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

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