Every man, his dog, and Simon Ramsden play as City lose 3-2 to Bradford Park Avenue

Forgoing the idea of local bragging rights Bradford City sent a team of trial players and juniors to Bradford Park Avenue losing the 3-2 but seeing sometime captain Simon Ramsden play a welcome 45 minutes in a City shirt for the first time this year.

Ramsden played the first half of the game alongside trialists Maxime Blanchard, Charlie Reece, Tom Elliott and a third Falkirk player Jack Compton and saw Nialle Rodney twice equalise for City. Maxime Blanchard arrived on trail with fellow Frenchman Loic Lumbilla who played the second half along with former City youngster Callum Bagshaw.

Adam Baker, Nathan Lawless, and James Nanje from City’s youth ranks also got to play in the game which was settled by a late Billy Law goal.

Following the prevailing narrative

Pre-season allows a different view on football.

Nestled at the side of the pitch the players – who will be seen from the height of stands and the back of terraces – are up close and personal in front of a few hundred supporters. Players who look almost like a fleshly blur when at the far end of Valley Parade are right in front of you. Live and loud.

Very loud in some cases. Guy Branston’s “discussion” with the Referee at Nethermoor was the sort of language which very much would be both foul and abusive but not only did the officials do nothing about it they did not even break stride or blink, nor did the players. Par for the course perhaps, and not something one appreciates when watching from the stands.

Football is a sweary game up close and the players have nicknames, and they all end with “y” or “o”.

One thing one might notice about the players this season – not those on the field so much as those watching their team mates – is the fact that they are not wearing suits.

This time last year there was much talk about suits. The problem with Bradford City circa Stuart McCall was that the players were a shabby mess of leisure wear and lounging around and the solution in the new, sensible, and obviously better regime of Peter Taylor was to get the players dressing professionally. To this end Roger Owen provide the money to kit out the Bantams in a nice yard of cloth.

That was the narrative of last summer. The rise of professionalism under Peter Taylor and the need for things like overnight stays which would not see the season out and culminating with the clumsily named Make-Tommy-Doherty-Ride-A-Bus-All-Night-Gate.

Those things are not important now, or so the prevailing narrative of Bradford City tells us, because the key the success is the Twitter team and the Development squad.

The Twitter team aptly describing the trend started by Ross Hannah to use the social networking site to talk about the Bantam in a really, really, really positive way.

Hannah, Branston, Nialle Rodney. They beat the drum proudly for Bradford City and this is a good thing. You can buy the PR and good mood which has derived from reading the daily musings of the assembling City squad but it is safe to say that the people who brought you Santa Dave would not have invested in it.

The Twitter team strikes one as indicative of a good squad dynamic. Of young lads getting on well together and enjoying being footballers. It is many things good, and nothing at all to do with the need for suits which was so important a year ago.

Likewise The Development Squad and the rise of “Woodhouse Grove” as the training facility – a far cry but not a long way from “Apperley Bridge” which this time past year we were being told was suitable – are the essentials in the current story of the reconstruction of Bradford City.

Not that one wants to complain about these things. Almost everything that has happened at City this Summer has been a progressive step which will have improved the club at the end of the season regardless of promotion but the worry is that this time next year if promotion has not been reached will the Development squad be hanging up at the forgotten back of someone’s cupboard next to Roger Owen’s suit?

Will City players be banned from Twitter as their peers at Leeds United and would that move be trumpeted as increased professionalism needed to sort out something shabby. There is a cycle of what we are told is salvation one season being shoved out the door the next.

These things would seem dependant on the prevailing narrative of the club, and that is not a good thing.

The prevailing narrative is a powerful thing and one which governs how we view the club in terms of its progress and how the club view us.

City spun from being on our uppers to putting upwards of six figure bids in for players while Peter Jackson has moved from being the man who does not always say what he means when he swears that he bleeds blue and white to being the arbiter of truth when he says that Omar Daley has not been offered a deal by the Bradford City team he now manages. If it is the case that there is no deal then someone might want to tell Omar Daley that. Regardless this shows how Jackson has changed in perception at the demand of the narrative the club creates.

Like Taylor and his professionalism, and like McCall the Messiah, Peter Jackson as City manager is subject to his own narrative arc. He is cast as Saul, converted by the blinding light to the one true path and ready to make good for the faith not in spite of his wrongdoing but because of it.

