Category Archives: Derby County

The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (5)

A few days after I finished writing this blog post, I was wandering across the Internet when I came across an auction webpage called “The Saleroom” which featured a copy of my programme but in much, much, better condition:

The programme had no autographs but did have some team changes written on it, in pencil, of course:

The first one revealed that the RAF goalkeeper may not have been Corporal Timms but “Hardwick England”

I have taken this to refer to Ken Hardwick who played for Rossington Colliery, Doncaster Rovers (308 appearances), Scunthorpe United (96 appearances) and Barrow (12 appearances). He never played for England but he did suffer one of the cruellest and shameful things ever experienced by a footballer. It occurred in a letter which he received out of the blue about an England appearance. In 1955, he was invited by the FA to play for England, but it was for the Under 23 team and George was, by then, 30 years old. Well, done the Football Association, always with their eye on the ball! Here’s Ken, in his younger days:

Alternatively, the best fit for “Hardwick England” might conceivably be George Hardwick of Middlesbrough and Oldham. He had 13 England caps, some as captain, but he was a left full back, rather than a goalkeeper. Here he is, on a cigarette card which he has autographed in later life:

It’s difficult to imagine, though, that Griffiths of Manchester City would not have changed position to accommodate somebody as important as George Hardwick, ex-Captain of England. Having said that, most professional outfield players would be able to play as goalkeeper in a charity game without too many problems. Perhaps George was just amused by the idea, so he had a go in the atmosphere of universal happiness that must have been in the air for all of that First Day of Peace in Europe.

In actual fact, George Hardwick was considered Middlesbrough’s greatest ever player and they have a statue of him outside their stadium:

Near “Thompson” something has been written and it appears to me to be “Hall Spurs”:

This may be Albert E B. Hall, an outside right, who, between 1935-1947, had appeared 81 times for Tottenham Hotspur, or Spurs, as they are better known by their fans, scoring 22 goals.

It may be Fred W. Hall who appeared 23 times  between 1944-1946.

It may be G Willie Hall, an inside right who managed 376 appearances, with 45 goals scored, between 1932-1944. He was actually a fairly local man, born in Newark in Nottinghamshire.

It may have been Jack Hall. This is the least likely because all of Jack’s 67 appearances between 1936-1946 came as a goalkeeper.

Overall though, this is a singular lesson in the value of including an initial!

Near ‘Chapman’ there is something written. If this programme was ever owned by a little boy, the little boyish handwriting says “lost 4-7” but this is far from definite in my mind. Other figures are written in near both Carter and Doherty but I really don’t know what they are:

What I need, of course, is a newspaper report, but that’s easier said than done!

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The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (4)

Last time I talked about an old football programme. It was for a match played one day after the war ended in Europe, May 9th 1945. The programme was for “Gresley Rovers (Selected) v RAF”.  The top two stars in the RAF team were Raich Carter and Peter Doherty.  Here is the RAF team:

And here is the Gresley defence:

The next section shows the Gresley forwards, the ones below the black spot of the centre circle:

J Illsley, the outside right, signed for the club in October 1941 and made his first team debut on October 4th 1941 against Quorn Methodists (won 6-2). He scored a phenomenal 24 goals in 28 appearances, his last game, like Collier, coming against Holwell Works on February 22nd 1946 (won 2-1).
“Bradbury” the inside right, could be one of two different players, who, rather helpfully for the statistically minded, played together in the same team on many occasions. Ken Bradbury was signed in 1944 and made his début against Swadlincote Colts on October 7th 1944 (won 4-2, Bradbury 2 goals). He then went on to score 19 goals in 21 games before bowing out on April 6th 1946 against Morris Sports in the League Cup Semi Final (Rovers won this game 7-0 but lost the Final 1-7 to Kettering Town).

