Never Forget

About a year ago, John Dewhirst, David Pendleton and John Ashton (apologies if I’ve missed other people out) started to hatch a plan to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Bradford City winning the FA Cup. All of their hard work came to fruition on the exact date 100 years after our most famous victory over Newcastle United in an FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford. Over 200 people packed one of the many function rooms at the Midland Hotel to come together as one. John Dewhirst stressed that this was a supporters evening and the organisers were very aware of the difficult financial pressures faced by many of Bradford City’s supporters today and that they had tried to offer tickets at an affordable price of £25 for the evening which included a three course meal. In my opinion, the evening was worth every penny.

The presentation of the room was classy yet professional with claret and amber very prominent colours throughout the room. The Gawthorpe Brass Band played their instruments to great effect to generate an emotional atmosphere on an emotional night. Apart from the many supporters in the room (many of whom could probably remember games from the 70s and even further back), others present included past players such as Ian Cooper and Joe Cooke, former player and manager Terry Dolan, members of our existing Board and even a descendant of Peter Logan who formed part of the 1911 winning team.

In his opening speech, you could hear the pride in John Dewhirst’s voice as he thanked everyone for attending. He did however pass on apologies from Stuart McCall and Greg Abbott who at the last minute couldn’t attend. However, this didn’t takeaway the gloss from a wonderful evening. It was noticeable however that there were none of the existing team present or interim manager Peter Jackson which I thought was disappointing. A friend of mine who attended the dinner had managed to see the Bradford City juniors draw 2-2 on the same afternoon over in Hull. (Apparently we were 2-0 down with 15 minutes to go but we salvaged a draw through some inspired play from up and coming winger Dominic Rowe.) My friend asked David Wetherall if he had inspired our junior team with a half time team talk highlighting the fact the it was 100 years to the day that our club won the FA Cup.

Unfortunately, Wetherall replied “no” and said that he would have liked to have attended the evening if he’d been aware of it. This says to me that our existing team and management were unaware of the the importance of 26 April 1911 and the event taking place at the Midland Hotel. This notion saddened me and highlighted the poor communication that exists between the players and supporters today.

However, not to paint a gloomy picture of a fabulous evening, we tucked into our three course meal with many of us enjoying the fine Glorious1911 Ale brewed by the Saltaire brewery with sales from the ale being donated to the Bradford Burns Unit. During the meal it was great to talk to fellow Bradford City supporters about all things City related. A couple on our table now lived in Kendal but still have season tickets to attend games at Valley Parade and also told tales of their away game experiences. I got the feeling that those of us who were fortunate enough to pay for a ticket all hold Bradford City close to our hearts and wanted to ensure that our FA Cup victory should not be forgotten. History is important. It was great to see die hards like Mike Harrison, Mark Neale and Board members of the Bradford City Supporters’ Trust in attendance.

The meal over and David Pendleton, author of the superb book Glorious 1911 explained some of the tales behind our famous victory like how the replay was played only four days after the final at Crystal Palace so only about 10,000 Bradford City supporters travelled to Manchester for the replay owing to financial constraints placed on supporters (sound familiar?). Also, owing to the fact that there were no floodlights meant that the replay kicked off mid-afternoon. The victorious team, thanks to Jimmy Speirs goal after 15 minutes, arrived back into Bradford in the evening to be greeted by about 100,000 Bradfordians. This represented about a third of the City’s population and it took the team about 45 minutes to cross the city and finally end up at the Midland Hotel. John Ashton replicated speeches that were made on that evening of 100 years ago and you could hear the sportsmanship that existed in the speeches that by and large is no longer in our game.

John Dewhirst then presented a cheque for £5,000 to Professor Sharpe who has been so instrumental in the development of the Bradford Burns Unit. This money had come from the sales of historical memorabilia including scarfs and badges. Ian Cooper then made a toast to suitably round off a wonderful evening.

