The Giant Killers

Subtitle

 

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 68

 Newcastle United 0-2 Bradford

Third Round 

Saturday January 9th 1949

St Jame's Park, Newcastle. Attendance:47,156

Scorers: Johnny Downie {41}, Harry McIlvenny {56}

Ranked at the time:21

Mandatory 18 months full time National Service was introduced in Great Britain for all healthy men aged 18-26, Betty Grable & Dan Dailey were married vadeville performers whose marriage hits problems when he hits Broadway in the musical movie "When My Baby Smiles At Me" and Dinah Shaw had a hit with 'Buttons And Bows" which had been recently performed by Bob Hope in the movie "the Paleface."   

Bradford had already established themselves as a lower division outfit to be taken seriously last year when they went to Highbury and defeated Arsenal and though that victory had been followed by they themselves falling victim to the giant killers of Colchester in round four, it had brought an unexpected highlight and publicity to a club now grimly used to seasonal struggles to stay in the Second Division. The late summer afternoons of 1949 brought a rare glimmer of hope to the Avenue faithful however as they made an uncharacteristically good start to the season and at the start of December they were still on the fringes of the promotion chase.

Christmas brought little cheer to the stands of Horton Park Avenue as their men fell to a run of five games without victory, which included a mauling at Cardiff, and by the time thoughts turned to the cup tie trip north to Newcastle, the season had once again faded into the usual pattern of being only just good enough to steer clear of relegation.

Seven of the side that went to Highbury last year would again be called on for cup duty this year. Goal scoring hero of the trip to Arsenal, Billy Elliott was one of the seven who set out to repeat the dose given to the Gunners, swapping his place on the wing for the half back slot of Bill Deplidge on this occasion. These two were joined by keeper, Chic Farr, full back, Arthur Farrell, half back, Ray White and the forwards, Gerry Henry and Johnny Downie.

Full back Jimmy Stephen, the former Scottish National team captain, had missed the Arsenal game through injury but was back to partner Farrell in the defence. Future England manager Ron Greenwood would be missing from the half back line this time around, his place taken by Les Horsham, Alec Glover came in on the right wing and the side was completed by the local amateur, Harry McIlvenny, in place of the experienced George Ainsley at centre forward.

Awaiting them was a task no less difficult than Arsenal last year as they were drawn away to a Newcastle side that topped the First Division on Christmas morning but then experienced two defeats in three games to fall behind Portsmouth in the title race. It was over twenty years since the die hards of Geordieland had celebrated a League Title but hopes were high that manager, George Martin could deliver success. On Tyneside few considered Bradford capable of repeating their 1948 exploits.

It didn’t take long for the assembled Tyneside contingent to realise that Bradford were up for the cup as they tore into Newcastle from the kick off. Jackie Milburn, a scourge of the First Division full backs could barely get a touch as Les Horsman kept him under constant wraps and Chic Farr was able to leave the field at half time having not had a shot to save. His opposite number, Jack Fairbrother was less fortunate and virtually the last thing he did in the first half was pick the ball out of his net as McIlvenny, who was constantly getting the better of Newcastle’s centre half, Frank Brennan, laid on the opportunity on for Johnny Downie to break the deadlock.  

Newcastle pressed harder in the second half but the whole Bradford back line remained composed in defence and there was never any hint of panic in dealing with the home attack. Even more so when McIlvenny turned from creator to scorer when giving himself the space to put Avenue two goals up shortly before the hour mark.

