Category Archives: General Blog

David Bairstow: The Bradfordian Test match cricketer with a Bantams past

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.

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.

Bantams Cult Heroes: #2 – Nigel Pepper

“He is an absolute steal at £100,000.”

The words of then-Bradford City manager Chris Kamara when, on 28th February 1997, the Bantams shelled out a six-figure transfer fee to bring a midfielder by the name of Colin Nigel Pepper to Valley Parade from Second Division side York City.

Pepper, who was more commonly known simply as Nigel, had become somewhat of a cult hero at York, making almost 300 appearances for the Minstermen. Little did Kamara know just how prophetic that statement about Pepper’s value would prove to be.

As Mike Scott says on Twitter – he was arguably Kamara’s most decisive signing as manager of Bradford City:

Pepper made his City debut two days later on March 1st, earning Heritage Number #878 as the Bantams lost 3-1 at Manchester City, but he quickly established himself as a pivotal part of Kamara’s side that, at that time, were fighting desperately to survive in the First Division. His debut is still remembered well by some City fans!

Signed for his goal-scoring exploits from midfield, it didn’t take Pepper long to open his account: scoring the winner, a thumping free-kick against Wolves in a 2-1 victory on March 22nd, a memory many of you still have vivid memories of:

It wouldn’t be the last time Pepper scored a crucial goal for Bradford City. He played all-but two of the run-in which ultimately led to survival, scoring another winner against Stoke on 31st March before establishing himself as one of City’s modern-day cult heroes in the final week of the season.

Kamara’s men were in deep, deep trouble at the foot of the First Division going into the final two games, both at home to Charlton and QPR. Realistically, only two wins would guarantee survival. City needed a hero; Pepper stepped up.

The goal Pepper will forever be remembered for in a claret and amber shirt was the thunderous (understatement!) free-kick in the 3-0 win against QPR on the final day – but his most crucial contribution arguably came three days earlier.

The night of 1st May, 1997 is perhaps most memorable in the UK for the General Election that resulted in a landslide victory for Labour and Tony Blair. For City fans, it wasn’t so much New Labour; it was New Bradford City, as Pepper scored a magnificent header to secure a 1-0 win over Charlton and keep City’s survival hopes alive.

Pepper wasn’t done. City ultimately stayed up with few nerves on the final day, hammering QPR 3-0 thanks largely to the marauding midfielder, who scored that free-kick that would have almost certainly caused a major incident in The Kop had there not been a net there to prevent it from travelling 100mph into the crowd!

Pepper’s four goals for City were ultimately worth six points for Kamara’s side. City stayed up by only two at the expense of Grimsby. Cult hero? That’s somewhat of an understatement. You could argue that without Pepper, there would have been no promotion campaign of 1998-99, no Premier League years and no special games against the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea (and, of course, no administration, but that’s not Pepper’s fault).

Pepper played 35 times the following season as City finished a much-more respectable 13th in the First Division in 1997-98. By the promotion season of 1998-99, he had fallen down the pecking order under Paul Jewell: but he still signed off with a goal on his final start for City, during a 3-0 win against Swindon. He then left for Aberdeen for £300,000; which is fair profit for a player who delivered so much on the field, too.

Kamara was right. Pepper was an absolute steal – and he’s rightly-regarded as one of our all-time cult heroes. The final word shouldn’t go to us here though.. it should go to the man himself:

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.

1910-11

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.

1926-27
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).

1948-49
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.

1964-65
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.

1965-66
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.