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: