City have played only four current Football League sides more often than Rochdale, with tomorrow’s meeting against Keith Hill's men being the 87th between the pair since the first clash in 1927.
Rochdale have been promoted three times in their history - but have never played above the third tier of English football.
This means meetings between the two sides in league football have often come during the leaner periods of the Bantams’ history. Nonetheless, there have been some very interesting clashes.
It wasn't until City were relegated to Division Three (North) in 1927 that the two teams met for the first time in league football - with Edmund Harvey, George Richardson and William Summers (his only goal in 132 appearances for the Bantams) scoring in a 3-3 draw at Spotland in front of 5,952 people. The return meeting later that season, the first in Bradford, was a 2-2 draw on March 31st, 1928. The following season, City were promoted as champions, so the 3-1 victory at Spotland in the penultimate game of the 1928-29 season was the last meeting for almost a decade. It would be 1937, just months before league football was suspended due to World War II before they met again.
City and Rochdale remained regular opponents in league football for well over a decade heading out of the War, with both competing in what was then the bottom tier of the professional game, Division Three. There were some big wins for City during that period; including a 4-0 win during 1953-54 - a season in which City came close to promotion back to Division Two before finishing third. In the first season since the Football League was expanded to four divisions however, Rochdale finished bottom of Division Three - within two seasons, City joined them after finishing 22nd, resuming the rivalry with Dale once again. The 1960s were a lean period for both clubs, with the nadir perhaps 1965-66, when BOTH teams had to apply for re-election to the Football League. They succeeded in doing so with some ease, with City earning 42 votes and Rochdale 40. The nearest non-league side to challenge on the ballot papers was Wigan Athletic, who only achieved five votes. Incredibly though, only three years later, Rochdale were promoted for the first time in their history - and City joined them! The Bantams were beaten 6-0 early in the season, before Bobby Ham scored in a 1-1 draw at Bradford later in the year that proved vital - as both teams were promoted on 56 points into Division Three.
The two sides continued to bounce between Division Three and Division Four in the years that followed - but when City were again promoted from Division Four in 1982, it proved to be the final league meeting for 26 years, as the Bantams began a journey which culminated in Premier League football in 1999. All the while, Rochdale were playing their football in the bottom tier - meaning that it wasn't until City were relegated to League Two that their paths crossed again. That season, Rochdale won both meetings, with Peter Thorne twice scoring City's only goal in a 2-1 defeat. Thorne was again on target in the next clash, in the third game of the 2008-09 season, as Michael Boulding also scored as the Bantams won 2-1. Both eventually left League Two; Rochdale in 2010, before again securing promotion in 2014 - while City were promoted in 2012-13. Going into tomorrow’s game, City are on a run of six games without defeat against Rochdale, stretching all the way back to January 2015. Since then, there have been some high-scoring games; including last year's 4-3 win at home, and the 4-0 defeat of Rochdale the season prior, making it eight goals scored in our last two meetings with Dale in Bradford.
This Saturday's opponents travel across the Pennines with a former Bantam who has also proven to be a handful for our own defence in the past. Aaron Wilbraham earned Heritage Number #1003 when he debuted for City against Bournemouth in March 2006. He went on to make five appearances during his time with the Bantams on loan, scoring once - however, he was part of the Bristol City team that inflicted one of the Bantams' worst-ever home defeats upon City. He scored during the Robins 6-0 win at City in April 2015.