The kids are alright: City set record for homegrown players in first-team one week into season

The new season is barely a week old, and Stuart McCall’s Bradford City are setting club records.

Our history with youth development has been, it’s fair to say, mixed. While some of the club’s all-time greats have come through our own Academy and left their mark on the club, recent years have been somewhat leaner.

However, there are signs that this season will be markedly different for City, with six Academy products already featuring in a first-team match this season, just two games into the campaign. That, certainly in the club’s modern-day history, is a record by some distance.

Three of them made their debut for the club in the EFL Trophy match against Doncaster Rovers: Kian Scales, Connor Shanks and Finn Cousin-Dawson.

Jorge Sikora, another product of the same Academy class, debuted in last season’s EFL Trophy, but has already added to his one appearance in that competition last year.

The other two Academy products to have featured are defender Reece Staunton, who has now made a number of appearances for the first-team since he debuted, and Dylan Mottley-Henry, who is in his second spell at City but also classes as a homegrown talent.

In the last decade, from 2010 to 2020, City blooded the following Academy graduates in at least one first-team game: Louis Horne, Luke Dean, Dominic Rowe, Alex Flett, Adam Baker, Scott Brown, Kwame Boateng, Daniel Devine Ellis Hudson, Tom Windle, James King, Sam Wright, Alex Laird, Cameron Hawkes, Elliot Goldthorp, Raeece Ellington,  Connor Morris and George Sykes-Kenworthy.

However, the expectation is that this current class will feature much more prominently, with a large portion of those playing only once for the club, and an even smaller fraction making any sort of appearance in league football.

It seems that the future is bright at City.

#3: Jack Forrest

Born: 1878 in Lanarkshire, Scotland

Bradford City debut: 1 September 1903 v Grimsby Town

Appearances: 58
Goals: 24

Achievements: Top scorer in 1904-05 season (17 goals)


Scottish-born forward Jack Forrest was signed for Bradford City in the summer of 1903, following a spell at Stoke City which started with him scoring twice on his debut, but ended just a handful of appearances later after he became homesick.

Forrest had earlier impressed for Wishaw United and Motherwell north of the border, and was lured back to England by the City directors ahead of the club’s inaugural league campaign in 1903.

Forrest scored seven goals in 30 games in 1903-04, but would prove to be much more effective the following season. He ended 1904-05 as the club’s top scorer, scoring 17 times in 25 games: including four in a 9-0 FA Cup victory against Sunderland WE. However, that summer, he left City and returned to Scotland, signing for Hamilton Academical.

#2: Thomas Farnall

Born: 1876

Bradford City debut: 1 September 1903 v Grimsby Town

Appearances: 26
Goals: 2


Already possessing Football League experience with Small Heath, wing-half Thomas Farnall was a vital addition to Bradford City’s first-ever league squad of 1903-04.

Signed from Watford – he had also played for Bristol Rovers – Farnall made 26 appearances for the Paraders in total: all of them coming in the club’s first season. He left in 1905 to join Walsall, before later playing for Barrow and Gloucester City.

#1: John Beckram

Born: August 1881

Bradford City debut: 1 September 1903 v Grimsby Town

Appearances: 26
Goals: 8


John Beckram was born in Sunderland in 1881, and played for Sheffield United before becoming part of the first-ever side to play a competitive fixture for Bradford City.

Beckram has the distinction of owning Heritage Number #1, on account of being the first player listed in the team sheet against Grimsby Town in September 1903 alphabetically.

He was released by the club in the summer of 1905, after failing to make an appearance for City in the club’s second season of 1904-05.

City record best defensive start to a season for 35 years: since the title-winners of 1984-85

24 games into the 2019-20 League Two season, and City’s record of just 19 goals conceded is certainly impressive: and that is before you compare it to the club’s recent history in that regard.

Gary Bowyer’s side are already into double figures in regards to clean sheets, and you have to go back into the mid-1980s to find a season that, at the 24-game stage, is better than the class of 2019-20.

In fact, as fate would perhaps have it, it is the last squad that managed to secure a league title who were better defensively: Trevor Cherry’s 1984-85 title-winners, who were promoted from Division Three 35 years ago.

They shipped just 18 goals in their first 24 games on the way to finishing top of the table, just one better than Bowyer’s side have currently posted defensively.

The only other squad to have come close to that since 1984-85 is the class of 2016-17, who conceded 20 in their first 24. That season ended with City making the play-off final, and while defensive resilience at this stage of a season is by no means a guarantee to success, the history books suggest that it certainly could go a long way to determining a high finish in the league.

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