Category Archives: General Blog

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 Р 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

How many men have both played for and managed Bradford City?

David Hopkin’s recent appointment as the latest Bradford City head coach/manager added his name to an illustrious list.

While over 1,200 people have played for Bradford City, only 45 have been entrusted in the role of manager on a permanent basis, with Hopkin the latest. And Bradford City’s new manager is part of an exclusive club just 16 strong: men to have both played and managed the Bantams. Here is a closer look at that group, in chronological order.

Peter O’Rourke (#12)
Played: 1903-05
Managed: 1905-21; 1928-30

Peter O’Rourke played in Bradford City’s second-ever game, against Gainsborough in September 1903 – but he is more famous for his first spell as manager of the Bantams, which spanned an incredible 16 years: and included the legendary 1911 FA Cup victory.

John ‘Jack’ Milburn (#393)
Played: 1946-47
Managed: 1947-48

Cousin of the legendary Newcastle striker Jackie Milburn, John ‘Jack’ Milburn’s playing career ended with the Bantams – but not before he became City’s first-ever player-managed in 1947. He stepped down a year later to be replaced by David Steele.

Ivor Powell (#469)
Played: 1952-54
Managed: 1952-55

Powell was also player-manager after arriving from Port Vale, before continuing to manage City after a knee injury ended his playing days in 1954. He left a year later, in 1955.

Bill Harris (#593)
Played: 1965-66
Managed: 1965-66

Welsh international Harris was City’s third player-manager, after joining the Bantams from Middlesbrough, where he had made almost 400 appearances for the club. Unfortunately, Harris was in charge during one of the lowest period’s in the club’s history, where they twice had to reapply for election to the league in four years.

John Napier (#670)
Played: 1976-78
Managed: 1978

Napier was City’s first Irish-born manager, though having made over 100 appearances in an earlier spell with City, his short time as manager was more testing. City were relegated to Division Four in 1978 under Napier’s management, and he resigned thereafter.

Roy McFarland (#719)
Played: 1981-82
Managed: 1981-82

A cornerstone of Brian Clough’s legendary Derby side, McFarland arrived at City in 1981 with many of the traits inevitably learned during his time with Clough. He was an instant hit as player-manager, and City were promoted to Division Three in first season in charge before he was controversially lured back to Derby – which resulted in the Rams paying City compensation.

Trevor Cherry (#725)
Played: 1982-85
Managed: 1982-87

Cherry succeeded McFarland as a time where the Bantams were about to endure serious financial difficulties – but he steered the club through those testing times as player-manager before leading them to the Division Three title in 1985. He and Terry Dolan kept the club going commendably during their time away following the fire, before Cherry was surprisingly dismissed in 1987.

Terry Dolan (#687)
Played: 1976-81
Managed: 1987-89

Bradfordian Dolan succeeded Cherry upon his sacking, after a 5-1 thumping of Oldham in the FA Cup helped him land the job full-time. He led the club away from relegation worries in Division Two but in his first full season, came desperately close to promotion, as City finished fourth and narrowly missed out on promotion to Division One for the first time in over 60 years. He left in January 1989.

Terry Yorath (#726)
Played: 1982-85
Managed: 1989-90

Welsh international Yorath joined City in 1982 as a player/assistant-coach, but made only a handful of appearances before taking the manager’s job at Swansea in 1986. However, three years later he was back at the Bantams, this time as manager – but he lasted only a year in charge, despite being also manager of Wales at the time.

Frank Stapleton (#800)
Played: 1991-94
Managed: 1991-94

Republic of Ireland international and former Manchester United great Stapleton arrived from across West Yorkshire in 1991, joining as player-manager from Huddersfield Town. This was a testing period for City, having been relegated to Division Three, but Stapleton solidified City before he was sacked in 1994.

Chris Kamara (#829)
Played: 1994-95
Managed: 1995-98

City were in a relegation scrap in the newly-renamed Division Two when Chris Kamara was promoted to succeed Lennie Lawrence. They would finish that season a Division One side – a position they would secure the following season after that final day victory over QPR. Eventually, he and chairman Geoffrey Richmond parted company – but not before Kamara recommended his own assistant to replace him.

