Peterborough & Fletton United
My earliest recollection of football is in the era 1930-33, mainly through family talk of ‘The Posh’, Yes! They were called ‘The Posh’ long before Peterborough United, contrary to many beliefs. At that time they were Peterborough & Fletton United, played at London Road, changed at The Peacock and walked across the road to Glebe Road corner of the ground. The colours were Claret & Gold stripes, white shorts, Old Fletton School colours were the same.
The regular topic of conversation was when ‘Posh’, playing in the Southern League were drawn to play Birmingham, away, in the F.A.Cup (1928), lost 4-3 after leading 3-1. Joe Bradford scored a hat-trick for Birmingham. Various stories were heard surrounding this historic occasion: - crowds lining Market Harborough railway station platform as Posh supporters' trains passed through on their way to Birmingham. (Posh had beaten Harborough Town in a previous round). There was also talk of an away Cup-tie at Botwell Mission (Now Hayes), which was abandoned through fog and had to be re-played mid-week.
A popular song of the period was ‘Yes! We have no bananas’ and I recall the adapted version going something like this: -
Yes!, we have some Posh players,
We have some Posh players to day
When you’re reading the ‘Pink-un’
Of old Andy Lincoln, who scored the only goal to day—
We’ve got some fine Posh defenders
The best that Taylor can send us,
So Yes!, we have some Posh players,
We have some Posh players to day
Players were spoken of affectionately for a number of years, among them Harry Salt (played for Walsall when they knocked Arsenal out of the F.A.Cup), Ted Whitehead, Pat Tyrrell, Bruton, ‘Bowie’ Willis, Walter Betteridge, Watson, McNaughton and Jack Thain. Peterborough & Fletton United were disbanded in 1932.
I recall the many visits to our local Barber’s shop. The Barber, Johnny Braines was most popular, although he was known to go ‘over the top’ regularly with the shears whilst engaged in conversation with a large audience, consisting of a number of unemployed with nothing to do, some picking out winners? (Johnny being the bookies runner), and the odd one or two requiring a shave or haircut!
A few pennies came my way when I was challenged to give the scores from the previous Saturdays and to name the top three teams in each division of the English Leagues.
After Peterborough & Fletton United disbanded only local football was seen-
Central Sugar Sports: - Played at Celta Mills round behind the Flax Factory (now Hotpoint).
Known player - Ted Whitehead, goalkeeper, Ex Posh.
Electricity Sports: - Played at New Road, Woodston, between Brewster Avenue and Palmerston Road, a natural little stadium with banked sides. Newalls F.C. used this ground during the war.
Known players - Harry Steward, ‘Dimmock’ Eason, Gillings.
South Ward Amateurs: - Played at the rear of Belsize Avenue (over the railway lines).
Wesleyans: - The ground was also used by Old Fletton School.
The Peterborough Thursday League was in existence and included teams - Co-op, Peterborough Thursday, Whittlesey Thursday and the Police.
I remember watching an F.A. Cup-tie between London Brick (Phorpres) and the renowned Kettering Town, which I believe Kettering won 4-3 but not before a few punch-ups and a sending-off. I recall the names of Eric (Tubby) Woods (son Ray later played for Posh and Southend), Len Burnham, goalkeeper Harbour, ‘Dubber’ Cox, Percy Moulds and Bert Browning. The game was played at Bunting’s Lane, just off the Stanground-Farcet Road.
I also saw a match, billed as the ‘Neverwins’, played at London Road between two teams without a win all season, Hildersham (Cambridge) and Barholm (Stamford), the result escapes me - perhaps 0-0!. Later discovered that Hildersham won 6-4 on 13th May 1933. They even warranted a mention years later in the Daily Mail, see article pictured from 29th July 2011.
1934 - Peterborough United was formed
Eight years old - watching the first Peterborough United game...
Excitement as Peterborough United was formed, elected to the Midland League, the reserves joining Peterborough League Division 1. I was thrilled when I watched Posh’s first match against Gainsborough Trinity, and the thought of forthcoming games against Football League reserve teams was out of this world. WOW! - Grimsby Town Reserves, Nottingham Forest Reserves, Bradford Park Avenue Reserves.
Posh did not enter the F.A.Cup in 1934/5 Season, the deadline was missed due to the late formation of the Club.
Meanwhile, my friends were being divided at school, some going to Fletton Secondary School (Grammar), and were often in opposition in school matches. Fletton Secondary played their games on the area between Orton Avenue and Westbrook Park Road, at the rear of Woodston Junior School, and mostly under the guidance of Mr. Walter Betteridge some of the boys were groomed for professional football: -
Des Farrow Leicester, QPR, Stoke and Posh
Johnny King Leicester and Kettering
Derek Woolley West Bromwich Albion, March Town
Barry Reed Luton
Old Fletton School won the Mobbs Cup (all Northamptonshire), and although before my time at the school, I knew many of the players as the ‘big boys’ who had just left. To quote a few names: - Charlie (Skinny) Vincent (goalkeeper), Jack Rose (later QPR), Ernie 'Nat' Brooksbank (Posh and March Town), Don Hitchborn, Harry Preston (later Posh), Len Brown, ‘Sparrow’ Broughton.
In the days before floodlighting (introduced in the1950’s) matches started earlier as the days grew shorter and in mid-winter a 2.15 kick-off was usual for league matches, with a 1.30 or 1.45 start for Cup replays. So prior to floodlights football was confined to Saturdays, except early autumn or late spring. Cup replays were midweek as were International matches.
