Category Archives: Former Greats in Profile

The Early Paraders: Dicky Bond, City’s England international and outside-right superstar

Over the course of the summer leading into the new season, Bantams Heritage will be looking back at some lesser-known stars of City teams pre-World War Two. 

Only three men have played a full international for England while simultaneously being contracted to Bradford City. It is a very exclusive club, featuring only James Conlin, Evelyn Lintott and one other man: the late, great Dicky Bond.

Over 110 years on from Bond’s Bradford City debut, the fact only 12 men have surpassed his total of 301 league appearances underlines how he truly should be regarded as one of the Paraders’ greatest-ever players: and one of the real heroes of our early years. His story as a Bradford City player, however, is far more interesting than just the numbers.

Bond could – and perhaps should – have been immortalised as one of the 11 men to bring the FA Cup back to Bradford in 1911. Regarded by many early football historians as England’s finest outside right of the early 1900s – underlined by the fact he won numerous caps for England during that time – had he been available, Bond would have played a prominent part in City’s run to cup success that season.

But he wasn’t available. He had already scored the winning goals in the First Round win against New Brompton (now known as Gillingham) and Third Round success against Grimsby – but two weeks earlier, he had been accused of using improper language during a league game at Woolwich Arsenal.

He was hit with a hefty ban by the FA, a ban which ensured he would miss the remainder of City’s FA Cup success, restricting him to the view of frustrated spectator as the Paraders knocked out Burnley and Blackburn on the way to the final. He was available for the final against Newcastle, but by then, Peter O’Rourke perhaps rightly opted to keep faith in the side who had taken the club to their first cup final. Thus, Bond sat it out. Many pictures of the squad that season show Bond sat with his team-mates and the FA Cup: but he was never able to feature in perhaps City’s greatest-ever accomplishment.

And that, given his service to the club during a distinguished 13-year stint which straddled the First World War, was a real shame. Signed by the club from Preston North End in 1909 as O’Rourke looked to build a side capable of competing for the league championship, Bond’s impact on the right was immediate. He missed just two league games as City finished 7th in Division One in 1909-10, but was a much more sporadic presence in the team the following season, in part due to that suspension for his antics at Arsenal.

Bond’s final England caps came during that season, with the player joining Conlin and Lintott as full England internationals while playing for Bradford City. Almost 110 years on, nobody has managed to achieve that since.

Image result for dicky bond bradford city

The Paraders remained a solid, albeit unspectacular, First Division side in both the years before and after World War One – and Bond was consistently at the heart of the club’s progression under Peter O’Rourke – but his footballing career was heavily interrupted by the war.

Bond was a member of the infamous Bradford Pals throughout, surviving the significant losses the regiment suffered during the Battle of the Somme. However, in 1916, he was taken as a Prisoner of War and spent the final two years of the war in a camp in Germany, before being repatriated in November 1918, just days after the conclusion of the war.

He returned to City for the 1919-20 season, and the following year was made captain of the club by new manager David Menzies. His 300th league appearance came in a 2-1 win against Newcastle in April 1921 but by then, City’s time in Division One was coming to an end. He played just one more time for the club, and left at the end of that season to return to his native Lancashire, signing for Blackburn Rovers.

Bond may well have had to sit out Bradford City’s greatest-ever victory, but the impact he had on that squad during some of the club’s glory years should never be overlooked. Without Dicky Bond’s goals earlier in the cup run, the Paraders may never have made it to the latter stages at all.

Bond passed away in 1955 at the age of 71, but should forever be regarded as a Bradford City legend.

Dicky Bond
Born: 14 December 1883
Died: 25 April 1955

City appearances: 332
City goals: 72

England caps: 8
England goals: 2

13th on club’s all-time league appearances list with 301.

The Early Paraders: Jack Deakin, City’s free-scoring forward of the 1930s

Over the course of the summer leading into the new season, Bantams Heritage will be looking back at some lesser-known stars of City teams pre-World War Two. This is the story of Jack Deakin, a supremely-talented forward who still possesses one of the best goals-per-game ratio in the club’s history.

Great goalscorers are commonly regarded as the pinnacle when it comes to retrospective debates about the best footballers of all-time. Throughout the annals of time, every club imaginable has had a free-scoring, prolific forward or two – and Bradford City are no such exception.

Recent generations of supporters will immediately point to players like Nahki Wells and Lee Mills who fit those criteria, but Jack Deakin was one of the first players to establish a reputation as a deadly striker while wearing claret and amber.

