Result: Bradford (Park Avenue) 3-0 Bradford City (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Horsfall Stadium (Saturday 8th July 2017, 3pm)
The pre-season fiesta continues on unabated and this second week of the “season” saw my first solo trip of the season already arrive. However, after visiting Manchester League side AVRO’s new home, the Whitebank Stadium, the previous week, there would be no new ground for me this Saturday. Instead I’d be heading back to West Yorkshire and, more specifically, Bradford for the city’s big derby clash between Bradford (Park Avenue) and Bradford City at (Park Avenue)’s host ground, the Horsfall Stadium. The brackets are highly important, by the way.
With my journey being taken away from the usual railways of the country by the train strikes, I would instead be traversing the coachways via the medium of National Express. Plus, having shelled out £10 for a year’s coachcard, I had a return ticket for just over £7. Not too shabby really and this got me to the interchange for just after 11-o’clock in a fine summer’s morning.
To plan out my trip to the Horsfall, I decided I could do with being inside and headed for the nearby and unsurprisingly orange-signed Ginger Goose, whose advertisement of £1.70 pints within made it a very attractive proposition. This became even more so the case when I got to the bar to find pieces of A4 proclaiming pints of “guest ale” for the princely sum of £1.50. Not one to pass up a bargain, I happily indulged in the offer and settled in to route plan/watch some of the recently started Day 3 of the England-South Africa Test.
With my route seemingly sorted, I headed back out past the interchange and onwards up the main road. It was as I was about ten minutes along that I felt something was a bit off. Indeed, my internal compass had again gone haywire and sent me off down the wrong road and towards Wakefield, if I’d had continued on for long enough. Now, I knew enough to know this wasn’t quite right and a quick check soon put me back on the right path, but still a good hour’s walk off from the ground itself. However, I obviously had a few little “pit-stops” to encounter whilst en-route….
The first of these came up pretty much immediately as I came onto the correct road. This was the Station pub, which happened to be a small, traditional place, with just a bar, dart board and pool table for entertainment. A real hark-back and the £2.60 pint of cider went down well, though this may have had something to do with the fact I’d just come off a good half-hour’s walk, of course.
Anyway, with little time to lose, my stay here was brief and I still had to head onwards up the road for another mile and a bit up until I arrived at a traffic island that seemed to also seemed to be pub central around these parts of Bradford. With the Top House and Red Lion being on the opposite side of the dual carriageway, I reckoned it’d be best to leave these for later and split up my walk back after the game. Somewhat. As such, I had the Woodman to fall upon instead, though I was soon concerned I’d not be served as I arrived at the bar to be asked within a heartbeat “Is your name Lee?” After confirming I was definitely not this “Lee” figure, I was allowed my second cider of the day. Fo any other Lee’s out there, it’s probably best you take some ID!
With me wanting to arrive early to ensure easy food & programme purchase (though BPA’s media man Joe did confirm there was loads of the latter, so no rush), I headed onwards to my final stop-off, the Northern, which sits a short walk from the ground. This also seems the more popular pre-match drinking hole for the punters and, as such, was fairly full with City fans enjoying the sun in the outside seating area, though this did leave them exposed to the heckles of the traffic. Well, that shouldn’t really be plural, as there was just the one shout from a passing white van of “Come on the Avenue!”. Ooh, it was on now.
After polishing off my third Strongbow of the day so far (far more appetising when the sun’s out for some reason), I reckoned it was about time I headed for the Horsfall, what with the time now past 2pm. After this time going one road too far as opposed to one too early earlier on in the day, I eventually re-joined the stream of fans heading to the ground, whilst passing a pair of girls dressed in super-hero fancy dress as some sort of promotion(?). I didn’t know and, in truth, I didn’t really want to!
Eventually I arrived at the Horsfall Stadium after passing by the large cemetery which I hoped wasn’t not an omen for the game’s quality (though City fans may think this did fit their performance). After handing over my £8 entrance fee, I ventured inside and quickly asked a startled guy in smart dress to where the programmes were. After a swift visit to the club shop, where I’d been directed by said suited-up fellow, I purchased something I’d been looking forward to for a while, BPA’s chips and gravy with some peas on the side. Sadly, they weren’t up to the standard of my last visit and seemed somewhat overcooked. Or maybe my tastes have changed since then, but they weren’t as good as my memory made them out to be.
