Promotion season: 1968/69

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Doncaster Rovers 6th April, 2019

Thank you to Sean O’Grady for sharing his copy of the Bradford City promotion handbook, published in August, 1969 to commemorate the club’s success the previous season. It had been 40 years since Bradford City had previously been promoted and the solitary club honour since 1911 had been the Division Three (North) championship in 1929.

promotion brochure 1969

Unlike previous promotion seasons in 1928/29 and 1907/08 – when the club had finished top of its division – on this occasion it was fourth place in the fourth division that was celebrated. Whilst it might seem a modest achievement, it was far from being insignificant. For a start it was promotion and an escape from the basement division occupied since 1961. Crucially it also confirmed the ascendancy of the club over Bradford Park Avenue, by this time adrift at the foot of the Football League having finished 91st in 1966/67 and then bottom in in 1967/68 and 1968/69. In the desperate rivalry between the two and the struggle for financial survival, it was a massive victory to achieve promotion. And indeed, it was celebrated by City supporters as though their team had won the League Championship.

The 1960s had been a difficult decade for both Bradford clubs. In 1963 and 1966 City had finished 91st in the Football League and 87th in 1965. After surviving a financial crisis in 1966 the club had made progress under the leadership of its new chairman, Stafford Heginbotham but the death of manager, Grenville Hair in March, 1968 had been a major setback. His replacement was the 34 year old former Reading striker, Jimmy Wheeler who was appointed as manager in June, 1968. Finances dictated recruitment and City began the 1968/69 season with only three new signings – Peter Middleton from Sheffield Wednesday, Ron Bayliss from Reading and goalkeeper John Roberts, a triallist from Australia.

During the first half of the season the Paraders managed just seven wins and by mid-January, 1969 were 13th. It was the signing of centre forward Norman Corner from Lincoln City in January, 1969 that transformed the team. Corner made his debut at Park Avenue in the last ever League derby (a 0-0 draw) and he scored 8 times in 21 consecutive appearances in 1968/69.

Bradford City were undefeated in 21 games before a 1-2 reverse in the penultimate game of the season at Brentford which meant that victory was necessary in the last match of the season at Darlington to guarantee promotion. That game on Friday 9th May, 1969 was one of the most memorable in the club’s post-war history and a bumper 11,851 crowd witnessed a thrilling 3-1 win by City. Today’s visitors Doncaster Rovers finished as champions and the two other promoted clubs were Halifax Town and Rochdale.

In addition to an own goal, it was notable that Bobby Ham and Bruce Bannister both scored that night. Ham, an ever-present in 1968/69 was top scorer with 18 and he formed an excellent partnership with Bannister (7 goals from 30 League games). However, there were other regular goalscorers in the team including John Hall (9 goals), Tony Leighton (8 goals) and Charlie Rackstraw (7).

Promotion was secured on the basis of strong home form with only two defeats at Valley Parade in 1968/69. The Paraders remained undefeated at home throughout 1969 and there was a sequence of 23 undefeated games between January, 1969 and January, 1970. Sadly, the momentum of promotion success was not sustained and the failure – or inability – to strengthen the team led to eventual relegation in 1972. However at least the club didn’t have to wait another 40 years for its next promotion success and in the last fifty seasons it has been achieved on no less than six occasions.

John Dewhirst

The drop down menu above provides links to previous programme articles, archive images, book reviews and features on the history of Bradford sport that I have written. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.

My book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (vol 1 in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series) provides background about City memorabilia. In issues of The Parader I feature objects that tell the history of the club.

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

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst

Feedback welcome: You can contact me at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com

Thanks for visiting my blog and a special mention to the growing number of overseas visitors.
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.)

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Details here about the bantamspast History Revisited book series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

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The Stranglers, Mar-19 Tour

Something different to the regular content on this blog…

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My memories of 1977 are the promotion of Bradford City AFC from Division Four and discovering The Stranglers whose first album, Rattus Norvegicus was released that year shortly followed by No More Heroes (purchased from WH Smiths in Bradford Arndale for the princely sum of £3.75). The music was a big part of teenage years but it was the irreverent attitude of the band that struck a chord so to speak. I liked them all the more for the fact that they were never fashionable. To have survived so long is a remarkable, creative achievement and like Bradford City, The Stranglers have been a constant of my adult life.

I first saw The Stranglers live in 1979 (St George’s Hall, Bradford) and have seen them on most tours since. The band has reinvented itself with changes of the men in black and different styles of music through the last forty years. Latterly they have returned to their roots and in my opinion are now firmly back at their best. After a sell-out tour of the UK and southern Ireland in March, 2019 they embark on a pretty intensive world tour including the USA, Japan, France, Netherlands and Germany during the rest of the year.

I went to a ‘few’ gigs in their tour of March from Belfast to Glasgow to Manchester and others in between. On this page is a collection of my photos in no particular order.

Following The Stranglers around the country has much in common with following a football team to away grounds. What is refreshing is that everyone in attendance is on the same side and it is a friendly atmosphere. Unlike watching the football they never disappoint. For sure it’s not a substitute but it’s pretty satisfying and it’s probably no coincidence either that a lot of those who follow the band across the country are also football fans.

Golden Brown, Brixton 22-Mar-19

Ice Queen, Cambridge 23-Mar-19

The Stranglers will not continue indefinitely so seize the moment to see them. Maybe when they do finally quit I’ll come to terms with my own age but in the meantime, fly straight!

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The only thing I’ve ever written about music was this feature for the Elvis in the Clouds blog in 2017.

Follow the menu above for links to other content on this blog. Thanks for visiting!

John Dewhirst

@jpdewhirst

The City Gent

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Blackpool, 23rd March, 2019

Stafford Heginbotham and George Ide had assumed control of BCAFC in October, 1965 at a time when the club was bottom of the fourth division. Anxious to promote the club and signal a fresh start, the board launched a new identity in conjunction with a programme redesign mid-season. The immediate impact was limited given that the club finished the 1965/66 season in second to bottom position and Heginbotham acknowledged his frustration in an open letter to supporters published in the Aldershot programme on 30th April, 1966. Twelve days later the Wrexham fixture attracted a then record low crowd of only 1,353.

Nevertheless, a momentum for change had been established with a modernisation programme at Valley Parade that would include changes to the ground itself. During the next four seasons Heginbotham achieved a doubling of the average attendance from just over four thousand in 1965/66.

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Commercial opportunism has inevitably impacted on the evolution of football club crests and the 1966 FIFA World Cup tournament in particular had a major impact in the emergence of new identities among English clubs. The World Cup Willy character inspired the City Gent at Valley Parade. Reputedly a caricature of the then chairman, Stafford Heginbotham, it was introduced to Valley Parade in November, 1965 (the month after Stafford Heginbotham and George Ide had taken control of the club) where it was used on posters advertising forthcoming games. The character later appeared on the cover of the club programme on 16th March, 1966. At the time Heginbotham was only 33 years old which explains the fresh face of the City Gent.

Given that Heginbotham had made his name as the creator of cuddly characters in his Tebro Toys business it is surprising that he didn’t make more of the City Gent character beyond its application on the programme, pennants or badges. However that was the full extent of merchandising at most lower division clubs for another decade. At Valley Parade the impact of the City Gent was in promoting a fresh start and Heginbotham could claim success, not least with the club’s first promotion in 40 years in the 1968/69 season.

 

Poor Workington AFC who left the Football League in 1977 are now forgotten, if not confused with Workington Town (the RL club). The demise of the Workington Reds and the growing dominance of southern clubs in the lower divisions of the Football League speaks volumes about economic change in England in the last 40 years.

Beyond any doubt the City Gent character proved popular with supporters and it was the unanimous choice of title for the supporters’ magazine when we launched it in 1984. The City Gent was a common choice for a tattoo design among a good number of fans but there was an alarming inconsistency as to how the character was depicted. In the 1970s and 1980s I saw some disastrous City Gent tattoos displayed on the terraces which would have been better covered up.

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In 1966 the City Gent character symbolised a more modern alternative to the bantam and the portrayal of a character with bowler hat and briefcase also implied that Bradford meant business (a slogan later adopted by the local chamber of commerce in conjunction with Bradford Corporation, to promote the city). It is quite possible that Stafford Heginbotham saw himself as the personification of a modern entrepreneur and hence the City Gent was also a narcissistic expression. Even Geoffrey Richmond did nothing similar.

In contrast, although Avenue ‘Arry was introduced at Park Avenue shortly after the City Gent at Valley Parade, the character was never applied to the same extent and was confined principally to the inside of that club’s programme where it was used to accompany fund raising news of the Avenue Supporters’ Club. Interestingly – or fittingly – the character was pictured in different moods to the original rattle waving version.

I have not seen a coloured version of Avenue ‘Arry from the 1960s. In his original incarnation in 1966 he would have worn a green and white scarf whereas in 1967/67 Bradford Park Avenue reverted to the traditional red / amber / black colours incorporated into a predominantly white strip.

