Harold Walden: Bradford City’s all-singing Olympic hero

There are many, many reasons Bantams Heritage was born – but above all else, one of the biggest motivations was to be able to inspire and inform younger generations of Bradford City fans about the amazingly rich history our football club has.

That involves great matches, great servants and incredible back-stories to some of our former players – and few former Bantams fit that final category better than the late Harold Walden.

Walden joined Bradford City while the club was very much in its infancy – though by the time he became Heritage Number #110 on December 16th, 1911, against Notts County, City had won their first – and only – FA Cup title. Even before he became a Bantam, though, Walden had a fascinating journey to BD8.

Walden was born in the Indian city of Umballa (now known as Ambala) and, to our knowledge, is the only former City player to own a Heritage Number and be born in India. Though he returned to England as a youngster, Walden began an amateur football career in Ireland, playing for Cliftonville and Linfield while serving in the army.

However, in 1911, Walden was released from the army and signed amateur teams with Halifax Town – before, by December of that year, signing on professionally with the Bantams. Having made his debut in the 3-2 defeat to Notts County, Walden scored his first City goals a week later, a brace in the 3-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur. He finished his first season with City as the club’s top scorer, with 11 goals in 17 games as Peter O’Rourke’s side finished 11th in Division One. He also scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over QPR in the FA Cup first round.

But it was that summer when Walden’s story really began to accelerate. While still a City player, he was called into Great Britain’s squad for the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden (pictured above). Playing as a centre-forward, Walden scored SIX as Great Britain hammered Hungary 7-0 in their opening game, before scoring twice in the semi-final win over Finland, and again in the final, a 4-2 victory over Denmark. Three games, nine goals – but Walden was denied the golden boot courtesy of Germany’s Gottfried Fuchs: who scored TEN in one game, a 16-0 win over Russia!

After the Olympics, Walden’s City career continued, but by the time World War One had ended, Walden had a fairly unsuccessful spell with Arsenal, before returning to City for the latter years of his footballing career – then, he would embark on an altogether different journey.

Legend has it that in 1919 – before he had even retired from playing – Walden made his stage debut, starting a new career as a performer and musician. He was successful, too; and Bradford City reportedly featured heavily in a lot of Walden’s acts and performances. This clip below refers to him ‘playing for Bradford’ – though fans of another Bradford-based football club may argue he could have been referring to them, as there’s no mention of the word City:

Walden also appeared as himself in a 1940s film, Cup Tie Honeymoon, as well as a silent film based on football in the 1920s called The Winning Goal. He passed away in 1955 due to a heart attack – but should almost certainly be looked back upon as one of this football club’s most interesting and famous former players.

Whether it was as an Olympic goal-scoring sensation – Walden is still the fourth-highest scorer in Olympic history and highest British scorer – while a Bantams player or a star of the stage and screen, Harold Walden has a firm, permanent place in Bradford City’s illustrious history.

Harold Walden (1887-1955)
Heritage Number: #110
Debut: 16/12/1911 v Notts County
Appearances: 57
Goals: 24

Back again: Billy Clarke and the former Bantams who’ve had two spells with the club

Billy Clarke’s return to Bradford City in the final hours of the January 2019 transfer window ensured that the forward joined a very small and exclusive club.

Over 1,200 players have played a competitive game of football for Bradford City – but only 27 have done so in two different spells for the club. Clarke joins some of the Bantams’ greatest-ever players – as well as some slightly more unheralded men from the past – on that list. In chronological order, that list (with heritage numbers) is:

#20 – James McLean, #37 – Gerald Kirk, #55 – George Handley, #120 – John Ewart, #414 – Derek Hawksworth, #453 – Ronald Harbertson, #539 – Trevor Hockey, #654 – Joe Cooke, #706 – Peter Jackson, #710 – Bobby Campbell, #722 – Stuart McCall, #753 – Ian Ormondroyd, #769 – Lee Sinnott, #778 – Lee Duxbury, #878 – Aidan Davison, #885 – Mark Prudhoe, #907 – Dean Windass #943 – Paul Evans, #944 – Andy Gray, #949 – Stephen Warnock, #964 – Paul Heckingbottom, #1004 – Nathan Doyle, #1039 – Rhys Evans, #1040 – Nicky Law, #1119 – Kyel Reid, #1168 – Billy Clarke, #1201 – Josh Cullen.

