Bradford City v Bradford Park Avenue, 1912 - 1969Between 1912 and 1969 Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue met in 56 ‘derby’ games. Though there were other encounters in the likes of the West Riding Cup, it was in the Football League where it really mattered. There, bragging rights and indignant controversy would rage. The battle for Bradford was every bit as intense as any other derby in the football world.The Bradford derbies had their origin in the world of rugby and the bitter rivalry between Manningham and Bradford Rugby Clubs. Indeed, the first meeting between those clubs in 1887 escalated into a legal dispute, which had to be settled by a bemused Judge. For weeks afterwards the issue dominated the letters pages of the local newspapers.
Thus when Avenue and City met as professional football teams, plenty of historic baggage came with it. The first meeting came on 24 February 1912, in the FA Cup third round. Though Avenue had home advantage, they were facing the might of the FA Cup holders. A goal from City’s Frank O’Rourke settled a tight Cup-tie in front of 24,833 enthralled spectators.
The Football League resumed in 1919. Four top flight derby matches were contested before Avenue were relegated in 1921. Bradford’s last ever First Division derby took place at Valley Parade on 2 October 1920. City won 2-1 in front of 25,000 fans. It was the end of an era, though few would have realised it at the time.
There were many painful gaps both on the terraces and the field. Nine City players had perished in the Great War. Avenue had lost VC winner Donald Bell. On the terraces the Battle of the Somme had taken all too many ordinary Bradfordians. The confident splendour of Edwardian Bradford was fading. City’s relegation in 1922 was the end of an era. The City of Bradford would never see the like of it again.
As Avenue were also relegated in 1922 - to Division Three (North) - the Bradford derbies didn’t resume until 1927, when City joined Avenue in the Third Division. The meeting on 17 September 1927 attracted a record League crowd of 37,059 to Valley Parade. Avenue did the double over City that season and were promoted as Champions to Division Two. Happily City followed Avenue’s lead and won the Championship the following season. Between 1929-37 the sides met regularly in Division Two. Sadly, in 1937 City were relegated and it wasn’t until 1950 that the derbies were resumed.
On 2 December 1951 only the second ever FA Cup-tie between the sides took place. City lost 2-3 at Park Avenue in front of 24,430 Bradfordians. In the League City enjoyed an unbeaten sequence throughout the 1950s in derby matches. Avenue’s relegation to Division Four in 1958 ended regular meetings. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1963 and the only meeting of the Bradford sides in the League Cup - Avenue won 7-3!