Category Archives: Football

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…



Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, Derby County, Football, History, Personal

Look at that fat bloke, Stan (6)

Please don’t look at this last blog post and think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts have been about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes. In this one, you will see who wins. Were you ever in any doubt?

I’m going to finish just by looking at one or two programme covers from Puskás’ career. Real Madrid, being such a fabulous team, were very much in demand as opponents in friendly games:

Here are the two lists of possible players at this prestige game in Glasgow:

The teams were actually, for Celtic:
Haffey; MacKay, Kennedy; Crerand, McNeill, Price; Lennox (Carroll, 45), Gallacher, Hughes (Chalmers, 45), Jackson, Brogan ( Byrne, 45).
Scorer: Chalmers (62)

And for Real Madrid:
Ariquistain; Casado, Miera; Muller, Santamaria, Pachin; Bueno, Amancio, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento.
Scorers: Puskas (10), Amancio (30), Gento (61).

The Referee was the same as for the 1953 Wembley game, Leo Horn of Holland. 72,000 watched the game, and you can watch a bit of a different era, here, courtesy of boszikblogspot:

Then came a European cup tie against Rangers of Glasgow:

 Here are the two teams:

Full details of the match can be found here . The result was 1-0 to Real, with that fat bloke scoring the goal. In Spain, Real won 6-0 with 3 goals from Puskás. Here is the game in Scotland:

And then came another European game, against Kilmarnock, a tiny club in Scotland who had won the League that year against all the odds. A bit like Luxembourg winning the World Cup, or Leicester City winning the Premier League (just joking!) :

Here are the team line ups:

The result of the game was  2-2 but Puskás did not score. In the second leg Real won 5-1 for a 7-3 aggregate. Puskás was by now 38 years old. The last programme I have which features him is for a testimonial match playing as a 40 year old guest player for South Liverpool against Billy Liddell’s XI at Holly Park in Garston in Liverpool.The match raised £1,100 for Bankfield House, a local community centre:

And here are the team line ups. How absolutely incredible to have a Real Madrid player playing in an obscure testimonial match like this! It is exactly as if Ronaldo went on loan and played a few games for Accrington Stanley:

Willie Moir was a friend of my Dad’s in the RAF. Notice how somebody has written in a team change. That means that this programme was very probably at the game. I do have a programme of the 1953 England-Hungary match where a traumatised English supporter has written the score on the front cover as he made his sad way home on the train. How close to real history is that?

Puskás was beloved by one and all. In 1998, he was named a FIFA/SOS Charity Ambassador. His country renamed their main stadium the Puskás Ferenc Stadion. He was declared best Hungarian player of the last 50 years and in 2009, FIFA inaugurated the Puskás Award for the player who scores the “most beautiful goal” during the past year. Here are the finalists for 2017. I’ll let you find out who was the eventual winner:

Puskás died of pneumonia on November  17th 2006. I think he was the greatest footballer who ever lived.

One final note. I had a second hand operation on February 8th, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.



Filed under Football, History, Personal

Look at that fat bloke, Stan (5)

Please don’t look at these blog posts and think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes.

After the Wembley game in 1953, Ferenc Puskás went on to play in a number of other matches in Great Britain. After England’s defeat, Wolverhampton Wanderers tried to re-establish the reputation and the enduring quality of English football by playing prestigious friendlies against top European club sides. And if they beat enough of them, they would be able to make the claim that they were  the Champions of Europe. Puskás played for Honved of Budapest in one such game:

Here’s the line up of the two teams. Six of the players had played in 1953:

Never underestimate the English love of a cartoon on the back cover of a football programme:

From Hungarian football Puskás joined Real Madrid.  He played in a second legendary game, the European Cup Final of 1960 which finished Real Madrid 7 Eintracht Frankfurt 3. Frankfurt had already beaten Glasgow Rangers by an aggregate of 12-4 in the semi finals. In the final, Puskás scored four goals:

Here’s the team line-ups:

Being a very sad person indeed, I bought a reproduction ticket to the game. Here’s the front:

And the back

That game is widely accepted in football as the greatest ever played. It was between two teams, one of which was very, very good and one of which was walking into legend. And certainly, very few of the crowd of ‎127,621 were disappointed by the game.




