IT IS nearly 50 years since Bradford (Park Avenue) were liquidated, and it has been a slow road back.

But they are now a settled National League North side, and have been so for a full decade.

But they are a club with a storied past, even fitting in three seasons in the top flight either side of World War One.

Club historian Tim Clapham is an encyclopedia when it comes to facts and stats, right up to the present day.

As always, he presented me with the end of season run down a couple of weeks ago, with some interesting facts laid bare.

In a season where Avenue played 46 games, 42 in the league and four in the cup, only three started more than 30 times, in captain Luca Havern, Mark Ross and Brad Dockerty.

The latter two won’t be at the club next season, with Ross leaving upon the expiry of his contract, and Dockerty joining Alfreton Town last Friday.

Dockerty’s departure means a big void needs to be filled, with his 13 goals across the campaign making him by far and away their top scorer.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Brad Dockerty (left) has just departed Avenue. Picture: John Rhodes.Brad Dockerty (left) has just departed Avenue. Picture: John Rhodes.

Lewis Knight and Adam Nowakowski lagged well behind in joint-second on five, though in defence of the former, he only joined in late January on loan from Notts County.

Both Knight and Dockerty are set to be playing National League football next term, and Avenue boss Mark Bower is keen to emphasise that the club’s goal is to get young players like that up the footballing ladder.

But they have a way to go to match some of the achievements of some of Avenue’s great names of the past.

Anyone who follows Clapham on Twitter (@Avenueite) will know he is fond of bringing up key dates related to the club.

Earlier this week saw the 52nd anniversary of Avenue’s 62-year stay in the Football League coming to an end, while a month ago yesterday marked the centenary of Len Shackleton’s birth.

It is unlikely the big names of Avenue present like Knight and Dockerty will match the achievements of Shackleton, but then who could live up to the man affectionately known as the “Clown Prince of Soccer”.

Shackleton was born in Bradford on May 3, 1922, and was known to be a fan of Avenue’s great rivals Bradford City.

Nevertheless, he started out at Avenue, before being snapped up as a 16-year-old by Arsenal, the premier team in English football in the 1930s.

But he was soon released by the Gunners, for the timeless reason that he was “too small to make it in professional football”, and he soon found himself back at Avenue.

Despite guesting for other clubs during World War Two, it was at Avenue where he made his name, plundering 175 goals.

He even once netted for Avenue and City on the same day, Christmas Day at that.

But his talent needed a bigger stage, and Newcastle United stumped up a huge £13,000 in 1946 to sign him, where he netted six goals on his debut.

Their great rivals Sunderland then snapped him up for over £20,000, at the time a British transfer record, and he paid them back with exactly 100 goals.

Remarkably, Shackleton’s trophy cabinet remained bare throughout his career, and he only earned five caps for England.

The latter might have owed in part to his abrasive attitude.

The Avenue crowds were allegedly not always overly-enamoured by his attitude, despite all his goals, while he fell out with directors at Newcastle.

England’s manager at the time, Walter Winterbottom, bemoaned Shackleton’s inability to track back, while one national sector memorably criticised the forward’s showboating by saying: “We play at Wembley Stadium, not the London Palladium.”

But it was that trickery, as well as his goalscoring, which set Shackleton apart.

Teammates described him as capable of controlling the ball as if it were on a string, and he had a famous array of tricks.

One notable anecdote talks of him humiliating old club Arsenal by putting his foot on the ball in the area and pretending to check his watch and comb his hair.

Tricks in his repertoire included backheeled penalty kicks and wall passes with the corner flag too.

His disdain for conformity was reflected in arguably one of the most famous autobiography chapters in history.

Entitled “The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football”, it was infamously left blank.

One of Bradford’s most famous sons, Shackleton was anything but your average footballer, and he remains almost certainly Avenue’s greatest player ever.

One hundred years and one month after he was born, and we have still yet to find anyone quite like him.