Wool City Rivals: A History in Colour

I am delighted to say that our new book which I have co-produced with George Chilvers has now been published, the seventh volume in the bantamspast History Revisited series.

Full details of the book and of how to order from the bantamspast website.

Books are dispatched by Royal Mail and during December we have become aware of delays arising both from Christmas post as well as lockdown post backlogs. For that reason we advise Xmas orders to be made  asap. For BD postcode destinations, orders received up to and including Tuesday 22nd December will be guaranteed delivery by 24th December. 

Tweets: @bantamspast @Garswoodlatic and @jpdewhirst

BCAFC programme feature: vs Cambridge United 19th December, 2020

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 1972/1973 when we first played against Cambridge United.

Cambridge United were elected to the Football League in 1970 at the expense of Bradford Park Avenue who had been forced to make a fourth consecutive application for re-election having finished bottom of Division Four (for the third time in a row). Four years later, Bradford PA went into liquidation and in 1980 its ground at Park Avenue was finally demolished.

There had been voices within the Football League arguing that there should be only one senior club in Bradford and that it made no sense for the city to have two struggling sides. The Chester Report of 1968 that made recommendations for the future of English professional football came to the same conclusion and even within Bradford, the leadership of the Corporation had tried to encourage a merger of City and Avenue.

Merger talks stumbled on the indebtedness of the two and the argument that amalgamation of struggling clubs did not guarantee that a new combination would be successful. Indeed, there was a recognition that the missing ingredient was money to provide much needed funding.

In the first half of the 1960s it seemed that Avenue might be the club that would survive and that City would disappear. However, under the chairmanship of Stafford Heginbotham it was City that staged a revival and the turnaround at Valley Parade benefited from people abandoning Bradford Park Avenue. A new chairman at Park Avenue, Herbert Metcalfe did little to persuade the doubters that recovery was possible and it came as little surprise when the club was voted out of the Football League.  

The programme cover at Valley Parade between 1966-74 featured the City Gent character which was actually based on Heginbotham himself and in 1972 it was printed in the all-claret strip that was worn that season. At Park Avenue the club had its ‘Avenue’Arry’ character but it was never used to the same extent as at City.

Meanwhile at Valley Parade, Bradford City were promoted to Division Three in 1968/69 and remained at that level until relegation in 1972. Hence our final League derby with Avenue was in 1968 and we didn’t host Cambridge United until March, 1973.

Bradford Park Avenue are now virtually forgotten. Despite supporters having reformed the club in 1988 it has made little progress in the non-League pyramid and attracts relatively low crowds with very few younger supporters to ensure future continuity.

Nowadays it is common for people to abbreviate Bradford City to ‘Bradford’ when referring to the club but historically, it was Bradford (Park Avenue) who were known as Bradford and there was acute sensitivity that it should be anything else but. The brackets in the club’s official title was the clue – the suffix of Park Avenue being adopted to avoid any possibility of confusion with Bradford City.

Traditionally Park Avenue had been the home of the senior club in Bradford. From 1880 until 1903 when Manningham FC at Valley Parade converted to soccer there had always been an intense rivalry with Bradford FC of Park Avenue.

Of course, Cambridge United is not the only club in that city and in the 1960s it was their rivals, Cambridge City who were considered the stronger of the two. I am sure that abbreviation of club names in Cambridge is equally a sensitive matter!  

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.

In Celebration of a traditional Bradford football Christmas

Boring Stan, the Park Avenue fan by Tony Hannan

Reproduced from Bradford Park Avenue Fightback! pub. by The City Gent, 1989

Tony Hannan is nowadays better known as a successful author and publisher as well as editor of the monthly RL magazine, Forty20. Thirty odd years ago he had established a local reputation as a cartoonist with his work published in the Telegraph & Argus. In 1988 as editor of The City Gent I encouraged Tony to produce Bernard of the Bantams, a comic with a number of cartoon strips about Bratfud football which ran to about half a dozen issues between 1988-90. Boring Stan the Avenue fan is possibly the best remembered of the characters and the cartoon above was produced for a special one-off publication produced by The City Gent to help encourage interest in the revival of Bradford Park Avenue.