Alas, it’s on to the ground which has had a couple of little additions since my last visit. There are now a pair of new stands, though both are of the new, bog standard, boxed affair. One is a small terraced area that sits behind the near end goal between the pitch and the turnstiles/shop/everything else and is reached via fenced off route over the running track that surrounds the playing area. The other is a similar stand on the far touchline alongside the pavilion building, but this one is an all seater, though was caged off and not in use today. The aforementioned pavilion building houses the dressing rooms, with the ground’s crowning glory being the large grandstand that runs the majority of the pitch. All actual seats here are undercover, with just the benched areas that jut out from each side being open to the elements. The far end is home to an open grass bank that was in major use today, what with the game being a friendly which meant the usual, over sensitive health and safety rules could mercifully go out the window. The extra turnstile at this end was even being pressed into service too, with the 2,000-plus crowd filling up the ground nicely.
Now, with ground description out of the way, here’s everyone’s favourite part (it is, I know it is and don’t deny your love for it), it’s the history of Bradford (Park Avenue)…
Bradford (Park Avenue) FC was originally formed in 1863 as Bradford Football Club (its traditional name) as a rugby football club and began to play association football from 1895, sharing the West Yorkshire League title in 1896 whilst also winning the catchy-named Leeds Workpeople’s Hospital Cup. However, the original football club would only last a further three years before folding in prior to the turn of the century.
1907 would see another attempt at association football at the club. This saw the majority of members decide to fully abandon the Union game for association football as part of what is known as, rather over-dramatically, the “Great Betrayal, while still playing at the original Park Avenue ground. After being spurned in their attempt to join the Football League, they instead joined the Southern League despite being 130 miles away from nearest rival Northampton Town. The bracketed ‘Park Avenue’ suffix was added to the ‘Bradford FC’ name to avoid confusion with Bradford City, though the club was usually published on fixture lists etc. simply as Bradford.
The next year (1908) did see Bradford FC elected to the Second Division of the Football League and they were promoted to Division 1 in 1914 as runners-up and finished ninth at the close of their first season at the top level. After WWI (in which player Donald Bell would sadly lose his life at the Somme, but would be awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery posthumously), the club entered a steady decline, never reaching their pre-war glory years again. After being relegated to Division 2 in 1921 and Division 3 at the close of the following season, a brief resurgence saw Bradford promoted back to Division 2 as Division 3 North champions in 1928, where they would remain through to 1950, when they dropped back to Division 3 and eventually Division 4 due to reorganisation in 1958.
Another promotion in 1961 saw a brief return to the Division 3, but this lasted just two seasons before a return to Division 4 was rubber-stamped. This was the beginning of the end for Bradford’s league football stay, 1970 seeing them replaced by Cambridge United after a number of difficult seasons. The club, resultantly, joined the Northern Premier League, selling their Park Avenue home in 1973 before sharing facilities with Bradford City, but fortunes only worsened and 1974 saw Bradford liquidate.
However the club immediately reformed in Sunday League and, after stays at a couple of other venues, returned to a redeveloped Avenue Road for one season for a final farewell before redevelopment saw the ground shut permanently. A new Saturday club was thusly formed for 1988-’89 and took a place in the West Riding County Amateur League, before switches to the Central Midlands League ‘Supreme Division’ and latterly the North West Counties League followed, the NWCFL season seeing BPA compete at various rugby league grounds.
The Sunday and Saturday sides merged as one entity during the early part of the 1990’s and BPA won the NWCFL in 1995, returning to the NPL and moving to their current home, the Horsfall Stadium. The club would win the First Division title in 2001 before going on to be founder members of the Conference North after finishing high enough in the NPL table to achieve a spot in the new division via the play-offs, where the club defeated Spennymoor Utd, Ashton Utd & Burscough. However, relegation followed after one season (after a 7th place), before they further subsided the following season back to the NPL Division 1 North, but won the 2006 NPL President’s Cup ahead of returning to the NPL’s Premier Division as Division 1 North as Champions in 2008.