So the Development Squad goes to Bradford Park Avenue while the seniors will entertain Premier League Bolton Wanderers in the first game at Valley Parade of the season.

Jackson is seeking a gatekeeper and will use both games to try out someone to perhaps replace the ill Jon McLauglin for the first game of the season. Mark Howards’ attempt to impress on Tuesday night was not impressive and so Iain Turner – a wanted man – will be given the chance to keep goal if he wants it against Bradford Park Avenue, or Bolton Wanderers, or both. McLaughlin’s illness keeps him out of both games. Goalkeeping coach Tim Dittmer has been given a squad number.

Simon Ramsden is expected to make a long awaited return against Park Avenue for a team which is thought to be mostly the development squad and Ramsden will feature at and he is expected to partner Luke Oliver in the middle of a back four with Lewis Hunt next to him on one side and Robbie Threlfall on the other. At times last season that back four could have started games for City. Andrew Burns and Adam Robinson could feature in either game but it seems that Peter Jackson is moving towards Chris Mitchell, Steve Williams, Guy Branston and Luke O’Brien as his first choice backline. Expect those to get a run out against the Trotters.

Jackson’s attempts to pair new signing Richie Jones and player of the season for the season where there was no player of the season David Syers met with mixed returns on Tuesday night and the Bantams looked a sterner outfit with Michael Flynn alongside Jones. Flynn seems to be being edged away from the Bantams first eleven but has responded in what seems to be typical fashion for the Welshman with some gutsy performances suggesting he will not go quietly into the night.

Should he play on the Friday night the future for Flynn may have been decided, if not then he has a chance of staking a claim. The development squad against Avenue is expected to feature Patrick Lacey, Alex Flett, Luke Dean and perhaps Lee Bullock while Bolton will face a midfield of Jones in the middle, the impressive Jamie Green on the left, Dominic Rowe on the right and one of the Flynn/Syers/Bullock mix in the middle.

Leon Osbourne is looking too developed for the development squad but not enough for the starting eleven. Scott Brown could play in either squad. Scott Brown is the future.

Up front Jackson is expected to give Nialle Rodney and Nakhi Wells a chance for go at Park Avenue as he tries to get a deal for Wells with Mark Stewart and James Hanson looking favoured for the Bolton game. Ross Hannah is in the middle, a decent place for a forward. Darren Stephenson, already, is starting to look like like he will struggle to get a chance.

Hannah, of course, is not for playing now. He is to be thrown on with twenty minutes left of the Leeds game in the first week of the season and to snatch a goal. That is his narrative, and deviation from it will cause some upset.

Pre-season plans take shape as Bolton Wanderers head to “Valley Parade”

Bradford City have today announced their pre-season friendlies for the 2011/12 campaign, which throw up a number of intriguing games. The headlines unsurprisingly centre around a visit from Premier League Bolton Wanderers. And, whether a slip of the tongue or an indication of how the rental negotiations are going, the Telegraph & Argus has stated the friendly will be played at Valley Parade.

Bolton travel to West Yorkshire on Sunday 24 July; the first time they have played the Bantams since Wayne Jacobs’ testimonial in July 2004 ended with the long-serving left back scoring a penalty in the last minute that was so weak you had to question whether it had all been contrived. Bolton manager Owen Coyle has been a regular pre-season visitor to Valley Parade, however, bringing along his Burnley side in 2008 and 2009.

Before that pre-season will begin at Silsden AFC’s new ASDA Foundation Stadium on Wednesday 13 July. As a Skipton resident, the seven-mile journey to watch this game will be the shortest trip I will have ever made to watch the Bantams. Two days later (Friday 15 July) City travel to Ross Hannah’s old club Matlock Town, before the much-discussed friendly with Guiesley (Tuesday 19 July) finally takes place, as part of the James Hanson transfer two years ago.

After Bolton’s visit is the annual game with Bradford (Park Avenue), on Wednesday 27 July, this time at the Horsfall stadium – two miles away from Odsal (so maybe a chance to check out pre-match pubs for next season?). Pre-season ends with a home visit from Greg Abbott’s Carlisle United on Saturday 30 July, one week before the opening League Two fixtures.

Two arrive, one departs on loan

Peter Taylor has been busy in the loan market today bringing in two defenders and allowing a striker out on loan.

