All posts by Aaron Bower

How City’s attendance stats for the 2018-19 season stack up with history

It’s been a year to forget on the field for Bradford City, statistically – and in every other sense too – one of the worst in living memory.

But City’s average attendance throughout the course of what has been a disastrous campaign has held fairly strong. Yes, season ticket holders go a long way to contributing to that figure, but given how the club sold fewer than 14,000+ season tickets this season, one has to assume that a large portion of our average attendance comes from walk-up crowds – both at home and away.

Since City were last relegated to League Two in 2007 seems an appropriate, and somewhat ironic, period of time to use to work out where City’s attendances stand at the moment. Here is how City’s crowd stats stack up alongside our recent history.

The 2018-19 stats

  • City averaged an attendance of 16,140 across the season in the league – and the highest and lowest totals in that figure were little over a fortnight apart.
  • The highest crowd at Valley Parade was against Sunderland on October 6th, 2018. 19,487 were there.
  • The lowest: 11,075 against Coventry just 17 days after that Sunderland game.
  • It is also worth noting that City recorded the lowest-ever crowd for a professional game in the club’s history: when 902 attended the Football League Trophy match against Everton U21s. A closer look at City’s lowest-ever crowds can be seen by clicking here.

12-month comparison

That average figure of 16,140 is also a significant drop from the previous three seasons, when City consistently recorded average crowds above 18,000. In fact, the 2017-18 total was as high as 19,787: making this season’s figure a drop of 18.43%.

Comparison with recent history

While this season’s average is a drop on the more recent years, it is still significantly stronger than the majority of the crowds across the past decade.

If you go back just over a decade, to the 2007-08 season – City’s first in League Two – crowds were averaging just shy of 14,000. The longer City stayed in the fourth-tier, the lower the crowds went: with the average falling in every single one of the six seasons City remained in the bottom division of the Football League:

  • 12-13: 10,322,

  • 11-12: 10,608

  • 10-11: 11,128
  • 09-10: 11,453
  • 08-09: 12,704
  • 07-08: 13,735

That is no doubt a cautionary statistic to those in charge of the club now, as City prepare for a return to League Two this summer.

However, even while City’s first two seasons back in League One under Phil Parkinson saw crowds increase to around the 14,000 mark again, it is interesting to note that this season’s figures are still much higher, despite the poor form.

Have City Ever Survived With so Few Points at This Stage?

To suggest Gary Bowyer has inherited a difficult situation at Bradford City would be putting it mildly. With six games remaining in the 2018-19 season, it is not an exaggeration to suggest City’s hopes of League One survival are slim at best.

Realistically, a team who have won just ten games all season will now have to win at least four of the final six matches to stand any chance of staving off the drop to the bottom tier of the Football League yet again: but what does history tell us about City’s chances of doing that?

In truth, it is a fairly mixed outlook. Since the inception of the 46-game Football League season in 1950-51, Bradford City have only twice had fewer than 36 points at this stage in proceedings – 40 games played – if you apply the current three-points-per-win system across history.

One of those was this century – the ill-fated 2003-04 campaign which saw the Bantams, under the auspices of Bryan Robson, drop out of the Championship into League One. After 40 games, City had acquired a meagre 33 points – and the final six games brought about another five defeats and just one win, City being relegated with 36 points.

However, for those looking at the club’s history and hoping for a miracle escape, it has actually been achieved before. Applying today’s three-points-per-win system, in 1964-65, City had picked up just 32 points (9 wins, 5 draws) from the first 40 games, and were in real danger of having to apply for re-election to the Football League yet again, having been forced to do so two years earlier.

But William Harris’ Bantams won three of their final six – including the last two games – drawing the other three, going on a remarkable unbeaten run to eventually survive by just two points. In today’s system, it took City to safety with just 44 points. Naturally, more than that will be needed this season.

However, there are other seasons which underline how difficult a task this will be for Bowyer and City. In the three seasons in the 1960s when City did have to go cap in hand to the Football League and apply for re-election, they had more points at this stage than the current crop do. In 1960-61, City finished 22nd in League One, and from their first 40 games, had won 10 and drawn 12: 42 points in current money.

Two years later, City won 10 and drew 8 of the first 40, eventually finishing 23rd in Division Four. In 1965-66, City won 11 of their first 40 which, along with 9 draws, was far more than the current crop of players have managed. Yet they still finished 23rd in Division Four.

So in truth, it is a mixed verdict when weighing up City’s past in comparison to the current job at hand. Most people are deeming it impossible already – and they may be right – but there is at least one instance of a remarkable turnaround ensuring survival.

