As Bradford prepare for their big day at Wembley, Chris Waters looks back at the only other time the club have appeared in a major cup final.
IT was the greatest day in Bradford City’s history.
On Wednesday, April 26 ,1911, a day of strong winds and squally showers, Bradford won their only major trophy.
A 15th-minute header from captain Jimmy Speirs earned a 1-0 victory against Newcastle United in an FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford.
The first match, which took place at Crystal Palace four days earlier, had ended in a goalless draw.
Bradford’s cup run, which came during a season in which they achieved their highest league position in history of fifth in Division One, began on a bitterly cold January afternoon at New Brompton – the club known today as Gillingham.
City scraped through 1-0 courtesy of a goal from winger Dickie Bond, one of Bradford’s most colourful and controversial characters.
Bond missed the latter stages of the tournament after he was suspended for one month for using “improper language” to the crowd at Arsenal.
The ban ruled him out of the quarter-final and semi-final and was the second time in quick succession he had been in hot water with the City hierarchy; the England star was also suspended the previous December after “a wild night out” in Otley.
Although Bond was back in action in time for the final, he was not selected by manager Peter O’Rourke, who kept faith with the side that took City through.
Norwich City visited Valley Parade for the second round at a time when the Canaries were in the Southern League.
They had stunningly knocked out Sunderland in the previous round with a 3-1 win at The Nest, the ground where they played prior to Carrow Road.
Another upset seemed on the cards in West Yorkshire when the Canaries surprisingly took the lead.
However, Speirs fired the hosts level in the second half and, 10 minutes from time, Peter Logan broke Norwich hearts.
Bradford saw off Grimsby in the third round as Bond fired the solitary goal in his final appearance before suspension.
The result earned a home quarter-final with Burnley which attracted unprecedented interest among Bradford’s fans as cup fever gripped the city with a vengeance.
A record crowd of 39,146 flocked to Valley Parade, where the gates were closed 45 minutes before kick-off and many thousands locked outside.
In a match dominated by defences, Frank Thompson’s header separated the sides and sent Bradford into the semi-finals.
City were underdogs for the game against Blackburn Rovers, which was played at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground.
Seventeen special trains were laid on for City’s supporters, who sported claret and amber umbrellas, teddy bears, bells, bugles and even a trombone.
The national media gave Bradford little chance, but, on a snowy March day, they brushed aside Blackburn thanks to second-half goals from O’Rourke, Archie Devine and Thompson.
So happy were Bradford’s players to have beaten Blackburn that, after the final whistle, there was a mad scramble for the match ball between Speirs, Thompson and left-back George Robinson.
The trio were censured by the Football Association, which took a dim view of the trio’s high jinks.
Speirs earned plenty of plaudits, however, when, in the days leading up to the final, he wrote a message of goodwill to his opposite number Colin Veitch, the Newcastle captain.
Although the contents of the letter were never disclosed, Veitch said in his reply that Speirs had “expressed in sound terms the true spirit of comradeship, and the proper sentiments one would expect to see associated with the sportsman, and the sport”.
The final at Crystal Palace was well attended by Bradford’s supporters.
When the team left Forster Square station the previous afternoon they were followed by 11 special trains conveying some 6,000 fans, the first train arriving at the ungodly hour of 4.30am.
But the match itself was a non-event, one paper describing it as “a decidedly dull and uneventful game”.
Back in Bradford, those without a ticket gathered outside the offices of the evening newspapers in Market Street, where a shout went up when the news erroneously spread that Bradford had scored.
The replay made for better viewing as City finally got the better of a Newcastle side who were defending champions, having beaten Barnsley 2-0 the previous year.
All the early play was in City’s half and only desperate defending kept Newcastle at bay.
But Speirs bagged the all important goal when a defensive mix-up saw himself and Frank O’Rourke race into the box.
Newcastle goalkeeper Jimmy Lawrence, perhaps with one eye on the imposing O’Rourke, let the ball fly over his shoulder as City went ahead “amid scenes of frantic enthusiasm”.
Newcastle pushed hard in a desperate attempt to force an equaliser, but Bobby Torrance was heroic at the heart of City’s defence.
Torrance, who only played because William Gildea was injured in the first game, turned in a man-of-the match performance as Bradford repelled everything Newcastle could throw at them.
City had the lion’s share of possession in the second half and should probably have extended their lead.
But Speirs’s goal proved decisive and, at the final whistle, thousands of City fans swarmed the Old Trafford pitch.
An estimated 100,000 people welcomed the team back to Bradford when the players returned at 9pm.
To deafening cheers outside the old Exchange station, Speirs proudly held aloft the cup, and it took the happy entourage more than an hour to make the short journey to a champagne reception at the Midland Hotel.