Football League results were heard on the wireless but non-league and local scores could be non-existent for days - Tuesday’s Peterborough Citizen, Friday’s Peterborough Advertiser, or Friday’s Peterborough Standard being local media - UNLESS, you went to the local corner shop, or the pub, in the early part of Saturday evening, and managed to secure a copy of the cherished Evening Telegraph, locally called the ‘Kettering Telegraph’ or the ‘Pink-Un’. This treasure was available in villages and towns throughout Northants, Hunts, Beds and Fenland. In addition to the final scores there were reports to half-time of all local matches including Football League, Midland, Southern and United Counties Leagues with minor results in the ‘stop press’ column on the back page. Caricatures and nicknames were in abundance – Luton were ‘The Hatters’ with a straw ‘boater’, The ‘Cobbler’ with a boot and an apron, ‘Posh’ with his top hat and a monocle, Spalding a tulip, Stamford a fat ‘Daniel Lambert’’, Bedford an eagle (their ground was ‘The Eyrie’), Wellingborough a doughboy with a baker’s hat, Rushden a Russian with fur collar and hat, Rothwell ‘The Bones’ a skeleton, Kettering the friar or a poppy, Biggleswade ‘The Waders’, a wading bird, St Neots ‘The Newts’- and many more.
An award for the best local team performance was by way of ‘The Biscuit’, the size of a digestive biscuit, with the name of the performing team across the middle, displayed on the front page. The respective winners received an official certificate to mark the award.
With all the technology of the modern era nothing appears to match this publication, Web-sites, mobile phones etc., do not seem to gather as much information in such a short time. Reports in most cases were made by telephone to the printers and ‘The Pink-un’ was delivered by vans or cars, mostly on rural roads, yet available between 6 and 7pm to a 50 odd mile radius. To us who experienced the anticipation on a Saturday evening, nothing today captures the excitement of that time.
Any boy who owned a football had friends for life, well, the life of the ball!, and in Woodston a new Cold-Store was being constructed, possibly prompted by the threat of war. It meant that in the long days of that summer our 15 a-side became 20-30 a side as brickies, navvies and plant drivers swarmed in with their hobnailed boots, trampling 7 to 14 year olds in the stampede. George Woods, one of our smallest and youngest would pick himself up and be at it again, playing until dark like the rest of us. Same again the following night. No television!
Being a lightweight, I had difficulty in making an impression but eventually made the school team, thanks to a paper round which demanded Cyril Parrott’s time - thanks Cyril! Mr Anderson was our Sportsmaster, Assistant Headmaster and disciplinarian, he attended afternoon, after school and Saturday games - how times change!
In 1938 Posh were drawn away to Rushden Town and I was overwhelmed to be going away with the Posh. We travelled by train from Peterborough East Station, changed trains at Manton (Rutland) and eventually arrived at Rushden. At the Newton Road ground I sat with many other youngsters on the grass behind the goal - the goal in which Charlie McCartney scored from the penalty spot to give Posh a 4-4 draw after being 3-1 down.
The replay was on Thursday afternoon (no floodlights remember!) and I was at school - almost! Thursday morning, Headmaster Mr Young summoned me to his room and asks if I would like to go to the match (he knows I’m a football nut) - Yes please! Two conditions - ‘Don’t tell anyone I gave you permission, and make sure you call at my house in Queen’s Walk and tell me the result’ - easy!
Posh won 3-1 and later played their first league opponents in the Cup - Bristol Rovers, and lost 4-1.
In the Midland League, Grantham, Boston United, Scunthorpe, Scarborough and Shrewsbury were the most formidable non-league opponents, although many hard tussles were fought against colliery teams, Denaby, Frickley, Mexborough and Ollerton. Grantham’s centre-forward, Jack McCartney, was a prolific scorer, brother of Posh’s Charlie. Boston’s player-manager was Fred Tunstall (hairless), a Sheffield United legend in his earlier days. Posh defeated Boston 12-0 on New Year’s Eve 1938, Charlie McCartney scoring 5 goals. Pre-War Right Back, Cecil Hart, kept the shop and Off-Licence in Palmerston Road, Woodston, opposite the Savoy Cinema for a number of years.
Posh would play a home game on each Bridge Fair Thursday, and on one such occasion entertained Bradford City Reserves who fielded one left back, Jim Smith. Jim made his presence felt in no uncertain manner, and joined Posh the following season, eventually becoming trainer before taking the Bread Street Pub, The Swiss Cottage.
A fellow affectionately known as ‘Old Harry’ would entertain the crowd at half-time by taking off his jacket and sprinting the length of the Glebe Road touchline, and on occasions given a start with a firework.
Pre-War transfers were rare, of note: -
Jefferson, full back, to Queens Park Rangers
Chiverton, centre half, to Millwall
Wyles, centre forward, to Everton
In March 1939 I saw 19 year old Eric Boon defend his British Lightweight Title against Johnny McGrory at London Road with a reported attendance of 18,000. Boon from Chatteris won by a knock-out in the 9th round.
August 1939 and Posh, under Manager Sam Haden, signed new players, Tom Johnston (later Notts Forest and Notts County), Tommy Rudkin (later Arsenal) and Jack Haycox (Ex-Northampton). They won their first three fixtures, then War broke out and League football was closed down.