Following the formalities, this young(-ish) supporter who only witnessed his first Bradford City game at Valley Parade in 1988 approached some of the former players to sign his copy of Glorious 1911. All who I approached were more than happy to sign and came across as genuine people who still have an affinity with Bradford City Football Club. Many posed for photographs and chatted to supporters which was lovely to see. Once again, a personal thank you from me to all those who put so much unpaid time and effort into a memorable night. We must never forget where this football club has come from.

Bradford City’s 1911 team and the Great War

If Glorious 1911 was Bradford’s finest hour, then the years 1914-18 were the bleakest the city has ever faced. The fate of Bradford City’s FA Cup winning captain Jimmy Speirs perhaps epitomises the era. In 1911 he held the glittering FA Cup aloft to the cheers of 100,000 people packed onto the streets of Bradford; six years later he lay dying in a muddy shell hole.

As we celebrate the centenary of Bradford City’s greatest triumph we will also remember the nine Bradford City players who lost their lives in the Great War. As we have seen among that number was the captain and goalscorer in the 1911 FA Cup final Jimmy Speirs. Also killed was the man-of-the-match of the FA Cup final Robert Torrance. Sadly, Torrance has no known grave and is thus commemorated among the 36,000 names on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing near Ypres, Belgium. Others with no know final resting place include City’s England internationals Jimmy Conlin and Evelyn Lintott.

Bradford City supporters will have an opportunity to visit the last resting places of the nine players during a trip to France and Belgium in June. As well as the nine players the trip will also take in Serre where the Bradford Pals attacked on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and the grave of Bradford Park Avenue’s Donald Bell – the only professional footballer to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

The trip will take place between Thursday 2 June and Sunday 5 June 2011. People can book an early bird price of £270 if they pay before April. It includes all travel to and two night’s accommodation in Lille and one night in Arras (including breakfast). The trip is strictly limited to twenty places and will be sold on a first come first served basis. To register interest please contact the bantamspast museum curator David Pendleton by email davidpendleton1@gmail.com or drop into the bantamspast museum at Valley Parade prior to home games.

Liverpool bow to pressure, not reality

A look at the Premier League table – frozen over a cold FA Cup weekend – puts Liverpool under Everton and above Blackpool as Roy Hodgson leaves the Anfield club by mutual consent. The position tells much.

Blackpool are much lauded this season under Ian Holloway who is being talked as a potential England manager with his maverick style likened to Brian Clough and the idea of him being passed over representing the same kind of error. Nevertheless his side sit down Liverpool who now have Kenny Dalglish returning as manager.

The natural reaction by many, if not most, is that the two cannot be compared and that what is a good performance for the Seasiders is unacceptable for the Reds. That Liverpool should be being far better than Blackpool, not one place.

And this is true at present. Blackpool were a fine team in the 1950s when every factory shut down for a week and whole City’s headed East for the coast, sea and a week of a good time but when the package holiday arrived Blackpool descended the leagues. At 13th in the Premier League Blackpool are “over performing” but taking their highest watermark they are some way off the days of Stanley Matthews. The money to sustain the club, the affluence of the town itself, had diminished.

Blackpool are by no mean alone in this fall from grace and no better example is needed than Bradford City in this the anniversary of the 1911 FA Cup win. The Glorious 1911 is well worth a read detailing (one of ) the best team(s) in the country who played at Valley Parade in a Manningham that ranked as one of the most productive and affluent areas of the United Kingdom.

Walk around Manningham and look at the housing on the crescents, the stone work, the beauty of it all were one to strip away a hundred years of industrial decline. As with Blackpool and the package holiday the artificial fibre and end of the wool trade is the underlying story of the decline of Bradford City. The tide ebbing out.

It is this tide which ultimately decides the success or failure of clubs. Looking over Europe and it is rare for the town on its uppers to have a successful team and often the decline of an urban centre is mirrored in the decline of the club that it supported and other clubs rise up and up as a result of money coming to a City. Wander around Manchester and see the affluence of the reinvented City Centre or the new Salford Quays and then look at the top two in the table.

