The first football match played at Park Avenue was an exhibition game between Blackburn Rovers and Blackburn and District (not Blackburn Olympic as is widely believed) on September 16th 1882. Although the experiment was a moderate success, Bradford FC did not pursue any further interest in the round ball game until the “Great Split” of 1895. Having abandoned amateur Rugby Union in favour of professional Northern Union (Rugby League), the club also decided to experiment with Association, staging soccer and rugger on alternate Saturdays.
Bradford’s Association section was formed by the wholesale recruitment of Buckstone Park FC. This club was based at Apperley Bridge but little is known of its history. The Bradford club ran three amateur association sides – First, Reserve and Bradford Rangers. The First eleven was entered in the West Yorkshire League, but began with a number of pre-season friendlies. The first of these was away to Swinton (Rotherham) on Saturday 7th September. The following report of Bradford’s first ever game appeared in the Bradford Observer two days later.
SWINTON (ROTHERHAM) 3 BRADFORD 0
At Swinton. The vicar kicked off. It was soon evident that the Swinton team’s combination was superior to the visitors’, and the game had not been in progress long before Booth opened the scoring with a good shot. For some time the Bradford team pressed, but the Swinton backs relieved the pressure and the home team getting away by some good combination were enabled to get close up, and Beadsley scored another goal for them. The play from this juncture up to half-time was mostly of a give-and-take character, and the teams crossed over with Swinton leading by two goals to nil.
With the advantage of the wind and playing down hill, it was thought that Bradford would equalize, but the defence of the home team was too good and shortly before time Jessop scored another goal for Swinton. The game ended in a win for the home team by three goals to nil.
Preston as back played a good game and all the halves were safe. Of the forwards Guest and Jessop were the pick. For Bradford, Killick kept goal in fine style, and Smith and Collinson were safe at back. All the halves did well, and Ackroyd and Laidlaw were the pick of the forwards. Teams –
Swinton: Askin, goal; Preston and Schofield, backs; Merrick, Whittington, and Dawson (captain), halves; Blount, Jessop, Beadsley, Booth, and Guest, forwards.
Bradford: H. Killick, goal; I. Smith and H. Collinson, backs; R. Thorne, A. Shepherd (captain) and N. Thorne, half backs; C. Ackroyd and C. Ingham, right wing; Healey and Laidlaw, left wing; J. Miles, centre.
Referee: W. Sayers.