Tom Bradbury was even more of a goalscoring sensation in the Rovers’ team than Ken Bradbury. His first game was on August 28th 1937 against Loughborough Brush Sports (won 4-2, Bradbury 3 goals) and according to the club’s player database, he finished his spell at Gresley on May 9th 1944 in the League Cup Final against Swadlincote Colts (won 5-1). Overall Tom scored 94 goals in 50 appearances, with his best two seasons coming in 1941-1942 with 23 in the League and 8 in the Cup. In the following season of 1942-1943 he managed 28 in the League with no surviving record of his Cup goals.

In September 1937, he had signed for Derby County for £200 and he played 4 games, possibly for Derby’s reserves. If he played for the First Team, then I have been unable to find any details of that in the Derby statistics I have seen. In 1939, he signed for Wrexham. When war broke out, he went to work in a munitions factory. He returned to Gresley where he played whenever that was possible. Tom finally had a spell with Rovers as player-manager. Presumably, that is why he was playing on May 9th 1945…he picked the team!

Three or four years later, Tom was one of the founder members of neighbouring Burton Albion.

He later became a director and then chairman of the club which now plays in League One,  England’s third tier of football. In less happy times, when Burton Albion was going bankrupt, Tom mortgaged his family home to save the club. His wife wasn’t best pleased when she found out what he’d done.

The centre forward was W Evans of Liverpool and Wales. I have found out nothing about him so far, except that it was definitely not Roy Evans, the ex-Liverpool manager:

It may be that W Evans played in wartime games which are more difficult to access, although according to “Soccer at War 1939-1945” by Jack Rollin, nobody of that name appeared for either Liverpool or Wales between 1939-1946. Neither does “Wales, the Complete Who’s Who” provide any clues. Perhaps that centre forward at Gresley was the last German spy, making just one last appearance. He was probably doing research about how English players took penalties.

The inside left is most likely George W. Chapman (1920 –1998). He was born in Linton, a village close to Church Gresley, and he signed for West Bromwich Albion although he did not ever play for them except during wartime fixtures (13 appearances, 2 goals).

In 1946–1948 he played for Brighton & Hove Albion scoring 12 goals in 43 appearances. He was the club’s top scorer in the 1946–47 season with 10 goals. After that, he moved to Tonbridge Angels, a club which had been formed as recently as October 1947. Here’s their badge, presumably based on the coat of arms of the town:

Harrison is perhaps Cyril Harrison who made his début against Marston’s on November 7th 1942 (won 14-1, Harrison 3 goals) and scored 21 goals in 27 appearances. He played his last game on April 26th 1950 against British Ropes (won 4-2, Harrison 1 goal). Alternatively, it might have been Mick Harrison who made his début against RAF ‘H’ on September 23rd 1943 (won 4-2, Harrison 1 goal) and went on to score 58 goals in 87 appearances. He played for the last time on April 26th 1950 against British Ropes on April 26th 1950 (won 4-2, Harrison 1 goal…but which Harrison, Mick or Cyril, Cyril or Mick ?). Here’s the British Ropes factory. I couldn’t find a picture of their team:

If you have read any of my previous posts about non-league teams around Nottingham, you will know how fascinated I am with the names of these smaller clubs.

Let’s just look at who Rovers played against nearly 80 years ago.

An Army XI in a friendly match  to raise money for the Spitfire Fund, Briggs & Co, British Ropes, Broadway Youth Club,  Central Ordinance Corps, Cyclops, Cyclops Sports, Derby Corinthians, H R Mansfield Sports, Ibstock Penistone Rovers, John Knowles A, Leicester Nomads Reserves, Loughborough Brush,  Marstons, Measham Imperial, Midland Woodworkers, Morris Sports, Newbold Vernon, Old Dalby, Quorn,  Methodists,  Parkhouse Colliery, RAF, RAF ‘F’, RAF ‘H’, RAF ‘L’, RAF ‘M’, RAF ‘T’, RAF XI, Rolls Royce, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Stanton Ironworks, Whitwick Holy Cross, Whitwick Parish Church, Whitwick White Cross and the catchiest of all for those supporters’ songs, “351 Burton Squadron ATC”.

