Bradford City vs Shrewsbury Town, English Football League One, 08/10/16, Valley Parade
Valley Parade is a ground that I’ve always wanted to visit since my childhood. There’s one reason for this, Simon Inglis’ book entitled “The Football Grounds of Great Britain.” Back when I was young I spent a large amount of my free time playing Championship Manager on the desktop PC my parents bought for me, and during the load times I would read the aforementioned book, I must have read it cover to cover on numerous occasions, but the section about the Bradford Fire always caught my attention. There is also the fact that I would constantly see Valley Parade on Match of the Day, back when Bradford found themselves in the Premier League, I especially remember watching Paul Scholes thump home that volley.
When the fixtures were released my uncle was very quick to text me and ask whether I fancied attending this game, as his beloved Birmingham City had a free weekend due to the International break, and Valley Parade was also a ground he wanted to visit. Knowing that my parents would also probably be in attendance, we hatched a plan with my dad to keep the fact that my uncle and I were attending secret from my mum, so that we could surprise her. Unfortunately my dad contacted me about a week before the game to inform me that he was unable to get the time off of work, so it was just to be my Uncle Ed and I, but knowing my uncle’s love of real ale, that wasn’t going to be an issue.
After paying £16.30 for my ticket between Preston and Bradford, I caught the 10.02 train from Chorley to Preston, and on arrival in Preston I bought a coffee and lamented the fact that I hadn’t bought a book with myself. Luckily my train to Bradford Interchange arrived at 10.37, and I soon kept myself occupied with Spotify, and the glorious countryside of Lancashire and Yorkshire. In fact I actually felt like tapping people on the shoulder and asking them if they were seeing the same gorgeous scenery as myself, as none of them seemed bothered! Then again I am from London, and they’re probably used to the scenery by now.
I was greeted by my Uncle Ed at Bradford Interchange, as my train rolled in at 12pm. He’d been in the city since around 10am, and had already visited the local Wetherspoons and a couple of other bars. He’d come prepared, as he pulled an A4 piece of paper out of his pocket, which was filled on both sides with different pubs he wanted to try, and the directions on how to get there. Our first stop was Jacobs Beer House, a cosy pub with a huge range of cheap, real ales. The lovely barmaid pointed me in the direction of the Titanic Plum Porter, and I was glad she did as it was a superb pint.
Our next stop was the Corn Dolly, which seemed to be the main meeting point for the Bradford fans, a pint of Exmoor Gold Ale was bought by myself, and we took a seat near the pool table, and began to discuss the music on the jukebox, as there was a fantastic range of music being played. We had planned to move on, but we were enjoying the pub too much, so we stayed for a second, this time a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker. We soon began to notice the Bradford fans leaving, and decided to follow them, an idea which turned out to be a good one, as the ground was tricky to get to, with some streets looking like they would take you to Valley Parade, but then soon veering off.
Once at the turnstiles, I was slightly disappointed to find that we wouldn’t be in the double decker, TL Dallas Stand, behind the goal, but instead we were allocated part of the Midland Road Stand, which made sense as we didn’t look like we were going to fill the TL Dallas Stand. I had planned to go to the ticket office and buy my ticket using my debit card, however we had arrived at the ground at about 2.55, so there wasn’t a lot of time before kick-off, digging through my pockets I found I did have the £25 entrance fee, as well as the £3 needed for a programme, however this didn’t leave me with a lot of money for anything else.
Valley Parade is a wonderful ground, simply brilliant. Sure it looks a bit mismatched, but it has a lot of character which makes it brilliant. It is dominated by the Main Stand and the Kop End which look to be twice the size of the rest of the stadium, and wouldn’t look out of place in the Premier League, the Main Stand does end abruptly, as it only reaches around three-quarters down the touchline, before it gives way to the building which houses the changing rooms, but it is impressive nonetheless. The TL Dallas Stand, behind the goal is normally allocated to away fans, but was closed today, this is a double-decker stand, which looks like a modern version of the Brook Road Stand at Griffin Park, Brentford. Today the away fans were housed in a section of the Midland Road Stand, which is a covered single tiered stand, which would look impressive at most grounds, however given the size of the Main Stand and the Kop End, it looks small in comparison. Bradford have a ground to be proud of, and hopefully this ground will grace the top divisions again soon.
