who recently abandoned blue for red before reverting back again, tradition is generally written in tablets of stone. However there have been many other precedents of clubs changing their colours. In 1911 for example Bradford Park Avenue abandoned its traditional red, amber and black colours for green and white and subsequently alternated between the two combinations. Green and white had been introduced in February of that year following the appointment as manager of Tom Maley, previously a Glasgow Celtic player and administrator as well as avowed Irish nationalist. Adoption of those colours was part of the offer made by the Park Avenue chairman Arthur (Harry) Briggs to tempt the former Manchester City manager out of retirement. It is quite possible that they were also viewed as a means to attract local Irish immigrants to Park Avenue. It begs the question whether a similar colour change might one day be introduced at Valley Parade to attract ethnic support.

In the very beginning Manningham FC wore black shirts and black shorts before adopting claret and amber hoops in 1884 prior to moving to Valley Parade [Read here about the military heritage of the colours]. The new Bradford City club wore hoops in its first Football League game, thereafter adopting claret and amber stripes with white shorts – new shirts not being available for the game, the team wore the old rugby jerseys of Manningham FC. Stripes were considered in keeping with association football whereas hoops were associated with rugby and in 1903 the new club was anxious to distinguish itself from the rugby traditions of Manningham FC at Valley Parade, notwithstanding the retention of claret and amber. Until 2012/13 hoops were not worn again by Bradford City.

The determinant of kit design has always been commercial in nature. In the last twenty years decisions have been based principally around selling replica shirts as a leisure garments whereas previously it came down to securing the playing kit for as cheap as possible. Because the club’s colours – claret and amber – are relatively unique there have been constraints in terms of what a manufacturer can supply. Even now, standard template designs are a factor for what can be manufactured.

In 106 seasons of peacetime League football there have been four main colour combinations in the design of club strip. My classifications allow for broad and elastic interpretation given the imagination of recent designs but confirm that in 61 seasons claret and amber stripes have been worn (which includes the recent diagonals and chequer board styles). This also includes the 2013/14 single striped shirt and the number would increase to 65 if we include seasons in which claret and amber stripes have appeared on a white shirt. In 29 seasons there has been a predominantly claret shirt – ranging from the yoke shirt worn in the FA Cup Final and revived in 1949 to the claret shirt with amber collar worn until 1909 and then again between 1953 and 1959. Of the remainder, 5 have been in a predominantly amber shirt and 10 in a predominantly white shirt (or 6 if the kits of 1923/24 and 1974 to 1977 are classified as ‘striped’) and one in hoops.

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Taking the 106 League seasons, the most common configuration has been claret and amber stripes with black shorts (28). The next has been a predominantly claret shirt with an amber collar or yoke design worn with white shorts in 26 seasons, albeit not adopted since 1959.

The other main combinations have been claret and amber stripes with white shorts (17) and finally claret and amber stripes with claret shorts (16) which has been the most common combination this century (in 10 out of 20 seasons) and which first appeared in 1977.

Predominantly white shirts as worn in 1923/24 and later between 1974 and 1977 as well as 1978 to 1985 have proved to be a temporary phenomenon. White was historically the club’s third colour and traditionally used for away shirt design up to 1972. (This was the traditional default change kit of League clubs and regulations stipulated that clubs should travel with white shirts in case of a colour clash.) During the inter-war period the shirts were often reversible and could be worn inside out if necessary. Shirts were also worn until they wore out. That often meant being used for away shirts (for example the white shirts with sashes originally worn in 1923/24 or the amber shirts first worn in 1973/74) and until the early 1980s it remained the practice for old kit to be worn on the training ground.

It was originally planned for white shorts with a claret and amber striped shirt to be worn in 2004/05 and stock was produced by Diadora, the suppliers. However, the strip was only worn in a handful of League games at the start of the season – an unusual legacy of our financial troubles at the time. White shorts were reintroduced with the claret and amber hoops in 2012, the first time that they had been worn by the club since 1985.

Following the fire disaster in 1985 the club has had a policy of including black in the home shirt design as a commemoration of the Valley Parade disaster. With effect from 2008 this has been incorporated in a crossed ribbon motif.

Away shirts have been of varied and multiple designs in the last thirty years. My understanding is that the first time that the club strayed from its traditional colours was between 1958 and 1961 when blue shirts were adopted.