Tony Hannan tweets as @AJHannanEsq

The last major development at Valley Parade

The final stage in the development of Valley Parade began in 1999. After the opening of the Midland Road stand on Boxing Day, 1996 Geoffrey Richmond separately announced plans to expand the ground by adding a second tier to the Kop and the main stand. It seemed incredible that the club should be contemplating such a venture. Sadly it came with a huge cost.

The Kop scheme was first publicly discussed by Richmond in April, 1998 with planning permission granted the following November after negotiations had been concluded with residents of Rock Terrace. Plans for redevelopment of the main stand and the North-West Corner were announced in August, 1999 although planning permission was not granted until March, 2000.

A further planning application was made in February, 2000 for the main stand to run the full length of South Parade (including the building of new changing rooms) but this was eventually withdrawn by BCAFC. The implications of this expansion for road closures and traffic movement was considered politically unacceptable and with existing opposition within Bradford MD Council, Richmond backed down. Interestingly however, financial constraints were not declared to be a factor in his decision.

The Kop opened in August, 1999 and then the North West Corner on Boxing Day, 2000. The main stand was finally completed the following year by which time Bradford City had been relegated from the Premier League.

Valley Parade had been redeveloped with debt finance and the eventual insolvency of the club resulted in the loss of freehold ownership. BCAFC was left with a stadium that has since rarely been filled, the loss of its principal asset and a huge rental liability and that has been the backdrop of the past twenty years. The following photographs record the final redevelopment of the ground.

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main stand 2000

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My thanks to Kieran Wilkinson for additional information.

Other archive images of Valley Parade from these links:

The development of Valley Parade, 1886-1908 – includes a history of the early development of the ground.

Valley Parade in the 1960s

Valley Parade photos from the 1970s

Valley Parade photos from the 1980s

Photos of the rebuilding of Valley Parade in 1986 – Part 1

Photos of the rebuilding of Valley Parade in 1986 – Part 2

Valley Parade photos from the 1990s

Valley Parade of today (photos taken by myself at the Stephen Darby Testimonial July, 2019)

More photos of today’s Valley Parade (photos taken by myself at the Salford City fixture in December, 2019)

Other galleries to follow with links updated from here.

The menu above provides links to other features on this website including my features in the BCAFC programme, book reviews and content about the history of Bradford City AFC.

Tweets:@jpdewhirst

BCAFC programme feature: vs Carlisle United 5th December, 2020

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 1977/1978 when we were rivals with Carlisle United in Division Three.

Following promotion to Division Three in 1977 the club decided that it needed to modernise the design of its programme and invited supporters to contribute suggestions. What was introduced represented a radical new look with a major shift in layout based around the inclusion of recent action photographs. By today’s standards the innovations were primitive but nonetheless they represented a major overhaul for the Bradford City programme.

As a matter of necessity, during the second half of the 1970s the club became more adventurous in seeking new money-making opportunities which culminated in the launch of its successful lottery operation in 1978. The programme was identified as a source of advertising revenue and it was this that encouraged the redesign to include visually impactful adverts.

The 1970s was an age of inflation and this was reflected in the upward movement of the price of the programme. From a cover price of 5p (equivalent to one shilling) in 1973 it had been increased to 10p in 1974 and then 12p in 1975. In 1977 the price went up by 25% from 12p to the princely sum of 15p. Those price rises continued, to 20p in 1978 and then 30p in 1980.

The reader could be forgiven that despite cosmetic changes in design, the programme represented poor value for money. In 1977 the size of the programme remained sixteen pages but the editorial content was diminished. In 1978, probably to justify another price increase the size of the programme was further increased to twenty pages but by 1979 it was reduced back to sixteen pages whilst the price remained 20p.

The standard of the Bradford City programme in this era compared unfavourably with those of other lower division clubs and limited effort was committed to its production. Although price increases generated more income, by 1981/82 this amounted to only £9,611, equivalent to less than 2.5% of the club’s total revenue. Nevertheless, the readership remained relatively high, averaging between one in three and one in four spectators at Valley Parade and between 1975/76 and 1981/82 annual average match day sales of the programme fluctuated in the range 1,100 – 1,700.

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 Cheltenham Town 1st December, 2020

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 1974/1975 when we were members of Division Four.