Now anyone who talks ambition at Valley Parade talk about getting the club “To the Championship, where it belongs” which is a point one could debate all day without resolution. Bradford being a City in the top ten of population one might ask why the target is set so low? Bradford being a City with so many scars of financial turmoil one might ask why so high? Certainly the ambition is no bad thing.

Back to Liverpool and like Blackpool and Bradford the City is not what it was. Various statistics from various Government departments conflict on population sizes and relative wealth but the overall view of Merseyside is that it has lost a lot of people to other parts of the country and what remains is not that well off.

Like Bradford and Blackpool Liverpool the City has declined and with it has gone the two football teams. Everton used to win UEFA Cups and were two weeks off doing the double but now their aims are more modestly set at getting as close to fourth place in the League as possible.

Liverpool, however, still maintain the aims of the times when they were dominant in English football and talk about challenging for the Premier League title. As a recent Champions League winner they certainly have cause to talk in such a way – although that was before the First Americans and their abuse of the club – but they do so swimming against a tide that ebbs away as surely as it has done at Valley Parade or Bloomfield Road.

There is a benefit in the brand of Liverpool which is built on the belief that the club is a successful one and the aims that see them want to be performing better than they have this season. Setting high aims and (more importantly) believing they can be achieved is a vital part of creating success and it is no coincidence that all successful teams are often dubbed “arrogant”.

Hodgson’s exit from Liverpool is thus painted as useful. It says that Liverpool expects better performances and in doing so continues the (perhaps healthy) belief amid the players, the fans and the world at large that the higher echelons are the club’s rightful home.

It staves off the reality of a situation – a reality which has become endemic at clubs and in cities like Blackpool and Bradford – which redraws the map of football.

Festive gifts for City fans

Glorious 1911
The book that tells the story of the FA Cup winning season and the era when City were one of the top clubs in England. Available online from www.paraders.co.uk or www.bantamspast.co.uk or from Waterstones, Wool Exchange (price £12).

Glorious 1911 Retro Scarves
Available online through ebay (seller: PARADERS) or from Waterstones, Wool Exchange (price £6). As worn by Lenny, The City Gent at the Hereford game. Few remaining.

City Gent CUFF-LINKS (and other retro designs)
Available online through Parader’s ebay shop or from www.paraders.co.uk as well as Waterstones, Wool Exchange (price £15/pair).

Paraders Retro Badges
The range includes reproduction historic crests, classic kits, City Gents, reproduction badges from before the war, City’s original bantam characters and badges to commemorate each of the club’s promotion seasons. The memorable seasons badges are available now to buy individually with no commitment to have to buy the full set. Unlike other badges on offer around Valley Parade these are UK manufactured and excellent quality. Historical authenticity guaranteed. Display frames available. Visit www.paraders.co.uk for details. (On display in bantamspast above the club shop before kick-off on match days.)

Replica 1911 Jimmy Speirs’ FA Cup winner’s Medal
A choice gift which is available online through Parader’s ebay shop, price £30 incl p&p. Few remaining.

1911 FA Cup Centenary dinner ticket
26 April, 2011 at Midland Hotel
Price £25 each. Contact glorious1911@paraders.co.uk A dinner to celebrate the FA Cup triumph at which the FA Cup will be present and ex-players in attendance. The cost of the dinner has been made as low as possible to make it accessible to supporters on lower incomes.

All profits from the sale of books and badges will be used to invest in new display features in the bantamspast museum above the club shop and also make a donation to the Burns Unit. Additionally £1 from each book sold will be donated.

City supporters invited to enjoy the FA Cup

Seven months of celebrations to commemorate the centenary of Bradford City’s FA Cup triumph of 1911 begin on Sunday when the book ‘Glorious 1911’ is officially launched at Bradford’s National Media Museum.

Bradford City supporters will have the rare opportunity of seeing action from the 1911 FA Cup Final when the Bantams became the first winners of the Bradford designed FA Cup. The official launch of the book ‘Glorious 1911’ will take place at Pictureville, National Media Museum, Bradford this Sunday 21 November at 8pm.