Advertising was introduced in the 1982/83 season when the Darley Street retailer TOY CITY had its name proudly emblazoned on the shirt. There has been a high turnover of advertisers during the last 38 seasons, of which JCT 600 (16 seasons), Bradford Council Economic Development Unit (5 seasons; Myth Breakers, 1983-88) and Bradford & Bingley (4 seasons, 2006-10) have been most prevalent. JCT 600 is the only sponsor to have had two separate periods of sponsorship from 1997 to 2006 and again from the 2013/14 season.

The principal designs of claret and amber home shirts are as follows:

Predominantly claret body, white shorts (26)

Claret and amber stripes, white shorts (17) – see also the title image of this blog

Claret and amber stripes, black shorts (28)

Claret and amber stripes, claret shorts (16)

For what it’s worth my preference is for a claret and amber striped shirt but given that this isn’t everyone’s favourite and mindful of the commercial pressure for change, I’d like to see the club rotate its home shirt design between the three traditional styles that have been worn since 1903. That is: (i) a striped shirt; (ii) a predominantly claret body with amber collar or yoke; and (iii) a predominantly white shirt with claret and amber stripes / detail.

Last season’s home shirt was a major disappointment and certainly didn’t pay homage to tradition with its black sleeves. The final design of last season’s shirt is understood to have been dictated by Edin Rahic against the advice of club staff. Rahic apparently described the shirt as evoking a warrior spirit. Ironically the internal recommendation had been to adopt a style similar to that of 1907-09 and as worn in the Division Two Championship season of 1908/09 which would have been a claret shirt and amber collar/cuffs with white shorts.

Updated from ‘A History of Bradford City AFC in Objects’ (BANTAMSPAST, 2014)

John Dewhirst

Tweets @jpdewhirst

Revival of white as the BCAFC away strip in 2019/20

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Thanks for visiting my blog. You will find links from the menu above to other features I have published online about the history of football in Bradford and Bradford City in particular. I contribute to the BCAFC match day programme and you can also find archive images as well as a number of book reviews. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.

Links to features about the Bradford City crest and identity

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If you are interested in the history of Bradford sport then visit VINCIT www.bradfordsporthistory.com where you will find features about the history of different sports and clubs in the district.

Recent articles published on VINCIT written by myself include:

The Paraders’ record breaking season of 1928/29

Centenary of Scholemoor Ground, Lidget Green and revival of Bradford RFC

The story of Shipley FC and Bradford’s other c19th junior rugby clubs

The origins of women’s football in Bradford

The significance of sport in shaping a Bradford identity

History of the Bradford Charity Cup

Compendium of Bradford sports club names

The late development of soccer in Bradford

John Nunn, Bradford physical aesthete

The story of the Belle Vue Hotel, a nineteenth century pub adopted as a sports headquarters in Bradford

The history of Bradford rugby and the case to reassess the split in English rugby in 1895 My findings from investigation of the origins and development of Bradford football provide sufficient evidence to challenge the orthodox view that the split in English rugby was driven by social class as opposed to the economics of sport.

The myth that the City – Avenue rivalry was based on class politics

The political origins of Bradford Cricket Club in 1836: Blaming the Tories

Cricket: the DNA of Bradford sport
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Details of the books published in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED SERIES

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No Pushball in Bradford

I came across the following article in the Yorkshire Sports of 6th September, 1902 whilst undertaking some research about early football in Bradford.

1902-09-06 ys pushball

The game of pushball had been devised in the United States in 1891. In the late summer of 1902 there was a series of exhibition matches in England, Scotland and Ireland, best described as a speculative commercial venture intended to win converts. There was a lot of hype involved with its promotion and to judge from attendances there was success in appealing to the curiosity of the public.

The tour included games in Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and Halifax but surprisingly did not involve two other centres of West Riding sport, Bradford and Huddersfield. The venues adopted included Crystal Palace in London (where the FA Cup Final was played) and St James Park, Newcastle. In August, 1902 there were games at Headingley, Leeds (which attracted just over four thousand), the Boulevard in Hull (five thousand crowd) and Hanson Lane, Halifax (only one thousand attending, attributed to wet weather).

For the three Northern Union (rugby) clubs it represented a welcome revenue generating opportunity and hence why it is notable that Bradford and Huddersfield were excluded. It is possible that cricket commitments at Park Avenue in Bradford and Fartown in Huddersfield precluded pushball being staged. On the other hand the leadership of the Bradford and Huddersfield clubs, as well as Manningham FC, may have had misgivings about involvement. For example the staging of the Savage Africa Show at Valley Parade the previous year had had limited financial benefit and been at the expense of the playing field.

