City and Avenue club nicknames

by John Dewhirst

There has been a number of nicknames associated with the two Bradford clubs, Bradford City and its former rival, Bradford Park Avenue. The background to them can be categorised according to the sources. Historically, what is particularly notable is the extent to which journalists encouraged different identities and it was the press rather than a ‘marketing department’ that carried the influence. It was also the case that nicknames were subject to fashion or indeed the whim of writers.

[Links are provided to other features published on my blog Wool City Rivals about the Bradford City AFC identity and the history of the club crest.]

Nicknames with origins in the original rugby rivalry of the predecessor Manningham and Bradford clubs

In the early 1980s, the talk was of yuppies as a cultural phenomenon. These were upwardly mobile professionals attune with what was considered fashionable or novel. A hundred years prior to that the talk had been of ‘mashers‘. However, if yuppies bypassed Bradford in the twentieth century, mashers were commonplace in Manningham in the nineteenth. A masher was a swell, a bon viveur albeit the term came to be applied contemptuously to those with more money and vanity than sense. Mashers were considered to be people whose appearance was vulgar and lacking good taste.

After 1884 Bradford FC had become known for what was considered to be an arrogant, ‘high and mighty’ attitude and its masher nickname would have been linked to this. The players were also genuine celebrities of their time and certain of them were known as playboy dandies. That reputation appears to have been enduring as confirmed by a letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post of 12 April, 1902 from a Batley supporter: ‘As always was the case, Bradford were very boastful before the match, and that alone would tend to lessen sympathy with them on their defeat. That spirit of ‘cocksuredness’ which has always been a considerable part of Bradford ‘stock-in-trade’…

The fact that The Sunday Post of 4 April, 1915 stated the nickname of Bradford (Park Avenue) AFC to be The Mashers suggests that the playboy reputation of Bradford FC became established and enduring. On 2 January, 1907 The Hull Daily Mail referred to Bradford FC as Mashers in the context of the controversy about abandoning rugby at Park Avenue – the reference was in relation to a perceived repeat of the high and mighty attitude on the part of the club some twenty years before. That the nickname endured in this way had nothing to do with Bradford FC or its supporters encouraging the identity as opposed to the prejudice of the journalist concerned.

The term was applied by the same newspaper on 3 March, 1922 in relation to the game between Hull FC and Bradford Northern RLFC. It didn’t stop with the rugby unfortunately and on 3 March, 1908 the Hull Daily Mail contemptuously referred to The Mashers from Bradford, albeit on this occasion with reference to Bradford City. It is quite likely that this was an error but again probably spoke of the prejudice of the journalist himself (as well as his readers!).

The first nickname given to Manningham FC in a newspaper report had been The Wasps on account of their colourful claret and amber hooped shirts introduced in 1884. After 1886 when it relocated to Valley Parade the club became known as The Valley Paraders or simply, The Paraders.

In the Bradford press, rivals Bradford FC were similarly referred to as Avenue and the Avenueites, nicknames that continued after the abandonment of rugby in 1907. Nevertheless this did not become commonplace until the late 1890s, the origin of which had more to do with popular journalism and writers ascribing identities equivalent to those of Manningham FC. (Previously Bradford FC enjoyed a deference as the senior town club that tended to limit reference to more formal names such as ‘Bradford’ or the ‘Park Avenue side’.)

I have also come across mention of another nickname for Manningham FC, the Peacocks although this was cited long after the club had abandoned rugby. My suspicion is that application of the identity was a case of journalistic licence to provide balance when writing about the history of the Bradford-Manningham rivalry. In that way it ensured neutrality with the use of Peacocks for Manningham being no more pejorative as Mashers to describe Bradford FC. In its context, Peacocks alluded to the pride and confidence of the Manningham team in its prime when it became an equal of the Park Avenue side in the 1890s.

Journalists were wont to ascribe animal or indeed avian characteristics to football teams. Although the term was not applied to Manningham FC, the bantam identity had a cultural resonance in relation to sport in the nineteenth century. For example the Leeds Times of 27 March, 1886 had described victory by Bradford FC over Bradford Trinity in the second round of the Yorkshire Cup as ‘the bantam pitted against the Cochin china cock.’ The comment served to emphasise the gulf in wealth between Bradford FC and Bradford Trinity (who Manningham FC defeated in the final of the Bradford Charity Cup the following month). It reflected the sense of Bradford FC being a goliath surrounded by much smaller challengers.

In the same way Manningham members recognised their club as a bantam in comparison to Bradford FC. This outlook became ingrained in the personality of Manningham FC to the extent that it persisted after 1903 among Bradford City supporters. It surely explains how, or indeed why, the Valley Paraders were receptive to adopting the bantam identity after its introduction at the end of November, 1908.