On parade: Bradford City’s famous 1911 FA Cup heroes who won at Old Trafford
THE MEN WHO WON THE CUP
MARK MELLORS: Nottingham-born goalkeeper joined from Sheffield United in 1909. Had previously played for Notts County and Brighton & HA. Following his retirement in 1918, Mellors stayed in Bradford and became a successful businessman in the wool trade, forming the company Mellors, Munro & Co. Regular at Valley Parade until his death in Guiseley in 1961, aged 81.
ROBERT CAMPBELL: One of eight Scotsmen in the side, Campbell played for Partick Thistle, Rangers and Millwall before joining City in 1906. A popular full-back, who made nearly 250 appearances for the Bantams, Campbell was a fine all-round sportsman who also excelled at angling and cricket. He retired to Scotland in the First World War and died in Ayr County Hospital in 1931, aged 49.
DAVID TAYLOR: The left-back joined City from Rangers in 1910 and made 51 appearances before joining Burnley, where he won the League title and another FA Cup medal in 1914. Taylor had managerial spells at St Johnstone, Dunfermline and Carlisle United before retiring to Perth in 1939. He died at Bridge of Allan, Stirling, in 1950.
GEORGE ROBINSON: Played in Bradford’s first game at Grimsby in September, 1903, and captained the side to the Second Division Championship in 1908 and was vice-captain when they won the FA Cup in 1911. A left-back held in high esteem by the Valley Parade faithful, Robinson later served the club as a trainer and was a regular supporter until his death in 1945, aged 67.
BOBBY TORRANCE: Scot was man of the match in the replay and only played because William Gildea was injured in the first game. Torrance joined for a fiver from Kirkintilloch Harp in 1907 and became one of the finest defenders in Bradford’s history. Died during First World War and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, near Ypres.
JIMMY MCDONALD: Joined City in 1907 and played a key role in securing Second Division Championship the following year. He captained the side in the run-up to the First World War, during which he served in the Royal Field Artillery. McDonald signed for Raith in 1920 but never played a game. He fell ill and died in Batley hospital, aged just 40.
PETER LOGAN: The midfielder made 304 appearances for Bradford either side of the First World War. Logan served the club for 17 years. After retirement, he became licensee of the Girlington Hotel. He died in the Toller Lane district of Bradford in 1944, aged 54.
JIMMY SPEIRS: Bradford’s captain and FA Cup final replay match-winner played for Rangers and Clyde before joining City in 1909. He moved to Leeds City in 1912 for £1,400, scoring 32 goals in 73 games. In the First World War he volunteeered to enlist in the Cameron Highlanders and was posted to a reserve battalion at Inverness. He died during the battle of Passchendaele in 1917, aged just 31.
FRANK O’ROURKE: Scottish striker made such an impression on City officials when he played in pre-season friendly for Airdrie at Valley Parade in 1907 that they roused him from his bed in a Leeds hotel and signed him. Became City’s record scorer with 93 goals – a figure beaten only by Bobby Campbell in 1984 – and retired in 1926. Died on Christmas Eve 1954, aged 77.
ARCHIE DEVINE: Scottish midfielder joined Bradford in 1910 after spells with Hearts, Raith and Falkirk. Scored crucial second goal that broke Blackburn’s challenge in the semi-final. Devine joined Arsenal for £1,300 in 1913 and later played for Shelbourne in Ireland. Died at Lochgelly in 1964, aged 78.
FRANK THOMPSON: An Irish midfielder, Thompson had already won the Irish League Championship and two Irish Cup finals with Cliftonville before joining City in 1910. He scored important goals in the run-up to the final, heading the winner that beat Burnley in the quarter-final at Valley Parade and also netting in the semi-final win over Blackburn. Thompson left for Clyde in 1913 and eventually became player-manager. He later managed Irish club Glentoran and died in Ayr County Hospital in 1950.
WILLIE GILDEA: The Scottish defender played only 10 games for Bradford, one of them the FA Cup final at Crystal Palace. Gildea picked up an injury during that game and was replaced by Bobby Torrance for the replay. Five months after the final, Gildea left for Birmingham City and also had a spell with Falkirk, where he was born in 1888.
NEWCASTLE’S TEAM: Jimmy Lawrence, Billy McCracken, Tony Whitson, Colin Veitch (captain), Wilf Low, David Willis, Jock Rutherford, George Jobey, Jimmy Stewart, Sandy Higgins, George Wilson.
ROUTES TO THE FINAL
BRADFORD CITY – 1st rd: New Brompton (A) 1-0; 2nd rd: Norwich City (H) 2-1; 3rd rd: Grimsby Town (H) 1-0; 4th rd: Burnley (H) 1-0; semi-final: Blackburn Rovers 3-0 (played at Bramall Lane, Sheffield)
NEWCASTLE UNITED – 1st rd: Bury (H) 6-1; 2nd rd: Northampton (H) 1-1; replay: Northampton (A) 1-0; 3rd rd: Hull City (H) 3-2; 4th rd: Derby County (H) 4-0; semi-final: Chelsea 3-0 (St Andrews, Birmingham).