Monday 28 January 2013

Up for the Cup Edwardian Style

As travel plans are made for the League Cup Final, it is remarkable how similar the experience will be to our last appearance in a major cup final – the FA Cup Final of 1911. Although a large proportion of the 31,000 supporters heading south will be travelling by road, a significant number will use the railways. Thankfully, an overnight journey in toiletless carriages has been left behind us. For the team, they will, like their 1911 counterparts, travel to London prior to the day of the match. However, it is unlikely that they will be staying at the Midland Hotel at St Pancras. City fans with an eye to history could stay at the hotel, which has recently been spectacularly refurbished, but as well as an interest in history, they would have to have deep pockets, as the cheapest room is over £220 per night!

We take the following text from David Pendleton’s Glorious 1911 book, which is still available from Waterstones in the city centre and will be restocked in the club shop shortly.

To the Palace for the Cup

A staggering two hundred trains poured fans into London from all over the country. The Great Northern Railway, which served both Bradford and Newcastle, ran 43 trains into Kings Cross. Twenty trains, including one conveying the City team, ran into St Pancras on the Midland Railway. City had something of a special relationship with the Midland, not least because the company leased Valley Parade to the club. The Midland Railway Company’s carriage works in Manningham made a silver horseshoe, which they presented to the team. A large crowd gathered to witness the departure of the official party, including the fifteen players from whom the team would be selected, as they left Forster Square at half past three on the afternoon of Friday 21 April 1911. Driver Luck, who had driven the team’s train to the semi-final, was once again at the controls as the train pulled away from Forster Square, past Valley Parade and towards the distant capital. The great invasion of London had commenced a few hours earlier with the departure of the reserve team from Forster Square.

Eleven trains conveying some six thousand City fans followed in their wake. The streets of Bradford were busy all through the night. Streams of supporters made their way to Forster Square and Exchange stations. Along the route vendors sold claret and amber ‘favours’ that trippers placed in their lapels or attached to hats. As each train started, cheers went up and the fans began singing the popular City song ‘Hello Hello’ which echoed down the platforms as the trains departed into the night. The first train disgorged its bleary-eyed travellers onto the capital’s streets at half past four in the morning! The first team party arrived at St Pancras at quarter past eight in the evening. Waiting at the hotel for the team was a good luck horseshoe, sent by the men of Bradford’s Tramways. The team visited the Euston Empire Theatre, a short walk from their base at the Midland Railway’s fabulous St Pancras Hotel. Given the huge number of fans of both clubs arriving at St Pancras and the adjacent Kings Cross in the early hours, it may not have just been pre-match nerves that kept the City players awake in their hotel rooms above the great station.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Good Luck Everyone!

Different century. Different venue. Same sentiment. History in the making. And it was! And it is!

Sunday 13 January 2013

Villa Park, 1912

As Bradford City’s team, assembled for a mere £7,500, stand ninety minutes from major cup final, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that financial inequality in football is hardly a new thing. City’s opening match of the 1912/13 season brought with it concerns about wealthy clubs dominating the league.

The 1912/13 season started with the toughest possible fashion with a trip to Villa Park. During the summer Aston Villa had spent around six thousand pounds on four players. The Bradford Daily Argus reflected that Villa’s spending over the summer was ‘almost equal to a whole season’s revenue of some of the lowly league clubs’. The ability of a handful of wealthy clubs – notably Aston Villa, Everton and Newcastle United – to dominate the transfer market was causing concern. The unpredictability of the league was often referred to as one of its greatest assets. Publically at least there seems to have been a consensus that buying success was somehow distasteful.

Bradford City themselves had been busy in the transfer market and had tapped into the rich seam of Scottish talent for reinforcements. John Wyllie made his debut in the Bantams’ defence. The burly Scot was at times overwhelmed by the quick first time passing of the Villa forwards and it was later acknowledged that it was probably a mistake to hand him his first division debut against what was widely acknowledged as the best attacking force in the country. However, Wyllie was not the only defender to struggle as City went down to a 1-3 opening day defeat.

A 3-1 defeat at Villa Park in 2013 would set up a penalty shoot out. With City having set an unofficial world record with their nine consecutive shoot out victories, it would be a prospect that the visitors would probably relish. Ten in a row and a first major cup final since 1911? It could happen. We are living through history.