Over the course of the summer leading into the new season, Bantams Heritage will be looking back at some lesser-known stars of City teams pre-World War Two. This is the story of Jack Deakin, a supremely-talented forward who still possesses one of the best goals-per-game ratio in the club’s history.
Great goalscorers are commonly regarded as the pinnacle when it comes to retrospective debates about the best footballers of all-time. Throughout the annals of time, every club imaginable has had a free-scoring, prolific forward or two – and Bradford City are no such exception.
Recent generations of supporters will immediately point to players like Nahki Wells and Lee Mills who fit those criteria, but Jack Deakin was one of the first players to establish a reputation as a deadly striker while wearing claret and amber.
Born in September 1912 in nearby Altofts, the records show little about Deakin’s career as a footballer until he surfaced at Bradford City, making his debut at the age of 24 in November 1936. He was reportedly signed from Altofts WRC, and came into a Paraders side that season who were struggling at the foot of Division Two.
Since the formation of a third Football League division in 1921, the club had spent just two seasons there – but under Dick Ray, they were heading for a third in 1937. City finished second-bottom of Division Two – with only Doncaster below them – but the emergence of Deakin, who scored twice in his four appearances, including a goal on debut against Aston Villa, offered hope for next season.
Deakin featured in only three of the first six games of the 1937-38, failing to score as the Paraders continued to struggle under Ray, eventually winning just one of their first eight games. However, Deakin soon found his stride in front of goal, scoring seven times in four games: including a hat-trick during a 4-0 win against Carlisle. Despite all the struggles, the Paraders had found a new number nine who could lead the line with aplomb.
And while Deakin couldn’t fire City to promotion that season, the fact he scored 26 times in 36 games in a side who finished 14th in Division Three North underlined his credentials. With new manager Fred Westgarth threatening a promising rebuild for the 1938-39 season, Deakin was at the heart of a City side poised to challenge for promotion.
Unfortunately, Deakin managed to feature in just two of the first 16 games – but when he returned, it was clear his goal-scoring exploits had not abandoned him. Now in his third season as a professional and fully accustomed to the Football League, Deakin scored an incredible 23 goals in 28 games: including 12 in a run of seven consecutive fixtures. Only one man, John McCole, has scored in seven straight games alongside Deakin; he also netted 12 in the late 1950s.
Deakin also scored six times in five games during City’s run to becoming Division Three North Challenge Cup winners that season. That was only the second – and still most recent – professional cup competition the club won. While Westgarth’s Paraders finished third, it was clear they were set for a bright future.
But that, unfortunately, is where that squad’s – and Deakin’s – journey comes to an abrupt end. War broke out in late 1939 and despite attempts to keep league football going, it was eventually abandoned. Records show that Deakin called time on his own playing career during World War Two, and a player who could have easily gone on to become a record-breaker on numerous fronts if not for external events had his career cut cruelly short.
Players from all eras of the club’s history such as Wells, McCole and Wallace Smith had goalscoring records in and around the one in two mark: but hardly anyone could match Deakin’s record. Only David Layne’s 46 goals in 69 games for the Paraders is anything like Deakin’s feats in claret and amber.
In just 75 games, Jack Deakin scored 58 times. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 88, but his legacy at Bradford City should stand the test of time forever.