Book Review: Bradford City AFC – A Season Re-visited 1969/70 by Raymond C. Maule
The first thing to say about this book relates to the cover, where the phrase “…less is more…” rings true. The classically all white cover is interrupted only by claret and amber bands (depicting the Bradford City colours), details of the books title and a team picture from the 1969/70 season. On the reverse, a brief synopsis of the publication sits below two programme covers from the season and a view of the Valley Parade ground. The final detail relates to the fact that proceeds from the book are in Aid of the Bradford Cardiac Unit.
Once inside the book, the author explains in the “Dedication” and “Acknowledgement” the reason for this publication and how it came to fruition. “…The seed of an idea for this book was planted while recovering on a cardiac ward in a Bradford hospital. I decided that I wanted to say thank you in a more tangible form, to those who nursed me through a difficult time, and hopefully give something back in return…”
In the “Introduction” the reader is given a brief review of the 1969/70 season in terms of the White Rose County and its clubs and some snippets of what was happening in England at the time. The listing of the television viewing schedule from Christmas Day 1969 makes very interesting reading indeed!
So to the main body of the book, which is a diary based format of the 1969/70 season. The source of the information is match reports from the Yorkshire Post and the local papers of the Bantams opposition. The focus is on the City first team, although there are brief details about the reserves and other games that have a West Yorkshire interest. In addition to the match reports there are “Notes from the day” which include a round-up of the other fixtures in Division Three on that day and or more details and observations about the game Bradford were involved in. The reader will notice that the journalistic style is somewhat different to that of the sound-bite manner of today. The one-word headline to introduce a new paragraph is a format that has long since disappeared from sports reporting. For much of the season the Bantams were in and around the promotion spots, but no wins from their final eight games, left Bradford in tenth place. In the League Cup and FA Cup, City had decent runs, including a win at Roker Park against Sunderland, who just four years later won the FA Cup. The book closes with a “Who’s who of Bradford City’s personnel 1969/70” providing a useful summary of some of the key personalities from that season.
From a personal perspective I would have liked to have seen more match action pictures or programme covers to supplement the text. However, the lack of photographs from the respective fixtures may be down to the fact (as the author explains), “…many newspapers have disposed of their photographic archives and rely on scans taken from hard copy…”
It is a book that can be picked and put down and acts as a point of reference. It was interesting for instance to see three managers detailed in their playing days, those being Ian Branfoot (for Doncaster Rovers), Graham Taylor (for Lincoln City) and Neil Warnock (for Rotherham United). There are also various other gems in this book and a couple of my favourites are as follows:
Friday 23 January 1970
Mr John Parker, Labour MP, for Dagenham began an attempt at modifying the “Sunday Observance Laws” and so legalise the charging of admission prices at fixtures played on Sunday’s. It was an idea being closely watched by sporting bodies throughout the country, especially football being the biggest money-spinning sport.
The idea is said to have government approval and if all goes well by this time next year Football League clubs may well be playing League and Cup fixtures on a regular basis on Sundays.
In fact it was another four years before football was played on a Sunday, when on January 6th 1974 four FA Cup Third Round fixtures were played, the first being Cambridge United v Oldham Athletic which kicked off in the morning.
Later in April 1970 the following is an extract from the match report for the Walsall v Bradford City fixture:
Bradford goalkeeper, John Roberts was struck in the back by a full large-sized tin of soup (tomato flavour!) thrown from behind his goal just after the restart.
Whilst it may seem comical to read, it should be remembered that hooliganism was very much on the rise during this period and that there are a number of reports in the book which highlight trouble on the terraces and from fans travelling to and from games.
As a book I believe that it will appeal to City fans old and new, fans of other clubs who played against Bradford that season and indeed anyone who wants an insight into that period in English football. Share in Bradford City’s up and down return to Division Three, the glory of the Cup runs and revisit football and an England as the swinging sixties gave way to the seventies.