Long forgotten opposition

In 1974 Bradford City introduced a new club crest and with it, a bold new design for the match day programme cover (although the format of content remained much the same as before). The new identity was inspired by the branding of the new Bradford Metropolitan District authority that came into being the same year. The design was supposedly the work of a club employee on the back of an envelope. In those days there was no reliance on graphic artists but by the same token it was relatively easy to introduce a new club identity. Given that it had limited application it was a much less complex task to change the club badge. In fact, other than on club stationery, season tickets and a narrow range of merchandise it was the programme where the new graphic would be seen the most.

Chairman Bob Martin had hoped to go further than change the crest. Earlier in the year he had been thwarted in his attempt to rename the club ‘Bradford Metro’ to promote a new unified identity for Bradford football after the final collapse of Bradford Park Avenue.

There has been a remarkable turnover of clubs in the fourth tier since 1974/75. Of the opposition that season, we will meet Mansfield Town, Cambridge United, Exeter City, Newport County and Scunthorpe United at the same level in 2020/21. Five clubs are now members of the second tier: Rotherham United, Reading, Brentford, Barnsley and Swansea whilst six are in the third: Shrewsbury Town, Lincoln City. Northampton Town, Doncaster Rovers, Crewe Alexandra and Rochdale. However, as many as seven clubs are no longer members of the EFL: Chester, Southport, Hartlepool United, Torquay United, Stockport County, Darlington and Workington.  

Games with the latter category were a regular staple of fixtures at Valley Parade during much of the post-war period and games with Stockport in particular were historically passionate affairs.

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, FAC 3R 28th November, 2020

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 to the rugby era before 1903. 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 1986/87 when we played against Oldham Athletic on just four occasions.

We have played Oldham more than any other side in the Football League and this is the 114th meeting of our sides in a competitive fixture and the second of this season. To date Oldham have won 46 and we have won 34 of those games. Taking into account league games only, we have played each other 100 times which is less than against Port Vale (101) or Stockport County (102, 1903-2011).

In the FA Cup this is the fifth time that we have been drawn together with the Latics. The previous occasions were in the First Round in 1950/51 when Oldham won the replay at Boundary Park; in the First Round in 1955/56 when City won the home tie; in the First Round in 1962/63 when City won at Boundary Park and then in the Third Round in 1986/87 when City were victorious in the replay at Valley Parade.

The programme for today’s meeting is based on the FA Cup tie played on 19th January, 1987. Of all the games against Oldham Athletic it was probably one of the most memorable. At the time City were bottom of the second division and Oldham were in second place. Things were pretty desperate at Valley Parade and manager Trevor Cherry had previously been sacked on 5th January with Terry Dolan assisted by Stan Ternent taking charge of the team for the cup tie at Oldham five days later. That game was drawn 1-1 with Stuart McCall the scorer. The replay had been scheduled to be played the following Wednesday (14th) but was postponed and eventually played the next Monday (19th).

Terry Dolan had been in charge of the team for the home game against Millwall on the preceding Saturday (17th January) and he proved to be a talisman with City winning 4-0, only the sixth win that season. Two days later it was followed with a thumping 5-1 victory over Oldham Athletic and the result on that cold night in Bradford was one of the shocks of the round, earning a Fourth Round tie against Everton at Valley Parade.

The cup win proved something of a turning point for City, for despite losing 0-1 to Everton later that month the side won 9 and drew 5 of the 19 remaining games to finish 10th in the table, the club’s highest position since 1934. It was a springboard for the following season when City challenged for promotion, eventually eliminated in the play-offs in May, 1988.

After the fire disaster in May, 1985 first team games were played variously at Elland Road, Leeds Road and Odsal. Valley Parade remained abandoned and although it was not used for competitive fixtures or public friendlies, it did stage reserve games. The Oldham match in January, 1987 was the first cup tie played at the rebuilt Valley Parade. On 14th December, 1986 the ground had been formally re-opened with an exhibition match between Bradford City and an England XI and defeat against Derby County on Boxing Day in the first league game back at Valley Parade proved to be the last home defeat of the season. Subsequent to that, and prior to the FA Cup tie, there had been a draw with Birmingham (Cherry’s last game in charge) and the win against Millwall. 

Following the reconstruction of the club in 1983 the production of the match-day programme was considered a low level priority at Valley Parade and even after promotion to Division Two in 1985 there was minimal change to the overall standard of the publication. Covers apart, there was little to distinguish them from one season to the next prior to 1988/89 when it was given something of a makeover. The covers remained unchanged during the respective campaigns and word-processing technology was yet to make its impact.

