In the popular imagination pioneering black footballers are epitomised by Cyril Regis and Viv Anderson, at Valley Parade thoughts turn to those icons of the 1970s Ces Podd and Joe Cooke. However, they were far from being Bradford City’s first black players, over sixty years earlier the Bantams signed the mixed race winger Billy Clarke from Aston Villa.
In 1901 Billy Clarke had already become the first ever black player to score a goal in the first division whilst at Villa. After moving to Valley Parade in 1905 he helped Bradford City win the second division championship and in September 1908 he scored Bradford City’s first ever goal in the top flight of English football.
At Valley Parade on 22 October 2011 this forgotten piece of the Bantams’ history will be celebrated, along with the contribution black footballers have made to the history of Bradford City in the ensuing 106 years.
Our visitors on 22 October, Northampton Town, had another pioneering black footballer Walter Tull in their team prior to the Great War. He signed from Tottenham Hotspur in 1911 and when war broke out he was the first Northampton player to enlist. Tull eventually became the first ever black combat officer in the British Army. Sadly, he was killed during the conflict. The home match against Northampton is the perfect occasion to celebrate 106 years of black footballers at Valley Parade.
Several events are being lined up for the day, but at the moment we can confirm the attendance of Joe Cooke. Join the big man himself in the bantamspast museum from 1.30pm where you will hear of the exploits of Billy Clarke and the experiences of the more recent black footballers at Valley Parade.
We have invited the great Ces Podd and are endeavouring to contact Bradford City’s Wembley hero Des Hamilton. Which other former black Bradford City players would BfB readers like to see at Valley Parade on 22 October? Here’s your chance to suggest the players we should invite and why? Jamie Lawrence? Darren Moore? Stan Collymore?