Filed under Football, History, Personal

Look at that fat bloke, Stan (4)

Please don’t look at these blog posts and just think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes.

Last time, I wrote about the “Match of the Century” played at Wembley between England and Hungary in 1953, a game which resulted in England’s first ever defeat at home by a foreign team.

The programme, of course, did not just contain details about the English players. There was a section of equal size, of course, for the Hungarian players:

And there is the clue as to why the programme cost me more than might be expected. It has autographs in it. The one above, I presume, is Jeno Buzansky, although it looks as if he writes it as “BuzanskyJeno”. This is because he is not English, I expect, and has a different way of going about things. Here are the second lot of players:

No autographs here, although the players are quite famous in the world of football, especially Jozsef Bozsik, who was a Member of Parliament, and Sandor Kocsis who was very naughty because he was one of the rascally Hungarian forwards who would not stay in position so that the England players could mark him. On to No 3:

This section bears the great man’s autograph, written as PuskásFerenc. Notice that the English writer, John Graydon, is well aware of his nickname of “The Galloping Major” which had been a popular song in 1906, the same year as Puskás’ grandfather had been born. The man at the top, Nandor Hidegkuti, was, I believe, the key to England’s disastrous performance. He was the Hungarian centre forward but stubbornly refused to play where a centre forward was supposed to play. That in turn meant that the England defence did not know what to do. They did not know who to mark. When they asked the coach if they should change their own formation, he replied that he didn’t know what to do either and he told them to carry on, it would all come out OK eventually, so don’t worry lads, fingers crossed.  Here’s the last of the pen pictures:

That meant that the teams lined up as, for England:

And for the Hungarians:

And yes, three more autographs. PuskásFerenc and BuzanskyJeno and a new one, the goalkeeper, Gyula Grosics, or GrosicsGyula as he liked to sign himself.

The attendance was 105,000 spectators . This was one of the biggest accurately counted crowds ever recorded in England.  Any number of managers of First Division clubs always claimed to have been there but of course, there is no way of checking now. The game started badly for England and got worse after that. The scores went, from England’s point of view, 0-1, 1-1 (hurrah!), 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 2-4 (hurrah!), half time, 2-5, 2-6, 3-6. The game was filmed, and as I have already mentioned, it is available on DVD, although, shop around…ebay can be very expensive.

Here are some photographs from the match:

Some editions of the film of the game have only eight of the nine goals in the main match, If you are lucky, the makers of your DVD will have contacted Pathé News to make use their film of the missing goal as an ‘extra’.

Here’s one film about the game from gr8footy:

And here’s the full match version. The commentary is in Hungarian but the picture is better than most (Yes, really!):

And the programme still manages to be helpful. Here’s how you can get home by train:





Filed under Football, History, Personal

Look at that fat bloke, Stan (3)

Please don’t look at this series of blog posts and just think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes.

In the last post, I talked about the one football match I wish I had seen. It was England v Hungary, played on November 25th 1953 at 2.15 pm because there were no floodlights at Wembley. This game would later be called the “Game of the Century”. Hungary were the Olympic champions, undefeated since 1950. The programme took comfort in offering us pictures of previous successes by the England team. The first one shows an exhibition game against FIFA, the World Federation of Football, only a few weeks previously. General Montgomery was the guest of honour. He was brilliant at beating foreigners :

Another picture showed Stan Mortenson being hypnotised by a cheating foreign goalkeeper and his brightly striped socks:

This photo from the game would have been used for the “Spot-the-Ball” contest until somebody eventually spotted that the ball had never ever been there in the first place:

A full programme of activities would precede the match itself:

I don’t know if there were many Hungarians in the crowd, but the effort had certainly been made  to include some appropriate music with ‘Hungariana’ and ‘Bond of Friendship’. And then , at 2.05…. pm….

