Manchopper in….Bradford (Bradford City AFC)

Result: Bradford City 2-0 Chesterfield (FA Cup First Round)

Venue: Valley Parade (Saturday 4th November 2017, 3pm)

Att: 4,747

The FA Cup continues to roll on through the rounds in what seems like double quick time and, allied with this, my road to the 92 is helped out a little by the cut-price games on offer. With savings of up to £15 occasionally on offer, it would seem silly not to take advantage of one of the ties in the oldest cup competition’s first “proper round” at such a venue.

As such, when the draw was made, a few options were offered up from longer range journeys to the likes of Northampton or Newport to the closer to home Shrewsbury and Bradford City. Of course, it should already be pretty obvious where I ended up after possible plans for a trip back to Salop fell through. Into the valley I was headed with sights set on (current) league ground #34 (I’m a late starter!).

Setting off at just before half-past 10, I arrived into the North Yorkshire city at just before midday. I’d already scouted out the numerous possible “cultural” options on offer in the city centre and towards the ground. I reckoned on starting out at the Old Bank pub, located on Bradford’s Market Street. This proved a costly decision with my pint of Erdinger setting me back the best part of a fiver. Ouch, great start.

Bradford (not too flattering, admittedly)

Old Bank

After taking my time over this one to get something of my money’s worth whilst sitting opposite an old building declaring the names “Brown and Muff” at the top, I was soon heading back out down Market Street and to my next destination, the Exchange Ale House, located down some steps in an almost cellar-like location. It’s not an obvious spot either with little truly pointing out its existence there, but it’s definitely well worth a visit. The lighting sets off a nice vibe and the whole place feels relaxed. A pint of Krusovice set me back a further £4, as the elder guy at the bar rolled off suggestions for a 60’s playlist, all of which were fine choices. You may have guessed I enjoyed it in here!

Alas, it was soon time to head around the corner and to my next planned stop, the City Vaults. Dodging a strange rain shower that appeared to be falling from sun-laden skies, a pint of Heineken’s export variety cost £3.50 here and it was ok, but nothing to really shout about. After sitting in the room atop of the spiral staircase here, the time was approaching to head onwards and slightly closer to the ground.

In the Exchange

Heading to the City Vaults

Heading past a street preacher loudly exclaiming whatever he was attempting to get across and numerous charity workers from one organisation all trying to stop me, I eventually found refuge in an old-school hostelry by the name of the Shoulder of Mutton. It was well populated in the small-ish pub, and its Taddy Lager definitely brought a cheaper option to the table, which was most welcome by this point! However, with space at something of a premium at tables and the clock approaching the stroke of two, I reckoned I’d best head for the ground via my final planned stoppage at the Bradford Arms.

A final bottle in here saw me finished up and so all that was left was to go across the road and to the stadium in the hope of beating a fair amount of the crowds. This worked well too, with me pretty much getting straight through the turnstiles in exchange for the £10 entry fee before making for one of the food bars within the concourse for some much-needed food. Chips bought, it was up to my seat to watch the clash between two teams I’ve (sort of) already seen this season: Bradford City in a friendly at city rivals Park Avenue and Chesterfield at Notts County.

Shoulder of Mutton

Bradford Arms

Both teams were going through their final pre-match warm-ups ahead of kick-off, with the large stadium looking likely to be fairly derived of people today. Indeed, the best part of two stands were completely untaken. The Chesterfield fans were located in the smaller of the two side-on stands, but towards the far end from where I was sat. To the near end was the other large, two tiered end which links up with its almost twin-looking neighbour. The opposite end features a smaller two-tiered effort, unused today, with the ground definitely varying its look around the four corners. As for Bradford City themselves….

History Lesson:

Bradford City A.F.C. was founded in 1903 following a series of meetings between the Bradford Observer’s sub-editor, James Whyte, and officials of the FA and Manningham F.C., a local rugby side. The League saw this as an opportunity to promote association football in the county of West Riding and, just four days later, the decision was made to switch Manningham to an association football side. As a result, Bradford City would be formed and would immediately replace Doncaster Rovers as a Football League club.

