Category Archives: City in Competition

Bradford City, the FA Cup first round and non-league meetings

On Saturday afternoon, Bradford City enter the FA Cup at the first round stage for the 83rd time in the club’s history.- looking to improve a more-than-favourable record at this stage of the competition.

In all, City have progressed to Round Two on 50 occasions out of the previous 82 attempts – including last year, when they made it to Round Three. They have been eliminated, either via replay or in one tie, a total of 32 times.

Here is a closer look at some of the more memorable first round ties, as well as a preview of our history with Aldershot and ties against non-league opposition at this stage of the cup.

Early mishaps

City were forced to go through the qualifying rounds in the first three years of their existence. In 1903-04, Robert Campbell’s side scored 14 goals in wins against Rockingham Colliery, Mirfield United and Worksop before being eliminated by Chesterfield.

The following season, they met prominent non-league side Millwall Athletic, who had already reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup twice, in 1900 and 1903. City were beaten 4-0 in the last round – the Intermediate Round – before Round One. Next year, they did reach the FA Cup proper, going all the way to Round Three.


As most City fans know, the 1910-11 cup run ended with the Bantams lifting the trophy for the first and only time in the club’s history.

One of their biggest scares along the way, however, came in Round One when we squeezed past non-league side New Brompton (now known as Gillingham) 1-0. Wins against Norwich, Grimsby, Burnley, Blackburn and, as we know, Newcastle via a replay, followed.

Big Round One Wins

In what is hopefully a good omen for Saturday City have been able to put non-league sides to the sword quite convincingly in the past.

Prime examples are plentiful. In 1927-28, a crowd of 14,579 were at Valley Parade to watch part-time side Workington AFC be sent out 6-0.

In 1937-38, now-defunct side Walker Celtic – based in the north east – celebrated reaching the First Round Proper for the only time in the club’s history by drawing City. Incredibly, they held the Bantams to a 1-1 draw at in Walker, meaning a replay at Valley Parade.

However, Jack Deakin and Roland Bartholomew both scored four times as the Bantams ran out 11-3 winners! It is one of only two occasions when City have scored 11 in a game; the other an 11-1 win against Rotherham in the league in 1928.

Exits to Non-League Sides

While City’s record in cup competitions in recent years has been about upsetting the odds, there have been occasions where the Bantams have been victims of an upset themselves.

The 1960s were a fallow period for the Bantams, forced to re-apply for their league position twice alone during that decade. Fortunes in the FA Cup were no better; with the nadir the first round exit to non-league side Scarborough FC in 1964-65.

Modern-Day Non-League Opposition

There were two more notable meetings with non-league opposition in Round One as the 1980s began. City’s meeting with Brandon United – the first time the County Durham-based side had reached the first round – was actually moved to neutral territory, namely Spennymoor United’s Brewery Field ground by order of the FA.

It was a happy hunting ground for City, who won 3-0. Five years later came arguably the Bantams’ most infamous non-league opposition, when Trevor Cherry’s all-conquering Division Three champions were drawn at home to Tow Law Town.

Tow Law, famous for being the first team of future City midfielder Chris Waddle before he joined Newcastle, were beaten 7-2 – with an illustrious list of goalscorers: McCall, Hendrie, Campbell (2), Goodman (3).

Recent FA Cup First Round Ties

When City were promoted to Division One in 1996, it meant an almost decade-long exile from the first round due to not having to enter until Round Three.

However, in the last five years, City have faced non-league opposition at this stage twice. We played Saturday’s opposition, Aldershot, in 2015 – Greg Leigh and Tony McMahon scoring the goals in a 2-0 win at home in a replay following a 0-0 draw at Aldershot.

12 months earlier, City’s legendary run to the quarter-finals began with a clash against non-league opposition. City fell behind to FC Halifax Town early on, before goals from Filipe Morais and Jon Stead set up a Round Two tie with Dartford.

Where City have finished in every season with a worse, or equal, start to this campaign

You do not have to know football to realise that with the season already over a third of the way through to completion, Bradford City’s class of 2018-19 are in trouble at the foot of League One.

Last week, we discussed how City had never started a season worse than this in terms of losses – with 12 defeats from the first 16 games still comfortably the worst start in the club’s history in that regard.

But in terms of what really matters – points on the board – it’s still some way off being the absolute worst. However, even in seasons of absolute misery like the 2000-01 campaign, when we were relegated from the Premier League in some style, that team had still amassed more points at the 16-game stage (11) than the current crop (10).

Of course, pre-1981, it was two points for a win in the Football League. So with the historical adjustments made to weigh up every start under the current three points for a win system, here’s every start which has been equal to or worse than the current one – including where the Bantams finished in the league each year.

Points after 16 games: 7 (1 win, 4 draws)
Final position: 22nd (bottom) of Division Two

Still the worst start in terms of points returned from the first 16 games in the club’s history, there would be no great mid-season turnaround for Colin Veitch’s class of 1926-27.