Richard O’Donnell eight games away from City goalkeeping history

It may not have been the debut season in terms of league performance that he would have hoped for, but Bradford City goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell is just eight games away from joining the club’s history books for the right reasons.

Over a hundred goalkeepers have represented Bradford City in competitive football: from Arthur Seymour in the club’s inaugural season of 1903-04 to O’Donnell in the present day – but only 11 of them have the distinction of featuring in every single game of a league season.

O’Donnell, having played in the first 38 games of the 2018-19 campaign, is now within touching distance of joining some of the most fondly-remembered goalkeepers in Bradford City history. Here, in chronological order, are the 11 men, O’Donnell is hoping to join as a league ever-present.

Arthur Seymour (1903-04): 34/34 games
Arthur Seymour was the first man to keep goal for Bradford City – a role he assumed for the entirety of the club’s inaugural league season in 1903-04 as City finished 10th in Division Two.

James McLaren (1923-24): 42/42 games
It would be 20 years until another goalkeeper became a league ever-present for City, with James McLaren playing in all 42 league games in 1923-24 under David Menzies’ management.

Walter Shirlaw (1928-29): 42 games
Walter Shirlaw had two spells with Bradford City, but at the start of his second period with the club, he featured in every league game as the Bantams stormed to the Division Three (North) title.

Matthew Middleton (1946-47): 42 games
Matthew Middleton was City’s next goalkeeping ever-present, featuring in every game of the first league campaign after the conclusion of World War Two.

Geoff Smith (1954-55): 46 games
Geoff Smith would play 200 league games in succession for Bradford City – the third-longest streak of anyone in the club’s history, and most for a goalkeeper. His first entire league season was 1954-55.

James Fisher (1963-64): 46 games
1963-64 was a rare season of success for City in what were a turbulent 1960s – with goalkeeper James Fisher one of three league ever-presents that season under Bob Brocklebank.

Peter Downsborough (1974-75): 46 games
The great Peter Downsborough made 225 appearances for Bradford City in all competitions; 46 of them were in the 1974-75 campaign, when he didn’t miss a single fixture.

Eric McManus (1983-84): 46 games
A backbone of the side that would win promotion the following season, playing 40 times, Northern Irish goalkeeper Eric McManus was City’s eighth league ever-present between the sticks.

Gary Walsh (1998-99): 46 games
Gary Walsh quickly became a key part of Paul Jewell’s side in 1998-99 – and that loyalty in him paid off, as Walsh played in every game en route to promotion to the Premier League.

Donovan Ricketts (2006-07): 46 games
The big Jamaican is the only keeper on this list to play in every game of a season where City were eventually relegated: fingers crossed O’Donnell does not become number two.

Jon McLaughlin (2013-14): 46 games
City quickly solidified themselves in League One upon promotion in 2013, and McLaughlin’s ever-present record underlined the role he played in that success.

The Greatest Bradford City Kit Ever: The contenders

As well as the highs and lows on the field, Bradford City have had a mixed history when it comes to producing kits – but there are some that clearly stand out from the rest for the right reasons.

Some of City’s greatest moments are partly so memorable for the kits, as well as the football – so with that in mind, Bantams Heritage is launching the World Cup of Bradford City Kits! Over a period of two weeks on our Twitter (@BantamsHeritage), we’ll be asking you to whittle down 16 classic strips all nominated by you on Twitter – home and away – to just one: the best of all-time.

There are four groups of four; three featuring home kits and one exclusively for away/alternate shirts. Let the fun begin – here are your 16 contenders:

Group A (Retro)

  • 1984-85 home (Bradford Mythbreakers)
  • 1960-62 home (predominantly amber, thin claret stripes)
  • 1910-11 home (FA Cup winners)
  • 1975-77 home (white with C&A middle)

Group B (Home With a Twist)

  • 1996-97 home (Diamond Seal quadrants)
  • 1991-93 home (Freemans checkerboard)
  • 1993-94 home (Freemans.. random!)
  • 1977-78 home (amber with claret band)

Group C (Classics)

  • 1987-88 home (Bradford Great City!)
  • 1988-90 home (Grattan, C&A stripes)
  • 1995-96 home (Diamond Seal)
  • 1998-99 home (Beaver)

Group D (Away/Alternate)

  • 1998-99 away (Beaver white)
  • 1994-97 away (Diamond seal blue)
  • 2016-17 away (black w/diagonal C&A stripe)
  • 2012-13 away (gold ‘history makers’)

Record-breakers: the most consecutive league games for city

In modern-day football, it is considered a special achievement if a player is an ever-present in a league season – and perhaps rightly so, given the rigours of the game.

