Bantams Heritage combine with Bradford City for historic first for British football

Bradford City and Bantams Heritage have joined forces to create an historic moment for British football: with the Bantams the first club to wear heritage numbers on their shirts from next season following approval from the EFL.

After several weeks of work behind the scenes, we’re very proud to be working with the club – who, driven by the excellent work and passion shown by communications director Ryan Sparks – have made great strides to re-connect the club with its proud history following a difficult 12 months for everyone associated with Bradford City.

Bantams Heritage launched the heritage numbers project last summer – which details every single player who has played a competitive game of football for Bradford City and awards them a unique heritage number, ensuring their place in the club’s history.

Those numbers will now be brought to life from the start of next season, after the club successfully applied to the EFL for permission for each player’s official heritage number – supplied by Bantams Heritage – to be printed underneath the club badge on any shirt they wear during a competitive game, as pictured below:

“It is a huge honour for this project to have been officially recognised by the EFL and, more importantly, the club,” Aaron Bower, the founder of Bantams Heritage, said.
“Connecting the present day Bradford City to the generations before us, who have followed the club’s journey through history, was the underlying reason behind creating the heritage numbers.
“Now every single City player past and present knows they forever have a place in our history. I am sure there will be family members of former City players out there who may not even know one of their descendants played for the club.

“Now they can see a link to that history through the heritage numbers. It’s particularly exciting to see the club express such a desire to make this happen – and become the first English club to have heritage numbers displayed on the shirts.”

It is a proud moment for Bantams Heritage, who are proud of our club’s history and believe all generations of City fans, both young and old, deserve to be reminded of our unique journey from 1903 to the present day.

All of our new signings this summer will be allocated their official heritage numbers whenever they make their debut for the club in a competitive fixture. The current, contracted, Bradford City first-team own the following heritage numbers:

#1204 – Daniel Devine 
#1227 – Shay McCartan
#1228 – Omari Patrick
#1230 – Jake Reeves
#1235 – Jordan Gibson
#1238 – Tyrell Robinson
#1242 – Reece Staunton
#1249 – Hope Akpan
#1250 – Eoin Doyle
#1251 – Kelvin Mellor
#1253 – Anthony O’Connor
#1254 – Richard O’Donnell
#1256 – Joe Riley
#1257 – Sean Scannell
#1259 – Josh Wright
#1262 – Connor Wood
#1267 – Eliot Goldthorp
#1268 – Raeece Ellington
Furthermore, the link with the club and the EFL is just one of several exciting projects lined up by Bantams Heritage to further illustrate what a magnificent history this club has: and how every single City supporter should be proud of it.

Players who crossed the Wool City Divide and switched between Bradford clubs

There is a familiar face across town at Bradford Park Avenue, following confirmation from our Wool City rivals this week that former City winger Garry Thompson will become the new player-manager of the non-league club.

Thompson will join a select group of players to have featured for both Bradford clubs at some stage throughout his playing career if and when he makes his Avenue debut next season – but an even smaller bracket of footballers have actually crossed the divide and transferred directly between the two clubs in the history of the professional game in the city. Here’s a look at all those players – starting with some of the most famous – with heritage numbers included.

#627: Bobby Ham
Left Avenue in 1968 to join City

Arguably the most famous footballer to cross the divide in the Wool City rivalry’s history. Ham had the unique honour of playing professionally for both Bradford clubs across several different spells throughout his career, but in 1968, at the conclusion of his second stint with Avenue, he crossed the divide to join City for a fee of £2,750.

He infamously became the first Bradfordian to finish a season as top-scorer for the Bantams, and ultimately scored on 70 occasions for City across his two spells with the club as a player, placing him 10th on the club’s all-time goalscoring list.

#627: Pat Liney
Left Avenue in 1967 to join City, then left City in 1972 to return to Avenue

Not only did Scottish goalkeeper Pat Liney transfer between the two Bradford clubs on one occasion, in 1967, but he did so again five years later: a unique feat in the Wool City rivalry’s history.

Liney initially made his name north of the border with Dundee and St Mirren, before transferring to Avenue in 1967, during their final years as a Football League club. Liney stayed with Avenue for two years after their exit from the league, before joining City in 1972 for £3,000.

After 166 appearances for City in all competitions across a five-year spell, the goalkeeper then returned to non-league football with Avenue.

#6: John Halliday
Left City in 1907 to manage – and play for – Avenue

Full-back John Halliday has a unique place in Bradford City’s history, having played in the club’s first-ever match in September 1903. Of the 11 players who played against Grimsby that day, only three would make more appearances for the Bantams than Halliday, who featured for the club 74 times.

