Avenue return to Bradford

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The Independent Online
While one small but dedicated band of football followers will be celebrating a historic homecoming tomorrow, fans of two other teams in the north of England are facing up to a future without football, after the collapse of their clubs this summer.

Bradford Park Avenue have not played senior football in their home city since 1973-74, when they were tenants at Valley Parade for a year after being forced out of their Park Avenue ground. At the end of that season the former Football League club, then in the Northern Premier League, disbanded.

After rising from the ashes as an amateur club in 1988, playing at Manningham Mills in Bradford, Avenue eventually returned to semi-professional football but could not find a suitable ground in Bradford. They have climbed back in to the Northern Premier (now the UniBond) League using rugby league grounds at Bramley and Batley but now - at last - they are back home.

Avenue kick off the new UniBond season tomorrow when they entertain Curzon Ashton at Horsfall stadium, about a mile from their old Park Avenue ground in south Bradford. It is a council-owned athletics stadium which has, until now, only been used for schools football.

"The council have helped us get it ready but we've raised most of the money required ourselves," Tim Clapham, the club's press officer, said this week. "We've bought 1,300 seats from the cricket ground at Headingley and some turnstiles from Burnley FC."

The faithful fans of Avenue, a club that refused to die, are delighted to have a home of their own in Bradford. There is no such joy, though, in two other towns. Fleetwood, members of the UniBond League last season, folded in the summer. The company that operated the football club went into liquidation with debts of about pounds 100,000, and the team was expelled from the league.

There was a similar tale of woe in Goole. After being relegated from the UniBond in 1995, Goole Town played in the Northern Counties East League last term but called it a day this summer due to financial difficulties. For both Goole and Fleetwood, there are memories - but no future...