Handsome Tom Maley and the Green and White of Bradford

The vast majority of Tim minded folk would have stuck their money on the answer to the following statement emphatically being Celtic.

Statement:

Name the club that Tom Maley was involved with from their earliest of times who are wearers of the green and white and sport an extremely unique and important history. 

The answer for most would obviously be Celtic. However, it could also be Bradford Park Avenue.

‘Handsome Tom’ Maley was one of our origin players who was also the elder brother to Willie. He is widely known within well read Tim circles and, if you ever happened to tour the Barras pre grotesque gentrification, you will undoubtedly have seen the St Mary’s League Celtic Brake Club banner which hung gallantly above the bar in Bairds – the centre and dominant image on the banner was of Handsome Tom himself.

St Mary’s League Celtic Brake Club featuring Tom
St Mary’s League Celtic Brake Club featuring Tom

Tom moved down south in his post Celtic days and made an excellent manager for both Manchester City and Bradford Park Avenue. Although his time at Man City courted some controversy, he would go on to be celebrated and commemorated. For example, in the 1920s a reporter from the ‘Athletic News‘ gushed over Maley as manager when he wrote, 

“I never happened on a greater enthusiast than Maley, nor yet a better informed man. If Maley had had average luck he would have gone down in history as one of the most successful managers the game has known”.(The Celtic Wiki)

One such reason for this rave review is due to the impact he had at Bradford Park Avenue. Throughout his 13 years with the club (1911-24) he met with early success as he was able to gain them promotion from the old Second Division to the First. The extent to which he soon became ‘Mr. Bradford’ is evidenced in the fact that he had enough clout – from the off – to change the teams strip to a green and white one.

Bradford PA current stand

In addition to this, despite the 100 year gap and sad demise of the original Bradford Park Avenue in 1974, the newly resurrected Bradford PA (1988) ensured that their main stand be green and white in honour of their original colours. The current team still play in green and white to this day – albeit their away kit. All of which is a tremendous nod to their history and, by extension, to our very own Handsome Tom himself.

Current away top (club’s own website)

The Timness of Bradford Park Avenue?

According to Robert Nichol, a leading archaeologist, the original Bradford PA were a special kind of club which acted as a real focal point for the traditional working class area. Indeed, in an article in The Guardian (2017) he states that 

‘Park Avenue was a people’s place…’ 

All of which sounds reassuringly familiar. Their history, much like our own, is truly one of undeniable uniqueness. For example, as they went bust in 1974 the local authorities allowed their home turf to simply rot and ruin to the point where moss, plantation and eventually trees were spurting forth from what used to be terracing, changing rooms and penalty spots.

This all changed a few years ago however when the old stomping ground of Maley became the first footballing site in the UK to be excavated by a team of archaeologists. This truly unique piece of their recent history was put into a self published book entitled, ‘Breaking Ground: Art, Archaeology and Mythology’.

Which then went on to become award nominated at the highest level in regards to UK sports literature. A green and white team associated with Tom Maley with a significant and one of a kind history – again, how familiar!

It would appear that wherever Tom Maley went in relation to football he not only had a midas touch but also took a certain type of Tim-ness with him too.

Tom Maley – A Man Open to All

A lesser known fact about Tom is that near the end of his life he embarked on several speaking tours about all of the current affairs of the Scottish game and of society. Indeed, In 1933 Tom Maley visited Edinburgh as part of a lecture series where he spoke as part of the weekly Edina Sports Club talks. At that event he spoke about the current striking and marching of (unemployed) workers.

Tom recalled  how, ‘In these days of Industrial strife the game could be a safety valve’ before commenting that the game,

‘…was not poverty stricken, for there were many good players in the game…’

Before he finished off with, ‘interesting anecdotes about the game’ he also made comments on transfer fees and the ability to hold on to players which must have been all very fascinating. I suppose the modern day equivalent of this is going to an ex-player night where the selfie and the patter are free flowing, much like the nearby vapour of crispness from a newly sparked bottle of Magners.

Excerpt of the Tom Maley lecture (1933)

However, by a long way, the most fascinating part about this talk in Edinburgh’s George IV Bridge one day in 1933 is actually it’s venue.

It was held in The Protestant Institute which, on its own, is nothing spectacular. But when placed in context it allows us to see Handsome Tom in the rightful light of progressiveness which he deserves. Here was a man known, primarily, due to his devotion to Celtic FC with which his brother was so indominatably associated with – Willie Maley was, and still is, ‘Mr Celtic’ after all. A team which will forever be inter-knitted with Catholicism and to a lesser extent, Irish nationalism.

I mean, in all honesty, what exactly would the chances have been of a footballing hero from Ibrox delivering a sport and society lecture in, say, an Ancient Order of Hibernians, Knights of St Columba or even any of the many Irish social clubs which existed from Govan to Springburn, in the 1930s?

Absolute zero due to that particular teams (still) burning culture of an overtly violent association with anti Catholicism.

Handsome Tom indeed, but I think Wholesome Tom befits this oft forgotten Tim legend, who rightfully prioritised the person before the religion, even more.

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