Following a false dawn over plans for a new 20,000 seater stadium and a return to League football by 2012, the club did still achieve success that year by gaining promotion back to the Conference North after winning the NPL’s play-off final, defeating FC United one-nil after narrowly missing out the previous two seasons. They have since consolidated their place in the Second Step of the non-league system, finishing up in 16th place last time out in the National League North.
After a minute’s applause for young Bradley Lowery who, of course, sadly passed away during the week, we were underway. The first ten minutes or so were a fairly even affair with (Park Avenue) being more than a match for their Football League neighbours. But it still came as something of a shock to the majority of the crowd on at the Horsfall when the hosts took the lead, new signing Nicky Clee firing in a fine effort from the angle of the box that flew across City keeper Colin Doyle and into the far side-netting where it sort of stopped dead. This almost resulted in chips flying everywhere, such was my reaction.
I made sure there could be no repeat threat of this happening again and instead headed off on the obligatory lap of the ground, briefly visiting the small stand behind the goal. It was from here that I’d see City’s best chances of the game come and go, whilst at close quarters. First, the sprightly Charlie Wyke saw his header saved by Drench when he ought to have done better, before Drench was forced to get down low at his right-hand upright to palm away a low Jake Reeves drive.
I continued on as the game settled down somewhat, with little happening until the last fifteen of the half, and it was then the second goal arrived. A trip inside the area on the full-back led to Nicky Wroe placing the ball on the spot before firing beyond Doyle and into the corner. As I continued onwards and reached the grassy mound at the rear of the stand, I decided to try and get the full ground in one shot. Whilst doing so, I was instructed by a kid to take a picture of his mum rolling down the grass mound as soon as he’d realised I had camera in hand. Not one to disappoint, I duly did so, which his Dad seemed pretty pleased about. He wouldn’t be quite as happy moments later due to on pitch reasons…
The Bantams, at this point, looked like the lower-ranked outfit and they went three down just minutes later. Some fine work down the flank by Oli Johnson saw him able to tee up Adam Boyes, who used his head to nod home from close range. It was the ‘3rd Avenue’ goal. Ah, that’s a bad pun. Quality wise too. Anyway, half-time arrived and with the home side and their numerous trialists (that got a fair snigger when they were announced pre-match) took to the field to warm-up ahead of the second half.
The second period got underway as I took up a place on the open benched seating at the far-end of the ground, before heading under cover for a while. To be fair, the second-half was very much one of those that is too punctuated by subs to really get going and, as such, there was little action to truly get excited about.
However, both ‘keepers did have one opportunity a piece to prove themselves once more, City’s sub-keeper, German Rouven Sattlemaier denying Boyes a second, before Drench had to be at his best once more to push away Shay McCarten’s drilled effort. McCartan also somehow failed to bundle the ball home from close range as the game entered its final throws, but there was to be no addition to the score-line as the Avenue held off to the final whistle to ensure a decent win and take some sort of local bragging rights, as well as a little silverware in the form of the ‘Tom Banks Memorial Trophy’.
As for myself, the charge was on to get back up the road to make the walk seem that little easier. As mentioned earlier, I stopped off in the Top House first, eventually sorting out how to get there after being lost in the subways, before heading into the nearby Red Lion. Two Carlsberg’s down, it was unavoidably time to embark on the 3 mile traipse back to the city centre.
Eventually arriving, I came upon Jacob’s Ale House and this was by far my favourite pub of the day. Lowly-lit and having the feeling of being underground, it is certainly one for those looking for something a little different from the usual outlets. Speaking of which, my final stop was in one of these “usual outlets” in the form of ine of the City’s Wetherspoon’s, the Turls Green which sits just around the corner from the interchange, in Centenary Square.
After wasting away the final half-hour of my day in Bradford over the now staple drink of Punk IPA, it was time to head back up for the coach back.
A quick, easy journey home followed and resulted in some decent money saving too, which will definitely be explored more so, now I have the coachcard and not long to go with the railcards. Overall, I’d enjoyed my first real visit to Bradford and look forward to returning at some point fairly soon for a visit to Valley Parade. The Horsfall is, for me, a pretty underrated ground that probably suffers from the running track around it in some people’s eyes, though this isn’t much of an issue to me usually. The game was decent, the weather was good, so next week’s going to be the opposite, isn’t it…?
Programme: 5 (not full issue)
Value For Money: 7