Category Archives: City in Competition

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..

1904-05
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.

1927-28
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.

1963-64
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.

1983-84
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.

1998-99
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.

2007-08
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.

2015-16
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.

A look at City’s lowest-ever crowds after setting a new record v Everton U21s

For only the second time in the club’s ENTIRE 115-year history, Bradford City attracted a crowd smaller than 1,000 for a professional, competitive fixture against Everton in September 2018.

It’s a stat which underlines the popularity – or lack of – of the Checkatrade Trophy since Premier League Academy sides were allowed into the competition more than anything – not least because both crowds came in the revamped competition.

The 902 which watched City beat Everton’s under-21s side on penalties fractionally beat the 931 which attended a game against Rotherham in the same competition last season. So with a new record officially set, here’s a closer look at City’s lowest-ever crowds – in both league and all competitions.

City’s lowest-ever crowds: all competitions

The attitude towards cup competitions have shifted almost 180 degrees over the last generation or so. When City were struggling in the 1960s and 70s at the foot of Division Four, they would attract small league crowds but much bigger crowds for cup games. Evidence of that is in 1972-73, when a low of 1,628 watched City play Newport – before a couple of months later, 14,205 attended an FA Cup tie at home to Blackpool.

These days, however, it’s cup competition which attracts the lowest crowds – and almost all of City’s all-time lowest gates come in non-league competition.

902 v Everton U21s (25 September 2018, FL Trophy)
931 v Rotherham (7 November 2017, FL Trophy)
1,015 v Oldham (9 October 2018, FL Trophy)
1,036 v Oldham (5 December 2017, FL Trophy)
1,249 v Hereford United (15 May 1981, Division Four)
1,287 v Carlisle United (17 October 1995, FL Trophy)
1,353 v Wrexham (12 May 1966, Division Four)
1,360 v Cambridge United (7 December 2016, FL Trophy)

City’s lowest-ever crowds: league

Mercifully, the story is slightly cheerier in league competition: but only slightly. City have never attracted a crowd of fewer than 1,000 for a regular-season league game, but they only scraped over that on a few occasions during the nadir of their time at the foot of the Football League.

In fact, some of City’s smallest crowds came in the seasons when they finished 23rd in Division Four, and were forced to apply for re-election to the league. That happened twice; in 1962-63 and 65-66.

1,249 v Hereford United (15 May 1981, Division Four)
1,353 v Wrexham (12 May 1966, Division Four)
1,628 v Newport County (11 October 1972, Division Four)
1,676 v Newport County (3 May 1976, Division Four)
1,697 v Northampton Town (23 April 1975, Division Four)

City’s record in penalty shootouts: like no other!

With two of the three cup competitions that City regularly participate in now scrapping extra-time in favour of heading straight to a penalty shootout (the League Cup and the Football League Trophy), it’s no surprise the shootout becoming a more and more important way of settling a game.

Unfortunately, City’s exit at the hands of Macclesfield via the penalty spot this season didn’t favour the Bantams – but not so long ago, we were regarded as the penalty shootout kings. So what’s our overall record like from 12 yards in a shootout?

Origins of the shootout format

Following success across various leagues and competitions in mainland Europe like the Coppa Italia, the FA finally bit the bullet in 1970 and introduced penalty shootouts. Prior to that, cup ties would be decided by as many replays as possible to determine a winner; it wasn’t uncommon for games to go to second, third or even fourth replays.

Yet it wasn’t until the 1991-92 season when they were introduced to settle games which were still level after one replay, the format the FA Cup still operates under to this day. City flirted with the odd shootout here and there prior to the new millennium – but it wasn’t until after that when they found themselves regularly taking penalties to determine games.

City’s early history from the spot

City’s first shootout in all competitions came in the short-lived Football League Group Cup, introduced as a replacement for the Anglo-Scottish Cup in 1981-82 season. City lost 4-3 to Shrewsbury on penalties in the quarter-finals, after a 1-1 draw after extra-time.

The following season, in exactly the same stage of the same competition almost a year to the day, City were again beaten on penalties in the quarter-finals, this time away at Millwall. The result of the shootout was 4-2. And that was that for City and penalties – until all the way into 2003.

The new millennium and penalties

By the time City stepped up in a shootout again, they had been in and out of the Premier League for two seasons, and financial difficulties were beginning to take their hold. It was to lower-league opposition in the shape of Darlington – with City again failing to win their first shootout, going out 5-3 after a 0-0 draw, Tom Kearney missing the decisive penalty.

By the time we played a penalty shootout again – once more in the first round of the League Cup, this time at Carlisle – City fans could have been forgiven for thinking they’d never win a shootout. After a 1-1 draw, the Bantams lost 4-3 on penalties; Dean Windass and Alan Rogers missing. From there though, City went on a quite unbelievable run.

