Avenue at Valley Parade
Earlier in the year, a proposal that Avenue would become City’s nursery side, with players interchanging between City’s reserves and Avenue’s first team, was rejected by the Northern Premier League. The nearest the two clubs came to pooling their assets was the ‘shared’ player Roy Baker - he signed for Avenue in early September, but remained an amateur with City.
Therefore a proposal that Avenue would share Valley Parade was met with suspicion among the Avenue support. However, there was no alternative and Avenue began the 1973-74 season as tenants of their bitter rivals.
Avenue had finished the previous season in a respectable fifth place in the Northern Premier League. However, due to the cash constraints, several players had been released. The opening game attracted 1,022 to Valley Parade, who witnessed a 2-2 draw against Northwich Victoria. Sadly, both form and attendances were to dip dramatically over the following months. As early as 8 September only 634 saw Avenue drubbed 7-1 by Stafford Rangers. Avenue chairman George Sutcliffe issued an early warned ‘these gates can kill us’. The next home game was described as ‘pathetic’ in the Telegraph & Argus. South Shields hit Avenue for six. ‘It was nothing less than target practice against poor Pat Liney’ lamented the T&A.
The FA Cup brought Avenue a welcome respite and their first Valley Parade victory, when Mexborough Town were defeated 4-2. However, shortly afterwards manager Tony Leighton - a former City player - was sacked. He stayed on as a player and ironically it was a Leighton goal that gave Avenue their next victory on 3 November against Fleetwood.
The poor attendances were further reduced by a miners strike. Power cuts forced midweek games to kick off during afternoons. However, a taste of the old times returned when 1,322 saw a goalless draw against high flying Wigan Athletic. Sadly, it was a false dawn. Avenue’s reputation was sullied when a Northern Premier Cup tie with Skelmersdale was held up when around twenty Avenue fans ran onto the pitch and jostled the referee and opposition players. Police reinforcements had to be drafted in before the game could restart.
The month of April saw no let up in Avenue’s misfortunes. A humiliating defeat at Thackley in the West Riding Cup was described in the Yorkshire Sports as ‘the final nail in the clubs coffin’. On 8 April 1974 the T&A reported a proposed merger between City and Avenue. The new club was to be Bradford Metro, with the club colours being the same brown colours as the municipal dustcarts! In the face of widespread opposition, the plan was quickly dropped. The Avenue board, who had been pinning much on the merger, finally cracked. With debts mounting by the day, they announced that the club would fold at the end of the season.
The team approached the final curtain with a flourish by going on a five match unbeaten run. The final game was scheduled for Thursday 2 May at ‘home’ to Great Harwood. A special four page programme was produced in anticipation of a bumper crowd. In the event only 698 turned up to see Avenue win 1-0, thanks to a last minute Mick Fleming strike.
Avenue were wound up at the Midland Hotel the following day. Avenue had required an average gate of 1,000 to remain solvent. The seasonal average had been 645 - barely half of the required number.
A final ‘farewell to Avenue’ was held at City’s Edwardian Club on Wednesday 8 May. Even the stoutest heart could have barely dared to dream that one day Avenue would be back. But, perhaps even before their footsteps had faded away into the darkness of Cornwall Terrace, plans were being hatched...