There is no reason to believe that the three Yorkshire rugby clubs staging pushball envisaged abandoning their sport for the new game, notwithstanding growing apathy about Northern Union rugby relative to the popularity of association football or ‘socker’ as it was known locally. The general consensus of newspaper accounts was that pushball was unlikely to catch on (as was indeed the case).

It will be noted that according to the Yorkshire Sports, pushball was considered a game to be played by girls, a statement betraying contemporary attitudes with a rigid cultural delineation of sports by sex [1]. By contrast, football – a generic term embracing both rugby and association – was considered to be a masculine sport, the best demonstration of which was played in a scientific fashion rather than being a superficial entertainment or show as was the case with pushball.

More about Pushball: Wikipedia The Guardian The Slate

John Dewhirst

[1] Refer to my feature about The origins of women’s football in Bradford (updated with new images since originally published in September, 2018).

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Thanks for visiting my blog. You will find links from the menu above to other features I have published online about the history of football in Bradford and Bradford City in particular. I contribute to the BCAFC match day programme and you can also find archive images as well as a number of book reviews. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.

===========================================================

If you are interested in the history of Bradford sport then visit VINCIT www.bradfordsporthistory.com where you will find features about the history of different sports and clubs in the district.

Recent articles published on VINCIT written by myself include:

The Paraders’ record breaking season of 1928/29

Centenary of Scholemoor Ground, Lidget Green and revival of Bradford RFC

The story of Shipley FC and Bradford’s other c19th junior rugby clubs

The origins of women’s football in Bradford

The significance of sport in shaping a Bradford identity

History of the Bradford Charity Cup

Compendium of Bradford sports club names

The late development of soccer in Bradford

John Nunn, Bradford physical aesthete

The story of the Belle Vue Hotel, a nineteenth century pub adopted as a sports headquarters in Bradford

The history of Bradford rugby and the case to reassess the split in English rugby in 1895 My findings from investigation of the origins and development of Bradford football provide sufficient evidence to challenge the orthodox view that the split in English rugby was driven by social class as opposed to the economics of sport.

The myth that the City – Avenue rivalry was based on class politics

The political origins of Bradford Cricket Club in 1836: Blaming the Tories

Cricket: the DNA of Bradford sport
===========================================================

Details of my books published in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED SERIES

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

Recent posts

Thanks for visiting my blog! 

Scroll down on this page and you will find articles uploaded to this blog in chronological order (most recent at the top). The majority are articles also published in the BCAFC programme and you will find links to these from the menu above.

The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites. During the course of researching the origins of sport in the Bradford district I have discovered the extent to which there have been inaccurate and superficial narratives about what happened. I’d go so far as to say that the history has been done an injustice. Hence the intention is that this blog will be developed as a reliable source of historical reference and complements what I have written in my books as well as on VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford Sport History.

I will be posting content during the summer and detail of updates will be tweeted.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

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The following are features (other than BCAFC programme articles) that have been published on this blog during the last six months:

The sorry record of 2018/19

Valley Parade disaster fund raising 1985

Glorious 1911

Portsmouth & Chelsea fans come to Bradford (1912)

Book Review – Football Fans by Ian Beesley

Transfer window

History in the making this season?

Photos of Valley Parade in the 1970s

Photos of Valley Parade in the 1980s

Photos of Valley Parade redevelopment, 1986

Photos of Valley Parade in the 1990s

Campaigning against Edin Rahic

Die Deutsche Frage, visit to Germany Nov-18

Book Review – One Year, Two Seasons by Richard Wardell

Book Review – The Beautiful Badge by Martin Routledge

Book Review – Kick Off by David Pendleton

Book Review – How football began by Tony Collins

Completely different:

The Stranglers March, 2019 tour

The Stranglers in Los Angeles, May 2019

Refer to the menu above to navigate.

 

Bradford shield.jpgMy recent articles on VINCIT:

The Paraders’ record breaking season of 1928/29 

Centenary of Scholemoor Ground, Lidget Green and revival of Bradford RFC

Railways and the early development of Bradford football

The long forgotten story of Shipley FC.

The origins of women’s football in Bradford – NB updated with new images.

Forgotten & Forlorn – the Belle Vue Hotel

 

Published on PLAYING PASTS in Feb-19: Football clubs and how they fail. (I am presenting a paper on the same theme at the International Football History Conference in Manchester in June, 2019.)

Details of my books and others in the Bantamspast History Revisited series

 

Dead Loss Angeles, May-19

From Saufend Pier in March to Santa Monica and Venice Beach in May, pack your bucket and spade along with the earplugs. Photos from the sell-out concert at the Regent Theatre, Los Angeles on 29th May, 2019 and an eclectic tourist trail.