Adopting Manningham’s claret and amber colours and continuing on at Valley Parade, Bradford City competed in their first ever game, a two-nil Division 2 defeat at Grimsby Town and won the first of four straight West Riding County Cups in 1906. 1908 would see City win the Division 2 title and with it came promotion to the top-flight, just five years after the club’s founding. Narrowly avoiding relegation at the close of their first season in Division 1, City settled and finished up with a 5th place in 1911, which still remains the club’s highest league finish. That season also saw the club take their only FA Cup triumph, defeating Newcastle United one-nil in a replayed final. Their defence of the Cup the following season featured the first ever Bradford derby, with City overcoming rivals Bradford (Park Avenue) F.C.

Bradford City would remain in the First Division up until WWI and for a further three seasons after the resumption of football. Following their 1922 relegation to Division 2, the club struggled and dropped into the Division 3 (North) in 1927. However, they’d return to the second tier after a two season spell in the Third Division, winning the title under the guidance of an early, returning club legend, Peter O’Rourke, under whom the club had their 1911 successes. He’d gone on to leave after a further season in charge. 1937 would see City return to Division 3 (North) following relegation, but this would enable the club to lift silverware shortly afterwards in the form of the 1939 Third Division (North) Challenge Cup. The Bantams were never able to defend the trophy due to outbreak of WWII shortly after their triumph.

Arriving at Valley Parade

Post-war, City spent most of their time in the lower reaches of the Third Division (North), but a slight upturn in fortunes saw the club finish in the upper half of the table up until 1958 and this enabled the club to take a place in the “new” Division Three, upon the creation of Division Four, which City would end up in at the close of the 1960-’61 season, though the club did upset Manchester United that same season in the inaugural League Cup competition. Following a close call in 1964, City achieved promotion back to Division 3 in 1969.

After yo-yoing slightly between the two lower divisions between ’69 & 82 (which saw two relegations in ’72 & ’78 counteracted by a promotion in 1977 between those two promotion dates), 1985 saw the Bantams take the Division Three title and return to the second tier. Of course, this success was massively overshadowed by the Valley Parade disaster which claimed the lives of 56 people, with the ground catching fire during the final game of that very season.

After 19 months away from Valley Parade as a result of the tragedy, the club returned to the newly built ground and missed out on promotion to Division One on the last day of the ’87-’88 season and were then defeated in the play-offs. This missed opportunity proved costly, as the club would be relegated to Division 3 two years later. However, they’d go up through the play-offs of the newly designated Division 2 in 1996, beating Notts County at Wembley under Chris Kamara, who’d guide the club to safety the next season by winning their last two league games.

Upon Kamara’s dismissal in 1998, Paul Jewell took the reigns and led Bradford City to the Premiership after finishing second in Division 1 at the end of his first full season in charge (1998-’99). The following season saw the club survive their first season in the Prem by defeating Liverpool on the final day, but Jewell would leave shortly afterwards. City would be relegated in 2001 and after a season back in Division One, the club’s struggles with finances and administration would appear.

BCAFC

After two further relegations (2004 &’07), the Bantams found themselves in “League 2”, the first time City would be playing in the bottom tier for 26 seasons. 2013 saw the club become the first fourth-tier side to reach the League Cup final since 1962 and the first to make a major Wembley final. They had defeated three Premier League sides (Wigan Athletic, Arsenal & Aston Villa) en route to the final, but lost convincingly to Swansea City on the day. However, better memories were made a few months later when City returned to play under the arch and defeat Northampton Town in the League 2 play-off final to achieve promotion to League One.