The books author, David Pendleton, the curator of Bradford City’s bantamspast museum, will give an illustrated talk on the writing and research of the book as well as the 1910/11 FA Cup winning season when City established themselves among the elite of English football. The talk will feature rare footage of Bradford City’s Rugby League predecessors, Manningham, in action at Deswbury in 1901; a tram ride from Forster Square to Manningham Park gates in 1902; Bradford City’s first ever Football League home game in 1903; footage of the scoreless draw with Newcastle United in the 1911 FA Cup Final; and the replay at Old Trafford when Jimmy Speirs scored the games only goal to win the FA Cup for Bradford City.

Copies of the book (price £12) will be on sale before and after the event. Additionally a limited number of enamel badges and a special scarf have been made to commemorate the 1911 FA Cup triumph and these will be available at Pictureville along with a specially produced souvenir programme. Tickets for the event are available from the Pictureville booking office, price £6.50 each.

The Pictureville evening marks the first in a number of events that have been organised to celebrate the centenary including a dinner at the Midland Hotel on 26 April, 2011, an exhibition at Bradford Industrial Museum and a visit to the graves of City’s fallen heroes in the Great War – including that of Jimmy Speirs who scored the club’s winning goal against Newcastle United in the 1911 FA Cup Final replay at Old Trafford.

Further details from www.bantamspast.co.uk and glorious1911@paraders.co.uk

Remembering Glorious 1911: New Book

This season marks the centenary of Bradford City’s famous FA Cup winning campaign in 1910/11. To mark the occasion Dave Pendleton, curator of bantamspast Museum at Valley Parade has written a history of the period 1908-15 when Bradford City was one of the strongest teams in English football challenging at the top of Division One.

The book, Glorious 1911 includes a wealth of detail and a large number of previously unseen and long-forgotten photographs and archive images. A formal launch of the book has been arranged at Pictureville cinema at 8pm on Sunday 21 November when there will be a showing or historic Bradford City films as well as a talk about City’s golden era.

Tickets for the event are available from the Pictureville booking office, price £6.50 each. GLORIOUS 1911 will go on sale before kick-off on 20 November in the bantamspast museum (price £12) and it will also be available from Waterstones’ Wool Exchange shop from 20 November. Additionally a limited number of enamel badges and a special scarf have been made to commemorate the 1911 Cup triumph and these will be available at Pictureville along with a souvenir programme.

The Pictureville evening marks the first in a number of events that have been organised to celebrate the centenary including a dinner at the Midland Hotel on 26 April, 2011, an exhibition at Bradford Industrial Museum and a visit to the graves of City’s fallen heroes in the Great War – including that of Jimmy Speirs who scored the club’s winning goal against Newcastle United in the 1911 Cup Final replay at Old Trafford.

For more details go to www.bantamspast.co.uk or mail glorious1911@paraders.co.uk

The modern day FA Cup

The FA Cup is back for another season. Cue up that increasingly-grainy footage of shocks from 30 years ago, let us revel once more at Rocket Ronnie’s goal and don’t forget to keep reminding us that the FA Cup is “the greatest competition in the world”. Again and again.

In recent years – and largely due to the permanently sunny outlook ITV Sport always seems to take – we’ve had to get used to a modern day FA Cup cliche. It’s deployed every time something remotely exciting happens as a moment of mini-triumph for the commentator: “Who said the magic of the FA Cup is dead?”, or for a variant “The magic of the FA Cup is well and truly alive.” Either way this competition has magical powers. So don’t question it. Okay?

Of course the magic of the FA Cup has waned in modern times, and anyone who wants to argue it is still the greatest competition on the basis of showing old footage and over-hyping modern day David v Goliath clashes is either foolish or has advertising space to sell. But even if you face up to that reality, it doesn’t mean the FA Cup is dead. More than it needs to stop living in the past.