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 Exeter City 14th November, 2020

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 1962/63 when played Exeter City in Division Four.

Exeter City and Bradford City did not meet until the 1961/62 season when we were rivals in Division Four. Previously Exeter had been members of Division Three (South) and the club had been a founder member of the new national Division Four in 1958. City by contrast had finished in the top half of Division Three (North) in 1957/58 and thus became founder members of Division Three but were relegated after three seasons.

The 1961/62 season is remembered for the Bantams having narrowly missed promotion to Division Four, finishing fifth after a remarkable recovery at the beginning of February, winning 15 of the remaining 19 games and losing only twice. During the course of that sequence City defeated Exeter at Valley Parade in April, 1962 by 5-1.

To describe the programme of 1961/62 as basic would be something of an understatement. Comprising just eight pages it was distinguished principally by its colourful cover which had remained unchanged for the preceding four years. As a consequence, the cover design did not reflect the change in playing strip in that period with the team having forsaken a claret shirt (with amber facings) for an amber shirt with claret pinstripes.

The programme had just three pages of reading – a formal club comment of no more than 300 words, a page of supporters’ club gossip of similar size and then a page with brief biographies of the opposition team. A list of fixtures and results for the first team as well as the reserves, team line-ups and a section to record the half time scores comprised the rest with adverts on each page.

The same programme design and cover was retained for the 1962/63 season. Just as the year before, City had a poor start to the season and when Exeter came to Valley Parade on 1st December, 1962 the two sides were both near the foot of the table and the game was something of a four-pointer. Exeter’s 3-2 victory that day (watched by only 3,885) allowed them to draw equal on points with City who dropped to 21st position. Unfortunately, the season ended with City second to bottom of Division Four and forced to apply for re-election.

On the Saturday preceding the Exeter game City in December, 1962 had triumphed 3-2 over Gateshead in the FA Cup. Not surprisingly, the club commentary in the Exeter programme was dominated by talk of the cup draw and the prospect of playing Newcastle United (managed by former City player, Joe Harvey) in the Third Round, a welcome distraction from the struggle at the bottom of the league table.

The Newcastle tie was scheduled to be played at Valley Parade on 5th January, 1963 but in fact never took place until 7th March when City were unceremoniously defeated 1-6. In fact, the game with the Magpies was the first for the Bantams in more than ten weeks. Postponed originally due to the weather and an exceptional cold spell, the tie was further delayed because the city was placed in lockdown to deal with an outbreak of smallpox. Competitive fixtures at Valley Parade, Park Avenue and Odsal were cancelled as a precaution which meant that when the lockdown was lifted there was fixture congestion for Bradford sides. Unlike 2019/20 however no league fixtures were cancelled such as that which had been scheduled to be played at Exeter at the end of March, 2020.  

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.

Remembrance Day reflections

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We remember

Wednesday, 11th November 2020 marks the 102nd anniversary of the end of World War One. It was a conflict that has a particular poignancy for Bradford City supporters with four serving and six former players of the club having lost their lives. The fatalities included Jimmy Speirs, team captain and scorer of the winning goal in the 1911 FA Cup Final replay as well as Bob Torrance, acclaimed as man of the match in the replay.

Whilst it is important to remember the sacrifice of the club’s players we should also recognise that the so-called Great War of 1914-18 impacted greatly on the football club. Indeed, what tends to be overlooked is that numerous supporters of the club were also among the war dead and injured. In turn the war touched upon the families of Bradfordians. In the aftermath of the war nothing was quite the same for either the city of Bradford or Bradford City. Aside from the personal tragedies, the city had lost its German community and the finances of Bradford City AFC were depleted to the extent that the club lost its first division status in 1922.

Historic links between sport and the military in Bradford

The war also redefined the links between the football club and the local military. When I undertook my research on the origins of football in Bradford, it became apparent that the historic ties between sport and the military in the district had long since been forgotten. This is ironic given the constant reminder provided by the traditional club colours of City and Avenue / Northern having been derived from military connections. My belief is that after the carnage of the Great War the military heritage tended to be overlooked, not necessarily for ideological reasons but because it was probably seen as outdated, if not irrelevant as people looked to the future.