City won only one game between the start of the season and mid-December, realistically consigning them to the drop before Christmas.

There was a brief flurry of four wins in five games between March and April, but all that did in reality was spare City from an embarrassing points tally. They finished with just 23, eight points from safety, and were relegated to Division Three (North).

Points after 16 games: 8 (1 win, 5 draws)
Final position: 22nd (bottom) of Division Three (North)

The 1948-49 campaign began well enough for David Steele’s Bantams, with City claiming four points from their first two games without conceding a goal.

However, the 1-0 over Mansfield on August 25th would be City’s only win of the season until Christmas Day! And by then, City’s miserly tally of eight points meant the writing was on the wall somewhat.

City finished bottom of Division Three (North) but were spared relegation given how Division Four had yet to be created. However, given how the team bottom of Division Three (South), Crystal Palace, amassed more than the 23 points the Bantams managed, it made them the worst-performing team in the Football League.

Points after 16 games: 10 (2 wins, 4 draws)
Final position: 19th in Division Four

1964-65 saw the Bantams have to wait until their ninth game of the season for the first win in Division Four. By then, they had drawn four and lost four of their opening eight games – and things didn’t improve thereafter the 2-1 win over Oxford.

By the 16-game mark, City had won again just once, a 4-1 win over Wrexham. However, they did at least manage to spare themselves from a battle against re-election into the Football League. 12 months later, however, City would not be so lucky.

Points after 16 games: 10 (2 wins, 4 draws)
Final position: 23rd in Division Four (re-elected)

The mid-1960s was not a great time to be a Bradford City fan.

That’s because in 1965-66, the season after another terrible start, the Bantams picked up just 10 points from their first 16 games, eventually being forced to re-apply to the Football League for their place among the elite after a miserable season.

They were at least spared the ignominy of finishing bottom of the entire Football League by Wrexham who, along with City, Lincoln and Rochdale, were all successfully re-elected.

The records tumble: where City’s horror 15-game start ranks alongside the rest

You may have seen our tweet in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday night’s defeat to Coventry – our 11th in just 15 league games – confirming that, in terms of losses, this is indeed Bradford City’s worst-ever start to a league campaign in our 115-year history.

Of course, losses alone isn’t the only way to weigh up just how bad a start this has been, so in true Grim Reaper fashion, we’ve worked out where the start ranks along all the others in a number of categories.

Games lost

As we pointed out, this is indeed Bradford City’s worst-ever start in terms of games lost at the beginning of a season. Never before has any season since the club’s formation in 1903 included 11 league defeats in the first 15 league games.

Points earned (including three points-per-win alterations)

The three points-per-win system was only introduced into English football at the beginning of the 1981-82 season, so to look all the way back to 1903 and work out where City’s points tally of this season ranks, we have to apply the present system across history.

And when doing that, it shows that there have been a handful of times in which City have failed to pick up fewer than the current 10 points the class of 2018 have got from their first 15 games.

The most recent? In the 2000-01 Premier League campaign, when Chris Hutchings’ side earned just eight points from their first 15 games. That, in a 38-game season, was inevitably going to lead to relegation.

Then, in 1983-84, Trevor Cherry’s side registered just eight points from their first 15 games: which included just one win. They did, however, then go on and finish 7th in Division Three following a run of 10 consecutive wins.

The other instances? In 1965-66, City got nine points from their first 15. All the way back in 1926-27, they actually got only seven – making this the fourth-worst start in terms of points gained.

Goals conceded

City have shipped an alarming 26 goals already this season, and have kept just four clean sheets – but you don’t have to go too far back to find a start worse than this defensively.

In City’s first season since relegation from the Premier League in 2001-02, things started quite well, with victories against Barnsley, Portsmouth and Coventry to start the season.

But by the time City had played 15 games that season, they’d already conceded a staggering 30 goals – including 10 in just three games.

Goals scored

15 games played, 12 goals scored. It’s been pretty grim in front of goal for City to say the least.

The last time it was this bad? When we were relegated from the Premier League in 2000-01 when, after 15 games, we’d scored just seven goals.

Incidentally, to find a Football League campaign with a worse start in front of goal, you have to go all the way back to 1970-71, when James Wheeler’s side scored just 11 times in their first 15 games.

The second-worst 2018 record in the entire Football League: City’s annus horribilis

Four managers, countless defeats and a horrendous tumble down the League One table – there is little doubting that thus far, 2018 ranks as one of City’s worst calendar years on record.

And that is reflected in a look across how all the other sides in the Football League have performed since New Years Day – with only ONE side out of the 72 currently playing in the Championship, League One and League Two producing a worse points-per-game return than the Bantams in 2018.

To date, City have played 34 games and earned a miserable 28 points in 2018 – a return of 0.82 PPG. That in itself underlines why City find themselves where they are at the minute – but only one side across tiers two, three and four can boast a record that returns fewer points per game than that.