Clarke’s two-year hiatus between Bradford City appearances is nowhere near the longest break between spells – in fact, it is one of the shortest.

For example, Stuart McCall went a whole decade between appearances, having left City in 1988 and not returning until 1998. Striker Ian Ormondroyd left in 1989 and wouldn’t return for six years, eventually re-joining the Bantams in 1995.

Interestingly, in a similar vein to when McCall returned to a fairly newly-assembled squad in 1998, Clarke’s return instantly makes him one of the most experienced Bradford City players at the club.

In fact, Clarke’s 121 appearances for the Bantams (120 in his first spell) is only bettered by defender Nathaniel Knight-Percival, who has made 124 appearances for City in all competitions.

How many points has historically been enough to keep City up?

As we enter the final third of the 2018-19 campaign, City are still some way off what many assume in the Football League to be the magic 50-point barrier that will ensure survival.

In our own terms, that figure holds true: City have NEVER been relegated having achieved 50 points or more in a league season, irrespective of the number of league fixtures played. Furthermore, if you backdate the current three points for a win system introduced in 1981-82 to all City’s previous seasons, they’d also survive.

Looking back, here are all the points totals City have been relegated with, applying three points for a win:

2006-07 – 47 points
2003-04
– 36 points
2000-01 – 28 points (Premier League)
1989-90 – 41 points
1977-78 – 46 points
1971-72 – 43 points
1960-61 – 47 points
1936-37 – 39 points
1926-27 – 30 points
1921-22 – 43 points

City even survived one season with just 48 points (1996-97), as well as with 50, 52 and 55 points all in the last 30 years alone. So applying that logic, and math, alone, eight wins from City’s final 18 games will take David Hopkin’s side to 51 points. Realistically, that should ensure survival.

But what about the state of the League One table? It’s important for an argument such as this to look at the wider implications – and the baseline for survival – in recent years as well as City’s own record of never being relegated having reached the 50-point barrier.

Here’s the team that has finished fifth-from-bottom – one place outside the relegation zone – in the last 10 years, as well as the points they’ve achieved:

2017-18: Rochdale: 51 points
2016-17 – Gillingham: 50 points
2015-16 – Shrewsbury: 50 points (47 would have secured survival)
2014-15 – Crewe: 52 points
2013-14 – Notts County: 50 points (48 would have secured survival)
2012-13 – Colchester: 51 points (49 would have secured survival)
2011-12 – Leyton Orient: 50 points (44 would have secured survival)
2010-11 – Walsall: 48 points
2009-10 – Hartlepool: 50 points (survived on goal difference)
2008-09 – Carlisle: 50 points

Only once in the last ten seasons has any side been relegated from League One on 50 points or more; and then, Gillingham were only relegated on goal difference, meaning that 51 almost always guarantees survival. That is the figure City need to win eight more games to reach.

Those tallies above work out at an average of 48.5 points to reach safety – although it’s important to stress that no two seasons are the same.

So, with that in mind, are City fans more confident of staying up – or slightly more pessimistic?

Debuts, debuts everywhere: City heading for record number in one campaign

The very nature of the rebuild at Bradford City on the field last summer meant there would be a rise in the number of debutants this season: but the Bantams are heading for a record number handed out in one single league season.

As of January 22, 2019, both Michael Collins and David Hopkin have awarded 24 first-time appearances for Bradford City already this season. Those players, in order, are:

Hope Akpan, Eoin Doyle, Kelvin Mellor, George Miller, Anthony O’Connor, Richard O’Donnell, Jack Payne, Joe Riley, Sean Scannell, Sherwin Seedorf, Josh Wright, Luca Colville, Ben Wilson, Connor Wood, David Ball, Lewis O’Brien, Thomas Isherwood, Jim O’Brien, Eliot Goldthorp, Raeece Ellington, Paul Caddis, Karl Henry, Paudie O’Connor and Jermaine Anderson.

Research into the club’s history shows that’s already a record. In the opening two months of a league season, never before have so many debuts been issued – including City’s inaugural season of 1903/04, when every player who appeared was inevitably making their debut.

