Mick's Football Memories

Mick’s Football Memories – part 30

For the 1975/76 season four Herts. County League sides entered the newly formed F.A. Vase competition. They were Knebworth, Leggatts Old Boys, Rolls-Royce Engines and Royston Town. Knebworth lost in the Preliminary Round 0-1 to Basildon United. The remaining three clubs entered the competition at the First Round with Rolls-Royce Engines and Royston Town losing to Tring Town and Northampton Spencer respectively, Royston Town after a replay. Leggatts Old Boys defeated Selby in the First Round before losing to Addlestone in the Second Round.

The following season only Leggatts Old Boys, Rolls-Royce Engines and Royston Town entered the competition and all lost at the first hurdle, Rolls-Royce Engines and Royston Town in the Preliminary Round and Leggatts Old Boys in the First Round.

For the 1977/78 season Knebworth and Sun Sports entered the competition together with Leggatts Old Boys and Rolls-Royce Engines, again all four clubs lost at the first hurdle.

The same four clubs entered for the 1978/79 season with only Sun Sports enjoying any success. They defeated Sandy Albion 2-0 in the Preliminary Round and then drew 4-4 with Kew Association in the First Round, losing the replay 1-0.

Knebworth, Rolls-Royce Engines and Sun Sports were the only entrants for the 1979/80 with Rolls-Royce Engines being the only team to enjoy any success. They defeated Eaton Bray United 5-2 away in the Preliminary Round and Ulysses 2-0 away in the First Round, before losing to Didcot Town in the Second Round. In the Preliminary Round Knebworth had been drawn at home to Tiptree United and lost the match 1-0. I was up the rec. that day watching the game when I observed a man walking around the entire pitch making notes. This individual turned out to be the secretary of Tiptree United and he had discovered that the length of the Knebworth pitch was undersize lengthwise, being less than 110 yards long. He reported this to the F.A. and the club was not accepted into the competition again. Subsequently the pitch was moved to the position it is in today, with the bottom goal line very close to the footpath. The following season the Herts F.A. refused to sanction any Herts. County League clubs entry into the competition. It would not be until the 1985/86 season that Herts. County League clubs would again participate in the F.A. Vase.

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Mick's Football Memories

Mick’s Football Memories – part 29

Letchworth Town continued to perform well in the Athenian league and after a name change to Letchworth Garden City in 1976 narrowly missed out on winning the Division One title at the end of the season. I was at Cheshunt on a Tuesday evening to see their final league match which they needed to win to claim the title. Unfortunately they were defeated, handing the title to Leyton-Wingate by a single point. However the Isthmian League formed a Division Two (Third Division) for the start of the 1977/78 season and Letchworth, now having floodlights, were accepted into the league. This reduced the Athenian League to one division. Ironically when the Athenian League expanded during the mid nineteen sixties it had approached the Isthmian League to become involved in the process but the Isthmian’s declined preferring to remain as an enclosed group.

In the Herts. County League the 1975/76 season was disastrous for Knebworth, the first team being relegated from the Premier Division, hence causing the reserves to be demoted from Division One, although not finishing in a relegation position. 1976/77 was in complete contrast, the first team won Division One and were promoted and the reserves finished third in Division Two and were also promoted. I was in the main stand at Clarence Park as the season drew to a conclusion watching Knebworth win the Aubrey Cup, defeating Sun Sports by one goal to nil, hence completing the double, promotion and the Aubrey Cup. The reserves not to be outdone also completed the double, promotion and the Reserve Cup, defeating Bovingdon Reserves 3-1 in the final. The reserves would also win the Reserve Cup the following season, defeating Rolls-Royce Engines Reserves 4-0, making it four wins in the competition during the 1970’s. They again completed the double, winning the Division One title, but were unable to be promoted as the first team competed in the Premier Division.

Over the next two seasons the first team would prove to be one of the stronger teams in the division finishing third and fourth respectively.

By now I was ready to become actively involved in football again and being unable to play started to look for opportunities where I could become involved in an administrative capacity.

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Mick's Football Memories

Mick’s Football Memories – part 28

Watching local football became the standard diet over the next few years as my health continued to improve.

Hitchin Town continued to compete well in the Isthmian League Premier Division and had more success in the FA Cup. During the 1976/77 season they reached the First Round Proper where they were drawn against Weymouth. After three drawn games Hitchin won the third replay 3-1. In the Second Round they were drawn at home to Swindon Town and I joined a capacity crowd of 6000 spectators in watching them draw 1-1. Swindon Town duly won the replay 3-1 but Hitchin competed extremely well and could be proud of their performance. The record attendance at Top Field had been set in 1955 when 7878 supporters saw them defeat Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 in the Amateur Cup Third Round. Hitchin reached the FA Cup First Round one more time during the 1970’s, in 1978/79 when they were drawn away to Bournemouth and after an excellent performance were narrowly defeated by two goals to one.