None as good though, as the first ever opponents in a home game of which records have survived, played at the Moat Ground on September 5th 1891…..Hugglescote Robin Hoods. Here is Rovers’ ground which has not changed much since that late summer day:

 

 

 

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The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (3)

In my most recent post on this topic, I looked at the RAF team in a celebration match played in Church Gresley, the neighbouring village to the one where I grew up. The game took place on May 9th 1945 to commemorate the end of the war in Europe. We have already looked at the RAF team:

It was captained by Raich Carter, the only man to have won the FA Cup both before and after the war. The people are King George VI, the Queen and a young Raich Carter. Adolf Hitler is fooling nobody with that dyed blond hair:

The other star player was Peter Doherty of Northern Ireland:

Here is what I found out about the players of Gresley Rovers (Selected) who opposed them. A very large proportion of the information came from the superb Player Database, which is now a feature of the Gresley FC website, having appeared for many years on the Gresley Rovers website.

Most of the Gresley players were local men and worked “down pit” as miners. Being a miner was a reserved occupation so they were not involved in combat situations. It is true to say, though, that many miners did a job which was statistically much more dangerous than that of many soldiers or sailors. This is a picture of what was then a heavily industrialised area, with clay and coal mining as well as the fabrication of huge pipes for drains and sewers:


The first section shows the defence of the Gresley Rovers (Selected) team, the price of this single sheet programme and the recipients of any charity money which was raised :

I traced a great deal about the goalkeeper. John Proudman, but none of it was because John had a long and happy life.

Tragically, he was killed on September 23rd 1950 while playing in a Leicestershire Senior League game for Moira United against Quorn Methodists at Quorn, a little village in Leicestershire. During the first five minutes of the game he fell very heavily as he tried to make a save. He finished up at Harlow Wood Hospital in Mansfield, where, sadly, he died from a fractured spine on September 24th. He was only 27 years old. His first ever appearance for Rovers had been on September 9th 1943 against the RAF ‘T’ (won 5-1) and the final one of his 71 games for Rovers came on May 4th 1946 against Melton Town (lost 1-2). After that he played for Newhall United and then Moira United. John was a miner and he worked at Cadley Hill Colliery near Swadlincote.  The Gresley FC Online database has a brief account of John’s performance in this game against all the stars:

“My father worked at Cadley Hill pit with John Proudman and told me about an exhibition game that John played in for Gresley Rovers, when amongst the opposition was the legendary Raich Carter. During the game Carter hit one of his trademark powerful drives which John Proudman managed to get in the way of, the ball cannoning off his chest before he could grasp it. At work the following day he stripped off his shirt to show Raich Carter’s ‘autograph’, a round red imprint of the heavy case ball, complete with panels, in the centre of his chest.”

This is John’s photograph. To put his tragic death in context, in the whole world, only 6 men died playing football between 1919-1939, as far as we know, and only one between 1939-1959:

The right full back, Bill Halsey, who was originally going to play but did not actually appear, played 30 games for Rovers in 6 years. He made his debut against Woodville Athletic on April 8th 1944 (won 7-1) and appeared for the last time against Retford Town on May 4th 1950 (won 3-1). Here’s Bill:

I have been unable to trace anything about the WHF Wright who is written in near his name, except that it is not Billy Wright the England football captain. He was William Ambrose Wright. Here he is again:

Arthur Marston, the right half, played 130 times for Rovers making his début on April 27th 1938 against Whitwick Holy Cross (won 4-0) and taking a final bow on March 19th 1947 against Kettering Town Reserves (result unrecorded). Despite being primarily a defender, he scored 15 goals.

The centre half, Eric Rose, made 140 appearances but scored only twice. His first appearance had been against Ensor Sports on November 25th 1944 (won 10-0, King scored 7 goals, Rose, 1 goal) and his final game, like Halsey, came on May 14th 1950 at home to Retford Town. Here’s Eric:

Left half Collier made his first team debut way back on November 6th 1926 against Bromsgrove Rovers (lost 1-3). He hung up his boots twenty years later on February 22nd 1946 against Holwell Works (won 8-0). The database says that he played most frequently for the Reserves, but I would presume that the  71 appearances and 13 goals quoted in the Player Database are for the First Team. This total was fewer than 4 games per season. What a modest unassuming servant for the club! Is that why they let him play in this glamour game? Let’s hope so.