Nicknames ascribed by local journalists

The Paraders nickname was inherited by Bradford City who also became known as The Citizens. Whilst the professional club dated from 1903, another Bradford City side had emerged in 1901 and which played at Greenfield Stadium, Dudley Hill for the sole season of its existence. The nickname afforded to the original Bradford City was The Cits although this does not appear to have been transferred.

Notable is that Bradford Park Avenue AFC continued to be referred to simply as Bradford. In fact after 1907 this remained more common than the less formal identities of Avenue or Avenueites. Whilst this might imply a degree of deference it was also the case that the (association football) club was known very much as the creation of chairman Harry Briggs following the abandonment of rugby. Furthermore, after the so-called Great Betrayal, the loss of Park Avenue to rugby was emotive and hence why nicknames such as Avenue or Avenueites may have been initially avoided by local journalists.

Although the club was never described as such in reports, it was not insignificant that the Yorkshire Sports adopted a badly disguised cartoon of Briggs to accompany its coverage of Bradford Park Avenue. Introduced for Bradford City reports in 1904, Avenue and Bradford Northern later had cartoons associated with them. Their facial expression – of joy, sadness or indifference – provided an immediate indication to the reader of whether the respective team had won that day. The cartoons fell out of use after 1922 which was the year in which both City and Avenue were relegated (from the first and second divisions respectively) – but were revived again in 1930 and once more in 1952. Interestingly the Bradford version retained the moustached gent style and the image was surely a powerful visual metaphor / nickname in its own right as the contrasting styles demonstrate. Briggs himself had died in 1920 but the cartoon arguably maintained his memory and his part in shaping Bradford sporting history. 

Featured in the Yorkshire Sports in February, 1912, prior to the FA Cup Third Round tie at Park Avenue this cartoon refers to the two Bradford clubs as a bantam and a starling. The home side was probably given the nickname to maintain an avian theme and provided the same sort of balance when describing Manningham FC as Peacocks in relation to the Mashers of Bradford FC. I am not aware that Bradford Park Avenue ever promoted a sparrow nickname, notwithstanding that it became associated with an Avenue supporters song in the late 1960s. I doubt very much that the Park Avenue leadership of the time would have been enthusiastic about their club being described as sparrows which was definitely not befitting of its traditions and heritage. The example thus demonstrates how club nicknames were at the mercy of journalists.

cartoon YS Feb-12 BPA v BCAFC.jpg

The cartoon above alludes to the first ever meeting between the two Bradford clubs in the third round of the Yorkshire Challenge Cup in March, 1884 – a game won by Bradford FC en route to eventually winning the trophy. The game attracted considerable interest and there was a crowd of fifteen thousand at Park Avenue.


Nicknames ascribed by other writers

The Tottenham Hotspur programme for the game against City on 16th January, 1915 referred to the club as both The Citizens and The Woolwinders. The example shows journalistic licence, in this case woven into what was a rather patronising narrative. (Fifteen months before, the White Hart Lane programme of 11th October, 1913 had referred to Bradford City solely as The Citizens.)

Whilst The Woolwinders provided a unique identity it is notable that there was no mention of bantams. This may have been peculiar to the fact that Spurs promoted its own cockerel identity or ignorance about the bantams mascot. However the condescending tone towards City is revealing (most likely prompted by recent success, including the 1911 victory) and hence my conclusion that the various nicknames owed more to the preference, prejudice and agenda of journalists than the club’s own designs. It could be said that this continues today with many newspapers choosing to refer to Bradford City as plain ‘Bradford’. (NB I have not seen evidence of The Woolwinders nickname being used by other writers.)


Nicknames encouraged by the clubs themselves

Prior to football clubs recognising the commercial potential of merchandise or branding inititiatives in the late 1960s, club nicknames tended to be restricted to either club programmes or supporters’ clubs. The best example of this in Bradford was City adopting the Paraders identity as the title of the club programme in the 1920s/1930s.

In November, 1908 the introduction of the Bantam character at Valley Parade was more as a mascot than a nickname per se [Refer: How Bradford City became known as the Bantams] and the club continued to be known principally as The Paraders. In 1949, with the revival of the Bradford City Supporters’ and Shareholders’ Association to provide fund-raising support to the parent club, the bantam character was also revived but again more as a mascot. Nevertheless it was used in a number of applications such that it became firmly associated with the club. For example ‘Bantam‘ was a pen name in the club programme and the character was used in the production of enamel badges by the BCSSA [Refer: The BCSSA ‘BSA bantam graphic’]. A bantam flag was also flown from the club offices in the early 1950s and a bantam in a shield briefly was briefly used as a shirt badge. In 1963/64 a bantam sketch also featured on the front of the club programme.

