Valley Parade Disaster Appeal Fundraising, 1985

Disaster appeal memorabilia

During the summer of 1985 there were numerous fund raising initiatives undertaken to help raise funds for the Bradford City Disaster Fund in support of victims of the fire at Valley Parade. There was awareness of the tragedy among supporters worldwide and not surprisingly it received considerable coverage in soccer publications. It was the release of a recording by Gerry Marsden – ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – that is perhaps best remembered but so too there were numerous fund-raising fixtures arranged across the United Kingdom.


These images testify to the goodwill that was extended to the club and possibly the most high-profile game was the restaging of the 1966 World Cup Final at Elland Road in July, 1985. The game between Bradford City and Manchester United the following month was played at Leeds Road, Huddersfield.

Read also my feature about remembering the 1985 disaster published on Width of a Post.

Elsewhere on this blog 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. Scroll down for recent articles about the 20th anniversary of promotion to the Premier League and Glorious 1911.

The menu above provides links for 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 Hence the intention is that this blog will be developed as a reliable source of historical reference and complements what I have written in my books as well as on VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford Sport History.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 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. On this occasion the images are taken from my book, A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS (pub BANTAMSPAST, 2014).

John Dewhirst

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My book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS provides a comprehensive record of City memorabilia and artefacts. This was the first volume in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series of books and I am currently writing another about the City / Park Avenue rivalry.

Links here to my online articles about the history of sport in Bradford

Recent articles on VINCIT include:

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 on 7th June, 2019.)

Details of other BCAFC themed albums on this blog from here

Updates to this site will be tweeted: @jpdewhirst

Promotion to the Premier League, 1999

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Wimbledon 4th May, 2019

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These artefacts are of a world long gone, dating back twenty years ago to 1999 when we contemplated a new adventure in the Premier League. It was the club’s greatest achievement since Glorious 1911 when the FA Cup had been won.

In the current circumstances it seems hard to imagine…

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In recent issues of the Parader (LINKS FROM MENU ABOVE) I have featured a number of anniversaries that have fallen due this season. Ninety years ago, the club secured promotion back to Division Two in record-breaking fashion. It was all the more remarkable for the fact that twelve months’ previously a financial crisis had threatened the survival of Bradford City. The next notable anniversary was seventy years ago when the club finished bottom of Division Three (North) and was forced to apply for re-election. Once more the club had been weighed down by financial troubles and it was not until twenty years later that that there was something to celebrate. Fifty years ago, in 1968/69 came promotion from Division Four which was the club’s first success since 1929.

For most of the club’s existence there has been a struggle to remain solvent and, more often than not, there have been recurrent financial difficulties. Relegated from the first division in 1922 it seemed that the glory years were long gone and indeed, when Bradford City won promotion to the second division in 1985 it was the first time in 48 years that it had escaped the lower divisions.

Which brings us to the anniversary of our promotion to the Premier League in 1999, all the more poignant for the fact that we now find ourselves facing relegation from the third division. Our moment in the sun seems such a long time ago. For all our hope that the club’s fortunes would be transformed for the better, we find ourselves once more defined by failure.

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Twenty years ago, on 9th May 1999 it was such an immensely proud moment to witness the 3-2 victory at Wolverhampton that secured automatic promotion to the Premier League. For those who had followed the club in its dark days it was a genuinely satisfying moment and the experience of the Premier League during the next two seasons was indeed truly memorable.

Nevertheless, we have suffered a long hangover since with countless reminders that ours is not a club with a silver spoon in its mouth. The Bantams are neither fashionable nor media luvvies but we are fighters and no strangers to the struggle against adversity.

The club has defined itself through resilience and the fact that we don’t need the Premier League as the reason to support Bradford City is in my mind what distinguishes us. We therefore celebrate the historic achievement of promotion to the Premier League rather than mourn the fact that we could not sustain ourselves at that level. In the meantime we turn our attention to once more rebuilding and revitalising the club.

John Dewhirst

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Highly recommended this photo record of the first season in the Premier League: ‘Football Fans’ by Ian Beesley

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.

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 and the new book by Rob Grillo which can be ordered online – SUBSCRIBER DEADLINE 5th MAY: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS

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Glorious 1911

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

1911 FAC Final replay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John Dewhirst

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

Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst

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

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

*** DEADLINE for SUBSCRIBER COPIES for the latest volume, LATE TO THE GAME by Rob Grillo is 5th MAY ***

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Bottom of the League: 1948/49 remembered

A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS

Extended version of the feature published in the match day programme: Bradford City v Gillingham, 22 April, 2019

Thank you to David Wilkins for sharing his copy of a Bradford City programme from October, 1948 featuring the game with Darlington, a 0-2 defeat. The contrast with match day magazines of today is significant, both in terms of quality and content. It is a flimsy publication, has no photos, comprises just eight pages and is printed on cheap paper. Yet when it was introduced that month it was a big step forward, the first time that colours had been used in the club’s programme design (and the same style of cover remained in use at Valley Parade until the end of 1956).

The cover was introduced in the same month to herald a fresh start and as illustrated, signalled a return to the famous yoke shirt design, better known from the victorious 1911 FA Cup campaign.

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The cheap and cheerful publication was typical of football programmes just after the war when paper was not only expensive but in short supply. During the course of the next decade there were improvements in the standard of programmes at many other clubs. However it reflected the financial constraints and lack of imagination at Valley Parade that things didn’t really change until the mid-1960s when Stafford Heginbotham took control.

The Bradford City programme mirrored the state of the club and the doldrums of the immediate post-war period. What happened seventy years ago, in the 1948/49 season had a big part in defining the era and by finishing bottom of Division Three (North), the club’s ambitions were completely reset. No longer could City pretend to a big club in exile. The evidence was now plain to see, that it was instead a lower division side and a struggling one at that.

The 1948/49 season was the third since the resumption of peacetime football and there were hopes that the club might challenge at the top of Division Three (North) to return to the second division for the first time since relegation in 1937. Indeed, there was genuine enthusiasm and optimism about the club’s prospects under new manager David Steele and people were prepared to believe that the 14th place finish in 1947/48 had been an anomaly. No-one could have expected that City would struggle to the extent that they did and it had been thought that the club could get away without strengthening the squad.

By the end of October 1948, City were already at the bottom of the table and prior to successive victories over Oldham Athletic (away and then home) over the Christmas period, the team had managed only a solitary win in the first 18 games. It was a run of form comparable to 1926/27, a dismal season in which City had been relegated from Division Two with only 7 wins from 42 games. In December, 1948 there was a revival of newspaper talk about merger with Bradford Park Avenue.

You could be forgiven thinking that history repeats itself at Valley Parade. Indeed, the disappointment of this season has been witnessed on all too many occasions previously. There have been countless crises before and on each occasion the club has relied on its supporters to get itself back up. The circumstances of 2019 are no different to 1949 or any other time in any other decade of the club’s history going back to its origins as Manningham FC in 1880.

Seventy years ago the lack of finance was the root cause of the club’s problems. The fact that Valley Parade is built on a steep hillside has always posed a particular challenge and a costly one at that. The expense of Valley Parade has thus always been an additional burden for the club.

During the 1948 close season – in the aftermath of the Burnden Park disaster that had occurred in March, 1946 – the Midland Road stand was inspected by Bradford Corporation (as the licensing authority) and declared unsafe with its capacity restricted to two thousand. Additionally the club faced costs of £7,000 to make the stand safe. The construction of the stand in 1908 had pioneered the use of ferro-concrete and I would suspect that the core structure itself was sound. Where structural doubts existed they would have been in relation to the roofing or cladding of the stand which often suffered storm damage due to its exposure. However, given the circumstances of what happened at Bolton where 33 supporters were killed in a stampede on a banked terrace, it would not have been difficult to envisage potential safety risks on the Midland Road side where there were steep exit stairways. In 1946 the chairman, Robert Sharp had been quoted to the effect that the club was considering installation of a loudspeaker system to assist public safety. Needless to say, Bradford Corporation considered this to be inadequate in isolation.

In October, 1948 Councillor Rose assumed the role of chairman at Bradford City and David Steele was appointed as manager. To signal the fresh start there was a change of programme cover design at the end of that month and in January, 1949 the yoke shirt famously worn in the 1911 FA Cup Final was reintroduced. It was reported in the programme for the game with New Brighton on 11th December, 1948 that ‘at the (recent) directors’ meeting we met a few businessmen who are interested in the club and are prepared to get together to form a working committee for the City Supporters’ and Shareholders’ Association’. Thus came the revival of the Bradford City Shareholders’ and Supporters’ Association and in the following two decades it was the efforts of the BCSSA that kept the club afloat.

The BCSSA introduced a number of initiatives and fund raising events to assist the club. The bantam identity was restored, later featuring on the club shirts and in a flag that flew from the Burlington Terrace offices in the north-west corner of the ground. The revival of the yoke shirt was similarly intended as a totem of good fortune, to raise spirits. The BCSSA did not succeed in transforming the club overnight but it was successful in raising morale among supporters and restoring hope. If there are lessons for these times it is that there was a focus on the small things and City’s recovery was eventually derived from the aggregate benefit of numerous marginal changes. A traditional strip that dated back to 1909; a revival of a popular identity; improved communications and the rebuilding of trust with the club among them.

1909 BDV silk

Was it not for a second half recovery, with 7 victories in 21 games the outcome in 1948/49 would have been much worse. Nevertheless, with only 10 wins in total there was little surprise that the Paraders finished bottom of Division Three (North), five points adrift of Accrington Stanley in 20th position who avoided the ignominy of having to apply for re-election.

Not surprisingly the gates at Valley Parade were impacted and although the average League attendance of 10,447 in 1948/49 was higher than in the previous two seasons, it was well down on pre-war levels. In fact, the gates could reasonably have been expected to be much higher given the boom in attendances nationally and it is notable that the average was not that much greater than at other northern clubs in the third tier. It was evidence that Bradfordians had begun to turn their back on the club and City faced competition for interest from a resurgent Bradford Northern whilst Bradford Park Avenue were placed in the division above. That average was also distorted by the 27,083 who had attended the game with leaders, Hull City at Valley Parade in February, 1949 when City had managed a rare win. It was reported that many people were locked-out of the ground which was full to capacity. For safety reasons people were not allowed to use the rear portion of the Midland Road stand which was fenced off (refer images below).

1949-02-19 at VP v Hull

The Hull result was the highlight of the season and interest in the fixture was occasioned by the presence of the former Sunderland and England international striker, Raich Carter who had been appointed player-manager of the Tigers the previous summer. Carter had had a big impact on Hull City and attendances at Boothferry Park, something that didn’t go unnoticed in Bradford where a similar appointment was envisaged as a magical solution to the Paraders‘ woes. Sadly, Bradford City remained in Division Three (North) until the launch of a national third division (as now) in 1958 and never climbed back to the second division until 1985.

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 and is on sale in the City Shop at Valley Parade.

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.

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

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

*** DEADLINE for SUBSCRIBER COPIES for the latest volume, LATE TO THE GAME by Rob Grillo is 5th MAY ***

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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.)

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

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

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

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

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

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