In fact, in only nine seasons before have City handed out over 20 debuts in a season, with various circumstances dictating the reasons why in a number of those. In chronological order, those seasons are:

24 in 1946/47: As the first full season after World War II, it was perhaps inevitable City’s squad needed a post-war overhaul.
21 in 1948/49.
27 in 1996/97: City’s first year in the old Division One saw them hand out a huge number of debuts – including seven alone in March as they just beat the drop.
22 in 2006/07: Typical of seasons of struggle, City broke the 20-debut barrier again in the year they were relegated to League Two.
21 in 2007/08: The rebuild under Stuart McCall saw a second consecutive season with over 20 debuts awarded.
23 in 2009/10: The likes of Matt Glennon and Adam Bolder were among those to debut in this year.
22 in 2010/11: Another season of struggle, and another season with over 20 debutants as City finished 18th in League TWo.
28 in 2011/12: Phil Parkinson’s first season in charge saw him oversee what at present is a record amount of debutants.
22 in 2017/18: An overhaul of the squad that reached the previous year’s play-off final eventually resulted in plenty of debuts.

So, in the middle of the January transfer window, City are already just five debuts short of setting a new all-time record. And there are indicators which could suggest a new record is not beyond Bradford City’s class of 2018/19.

With the arrival of David Hopkin earlier in the season, that will perhaps inevitably result in more debutants as Hopkin seeks to put his stamp on City during to the January transfer window. We have already seen several players debut under Hopkin – it’s highly likely more will follow him through the door.

David Bairstow: The Bradfordian Test match cricketer with a Bantams past

Bradford City has no shortage of former players who have tried their hands in other sports – some to great success. Perhaps the most notable of those is Brian Close – the England Test cricketing icon who had a fleeting spell as a Bantam in the 1950s. You can read about Close’s time with City here, incidentally.

However, some 20 years later, another future Test cricketer pulled on the claret and amber shirt; this time, he was born even closer to BD8 than Rawdon-born Close.

According to records, David Bairstow was born in Horton in September 1951. A talented player in numerous sports from a young age, Bairstow attracted the attention of local club Bradford City, who were just emerging from one of the most tumultuous periods in the club’s history, the 1960s: when City had to twice apply for re-election to the Football League.

By the age of 19, Bairstow had signed professional terms with City, who were seeking to re-climb the leagues at that time under the management of Jimmy Wheeler and, later, Bryan Edwards. He was already attracting interest from Yorkshire CCC about pursuing a cricketing career but for now, had opted to try his hand at professional football.

The 1971-72 season, a difficult one for the Bantams, was when Bairstow would emerge in the professional ranks for the first time. In a squad featuring future Bantams legends such as Ces Podd, Joe Cooke and Bruce Bannister, the flame-haired forward would initially have to be patient and bide his time for an opportunity.

However, with City’s league form faltering badly – they would be winless in the league for almost two months between late-October and Christmas – Edwards opted  to hand Bairstow a debut from the bench, when he replaced the Norman Corner against Aston Villa on December 4, 1971. In doing so, Bairstow retrospectively earned heritage number 656 for Bradford City, an award which can never be taken away from him.

He was given his first start two weeks later against Bristol Rovers – and that coincided with an upturn in form. With Bairstow leading the line for three games over the festive period of 1971, City drew with the Gas 1-1, before recording back-to-back wins against Rochdale and Rotherham United, winning 1-0 on both occasions.

He returned to the bench – and City’s form fell off a proverbial cliff as 1972 began. The Bantams then went on a run of six straight defeats, a sequence of form which eventually sealed their fate and ensured relegation back to Division Four. Bairstow only made a handful of appearances – 10, five from the bench and five starts – during that ill-fated season.

He again found opportunities limited in 1972-73 as City had to start again at the bottom of the Football League system – this time making only seven appearances in total throughout the whole of another chastening campaign.

He did, however, score his first and only goal for Bradford City during that time, netting in a 3-0 win against Colchester United on November 4th, 1971: a game which would prove to be one of his last appearances for the Bantams. His final appearance came from the bench against Aldershot on December 16th, 1971, with Bairstow eventually finishing his City career with 17 appearances and one goal.

By the time he had finished playing professional football though, Bairstow’s cricketing career had already begun. In 1970 he made his county debut for Yorkshire – where he would become a firm favourite, spending his entire career with his home county while also making four Test appearances for England.

However, as many will know, Bairstow’s story ended tragically in 1998, when he committed suicide at his home in Marton-cum-Grafton. He remains one of the most adored and well-remembered cricketers in Yorkshire’s long and illustrious history – and David Bairstow will forever also have a place in Bradford City’s heritage and history, too.

A unique insight into the history of professional football