The 1975/76 season was to be Stevenage Athletic’s last, as the club finished bottom of the Southern League Division One (North) and folded. The club’s administration had been so bad that the secretary of the Southern League vowed never again to allow a Stevenage based team to enter the league. The ground was closed by the owner but a youth team coach entered the ground and played a youth match. This infuriated the owner and he sent contractors to plough the pitch up from goalmouth to goalmouth. The ground would stay in this condition until 1980 when the council took control and carried out the necessary repairs. A newly formed club Stevenage Borough had been formed in 1976 and played its matches on King George V playing field. It became the tenant at Broadhall Way in 1980 and after enquiring about joining the Herts. County League joined the United Counties League, where instant success was achieved, winning Division One and the League Cup. For the start of the 1984/85 season the club joined the Isthmian League and after some roller coaster seasons won the Premier Division in 1993/94. The club was promoted to the Football Conference for the start of the 1994/95 season. A year later they won the championship but were denied entry to the Football League being unable to meet facility requirements. They again won the championship in 2009/10 and, this time, were duly promoted to the Football League.

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Mick's Football Memories

Mick’s Football Memories – part 27

No longer able to play football I contented myself with watching local teams as I gradually started to recover my health. This meant watching Hitchin Town, Letchworth Town and Knebworth on a regular basis. Stevenage Athletic were in a very unstable state and I did not find the prospect of watching matches at Broadhall Way very appealing.

During the 1974/75 season I probably watched Hitchin Town more than any other club and saw them again reach the FA Cup First Round Proper, where they were drawn against league opposition in local rivals Cambridge United. I attended the match at Top Field where Hitchin played extremely well and drew 0-0. Cambridge United won the replay 3-0. Hitchin would again finish in a comfortable mid table position in the Isthmian League.

I also watched more matches at Letchworth Town where they won the Athenian League Division One title. This was the top division as the Athenian League had named its divisions One and Two when it reduced to two divisions after the Isthmian League had created a second division at the start of the 1973/74 season. This emulated their feat of 1957/58 when they won the Delphian League title.

Knebworth’s season in the Herts. County League was an anti-climax after their success of the previous season as they finished in lower mid table in the Premier Division, with the reserves finishing in mid table in Division One. Rolls-Royce Engines won the Premier Division and completed the double defeating Leavesden Hospital 3-0 in the Aubrey Cup Final. Chipperfield won Division one, Hatfield School Old Boys Division Two and Welwyn Garden United Division Three.

Stevenage Athletic finished in mid table in the Southern League Division One (North) in what was to be their penultimate season in the league as the club would fold and leave the Southern League in the most bizarre of circumstances.

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Mick's Football Memories

Mick’s Football Memories – part 26

In the early days of the 1974/75 season I was playing for the Reserves at Knebworth Rec. when I was involved in a clash of heads and momentarily knocked unconscious. As I lay on the ground blurry eyed I could see a figure coming towards me. This was the sponge man who doubled up as the linesman. He always wore a long brown macintosh and wellington boots no matter what the weather. He approached with a galvanised bucket full of cold water, a sponge and some smelling salts. I knew I was badly injured, as if I had taken a slight knock I would have run a mile at the sight of him approaching but I could not move. Eventually I was carried off and laid on the wet grass behind the goal while the game continued. When I did manage to get up I staggered around for a while, before feeling extremely embarrassed, I hurriedly changed and drove home. A large swelling appeared on the side of my face which would eventually require major surgery and post operative treatment. I would never play organised football again with one minor exception.

I was working at ICL Letchworth at the time and as I started to recover from the operation I joined four workmates in competing in the Letchworth Inter Works Sports League. This was where we competed against other works side in a sporting quiz on a monthly basis. On one occasion however they decided to organise a five a side tournament at Stevenage Leisure Centre and we decided to enter. On the day of the tournament I played in defence and really struggled as I had lost one of my salivary glands during the operation and the more I tried to run the drier my mouth became and the more liquid I needed to intake. If there had been substitutes I would not have continued to play but as there were not I had no choice. Despite me, we somehow managed to reach the final and I decided to play up front and just stand around in the opposition’s half. In the event I scored two cracking goals, the first when I received the ball just inside the opposition’s half, I knew I could not run and so hit it as hard as I could and watched it fly into the net past a startled keeper. During the second half I hung around by the other team’s goal area and my mate found me with an inch perfect pass out of defence which unmarked, I side footed first time past their keeper. The match ended 3-3 and would be decided by a penalty shoot out. I was left until last hoping the match would be decided before my kick. In the event the penalty shoot out was level at 4-4 with them having taken all their kicks and mine to come. I duly dispatched the kick and we won the trophy which I was given to bring home for the evening. That really was the last time I played any sort of football and I contented myself with watching local football, mainly Hitchin Town.

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