Clarets Mad detail City’s signing of 21 year old right back Richard Eckersley. Eckersley has less than a dozen league games under his belt and has failed to make much of an impact at Turf Moor although he did set the Clarets back £500,000. Claret’s Mad report on City is best read in the context of the BfB debate on rivalry Burnley having a long standing needle with City which is hardly reciprocal.

Watford defender Rob Kiernan has also arrived. The 19 year old is a central defender has had loans at Kilmarnock and Yeovil Town but again has played fewer than a dozen games. Eckersley and Kiernan have arrived as the Bantams struggle for central defenders following Steve Williams’ injury.

Meanwhile Chib Chilaka has signed for Bradford (Park Avenue) on a month’s loan.

How good is James Hanson?

When a shelf stacker and Guiseley forward put a couple of goals past Bradford (Park Avenue) on new year’s day two years ago one has to wonder if the people at the other Leeds/Bradford game asked the question “How good is James Hanson?”

For sure he had – by all accounts – dominated the Park Avenue defenders but – like Hanson – they were part times and while the Guiseley looked good he did not stride the field like a Colossus. Eventually Mark Ellis had a whisper to Stuart McCall who took him to Bradford City where he became top scorer in his first season.

When watching England beat Hungry on Wednesday night most of the discussion around our sofa was on the young players called up by Fabio Capello and the ramifications of that. There was a contention – by yours truly – that Newcastle United’s much coveted Andy Carroll should have been given a call up. Others thought that (amongst other things on a lively night of discourse) a player could not be judged as good enough for the England side if he had not been proven good enough in the Premier League.

So the question formulated that if Carroll might be considered good enough on the basis of a season not competing against the top class of English football how good could Hanson be?

Rewind to Hanson’s first season at Valley Parade and one recalls on many occasions turning to those around and exclaiming with an amazement that “that guy just does not lose headers!”

Indeed Hanson – when fit and on form – is uncanny in his abilities to rise high, win the ball and feed it accurately to his team mates. Ball winning was a Barry Conlon thing but Barry did not win as often, nor did he head it as accurately, nor did even he put in the effort of James Hanson and when watching last season’s player of the season very few would have put the limits on him that were placed on Conlon.

Conlon – it was said – had to have his best game to be as good as the rest of the side and “good enough” for League Two. Hanson – thus far – has not come up against a League Two defence where he did not enough the balance of play. Long may his superb attitude continue because – at the moment – one doubts that League Two is poising different problems than that game with Park Avenue.

Then came Nottingham Forest a team that – were it not for the randomness of the play-offs – be in the Premier League and the squad to go with it. Hanson – a half time sub – enjoyed as good a return against the twice European Champions as he did against League Two sides, and did in his non-league days. He won more in the air than one would expect against a League Two side, let alone a side who have pretensions for the Premier League.

So how good is James Hanson? Tongue in cheek one might say that if Andy Carroll might wear the three lions then why not give Hanson a call up? If one does not believe that having played in the top flight is essential for England honours – and Steve Bull‘s five in thirteen suggest that a player who has not been at the highest level can offer something to England – then perhaps the national management should be looking at the League Two players who impressively play up when facing a side from a higher division. Scalability in football play is a rare concept.

Returning to the question in hand – and not suggesting that he should be partnered with Wayne Rooney next game – how good is James Hanson?

Certainly he has proved himself able at levels lower than League Two and at League Two itself. His first game against a higher opposition did not curtail his progress so perhaps all one can say is that so far we have yet to see a ceiling on his abilities.

Perhaps though for an answer to the question we need to look not at ourselves, but at the stars. The younger stars of Nottingham Forest that is who were used that night and that manager Billy Davies described as having things come to easy to. Davies’ criticism that a young player has the big car and the nice house too early at his club and as a result they lack the hunger makes a sharp contrast to the two City goalscorers on the evening.

As Davies bemoans the BMWs that his teenagers drive Hanson and fellow goal getter David Syers and men of the match Jon McLaughlin Steve Williams know that a failure will take them back to the days of part time football and a day job. If they ever drive a BMW it is because they have rewarded themselves for a lot of hard work by replacing the broken down Skoda.

There is something utterly refreshing about watching Hanson, Syers, McLauglin and Williams play. When asking how good one of these players can be then the answer is something of a cop out – they can be as good as they want to be.