However, at the age of 27, Halliday opted to cross the divide and take up the managerial post at Bradford Park Avenue. He actually played for them on a solitary occasion too – as a goalkeeper! Legend has it that regular goalkeeper Tom Baddersley failed to get to Avenue’s trip to Swindon on time, so Halliday filled in between the sticks. He left Avenue the following season to manage Brentford; something he would do on three separate occasions.

#687: Terry Dolan
Left City in 1969 to join Avenue

It is well-known to many that Terry Dolan played for – and had involvement off the field – with both Bradford clubs: but perhaps less fondly remembered that he crossed the Bradford divide as a teenager in the late-1960s.

Dolan had signed schoolboy terms with City, having excelled as a promising sportsman in his junior years. However, in 1968, Dolan opted to cross the city and join Avenue instead, who were in their final years as a Football League club by this point. Dolan left for Huddersfield when Avenue dropped out of the league in 1970, before returning to his first club in 1976: where he would enjoy great success as a player and a manager.

From Avenue to City

#294: Irvine Harwood: Left Avenue in 1932 to join City, #353: James Robertson: Left Avenue in 1938 to join City, #518: Geoff Hudson: Left Avenue in 1957 to join City

From City to Avenue

#338: John Gallon: Left City in 1938 to join Avenue, #349: John Padgett: Left City in 1938 to join Avenue, #420: Richard Conroy: Left City in 1953 to join Avenue, #586: Alan Rhodes: Left City in 1965 to join Avenue, #629: Tony Leighton: Left City in 1970 to manage Avenue, #638: Norman Corner: Left City in 1972 to join Avenue, #827: Wayne Benn: Left City in 1996 to join Avenue, #1012: Simon Ainge: Left City in 2009 to join Avenue.

How City’s attendance stats for the 2018-19 season stack up with history

It’s been a year to forget on the field for Bradford City, statistically – and in every other sense too – one of the worst in living memory.

But City’s average attendance throughout the course of what has been a disastrous campaign has held fairly strong. Yes, season ticket holders go a long way to contributing to that figure, but given how the club sold fewer than 14,000+ season tickets this season, one has to assume that a large portion of our average attendance comes from walk-up crowds – both at home and away.

Since City were last relegated to League Two in 2007 seems an appropriate, and somewhat ironic, period of time to use to work out where City’s attendances stand at the moment. Here is how City’s crowd stats stack up alongside our recent history.

The 2018-19 stats

  • City averaged an attendance of 16,140 across the season in the league – and the highest and lowest totals in that figure were little over a fortnight apart.
  • The highest crowd at Valley Parade was against Sunderland on October 6th, 2018. 19,487 were there.
  • The lowest: 11,075 against Coventry just 17 days after that Sunderland game.
  • It is also worth noting that City recorded the lowest-ever crowd for a professional game in the club’s history: when 902 attended the Football League Trophy match against Everton U21s. A closer look at City’s lowest-ever crowds can be seen by clicking here.

12-month comparison

That average figure of 16,140 is also a significant drop from the previous three seasons, when City consistently recorded average crowds above 18,000. In fact, the 2017-18 total was as high as 19,787: making this season’s figure a drop of 18.43%.

Comparison with recent history

While this season’s average is a drop on the more recent years, it is still significantly stronger than the majority of the crowds across the past decade.

If you go back just over a decade, to the 2007-08 season – City’s first in League Two – crowds were averaging just shy of 14,000. The longer City stayed in the fourth-tier, the lower the crowds went: with the average falling in every single one of the six seasons City remained in the bottom division of the Football League:

  • 12-13: 10,322,

  • 11-12: 10,608

  • 10-11: 11,128
  • 09-10: 11,453
  • 08-09: 12,704
  • 07-08: 13,735

That is no doubt a cautionary statistic to those in charge of the club now, as City prepare for a return to League Two this summer.

However, even while City’s first two seasons back in League One under Phil Parkinson saw crowds increase to around the 14,000 mark again, it is interesting to note that this season’s figures are still much higher, despite the poor form.

Have City Ever Survived With so Few Points at This Stage?

To suggest Gary Bowyer has inherited a difficult situation at Bradford City would be putting it mildly. With six games remaining in the 2018-19 season, it is not an exaggeration to suggest City’s hopes of League One survival are slim at best.

Realistically, a team who have won just ten games all season will now have to win at least four of the final six matches to stand any chance of staving off the drop to the bottom tier of the Football League yet again: but what does history tell us about City’s chances of doing that?