I’m not too sure that anybody would have stayed behind for a second go at the national anthem.

If you didn’t like foreign music, then you could content yourself with reading the players’ pen pictures. I copied a couple of the best English ones. First of all Stanley Matthews:

Alas, Stan would soon be proved NOT to be the “greatest ball manipulator in the whole history of the game”. The second Stan was Stan Mortensen, who also played at Blackpool:

I don’t know about “the gay courage that every Englishman loves” but Stan Mortenson was a very brave man. He was a wireless operator in the RAF and was almost killed in a practice parachute jump. A short time later, after a serious plane crash in a conifer plantation while flying in a Vickers Wellington, Stan escaped death by the narrowest of margins.  Both the pilot and the bomb aimer were killed. The navigator lost one of his legs and Stan suffered severe head injuries, necessitating 12 stitches. He was plagued by insomnia for the rest of his life:

Like Stan Mortensen, my Dad was stationed in Lossiemouth in northern Scotland. He met the famous footballer on one occasion:

“My Dad was a fellow wireless operator in the RAF. One day he was travelling on the train from Elgin in northern Scotland down to Crewe in north western England. He was in the same compartment as Stan Mortensen, the famous professional footballer. Mortensen played on many, many occasions as a centre forward both for Blackpool in the First Division, and in international games for England. Indeed, during the course of his career, Mortensen managed 222 goals for Blackpool in just 354 appearances, and 23 goals in 25 games for his country. In later years, he was to appear in the 1953 F.A.Cup Final, when the whole country was firmly behind Stanley Matthews in his third attempt to win a cup winner’s medal. Blackpool duly triumphed against Bolton Wanderers, but, in the euphoria over Matthews’ medal, the fact that Mortensen had himself scored three vital goals has always tended to be rather forgotten. Indeed, the match itself was to become known as “The Matthews Final”, with never a mention of Mortensen’s unique feat. In later years as an old man, Mortensen was to joke grimly that when he finally passed on, they would call his interment “The Matthews Funeral”:

On this particular occasion, another RAF man was in the crowded train compartment, and, during the long and tedious journey south, he began boasting about his extensive triumphs in the world of football. He had played in any number of games and scored any number of vital goals. He went on and on, with everybody else in the compartment, who were all well aware of Mortensen’s identity, acutely embarrassed. Finally, the man turned to Mortensen and said “Do you play at all, mate?” and Mortensen replied “Yes, just a bit.” Mortensen left the train shortly afterwards, and everybody was then able to tell the boastful buffoon just who his erstwhile travelling companion had been. The stupid young man was completely mortified.”




Filed under Bomber Command, Football, History, Personal

Look at that fat bloke, Stan (2)

Please don’t look at this series of blog posts and just think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes.

In the last post, I said that there was one football match that I wish I had seen. It took place just a few months after I was born. It was England v Hungary, played on a cold, dull, misty afternoon on November 25th 1953 at Wembley. This game would later be called the “Game of the Century”
Kick off was at 2.15 pm because there were no floodlights. Hungary were the greatest team the world had ever known. They were Olympic champions, undefeated since 1950:

A good ten years ago I bought the programme for “Goal of the Century” on ebay. I paid more for it than I cared to communicate to my wife, but the big thing was that it contained three autographs. Of that more later. Here is the front cover:

The back cover showed, perhaps, the suggestion of a possible contributory factor to England’s problems:

The programme did everything possible to welcome the Hungarians. There was a pronunciation guide:

And news of an exhibition about Hungary:

There was a nice bit of “whistling in the dark”. A list of recent results against those pesky foreigners:

A couple too many draws, perhaps, but we had beaten both Belgium and Argentina. But had we played too few home games against foreign opposition ? Just five in eight years.

The programme had adverts for other games at Wembley but they were very inward looking. Firstly, the Varsity match:

And then, the next best thing to the biggest England game of the season:

Next time, we’ll look at the players and the timetable for the day’s events.




Filed under Football, History, Humour, Personal

Look at that fat bloke, Stan (1)

Please don’t look at this forthcoming series of blog posts and just think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes. Go on, give it a go….