The early history of Manningham FC – established in 1880 and the predecessor of Bradford City AFC in 1903 – had strong links with the citizen soldiers of Bradford. The generation of men involved with establishing ‘football’ clubs in Bradford during the second half of the 1870’s was typically connected with the Volunteer – or territorial – army units in the town and ‘athleticism’ in the widest sense was considered to be a form of military training by virtue of its health benefits.

The Volunteers had been established in 1859 to provide a home defence force to protect the UK from invasion and in Bradford the principal units were the 3rd Yorkshire (West Riding) Rifle Volunteer Corps and the 2nd Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteers Corps.

One reason for the popularity of the Volunteers was that they provided recreational opportunities and in particular access to new sporting activities such as gymnastics and ‘football’ (which in Bradford meant rugby). There was even a dedicated side, Bradford Rifles FC established in 1875 which comprised of a high proportion of Bradford Caledonian FC players (one of the oldest clubs, established in 1873 and also the biggest), a number of whom subsequently became associated with Manningham FC in leadership roles.

This connection encouraged a natural sympathy towards the military but so too did the proximity of Valley Parade to Belle Vue barracks where the 3rd YWRRVC was based. Closer still were the artillery barracks adjacent to Cottingley Terrace just off Valley Parade. Both were used on various occasions for meetings as well as changing and training facilities by Manningham FC and the infant Bradford City club. (The story of the Bradford Rifles is told here on VINCIT)

The dominant political culture at Valley Parade and Park Avenue prior to World War One was unquestionably Conservatism and it was second nature for the two clubs and their membership to espouse patriotism. A good example of this was the decision to adopt claret and amber in 1884. This came at a time of patriotic fervour associated with the Sudan crisis and the excitement that Bradford men might actually go to war. Arguably it was the same enthusiasm thirty years later with spectators at Valley Parade being actively encouraged to enlist to fight on the western front.

The traditional sporting colours of Bradford were red, amber and black whose origin can be traced to the original Bradford Volunteers of the Napoleonic era. The colours of the local West Yorkshire regiment with whom the 3rd YWRRVC was affiliated were claret and amber.

The Valley Parade War Memorial

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In addition to the 1911 FA Cup heroes Jimmy Speirs and Bob Torrance, the war dead included England internationals Evelyn Lintott and Jimmy Conlin, James Comrie, George Draycott, Ernest Goodwin, Gerald Kirk and Harry Potter. Unfortunately the status of Ernest Kenworthy who played two games for the club in 1906/07 was not established until after the erection of the memorial in the Valley Parade reception in 2015. (NB George Draycott, Ernest Goodwin, Harry Potter and Bob Torrance were serving players of BCAFC at the time of being killed in action.)

Subsequent to the war, Jimmy Speirs and others with a Valley Parade connection were remembered first and foremost as fallen soldiers among comrades in arms. So many men had been killed that there was a reluctance to differentiate former professional football players as deserving of unique attention and the players would have concurred with this treatment. Nowadays the fallen players are afforded particular prominence whereas prior generations tended to remember them among countless others who never returned. The distinct commemoration of footballers killed in action has thus been a more modern phenomenon.

City players at the Cenotaph, New Year’s Day 1921

A memorial to the war dead of Bradford City was not erected at Valley Parade until 2015 and this hangs in the Valley Parade reception. (The person who made this possible was supporter John Barker of Farsley who arranged its production.) The memorial was funded by a badge sale that I helped organise through Bantamspast and the proceeds also helped fund a stone memorial to the Bradford Pals at Serre near the Somme battlefield in France.

bantamspast Bfd Pals badges

Further detail of Bradford’s military history is told my book ROOM AT THE TOP, available from Waterstones and Salts Mill or direct from BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS.

John Dewhirst

I have written widely about the history of sport in Bradford: Links to my features on the history of Bradford sport

Read about Jimmy Speirs and Bob Torrance (published in BCAFC programme 2017/18).

Read about Bradford City’s tour of Germany in 1914

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The drop down menu above provides links to features published in the BCAFC programme, book reviews and sundry articles about the history of Bradford and its sport.

If you are interested in local sporting history, visit the dedicated online journal VINCIT where you will find further background about the military heritage at Valley Parade.

