On May 11th 1985 Bradford City were playing Lincoln City at the end of a successful season, and a sell out crowd at Valley Parade was looking forward to the half-time celebration when the League III trophy was to be presented on the field to the team to celebrate their promotion, their first trophy since 1929.
It did not take place, as the old wooden main stand, 100 years old and nicknamed 'The Sopworth Camel', went up in flames before my very eyes on Yorkshire Television and 56 fans died in the roaring inferno.(see my previous blog with all the details: www.ronsblog.com 10/25/2006: Death in the Afternoon. In fact 20 years earlier, in the mid 1960's, I had sat in that same old wooden stand with mates to watch City, The Bantams, defeat the mighty Manchester United in a League Cup tie. I had remarked then about the mass of waste paper, cigarette butts and more that carpeted the floor beneath the stands, and how narrow the exits were when I went to the toilets (mens only) at half-time and how dark and crowded it was when we left at full time.
Today at 11.00 am at Millenium Square I was outside Bradford's glorious City Hall, where the Union Flag and that of Bradford City were at half staff. I stood for a minute's silence as the clock struck 11 times and a crowd of about 1,000 attended the memorial service and placed wreaths at the unique memorial sculpured and paid for by the citizens of Hamm, Germany where a Bradford lass had married a German sculpture named Joaquim Recne and lived there with her family. At the match in 1985 she was with a delegation from Hamm to witness the tropy celebrations that never took place.
The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Howard Middleton, hosted the service. Yorkshire Fire and Rescue also laid wreaths. They were heavily involved on the day. The Bradford City FC chaplain, The Reverend Andy Bowerman and the Lord Mayor's chaplain Canon Denise Poole said prayers and led us in singing Abide With Me, and a lone trumpeter played You'll Never Walk Alone.
Wreaths in The Bantams' colours of claret and amber where placed along with wreaths from a delegation from The City of Lincoln and Lincoln City FC. Many fans wore the club colours including one man with a maroon and amber waistcoat on this sunny May morning. The sculpture is only 4 feet high, so that local children can reach and touch it and read the inscriptions. Also present was Bradford City's popular manager Stuart McCall, who was playing for the club that fateful day. His father Andy was one of 300 injured. The then manager Peter Jackson is now manager of Lincoln City, The Imps.
City won the F.A.Cup in 1911. They tied Newcastle United 0-0 at the old Crystal Palace, but with a goal by Jimmy Spears in the replay at Old Trafford, won the Cup 1-0. Actually the F.A. Cup that they won, the third such trophy, was made in that same year in Bradford by Italian immigrant Antonio Fattorini, at his jewelry shop, Messers Fattorini and Sons, who also made the Bradford Lord Mayor's regalia. This trophy became fragile, but still exists, and an exact replica was made and used since the 1992 F.A. Cup Final.
If you are interested in full details, read 'Four Minutes to Hell', by Paul Firth and go to www.bradfordcityfc.co.uk