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Mick's Football Memories

Mick’s Football Memories – part 6

My great interest in amateur and non-league football started when I watched the 1956 Amateur Cup Final between Bishop Auckland and Corinthian Casuals. The match ended in a one all draw and was watched by 100,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium.

Bishop Auckland subsequently won the replay 4-1, in what was the second of a hat trick of wins in the competition. They were the most successful club in the history of the Amateur Cup, winning it a total of ten times. Watching this match inspired a love and interest in amateur football, particularly at the top end, Northern League, Isthmian League and Athenian League which has lasted to this day. This in turn led to an interest in semi-professional football and the Southern League in particular. Several Hertfordshire clubs had considerable success in the Amateur Cup, including Barnet, Bishops Stortford, Hitchin Town and St.Albans City. This interest led to me visiting Hitchin Town on many occasions during their time in the Athenian League and I continued to watch them after they were invited, and accepted an offer, to join the Isthmian League in 1963.

The 1956/57 season was a disappointing one for Wolves with them finishing sixth in Division One behind Manchester United, who were champions. Aston Villa won the FA Cup, beating Manchester United by two goals to one, hence preventing them from being the first team this century to complete the league and cup double.

The season however was even more disappointing for Knebworth FC as they finished bottom of Division One in a re-constituted Herts. County League, without winning a game. Their final record being Won 0, Drawn 4, Lost 20. There was a photograph of this team, with a caption underneath it, which hung in the old pavilion at Knebworth Rec. for many years. Knebworth did not enter a reserve team into the league this season. London Colney won the Premier Division and Dickinsons (Croxley) won Division One. London Colney, unlike Manchester United, completed the league and cup double, defeating Colney Heath 2-1 in the Aubrey Cup (League Cup) Final. The Aubrey Cup had been donated to the league by the Aubrey family from Redbourn after the Great War. The original trophy was replaced for the 1952/53 season.

Bishop Auckland completed a hat trick of wins in the Amateur Cup, beating Wycombe Wanderers 3-1 and Real Madrid retained the European Cup, defeating Fiorentina 2-0. Manchester United became the first English team to enter the competition.

Mick's Football Memories

Mick’s Football Memories – part 5

1955 saw the inception of the European Cup but the FA pressurised English clubs not to participate, including forcing Chelsea to withdraw their application.

By the start of the 1955/56 season I was following football statistics in the national newspapers, including league tables, results and fixtures. I fully understood these and would queue at the newsagents each Saturday evening awaiting the arrival of the “Pink” classified paper. This was the only way of obtaining football results on the day of the match. This was at a period in time when all matches were played on the same day and at the same time.

On a local level I would walk down Knebworth High Street to a notice board outside Charles Lowe’s builder’s yard. This gave relevant information on Knebworth FC, including team sheets, Herts. County League tables for all divisions and results and fixtures. There were two divisions for first teams designated Division One “A” and Division One “B” and a single division for reserve teams. Colney Heath won Division One “A” and Bovingdon Division One “B”, with Knebworth finishing eleventh out of twelve in Division One “B”. Knebworth also had a team in the Reserve Section which finished fifteenth out of sixteen.

In the Football League Division One Wolves were to finish third, behind Manchester United’s Busby Babes. In a nine year spell between 1952 and 1961 Wolves finished as champions three times, second twice, third three times and sixth once. This was in an era when any one of the twenty two teams in the division had an equal chance of winning it, unlike the situation that exists today.

The 1956 FA Cup Final was the first one I watched on television, in which Manchester City beat Birmingham City by three goals to one. In goal for Manchester City that day was a German prisoner of war Bert Trautman, who several days after the match was discovered to have broken his neck. Also in the Manchester City line up that day was Don Revie, destined to become manager of Leeds United and England.

The inaugural 1956 European Cup Final was won by Real Madrid, beating Rheims by four goals to three. Hibernian from Scotland became the first British team to enter the competition.