There are some sides who hover just above City in that regard. Stoke City are one such example; they have played 29 league games in 2018 and earned 29 points, a return of exactly 1.00 PPG. Hull City offer the same return, with 33 points earned from 33 league games.

Cheltenham Town offer a marginally-better return than the Bantams: they have 29 points from 34 league games in 2018, which is a return of 0.85 PPG. You then find City with their 0.82 return – which is exactly the same as what Grimsby Town can boast from their 2018 so far.

And below City and the Mariners? Only one team across the entirety of the Football League: Reading. City’s conquerers in the FA Cup quarter-finals a few years ago are the only side in the Football League who have returned fewer points-per-game than the Bantams this year. They have 25 points from their 33 games: a return of 0.76 PPG.

Things can change quickly in football, we all know that. Earlier this month, we looked at how some of City’s poorest starts to a league campaign often resulted in top-half finishes and better – but this underlines how worrying things are at the moment.


Why City’s history proves that a poor start doesn’t always result in a poor season

Nobody likes a slow start to a league season. The summer suddenly feels like lightyears ago, with all the pre-season hype and anticipation quickly fizzling away: and it’s easy to put this season firmly in that bracket so far.

We are already a quarter of the way through the 46-game league campaign (give or take a few minutes!), and we’re constantly told that 10 games in is when we should properly judge our team’s fortunes for the season ahead.

Or should we?

This hasn’t been the best start for the Bantams – but make no mistake about it, it’s by no means been the worst. Most City fans would take this start over the way we began the 1926-27 campaign, for example: when we won one league game (against South Shields) between the start of the season and mid-December!

But the Bantams’ history proves that while a slow start is by no means uncommon, it’s not always indicative of a season of struggle. Here’s how our start this year stacks up against some of those examples..

Record after 11 games: 3 wins, 2 draws, 6 losses
Final position: 8th in Division Two

Three points for a win wasn’t introduced until 1981, but under the current system, City’s second-ever league campaign would have yielded a start of 11 points from 11 games, just one more than where this year’s group sit.

Robert Campbell’s men would win nine of their final 23 games though to end the year comfortably mid-table, finishing 8th on the 18-team Division Two table.

Record after 11 games: 3 wins, 5 draws, 3 losses
Final position: 6th in Division Three (North)

Again taking today’s rules into consideration, City would have picked up 14 points from their first 11 games in 1927-28, the year after being relegated from Division Two.

Cross-city rivals Bradford Park Avenue were champions that season,  but City still ended up finishing a respectable sixth.

Record after 11 games: 2 wins, 4 draws, 5 losses
Final position: 5th in Division Four

Bob Brocklebank’s class of 1963-64 (again, adopting the current three points for a win system) had an identical 10 points from 11 games following the opening quarter of that campaign, and looked to be in some trouble at the bottom end of Division Four.

They turned it around though, ending up fifth following two five-match winning runs at different points in the season guiding them to the right end of the division for a rare occasion during those lean years in the club’s history which were the 1960s.

Record after 11 games: 1 win, 3 draws, 7 losses
Final position: 7th in Division Three

A City squad featuring the likes of Peter Jackson, Stuart McCall and Bobby Campbell won just ONCE in the club’s opening 15 games of 1983-84, a remarkable start.

Inevitably, it sparked fears over a return to Division Four, but November provided a turnaround in fortunes which resulted in a romp up the table. Trevor Cherry’s side won 10 games in a row between November 26th and February 3rd, which eventually led the Bantams to a seventh-placed finish. The following season, they were champions.

Record after 11 games: 4 wins, 2 draws, 5 losses
Final position: 2nd in Division One (promoted)

Though Paul Jewell’s legendary promotion-winning side had a respectable enough 14 points at this stage 20 years ago, they only did so courtesy of a three-match winning run in games 9, 10 and 11.

Prior to that, City won once in their opening seven games, the new-look side assembled by Jewell clearly taking time to gel. How it clicked thereafter though – and if there is absolutely any proof that a poor start doesn’t always mean a poor season, it’s the 1998-99 campaign that sums it up.

Record after 11 games: 3 wins, 1 draw, 7 losses
Final position: 10th in League Two

Times were tough in the opening two months of Stuart McCall’s first reign as Bradford City manager. The Bantams found it tough to adjust to life in League Two having been relegated the following season, producing an identical record to this season’s squad after 11 games.

However, McCall stabilised things thereafter, and City eventually ended up finishing 10th in their first season back in the bottom tier of English football.

Record after 11 games: 3 wins, 4 draws, 4 losses
Final position: 5th in League One (lost play-off semi-final)

Even the most recent years of our history have a fine example of a poor start eventually resulting in a commendable league finish – and in the case of Phil Parkinson’s squad of 2015-16, it was much more than respectable.

Prior to the 3-1 win against Rochdale in the 11th game of the season, City had scored only nine goals in their first ten games, and were seriously struggling to pick up wins. However, that Rochdale win was the start of a nine-match unbeaten run which provided the platform for City to eventually make the play-offs by the season’s end.