There are many theories as to why the FA Cup has lost its prestige – the poor attitude of big clubs and too much football on TV the most quoted. But my personal view is that it is the victim of the successful evolving of league football during the past 20 years. In the Premier League the increase to Champions League spots has pushed down the qualification places for the Europa League (formerly UEFA Cup). This suddenly makes achieving a European spot a realistic objective for more clubs, with hopes able to stay in tact for most of the season.

And in the Football League, the introduction of the play offs in the mid-80s has also devalued the FA Cup. Every team can tangibly dream of reaching a play off spot, and even if you’re stuck in mid-table come Christmas the possibility of a late surge remains alive. Before the play offs, many teams’ seasons would be over before January and, as long as they weren’t in relegation trouble, there’d be nothing to play for with over a half a season left. So the FA Cup meant much more.

In short, the death of midtable meaningless across English football’s four divisions has killed the prestige of the FA Cup. And it’s time traditionalists stopped ignoring the facts and gave up banging on about the so-called magic, so the FA Cup can also evolve for the modern day. The resurgence in popularity of the League Cup in recent years should act as inspiration.

All of this ignores the fact that, for Bradford City at least, this should be considered a special year for the FA Cup. This club doesn’t have an especially successful history to be proud of, but a century ago this season came the Bantams’ finest hour as they defeated Newcastle United 1-0 to lift the FA Cup. Numerous special events are planned to commemorate the landmark, including a new City book to look forward to. It is right to celebrate such an achievement which, in the modern day, looks so absurdly unlikely the club will ever repeat, but how big an appetite there is for a worthy FA Cup run this season to honour that past is debatable.

Tomorrow City begin their FA Cup campaign at Colchester, and with league form suddenly taking off this tie is in truth an unwelcome distraction. Ask pretty much every City fan if they’d rather win tomorrow or at Wycombe in the league next Saturday and yet another early exit would be gladly sacrificed for the chance to close the gap on the play offs. Sure, we’d love to get to the third round and the chance to play David to a Premier League club, but not at the expense of it distracting the players from the all important bread and butter stuff.

Manager Peter Taylor is likely to make some changes given a busy week and important league matches to come, but with momentum so important in football it’s hoped his selection won’t differ too greatly from the side which is building understandings and has won four out of five games. Lenny Pidgley will continue in goal and, with injuries to Shane Duff, Simon Ramsden and Lewis Hunt, expect the same back four which has kept City consecutive clean sheets for the first time since May. Robbie Threlfall could, however, be afforded a first start since getting injured against Gillingham in September.

In midfield Lee Hendrie may not be risked as a minor knock has kept him out of the games at Burton and Bury. Expect Tommy Doherty – still struggling with an injury – to join him in sitting this one out. Doherty’s influence is growing with each game, but the minor complaints from some fans are also being maintained.

After Saturday’s accomplished display he was criticised for lack of pace, on Tuesday the fact he failed to acknowledge us visiting supporters as we chanted his name when he was subbed has caused a bizarrely-angry reaction from a minority. If memory serves me correct, Doherty is yet to speak publicly since signing during the summer and appears to be a shy, retiring sort of fella rather than an arrogant prat who believes he is above thanking his supporters.

Tom Adeyemi and Leon Osborne will likely continue on the flanks, with David Syers possibly joined by the forgotten Lee Bullock in the centre. Almost unnoticed and way ahead of predictions, Gareth Evans returned to the bench on Tuesday after getting injured last month. With the success of the strikers, it appears Evans’ most likely route to a regular starting place is a wide midfield spot, probably for Osborne.

Up front on-loan Jason Price and Louis Moult have been cleared to play and Taylor may favour this partnership to give Omar Daley a breather and to allow James Hanson to continue his recovery from injury. Chibuzor Chilaka will also be pressing for a first start, but after Moult’s first goal last week it would be cruel not to give him a go.

League One Colchester are going great guns and in superb form – so an early exit from the FA Cup seems likely for City. That is hardly the way to honour the heroes of 1911; but the modern day view to take is that the best way to recognise this centenary would not be a cup run but to achieve success in the league.

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