Born in September 1912 in nearby Altofts, the records show little about Deakin’s career as a footballer until he surfaced at Bradford City, making his debut at the age of 24 in November 1936. He was reportedly signed from Altofts WRC, and came into a Paraders side that season who were struggling at the foot of Division Two.

Since the formation of a third Football League division in 1921, the club had spent just two seasons there – but under Dick Ray, they were heading for a third in 1937. City finished second-bottom of Division Two – with only Doncaster below them – but the emergence of Deakin, who scored twice in his four appearances, including a goal on debut against Aston Villa, offered hope for next season.

Deakin featured in only three of the first six games of the 1937-38, failing to score as the Paraders continued to struggle under Ray, eventually winning just one of their first eight games. However, Deakin soon found his stride in front of goal, scoring seven times in four games: including a hat-trick during a 4-0 win against Carlisle. Despite all the struggles, the Paraders had found a new number nine who could lead the line with aplomb.

And while Deakin couldn’t fire City to promotion that season, the fact he scored 26 times in 36 games in a side who finished 14th in Division Three North underlined his credentials. With new manager Fred Westgarth threatening a promising rebuild for the 1938-39 season, Deakin was at the heart of a City side poised to challenge for promotion.

Unfortunately, Deakin managed to feature in just two of the first 16 games – but when he returned, it was clear his goal-scoring exploits had not abandoned him. Now in his third season as a professional and fully accustomed to the Football League, Deakin scored an incredible 23 goals in 28 games: including 12 in a run of seven consecutive fixtures. Only one man, John McCole, has scored in seven straight games alongside Deakin; he also netted 12 in the late 1950s.

Deakin also scored six times in five games during City’s run to becoming Division Three North Challenge Cup winners that season. That was only the second – and still most recent – professional cup competition the club won. While Westgarth’s Paraders finished third, it was clear they were set for a bright future.

But that, unfortunately, is where that squad’s – and Deakin’s – journey comes to an abrupt end. War broke out in late 1939 and despite attempts to keep league football going, it was eventually abandoned. Records show that Deakin called time on his own playing career during World War Two, and a player who could have easily gone on to become a record-breaker on numerous fronts if not for external events had his career cut cruelly short.

Players from all eras of the club’s history such as Wells, McCole and Wallace Smith had goalscoring records in and around the one in two mark: but hardly anyone could match Deakin’s record. Only David Layne’s 46 goals in 69 games for the Paraders is anything like Deakin’s feats in claret and amber.

In just 75 games, Jack Deakin scored 58 times. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 88, but his legacy at Bradford City should stand the test of time forever.

Harold Walden: Bradford City’s all-singing Olympic hero

There are many, many reasons Bantams Heritage was born – but above all else, one of the biggest motivations was to be able to inspire and inform younger generations of Bradford City fans about the amazingly rich history our football club has.

That involves great matches, great servants and incredible back-stories to some of our former players – and few former Bantams fit that final category better than the late Harold Walden.

Walden joined Bradford City while the club was very much in its infancy – though by the time he became Heritage Number #110 on December 16th, 1911, against Notts County, City had won their first – and only – FA Cup title. Even before he became a Bantam, though, Walden had a fascinating journey to BD8.

Walden was born in the Indian city of Umballa (now known as Ambala) and, to our knowledge, is the only former City player to own a Heritage Number and be born in India. Though he returned to England as a youngster, Walden began an amateur football career in Ireland, playing for Cliftonville and Linfield while serving in the army.

However, in 1911, Walden was released from the army and signed amateur teams with Halifax Town – before, by December of that year, signing on professionally with the Bantams. Having made his debut in the 3-2 defeat to Notts County, Walden scored his first City goals a week later, a brace in the 3-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur. He finished his first season with City as the club’s top scorer, with 11 goals in 17 games as Peter O’Rourke’s side finished 11th in Division One. He also scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over QPR in the FA Cup first round.

But it was that summer when Walden’s story really began to accelerate. While still a City player, he was called into Great Britain’s squad for the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden (pictured above). Playing as a centre-forward, Walden scored SIX as Great Britain hammered Hungary 7-0 in their opening game, before scoring twice in the semi-final win over Finland, and again in the final, a 4-2 victory over Denmark. Three games, nine goals – but Walden was denied the golden boot courtesy of Germany’s Gottfried Fuchs: who scored TEN in one game, a 16-0 win over Russia!

