Issue As Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football?

As told by The Writers of BfB, Jason Mckeown, Mike Harrison, Dave Pendleton, David Markham, Richard Wardell, Paul Firth and Steve Baker

This week we have seen our neighbours Bradford (Park Avenue) beat the much trumpeted FC United of Manchester 5-1 as they look to get into the Blue Square North. They were also the subject of a cheer leading article in The Independent. In our debates over the future of Bradford’s sporting grounds the idea of including Park Avenue in the future of Valley Parade and Odsal has come up.

With the decline of Farsley Celtic and Halifax Town and as Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football? Will it be good for Bradford, for sport in Bradford and for Bradford City to have Park Avenue back up football or would it divide the City, damage both clubs and hamper the Bantams?

So the question is…

As Bradford City supporters should we cheer on, support and generally welcome Bradford (Park Avenue) as they get back up football?

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

To any City supporter under the age of 40, the thought of Bradford being home to two professional football clubs is as whimsical as completed shopping centres and thriving music scenes. It happens in other cities, but somehow we always seem to end up worse off.

It’s easy to feel envious of the derbies cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Sheffield enjoy, though so often in football local rivalries are unbalanced with one enjoying more success and so caring less about outdoing the other. Should Bradford (Park Avenue) continue their rise back up the pyramid and return to the Football League, it’s hard to imagine any City fan born after their neighbours’ demise in 1974, at least, not sharing in their joy.

The Horsfall Stadium has become a regular pre-season stop off for the Bantams, a number of youth players who never made it beyond a few first team games at Valley Parade have winded up in Avenue’s green and white. They are a club to raise a smile when hearing they’ve won a game or notice they’re higher up the league table when reading the paper. Should that continue, the idea of a Bradford league derby would attract excitement and intrigue – but it’s hard to imagine it would ever generate feelings of hatred from claret and amber.

The only real threat Avenue’s continuing rise could pose to City is to divert floating supporters from Valley Parade, reducing attendances and revenue; but even the thought of that right now seems improbable. Just like Guiseley, Silsden and Thackley, Avenue are non-league friends to cheer from afar. And to us ‘youngsters’ the idea of them as serious rivals belongs in the same history books as Busby’s.

Mike Harrison City Gent Editor

As a City fan and especially one who in my position as editor of The City Gent I am almost wholly occupied about what happens on and off the field for the Bantams. That said I do make a cursory glance at the inner pages of the T&A on a Monday to see how the local non-league sides have done that weekend. If they have done well I think “that’s good for them” or if they haven’t then I think “oh well never mind”. I will readily admit that I am very blinkered in my support of City, but on a certain level of course I wish the nearby non-league clubs well.

The fact that Park Avenue seems to be having a title chasing season is good for all those that support the reformed club. I am just about old enough to have been around for the last league game played between the two sides, at Avenue in January 1969 when I was seven and a half, but all I remember about the 0-0 draw is making my way into their main stand to take my seat and virtually nothing about the match itself. Whilst I am sure there was some cross-town animosity and rivalry, I certainly wasn’t aware of it at that age.

So I have no ill feelings towards Park Avenue and therefore I hope that they gain promotion and win the title. I hope that they don’t fall foul of what has happened at Farsley Celtic, who seemed to progress too far too fast and who have now paid the ultimate price. Park Avenue’s modest support could probably help maintain their club’s position in the conference north, but whether they were ever capable of gaining a further two more promotions to get back into the football league is debatable, but good luck to them I say.

Steve Baker Stalwart City fan and Bantams Bar regular

Personally, I have no issue with BPA doing well. I’m not necessarily going to cheer them on, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t be supporting them in their bid to get back into the league.

There are many rivalries in football, many teams we don’t like either as people or clubs, but very few clubs who we would say we are friends with or who have backed us when we have needed it. As much as rivalry is part of football, the same should be said of friendly relationships between clubs.

It would definitely be good for sport in the city, investment would be encouraged which can only be a positive thing. With the Westfield saga and the will it wont it Odsal project, investment in Bradford can only be seen in a good thing. I very rarely visit the city centre these days, but it is pretty much unrecognisable from when I was a teenager, with the effects of the recent economic downturn evident at every corner.

