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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.