IT was once a top flight football club which attracted tens of thousands of loyal supporters to terraces which have long since fallen silent.
Bradford Park Avenue joined the Football League in 1908 and generations of fans enjoyed watching their heroes competing against some of the country’s best teams before the club hit financial difficulties and was voted out of the Football League in 1970.
Bradford Park Avenue went bankrupt and was wound up in 1974, when the old ground was left to fall into disrepair.
The club reformed in 1988 and now plays at the Horsfall Stadium in Bradford.
When artist Nevile Gabie and archaeologist Jason Wood visited Bradford Park Avenue’s old ground in 2013, they were inspired to develop a project with archaeologists, artists, fans and historians.
Bradford Park Avenue’s old a new fans helped crowdfund a book on the project called Breaking Ground: Art, Archaeology & Mythology, which has made it on to the shortlist for the prestigious William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
The project started with an archaeological excavation of a goalpost hole in 2013 – and led to a complete geophysical survey of the former pitch.
The book tells the story of the dig and captures fan’s memories of the club’s history.
Lifelong Bradford Park Avenue Fan Peter Barker, 67, of Clayton, Bradford, was among the book’s backers.
Mr Barker was five-years-old when he saw his first Bradford Park Avenue match at the ground when Accrington Stanley visited in April 1955.
His late father Jack saw his first Bradford Park Avenue game in 1926.
Mr Barker said: “My dad died in 1999. He lived for Bradford Park Avenue and he passed his love of the club on to me.
“I just can’t go and support Bradford City. That’s the one thing I miss, the great rivalry we had with city and that was passed on from my dad.”
Mr Barker said returning to the club’s old Park Avenue ground to speak to the book’s authors was an emotional experience.
He said: “It brought a tear to me eye. It brought back memories of my dad taking me to games.”
He added: “It’s fantastic that this book has been shortlisted for the Wiliam Hill Sports Book of the Year. It’s an unbelievable achievement.”
Neville Gabie, one of the book’s three authors, said: “We all love football and the camaraderie of standing on the terraces before a match, but a football ground only really comes to life when you hear the collective voices of fans, the people for whom this place is sacred ground. “Breaking Ground is intended to show the joy, significance and meaning football clubs play in the lives of people. “Not the great clubs, which are perhaps easy to follow, but the small and often forgotten, which nonetheless are embedded in our beings.”
Jason Wood, co-author of the book and the project’s lead archaeologist, said: ““I’m particularly thrilled for the fans, whose imagination was so evidently caught by the dig – even those too young to have known the ground in its heyday.” Artist and designer Alan Ward is a co-author and published the book through his company Axis Project Publishing. He said: “No book like this has ever been shortlisted for the Sports Book of the Year before.”
The winner of the William Sports Book of the Year will be announced at an afternoon reception at BAFTA in Central London on November 28.
BRADFORD Park Avenue’s grounds were developed in 1880 by Bradford Cricket Club and Bradford Rugby Club. In 1907, after a failed merger bid with Bradford City, Bradford Rugby Club switched codes to become Bradford Park Avenue AFC.
Bradford Park Avenue joined the Football League in 1908.
The club was promoted to the first division in 1914 when they finished in ninth place, their highest ever league position.
The club finished in eleventh position in division one in 1919 and reached the FA Cup quarter final that year.
A crowd of 82,771 crowd saw Bradford Park Avenue play Manchester United in a 1949 FA cup tie at Maine Road.