At present there is a debate on McLaughlin and if he is “good enough” as if this were a binary situation and one which should the player kick back and stop making the effort that has put in him in the position he is in now he would remain at the level he is now.

It is an excellent attitude which has brought them into league football and that same attitude that saw them as the core members of a team which beat Nottingham Forest. Maintain that attitude and it is hard to set a limit on what they can achieve, lose it and they will stop being “good”.

Watching the grass grow

Players sent to prison for a weekend, players sent to prison for twenty five years. Accusations of lies told to City by Jake Speight, from City by Guiseley. Plans coming to pass, plans falling apart. All along though there has been a constant message coming from Valley Parade.

The grass is growing.

City look forward to a season in which increasingly they are tipped for promotion with a grounded optimism based – perhaps – on three years of League Two football on which it was observed that it was not the best but the most resilient sides which got promoted. The sides who were best able to learn from and forget the last result to move onto the next.

So three days after Rochdale City play a final pre-season game and one is reminded how Peter Taylor’s side turned around in the three days between an atrocious defeat at Accrington Stanley to a fine win at Spotland.

That resilience contrasted with Stuart McCall’s side which lived on rollovers and hangovers that took the baggage of one game into the other be it from eight game unbeaten runs of ten game spells without wins. Taylor’s side are less emotional, and from that comes the idea that they will be a more stable creation. Flatter perhaps but easier to play.

Like the grass at Valley Parade which has been the club’s main news focus of the summer.

The turf at Valley Parade has been relaid on the instructions of Peter Taylor who wants a green carpet. Gone are the Peter Beagrie Bog relaid for the left winger to enjoy in the second half, gone are the sandy beaches of the box and in the place comes the luxurious carpeting in City’s new home.

City’s new home and Bradford Park Avenue’s old ground – the other Bradford club spent some time at Valley Parade as a part of the decline to termination at the start of the 1970s – but the Wool City Derby is one of football’s forgotten games last played competitively 1969 with the scores left standing – hanging even – with City having won 20 and Park Avenue 21 of 58.

Park Avenue’s progress up the leagues is slow and City fans debate the merits of that but they start a season in Northern Premier League Premier Division three leagues below the Bantams.

Avenue will most likely field three former City players – Kevin Sanasy, Diddy David Brown and Tom Claisse – with the former player especially interesting to see. A hotheaded player when a Bantam but Sanasy who had some ability and it will be interesting to see how he has progressed.

The Bantams hope to have Michael Flynn fit enough to play a part in expectation of a return for the opening game of the season at Shrewsbury Town on Saturday although Tommy Doherty is unlikely to play in either. Tom Adeyemi, Lee Bullock and Luke O’Brien are likely to be the midfield three behind Omar Daley and Scott Neilson supporting Gareth Evans with James Hanson out injured with goalscorer from Saturday Louis Moult starting on the bench alongside Jake Speight.

Jon McLaughlin sits behind a back four of Simon Ramsden on one side and Robbie Threlfall the other with Zesh Rehman and one of Shaun Duff, Luke Oliver and Steve Williams alongside, most likely the former.

Avenue back at Valley Parade for friendly

After an absence of a good few generations Bradford Park Avenue will return to their former ground to play Bradford City for a pre-season friendly.

Avenue played at Valley Parade just before the club lost its battle for survival in the early 1970s with Bradford City extending the hand to their rivals in those tough times.

City have invited Avenue for a pre-season match at Valley Parade on Tuesday, August 3rd 2010 – the Tuesday before the season starts.

On Tuesday July 13th City will play Guiseley at Nethermoor as a part of the transfer deal that brought James Hanson to Valley Parade.

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

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.

Names suggest themselves as pre-season continues with City win over Park Avenue

Having already established that beating teams way above you is meaningless one wonders how defeating the local non-league side should be viewed following Bradford City’s 2-0 win over Park Avenue.

The Bantams bested their City rivals with two second half goals and a clean sheet that made strong cases for two of the trialists who are looking to make the step up from the Avenue level to League Two.

The first half saw the Barber from Bamber Bridge Steve Williams look impressive at the heart of a defence alongside Grant Smith in a side led up front and as captain by Peter Thorne. Thorne’s partnership with Gareth Evans looked promising with the new young striker linking up well with the senior man climaxing late on in the half when a move that featured the thrusting play of Joe Colbeck – Colbeck is coming back to form – and a strong header that from the skipper which keeper Steve Dickinson did well to save.