This was probably the first time I have been to a concert within walking distance of a district inhabited by 10,000 homeless people living in tents which is Skid Row. On the other hand it is reportedly the biggest concentration of homeless people in the Free World so pretty exceptional.

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The bobber – a Yamaha 1100cc – belonged to the head of security at the theatre. I have a 2017 Triumph 1200cc equivalent so was interested to compare and we had a fairly lengthy conversation about the relative features. He told me it’s parked outside most days without a chain or lock but watched closely by him and frankly I doubt that many would have wanted to chance it with him. However it should be said that the security staff were probably the friendliest and most easy going of any I have come across. After the show the theatre bar stayed open for at least two hours after which I went back to my hotel in an Uber (having been advised that to walk ran the risk of homicide, my own that is).

Photos above of Broadway, LA and from the rooftop of the Ace Hotel. The Downtown district has distinctive architecture from the early c20th and is undergoing gentrification.

Near to Regent Theatre is a brilliant bookshop, The Last Bookstore which also sells vinyl and had a good selection of The Stranglers.

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The Union Station is a classic Art Deco structure.

The support band was LA based Youth Brigade with strong credentials from the American punk scene and gave a good show. With the Doc Martens Airwair the look was more British than Californian.

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The Stranglers had a similar set to that of the British tour in March although Tank was not played. The audience was enthusiastic with plenty of whooping and the band was well-received although I couldn’t help but notice a few shocked faces during the course of Bring On Nubiles. By way of an excuse for the lyrics, Baz explained that The Stranglers was an English band and there were no protests. The audience was very friendly and among the smattering of Brits were people from France, Canada and across the USA.

The entree to No More Heroes had the usual heavy bass that could truly be felt. Was it any coincidence that there was a 2.8 earthquake reported in LA that night? This was no dead loss event.

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By John Dewhirst

@jpdewhirst

This blog is principally about Bradford City AFC (with links to my books) but you can find sundry other stuff including photos of The Stranglers‘ March, 2019 tour from this link. I’ll be posting photos from North Korea after a visit this summer.

PS Split focus effect on a number of photos through use of a LENSBABY lens. Blame my photography but not your eyes.

The sorry story of 2018/19

This week marks the end of the end of the 2018/19 football season, one that ended much sooner as far as Bradford City AFC was concerned. Behind the scenes there is much that needs to be done to rebuild the club but changes are already underway. From an historical perspective it is astounding how badly the record of 2018/19 compares to other prior seasons when failure could have been excused by virtue of financial weakness. What makes it so unforgiveable is that in relative terms at least, the club squandered resources last season that many of its rivals did not enjoy. It was said on many occasions in the last twelve months that we’ve had it tough at Valley Parade previously. True. But the following analysis demonstrates that 2018/19 was…

…even worse than what your grandad watched

Back in December it seemed that the Bantams might transform the season and avoid relegation and I was not alone in believing that 2018/19 could have been memorable for good reasons. [Refer to an earlier post uploaded on 29th December: History for the Making!] Sadly it wasn’t to be and these updated graphs show how the recovery had petered out by the end of January. We managed 21 points in the first half of the season (with just 6 wins) and no more than 20 points (and only 5 wins) in the second not to mention 7 successive defeats.

A Great Escape would have been exceptional but by no means unprecedented in the history of Bradford City. There have been four such instances of a miraculous recovery in the second half of a season when relegation had looked all but inevitable at the beginning of December.

The campaigns to note were 1908/09, 1935/36 and 1986/87 when the points accumulated in the second half were significantly higher than in the first. A fourth season, 1983/84 is remembered for an impressive mid-season recovery that actually commenced prior to the midway point of the season. The cumulative points in each of these seasons are compared to 2018/19.

1908/09 = First Division

City’s first season in Division One having been promoted as champions. The club avoided relegation with victory in the last game of the season after a significant improvement in form in the second half of the season. Bottom of the division from the start of the season, by the end of November it seemed a hopeless situation. Thereafter began a fightback and even though Bradford City remained in bottom position at the end of January, the club was no longer adrift. Victory in the final game at home to FA Cup winners Manchester United secured the escape and we finished 18th out of 20; of 38 games played there were 12 wins and 10 draws. The origins of our Bantams nickname date from this season, introduced at the end of November to inspire a recovery and raise morale. The turnaround provided the momentum that led to a 7th place finish in 1909/10 and then 5th in 1910/11, not to mention FA Cup victory in April, 1911.