Paul Jewell (#768)
Played: 1988-98
Managed: 1998-2000

Few men have a prouder place in City’s history than Jewell. He succeeded Kamara in January 1998 and led City to a respectable 13th-placed finish in Division One that year. However, armed with several big signings the following season, Jewell shook off a poor start to lead City into the Premier League for the first time – City’s first taste of top-flight football for 77 years. He kept them up, too – but left in the summer of 2000 following a fallout with Richmond.

Stuart McCall (#722)
Played: 1982-88; 1998-2002
Managed: 2007-10, 2016-18

Bradford City’s favourite son. McCall has seen City at their heartbreaking, tragic worst, and their absolute highest as a player – before being lured back as manager to try and get them out of League Two in 2007. He ultimately failed with that task, but returned when the club were taken over by Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp in the summer of 2016. It was a popular appointment, and McCall came within one game of restoring City’s Championship status in 2017, before eventually leaving at the start of the following year.

Peter Jackson (#706)
Played: 1979-86; 1988-90
Managed: 2011

Captain of Bradford City in their darkest hour, Jackson remains one of the club’s greatest-ever players – so it was no surprise that his appointment as manager in 2011 was seen as a good move by the club’s owners. He became interim manager following the sacking of Peter Taylor and did enough of a job to land the gig full-time that summer – but he resigned just weeks into the season, being succeeded by Phil Parkinson.

Simon Grayson (#939)
Played: 2002
Managed: 2018

Grayson arrived on a short-term loan deal from Blackburn in 2002 as City were still reeling from relegation out of the Premier League. He made only seven appearances and didn’t return for 16 years, before he was unveiled as Stuart McCall’s successor on a short-term deal in February 2018. He left that summer.

The Michael Collins reign: In Numbers

Michael Collins’ time as Bradford City head coach came to an end on Monday evening when he parted company with the club.

The 44th man entrusted with managing the Bantams on a permanent basis, Collins took charge of City for just six league games, plus the League Cup defeat to Macclesfield Town last month.

Comparison of Collins’ Reign in Games Played

Unfortunately, it will come as no surprise to learn that no permanent manager of the football club has taken charge for fewer games than Collins with the exception of wartime football.

The only manager to have been in charge for fewer competitive games was Robert Sharp, City’s manager during the latter years of the Second World War. As such, Sharp was unable to manage City in the league, because the league had been suspended due to the War.

Outside of that, it is interesting to note that the shortest permanent reign in charge of City was Collins predecessor, Simon Grayson. Grayson took charge in just 14 games – though it could be argued that Peter Jackson’s resignation in the early weeks of the 2011-12 season usurps that. However, given that Jackson’s interim reign was made permanent, this website counts his entire 19-game reign as one stint.

There were other shorter reigns, such as Ray Wilson’s 10-game reign in charge in 1970, as well as Jim McAnearney and Tom Hallett’s spell of 12 games following the tragic death of Grenville Hair in 1968. They, however, were caretaker/interim reigns.

Shortest Managerial Records in Games
Michael Collins (2018): 7 games
Simon Grayson (2018): 14 games
Albert Harris (1952): 17 games
Peter Jackson (2011): 19 games
Chris Hutchins (2000): 21 games

Comparison of Collins’ Reign in Days in Charge

Michael Collins was in charge of Bradford City from June 18th to September 3rd, a total of 78 days. While his reign is inevitably one of the shorter ones in terms of games in charge and is still the shortest in terms of time too, it is not by an incredible distance.

Again, Simon Grayson’s time in charge of City just prior to Collins is the second-shortest – with Albert Harris’ 1952 stint in charge also coming in at under 100 days. The great Peter Jackson’s 2011 reign again includes his initial period as a caretaker before that was made permanent.

Michael Collins (2018): 78 days
Simon Grayson (2018): 87 days
Albert Harris (1952): 90 days
Chris Hutchins (2000): 141 days
Peter Jackson: (2011): 180 days

Collins’ Win Percentage

While clearly a much smaller sample, Michael Collins leaves Bradford City with two wins from his seven games in charge, a win percentage of 28.5%.

That is higher than the reigns of the following permanent managers:

Peter Jackson (2011): 21%
Simon Grayson (2018): 21.4%
Colin Veitch (1926-28): 21.5%
Terry Yorath (1989-90): 22.8%
Bryan Robson (2003-04): 25%
Nicky Law (2002-03): 26.4%
Jim Jeffries (2000-01): 28.3%
David Menzies (1921-26): 28.4%

How many players have scored on their City debut?

