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Bradford City: Putting the record straight after glaring miss
Forgotten man Derek Stokes says he will be on cloud nine if Nahki Wells goes one better than him tomorrow
For someone mistakenly forgotten from the record books, Derek Stokes is taking it remarkably well.
I’m not sure I would have been quite so forgiving over such a glaring omission.
When Nahki Wells scored for the eighth game in a row last week, it was assumed that he had set the new Bradford City record.
The likes of David Layne, John McCole and Jack Deakin had done seven on the bounce. But going one further was surely new territory.
Except it’s not. It has been done before by Stokes.
Between Boxing Day 1959 and February 6, 1960, Stokes scored against Grimsby home and away, Swindon, Everton, Chesterfield, Newport, Bournemouth and Accrington.
I remember going through a spell when I couldn’t miss. Every ball you hit seems to go in – it’s a lovely feeling to have as a centre forwardDerek Stokes
He rattled off 14 goals in eight games, including two hat-tricks. A prolific burst by anyone’s standards.
But it was shamefully missed by this writer amid all the hype and hysteria of Wells netting yet again in the win over Sheffield United.
Half-expecting a rollicking when I dialled the number of his Dorset home, apologies were offered straight away.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said. “I’m just pleased to see the lad (Wells) is doing so well.
“I can understand why people are getting excited about him. It’s good for Bradford City to have someone scoring so many goals.”
Another Wells goal at Stevenage this afternoon will set the new landmark. No, really... And Stokes, now 73, will be willing him to do it.
“Records are there to be broken and it won’t upset me. Good luck to the lad – I really hope he does it.”
The current joint holders could not come from more contrasting backgrounds. While Wells is fast rivalling Clyde Best and Shaun Goater as Bermuda’s most famous footballing export, Stokes hails from Snydale, just outside Pontefract.
He joined City from the West Yorkshire League side as an amateur in May 1956 and made his debut 16 months later in a 2-2 draw away to Crewe – scoring both goals on his 18th birthday.
“I always managed to score every time I made my debut. I got the two for City that day, scored again on my debut for Huddersfield and then did the same when I came back to Bradford. It was a good way of getting in the good books of your team-mates and the supporters!
“I was an outside left when I started, a left winger as they call it now, and scored a few goals from out there. But not as many as when I moved into the middle.”
Stokes’s eye for goal was evident the following season when he netted 15 from the flank. But it was McCole’s departure in September 1959 that was to open the floodgates.
Stokes recalled: “I was still playing out wide when John moved to Leeds. I was put in his place in the middle and it just started from there.
“I remember going through a spell when I couldn’t miss. Every ball you hit seems to go in – it’s a lovely feeling to have as a centre forward.
“It felt like every game we played I would score a goal.”
But for a rare blank at York’s Bootham Crescent the week before Christmas, Stokes would have doubled his streak to 16 successive games. He had scored in the previous seven outings before then.
Stokes finished that season with 35 in total, David Jackson was second leading scorer on a distant 11. City themselves ended up sixth from bottom of the Third Division.
Stokes would have had more but missed the final nine games with an ankle tendon injury.
His tally included an amazing ten in the FA Cup – a record that surely nobody can ever topple.
City played eight matches on the way to the fifth round where a late equaliser at Valley Parade denied them the prize scalp of league champions-in-waiting Burnley.
They were beaten 5-0 in the replay – the only cup tie when Stokes failed to make the scoresheet.
He was sold for £22,500 to Huddersfield that June and went on to win England under-23 honours while with the Terriers, where he top scored for four successive seasons.
A second spell with City in 1966 was not so successful but a final tally of 66 goals from 141 appearances is prolific by anyone’s standards.
He retired to Charmouth, “two minutes from the south coast”, in 2004 but still gets to Valley Parade when he is back in Bradford visiting the family. One of his sons, Garry, is the goalkeeping coach at Farsley Celtic.
Stokes said: “We do miss it, of course, but I got to two or three games last season when I came up.
“It was lovely to see the cup run last season and then the team winning promotion. The club seems to be going the right way again at last.
“I bought a book in a car boot sale not long ago which had all the cup winners going back over the last 100 years. It was nice to see Bradford’s name there at the start – I don’t think anyone expected them to get to another cup final.
“To get 18,000 at Valley Parade last week was brilliant. It’s like the old days when we used to get good crowds even though we weren’t doing particularly well.
“There have always been the people there, it’s just getting a team to do their best for them. It looks like they have got that now.
“And the lad who is in the middle does look very good.”
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