1963 aug.jpg

Despite the bantam identity, the club crest of Bradford City remained the civic coat of arms [More from this link about the application of the Bradford civic crest]. When Stafford Heginbotham took control of the club in 1966 he considered that the bantam was outdated and actively discouraged its use, instead introducing the City Gent character as a modern alternative (a caricature of himself – the origins of The City Gent told here) and replacing the formal civic crest with a simplified boar’s head crest [Refer: Bradford City AFC & the Boar’s Head identity].

In 1966, the Park Avenue club introduced its own cartoon mascot in response to the City Gent of Bradford City at Valley Parade. Avenue ‘Arry is a cartoon of a supporter with hat and scarf waving a rattle. (NB at the time the Bradford Park Avenue colours were green and white but I have never seen an example of the character depicted in colour in the 1960s).

Bradford Park Avenue did not use the character to the same extent as the City Gent but it has been revived by the reformed club since 1988. However, although both characters were associated with the respective clubs neither was ever referred to by them which is to say that City did not become known as the City Gents or Avenue as the Arries. As far as Bradford City was concerned, much the same as with the original use of the bantam, it would be more apt to say that the City Gent was a mascot.

At Park Avenue, the Avenue ‘Arry became closely associated with supporter fund raising efforts and the character was used in the club programme in connection with such initiatives. Other than that, its application was negligible but that spoke equally of the club’s failings at commercial activity in the latter years of its existence. Whilst the main design featured a supporter celebrating a goal, the character was also depicted in different moods which was pertinent given the state of the club in the late 1960s.

It was not until December, 1981 that Bradford City formally adopted The Bantams as a club nickname for commercial application [Refer: Bantam identity of the 1980s] and it was the first time that the club can be said to have attempted any form of brand promotion. The timing was occasioned by a relaunch the club and the revival of the identity was no doubt prompted by a degree of embarrassment about the state of the Valley Parade ground that discouraged use of The Paraders. As evidenced by the programme covers, the change in identity was literally overnight and the Telegraph & Argus dutifully went from reporting about The Paraders to The Bantams.

Nicknames given by rival supporters

The traditional relationship between Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue was shaped by the nineteenth century rivalry of Manningham FC and Bradford FC at Valley Parade and Park Avenue respectively. Supporters of the latter had always considered theirs to be the senior club with the premier ground and negative comments about Valley Parade tended to dictate the banter. The ultimate put-down by Avenue supporters was to refer to Bradford City as ‘Manningham‘ and to proudly boast that theirs was the Bradford club.

On their part, City supporters reminded those of Park Avenue that it was Bradford City that had won the FA Cup in 1911 and achieved greater prominence. Sadly by the 1950s the rivalry of the two was akin to two bald men fighting over a comb and the reality was that both had fallen upon hard times. Even if City had marginally the more successful history it was somewhat irrelevant in the basement division.

In the late 1980s, a Bradford City supporters’ publication Bernard of the Bantams, published as an offshoot of The City Gent fanzine, featured an old Bradford Park Avenue supporter suffering a mid-life crisis. City supporters have contemptuously referred to followers of the reformed Avenue club as Stans but the nickname has never been adopted by Bradford Park Avenue itself.

BOTB Sep-89.jpg

Bradford Northern nicknames

Finally, to provide some comparison, mention should be given of the nicknames associated with Bradford Northern from the club’s formation in 1907 until the rebranding as Bulls in 1996.

It appears to have been entirely coincidental that the ‘Steam Pigs‘ nickname complemented the boar’s head crest adopted by Bradford Northern and which given greater prominence in the 1980s for merchandising. Ultimately, the choice of ‘Bulls‘ reflected the difficulty of ascribing a suitable nickname to the boar’s head civic identity. The concern was that the ‘Steam Pigs‘ nickname – which had enjoyed a revival in the 1980s and early 1990s – was not suitable to convey the brand values of the club for a new global TV audience. Hence the club promptly abandoned its civic themed badge and distanced itself from the nickname which nonetheless had been popular with older supporters.

The dilemma over a nickname relating to the boar’s head – is one that would also be faced by Bradford City. (More from the following link about the use of the Bradford boar’s head civic identity.) In practice, ‘Bantams‘ seems likely to remain the club’s identity, all the more so for the fact that it is unique in English senior football and has been used extensively for most of the past forty years.

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This was Bradford City’s original bantam graphic from 1909 which I believe was based on a Staffordshire bantam descended from a fighting bird that was popular among bird fanciers and exhibitionists at the time. Contrast with the bantam that features in the current club crest that looks more like a harmless pullet and is not even depicted in claret and amber!