They have remained in League One to this day, though 2014-’15 did see City embark on a famed Cup run, in which they knocked out then-Premier League leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and followed this by taking the scalp of another PL club, Sunderland, in reaching the quarter-finals where their journey was ended in a replay by Reading. Last season saw Bradford City finish up in 5th place in League One, the club being defeated in the play-offs.

We were soon underway and it certainly didn’t take long for the hosts to take the lead, just four minutes in fact. The goal came courtesy of Alex Jones’ through ball to Alex Gilliard who advanced into the area before finishing calmly beyond Spireites stopper Joe Anyon. It already looked to be an uphill struggle for the Football League’s basement club and they weren’t to offer much threat going forward over the ninety minutes.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The home crowd was pretty understated throughout the game for the most part but their opposite numbers from Derbyshire, to their credit, certainly tried to spur their team on. This did end up with Chesterfield’s Kristian Dennis forcing the ball into the net around the half-hour, but this was ruled out for a pretty clear-cut offside. However, this misfortune would almost immediately cost the visitors as the Bantams went down the other end and extended their advantage.

A nice ball through to the aforementioned Jones by his fellow forward Charlie Wyke saw him clear in the area. With only Anyon to beat, he clipped the ball beyond the ‘keeper and across the goalmouth, the ball nestling in the far corner to give the hosts what looked to be a likely unassailable lead. It was almost cut-and-dry on the stroke of half-time when Wyke found the net, but his header from a corner was ruled out for a push by Wyke in the build-up. So, half-time arrived with the scoreboard reading two-nil.

The second half saw Bradford seemingly sit-back on their advantage and look to see the game out without affording their visitors any hopes of getting back into the contest. However, this did almost come back to bite them when former Manchester United loanee (in somewhat strange circumstances), Andy Kellett’s low ball into the area was blazed over the bar by the well-placed Joe Rowley.

Match Action

Match Action

This did seem to alert Bradford to the danger and Wyke forced a save from Anyon after an audacious 25 yard volley which the gloveman palmed away to safety. Missed chances for both Jones and Paul Taylor went begging for the Bantams but this mattered little in the end as the hosts progressed the Second Round with a comfortable win, where they will now welcome Plymouth.

Following a visit to the memorial for the victims of the Valley Parade fire, I was left with a fair wait for a train back into Manchester and so a pint in the City Gent was called for. Quickly polishing off my Strongbow in the expansive and pretty grand-looking decorated pub, I was attracted by the Sparrow next door which looked to be very popular indeed. This proved the case upon entering, with it being standing room only. As such, I plumped for just a half in here though a table was soon afforded to me. After wasting away the remaining minutes over this, it was soon time to head the fifteen minutes or so to Bradford Interchange where I made the train in the nick of time, having lost five minutes on route somewhere! This quick exert of energy would prove unwise, as I proceeded to continually nod off! Luckily, the train’s terminus was at Manchester anyway, so there was no issue in heading onwards to far-flung shores.

City Gent

So there ends another round of the cup. It was good to get another long-term target of mine in Valley Parade “ticked” and so now attention turns to the next round and the possibilities there. There’s a few too! As for the day, I enjoyed my tour de Bradford and the ground was pretty cool too. The game was as I expected, really so wasn’t too disappointed and you can’t be for a tenner anyway really can you? Next up is a return to the FA Trophy and, in keeping with today’s blog’s featured tournament, a team with a history in the Cup of giant-killings….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Programme: 5 (cut price issue)

Food: 5

Value For Money: 8

 

Manchopper in….Macclesfield

180px-Macclesfield_Town_FC.svg

Result: Macclesfield Town 3-2 Alfreton Town (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Moss Rose (Saturday 24th October 2015, 3pm)

Att:1,048

Today, I was back on the road to Wembley and the continuing trail of the FA Cup Qualifying Rounds. My destination was in Cheshire and without drawing out the mystery any more than is required ( I think the answer is given away in the title), I was headed for Macclesfield and, more specifically Moss Rose, home of the Silkmen of Macclesfield Town.