A record penalty shootout run

It took until 2009 for City’s first penalty shootout victory, when Simon Eastwood saved from fellow keeper Kasper Schmeichel to help the Bantams knock Notts County out of the Football League Trophy. Less than a month later, City did the same to Port Vale to reach the area semi-finals – though they were beaten by Carlisle 3-0.

Fast forward to August 2011, and City won their third straight shootout, this time knocking Sheffield Wednesday out of the Football League Trophy. The same season, Huddersfield were handed the same fate after a 2-2 draw following 120 minutes.

Four straight wins became five a month later, this time when Sheffield United were dispatched on penalties. The following season, Jon McLaughlin was the hero as Hartlepool were dumped out from the spot.

Then, of course, things began to get seriously high-profile. The legendary history-making season of 2012/13 saw another three penalty shootout wins; the Hartlepool one and the victory against Northampton in the first round of the FA Cup are footnotes on that season – given how two Premier League sides, Wigan and Arsenal, were beaten on penalties. Goalkeeper Matt Duke will forever be remembered for his exploits between the posts on both occasions.

But amazingly, that night under the lights against Arsene Wenger’s side remains the last time City have won a shootout. Since then, defeats to York and Bury in the same season (in the League Cup and FA Cup respectively) have been followed by defeats to Accrington (a staggering 11-10 final scoreline, in which City keeper Colin Doyle scored) and the recent defeat to Macclesfield.

That means after losing their first four shootouts, then winning their next nine, City lost four in a row once again – a run which ended in September when Everton’s academy side were beaten in the Checkatrade Trophy on penalties.

City’s record in penalty shootouts in all competitions
Played: 18 Won: 10 Lost: 8

Bradford City and the Football League Trophy: a brief history

Whether it’s the Associate Members Cup, the Football League Trophy or the Checkatrade Trophy, Bradford City have had plenty of experience with professional football’s lower-league competition.

Yes, there have been periods (from 1985-86 to 1989-90 and 1996-97 to 2003-04) where City, as a result of being in the top two divisions, haven’t been involved, but in all, this season will be City’s 23rd attempt at winning the FLT. Here’s a brief history of how City have performed thus far – and the leading stat makers in the competition.

City’s best runs in the competition

Bradford City have never got further than the regional semi-finals of the competition, a feat they actually achieved three times in four seasons during the lean years of League Two football around the turn of the last decade.

In 2009-10, City were beaten 3-0 by Carlisle in the area semis – when an area final against Leeds United would have been the prize on offer had the Bantams won. Two seasons later, in 2011-12, Oldham Athletic were the team who put City out, before the following season, in 2012-13, it was easy to forget City got within a couple of games of a THIRD Wembley appearance in one season!

That year, eventual winners Crewe beat us 4-1 in the area semis. Given how the game took place in January 2013, in between the two-legged League Cup semi against Aston Villa, it’s no surprise City had other things on their mind when Kyle Reid scored the only Bantams goal at Gresty Road!

Most FLT appearances for Bradford City

An accolade every aspiring footballer will no doubt want – to hold the record for most appearances in the Checkatrade Trophy for one club! Fittingly though, the current top two going into this season’s campaign are held by Bradfordians.

Our very own Lee Duxbury (#778) is the man who has more FLT appearances for City than anyone else, with 12. Next is the one and only James Hanson (HN#1065) on 11.

Current first-team player and (HN#1203) Danny Devine is one of three players who have appeared in the competition more times than anyone else after Hanson and Duxbury, with a total of 10. That makes up almost a third of the 28 appearances in all competitions Devine has for City.

Gavin Oliver (HN#752) is also in double figures with 10, as is the legendary Stephen Darby (HN#1134). After that, a certain Sean McCarthy (#HN789) has nine – as does Rory McArdle (HN#1136).

Most FLT goals for Bradford City

Only 11 players have scored more than once for City in this competition, incredibly – and the leader is McCarthy, who from his nine appearances, scored an impressive seven goals.

One behind McCarthy is former striker Steven Torpey (HN#793), who has six. Seven players have scored three times – Michael Flynn, Neil Tolson, Joe Brown, Jordy Hiwula, Gary Williams, Haris Vuckic and Alex Jones – but two stand out as the most impressive.

One is local lad Brown, whose three goals all came in three sub appearances. The other is current first-teamer Jones, one of a handful of players to have scored in all four competitions for City (What?! You’ve not read that article?! Click here!) His three goals have come in just two games in the FLT.

Brian Tinnion and Shaun Murray (both on two) are the other players to have scored more than once.