9th April 1921: Arsenal 2 Bradford 1 – there but for the grace…

By Tony Attwood

There was nothing special about this particular match 92 years ago, but I list it on the Anniversaries file, for personal reasons.

Earlier this season (2012/13) I watched a game between Corby Town and Bradford PA in the Conference North.  Many years ago, probably around 1960 I watched Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic v Bradford PA in the Third Division.   The club commonly known as Bradford PA, was known in 1921 as Bradford, although what has happened to it over the years is quite a story.

So here Arsenal and Bradford were in 1921 in the same division… the First Division. And here’s another thing, the First Division of the Football League contained two Bradford clubs.

Here are the Arsenal v both the Bradford clubs results for 1920/1

  • 18 December 1920: Bradford City 3 Arsenal 1
  • 1 January 1921: Arsenal 1 Bradford City 2
  • 9 April 1921: Arsenal 2 Bradford PA 1
  • 16 April 1921: Bradford PA 0 Arsenal 1

In 1920/1 Burnley won the First Division,  Arsenal came 9th.  Bradford City came 15th, Bradford PA came 22nd, bottom of the league, and thus were relegated.  The following season Bradford City were also relegated to the second division, but not to play more local derbies  for in 1921/22 Bradford PA were relegated again to the Third Division North.  Bradford City held on until 1926/7 when they came bottom of the second division and were also relegated to the Third Division North.

Thus in 1927/8 Bradford City and Bradford PA played their local derbies in the Third Division North, just eight years after they played their derby games in the First Division.  Quite a tumble for the two teams in one city.

Two years on from there Arsenal won the FA Cup, three years on Arsenal became the first London team to win the league.

So what of Bradford City and Bradford PA?

Bradford City was founded in 1903 and were instantly elected to Division 2.  In other words, they were a Chelsea, two years before Chelsea – a wholly artificial club created to take football to a part of the country that was deemed under represented, and where other sports had too much of a hold.

Bradford City were promoted to the First Division in 1908 and they won the FA Cup in 1911.  After relegation in 1922, Bradford City were outside the first division for 77 years at which point they returned to the Premier League where they stayed for two years.  In 2013 they became the first ever team from the fourth division of English football to reach a major Wembley cup final.

In 1908, Bradford FC (the one that later became Bradford PA) was elected to the Second Division. They were promoted in 1914 – one season before Arsenal were elected to the top division.  They were relegated back to the Fourth Division in 1963 and were voted out of the Football League in 1970, being replaced by Cambridge Utd.    The club went into liquidation in May 1974.

A new club called Bradford Park Avenue was formed in 1988 in the West Riding Amateur league. They they rose far enough to become founder members of Conference North.

So why all this?  Because I have seen Bradford PA play in the Conference North, and the Third Division, and on this day so many years ago they played Arsenal.  My point is, well, take nothing for granted.  There but for grace of the Almighty, go we.

Here is the Arsenal team for the match again Bradford on April 9 1921:


Shaw, Bradshaw

Baker, Graham, McKinnon

Rutherford, McKenzie, North, Blyth, Toner

Toner and Rutherford scored in the 2-1 victory.

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