Category Archives: Appearance Stats/Records

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.

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.

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.