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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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Mick’s Football Memories – part 25

The 1973/74 season saw Knebworth become Herts. County League Premier Division Champions, this is something they have been unable to repeat ever since. Mount Grace Old Scholars won Division One, Bedmond Social Reserves Division Two and Mount Grace Old Scholars Reserves Division Three. Rolls Royce Engines prevented Knebworth from completing the double by defeating them 2-0 in the Aubrey Cup Final. Knebworth Reserves finished disappointingly near the foot of the Division One table.

Hitchin Town again finished in mid table in the Isthmian League Division One with Stevenage Athletic finishing a much improved seventh in the Southern League Division One (North).

In the FA Cup Hitchin Town reached the Second Round Proper losing narrowly at Boston United by one goal to nil. If they had won that match they would have been drawn at home to Derby County in the Third Round. Derby County were at this time one of the top teams in the country, managed by Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.

This was also the year of the very last Amateur Cup with Hertfordshire side Bishop’s Stortford defeating Ilford 4-1 in the Final, as amateur status was then abolished. A new competition for clubs which were not eligible to enter the FA Trophy was introduced for the following season, to replace the Amateur Cup, this was the FA Vase.

Two other items which did not escape my attention were firstly that Wolves won the Football League Cup Final, defeating strong favourites Manchester City, who included Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee in their team by two goals to one and secondly that a very good Dutch side led by Johann Cruyff, playing wonderfully attractive attacking football were edged out 2-1 in the World Cup Final by hosts West Germany. Four years later the same thing would happen again in Argentina, where Holland still playing the same entertaining football lost out to the hosts 3-1 in the final after extra time.

Little did I know it at the time but as the 1974/75 season approached it would prove to be life changing for me.

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Mick’s Football Memories – part 24

In the Herts. County League the conclusion of the 1972/73 season saw Rolls-Royce Engines win the Premier Division title with Leggatts Way Old Boys runners up and Knebworth third. Royston Town won Division One, Bushey Rangers Reserves Division Two and Bovingdon Reserves Division Three. Knebworth Reserves finished in mid table in Division One. Rolls Royce Engines achieved the double defeating Sun Sports 2-0 in the Aubrey Cup Final. The boot was on the other foot however in the Reserve Cup Final as Knebworth Reserves again won the competition defeating Rolls-Royce Engines Reserves 3-0 in the final. In the Amateur Cup Rickmansworth Town beat Hazells, Aylesbury in the Preliminary Round 2-1 after a 0-0 draw and then lost to Marlow Town 3-0 in the First Qualifying Round. This was the last time a Herts. County League club would be accepted into the Amateur Cup competition.

In the Isthmian League at the end of the season Hitchin Town again finished in mid table, with Stevenage Athletic finishing in the bottom half of the Southern League Division One (North).

Major changes were afoot however for the start of the 1973/74 season, as the Isthmian League would form a second division, with the two divisions known as Division One and Division Two. Division Two had been created by taking fifteen clubs from the Athenian League and one, Hertford Town, from the Eastern Counties League. Hertford Town had left the Athenian League a year earlier to join the Eastern Counties League and thought this move would seriously jeopardise their chances of joining the Isthmian League, however this did not prove to be the case. In its inaugural season Hertford Town would finish third, the nearest they ever came to playing in the top flight of the Isthmian League. Letchworth Town were not accepted into this new division as they could not meet the facility requirements, not having any floodlights. The Athenian League was considerably decimated by this action and reduced its constitution to two divisions.

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Mick’s Football Memories – part 23

It was at about this time that Johnny Brooks, the former Stevenage Town, Tottenham Hotspur and England International, came to Knebworth as player manager. This had both a positive and negative effect on the club. He was a very friendly man, extremely knowledgeable, and he taught us a lot about improving our skills and knowledge. On the pitch he attracted players from a more senior level, which in a few seasons time would lead to Knebworth winning their one and only Herts. County League Premier Division title to date. The negative effect of this was that the first team in particular no longer consisted of local players, with a couple of notable exceptions, hence losing its perception as a village club. The only options for long serving local lads was to either play in the reserves or leave the club, which some did in search of first team football. There was albeit an unintentional positive side to this as the reserves won the Reserve Cup four times in eight years during the 1970’s and the Division One Championship once. Another negative effect was that when Johnny left the club the players he had brought in left and the first team was relegated, which automatically demoted the reserves from Division One.

The conclusion of the 1971/72 season saw Leggatts Way Old Boys win the Herts. County League Premier Division title. Leavesden Hospital won Division One, Hawker Siddeley Aviation Division Two and Leavesden Hospital Reserves Division Three. St.Margaretsbury won the Aubrey Cup defeating Rickmansworth Town 2-1 in the final. Knebworth finished fifth in the Premier Division and the reserves mid table in Division One. Rickmansworth Town were the only county league team to enter the Amateur Cup, defeating Wingate 3-1 in the First Qualifying Round before losing narrowly to Hemel Hempstead Town 3-2 in the Second Qualifying Round.

For the 1971/72 season the Southern League had split its Division One into North and South divisions. Stevenage Athletic were allocated to play in the North Division and finished 15th out of 18. Hitchin Town finished in mid table in the Isthmian League.

In the inaugural season of the UEFA Cup Wolves and Tottenham contested the final with Tottenham winning 4-3 over two legs.

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