Category Archives: General Blog

City record best defensive start to a season for 35 years: since the title-winners of 1984-85

24 games into the 2019-20 League Two season, and City’s record of just 19 goals conceded is certainly impressive: and that is before you compare it to the club’s recent history in that regard.

Gary Bowyer’s side are already into double figures in regards to clean sheets, and you have to go back into the mid-1980s to find a season that, at the 24-game stage, is better than the class of 2019-20.

In fact, as fate would perhaps have it, it is the last squad that managed to secure a league title who were better defensively: Trevor Cherry’s 1984-85 title-winners, who were promoted from Division Three 35 years ago.

They shipped just 18 goals in their first 24 games on the way to finishing top of the table, just one better than Bowyer’s side have currently posted defensively.

The only other squad to have come close to that since 1984-85 is the class of 2016-17, who conceded 20 in their first 24. That season ended with City making the play-off final, and while defensive resilience at this stage of a season is by no means a guarantee to success, the history books suggest that it certainly could go a long way to determining a high finish in the league.

Bradford City in the 2010s: a decade by the numbers

The 2010s, for Bradford City at least, are now at a close. Saturday’s victory against Mansfield Town was the final game for the Bantams in the decade, with the 2020s beginning against Morecambe on New Year’s Day. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of City statistically throughout the decade that has drawn to a conclusion.

Games Played

City played 469 league games (including play-offs) during the 2010s, starting with the 1-1 draw against Cheltenham Town on January 2nd, 2010: and finishing with that aforementioned game against Mansfield.

The Bantams won 171 of those, drawing 129 and losing 169. That is a win percentage of 36.46%; narrowly over one win in every three games played.

Record Scores

City’s biggest win throughout the 2010s in league football came right back at the start of the decade: on October 30th, 2010. City beat Oxford United 5-0 courtesy of goals from Lee Hendrie, Louis Moult, Dave Syers and a brace from Omar Daley. There have been numerous victories by four goals – both 4-0 and 5-1 – but only one such instance of a five-goal win.

City’s biggest defeat of the decade was bigger than five goals, though – when Bristol City came to Valley Parade in April 2015 and won 6-0. There have also been instances of City losing games by five goals in the decade too; including against Blackpool in April 2018.

Record Appearances

Perhaps unsurprisingly, striker James Hanson holds the record for most appearances made by a City player in league football throughout the 2010s. Hanson played 286 times for City in total, but just 20 of those came in the latter part of 2009, giving him a total of 266 in the 2010s. Stephen Darby is the next highest; the legendary right-back played 200 times in league football for City during the decade.

Record Goals

Hanson also holds the records for most goals in the decade, too. He scored 91 times in all competitions for the Bantams; 83 of them came from January 1st, 2010 onwards. His other eight were in the first half of the 2009-10 season. Hanson’s former strike partner Nahki Wells is next-highest; he scored 53 Bradford City goals during the decade.

Best and Worst Seasons

City’s worst return points-wise throughout the decade came as recently as last season, when a total of 41 points meant the Bantams finished bottom of League One and were relegated to League Two. Excluding the two Premier League seasons, that was the joint-lowest return since 1989-90.

Our best points tally came in 2015-16, when Phil Parkinson’s side finished 5th in League One with a total of 80 points.

Team of the Decade: the Central-Midfielders (vote two)

#1173: Gary Liddle
City appearances: 76
City goals: 4

Gary Liddle was one of several players signed by Phil Parkinson in the summer of 2014 to boost the club’s depth in midfield, following the departure of the likes of Gary Jones after consolidating the club’s position in League One.

Liddle had carved out a reputation as a fine lower-league midfielder, and during his time at Valley Parade, he proved to be a shrewd addition. He played a crucial part in the run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 2014-15, and gave many of his fellow midfielders licence to roam forward, thanks to his defensive displays.

#1172: Billy Knott
City appearances: 79
City goals: 8

Billy Knott made his Bradford City debut on the same day as Gary Liddle, as the former Chelsea youngster quickly found his feet in claret and amber. A hugely-talented junior with the Londoners, Knott became a firm fan favourite during his time at City.