Nevertheless more of the play seemed to be given to the back and to Williams who looked strong. That Williams and his defensive partners were involved so much – and that City broke down the right often and the centre and left less so – was down to a performance from the central two midfielders Jordan Hadfield and Lee Bullock which did not control the game well enough.

Which is not to say that City were overrun but that to win games at League Two and above is to win midfield battles and for the opening three quarters of the first half the Bantams middle two did not.

Half time parity was deserved but on the balance of the second half the Bantams were deserved winners – although of course that does not mean anything – following the entry of James Hanson who has gone a long way to securing himself a move from Guiseley to Bradford City.

Within a minute of the re-start Hanson had risen to head long pass into the path of Michael Boulding who took the ball and slotted home with confidence. Five minutes later a free kick was centred and Hanson – who scored two against Avenue on New Years Day last season – headed home firmly.

Boulding and Hanson could have both had more and Dickinson kept the score down as the Bantams middle two of former Huddersfield Town man Andy Holdsworth and Lewes young – and tanned – midfielder Joe Keehan grabbed the game.

The Bantams kept the game on the whole in the Avenue half although some late flurries forward saw keeper Alan Mannus – a keeper who had an unsettling tendency to punch – called into make a single save and watch a few go wide. Former City man Harpel Singh was ineffectual as ever on the left flank. Simon Ainge – who snuck out of City in recent months – was on the bench.

Hanson won aerial battles for the evening and Zesh Rehman and Matthew Clarke looked solid with a special note for Louis Horne who continues to look able at left back. Keehan was especially impressive but joins a list of midfielders trying out for the number four shirt. Keehan, Holdsworth, Hadfield, James O’Brien. Pre-season is for sorting such things out.

In Williams and Hanson it would seem that two names are suggesting themselves already.

City visit Bradford as pre-season continues

The Wool City Derby is not what it once was. This former Football League clash is pre-season for both clubs now and, despite the odd fall out over a loan player, it is a fixture on the calendars.

City tend to take the first team to Avenue and last year won through an imperious display by Paul McLaren. This year others look to make a mark.

Chief of these being Alan Mannus the goalkeeper who was bored against Burnley and will hope to have the scope to impress.

The same is true all over the field where the Premiership newbies were tamed but some players were not able to catch the eye.

One who did was Steve Williams who has come from being the barber of Banner Bridge to slotting in well next to Matthew Clarke. It is worth noting that scrapping at grounds like Avenue is part and parcel of Williams career to date (and for that matter also impressive James Hanson) while the likes of Jonathan Bateson and James O’Brien are used to big league reserve football. How well all can adapt to the low key is perhaps the theme of this game.

Fitness is built-up of course and Stuart McCall will look at his formation having played an enterprising game for forty five minutes on Saturday before shutting down with Jordan Hadfield busily impressive.

These men looking for contracts have an inside track to a team which having moved on high earners can look to sign players, should they be needed.

For Avenue’s part City seem on the whole welcomed to Horsfield Stadium. Rivalry aside most would love to see both clubs doing better to reverse what is a staggering downturn in West Yorkshire football in long, medium and with the seeming loss of Farsley Celtic short term.

How does one put the Wool City Derby back on the Football League calendar? One can only guess.

Tried and tested

The first few friendlies of a pre-season campaign can be somewhat disconcerting experiences.

It’s great to witness the familiar sight of 11 players wearing Claret and Amber again and enjoy the stress-free experience of a meaningless win – City triumphing 3-1 at the Horsfall yesterday – in the sunshine, while it lasts. Yet the mixture of first teamers, trialists and youngsters mean elements of the team are strangers to many of us supporters who pride ourselves on a thorough knowledge of our team.

Understandable given the opposition’s level of ability and need to take the most from an afternoon playing on a bumpy pitch inside a running track; manager Stuart McCall could easily have picked his strongest eleven and seen them romp to a big win, but apart from improving fitness he would have learned nothing. Little for us supporters to have learned too and, at least, we were able to play the manager game of judging whether a 17-year-old youngster or trialist would be ‘up to’ the demands of taking the club forward next season – even if the unsatisfying announcement of the team over the creaky PA system meant we didn’t know some of the players beyond the number of their shirt.

