All posts by Aaron Bower

Four new ex-players awarded Bradford City heritage numbers as cup criteria extended

Bantams Heritage can announce that four more former players from the club’s past have been awarded heritage numbers – with the criteria over which cup competitions do and do not count towards recognised appearances now both extended and finally clarified.

Goalkeeper Mel Gwinnett, forward Michael Guy, goalkeeper Andrew Burton and POSITION Martin Pattison are now all officially recognised as former Bradford City first-team players with their official heritage numbers, a project both supported and endorsed by the club.

Upon the launch of the Bantams Heritage project late last year, it was initially determined that only League, FA Cup, League Cup and Football League Trophy fixtures would be the only competitions throughout history in which players were eligible to appear in for them to receive a heritage number.

Since then, the club’s Intertoto Cup campaign of 2000 has also been included – and now, following discussions with several club historians and knowledgable supporters, it has been accepted that the Football League Group Cup, the Division Three (North) Challenge Cup, the Associate Members Cup and the Full Members Cup will now all be included. That means the full list of recognised competitions are:

  • League
  • FA Cup
  • League Cup
  • Football League/EFL Trophy/Associate Members Cup
  • Full Members Cup
  • Division Three (North) Challenge Cup)
  • Intertoto Cup/European Football

Essentially, these are now all the competitions the club has featured in throughout its history that are deemed competitive, first-team games. This decision has been made due to the unanimous decision from a group of historians and statisticians that these fixtures should be recognised with as much importance and reputation as a current competition such as the Football League Trophy, and that they were all competitions in which City’s first-team participated alongside teams from at least their own division or more.

Gwinnett, Guy, Burton and Pattison did not feature in a league game for Bradford City, but did play in one or more of the aforementioned cup competitions. Here are some more details on those competitions, how City performed in them and why they are now recognised as official in relation to the Heritage Numbers project.

Full Members Cup

The Full Members Cup was a competition created to fill the void left by British football’s ban from European competition following the Heysel disaster. It was specifically for Division One and Division Two teams, and City played in it on five occasions; the first edition of 1985-86, through to 1989-90, the year City were relegated back to Division Three.

It may be more commonly known to some fans by the many sponsorship names it held; including the Simod Cup, and the Zenith Data Systems Cup. The furthest stage City reached was Round 4 in 1987-88, when Reading defeated the Bantams in extra-time.

The Football League Group Cup

Widely considered to be the forerunner of what is now the Football League Trophy/EFL Trophy, the Football League Group Cup replaced the Anglo-Scottish Cup after it was withdrawn in 1980-81. It existed in its format for a solitary season before being rebranded the Football League Trophy: and City participated, reaching the quarter-finals, losing to Shrewsbury on penalties.

The playing debut of Roy McFarland is now officially recognised by Bantams Heritage as having taken place in this competition – while Guy and Burton’s one and only competitive first-team games were in the tournament, too.

Division Three (North) Challenge Cup

The Football League introduced regional cup competitions as far back as 1933, when Division Three was still split into two: north and south. Both divisions got their own cup, as well as the league – but City didn’t enter for the first time until 1937. As the Football League requested teams to play as strong a team as possible, and it was against teams from the same division, it only feels right to recognise this as an official and proper competition.

Another reason to recognise this is that it yielded City’s second – and most recent – major cup triumph when the Paraders won the 1938-39 edition. They had reached the final the previous season in their first venture into the competition, before avenging the defeat to Southport that season by beating Accrington 3-0 in the final the following campaign. A crowd of just 3,117 watched the game!

It did not return following the end of World War Two and the conclusion of regular league football.

Competitions Not Recognised: and Why

Despite those inclusions, Bantams Heritage – in conjunction with club historians – agree that some other tournaments the club has played in should not be recognised as official, competitive first-team fixtures.

Wartime football remains on that list, for reasons explained in the past. There were so few officially contracted footballers, and so many guests owing to soldiers who were stationed temporarily in the local area, that it would be wrong to sanction those players heritage numbers alongside players who officially represented City in a competitive game.

Furthermore, competitions like the West Riding Challenge Cup, when the opposition was predominantly limited to local, non-league teams such as Mirfield United and Heckmondwike, are understandably also ruled out.

The West Riding County Senior Cup also had limited opposition, and although that was often league teams, the fact it was played by only West Yorkshire-based teams makes this ineligible for consideration in the eyes of both Bantams Heritage and those consulted.

The new competitions included will be recognised under an ‘Other Cups’ column.

Bantams Heritage combine with Bradford City for historic first for British football

Bradford City and Bantams Heritage have joined forces to create an historic moment for British football: with the Bantams the first club to wear heritage numbers on their shirts from next season following approval from the EFL.

After several weeks of work behind the scenes, we’re very proud to be working with the club – who, driven by the excellent work and passion shown by communications director Ryan Sparks – have made great strides to re-connect the club with its proud history following a difficult 12 months for everyone associated with Bradford City.

Bantams Heritage launched the heritage numbers project last summer – which details every single player who has played a competitive game of football for Bradford City and awards them a unique heritage number, ensuring their place in the club’s history.