That was in no small part due to the goal he scored against Leeds just weeks into his City career, a wonderful long-range effort in front of the Kop that helped the Bantams on their way to a 2-1 win. Knott was just as important in front of goal in the FA Cup run of that season, too.

He scored twice in the 3-3 draw away at Millwall, before notching another one of the goals in the 4-0 replay victory at Valley Parade. Knott played in every single game of the run to the quarter-finals, and was just as impressive in league football, too.

#1007: Nathan Doyle
City appearances: 127
City goals: 2

Nathan Doyle had already enjoyed a short spell with Bradford City in 2006, before returning to the club in the summer of 2012. He would form a magnificent, all-action midfield pairing with Gary Jones that not only inspired City to promotion, but to an unforgettable run to the League Cup final, too.

Doyle’s presence in midfield was just as important in 2013-14, as City consolidated themselves in League One. Though he wasn’t quite as prolific in front of goal as some of the other midfielders that have represented City this decade, his defensive presence was part of the backbone of City’s success under Phil Parkinson.

#1203: Josh Cullen
City appearances: 63
City goals: 1

Loan players are always a gamble – Bradford City’s record alone with them proves that. But few have been as successful or popular as West Ham youngster Josh Cullen. He spent two seasons with City, which coincided with the club coming desperately close to promotion to the Championship under Stuart McCall.

Cullen’s passing, vision and his energy were all reasons why he became such a fond favourite with City fans during his time with the club, and it is perhaps no surprise to see him going on to become a permanent presence in the Championship to this day.

Team of the Decade: the Central Midfielders (vote one)

#1210: Timothee Dieng
City appearances: 78
City goals: 6

One of Stuart McCall’s first signings in his second spell as Bradford City manager, French midfielder Tim Dieng was one of the key components of a side that came desperately close to promotion to the Championship in the 2016-17 season.

The powerful midfielder made an impressive 48 appearances during his first season with the club, chipping in with crucial goals along the way to help City to a fifth-placed finish, before the Bantams came unstuck against Millwall in the League One play-off final.

Injuries, however, limited his appearances the following season. He made just three starts before Christmas in the 2017-18 season, though he did force his way back into the side in the latter months of the season, before leaving the club that summer to join Southend.

#1138: Gary Jones
City appearances: 100
City goals: 8

Few, if any, players have left as big a legacy at Valley Parade after just two seasons with the club than Gary Jones. A low-key arrival from Rochdale in the summer of 2012, Jones was immediately handed the captain’s armband by Phil Parkinson: and became one of the most popular skippers the club has ever seen.

He became only the second man to lead Bradford City out in a major cup final: and first to do so at Wembley, after helping guide the club to the 2013 League Cup final, which ended in defeat with Swansea. Jones’ Bantams then returned to the national stadium three months later, securing promotion against Northampton.

Jones was just as important to Parkinson’s side as they adapted to life back in League One. His passion and pride in the badge is arguably what made him so popular with supporters: but he also had a knack of popping up with crucial goals, too. At the end of the 2013-14 season, his contract wasn’t renewed: but he remains a popular figure whenever he returns to Valley Parade.

#1067: Michael Flynn
City appearances: 104
City goals: 14

Few players emerged from the turbulent years pre-Phil Parkinson with more credit than Michael Flynn. The current Newport County manager is seen by many supporters as a future Bantams manager, in part due to how popular he was throughout his spell at Valley Parade.

Flynn captained City on numerous occasions, and was a lynchpin of the side throughout a difficult, transitional period in the club’s modern-day history leading up to Parkinson’s arrival in August 2011.

Even when Parkinson arrived, he remained in the side, but the summer of 2012 brought about huge change at City, and Flynn was one of several players who left the club. He made over 100 appearances for the Bantams, scoring eight times.