A debut goal is an incredibly special moment – and while some of the greatest players in City’s history have achieved that particular feat, some of the more unheralded – and dare we say, forgotten – players of the past have managed to do it, too.

In all, at the time of writing, 96 players have scored on their official, competitive Bradford City debut – the most recent of which is Luca Colville during the League Cup game with Macclesfield Town in 14/8/2018.

You can see a full list by going to the official Heritage Number document and sorting the list’s notes column – but here is a closer look at some of the more famous ones who’ve done it – as well as those who have scored more than once on debut, too.

Players to have scored a hat-trick on debut:
Trevor Edmunds (#253) – City 11-1 Roherham United (25/8/1928)
Cornelius White (#254) – City 11-1 Roherham United (25/8/1928)
Fred Bedford (#259) City 8-2 Ashington (13/10/1928)

Amazingly, the three players who scored hat-tricks on their Bradford debut all did so in the same season! It came all the way back in 1928-29, when City won Division Three (North) for the one and only time. Two of those hat-tricks came in the same game; the opening match of that season, as City registered what is still their record victory, beating Rotherham United 11-1. Trevor Edmunds and Cornelius White both scored three times.

Then, less than two months later, Fred Bedford did exactly the same on his first appearance in claret and amber, when City beat Washington 8-2. It was a season not short on records; later that year, Albert Whitehurst became the first – and only – City player in history to score seven times in one game, as the Bantams beat Tranmere 8-0.

Players to have scored twice on debut:
Albert Whitehurst (#264) – City 4-3 Lincoln City (16/2/1929)
Reuben Woolhouse (#278) – City 3-2 Charlton Athletic (30/8/1930)
William Cooper (#385) – City 2-1 New Brighton (9/9/1946)
John Neilson (#407) – City 3-1 Hartlepool United (25/10/1947)
Alan Hampson (#512) – City 4-3 Mansfield Town (12/9/1956)

Incredibly, while five players have scored twice on their official City debut, nobody has achieved the feat for over 60 years now.

The aforementioned Albert Whitehurst, who has a special place in City history with another goal-scoring feat, did start his time in claret and amber with a two-gaol performance against Lincoln in February 1929. He would finish that season with 24 goals in 15 appearances, a remarkable number.

Reuben Woolhouse followed just over a year later, but it wasn’t until after the Second World War someone would do it again. And peculiarly, the next two men to achieve it – William Cooper in 1946 and John Neilson the following year – made only 13 league appearances for City between them (seven and six respectively).

Alan Hampson was the final man to score twice on his debut in City’s 4-3 win over Mansfield in 1956 – but nobody has done it since.

Notable players to have scored on their City debut
John Hallows (#280) – 22/11/1930 v Burnley
Sean McCarthy (#789) – 25/8/1990 v Tranmere Rovers
Des Hamilton (#826) – 3/5/1994 v Barnet
Stan Collymore (#925) – 29/10/2000 v Leeds United
Eoin Jess (#928) – 1/1/2001 v Leicester City
Danny Cadamarteri (#940) – 23/2/2002 v Gillingham
Charlie Wyke (#1221) – 4/2/2017 v Gillingham

All-time leading appearance makers and goal scorers

Most League Appearances for Bradford City (300+)
1. Ces Podd – 502
2. Ian Cooper – 443
3. John Hall – 430
4. Bruce Stowell – 401
5. Stuart McCall – 395
6. George Robinson – 343
7. Charles Moore – 339
8. Peter A Jackson – 336
9. Billy Watson – 330
10. Wayne Jacobs – 318
11. Gavin Oliver – 313
12. David Wetherall – 304
13. Richard Bond – 301

Most Goals in All Competitions for Bradford City (Top 10)
1. Bobby Campbell – 137
2. Frank O’Rourke – 93
3. James Hanson – 90
4. Dean Windass – 86
5= Joe Cooke – 79
5= John Hallows – 79
7. Sean McCarthy – 78
8= John Hall – 72
8= Richard Bond – 72
10. Bobby Ham – 70

Most League Goals for Bradford City (Top 10)
1. Bobby Campbell – 121
2. Frank O’Rourke – 88
3. James Hanson – 78
4. Dean Windass – 75
5. John Hallows – 74
6. Joe Cooke – 68
7= Bobby Ham – 64
7= David McNiven – 64
9. John Hall – 63
10. David Jackson – 61