A frustrated Jackie Milburn managed one effort, which limped tamely wide of Chic Farr’s goal and few in the ground held out any real hope of recovery from a team who just hadn’t got themselves up for the game. As chairman George Rutherford told his opposite number at the final whistle. “You were just too good for us”

Bradford’s reward for their efforts was a trip to Old Trafford in round four to face the cup holders, Manchester United. Matt Busby's men were lying one place below Newcastle so posed no less a task than Newcastle and perhaps, in the eyes of many pundits, even more so as they were viewed as favourites to be crowned League Champions in April. What shock rattled across the huge 82,000 crowd at Maine Road, Old Trafford not being available due to bomb damage, when Gerry Henry rose above United's Willie McGlenn to head Braford in front. Charlie Mitten got United back in the game early in the second half but Bradford stayed stong to force a replay at the Avenue and it was ohh so close to more. With the light fading and the last seconds of extra time ticking away, Johnny Downie looked for all the world to have scored the winner, only for his shot to drift agonisingly wide of the post.

Bradford's chance went with that moment. A packed audience crowded the streets of Horton park Avenue long before the replay the following Saturday but this time the cup holders battered them and were left shaking their head when two further hours of Football again delivered no result, Arthur Farrell's penalty almost instantly cancelling out Charlie Mitten’s goal on the half hour. The big blow to Avenue was the loss of McIlvenny to a broken leg during extra time.

United made no mistake back at Maine Road in the second replay and only Chic Farr’s heroics kept the score to a single goal at the interval. In the second half even Farr couldn’t keep a rampant United out as they roared to a five-nil victory, much to the delight of the watching Alec Stock, player manager of giant killers Yeovil, who had made no secret of his desire to travel to Manchester and not Bradford in round five.

Back up on Tyneside, Newcastle were unable to sustain their title bid and eventually slipped to fourth place, while Manchester United also missed out as Portsmouth won the crown.

Bradford meanwhile slumped into a terrible run without a victory in seven games. Two wins arrested the slide and would prove crucial as another slump without a win in their final six games saw them avoid relegation by just two points.

Sadly for Bradford their survival this season was only a temporary reprieve and they suffered relegation into the Third Division the following year. It signalled the start of a terminal decline in Avenue’s fortunes as they dropped into the newly formed Fourth Division in 1958. A brief ray of light came by way of promotion in 1961 but within two years they were back in the basement and gradually slumped towards the foot of the Football League.

In 1970 the club were forced to seek re-election for the fourth consecutive year, and more worryingly for their fans, the third consecutive year as the bottom club. The League, so often a closed shop, recognised the arguments of the non league applicants that Bradford clearly were no longer good enough and Cambridge were voted in to take their place.

Like so many before them, dropping out of the League was a hammer blow to Bradford and their already dwindling support rapidly declined in Non-League Football. In a desperate effort to stave off financial ruin, Horton Park Avenue was sold, leaving the club homeless. They struggled on for another year before finally accepting ultimate defeat in 1974. Bradford was no more.

The small band of diehard fans that clung on to the memories of the great cup exploits of the forties did resurrect the club and they have gradually fought their way back to level six of the English pyramid and rekindled hopes that one day Bradford, today officially known as Bradford Park Avenue, might again grace the Football League or get to the third round of the F A Cup.

Sadly Horton Park Avenue could not be saved. The stands and offices were demolished in 1980, although the pitch and terraces survived with the new BPA even briefly playing there in the late eighties. All hopes of redeveloping the ground were lost when a fitness centre was built on one half of the ground. There are still ghostly reminders of the past in the bricked up terrace entrances on Horton Park Avenue while remnants of the old terraces that were once packed for the visit of Manchester United can still be found, gradually being reclaimed by nature.

United: 1:Jack Fairbrother, 2:Bobby Cowell, 3:Ron Batty, 4:Joe Harvey, 5:Frank Brennan, 6:Norman Dodgin, 7:George Stobbart, 8:Colin Gibson, 9:Jackie Milburn, 10:Ernie Taylor, 11:George Hair

Avenue: 1:Chic Farr, 2:Jimmy Stephen, 3:Arthur Farrell, 4:Ray White, 5:Les Horsman, 6:Billy Elliott, 7:Alec Glover, 8:Gerry Henry, 9:Harry McIlvenny, 10:Johnny Downie, 11:Bill Deplidge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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