I don’t see how it would divide the city or supporters either. You are either one or the other, but following another local team is quite normal. My fellow season ticket holder in the Bantams Bar also follows BPA, goes to games and has an interest in them. But he will never chose them over City. And I’m fairly convinced this is what other people feel also from those I have spoken with.

I cant see how BPA doing well would hamper City. The resources we have as a club and the fan base we attract are more than likely going to be superior to Avenue. We are likely to attract better players and coaches, sponsors and investors and much more. To be honest, I’m a great believer in getting your own house in order before worrying about others.

Effectively City need to build on the good work done by McCall and Taylor, and ensure that moving up the leagues is what we do within an acceptable time frame. Taylor is right in asking for things to be improved such as the training facilities, the pitch and other things. This is what will stand the club in good stead beyond this season. If City are getting this right, and the performance on the pitch, then our success will bring more fans, more investment and better players. Its this that is important, not worrying about BPA and what’s happening with them. If City do well then I think its fair to say there is more potential than at BPA, with no disrespect to our neighbours.

One thing both clubs could benefit from is some form of strategic alliance, where City youth team or reserve players are loaned to Avenue to regain fitness and build match experience. I’m sure there are some players who would jump at the chance at first team football amongst City’s youth ranks, and if they are deemed good enough and can help in Avenues plight, I’m all for this. This should be done at the benefit of both clubs though – the youth players should not expect to walk straight into Avenues first team; they must earn the right to pull on the green and white or red, amber and black, whichever you prefer.

Dave Pendleton Bantamspast Curator & Former City Gent Editor

My first ever football match was Avenue v Hartlepool in 1970, incidentally Avenue’s last ever league victory. My dad was an Avenue fan, but he watched Avenue one Saturday and City the next. However, when he moved our family to Wrose it was inevitable that City would become my first love. My dad’s open minded stance has shaped my attitude to our neighbours to this day. However, it can be hard work, particularly when confronted by the hostility to City still held by some Avenue fans. Indeed, the biggest obstacle to Avenue sharing Valley Parade would be a section of Avenue fans for whom 1974 is still bitter memory. City are a convenient scapegoat for their own club’s failings, but that’s another debate.

The vast majority of City fans don’t see Avenue as a threat, so therefore are supportive of our former rivals. However, if – and it is a very big if – Avenue were to close the gap on City then those attitudes might change. Frankly, it is highly unlikely that Avenue will become serious rivals to City. The demographic of the Avenue fans is the wrong side of fifty and, unless they can suddenly attract a whole new generation of fans, the gap between the two Bradford clubs will grow. Despite City’s current lowly status the season ticket deals have kept attendances high and have help attract and retain a significant number of young supporters. As the era of the Bradford derby’s fades ever more into the past, the relevance of the rivalry will disappear into insignificance. It is already barely a historical oddity on a par with the fact that Bradford used to have more Rolls Royce’s than London.

David Markham T&A Reporting Legend

Of course, Bradford City supporters should welcome Park Avenue’s progress up the feeder league system. Looking at their position at the top of the Unibond League Premier Division, it seems likely they will be promoted as champions although they are being pressed all the way by one of our other friends and neighbours from non-League football – Guiseley – and they still have to play them twice.

Avenue’s president Bob Blackburn has invested a serious amount of money into the club, both on and off the field and it looks as if his investment is going to bearing fruit.

Make no mistake going into Conference North is a huge step for Avenue. They had a season there when Conference North and South were formed about five years ago, gaining their place through a play-off system even though they had experienced a poor season. Former City favourite Carl Shutt was manager. It was clearly a step too far and they were relegated back to the Unibond and Shutt left the club.

First of all, I hope Park Avenue have the players of sufficient quality to consolidate their place in Conference North. Then, I hope they can increase their fan base. I read in the T&A last week that they need to increase their average from about 500 to 700.

As a family we spent Christmas at Blackpool in 2008 and I went to watch Fleetwood play Workington on Boxing Day. It was their first season in Conference North. They have three smart little stands as well as a successful social club and they are about to build another new stand. They average just about 1,200 and considerable investment in the team this season has lifted them to the top of the League and, although they had their winning points against now defunct Farsley Celtic deducted, they are still slight favourites to go into the Blue Square Premier League – Conference – as champions although Southport are pressing them hard.

