Dave Jennings gives his impression on Bradford City – years of under achievement, home supporters and what went wrong last season
Why have City underachieved for so long?
Bradford may be a big city, but in recent years it hasn’t been prosperous. Not many people have a lot of spare cash, and City have never had an exclusive claim on the sporting public. Until 1970, soccer loyalties were divided between two lower- division clubs: City and Park Avenue. The latter then lost their League status and folded four years later, but City still have to compete with the highly successful rugby league team, Bradford Bulls. At least there’s no danger of their fixtures clashing, as they are currently groundsharing at Valley Parade.
Do the people of Bradford support City?
Much more than they used to. In the Sixties and Seventies, Leeds probably had more fans in Bradford than did City. But the 1996 play-off final, when City took 30,000 to Wembley, seemed to be a turning point. Since then, home gates have usually been comfortably into five figures, and a recent experiment with cut-price tickets brought in 18,255 for the visit of Wimbledon. But the ground now holds 25,136, and as we only managed 17,160 last season for the visit of Arsenal, a full house now seems a remote prospect.
Who are City’s main local rivals?
Listening to the home fans’ chants, you’d have to say Leeds. The deepest desire of Bantams fans is to compete with the creatures from east of Pudsey on equal terms and beat them. Stan Collymore’s goal during the 1-1 draw at VP last season is still very fondly remembered – we don’t talk about the 6-1 drubbing at Elland Road later in the season, during which two of our players came to blows. Realistically, our most regular rivals have been Huddersfield. The pain of our relegation last term was considerably eased when an improbable set of results on the final day combined to send Town down to the Second.
What went wrong last season?
Paul Jewell, who’d got us promoted and then helped us avoid relegation, was replaced by the untried Chris Hutchings. Three big-name signings were brought in, but only Benito Carbone lived up to fans’ hopes. The most worrying thing was that crowds declined. The novelty of top-flight football wore off, and some fans struggled to find the money for Premiership ticket prices.
Can City ever get back there?
At the moment, it seems pretty unlikely. We’re scoring goals like promotion contenders, but conceding them like relegation certainties. In the longer term, City’s challenge is to capture the imagination of the local population sufficiently to fill some of the lofty perches in the new upper tiers of the stands.
Milestones & millstones
1903 Club elected to the Second Division before it has played a game. The former Manningham Rugby Club is welcomed largely because it’s a foothold for soccer in a rugby area.
1908 Win Second Division title.
1911 Win FA Cup, beating Newcastle 1-0 after first game ends 0-0. First holders of current trophy, which was designed by a Bradford silversmith.
1912 Prolonged FA Cup fourth round exit at the hands of Barnsley, 3-2, after three gripping 0-0 draws.
1922 Relegated from First Division with Man Utd. Paths diverge thereafter.
1937 Relegated from Second Division, three points behind Bradford PA, who win both derbies.
1976 Reach FA Cup sixth round as Fourth Division team, losing to Southampton. On the way, Tooting & Mitcham claim City use “hidden microphones” to crank up crowd volume in their fourth round tie.
1983 Severe financial crisis leads to the club being wound up and reformed.
1985 Win Third Division title, ending a 47-year stay in lower divisions, but success overshadowed by tragedy of Valley Parade fire on the season’s last day, in which 56 die.
1988 Ron Futcher-led City blow promotion to old First Division by losing 3-2 at home to Ipswich on the final day.
1999 Promoted to Premiership, reaching top flight for the first time in 77 years. Fend off relegation, sending Wimbledon down instead.
2000 Sign Stan Collymore and Benito Carbone. With predictable results
Bobby Campbell ~ Bustling striker of the Seventies and Eighties. Broke the club's all-time scoring record that had stood since 1914. Also renowned for his capacity for beer. Fittingly, the supporters' club bar is named after him.
John Docherty ~ City Gent recently threw a party to mark the tenth anniversary of this charmless manager's departure. Filled the team with Millwall rejects and made them play the most numbing route one hoofball imaginable.
From WSC 179 January 2002. What was happening this month