There are a number of explanations that could be advanced for the failure of Bradford to exploit Avenue ‘Arry. First and foremost it surely reflected the absence of marketing nous at Park Avenue but because the City Gent was so closely associated with Stafford Heginbotham (who was a controversial figure with longstanding supporters at Valley Parade), there may have been a reluctance to have a similar character at Park Avenue. Thus whereas the City Gent became a de facto club crest for Bradford City, Avenue ‘Arry never achieved prominence.

 

The City Gent was retired at the end of the 1973/74 season by Bob Martin who had succeeded Stafford Heginbotham as chairman. Martin wanted to signal a new era but given that his relationship with Heginbotham was caustic there was little chance of the character being retained to remind him of his critic. Shortly after we launched The City Gent publication in 1984 I interviewed Stafford Heginbotham and asked whether the character might be readopted by the club itself. In response I got the distinct impression that Heginbotham wanted to leave it in the past and that quite possibly he was embarrassed at the suggestion of it being used once more. It may have been a reminder to him that he was not as fresh faced as twenty years before but equally he may have considered that it was dated with limited commercial potential. After all, Heginbtham was never a man bound by sentimentality.

The subsequent prominence of The City Gent as a supporters’ publication might have also compomised how the club could apply the identity. And so its revival was confined to being the identity of a club mascot, albeit not seen in the last decade.

For younger generations of supporters I suspect he is now an anachronism and the opportunity for a reincarnation of the City Gent in a new guise may have been lost. I hope not.

John Dewhirst

The drop down menu above provides links to previous programme articles, archive images, book reviews and features on the history of Bradford sport that I have written. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.

dewhirst a history of bradford city in objects7582000201589702380..jpg

My book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (vol 1 in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series) provides background about City memorabilia. The book includes further detail about the City Gent and the tensions that existed between Stafford Heginbotham and older members of the Bradford City Shareholders’ & Supporters’ Association . What is particularly amusing is that the BCSSA sold City Gent badges to raise funds for the club, notwithstanding that certain members were irritated about the promotion of Heginbotham’s ego.

In issues of The Parader I feature objects that tell the history of the club. If you have a City artefact in your possession that you would like me to feature in the programme contact me at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com or tweets @jpdewhirst

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

Other features on the history of the BCAFC identity:

Bradford City AFC & the Boar’s Head identity

Application of the Bradford civic crest

How Bradford City became known as the Bantams

Bantams crests in the 1980s

The ‘bc’ logo of 1974-81

The BSA Bantam character

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.)

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst

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Details here about the bantamspast History Revisited book series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

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Discover more about Bradford football history at www.bradfordsporthistory.com

 

A cold night in Luton

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Luton Town, 12th March 2019 

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Featured today the programme from what was possibly the biggest game between City and Luton, the League Cup Quarter-Final tie in January, 1988.

It was not until the 1965/66 season that Bradford City played Luton Town and today is only the 19th occasion that we have met. Notable is that a large proportion of those games – five – have involved cup matches.

We were knocked out of the FA Cup at Luton in 1973/74 and then at Valley Parade in 2003/04. In the League Cup we were beaten 0-2 in the Fifth Round, quarter-final in January, 1988 but we secured revenge in October, 1990 by defeating Luton by penalties after extra-time in the Second Round, Second Leg at Valley Parade.

The League Cup meeting 31 years ago was particularly memorable. It came at a time when Bradford City sat among the leading clubs of the second division and it felt equally surreal that we should be entertaining the prospect of an appearance in the semi-finals of a national cup competition. Luton Town was then a first division club and in fact of the eight quarter-finalists, five others – Arsenal, Everton, Manchester United, Oxford United and Sheffield Wednesday – were in the top tier whilst Manchester City and ourselves were members of Division Two.

Football aside, what I remember of that day is travelling to the match on a very cold day with a couple of colleagues and seeing for the first time a ‘car phone’, a brick sized gadget that provided mobile telephone connectivity and which has evolved into the indispensable pocket gadget that we all carry today.

Sadly, a giant-killing never happened and City were defeated 0-2. Luton went on to beat Oxford in the semi-final and then Arsenal in the final. By contrast our season ended in disappointment with play-off defeat at Middlesbrough in what later became known as the ‘nearly season’.