They have a far better ground than Park Avenue and if Avenue can consolidate in Conference North they will need to improve Horsfall or look for a better ground. The accommodation is little more than adequate and looking over a running track tends to spoil a match for spectators.

Bob Blackburn has bought land at Thornbury to build a new stadium, but that sounds to be an ambitious plan for a club that attracts fewer than 1,000 for normal league matches. Could they share Valley Parade? Park Avenue supporters I know wouldn’t be happy at that. There is some prejudice against ‘the club that plays off Manningham Lane.’ There are some of them, who are still re-living City-Avenue derby matches of the 1950s and 1960s.

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember those days – and great days they were with crowds of 15,000 to 20,000 watching those games in the 1950s although the gates tailed off in the 1960s, tremendous atmosphere and intense rivalry without the nastiness that manifested itself in the 1970s and still exist today. No segregation in those days either – fancy that?

I also watched Park Avenue play their final two seasons in the Second Division between 1948 and 1950 and I especially remember seeing Tottenham Hotspur – in Second Division championship season – West Brom, Leeds United and Coventry grace Park Avenue. It was sad to see their demise in the late 1960s and be voted out of the Football League in 1970.

It was also great to be able to watch League football on alternate Saturdays in Bradford. Despite Avenue’s successful season, we are still a long way off from those days and I just hope Avenue don’t over-reach themselves as Farsley have done. Their fan base was always too small and they went into the main Conference with crowds at about the same level as Park Avenue have now and over spent in trying to compete with bigger clubs with greater resources and sadly they had to be wound up a month ago. Their fate is warning to all clubs whatever level they play at – overspend at your peril.

Let’s hope Farsley can come back in Unibond North like Halifax Town did.

Richard Wardell Fundraiser in times of trouble and former BCST man

Breaking it down, we as Bradford City supporters shouldn’t be cheering on and supporting Bradford Park Avenue. However, welcoming their rise back up the football pyramid is a different matter.

I must admit that in this day and age of media hype surrounding the Premiership and the Champions League, I prefer to follow the fortunes of teams in the non league circles. Indeed, I notice that the top of the table clash between Bradford Park Avenue and Guiseley was postponed last night.

I am too young to remember Bradford Park Avenue as a league team so I don’t remember the days of Bradford having two football league teams. I suppose the question that we have to ask ourselves is what impact would league status for Bradford Park Avenue have on Bradford City fixtures? At the moment Bradford Park Avenue are averaging less than 1,000 people per home game this season. However, in the post Second World War years, a crowd of 25,655 watched Bradford City verses Bradford Park Avenue in a Division 3 match.

Another factor is cost. We as City supporters are all aware of the great (in my opinion) season ticket prices offered at Valley Parade in recent seasons. For their next home fixture Bradford Park Avenue will be charging adults £8, children £1 and concessions £5. If they were promoted to Division 4 (our current division), I wonder what the costs would be then?

The population of Bradford and the surrounding area should in theory be able to support two Bradford based football leagues clubs but theory doesn’t always work in the real world. People often talk about the great support that both Newcastle United and Leeds United gain but they are cities where there is only one league club. Discussions from time to time crop up about Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United merging but most of their supporters don’t want this.

So, back to the original question. Personally, I would like to see Bradford Park Avenue climb up the football pyramid and to play them in a league game would be great. However, being selfish, I wouldn’t want to see their rise result in our demise into non existence.

Paul Firth City fan and Author of Four Minutes To Hell

As a lad growing up in Bingley and without access to private transport, I was never going to be an Avenue fan. I even went to watch Keighley rather than Northern for much the same reasons. Apart from derby matches I’ve only been to Avenue (the football side of the stand, that is) once and that was in the sixties for a cup tie against Fulham – Johnny Haynes, George Cohen and some young kid called Allan Clarke.

City fans today, most of whom missed out on those derbies, love to hate teams in the league above us. Maybe they’ll be happy to see Avenue’s possible rise up the football ladder unless and until it impinges on City’s progress. We can cheer Avenue into the Conference North or even the Conference proper, especially when they struggle to attract 1,000 spectators for most games and we can’t find a soul who has given up his Valley Parade season ticket to go to Horsfall.

But if they did return to the Football League? Worse still, if they reached one league higher than City? Manchester United fans never worried much about what was going on at Maine Road once the Bell/Lee team fell apart. Pride in your city soon takes second place to pride in your City.