1935/36 = Second Division

Having finished the previous season in 20th position, there were limited expectations in August, 1935 and the club hovered just above the relegation places through to the end of March, 1936. However signs of a recovery came at the beginning of January with victory over Manchester United at Valley Parade. In the final 20 games of the season in 1936 there were 11 wins, five draws and only four defeats. We finished 12th out of 22 and of 42 games played: 15 wins, 13 draws and 14 defeats. Unfortunately the following season the club was relegated finishing second to bottom.

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1983/84 = Third Division

The Bantams had been promoted from Division Four in 1981 and had consolidated at a higher level, finishing 12th in 1982/83. That season however had been torn apart in November, 1982 when manager Roy McFarland (who had been appointed less than 18 months before) opted to take charge of his former club Derby County. His decision was highly controversial but with news of financial difficulties at Valley Parade at the end of the 1982/83 season it seemed that McFarland may have had forebodings. Following insolvency in the summer of 1983 it was a minor miracle that the club was able to begin the new season. With a threadbare squad and the loss of star striker Bobby Campbell to Derby County few gave the club much hope to avoid a return to the basement division. By the middle of November the Bantams were in 23rd position with one win from 15 games and five points adrift from 20th. Thereafter began a sensational recovery with ten successive victories. Statistically the improvement in the second half of the season relative to the first was not impressive but as a mid-season turnaround what happened in 1983/84 is without precedent in the club’s history. By the end of January, 1984 Bradford City were in a safe midtable position with a 13 point buffer relative to the relegation places. The season finished 7th (out of 24). Of 46 games played the team managed 20 wins and 11 draws.

1986/87 = Second Division

Homeless after the Valley Parade fire, the 1985/86 season had been a difficult experience and it was a major achievement to have finished 13th. ‘Home’ games had been played at Elland Road, Leeds and Leeds Road, Huddersfield and then Odsal Stadium in the new year. Odsal proved to be unpopular venue and far from ideal as a football ground. Despite a decent start to the season and positioned 8th after eight games, a collapse in form left the club sitting just above the relegation places by the end of December, 1986. The return to Valley Parade at the end of December gave hope and inspired an improvement in performances. Nevertheless at the end of February, 1987 the club was bottom of Division Two with seven wins and seven draws out of 28 games. The signing of Ron Futcher is generally regarded to have invigorated the team and eight wins and three draws in the last 14 games saw the club rise up the table. Bradford City finished 10th out of 22. In total there were 15 wins and 10 draws from 42 games.

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It’s truly been a poor season…

Since the formation of the club and its membership of the Football League in 1903 there have been eight promotion seasons (1908; 1929; 1968; 1977; 1982; 1996; 1999 and 2013) and now ten relegation seasons (1922; 1927; 1961; 1972; 1978; 1990; 2001; 2004; 2007 and 2019). There have also been three occasions on which Bradford City has been forced to apply for re-election to the Football League (D3N: 1949; D4: 1963 and 1966). Comparison of the points tally in the relegation and re-election seasons is as below and it doesn’t make pretty reading: 2018/19 has been virtually as bad as anything your grandfather saw. Character building stuff indeed.

D1 relegation

D2 reegation

D3 relegation

D4 reelection

A Great Bounceback?

Instead, what about our prospects of bouncing back from the basement division? Since the establishment of a four tier, national league in 1958 there have been four previous occasions when Bradford City AFC has been relegated to Division Four: 1961; 1972; 1978 and 2007. In 1971/72 the club finished bottom of Division Three with the equivalent of 43 points (11 wins) compared to 41 in the season just gone.

On no occasion has there been an immediate return from Division Four to Division Three. Promotion was subsequently achieved in 1969; 1977; 1982 and 2013 – in other words our shortest stay has been four seasons and as we recall only too vividly from the last experience, historically it has been a difficult division to escape from.

Whilst the club has been relegated after only one season at a higher level (in 1977/78) it has never managed an immediate return after relegation and the best has been two seasons in a lower division.

In 1927 the club was relegated to Division Three (North) with an even worse comparable record than 2018/19 but returned to Division Two in spectacular fashion in 1929, promoted as champions. Hopefully what happened in 1928/29 could provide some inspiration for 2019/20.

Read about what happened in 1928/29 in this feature published on VINCIT.

In the meantime here is to a welcome break and thank God that 2018/19 is now just about formally ended.

John Dewhirst

Thanks for visiting my blog which will be added to on an irregular basis during the summer. The drop down menu provides links to other features I have uploaded and this link summarises content about the history of Bradford sport I have had published on other sites including VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford Sport History. The following provides links to recent posts on this blog.