All of the league games with Luton have been in the lower divisions. The league record is pretty even and out of 13 games the two sides have won four apiece. Three of those defeats for City have been at Kenilworth Road, comprising two 0-4 reverses and once, 0-5. The latter was in December, 1969 when City were challenging at the top of the third division after being promoted the previous season. That result proved something of a reality check with regards to the prospect of a successive promotion success and it punctured the team’s momentum. Yet whilst City fell away to finish mid-table in 1969/70, Luton secured a runners-up position.

The nagging statistic however is that we haven’t beaten Luton Town in league competition since our away win more than fifty years ago on 27th April, 1968 in a fourth division fixture.

 

John Dewhirst

The drop down menu above provides links to previous programme articles, archive images, book reviews and features on the history of Bradford sport that I have written. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.

My book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (vol 1 in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series) provides background about City memorabilia. In issues of The Parader I feature objects that tell the history of the club. If you have a City artefact in your possession that you would like me to feature in the programme contact me at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com or tweets @jpdewhirst

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

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst

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

Details here about the bantamspast History Revisited book series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

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

Discover more about Bradford football history at www.bradfordsporthistory.com

Fatty Foulkes & cig cards

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Peterborough United, 9th March 2019

Cigarette cards, or ‘stiffeners’ had their origin in the USA with a functional purpose to reinforce the packaging. Their potential as a marketing tool was recognised and they were distributed by tobacco companies to promote their products as well as to enforce brand loyalty and repeat purchase. From 1887 British tobacco companies such as W.D. & H.O. Wills, John Player & Sons and Thomas Ogden started issuing themed cards featuring an eclectic mix of subject from military uniforms, flags and ships through to sportsmen. By the time of the formation of Bradford City in 1903 the practice was already well-established. The set of football cards issued by Ogdens in 1906 which depicted footballers in their club colours was one of the first full-colour series.

The emergence of Bradford City as a successful and relatively well supported team, particularly after promotion to Division One in 1908 and through to 1915, meant that its players were well represented in releases during this period. Indeed City players were included in a number of what are now considered classic football card series. Not surprisingly, as the club’s fortunes declined during the inter-war period (with relegation to Division Three (North) by 1927 for example) there were much fewer cards featuring Bradford City teams or players.

The earliest cigarette cards to feature City players were issued during the 1907/08 season. There were four different series including Prominent Footballers by Taddy &Co (repeated again in 1908); George Robinson in the Football Captains series by Cohen Weenan and William Foulke in the Owners, Jockeys, Footballers, Cricketers series by Cohen Weenan. Additionally, the WD & HO Wills Football Colours series featured BCAFC among the 50 selected clubs.

The celebrity status of goalkeeper ‘Fatty’ Foulkes (who weighed in excess of twenty stone) led to his selection in the 1908 series Famous Footballers by Ogden’s Tobacco Co (in which there were 50 different players).

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In February, 1907 City played Accrington in the FA Cup Second Round at Valley Parade. The colour of the visitors’ shirts clashed with that of William Foulkes who wore a red jersey. It is reported that a change could not be found for him so a white sheet was wrapped around his waist. On the basis that the tie was won 1-0 and Foulkes did not concede a goal it has been suggested that this was the origin of the term ‘keeping a clean sheet’.

Anyone interested in buying early City memorabilia will find cigarette cards on ebay where they are plentiful and in comparison to old programmes, much cheaper and better value. There are many examples of players from the period immediately preceding World War One when the club was challenging at the top of Division One such as that of Bob Torrance above.

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1909 BDV silk featuring ‘bantams’ inspired yoke shirt   The yoke shirt was introduced in 1909 and famously worn in the FA Cup final of 1911. It was used during the 1920s and arguably became recognised as the club’s signature strip. It was reintroduced in January, 1949 by the newly formed Bradford City Shareholders’ and Supporters’ Association as a rallying call to revive the fortunes of the club – at that time struggling at the bottom of Division Three (North). I’d be all in favour of such a heritage shirt being revived in 2019 for similar purposes.

John Dewhirst

The drop down menu above provides links to previous programme articles, archive images, book reviews and features on the history of Bradford sport that I have written. Lots of accessible, freely available history with the assurance of it being thoroughly researched!

dewhirst a history of bradford city in objects7582000201589702380..jpg

My book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (vol 1 in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series) provides background about City memorabilia.

In issues of The Parader I feature objects that tell the history of the club. If you have a City artefact in your possession that you would like me to feature in the programme contact me at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com or tweets @jpdewhirst

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

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst

 

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Details here about the bantamspast History Revisited book series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

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

Discover more about Bradford football history at www.bradfordsporthistory.com

Valley Parade photos: 1990s

Welcome to my blog where you will find features about the history of football in Bradford – in particular about Bradford City AFC – a number of which have been published in the BCAFC matchday programme.