Yet in Bradford City’s history, there have been some remarkable runs of consecutive league appearances stretching way beyond one season. Here are the five players that have made the most appearances in the league for the Bantams without missing one.

George Mulholland
Heritage Number #481
231 consecutive league apps (1953-58)

Legendary Scottish full-back George Mulholland is Bradford City’s record-holder when it comes to consecutive league appearances: with an extraordinary run of 231 without missing a single game – a record which is extended even further if you include FA Cup fixtures! – in the mid-1950s.

After joining City from Stoke, Mulholland became an immediate fixture in Ivor Powell’s side, featuring in the final 43 games of the 1953-54 season. For the next four seasons – a run which coincided with goalkeeper Geoff Smith’s spell of 200 consecutive league games for City – Mulholland could not be moved from the side.

It was not until the fifth game of the 1958-59 season – the first campaign when the regional Division Three structure was abandoned – that Mulholland finally missed a game, some five years and 231 games later. Nobody has broken that since: nobody is likely to, in truth.

Charlie Bicknell
Heritage Number #275
224 consecutive league apps (1930-36)

One of Bradford City’s greatest left-backs – arguably the club’s greatest pre-World War Two – Charlie Bicknell arrived at the Bantams in 1930 after starting his professional career with Chesterfield.

Bicknell became an instant fixture in Jack Peart’s side after he became manager that summer, starting the first 16 league games of the 1930-31 season, before missing the 4-2 defeat at Preston in November of that year.

However, he returned the following week – and wouldn’t miss a league game for Bradford City again until March 1936, almost five-and-a-half years later. It is a staggering run of unbroken games including four ENTIRE league campaigns without missing a single fixture, eventually totalling 224 games, which came to an end when Bicknell left for West Ham.

Geoff Smith
Heritage Number #475
200 consecutive league apps (1954-58)

With Ivor Powell on the hunt for a new goalkeeper, the Bantams signed local lad Geoff Smith to amateur terms in 1953, with Smith making his debut that year – playing the final 19 games of the 1952-53 season in succession.

He was in and out of the team the following season but by the start of 1954-55, had established himself as Powell’s first-choice. And how it showed – because when Smith played in goal during the 1-1 draw with Bradford Park Avenue in the opening game of that season, he would go on a run of 200 league appearances without missing a single one.

It was a run that took him all the way to October 1958, alongside George Mulholland, another record appearance maker of the 1950s. Smith was left out for Jim McClusker, ending the run exactly on 200 league appearances. That summer, he retired at the age of 31.

John Hendrie
Heritage Number #742
173 consecutive league apps (1984-88)

John Hendrie’s record when it came to featuring in league games for Bradford City is the greatest in Bradford City history. After arriving from Coventry on a free transfer in the summer of 1984, by the time he left for Newcastle four seasons later in 1988, Hendrie had missed just ONE of City’s 174 league games: the final one.

Hendrie made his debut in the 2-0 win against Cambridge on the opening day of the 1984-85 season, a campaign tinged with triumph and tragedy in equal measure, as all City fans will know. Hendrie, along with Stuart McCall and Bobby Campbell, played in every game for the club that season.

That was a record Hendrie continued for the next two seasons, becoming a league ever-present again in 1985-86 and 1986-87 as City solidified themselves as a formidable Division Two side. Then, in 1987-88 – a season in which City reached the play-offs and came desperately close to returning to the top-flight – Hendrie featured in the first 43 games, taking his run to 173 without missing one. But in game 171, he was sent off at Manchester City, meaning he missed the final league fixture at home to Ipswich Town.

He returned for the play-offs, before leaving City that summer when promotion was ultimately not secured, after defeat to Middlesbrough.

Ian Cooper
Heritage Number #594
154 consecutive league apps (1970-73)

Ian Cooper’s place in Bradford City folklore is long assured. Only the great Ces Podd made more league appearances for the Bantams than the great Cooper, who could easily stake a claim as the greatest Bradfordian to wear claret and amber.

Of his 443 league appearances for City between 1965 and 1977, there was a run of 154 in the early-1970s without missing a single fixture. Cooper is one of only players to be a league ever-present in four different seasons for City, but only three of those ran back-to-back, the other in 1967-68.

Cooper played left-back in the opening game of the 1970-71 season, and wouldn’t miss a league fixture thereafter until November 1973, a remarkable run of 154 games. Cooper still played a crucial role in the seasons after that run, too; making 45 appearances out of 46 in 1975-76.