The left full back, Marshall, was a guest player to give Rovers a chance against all of the visiting superstars. He is actually Jack Marshall (1917-1998) who played for Burnley from 1936-1948. In later years, he was the manager at Rochdale, Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield Wednesday and Bury. On Boxing Day 1963, he reached, literally, the pinnacle of his career, when Blackburn Rovers occupied the top spot in Division One for just one day….

They think it’s all over….well, not yet it isn’t!

 

 

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The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (2)

Last time I talked about an old single sheet football programme. It was for a match played literally one day after the war ended in Europe, on May 9th 1945. The programme was for “Gresley Rovers (Selected) v RAF”.  The top two stars in the RAF team were Raich Carter and Peter Doherty, both highly rated international players of the era, the equivalents, perhaps, of a younger Steven Gerrard and an older Kevin de Bruyne:


Here are Sergeant Carter and Flight Sergeant Doherty on the programme which is quite tatty, but does contain a large number of autographs in pencil. This is what pushed the price up at auction. Here is the RAF attack, if I can use that phrase:

I have been unable to trace either Sergeant Wilder of Tranmere Rovers or Sergeant Thompson of Bolton Wanderers. Sergeant Jim Durnie may be the Jim Durnie who moved from Annbank United Junior Football Club to Glasgow Rangers but I have not been able to find any dates for this, so I am not totally certain.  Glasgow Rangers were a huge team at the time. Here is their massive stadium, Ibrox:

On this second picture, of the RAF defence, there are autographs for Messrs Griffiths, Horner and McDowell, but not for the rest:

Flight Sergeant Griffiths’ club has been altered to Manchester United and there is another autograph in a blueish colour reading diagonally towards the top right corner. I think it begins with George and the surname may be Hardemer or Vardemer or something very vaguely like it. It may even be George Hardwick. Of him, more later.

All in all, I have had very little luck with my detective work for this section. I have been unable to find anything for either Downing, Horner or McDowell.

Flight Sergeant Griffiths is the Jack Griffiths who played for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton Wanderers, and Manchester United during the 1930s. His football career came to an end because of the Second World War, but he played 58 times for United during the war and also guested for Derby County, Notts County, Port Vale, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. After the RAF he became player-coach of Hyde United. Here he is, frozen in time on an old cigarette card:

Sergeant Wright is unlikely to be Billy Wright, the England captain, because he was in the Army at the time, but it cannot be completely excluded if the team were short of RAF players. Here he is, practicing for his meeting with Puskás in seven years’ time:

Timms, the goalkeeper, I could not trace beyond the guess that he may be the W Timms who played only five times for Gresley Rovers, making his début against Bolsover Colliery in the Derbyshire Divisional Cup Final on April 8th 1939 (lost 0-5). His fifth and final game came, amazingly, just 14 days later against Quorn Methodists on the 22nd (won 5-0). “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”, as you might say!

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The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (1)

Near to the clay mining village of Woodville where I spent my childhood there is a very similar coal mining village called Church Gresley. From 1882-2009, Church Gresley was the home of a football team called Gresley Rovers.

Here is a small scale map of where I am talking about. The orange arrow points to Church Gresley:

Rovers managed more than 125 years of inoffensive existence until, in our new and wonderful world of money, money, money, they found they hadn’t got any money, money, money, and immediately went bankrupt.  Rovers went into receivership and disappeared for ever. Shortly afterwards they re-emerged as Gresley FC. I’m afraid I stopped bothering with them at that point. I used to go to see “Rovers” as a lad, not “Gresley FC”.