Macc were playing host to Alfreton Town in the final qualifying round of the competition and therefore, the two were competing for a place in the First Round of the Cup itself. Unfortunately it was a rather damp, dreary, dull late morning as I set off into Manchester for the connecting train to Macclesfield. After a bit of a rush through town, I made the Northern stopping service in the nick of time and met up with regular accomplice Dan on the train. Exiting out of Piccadilly’s Platform 4, we set off through the Cheshire countryside and onwards to our terminus.

After being somewhat puzzled by a guy decked out I full Macc attire disembarking in Poynton, rather than the place of his supposed game of choice, we eventually rolled into the station and immediately discounted the dingy-looking Queens’ Hotel for the pub featuring a large Manchester United flag on its exterior. This pub was the Nags Head and also featured a worrying “Enter if you Dare” on the door. Bravely, we entered, but the place was as dead as the ghouls depicted on its Hallowe’en banner and we rushed down a quick half before heading down the road to the Treacle Tap, where I’d informed the newest blogger on the block and member of the BOBSC, Paul Rowan, we’d meet him on his arrival from Liverpool.

Welcome To Macclesfield

Welcome To Macclesfield

A damp Macc

A damp Macc

Nags Head

Nags Head

Warnings

Warnings

No sooner had Dan and I ordered and sat down with our drinks of Flensburger, I noticed a figure in the window of the cobblers opposite, which resembled more a priest than a shoemaker, fixing shoes unsurprisingly. After this small amusement, Paul rocked up through the rain and joined us in having the Dutch(?) beer. With the Treacle Tap seemingly more of a small bistro-style outlet, that just seems to also offer ales, we headed out after a short stop and onwards towards the ground where I remembered a pub was located around half-way up the road. Thus, we came upon The Macc. In we headed and were soon met with Clown Juice.

Before you become too alarmed about any perverted activity, Clown Juice is in fact a, rather strong, ale measuring at 7.5% and is, unsurprisingly, advertised in half-pints. But due to us having a match to see and roads to navigate, we plumped for the Spanish tipple Mahou instead, which I’d grown accustomed to while on holiday in Mallorca this summer. The Macc was definitely the best of the three bars we’d sampled, with a good atmosphere, selection of beers and a dark part of a wall with a Narnia sign painted on it at the rear. We decided to steer clear of this, as you never know what might happen if you go to close to the void.

Treacle Tap

Treacle Tap

Saintly Cobbler

Saintly Cobbler

The Macc

The Macc

Ooh I say!

Ooh I say!

Before long, we’d finished off in here and bid our goodbyes to the Macc and headed up to the Moss Rose, where we planned to visit Keith’s Bar, named in honour of the tragic Keith Alexander, Macc’s former manager. Sadly, this wasn’t in use today and therefore we were directed to the Corner Flag Bar on the far side of the Star Lane Terrace, where we’d paid £10 for a ticket to stand in for the game today. After heading through a strangely-placed crowd controlled gate, with all transits through controlled by a steward, we entered the bar and I got myself a Bulmers’ Orange cider whilst Paul stuck with a beer and Dan marvelled at his new purchase: a Macclesfield Town scarf.

After Paul and I pointed out that, due to the badge being hardly noticeable, you could fold the scarf up a little and take it to any side playing in white and blue and pretend to be a fan, Dan was less than impressed and proceeded to defend his scarf for all his worth.

Moss Rose in the distance

Moss Rose in the distance

Welcome

Welcome

Front and centre

Front and centre

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

Luckily, his argument was truncated by the approaching kick-off and we headed back outside and back through the gate to the Star Lane Terrace, which is the covered end and stands opposite the usual away end, which is an open terrace. The left-hand touchline features the new-build stand, complete with all corporate bits inside it and to the right is the old Main Stand, which is flanked by further open standing and is where the dressing rooms and dugouts are located around too. With this being the old bit, it leads nicely onto the history of the Silkmen…,

History Lesson:

The first football club in Macclesfield was founded in the mid-19th century, playing rugby union rules until 1874, when the association football rules were adopted instead. During its earlier years, the club played in the Combination, Manchester League (won twice) and the Cheshire League (won twice pre-war) and was known by titles such as Macclesfield Football and Athletic Club, Hallifield FC & Macclesfield FC, before settling on Macclesfield Town FC upon resumption of football en masse after WWII. Town joined the Cheshire County League in 1946-’47, with the first silverware under its current name coming in the shape of the 1948 Cheshire League Cup.