In truth, it is a fairly mixed outlook. Since the inception of the 46-game Football League season in 1950-51, Bradford City have only twice had fewer than 36 points at this stage in proceedings – 40 games played – if you apply the current three-points-per-win system across history.

One of those was this century – the ill-fated 2003-04 campaign which saw the Bantams, under the auspices of Bryan Robson, drop out of the Championship into League One. After 40 games, City had acquired a meagre 33 points – and the final six games brought about another five defeats and just one win, City being relegated with 36 points.

However, for those looking at the club’s history and hoping for a miracle escape, it has actually been achieved before. Applying today’s three-points-per-win system, in 1964-65, City had picked up just 32 points (9 wins, 5 draws) from the first 40 games, and were in real danger of having to apply for re-election to the Football League yet again, having been forced to do so two years earlier.

But William Harris’ Bantams won three of their final six – including the last two games – drawing the other three, going on a remarkable unbeaten run to eventually survive by just two points. In today’s system, it took City to safety with just 44 points. Naturally, more than that will be needed this season.

However, there are other seasons which underline how difficult a task this will be for Bowyer and City. In the three seasons in the 1960s when City did have to go cap in hand to the Football League and apply for re-election, they had more points at this stage than the current crop do. In 1960-61, City finished 22nd in League One, and from their first 40 games, had won 10 and drawn 12: 42 points in current money.

Two years later, City won 10 and drew 8 of the first 40, eventually finishing 23rd in Division Four. In 1965-66, City won 11 of their first 40 which, along with 9 draws, was far more than the current crop of players have managed. Yet they still finished 23rd in Division Four.

So in truth, it is a mixed verdict when weighing up City’s past in comparison to the current job at hand. Most people are deeming it impossible already – and they may be right – but there is at least one instance of a remarkable turnaround ensuring survival.

Richard O’Donnell eight games away from City goalkeeping history

It may not have been the debut season in terms of league performance that he would have hoped for, but Bradford City goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell is just eight games away from joining the club’s history books for the right reasons.

Over a hundred goalkeepers have represented Bradford City in competitive football: from Arthur Seymour in the club’s inaugural season of 1903-04 to O’Donnell in the present day – but only 11 of them have the distinction of featuring in every single game of a league season.

O’Donnell, having played in the first 38 games of the 2018-19 campaign, is now within touching distance of joining some of the most fondly-remembered goalkeepers in Bradford City history. Here, in chronological order, are the 11 men, O’Donnell is hoping to join as a league ever-present.

Arthur Seymour (1903-04): 34/34 games
Arthur Seymour was the first man to keep goal for Bradford City – a role he assumed for the entirety of the club’s inaugural league season in 1903-04 as City finished 10th in Division Two.

James McLaren (1923-24): 42/42 games
It would be 20 years until another goalkeeper became a league ever-present for City, with James McLaren playing in all 42 league games in 1923-24 under David Menzies’ management.

Walter Shirlaw (1928-29): 42 games
Walter Shirlaw had two spells with Bradford City, but at the start of his second period with the club, he featured in every league game as the Bantams stormed to the Division Three (North) title.

Matthew Middleton (1946-47): 42 games
Matthew Middleton was City’s next goalkeeping ever-present, featuring in every game of the first league campaign after the conclusion of World War Two.

Geoff Smith (1954-55): 46 games
Geoff Smith would play 200 league games in succession for Bradford City – the third-longest streak of anyone in the club’s history, and most for a goalkeeper. His first entire league season was 1954-55.

James Fisher (1963-64): 46 games
1963-64 was a rare season of success for City in what were a turbulent 1960s – with goalkeeper James Fisher one of three league ever-presents that season under Bob Brocklebank.

Peter Downsborough (1974-75): 46 games
The great Peter Downsborough made 225 appearances for Bradford City in all competitions; 46 of them were in the 1974-75 campaign, when he didn’t miss a single fixture.

Eric McManus (1983-84): 46 games
A backbone of the side that would win promotion the following season, playing 40 times, Northern Irish goalkeeper Eric McManus was City’s eighth league ever-present between the sticks.

Gary Walsh (1998-99): 46 games
Gary Walsh quickly became a key part of Paul Jewell’s side in 1998-99 – and that loyalty in him paid off, as Walsh played in every game en route to promotion to the Premier League.

Donovan Ricketts (2006-07): 46 games
The big Jamaican is the only keeper on this list to play in every game of a season where City were eventually relegated: fingers crossed O’Donnell does not become number two.

Jon McLaughlin (2013-14): 46 games
City quickly solidified themselves in League One upon promotion in 2013, and McLaughlin’s ever-present record underlined the role he played in that success.

A unique insight into the history of professional football