British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues by Mike Bayly

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Among my collection of football books is that of Simon Inglis, published in 1983: The Football Grounds of England & Wales. It has always been a favourite, as impactful to read now as it was when it was released, the story of how the stadia of the Football League had been developed and the state that they were in. Nothing like it had ever been produced and it instantly answered the sort of questions asked by supporters about the grounds that they had visited and the reasons for the sheer variety. Simon Inglis gave credibility to the study of stadia architecture, providing a degree of insight about something that had always been taken for granted. His first edition was followed by at least three updates and coverage of Scotland as well as Europe.

A critical examination of sports stadia became topical in the wake of the 1985 Valley Parade Fire Disaster and Inglis found himself invited to participate in radio phone-ins and regularly quoted in the media about the state of British grounds. To read his books now is a reminder of how much has changed in the last 35 years or so.

I have always been of the opinion that a town can invariably be judged by its football ground and its railway station. (It probably speaks volumes about my historic sensitivity about what is to be found in Bradford, particularly with regards the latter category.) During my journeys across the British Isles and whilst holidaying in Scotland I have always looked out for floodlight pylons and where possible tried to sneak a view. It seems to be a basic curiosity possessed by any football fan to see where other clubs play, even if they are not direct rivals.

British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues by Mike Bayly (Pitch Publishing, 2020) does not attempt to replicate the original work of Simon Inglis but comparisons are inevitable. For a start, Bayly’s selection is not confined to the senior tiers of British football and nor does his book aim to provide the same sort of historic detail about the grounds that he features. Nonetheless I found his book equally impactful as those of Inglis in the 1980s, a reminder of the sheer diversity of British football grounds. The standard of photography goes a long way to emphasise this point.

Whilst Stuart Roy Clarke’s Homes of Football project is similarly notable for its images, that of Bayly is complemented by a detailed narrative that tells the story of how and why the respective grounds came to be that way. Unlike Clarke, the photos in Bayly’s book are exclusively of grounds themselves rather than including those of supporters.

During the seven years that Bayly has worked on the book a number of stadia have been abandoned (including that of Bootham Crescent which is featured) but otherwise the content is of existing venues. The mix is eclectic which adds to the charm of the publication and the surprises as you turn the pages. Westfield Lane, Frickley (where I recall watching City in a pre-season friendly maybe forty years ago) sits between Cappilow, Greenock Morton and Claggan Park, Fort William and you turn from The Emirates to the home of Buxton FC. (Yorkshire grounds covered are: Halifax, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Huddersfield, York (Bootham Crescent), Frickley, Stocksbridge, Richmond, Hallam and Beeston, LS11.)

I particularly enjoyed the coverage of Scottish league and English non-league grounds with the quaint stands and facilities no longer to be found in the EFL (and long since forgotten in the Premier League). It is a reminder that many of the stadia that we visit are far more non-descript than those of times long gone. In fact more often than not they are pretty boring, Glanford Park vs The Old Show Ground of Scunthorpe being the prime example.

Bayly alludes to the fact that the photographs in his book provoke a certain nostalgia for old grounds. His words are particularly incisive: ‘Nostalgia is addictive and generational. And constant can be an antidote to the uncertainty of change. While there is a cautious note of sugar-coating for former times the continued – and on occasion, potentially unnecessary – modernisation of our game means older grounds will always occupy a tender place in our hearts.’ It is a sentiment that I can identify with but also something that I am uneasy with. My nostalgia for the character of the Valley Parade of old for example is tempered by experience of the disaster and the recognition that well before 1985 the ground was both decrepit and no longer fit for purpose.

I thoroughly recommend British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues and I am sure that, like the books of Simon Inglis, this will be another to accurately record the era we live in for posterity. His feature of the new White Hart Lane stadium for example is a reminder that yet further modernisation of stadia is to be expected among the largest clubs at least. The design and layout is excellent and is another classic by Pitch Publishing that follows The Beautiful Badge: The Stories Behind the Football Club Badge by Martyn Routledge in 2018.

My only gripe about the book is the standard of paper on which it is printed, far more flimsy than might be expected but the consequence of publishing economics of which I am only too familiar.

Details of how to buy the book from this link.

 

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 You can read my other book reviews from here.

Details of my forthcoming book, a collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals: A History in Colour