Those numbers will now be brought to life from the start of next season, after the club successfully applied to the EFL for permission for each player’s official heritage number – supplied by Bantams Heritage – to be printed underneath the club badge on any shirt they wear during a competitive game, as pictured below:

“It is a huge honour for this project to have been officially recognised by the EFL and, more importantly, the club,” Aaron Bower, the founder of Bantams Heritage, said.
“Connecting the present day Bradford City to the generations before us, who have followed the club’s journey through history, was the underlying reason behind creating the heritage numbers.
“Now every single City player past and present knows they forever have a place in our history. I am sure there will be family members of former City players out there who may not even know one of their descendants played for the club.

“Now they can see a link to that history through the heritage numbers. It’s particularly exciting to see the club express such a desire to make this happen – and become the first English club to have heritage numbers displayed on the shirts.”

It is a proud moment for Bantams Heritage, who are proud of our club’s history and believe all generations of City fans, both young and old, deserve to be reminded of our unique journey from 1903 to the present day.

All of our new signings this summer will be allocated their official heritage numbers whenever they make their debut for the club in a competitive fixture. The current, contracted, Bradford City first-team own the following heritage numbers:

#1204 – Daniel Devine 
#1227 – Shay McCartan
#1228 – Omari Patrick
#1230 – Jake Reeves
#1235 – Jordan Gibson
#1238 – Tyrell Robinson
#1242 – Reece Staunton
#1249 – Hope Akpan
#1250 – Eoin Doyle
#1251 – Kelvin Mellor
#1253 – Anthony O’Connor
#1254 – Richard O’Donnell
#1256 – Joe Riley
#1257 – Sean Scannell
#1259 – Josh Wright
#1262 – Connor Wood
#1267 – Eliot Goldthorp
#1268 – Raeece Ellington
Furthermore, the link with the club and the EFL is just one of several exciting projects lined up by Bantams Heritage to further illustrate what a magnificent history this club has: and how every single City supporter should be proud of it.

Players who crossed the Wool City Divide and switched between Bradford clubs

There is a familiar face across town at Bradford Park Avenue, following confirmation from our Wool City rivals this week that former City winger Garry Thompson will become the new player-manager of the non-league club.

Thompson will join a select group of players to have featured for both Bradford clubs at some stage throughout his playing career if and when he makes his Avenue debut next season – but an even smaller bracket of footballers have actually crossed the divide and transferred directly between the two clubs in the history of the professional game in the city. Here’s a look at all those players – starting with some of the most famous – with heritage numbers included.

#627: Bobby Ham
Left Avenue in 1968 to join City

Arguably the most famous footballer to cross the divide in the Wool City rivalry’s history. Ham had the unique honour of playing professionally for both Bradford clubs across several different spells throughout his career, but in 1968, at the conclusion of his second stint with Avenue, he crossed the divide to join City for a fee of £2,750.

He infamously became the first Bradfordian to finish a season as top-scorer for the Bantams, and ultimately scored on 70 occasions for City across his two spells with the club as a player, placing him 10th on the club’s all-time goalscoring list.

#623: Pat Liney
Left Avenue in 1967 to join City, then left City in 1972 to return to Avenue

Not only did Scottish goalkeeper Pat Liney transfer between the two Bradford clubs on one occasion, in 1967, but he did so again five years later: a unique feat in the Wool City rivalry’s history.

Liney initially made his name north of the border with Dundee and St Mirren, before transferring to Avenue in 1967, during their final years as a Football League club. Liney stayed with Avenue for two years after their exit from the league, before joining City in 1972 for £3,000.

After 166 appearances for City in all competitions across a five-year spell, the goalkeeper then returned to non-league football with Avenue.

#6: John Halliday
Left City in 1907 to manage – and play for – Avenue

Full-back John Halliday has a unique place in Bradford City’s history, having played in the club’s first-ever match in September 1903. Of the 11 players who played against Grimsby that day, only three would make more appearances for the Bantams than Halliday, who featured for the club 74 times.

However, at the age of 27, Halliday opted to cross the divide and take up the managerial post at Bradford Park Avenue. He actually played for them on a solitary occasion too – as a goalkeeper! Legend has it that regular goalkeeper Tom Baddersley failed to get to Avenue’s trip to Swindon on time, so Halliday filled in between the sticks. He left Avenue the following season to manage Brentford; something he would do on three separate occasions.

#687: Terry Dolan
Left City in 1969 to join Avenue

It is well-known to many that Terry Dolan played for – and had involvement off the field – with both Bradford clubs: but perhaps less fondly remembered that he crossed the Bradford divide as a teenager in the late-1960s.

Dolan had signed schoolboy terms with City, having excelled as a promising sportsman in his junior years. However, in 1968, Dolan opted to cross the city and join Avenue instead, who were in their final years as a Football League club by this point. Dolan left for Huddersfield when Avenue dropped out of the league in 1970, before returning to his first club in 1976: where he would enjoy great success as a player and a manager.

From Avenue to City

#294: Irvine Harwood: Left Avenue in 1932 to join City, #353: James Robertson: Left Avenue in 1938 to join City, #518: Geoff Hudson: Left Avenue in 1957 to join City

From City to Avenue

#338: John Gallon: Left City in 1938 to join Avenue, #349: John Padgett: Left City in 1938 to join Avenue, #420: Richard Conroy: Left City in 1953 to join Avenue, #586: Alan Rhodes: Left City in 1965 to join Avenue, #629: Tony Leighton: Left City in 1970 to manage Avenue, #638: Norman Corner: Left City in 1972 to join Avenue, #827: Wayne Benn: Left City in 1996 to join Avenue, #1012: Simon Ainge: Left City in 2009 to join Avenue.

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.