After the Olympics, Walden’s City career continued, but by the time World War One had ended, Walden had a fairly unsuccessful spell with Arsenal, before returning to City for the latter years of his footballing career – then, he would embark on an altogether different journey.

Legend has it that in 1919 – before he had even retired from playing – Walden made his stage debut, starting a new career as a performer and musician. He was successful, too; and Bradford City reportedly featured heavily in a lot of Walden’s acts and performances. This clip below refers to him ‘playing for Bradford’ – though fans of another Bradford-based football club may argue he could have been referring to them, as there’s no mention of the word City:

Walden also appeared as himself in a 1940s film, Cup Tie Honeymoon, as well as a silent film based on football in the 1920s called The Winning Goal. He passed away in 1955 due to a heart attack – but should almost certainly be looked back upon as one of this football club’s most interesting and famous former players.

Whether it was as an Olympic goal-scoring sensation – Walden is still the fourth-highest scorer in Olympic history and highest British scorer – while a Bantams player or a star of the stage and screen, Harold Walden has a firm, permanent place in Bradford City’s illustrious history.

Harold Walden (1887-1955)
Heritage Number: #110
Debut: 16/12/1911 v Notts County
Appearances: 57
Goals: 24

Farewell Greg Abbott: The honorary Bradfordian who bled claret and amber

At times, it’s easy to forget that Greg Abbott isn’t a Bradfordian, such is the passion and love he has for Bradford City and all that surrounds the club.

Confirmation arrived from the club on Friday that Abbott would be ending his spell with the club, stepping away from his role as head of recruitment and, more recently, assistant coach to both Michael Collins and David Hopkin.

Club politics is not in the Bantams Heritage mission statement – but as the last three years of Abbott’s time in an off-field capacity understandably is fresh in the memories of all City fans, it only feels right to also celebrate one of the most committed, dedicated and hard-working careers you are ever likely to see play out in BD8.

Abbott was a 19-year-old, wet behind the ears teenager when he left hometown club Coventry to try and crack the professional game. He settled in Bradford in 1982, and wouldn’t leave until almost a decade later, having played a part in some of the club’s most successful – and devastating – moments.

Despite signing in the summer of 1982, it would be a full eight months before Abbott made his Bradford City debut, earning Heritage Number 727 when he featured in the 3-1 defeat to Plymouth Argyle.

Abbott was in and out of the team for the remainder of the 1982-83 campaign, before becoming a more permanent fixture the following season, making 32 appearances in all competitions – most crucially in a variety of different positions. Throughout the season, Abbott appeared at right-back, right-wing and even from the bench as his utility became a crucial part of Trevor Cherry’s early success.

And when Cherry’s side stormed to the Division Three title in 1984-85, Abbott was at the heart of it. He missed only four games all season, and was present in his now-familiar position of right-back on the club’s darkest hour on May 11, 1985.

Abbott’s consistency and versatility was just as important in Division Two; with City playing home games on the road, Abbott this time missed only three games in 1985-86 as City consolidated themselves in the Second Division, with a 13th-placed finish.

Though he spent a lot of time in defence during his 300-plus game career for the Bantams, Abbott was always reliable for a goal too. In fact, Greg is 29th on the club’s all-time leading scorers list with 48 goals: which wasn’t bad for a utility player!

And as City built to a club that moved to the brink of the First Division in the late-1980s, Abbott was still very much part of the furniture at Valley Parade. Greats of that era such as Stuart McCall, John Hendrie and more had moved on to try their hand elsewhere: Abbott remained loyal to the cause, and stuck with City until after the turn of the decade.

Though City had been relegated back to Division Three by that time, Abbott was still influential in his final season with the club, making 34 appearances as the Bantams finished 8th.

That summer however, Abbott reportedly fell out with then-manager John Docherty, just one season short of qualifying for a Bradford City testimonial. Few players have deserved one as much as Abbott did given what he helped Bradford City achieve. He left City in the summer of 1991 having totalled 281 league appearances for the Bantams; for context, only 17 players of the 1200+ that have made a senior appearance for City have made more.

Whatever has happened in the last two years, Greg Abbott will always be a bonafide Bradford City legend. The numbers speak volumes themselves – and that is before you consider the way with which Greg Abbott took the city and its football club to his heart. All the best with whatever comes next Greg, and thanks for the memories in claret and amber. You’re one of our greats – and you’re forever an honorary Bradfordian.