The drop down menu above provides links to articles as well as sundry book reviews. I am also uploading an irregular series of online albums recording various themes, typically archive photographs (the majority of which taken by myself) or Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue memorabilia from my own collection.

The photographs show the old Midland Road stand with the celebrated garden shed TV camera vantage point and scoreboard. The stand was last used for the occasion of a friendly with Feyenoord shortly after the Play-Off victory at Wembley against Notts County in 1996 and flags from that occasion can be seen. The oldest surviving stand at Valley Parade is that at the Bradford End pictured here during its construction in September, 1991. The photo features a game between supporters of Bradford City and Newcastle United recreating that game from April, 1911.

John Dewhirst

In the last thirty years I have been involved in the writing and production of various books about Bradford City. Latterly I have published the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series of books and I am currently writing another book about the City / Park Avenue rivalry which will be part of the series. (The latest book in the series, the sixth volume, LATE TO THE GAME by Rob Grillo tells the origins of association football in Bradford and is published in May, details of which from the link above.)

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Details of other BCAFC related albums on this blog

Updates to this site will be tweeted: @jpdewhirst

A record-breaking season, 1928/29

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Plymouth Argyle, 16th February, 2019

This season marks the 90th anniversary of one of the most remarkable campaigns in the club’s history when it secured promotion as champions of Division Three (North) in record breaking fashion. It was the reversal of a decline that had begun immediate after the war, relegation from Division One in 1922 having been a major body-blow to the club from which it had not recovered.

During the summer of 1928 the club came close to insolvency but a board restructuring in June that guaranteed new funding allowed Bradford City to survive. There were other changes including the return of Peter O’Rourke as manager. Possibly his most important signing was that of George Livingstone, as trainer in June, 1928. A former Scottish international and player who had represented both senior Manchester clubs as well as Glasgow Rangers and Celtic (in addition to Sunderland and Liverpool), he remains the only man to have scored for both Manchester and Old Firm clubs in respective derby games. There was also investment in the pitch.

The Yorkshire Sports of 28 August, 1928 reported that ‘the ever-recurring bugbear of the ground trouble appears to have been overcome at last by the thorough preparations the playing area has undergone, and an expanse of rich, green grass is the result, while a new track has taken place of the old cinder running track, and many of the terraces have been improved.’ In order to preserve the grass at Valley Parade came the decision that the players should train on the Leyland Lane / Garden Lane field in Heaton.

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How things have changed in the last 90 years!

In 1928/29 Division Three (North) was dominated by two exceptional teams and this was the season in which the historic rivalry between Bradford City and Stockport County was born, one which had a particular intensity for the best part of the next fifty years.

The League games between the rivals were reported to have been particularly tense affairs with 2-1 home advantage in each case. City derived psychological one-upmanship with a 2-0 victory at Valley Parade in the FA Cup Third Round watched by a bumper crowd of 30,171. Yet for most of the season, Bradford City sat behind Stockport County in the table.

City finished one point ahead of Stockport County, winning 27 and drawing 9 out of 42 games. However, what really set the teams apart was the goalscoring record and whilst Stockport managed 111 goals for with 58 against, the Bradford City team scored a new Football League record total of 128 goals (of which 82 at Valley Parade), conceding 43. Albert Whitehurst scored the 100th goal at Chesterfield on 16 March, 1929 and from that stage the club began to target a new record to beat the 127 goals scored by Millwall in Division Three (South) the previous season. It was an era of high scoring and Bradford Park Avenue for instance had managed to score 101 goals in three successive seasons to 1927/28.

The club also set itself new records in 1928/29 with the highest number of goals scored in a League fixture, both at home (vs Rotherham United 11-1) and away (vs Ashington 8-2). The leading goalscorer was Albert Whitehurst (pictured below) with 24 having only joined the club in mid-February and the next highest was Tom Moon with 15. However, it was the mark of a free-scoring team that as many as 16 City players scored in League games and of those, 14 got two or more.

The average League gate at Valley Parade in 1928/29 was 18,551 and this was the highest in the two lower divisions (closely followed by Fulham in Division Three (South)).

A more detailed version of this feature will be published on VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford Sport History in May.

John Dewhirst

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

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.)

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst 

Feedback welcome: You can contact me at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com

Thanks for visiting my blog and a special mention to the growing number of overseas visitors.

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

Details here about the bantamspast History Revisited book series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

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