Brian Close: the cricketing legend who played for Bradford City

Over the course of Bradford City’s rich and illustrious history, many famous names have worn the claret and amber shirt.

Most, if not all, of those have made their name in professional football and become household names in that sport: but over 60 years ago, one of Britain’s – and Yorkshire’s – most revered and respected sportsmen switched professions and had a short-lived spell as a Bradford City player.

Cricketers playing professional football is not completely unique; as most people will know from Ian Botham’s infamous stints at Yeovil and Scunthorpe United in the 1970s and 80s. 30 years earlier, however, Bradford City had their own cricketing legend on the books for a brief period.

Look through our heritage numbers, and you may not see the name Brian Close. That’s because his actual first name was Dennis. By the time the 1952-53 season had begun, Close had already made his Test debut for England and had established himself as a pivotal part of the Yorkshire side – so much so, that legend has it former Bradford MP Maurice Webb championed the case for Close to finish the domestic season with Yorkshire before commencing his National Service.

Close had already dabbled into professional football without success, actually signing for Arsenal in 1950 and became a prominent member of their A team. Close didn’t play at all during the 1950-51 season; he was also serving in the Royal Signals until September 1951.

And his time with Arsenal didn’t play out as expected; Close was reportedly given permission to leave a Yorkshire game early by his captain, Norman Yardley, to play for Arsenal. That decision was later overturned, meaning when Close arrived late for a reserves game against Fulham in April that year, he was unable to take his place on the field. Just days after that, he was informed he would not be retained by the Gunners.

Unperturbed by that, Close earned himself a chance at professional football much closer to his Rawdon roots: signing for the Bantams after the conclusion of the 1952 domestic cricket season, making his City debut on November 1, 1952 against Tranmere Rovers.

Playing centre-forward, Close scored on his next appearance for City in a 2-1 win over Chesterfield a week later – and he would go on to make six appearances for the Bantams in Division Three (North) that season, scoring on two occasions: his other goal in the league coming against Halifax Town on November 29 in a 1-1 draw.

Close was arguably more influential in City’s FA Cup campaign of that season, scoring three times in three appearances. Close scored twice in the 4-0 victory over Rhyl Athletic (now simply known as Rhyl FC) in the first round, before netting again in the second round, when City drew 1-1 with Ipswich at Valley Parade.

Close played in the replay, but City were hammered 5-1 in what was one of Close’s final appearances for the Bantams. He featured against Oldham and Port Vale following that defeat, but it was in that game against Vale when he suffered a serious knee injury which could have been even more damaging than it actually proved to be.

Ultimately, it ended not only Close’s time with City, but his professional football career altogether, Close unable to recover from that and resume his football career.

It even severely limited the amount of cricket he was able to play in the 1953 domestic season too – featuring only twice for Yorkshire throughout that entire campaign.

Thankfully, Close was able to return to cricket at the highest level on a permanent basis – winning back his place in the England Test side and remaining an integral part of Yorkshire’s successes throughout the 1950s, which included the County Championship triumph of 1959. Close then went on to captain the White Rose throughout a period of incredible success, captaining them to another four Championship titles.

He eventually moved onto Somerset, where he is still regarded in cricket for helping to develop a young Botham into the success he became – although quite whether he had an impact on his footballing career after his own time with City is not completely clear!

What is clear though, is that one of the most successful and respected sportsmen of his generation – and one of the finest stars Yorkshire has ever produced – had the distinction of representing Bradford City FC: even if it was for slightly less time than he would have liked.

Close remained in and around cricket for years after retirement. He passed away in 2015.

Heritage No. 474: Dennis Brian Close
Debut: 1/11/1952 v Tranmere
Apps in All Comps: 9 – Goals in All Comps: 5
League Apps: 6 – League Goals: 2
FA Cup Apps: 3 – FA Cup Goals: 3

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

Players to have scored in all four domestic competitions for Bradford City

With four competitions – the league, the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Football League Trophy (no sponsorship names at BantamsHeritage!) – a permanent fixture in City’s calendar for at least another season, we thought we’d take a look at those players who have achieved the feat of scoring in all four competitions for the club.

Naturally, that removes some of Bradford’s greatest-ever players from the list for a number of reasons; be that they never played in the Football League Trophy, or some competitions weren’t invented until after they had finished representing the club.

As the newest of the four competitions, the Football League Trophy records was the ideal, and indeed easiest, place to look. 32 players have scored for City in that particular competition – but only seven have them have scored in the other three competitions. Fittingly, two of the club’s greatest-ever goal-scorers are in this exclusive club – listed in heritage number order, naturally:

Paul Jewell (#756)
56 league goals, 3 FA Cup goals, 5 League Cup goals, 1 Football League Trophy goal.
Brian Tinnion (#763)
22 league goals, 3 FA Cup goals, 2 League Cup goals, 2 Football League Trophy goals.
Sean McCarthy (#777)
60 league goals, 2 FA Cup goals, 9 League Cup goals, 7 Football League Trophy goals.
James Hanson (#1053)
78 league goals, 6 FA Cup goals, 5 League Cup goals, 1 Football League Trophy goal.
Kyel Reid (#1107)
13 league goals, 2 FA Cup goals, 1 League Cup goal, 1 Football League Trophy goal.
Billy Knott (#1157)
3 league goals, 3 FA Cup goals, 1 League Cup goal, 1 Football League Trophy goal.
Alex Jones (#1207)
5 league goals, 1 FA Cup goal, 1 League Cup goal, 3 Football League Trophy goals.

It’s arguably Knott and Jones’ record of being two of only seven players to have scored for Bradford in all four competitions which is most impressive – given Knott only scored eight goals for City in his time with the club and Jones (at the time of writing, has just ten).

Are there any interesting, quirky or alternative stats you want us to write about? Let us know, we’re always keen to hear from our readers! Tweet us @BantamsHeritage.

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

Series: Bantams Worldwide

Throughout the entire history of Bradford City – though, admittedly, more often in recent generations – players from a number of different cultures, countries and backgrounds have played for the club.

This series is dedicated to those players – the ones from outside the United Kingdom and Ireland who have donned the famous claret and amber shirt. These could be players born in the UK who have subsequently represented a different country – or players born all over the world.

Africa: From Burundi to Zimbabwe
Australia and New Zealand
The Caribbean Central Europe
France and Belgium
The Netherlands
Southern Europe

A unique insight into the history of professional football