Rovers had a ground called the Moat Ground which dates back over a century:

Here is a larger scale map of the village with the orange arrow pointing to the stadium, if that is the right word:


The club played quite a big part in the life of my family. Before the First World War, my Grandad, Will, played a few games for the reserves and before the Second World War, my Dad, Fred, managed a few games for the same team. When I was still a toddler in a pushchair, my Dad used to take me up to the Moat Ground to watch Rovers play. This would have been in the 1950s. My Dad used to teach in the school in Hastings Road, only half a mile from the ground. You can find Hastings Road on the map in the top right corner. He taught many of the players and supporters over the years. The team manager and coach was the school caretaker (or janitor).

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the school isn’t there any more. Because of mining subsidence, it has had to be pulled down.

The last football match I ever attended with my Dad was the Final of the F.A.Vase. It was between Gresley Rovers and Guiseley, a team from near Leeds in Yorkshire:

The game took place at Wembley Stadium, and I left it to Fred to buy the tickets and arrange the transport down to London.  We left in one of the many, many coaches full of happy Rovers supporters which streamed out of the village on that hot, sunny Saturday 26 years ago.
Another big day in the club’s history came on May 9th 1945, when Rovers played a match to celebrate the end of the Second World War. I don’t know if they realised it at the time, but the supporters had the privilege of seeing some of the greatest players of the era. It was billed as “Gresley Rovers (Selected) v RAF”.  Last year I bought the single sheet programme for the game on ebay.

I paid far too much by the standards of people who don’t need their heads examining. In the auction I was extremely cunning. I bid “a very large sum of money I have never told my wife about” plus a penny. I won the auction by a penny.
Rovers’ opposition that joyful day were the RAF. Captain of the RAF team I believe was Raich Carter, the only man to win the FA Cup both before and after the Second World War:

He played top class football for 21 years, appearing in midfield for Sunderland (245 appearances, 118 goals), Derby County (63 appearances, 34 goals), Hull City (136 appearances, 57 goals) and Cork Athletic (9 appearances, 3 goals). He played for England in 13 matches and scored 7 times. He then became a manager with Hull City, Cork Athletic, Leeds United, Mansfield Town and Middlesbrough. He also played first class cricket for Derbyshire and Minor Counties cricket for Durham.

Carter mentions the Gresley game in his autobiography:

“One vivid memory from this period was of a team put together by Carter and Doherty which played charity matches against local sides. One such match was played at a packed Church Gresley on a May evening in 1945. The result was not important.”

What was important was the fact that the war was over, Hitler was defeated, and within weeks, all of Britain would move forward into a Golden Age.
The other great star in the RAF team was Peter Doherty who partnered Raich Carter in midfield at Derby County.

On April 27th 1946, the two of them would help Derby to beat Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
Peter Doherty, from Northern Ireland, played for several clubs, including two Irish teams, Coleraine and Glentoran, and then Blackpool (82 appearances, 28 goals), Manchester City (119 appearances, 74 goals), Derby County (15 appearances, 7 goals),  Huddersfield Town (83 appearances, 33 goals) and Doncaster Rovers (103 appearances, 55 goals), giving a total of 200 goals in 402 appearances. He played 16 times for Northern Ireland and scored 3 goals. When he moved into management, he managed Doncaster Rovers, Northern Ireland and Bristol City. All this and he still smoked a pipe.
As Len Shackleton said:

“the genius among geniuses… the most baffling body swerve in football… all the tricks with the ball… a shot like the kick of a mule… enough football skill to stroll through a game smoking his pipe…”

We’ll look at the programme next time…

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A Good Man doesn’t Stand By (2)

In the late spring of 1934, just as Hitler was consolidating his Nazi hold on the German state, Derby County toured Nazi Germany for a series of friendly matches.  At the time, two years before the Berlin Olympics, many Britons were still blissfully unaware of the political turmoil unfolding in central Europe, and the frightening rise of the Nazi Party and their shamelessly racist attitudes.
The Derby contingent took a train to Dover and then a cross-Channel steamer to Ostend. They dutifully practiced their Seig Heiling and their Heil Hitlering on the boat:

derby practice

They eventually reached the German border to find the swastika emblem flying everywhere they looked:

LandmesserIreneBaby

The Germans, to a man, worshipped Adolf Hitler. He couldn’t even go out for a football paper on a Saturday night without bringing the place to a complete standstill:

hitler

The four matches which Derby played were all against teams designated as a “German XI”. The Rams lost their first match by 5-2 in Frankfurt but then drew 1-1 in Dortmund. Here are Derby running out at the start of the game. Some of those Hitler salutes could take your eye out if you weren’t ready for them:

running out

Here is a scene thought to be from that game:

derby at playxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Derby lost by 5-0 in Cologne. We have a picture of the team going for a run to warm up before the match:

waltstadionframnforut

After two defeats at the hands of the Master Race, Derby triumphed in their last game in Dusseldorf by 1-0.

Here is the start of that game:

start of gameccccccccccccccccccccccccccc

On the advice of the Foreign Office, to please Adolf Hitler, all the Derby players had been instructed to give the Nazi salute, with right arms outstretched, just before the start of every single game.

Before his death, at the age of 83 in 1989, Rams full-back George Collin, who was the captain of the Derby County team for the second half of the tour, when full back Tommy Cooper left the party to play for England, recalled how:

“We told the manager, George Jobey, that we didn’t want to do it. He spoke with the directors, but they said that the British ambassador insisted we must.

“He said that the Foreign Office were afraid of causing an international incident if we refused. It would be a snub to Hitler at a time when international relations were so delicate.

“So we did as we were told. All except our goalkeeper, Jack Kirby, that is.”

jfk0072208206

Jack Kirby was from old South Derbyshire mining stock and he was adamant that when the players were asked to perform the Nazi salute, he, quite simply, would not do it:

“When the time came, he just kept his arm down and almost turned his back on the dignitaries. At the time nobody really noticed and nothing was said. It was only years later, with hindsight, that we can see what he is doing on the photograph. He is a lot better known for it now.”

There is, in actual fact, a famous photograph taken just before one of the matches which proves this very point. Jack Kirby, looks down the Derby County line up with utter disdain. His hands are firmly by his sides, and he looks rather embarrassed. He clearly does not know where to put himself, as he waits for the imminent start of the match. His ten white shirted colleagues all duly salute the Führer.

So Hitler went unheiled by at least one Englishman. And at least one Seig would remain equally unheiled:

enlarge thisxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

And here is Jack the Hero anti-Nazi Fighter in close up:

derby nazi closer

Jack Kirby may have been a rather lackadaisical character to be the goalkeeper of a top First Division team, but he was not slow to stand out from the rest. He was not slow to make sure that he would not be the good man who did nothing and let evil prosper. He refused adamantly to kowtow to the Fascist bully-boys:

sa
Jack Kirby left Derby County in August 1938 he became player-manager of Folkestone Town, a position he held until August 1939. And then war broke out.

And million upon million of innocent people were slaughtered. Many of them children. How different it might have been if one or two people with real power had done something when they had the chance and not just stood idly by, giving evil the chance to prosper.

Never again.

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A good man doesn’t stand by (1)

Some time ago, I showed you a picture of the England football team all making their Nazi salute at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on May 14th 1938:

England-Germany 1938 nazi.xsderftgyhb

They were not the only foreigners to greet the Führer with a cheery “Sieg Heil”. Here, just a year later, is the Republic of Ireland football team engaged in pretty much the same behaviour:

Ireland-Germany-1

Let’s just leave that for a short while, and move westwards to the English Midlands. To South Derbyshire, and more precisely, the little village where my Dad, Fred, grew up.

During those long sunny summers and cold snowy winters after the Great War, Fred’s home was at Number 39, Hartshorne Lane, Woodville. The house was called “Holmgarth”, and it was the very last house in the little village of Woodville as you went down the hill towards the neighbouring village.

