Villa Park, 1912

As Bradford City’s team, assembled for a mere £7,500, stand ninety minutes from major cup final, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that financial inequality in football is hardly a new thing. City’s opening match of the 1912/13 season brought with it concerns about wealthy clubs dominating the league.

The 1912/13 season started with the toughest possible fashion with a trip to Villa Park. During the summer Aston Villa had spent around six thousand pounds on four players. The Bradford Daily Argus reflected that Villa’s spending over the summer was ‘almost equal to a whole season’s revenue of some of the lowly league clubs’. The ability of a handful of wealthy clubs – notably Aston Villa, Everton and Newcastle United – to dominate the transfer market was causing concern. The unpredictability of the league was often referred to as one of its greatest assets. Publically at least there seems to have been a consensus that buying success was somehow distasteful.

Bradford City themselves had been busy in the transfer market and had tapped into the rich seam of Scottish talent for reinforcements. John Wyllie made his debut in the Bantams’ defence. The burly Scot was at times overwhelmed by the quick first time passing of the Villa forwards and it was later acknowledged that it was probably a mistake to hand him his first division debut against what was widely acknowledged as the best attacking force in the country. However, Wyllie was not the only defender to struggle as City went down to a 1-3 opening day defeat.

A 3-1 defeat at Villa Park in 2013 would set up a penalty shoot out. With City having set an unofficial world record with their nine consecutive shoot out victories, it would be a prospect that the visitors would probably relish. Ten in a row and a first major cup final since 1911? It could happen. We are living through history.
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