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Flashback Friday - Joe Bradford

Posted: Fri 06 Dec 2013

Very few Blues fans today will have been alive to witness the exploits of striker Joe Bradford, but 'Gentleman Joe' certainly fits the bill of a club legend

Name: Joe Bradford
Position: Centre-forward
Blues career: 1920-1935
Total Appearances: 445
Goals: 267
Debut: 25 December 1920 (v West Ham a, D 1-1)
Last game: 4 May 1935 (v Everton h, L 2-3)

Leicestershire-born Bradford made an incredible 445 appearances for Blues in all competitions, scoring 267 goals overall. He was capped 12 times for England, netting seven times, and played on five occasions for a representative Football League XI.

For 15 seasons between the two World Wars, Bradford was a hero without equal at St. Andrew's. He was at the club between 1920 and 1935 and is Birmingham's all-time leading scorer. With the exception of the 1921/22 and 1932/33 seasons he finished as the team’s top marksman every year throughout his career. Bradford also scored Blues’ goal in the 1931 FA Cup final, in which they were beaten 2-1 by West Bromwich Albion.

Bradford was one of the finest forwards of his era with the ability to strike the ball with either foot as well as being a great header of the ball. He was also remarkably quick over a short distance and scored many of his goals pouncing on the slightest indecision.

Bradford was born in the Leicestershire village of Peggs Green on 22 January 1901 - the day Queen Victoria died. It was evident from a very early age that he had what it takes to be a top-class footballer and after a 14- goal haul in one match for his local side he attracted the interest of the big clubs.

Despite having trials at Derby and Villa, it was Blues who nipped in to steal his signature in February 1920, apparently because Birmingham were the only side willing to pay young Joe’s travelling expenses. He cost the princely sum of £100 and a further £25 when he made his debut.

In September 1929 he had an amazing eight days when he scored 11 goals, three for Blues against Newcastle, five for the Football League v The Irish League and another hat-trick for Blues against Blackburn Rovers.

Bradford’s final game for Blues came in May 1935 and a 3-2 home defeat to Everton. Sadly Bradford didn’t manage to score what would have been his 250th league goal for the club, but in emotional scenes at the end of the game the 25,000 crowd invaded the pitch and cheered their retiring hero.

As the Sports Argus wrote at the time: “Without question Bradford has been the most popular man on the club’s books in the post-war era, if not of all-time, and now that the time has come for him to leave the club for which he has done so much, his severance will be regretted by all followers of the game.”

After departing Blues in 1935, Bradford played for one season at Bristol City and then retired in May 1936 to become a cafe owner in Birmingham. He later managed the Red Lion in Muntz Street, Small Heath, ran a sports shop in Sutton Coldfield, scouted for Arsenal and, in the late 1960s, worked in the Blues pools office. Joe Bradford died on 6 September 1980 in Hall Green, aged 79.

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