Bradford City has no shortage of former players who have tried their hands in other sports – some to great success. Perhaps the most notable of those is Brian Close – the England Test cricketing icon who had a fleeting spell as a Bantam in the 1950s. You can read about Close’s time with City here, incidentally.
However, some 20 years later, another future Test cricketer pulled on the claret and amber shirt; this time, he was born even closer to BD8 than Rawdon-born Close.
According to records, David Bairstow was born in Horton in September 1951. A talented player in numerous sports from a young age, Bairstow attracted the attention of local club Bradford City, who were just emerging from one of the most tumultuous periods in the club’s history, the 1960s: when City had to twice apply for re-election to the Football League.
By the age of 19, Bairstow had signed professional terms with City, who were seeking to re-climb the leagues at that time under the management of Jimmy Wheeler and, later, Bryan Edwards. He was already attracting interest from Yorkshire CCC about pursuing a cricketing career but for now, had opted to try his hand at professional football.
The 1971-72 season, a difficult one for the Bantams, was when Bairstow would emerge in the professional ranks for the first time. In a squad featuring future Bantams legends such as Ces Podd, Joe Cooke and Bruce Bannister, the flame-haired forward would initially have to be patient and bide his time for an opportunity.
However, with City’s league form faltering badly – they would be winless in the league for almost two months between late-October and Christmas – Edwards opted to hand Bairstow a debut from the bench, when he replaced the Norman Corner against Aston Villa on December 4, 1971. In doing so, Bairstow retrospectively earned heritage number 656 for Bradford City, an award which can never be taken away from him.
He was given his first start two weeks later against Bristol Rovers – and that coincided with an upturn in form. With Bairstow leading the line for three games over the festive period of 1971, City drew with the Gas 1-1, before recording back-to-back wins against Rochdale and Rotherham United, winning 1-0 on both occasions.
He returned to the bench – and City’s form fell off a proverbial cliff as 1972 began. The Bantams then went on a run of six straight defeats, a sequence of form which eventually sealed their fate and ensured relegation back to Division Four. Bairstow only made a handful of appearances – 10, five from the bench and five starts – during that ill-fated season.
He again found opportunities limited in 1972-73 as City had to start again at the bottom of the Football League system – this time making only seven appearances in total throughout the whole of another chastening campaign.
He did, however, score his first and only goal for Bradford City during that time, netting in a 3-0 win against Colchester United on November 4th, 1971: a game which would prove to be one of his last appearances for the Bantams. His final appearance came from the bench against Aldershot on December 16th, 1971, with Bairstow eventually finishing his City career with 17 appearances and one goal.
By the time he had finished playing professional football though, Bairstow’s cricketing career had already begun. In 1970 he made his county debut for Yorkshire – where he would become a firm favourite, spending his entire career with his home county while also making four Test appearances for England.
However, as many will know, Bairstow’s story ended tragically in 1998, when he committed suicide at his home in Marton-cum-Grafton. He remains one of the most adored and well-remembered cricketers in Yorkshire’s long and illustrious history – and David Bairstow will forever also have a place in Bradford City’s heritage and history, too.