Striker Bill Bradbury joined Hull City in October 1955 for a £4,000 fee. Manager Bob Brocklebank was appointed the previous March and was assembling a competitive squad from the remnants of the all-star City side put together at the start of the decade by Raich Carter. The Tigers had lost nine of the 11 opening fixtures and were rooted at the foot of the Second Division table so the signing of Bradbury, who had been by Brocklebank at Birmingham a year earlier, was intended as a much-needed catalyst. Bill scored on his debut, a 2-3 defeat against Bury, and netted a hattrick a few days later as City claimed unlikely victory in a friendly against touring Hungarian powerhouse Vasas Budapest. Paired with the experienced former England international Stan Mortensen, the youthful Bradbury quickly established himself as a character, renowned for his outspoken statements and exaggerated gestures and gurns towards the crowd. In November and December 1955 City won four times in the League, both Bradbury and Mortensen scored in three of those four victories. But the upturn in form was brief and City were rock bottom of the Division when the season drew to a close.
The Tigers began the 1956/57 season, their first in Division Three North since 1949, in fine style with Bradbury scoring six goals in the first five league games, including his first Tigers hattrick away at Tranmere. September bought six defeats in eight games and City’s challenge for the top places waned, but Bradbury stayed amongst the goals despite missing ten games between October and December 1956. In the new year Bradbury’s contributed braces of goals in a 3-2 win at Crewe, a 5-3 win over Stockport and a 3-2 win against Chesterfield, but these results illustrated City’s issue – plenty of goals at both ends of the park – and they finished the season eighth. City made a slow start to 1957/58 season, as did Bill who had only netted 4 times in the first 16 fixtures. However in November and December 1957 Bradbury found his form with nine goals in 11 games, and he remained a regular name on the scoresheet for the rest of the season, including a hattrick in a 9-0 demolition of Oldham in April 1958. Despite these goals, City finished a handful of points outside the promotion slots in fifth place.
The 1958/59 season therefore became pivotal, could the building momentum created by City lead to promotion? One win in the first seven League games suggested not, but a turnaround in mid-September sparked by a 5-0 win over Notts County saw the Tigers lose only three of 19 league fixtures by the end of the calendar year, with Bradbury scoring 14 times including a third hattrick for City in a Boxing Day 5-2 thumping of Mansfield Town. Another hattrick a week later against Bradford City continued the momentum and Bradbury finished the season with 30 league goals, the biggest haul for Hull City since Bill McNaughton’s record breaking 41 promotion-winning goals twenty six years earlier. Bill’s goals, matched by another 26 strikes from striker partner Colin Smith, propelled City to second place in the Division Three North table and promotion to Division Two. In 1959/60 City immediately struggled for goals as Brocklebank attempted to repurpose the same squad for competition at a higher level. Bradbury contributed seven goals by the New Year but City had won only four league games in that time and were unable to arrest the decline. By February 1960 Bradbury was filling in in a variety of forward positions and being use less regularly, and when a £5,000 transfer fee was offered City found it hard to refuse.
Born in the Derbyshire town of Matlock, Bradbury joined the Coventry City groundstaff as a teenager and signed professional terms in May 1950, shortly after his 17th birthday. In four seasons at Highfield Road Bill scored seven times in 24 starts but struggled to find a foothold in the first team. In November 1954 Bradbury moved to Birmingham City, but he played only three League matches for the Blues before heading to Hull eleven months later.
Bradbury joined Bury in February 1960 but within eight months he was on the move again, heading for Workington on the Cumbrian Coast. That stay at Borough Park lasted only ten months before he headed down the English west coast to Southport. The goalscoring magic appeared to have dimmed by the time he left Southport in June 1962, and he took up a player-coach role at Cheshire League side Wigan Athletic. After a year at Wigan, Bradbury drew his playing career to a close in the Merseyside football scene with spells at Prescot Cables and Kirkby Town. Bradbury saw out his post-football days back in Derbyshire and died of a heart attack in Chesterfield in August 1999. His affection for Hull City was demonstrated by his dying wishes to have his ashes scattered on the Boothferry Park turf.
Date/Place of Birth: 3 April 1933, Matlock
Hull City First Game: 15 October 1955, Bury H (Division Two), 22 years, 195 days old
Hull City Final Game: 13 February 1960, Rotherham United H (Division Two), 26 years, 316 days old
Coventry City (1950-1954), Birmingham City (1954-1955), Hull City (1955-1960), Bury (1960), Workington (1960-1961), Southport (1961-1962), Wigan Atheltic (1962-1963), Prescot Cables (1963-1964), Kirkby Town (1964)
Hull City Record
Career: 190 apps, 89 goalsBill Bradbury