There is one football match that I wish I had seen. It took place just a few months after I was born. It was England v Hungary, played on a cold, dull, misty afternoon on November 25th 1953 at Wembley Stadium in London. This game would later be called the “Game of the Century”:

Kick off was at 2.15 pm because there were no floodlights. Hungary were the greatest team the world had ever known. They were Olympic champions and were undefeated since 1950. In fact, they would go on to register 42 victories, 7 draws and just one defeat, which came  in the World Cup Final against West Germany in 1954. Between that World Cup Final and February 1956, the “Mighty Magyars” played 19 more games, with 16 victories, 3 draws and no defeats.

A final record then of played 72, won 61, drew 10 and one defeat. The Hungarian Uprising against their Soviet guests and protectors brought the team to an end in 1956.

The Hungarians played the revolutionary 4-2-4 system, and their team that grey misty day was Grosics, Buzansky, Lantos, Lorant, Zakarias, Bozsik, Budai, Czibor, Puskás, Hidegkuti, and Kocsis.

In England they became known as the “Mighty Magyars” and elsewhere as “The Golden Team”. In Hungary they were the Aranycsapat.

Ferenc Puskás, nicknamed by the Hungarians “Öcsi” and by the English ‘the Galloping Major’, was their star player and he would go on to finish with 83 goals in 84 internationals and 514 goals in 529 matches.

Puskás became an Olympic champion in 1952 and he would eventually finish his career with an Olympic Gold Medal from 1952, a runners-up medal in the World Cup in 1954, where he was named the tournament’s best player, three European Cups, (1959, 1960, 1966), 5 Hungarian championships and 5 Spanish championships with Real Madrid, as well as 8 top individual scoring honours.

Puskás, however, was a martyr to Hungarian cream cakes, and always looked a little on the chubby side.

Legend has it that before the two teams kicked off in the “Match of the Century”, one of the England players, none of whom had ever heard of Puskás, said to Stanley Mortenson, “Look at that fat bloke, Stan, he won’t give us any trouble.”

He was wrong. Hungary won 6-3 to inflict England’s first ever defeat on home soil. Puskás scored one of the sport’s legendary goals, avoiding the carthorse tackle of Billy Wright by dragging the ball back with the sole of his boot before tucking it into the roof of the net.

And English coaches realised that as far as the continentals were concerned, it was as if Hungary were from another planet. Indeed, if you watch the match on a DVD you will see that in the first half Puskás scores a goal which the Dutch referee disallows for offside. In actual fact, it is onside by about two yards so the result might have well have been 7-3. That would have spoilt things for Hungarian speakers, because 6-3 in Hungarian is “Hat harom” and the phrase has now passed into the Hungarian language. Just google “Hat harom” and see how many things turn up…unfortunately all in Hungarian:

One of the best journalists to write about the match was Geoffrey Green of The Times . He famously described England as “strangers in a strange world.” His description of one of Puskás’ goals has passed into legend. It is, in fact, the goal that I described above:

“Centre half Billy Wright rushed across to tackle him, but Puskás pulled the ball out of his path as the defender barged past like a fire engine going to the wrong fire”.

The following year, 1954, foolish England went to Budapest to see if they could repeat Hungary’s shock victory. In fact, they lost by 7-1, still now their biggest defeat. Puskás only scored two. “They were such a wonderful side” said Sir Tom Finney who played in the match.

Let’s finish by torturing myself. Here’s the ticket to the game I bought 60 years too late. Alas, the old Wembley has now been demolished and you would struggle to find the South Terrace seating, let alone Row 3 Seat 41. But that doesn’t stop this ticket being the best 10/6 you could have spent in the history of sport:

One final point I would like to make is that I had a minor operation on my hand recently and for that reason I will not be able to reply to any of your comments in the immediate future. If you do want to make a comment, by all means please do so, but I will not be able to write any replies until after December 6th as a minimum. After this date, with luck, I should be back in business.


Filed under Football, History, Humour, Personal