Great Britain

Park Avenue: 40 years on from when it was pulled down

A FORMER stadium in Bradford, where some of the best players from up and down the country strutted their stuff in the past, recently passed a significant anniversary.

Forty years ago last month, Park Avenue was pulled down.

Built in 1880, the 37,000 capacity ground played a huge part in many Bradfordian hearts with it, of course, being Bradford (Park Avenue)'s spiritual home for 66 years from 1907.

Although, football was not the only sport which took place at the iconic location, cricket initially put it on the map. For over a century, 25,000 people could watch Yorkshire regularly grace the legendary crease.

After strangely starting in the Southern League, a year later, Bradford FC were accepted into the lowest tier of the Football League at the time, Division Two.

To match the club's ever-growing ambitions, a spanking new double-sided grandstand was created at the cost of £10,000.

The Archibald Leitch-build was sandwiched between the two pitches and housed 4000 fans.

The Bradford Coats of Arms shined brightly on two of the three gables, while the one in the middle had 'BFC' enlarged on the football side and a big clock on the other.

The covered Horton Park end and a open terrace faced each other behind the goalposts, with the 'low stand' opposite the big golden letters.

Between the grandstand and Horton Park end laid a building much like Fulham's 'cottage' which acted like the pavilion does at the Horsfall Stadium today.

In its heyday, the ground more than competed with Valley Parade and Odsal as the city's number one hotspot for witnessing elite sport.

Sir Stanley Matthews' Blackpool side visited in a War Cup tie in 1944 to produce the record attendance of 32,810.

April 4th 1970 saw the final Football League fixture played at the stadium as Bradford were finally booted into non-league after three consecutive Division Four bottom-placed finishes.

A young Kevin Keegan led Scunthorpe to a 5-0 win in front of 2,563 spectators against a club, who's highest ever finish remains ninth in Division One during the 1914-15 season.

Bradford's money issues would continue leading to the sale of Park Avenue three years later and extinction after a season at Valley Parade.

A property developer's purchase did not last long as ownership eventually fell onto the council's lap.

Club historian Tim Clapham commented: "The ground was special to a lot of people, we didn’t want to leave Park Avenue.

"People still say if they win the Euro Millions, I am going to get Avenue back to Park Avenue again (chuckles)."

On the demise: "We were struggling financially.

"In those days there were directors who were all small businessmen, there was nobody there with a lot of money.

"Playing form didn’t do them any favours either. That was the end of us when Cambridge (who was elected to replace Bradford) got in.

"It was in the council’s hands for a number of years, but they were unable to do anything with it, which was unbelievable.

"Towards the end of the decade vandals were getting in and setting little fires in the stand, nothing too serious, but the council had to do something about it.

"They could have had a disaster on their hands with it being wooden it could have gone up at any time.

"They decided the best thing for them to do was to just pull it down completely."

Overgrown forest now sits on the once populated Horton Park end, and 'Better Gym' occupies where the pitch stood.

Clapham thinks it is important to not forget about the history of one of the best and biggest stadiums in the city.

He added: "The problem is the Avenue people are getting on and a lot of their children are watching City and other clubs, with Avenue out of the picture. So our fan base has been dwindling.

"It never fails to amaze me the amount of people in Bradford who have not heard of Avenue.

"Time passes by and things seem to get forgotten. Now, we would have had a super stadium.

"We can't go back, I am afraid, but we can keep the memories going."

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