One such trailist to catch the eye was number two (Milton Turner), a 21-year-old right back who was at Garforth Town last season. Having enjoyed a brief spell at Bury earlier in his career before moving around non-league circles, he may not appear an obvious choice to join a squad with the aim of promotion to League One. As a graduate of the much-publicised Brazilian Soccer School and after serving a scholarship in America, he has some potential. This was demonstrated during an impressive 90 minutes where his passing and bursts forward caught the eye. A sterner test on the tour of Scotland this week will help Stuart determine if he is good enough to play back-up to Paul Arnison.

The other less familiar faces included youngsters number nine (Luke Dean) and number 11 (Louis Horne). Both showed some nice touches and a willingness to work hard for the team, if looking tentative on occasions. Not something which Luke O’Brien (the number three now recognisable to most City fans after some promising first team appearances last season) can be accused of. O’Brien received some criticism for his display at Farsley on Wednesday but yesterday he looked more capable of being a squad member who could be called into the first team this season without too much trepidation.

But as well as the fringe players did, it was no surprise that the senior players on show heavily influenced this comfortable win. Peter Thorne led the line impressively and it must have been a great experience for Dean to play alongside him. Last season’s top scorer opened the scoring in the 20th minute after running onto a ball played over the top and expertly lobbing the ball over the stranded former City keeper Jon Worsnop into the net.

After the game Stuart could be forgiven for wrapping up Thorne in bubble wrap to prevent any injury problems, which wrote off the first few months of his City career. It’s to be hoped this time he won’t be waiting until November to open his account for the campaign and, whichever striker is brought in before the season starts, Thorne will be a key player in the coming months.

Other chances were created and wasted in the first half, with Omar Daley so often the provider. Everything good about his game – ability to beat people, lightning pace and decent if not outstanding crossing – was on show in the first half. He set up Kyle Nix who should have scored with a simple chance, had a decent low shot from distance saved and enjoyed his best moment after going on a mazy dribble and superbly crossing the ball for Dean, who had time to do better than his tame effort at goal. Daley was taken off at half time and, while fans around me at least continue to find fault with everything he does, should be reasonably happy with his efforts.

As too should new signing Paul McLaren, who added the second goal just after half time with a superb curling shot from distance. This week’s release of the squad numbers revealed McLaren has been handed the number four shirt. Playing alongside Nix, he was a strong influence showing some good touches, vision and passing. If Stuart can get him the right midfield partner this season, he could prove as inspirational as his manager was when wearing the number four shirt 10 years ago.

A scramble involving some poor keeping and Dean’s persistence resulted in a third goal five minutes later, credited by the PA announcer to Kyle Nix who appeared to poke home the ball on the line, and at that stage City threatened to run up a big scoreline. Avenue, who had their moments in the game, then pulled a goal back after Jon McLaughlin spilled a low shot into the path of Stuart Rudd who fired home.

This season’s back-up keeper was widely blamed, but Stuart will no doubt have noted the Avenue attack had been instigated from Mark Bower’s inexplicably woeful crossfield pass which went straight to an Avenue player. There is keen competition between Bower and Matt Clarke for the regular place at the back alongside new signing Graeme Lee, still not fit, and City’s longest serving player won’t have enhanced his chances after going onto make a few mistakes shortly after – including almost scoring an own goal. A contrast to the composed and strong presence of Clarke.

Avenue’s goal was quickly followed by a round of substitutions for City which left Bower the only senior player on the pitch. Now we really were in unfamiliar territory as a clutch of City’s brightest youth talent saw out the final 25 minutes. Included among them was trialist Kory Nix – brother of Kyle – who displayed his sibling’s workrate and willingness to get involved with everything, if not the level of skill. Another trialist from the Brazilian Soccer School, Jonjo O’Hara, looked useful, but whatever intensity the game had was dying.

As if to sum it up a bunch of bored watching kids started their own kickabout on a patch of grass behind the goal, bringing the bizarre sight of players having to take a momentary break from trying to impress their manager to kick the kids’ ball back to them after it kept ending up on the pitch.

A good workout for City, but as Stuart ruthlessly takes the club forward there will inevitably come a time when some of the youngsters who featured yesterday are shown the door. Some, like Worsnop, maybe end up building a career at somewhere like the Horsfall Stadium. They may have been unfamiliar to most people watching but, possibly for one set of supporters at least, they may become better known in years to come.

Recent Posts