After Fred’s house, the only dwellings were just a couple of very large detached houses set well back from the road, either side of a small, shared, lake. This was just a few yards beyond the massive blue brick railway bridge, which carried the old passenger railway line from Woodville Station towards the neighbouring town. Here it is, being demolished in the early 1980s:

demolition

Hartshorne Lane in the 1930s was made of gravel, and there was so little traffic that it was perfectly possible for boys to play football or cricket all day long without any interruption whatsoever. Boys, including Fred, regularly knocked their cricket stumps into the soft surface of the road:

hart road 2 START HERE

Indeed, the whole area was still so countrified, that one day in 1929, a seven year old Fred saw a stray cow walking around in the front garden of the house, and rushed to tell his mother. She was busy with her housework, and just told him that he was being silly and telling lies. Eventually, though, she looked out of the kitchen window and she too noticed the cow which had by now made its way around the house to the kitchen garden. She was very startled and cried out in fear. Fred though, thought that this was a good example of somebody getting their just deserts.

Fred’s father, Will, used to work at either Wraggs or Knowles clayworks, a couple of miles away. He would finish his working week at lunchtime on Saturday, and then return home immediately to make sure that he did not miss the football match at Derby, which started at three o’clock:

aerial 1

First of all, though, he would always strip to the waist and wash off all his grime in the kitchen sink.

When Fred was too young to accompany him, Will would walk to the match at the rather strangely named Baseball Ground in Derby. His knowledge of shortcuts, and his willingness to walk over the fields, meant that he could reduce the usual distance by road of twelve or thirteen miles to a walk of only some ten miles or so.

This all came to an abrupt end, though, when Will began to take his young son Fred to the match:

AD with grandma 3

Everything had to change. They would both stroll the short distance down Hartshorne Road until they reached the so-called Lovers’ Walk, a path, complete with romantic tinkling brook, which ran as a well-known short cut, up to the end of Station Street. From here father and son would take the train together from Woodville Station to the Baseball Ground at Derby, hiding away in the middle of a thousand terraced houses.

baseballground_ssssssssssssssssssssssss

Sometimes, though, they preferred to catch the ordinary bus in Hartshorne Lane. There was, in actual fact, great competition between the train and bus companies, with occasional, but regular, price wars. The usual fare was one shilling and a halfpenny, but first one, and then the other, company would knock the halfpenny off in a bid to steal a march over their rivals.

Whatever method of transport they used, Fred and Will always left for the match around one o’clock or half past one.

In the early 1930s, Derby County’s goalkeeper was a man called Jack Kirby. He came from Newhall, a mining village just the other side of Swadlincote from Woodville. Kirby had joined Derby County, a professional soccer team in the top division, from a little amateur team, Newhall United, in April 1929. He made his debut for Derby at the top level in the 1929-30 season:

kirbhy

In those days, footballers did not assemble for a pre-match meal at some prestigious hotel. Indeed, Jack used to travel to every Derby home game on his bicycle from his terraced house in Newhall. This was a distance of some thirteen or fourteen miles.

On alternate Saturdays, therefore, Kirby would come slowly past Fred’s house on his bicycle at around one o’clock.  He still had, perhaps, an hour and a half to travel the twelve or so miles to Derby. Fred and his father Will would watch out for him, have a quick chat, and invariably joke that Jack was going to miss the start of the game. Kirby never hurried, though, keeping always to what Fred and Will both considered to be a worryingly snail like pace.

There was more to Jack, though, than just banter about the speed of his cycling. Jack really was the good man who refused to stand by and do nothing, so that evil might prosper. For now though, here is Jack in action against Newcastle United:jfk0072211209 - Copy

The English First Division could be a really rough place in 1934:

jfk0072210208

Jack was a handsome devil, and like all proper goalkeepers, his doting old mum always knitted him a nice warm pullover:

jfk0072210208 - Copy

He was very good at latching on to the heavy, invariably wet football of the era, with hands as big as buckets:

jfk0072209207

The secret was practice, practice, practice. Even if people in the house next to the ground keep spying on you as you train:

jack again

Soon, we will all hear the story of how Jack proved to the whole world that he really was the good man who refused to stand by and do nothing.  Jack was not prepared to let evil prosper.

 

 

 

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