Bradford City have a rich history, and were formed in 1903, with the side immediately being elected into the Football League Division Two, as the Football League looked to compete and promote football in the rugby-league dominated county of West Riding of Yorkshire. In the 1907 to 1908 season the club won the Division Two title and were promoted to Division One. In their first season in Division One the club consolidated their place in the league, and also won the FA Cup. Relegation occurred in 1922, as they went down along with Manchester United. A second relegation soon followed in 1927, and the club found themselves in the Division Three (North), however two seasons later they were back in Division Two, this was to last eight years, until they were relegated back to the Division Three (North) in 1937. Following the Second World War, the club remained in Division Three, but were relegated again in 1961 to Division Four. City spent a large amount of time going between Division Four and Three, but were to return to Division Two in 1985, however this promotion was overshadowed by the tragedy of the Bradford Fire, something I will talk about later. The arrival of Geoffrey Richmond in 1994, saw the club declare their intentions to be in the Premier League within five years, which they achieved as Paul Jewell guided them to promotion in 1999. Jewell kept Bradford in the Premier League in the following season, however he soon left, and was replaced by Chris Hutchings, despite a number of expensive signings, Hutchings was sacked in November 2000, and Jim Jeffries replaced him, however Jeffries couldn’t save the Bantams from relegation. Following this relegation City spent two spells in a period of administration, with the club finding themselves back in the basement division for the 2007 to 2008 season. City have achieved a lot in recent years, with the club going on a wonderful run in the League Cup which saw them reach the final, after dispatching Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa on the way, however they were to lose the final to Swansea, in the 2012 to 2013 season. It was also during this season, when they were promoted back to League One, after beating Northampton Town in the Playoffs. In January 2015, City beat Chelsea 4-2 in the FA Cup Third Round, at Stamford Bridge. This season is looking promising for the Bantams as they look to regain their place in the Championship.
I’ve covered Shrewsbury before, so I won’t repeat their history here. However it is safe to say that this season has been somewhat of a disappointment, with the cherry on the cake being Mickey Mellon’s departure to take the management role at Tranmere, seeing him drop two divisions. I can understand his decision though, as he has a great love of Tranmere, and who can blame him for taking the management role at a club he loves? He was also under pressure at Shrewsbury as league results haven’t been as good as we would have wanted. Hopefully the arrival of a new manager will kick-start our season. (Ian Holloway if you are reading this, please, please, please join us!) Danny Coyne was to take charge of the Shrews today, with many of the Salop faithful just wanting a competitive team to be fielded.
Bradford started the brighter of the two sides, as the placed the Shrewsbury backline under a large amount of pressure, and in all honesty the Shrewsbury players looked lost, there wasn’t a lot of leadership, and I’m surprised it took as long as it did for the opening goal.
The opening goal came in the 21st minute, following some woeful defending. A poor clearance fell to a Bradford player who sent the ball into the box, Filipe Morais’ shot was blocked by Abu Ogogo, but Nicky Law made no mistake and fired the ball home.
Now the point of this blog, is to detail my adventures through groundhopping, and to encourage others to go and watch games at the places I have been to, or at least that is what I hope this blog will do. In the year and a bit I have been groundhopping, and in all the time before I started writing about the places I’ve been to, I haven’t had an issue with stewards. I still don’t have any issues with stewards, as I can understand that at times it can be a thankless task. But today was odd, I can understand that regulations do need to be in place, but the Bradford stewards seemed happy to allow people to stand, which was great as I hate sitting at the football, however if you took a picture, you were told off, as I found out. I was heading down to the toilets, and stopped partway down, as I noticed Bradford were attacking, and I whipped my phone out and snapped a couple of pictures. After putting my phone away, I carried on down to the toilets, but not before being stopped by a steward, actual conversation follows:
“You can’t film here.” Said the steward.
“It’s alright, I wasn’t filming, just taking some photos.” I replied.
“You can’t do that either.”
At this point I walked away, and headed to the toilet. After leaving the toilet, I bought a packet of crisps for £1.50, and headed back to my seat, careful not to take any photos in the process. I can understand that there are official photographers, but would it really affect the club if a groundhopper like myself took some photos to showcase what a brilliant ground Valley Parade is? Anyway, let’s get back on with the football…
Half Time: Bradford City 1-0 Shrewsbury (Law 21)
We spent the half time break discussing the action, and came the conclusion that we were looking ropey at the back, and although, on the rare occasions, when we attacked our play was attractive, we were toothless in front of goal. Something Coyne must have agreed with as he made a change at the break, replaced number 11, Jim O’Brien being replaced by number 16, Antoni Sarcevic.
The change at the break seemed to have a great effect as Salop did start the half the better of the two sides, with us seemingly posing a threat going forward, however whenever we neared the Bradford area, we seemed to forget what to do, and although we created a number of chances we wasted them. I did however begin to believe that we could, and would get an equalizer.