The best-performing managers in Bradford City history

45 men have held the distinction of managing Bradford City in competitive football on a permanent basis. A small handful of those – namely Peter O’Rourke and Stuart McCall – have done so on more than one occasion, while others have enjoyed vastly-contrasting reigns in the Valley Parade dugout.

That is underlined by the win percentage ratios of all the 45 men that have held the job; from Robert Campbell in 1903 through to Gary Bowyer in the present day. Here, in reverse order, are the five best-performing managers in the Valley Parade dugout.

5. George Mulhall (November 1978-March 1981)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 124 Won: 52 Drew: 33 Lost: 39
Win Percentage: 41.94%

Former Halifax Town manager George Mulhall’s time in charge of Bradford City ultimately didn’t end with promotion: that came via his successor in the post, Roy McFarland. But the work Mulhall did during his time in charge at Valley Parade certainly laid the groundwork for the era of Bantam Progressivism.

Mulhall was the man who signed Bobby Campbell from Halifax, transforming him from an erratic striker into a goal-scoring legend in claret and amber. Peter Jackson was also blooded under Mulhall’s stewardship, and would go on to captain the club to promotion just a few years later. Les Chapman was another fine piece of business from Mulhall, and though he left the Valley Parade dugout in March 1981, he had laid the groundwork for what would follow across the 1980s.

4. Jack Barker (May 1946-January 1947)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 23 Won: 10 Drew: 6 Lost: 7
Win Percentage: 43.48%

Jack Barker did not have a long stint at Bradford City, but the first man to lead City in competitive football post-World War Two did bring some short-term success to the club.

At the time of his resignation in January 1947, Barker was the shortest-reigning manager in Bradford City history: yet the fact he is still fourth-highest successful in terms of win percentage makes his decision to leave all the more perplexing.

=2. Fred Westgarth (March 1938-July 1943)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 60 Won: 30 Drew: 13 Lost: 17
Win Percentage: 50%

World War Two ultimately deprived Bradford City fans of the opportunity to see how far Fred Westgarth could take the club. Westgarth stabilised the club after a turbulent 1930s, and even brought a piece of silverware to Valley Parade, too.

The 1938-39 Division Three North Challenge Cup remains the last trophy City won, some 80 years on from Westgarth leading the Paraders to success. He stayed with City for most of the war as City sides filled with guest players and temporary signings competed in the Wartime Leagues, but in 1943, he stunned the club’s board by announcing he was returning north to take the managerial post at Hartlepools United.

=2. Terry Dolan (January 1987-January 1989)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 76 Won: 38 Drew: 18 Lost: 20
Win Percentage: 50%

Under Terry Dolan, Bradford City came desperately close to reaching the promised land of Division One football after a wait of over 60 years. They fell just short of that goal, losing to Middlesbrough in the 1987-88 play-offs: but Dolan remains a popular figure at Valley Parade to this day.

He had a tough job taking over from the hugely-popular Trevor Cherry, but assembled an exciting side that were a joy to watch during his time in charge. The disappointment of losing in the play-offs in 1988 resulted in a number of big names leaving however, and Dolan left the following January. He still holds a mightily impressive win percentage of one win in two in all competitions, though.

1. Roy McFarland (May 1981-November 1982)
Record as Bradford City manager (all competitions)
Played: 82 Won: 46 Drew: 21 Lost: 15
Win Percentage: 56.10%

Roy McFarland’s Bradford City were one of the most popular sides in the club’s history – but the acrimonious departure of the manager 18 months after he took charge still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many supporters to this day.

City broke a number of records on their way to a 2nd-placed finish in Division Four that secured promotion. under McFarland during his first season in charge. McFarland even stabilised the club in Division Three during the early months of the 1982-83 season: before his former club Derby came calling in a hugely controversial episode.

McFarland and assistant Mick Jones stunned the board when they handed in their resignations in November 1982, and after a lengthy dispute, the Rams eventually had to shell lout a significant compensation package for the services of the City manager and his assistant. It was a highly-tempered end to a managerial reign that will always be overshadowed with controversy.