This was built on throughout the ’50’s, with the Silkmen, the nickname deriving from the town’s famed Victorian trade, with four cups in four years being achieved (three Cheshire Cups and a league title), with this being their last success until 1961, when they won the Cheshire League for a fourth time. This began a period where the club won three further league titles and finished no lower than fifth over a 9-year stint. In 1968, the club became founder members of the Northern Premier League (NPL).

Soap dispenser

Soap dispenser

Instant success followed, with Macc winning the first two titles of the NPL and they won the inaugural FA Trophy in 1970 to add to the second title. But, success faded and the club finished bottom in 1979, but were spared by the creation of the Alliance League, the forerunner of the Conference, which saw the club remain in the NPL and be able to rebuild again through the ’80’s, eventually resulting in the club’s third NPL title in 1987, which resulted in promotion to the Conference. This was joined in the cabinet by the NPL Challenge Cup & President’s Cup as Town swept the floor.

After a mostly solid start to life in the Conference, including the ’94 Conference League Cup, the club won the 1995 Conference title under the guidance of Sammy McIlroy, but were denied promotion to Division 3 due to ground grading. Two seasons later, however, the club won their second Conference title and had upgraded the ground meaning promotion could take place now. Upon reaching the Football League, Macclesfield Town turned professional ahead of the ’97-’98 season.

Their first season saw instant success, with Macc finishing runners-up and thus achieving promotion to Division 2, going unbeaten all season. However, Division 2 was a bridge too far and the club immediately dropped back to Division 3 after one year. McIlroy left to take the Northern Ireland job, which meant a less than stable few years was to follow as the man at the helm changed a number of times.

Through the net

Through the net

After a recovery from a poor start to the season saw Macc eventually achieving a play-off place in 2005 & staving off relegation in 2007, tragedy struck in 2010 when manager Keith Alexander passed away after a game at Notts County. This was added to by the death of midfielder Richard Butcher who passed aged just 29 just 10 months later. Butcher’s 21 shirt has since been retired from use as a mark of respect. Last time I visited, the club still printed his name and number on the squad list, though this appears to have been discontinued now.

2012 saw Macc relegated back to the Conference after a terribly poor season, but the following year saw a high-point as Macc reached the FA Cup 4th Round for the first time. Last season, Macclesfield Town finished in 6th place, just missing out on the play-offs.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Fans on the terrace

Fans on the terrace

Dan shows his colours

Dan shows his colours

The teams entered the pitch with an impressive noise emanating from the small band of Alfreton fans situated in the far corner of the newer stand. But, unfortunately for them, their optimism took a big hit soon after the restart when their side were caught cold by the quick starting National League side, who marched into a two-goal lead. First, Kristian Dennis found himself one-on-one with the Alfreton ‘keeper, after being fed in by Danny Whittaker on his 300th appearance for the club, before Dennis confidently slid past GK Matt Duke into the bottom corner. He was soon joined on the scoresheet by Silkmen skipper Paul Turnbull, who planted a close range diving header into the net and seemed to have settled the game already. 2-0.

Megs!

Megs!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

To their credit, back came Alfreton, and they put ever increasing pressure onto the Macc back-line, but without really testing the former Bournemouth man, Shwan Jalal, in the Macc goal. They were punished for lacking that edge, as Dennis converted his second from close range, just as I exited the facilities. At 3-0, you felt Alfreton may have crumbled,  but no, they kept on pushing forward, spurred on by their vocal support and they got a goal their pressure deserved almost immediately after Dennis had found the net down the other end, Sam Jones smashing a half-volley past the helpless Jalal.