Bradford made their first change of the game in the 67th minute with their number 20, Filipe Morais, coming off to be replaced by their number 24, Daniel Devine. This was to be followed by Shrewsbury’s second change in the 71st minute, with the clearly injured Junior Brown, number 12, leaving the field to be replaced by Mat Sadler, number 3.
With Shrewsbury looking dangerous going forward, Bradford made their final changes in the 79th and 88th minutes respectively, as they looked to fight fire with fire by freshening up their attack. In the 79th minute, number 11, Jordy Hiwula was replaced by number 18, Marc McNulty, and in the 88th minute Haris Vuckic, number 19, replaced number 10, Billy Clarke.
Shrewsbury were chasing an equalizer now, and everytime we attacked, I found myself believing that this would be the attack that bought the goal. Danny Coyne, made a final change in the 90th minute as he bought on Andy Mangan, number 19, for our number 6, Ian Black.
My belief that there would be one more goal in this game was correct, however it was a Bradford goal. Antoni Sarcevic brought Daniel Devine down in the area, and correctly the ref signaled for a penalty, and Haris Vuckic made no mistake from the penalty spot. (If you want to see a fan’s view video of this goal, there are plenty on the internet, but I thought we weren’t allowed to film any of the action?)
Final Score: Bradford City 2-0 (Law 21, Vuckic 94)
Following the final whistle there was only one place I wanted to go to, not another pub, but the Bradford Fire Memorial situated by the club offices. It was poignant to read the names of those that had attended the match and not made it back home again. What should have been the celebration of a successful season, culminating promotion, was instead overshadowed by one of the biggest stadium disasters. I’m sure that everyone reading this will already have an understanding of the events that unfolded on the 11th of May 1985, so I won’t go into the tragedy here, and will instead leave this with a simple Rest in Peace.
Once we’d paid our respects at the memorial, we headed back into Bradford, following my Uncle’s written directions for the next pub, after finding a cashpoint and getting lost along the way, we found ourselves in the Bradford Brewery, a fantastic example of a newer Ale House, upon arrival at the bar we found the bar staff deep in discussion, as apparently a customer had decided they didn’t like the Hockney Pale they had chosen, and had returned it, before walking off with a new pint. Intrigued I decided to try a pint of the Hockney Pale, and I’m not sure what the guy’s issue was, as it was lovely.
There was one final pub my uncle wanted to try, the New Beehive Inn, which is a fantastic example of how the past should be kept alive, as the fixtures and interior of the pub looked like they had been in place since the pub opened. We sat at the bar, enjoying the surroundings, whilst we drank our pints, mine being a pint of Ilkley Pale. I did notice that the bar was dimly lit, and it took my uncle pointing out the light fixtures for me to realize why it was dimly lit. The place was lit by, what looked to be, the original gas lights. It was also in this pub that we found a copy of the superb “City Gent” fanzine, which must be the benchmark for any other fanzines.
Knowing that it wouldn’t be soon until our trains were due, we decided to head to a pub closer to the train station, and after passing through the Festival of Lights, we found ourselves in the Ginger Goose, where we realized we had missed the England game. After enjoying a half of Saltaire Blonde, we made our way to the train station, with my uncle making his way back to Birmingham, and myself back on the train to Preston. Unfortunately my phone’s battery died on the train, and with no plug sockets on the train, I was left with not a lot to do. However time seemed to pass rather quickly, and soon enough I was back on the platform at Preston, in time for the 21.05 to Chorley, which saw me get home for 21.30.
Victory for the Bantams puts them four points clear of Bury who currently sit third in the league. The Bantams themselves sit in second place in the league and are a point behind Scunthorpe who currently top the league. Valley Parade is a brilliant ground, and I fully encourage anyone reading this to visit, just don’t take any photos…
Shrewsbury now sit one place off of the bottom of the league, with a point separating us from Coventy who currently prop up the league. The arrival of a new manager needs to happen soon, however the decision needs to be thought out, as we can’t just pick anyone. I’ve heard Steve Evans being mentioned, and can only say that although he probably would get us winning, I wouldn’t be happy with his appointment. Ian Holloway has got to be my favourite for the job, no matter how unlikely it seems.
Cost: £29.50 in the ground, who knows what I spent outside, I didn’t really keep count!
Hat-tricks seen so far: 0
Next game: This’ll be on the 22nd October, as I have work next weekend. All I can say is that it will be a London game, as I’m visiting my parents, but knowing that my parents read this blog, I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
If you aren’t sure of the events of the Bradford Fire, there is this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradford_City_stadium_fire. I would also recommend Simon Inglis’ “The Football Grounds of Great Britain”, which can be bought here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Football-Grounds-Britain-Simon-Inglis/dp/0002182491/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1476021438&sr=8-2&keywords=simon+inglis