PADDY Sykes admits this coming Tuesday will be surreal, as the striker plays his first game for Bradford (Park Avenue), against a Campion side he served with distinction for four years.

The prolific goalscorer left the Red and Blacks at the end of last season to join Avenue, moving up a division in the process.

But before Avenue get their Northern Premier League East Division campaign underway, they have a month of friendlies to play, starting at Scotchman Road, which Sykes knows like the back of his hand.

He told the T&A: “It’s going to be really weird on Wednesday (the game has now been brought forward to Tuesday due to England’s Euro 2024 semi final against The Netherlands), even though I’m looking forward to it.

“I played for Campion for four years and my first game away from there is going back there to play against them.

“It’ll be nice to go back and see everybody, because I’ve got some good friends from my time there.”

Sykes admitted that bond the players built up was crucial over the last couple of years, as Campion enjoyed the best spell in their history.

The Bradford side managed to win a league, County Cup and Yorkshire Trophy treble in 2022-23 and they then reached the Northern Counties East League Premier Division play-off semi-finals in 2023-24.

He said: “I think we signed some really good players in that 2022-23 pre-season, lads that had done well in one or two leagues above.

“Another big thing was the lads all got along, so it was a really good group.

“Everyone gelled instantly a couple of summers ago and it just went from there.”

Paddy Sykes scores for Campion in a thumping 6-2 win over Frickley Athletic at Scotchman Road last season.Paddy Sykes scores for Campion in a thumping 6-2 win over Frickley Athletic at Scotchman Road last season. (Image: Martin Taylor.)

If it sounds that good at Campion, why did Sykes leave to join Bradford?

He explained: “There were other offers to go elsewhere, but staying local was a big thing, and Park Avenue is actually closer to me, living in Heckmondwike, than Campion.

“It was also a chance to move up a division and see how I got on playing in the league above.

“I wanted to see if I could make the step up and test myself in the Northern Premier League.”

Campion were just two games from joining Avenue in the NPL East Division for the 2024-25 season, only to lose that aforementioned play-off semi-final against Bradford rivals Albion Sports.

Asked if he would have stayed put at Scotchman Road had the Red and Blacks been promoted, Sykes said: “It’s hard to say, it’s not something I’ve really thought too much about.

“I really enjoyed it at Campion but it was obviously a disappointing end to the season, not going up.

“Because of that, Campion and Avenue not being in the same division in the end, it didn’t end up being a factor in the decision I had to make.”

And Sykes is pleased with what he has seen at Horsfall after his first fortnight of pre-season training, saying: “It’s been good so far and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.

It looks like we’ve signed some good players and we’re putting a strong squad together.

“We’ve definitely been put through our paces too by the coaches in these first couple of weeks.”