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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where are they now - Bradford Park Avenue?

Our series looking at the fate of former Football League clubs continues as we turn the spotlight on Bradford Park Avenue. Nobes looks at what happened to the the Yorkshire city's other club.

It's probably a mark of how important the oval-balled game is up north, but ask a sports fan to name a club from Bradford, and City and rugby league's Bulls will probably be the first couple mentioned.

In association football at least though, Bradford is a two-team city, with Bradford Park Avenue playing second fiddle to the Bantams.

There was a time, too, when the city was able to boast two Football League clubs - two clubs who had, albeit at separate times, graced England's top flight.

City were already in the Football League when, five years later, the Avenue were accepted in - finishing an inauspicious 16th in their debut campaign in the Second Division.

Indeed, mid-table in the second tier became their regular finishing position until the 1913/4 season when the club secured their first Football League promotion.

That year, Tom Maley's side finished the season in 2nd behind Notts County - pipping Woolwich Arsenal by virtue of a greater goals average - to secure elevation to England's First Division.

It seems remarkable to think that there was an occasion when BPA finished above such an illustrious name, however, also that year founder members Wolves finished only in mid-table and bottom of the Second Division were Nottingham Forest.

How times change, and things were changing in the world in 1914 with the onset of the war in Europe. It overshadowed Park Avenue's maiden season with the big boys where they finished a more than creditable 9th.

With competitive football on hold until 1919, it could be argued that Bradford's best years were probably robbed from them by the Great War.

However, on resumption they posted another impressive finish of 11th and made it through to the last eight of the FA Cup.

It was as good as it got for Bradford Park Avenue - named after the address of the club's original ground - however, with relegation from the top flight in 1921.

Bradford were in free fall and a second successive relegation followed as they tumbled into the Third Division North.

Now it was the likes of Ashington and Nelson on the fixture list - with the West Yorkshire side finishing second behind the latter in their first season at their new level.

The Park Avenue ground which gave Bradford's second club their name

They remained one of the stronger sides in the division and after some lofty finishes secured their only and one Football League title as Third Division North winners in 1928.

The club were back on the way up, and spent the next half a dozen seasons comfortably holding down a place in the top half of the Second Division, even finishing 3rd once.

Things became tougher towards the end of the '30s but, just as the outbreak of the First World War had been a hindrance, the start of the Second World War worked in the club's favour.

They were bottom of the division when football was suspended and the season cancelled in September 1939. Who knows how the season would have ended had War not occurred?

As it was, the Avenue enjoyed a further four seasons in the Second Division after the end of the War. Eventually though, they finished bottom and were relegated back to the Third Division in 1950.

There they spent the next decade before becoming inaugural members of the new Fourth Division upon its creation in 1958.

Three years later they secured their third and final promotion in the Football League as they moved back into the Third Division. It lasted just a couple of seasons though, and they were soon back in the basement division.

The final seven years of Bradford's Football League story were played out in the Fourth Division, with the club posting bottom two finishes and narrowly winning re-election three successive times.

Ultimately, after another bottom placed finish, they lost a re-election vote in 1970 and were replaced in the League by Cambridge United.

The Horsfall Athletics Ground - the current home to the Avenue

Just four years later, and with financial debts of £57,000 that forced them to sell their Park Avenue ground, the Avenue went into liquidation and resigned from the Northern Premier League.

Despite playing in Sunday League football under the same name, the Avenue didn't return to playing in the Saturday League game until 1988 - when a new BPA joined the West Riding County Amateur Football League and later North West Counties League.

In 1995, the new Bradford were crowned winners of the division and re-joined the Northern Premier League at Division One level - just over 20 years after its former incarnation had been forced to resign.

The club also re-located to its current home at the Horsfall Athletics Stadium and in 2001 the phoenix club regained its predecessor's place in the Northern Premier League.

After Non League re-organisation in 2004, Park Avenue were given a place in the Conference North but struggled to compete at a higher level - which set about successive relegations back.

However, with the wealth of Bob Blackburn behind them, they returned to the Northern Premier League in 2008 as Champions.

Park Avenue also announced plans for a new 20,000 stadium and targeting a return to the Football League by 2012.

Unfortunately, the club's defeat on home soil by Boston in the Northern Premier League play off final last year scuppered what most observers believe to be an impossible dream.

After so many ups and downs over the years though - including a period when they didn't they have a club - you can almost excuse Avenue fans for dreaming.

1 comment:

  1. good story and it's very important to believe in your dreams. who knows what will happen in years to come...