TO THOSE not necessarily in the know, Bradford Town Football Club are a long established club playing out of the attractive Wiltshire town of Bradford-on-Avon for decades, having been members of the Western League since the dawn of time.
So it comes as a surprise to many that the club are only 25 years old, having been founded in 1992 by Les and Pat Stevens when the team joined Division Two of the Wiltshire League. Happily, Les is still actively involved at the club and took time out from his club’s weekend away in Cleveland for their FA Vase tie with Marske United to explain how the club came about.
“We played our home games at St Laurence School in Bradford where we roped off the pitch before each game, carried the dugouts on to the pitch and made the half-time tea in the boot of my car,” he said. The club secured the use of Trowbridge Town’s old Frome Road ground before moving back down the road to Bradford-on-Avon in 1996, to Trowbridge Road.
The famous old works sports venue was established before the 1914-18 War as the home of rubber works side Spencer Moulton FC and latterly Western League side Avon Bradford FC before they folded in the early 1990s, enabling Bradford Town to become custodians of the venue.
Les added: “We won promotion to the Western League in 2006 under the leadership of Mark Hodkinson after finishing runners-up in the Wiltshire League Premier Division, and Mark is still at the club as he is now chairman.”
Indeed it seems that long service and dedication is a recurring theme at Bradford Town FC as one of the original players, Paul Shanley, has been captain and player-manager and is now a valued clubman and sponsor of the club.
Trowbridge Road has slowly been transformed over the years from a three-sided ground shared with cricket by the addition of a group of portacabins and a 100-seat main stand, and the provision of floodlights has meant that the club has enjoyed their time in the FA Cup and FA Vase in recent years.
They had a year to remember in 2013-14 when local boy Sam Jordan netted 77 goals as Town won the Division One title by 13 points and just missed a League and Cup double, losing 3-2 on penalties to Melksham Town in the Wiltshire Senior Cup Final after a 3-3 draw after extra-time.
In the intervening seasons the club has pushed on and this year their FA Vase run included a stunning victory at Newport IoW with ten men and only ended last week at Northern League high-flyers Marske United.
Les and his committee at Trowbridge Road are fortunate to have a small army of volunteers and no shortage of supporters as they look to the near future and the very real possibility of a new ground and Southern League football, to mirror that which is happening down the road at Melksham.
“We have plans for a new ground 400 yards further along the road and the drainage on the site is good and we are looking to have a 4G pitch plus conventional grass pitches for senior and youth football,” said Les.
While it will mean the loss of a long established and traditional football ground it is definitely the way forward for the ambitious club who stand fourth in the Premier Division having lost just two League games all season.
The travelling Blues supporters have been making friends along the way which was borne out by messages from Marske United after the game which included: “All the best to @BradfordTownFc for the future and safe journey home. You did your club proud today.”
Les Stevens will not be at all surprised by this as he described the club men and followers as: “A great bunch of blokes who give us fabulous support and are all good people. Paul Shanley has his own scrapyard and has been an important sponsor while builder and developer Mike Burbidge is also part of the Town family.”
However, Les collected a whole handful of house points by stating: “Bradford Town Football Club would not exist if it wasn’t for my wife Pat, who is a club legend who has been secretary, treasurer, cook and everything else behind the scenes over the years.”
This campaign has seen the return of Sam Jordan after trying his luck in the Southern League at Weymouth FC and following a disappointing opening day defeat in the FA Cup at home to Odd Down, manager Danny Greaves and assistant Aaron Wilson led their side to a 14- match unbeaten run which finally came to an end in front of a large crowd at leaders Street in October.
Since then the side were on the road throughout November as the fixture list gave them six consecutive away games in all, but progress was made and as December came, a fine victory over Wessex League Team Solent in the FA Vase heralded a run of four wins and two defeats, the only reverse being at neighbours Melksham Town.
The Vase tie on the Isle of Wight was initially rained off but a week later Greaves was called out of retirement when regular ’keeper Charlie Phillips was sent off and he led his side to a famous victory and the chance of a weekend away at Marske United, with an overnight stay at the Holiday Inn at Leeds.
While promotion to the Southern League is a little way off yet and the new ground plans are still in their relative infancy, Bradford Town FC are now well established in Wiltshire and Western League football and, as successors to the original Town side, as well as Spencer Moulton and Avon Bradford, they seem to be doing everything right on and off the pitch to set up a future which can only be bright further up Trowbridge Road.
By Kerry Miller.
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