Stephen Darby: The unassuming hero who helped restore the pride in Bradford City

“If you had 11 Stephen Darby’s wearing claret and amber every week, you wouldn’t go far wrong.”

July 2012. Bradford City is, by the admission of most fans, a pretty bleak place.

Phil Parkinson has helped guide City to Football League survival months earlier, and set on rebuilding the club’s fortunes, oversees a massive overhaul which includes the addition of respectable Football League veterans such as Gary Jones and Garry Thompson.

As we know, every player signed that summer would go on to etch their name in Bradford City’s history – and while the 2012/13 campaign may be instantly remembered for Nahki Wells’ glut of goals, James Hanson’s knack of scoring at exactly the right time or the leadership heroics of Jones, you suspect it would have all been impossible without players like Stephen Darby.

Awarded Heritage Number #1134 following his debut against Notts County on 11 August 2012, Darby would quickly establish himself as not only a mainstay of the side which created history under Parkinson, but one of the most popular full-backs ever to wear claret and amber.

Reliable, comfortable on the ball and never shirking of his responsibilities in defence, Darby quickly became arguably one of the more underrated players of the history makers. It’s hard to imagine any of that great side being replaced by someone else for a fixed period: but a City back-four under Parkinson without Darby? The mind boggles at that particular thought.

Darby’s numbers and stats are hugely impressive. In five seasons with Bradford City, he became part of a group containing fewer than 50 men to make 200 league appearances for our club. That’s a group that greats such as Terry Dolan and John Hendrie couldn’t make it into. Darby’s partners in crime in the back-four, Rory McArdle and James Meredith, also fell short.

That number of appearances is in no small part down to an astonishing run of games in the final three seasons under Parkinson –  when between August 2013 and May 2016, Darby missed just ONE league game: a 2-2 draw at Bristol City in October 2014.

There was only one goal – but how it was a special one. City needed something in extra-time against Burton Albion in that legendary League Cup campaign; Darby’s rasping 20-yarder put City on their way to a last 16 tie with Wigan. We all know what happened next.

When Gary Jones left in the summer of 2014, there was only ever one man likely to take the armband. The man who epitomised the characteristics required to lead Bradford City into battle every single weekend.

But for all the heroics on the field, what Stephen Darby truly holds a place in the heart of City fans for is how he helped piece back together the rubble of a relationship between the club, the city and the fans. When Parkinson joined, followed by players like Darby, City were a mess on the field and off it.

Yet every single May, Darby, Parkinson and the squad would be in attendance at the fire memorial to pay their respects to those who were impacted by Bradford City’s darkest day. To them, it wasn’t a chore or something they had to do – it was something they wanted to do. And the fans understood that, and will never forget it.

We all remember the banners and mottos expertly put together by the then PR team during those heady days, and it was players like Darby that represented a core part of the Bantams family. Nothing sums his relationship with City and the supporters up better than when, after beating Chelsea 4-2 – a game he captained City to victory in – he joined a minibus of fans to lead a chorus of ‘Everywhere We Go’.

It was moments like this which, in essence, made fans believe Bradford City was worth investing their emotions in again. Parkinson drove those standards from the top and spoke openly and affectionately about the relationship between club and fan, but the players helped deliver his message emphatically. Darby was at the heart of that.

Sponsor events, media, fan group meetings.. Darby would never shy away from doing his bit off the field. The bond established between Bradford City and the people who adore the club helped City ride a wave through some of the most incredible moments you are ever likely to see. Players like Stephen Darby were identifiable to fans; they weren’t hiding away and simply turning up on a Saturday afternoon – they wanted to feel Bradford City. They wanted to understand what it means to all of us. And it’s that, above the games, the goal (!) and the cup runs which mean more than anything.

Darby’s achievements and accolades on the field, and the unforgettable nights he helped City fans experience, are likely to never be bettered again. Yet it’s what he helped to piece together off it which perhaps symbolises why he deserves his place among the club’s all-time greats.

Stephen, this club will never forget your incredible contribution to Bradford City, and how you and those legendary players went above and beyond to identify with supporters. We will be with you every step of the way. You will always be a Bantam – and a bloody great one, at that.

As our Twitter account said yesterday: 239 games, countless magical memories.. but truly only one Stephen Darby, baby.

#1134 – Stephen Darby
239 apps, 1 goal
2012-17