Paul had already been sent on a walk down the far end to use facilities, rather than those about 10-feet away by the steward enforcing this strange, pointless gate and wasn’t too impressed when, upon coming back out of the bar for the second half, he looked up at the sky to check the weather, only for the steward to say he “saw that craft look”. Now, I have no idea what constitutes a crafty look, but whatever it is, the steward must be an expert in it. It was rather rude, really, and even if it was in jest it shouldn’t be said.

Anyway, after discovering a new love for Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale FC at half time, it was back onto the game at hand. I’d just finished off a decent, if pricey, Sausage Roll for £2.00, when Alfreton moved to within a goal of their hosts, Jordan Robertson heading in a high ball at the back post. This was the cue for celebrations in the Alfreton end, who even had police to keep an eye on them, with shirts off and a man in a large pink-orange coated getting very excited in the midst of the ranks

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Kick It Out!

Kick It Out!

This spurred the reds on and they had further chances to grab an equaliser, but it was Macc who came closest to grabbing another goal, Lindon Meikle blasting over from a great position, but it mattered little in the grander scheme of things, as the Silkmen hung on to secure their place in the First Round of the FA Cup.

So, the game was over and we headed back to The Macc to watch the conclusion of South Africa vs New Zealand in the RWC Semi-Final, with the lure of the Clown Juice being too much to ignore. It also gave me the chance to ask a question I’d thought I’d never mutter “Can I have a try of your Clown Juice?”. We’d all decided hat this statement had to be said as we all thought it would be hilarious. Clearly, somewhere during the day, we’d all receded 12 years in age and headed back to the Primary School playground.

No problem

No problem

Getting Darker

Getting Darker

Clown Juice!!!

Clown Juice!!!

After watching the All Blacks conquer the Springboks, we headed back out into the fading light of the day and back to Macclesfield station, where we got onto the platform just as the train to Piccadilly was pulling in. Somewhere on the journey, Paul got up from his seat alongside me and headed to the loo, and came back wearing make-up, with long hair and fixing his mascara. No, he hadn’t done a Bruce, but had just had his seat taken by a woman and had to relocate to the rear. Phew!

Upon arrival in Piccadilly, Paul had decided he wanted to tick off another tap off his list, and so it was over to the Piccadilly Tap for the final stop of the day. I continued my usual “pick a beer on relation of its involvement in sport” and opted for a BitBurger, after its sponsorship of the Benetton F1 Team back in the day and we headed upstairs for a game of table football, which ended in a competitive 5-5 draw, with the blues and reds reflecting the sides from today’s game. I wasn’t too impressed with my table football-style Jalal, who was doing a headstand for one of the goals!

Pick One!

Pick One!

Tips in the tap!

Tips in the tap!

Good game, good game!

Good game, good game!

Soon after the completion of the enthralling contest, Dan left us and headed home, while Paul and I finished off our pints downstairs in the busier part of the Tap, setting the world to rights about most things, I’m sure. Before too long, though, it was time to head home and I bid farewell to Paul outside Piccadilly as he headed off on his way and I on mine. It sounds a lot more romantic than it was, I assure you!

And so brought to end another day watching football in a damp town in the North of England. You wouldn’t swap it for anything would you? I know I wouldn’t! Although doing the same in a warmer climate does sound appealing, now that you mention it….

DSC00836

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Goals and a fair amount of action. Can’t complain.

Ground: 7- Nice mix of old & new and decent views behind the old stand.

Fans: 5- Not much going from the home end.

Programme: 7- A fair effort, but nothing to rave about.

Food: 5- Okay, not worth £2, though.

Value For Money: 8- £7 travel, £10 in, £3 programme, and about £20 extras. Pretty decent overall.