Mick's Football Memories

Mick’s Football Memories – part 4

During the 1950s professional footballers were ordinary people, there was no such thing as a “celebrity”. They were on a maximum wage limit and would earn about the same as a qualified tradesman. Footballers were never seen on the front pages of newspapers, only the sports columns at the back. Most lived in lodgings owned by the clubs and run by landladies employed by them. Many were provided with training for alternative careers, should they not make the grade as a footballer and some had part time jobs. The chairman of the P.F.A. fought long and hard to have the maximum wage limit abolished and was eventually successful. Some chairmen immediately gave star players a significant wage increase. Ultimately this act was the first of many to lead to the situation that exists at the top end of football in this country today. At that time a majority of teams had nearly all English players, just the same as village teams were full of boys from the locality, notable exceptions being teams from the North West, who had several Scottish and Irish players in their teams.

In November 1954 I watched television as Wolves annihilated Spartak Moscow by 4 goals to nil under the Molineux floodlights, all the goals coming in the second half. A month later I watched television again as Wolves beat the then famous Hungarian team Honved. The Honved side contained the great Ferenc Puskas, who was in the Hungarian side that had destroyed England 6-3 at Wembley a year earlier. Wolves came from 2-0 down at half time to win the match by 3 goals to 2. Wolves played further televised high profile floodlit friendlies, beating Moscow Dynamo 2-1 and Real Madrid, including the brilliant Alfredo di Stefano by 3 goals to 2.

At the conclusion of the 1954/55 season Chelsea won the league, with Wolves finishing as runners-up.

First team, Mick's Football Memories, Reserve team

Mick’s Football Memories – part 3

By the start of the 1954/55 season, now eight years old, I would go up Knebworth
Rec. in the evenings and watch some of the early season mid-week matches. I would
lean against the goalpost and talk to the goalkeeper, whether he was playing for
Knebworth or the visitors. I was not allowed to go up the Rec. on Saturdays as I had
to go with my mother to visit my grandmother in Stevenage, who had recently lost her
husband, my granddad, who I was very close to. As the season progressed my mate’s
parents said I could go there for tea on a Saturday afternoon, enabling me to watch
football up the Rec. Frequently we would kick a football around on a piece of grass
adjacent to the pitch.
Up until this point I had never been allowed out to play on a Sunday as I had to go to
Sunday School but times were starting to change and we were beginning to be allowed out to play on Sunday mornings. There was no organised youth football at that time and nor would there be for many years to come.
Just about every boy in the village would turn up to play. We would play on the piece of
grass next to the tennis courts, where the amusements are now. We would use two trees as one goal, much to the displeasure of a local councillor and throw down a couple of coats for the other goal. By now I had a maroon track suit and thought I was the bees knees. Most of us wore canvas basketball boots and the football was leather with an inner tube and laced up. This got extremely heavy when wet and it was not a good idea to attempt to head it. We all wanted to be our favourite footballer and supporting Wolves I would always be Peter Broadbent, the very best footballer I have ever seen play.
First team, Mick's Football Memories, Reserve team

Mick’s Football Memories – part 2

Towards the end of 1953 I became close friends with a school mate and we would both visit each other’s houses several times a week after school. For Christmas he was given a football annual which highlighted in both words and pictures the 1953 F.A. Cup Final between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers, known as the Stanley Matthews Cup Final.
This was the first time I had heard of or become aware of the F.A. Cup. We both learned a lot from reading about this match and looking at the many photographs. Bolton, including Nat Lofthouse, the England centre forward had led by three goals to one but Blackpool fought back to win 4-3 in arguably the best cup final ever seen, with Stanley Matthews running rings around and tormenting the Bolton defence.
The 1953/54 season ended with Wolves winning the First Division Championship for
the first time ever, making one little boy extremely happy.
By now I had a pair of football boots, the only problem was I didn’t know what to do
with them. They were plain leather with a toe cap and a strap going across the top of
the boot. They went right up over the ankle and had wooden studs. The laces were as
long as I was tall and went underneath the boot, then round the back of it, before
being tied at the front. No sooner had I mastered the art of tying them, than together
with my school mate we became the envy of all the boys. His granddad had a
cobbler’s or shoe mender’s shop in Knebworth High Street and he removed the
wooden studs from our boots and fitted rubber studs, almost unheard of at the time.
For the remainder of our time at Knebworth Primary School I was able to play
football in the organised matches and wearing a school football kit.