‘We’ll make you a sergeant,’ the army told Tommy Banks. ‘No thanks,’ he said, ‘I want to play for Bolton’

  • May 02, 2019 12:01
  • Jon Henderson

When Tommy Banks and Terry Allcock played for Bolton Wanderers it was a northern powerhouse, a far cry from what is happening at the club today...

 

Tommy Banks and Terry Allcock are both in their 80s. They have another common bond: their first club – in Banks’s case, his one and only club – was Bolton Wanderers.

Between them they are now 172 years old. Banks claims 89 of these years and Allcock 83.

When they joined Bolton it was a northern powerhouse of football and it’s hard to imagine what they make of the club’s present travails.

As a young man, Banks, who was born and still lives in Farnworth, worked underground as a miner and as such was exempt from being called up to do national service.

But after he surfaced to start as a full-time pro with Bolton, he lasted only a few weeks before His Majesty’s Armed Forces – George VI was still on the throne in 1950 – sought him out.

He was packed off to Aldershot to be drilled in the ways of army life with the 17th Training Regiment Royal Artillery, after which he volunteered to join the Parachute Regiment.

The Paras were also stationed at the Hampshire base and Banks, never scared of a bit of hard physical toil, watched admiringly as the men in the maroon berets were put through rigorous routines. ‘They were always running, running, running,’ he says. ‘They never stopped. Carrying heavy kit as well.’ He pauses before adding with  a beaming smile: ‘It were terrible.’

But his ambition to join the Paras was thwarted because the army had other ideas for him. As a professional footballer he was barred from joining the rugby-playing parachutists. ‘You’re stopping with us, Banks,’ he was told. He was kept on to be a physical training instructor and play in the regimental football team.

Banks thought it was a very poor substitute for playing in the Football League. When the army offered him an extra twelve months’ service so he could attain the rank of sergeant – and play a bit more football – he was horrified.

As soon as his two years were up he caught the first train home to continue his quest for the one thing he wanted in life, permanent ownership of the left back’s No 3 shirt in the Bolton first team.

Banks ended up making more than 200 appearances for Bolton and representing England at left back at the 1958 World Cup.

Terry Allcock, who was born in Leeds, spent only a short time at Bolton. This was not because he wasn’t any good, but because in those days the club’s forward line was so packed with players of quality, of whom Allcock was one, that one of them had to go.

He made his first-team debut for Bolton in 1953 aged 17 – and scored twice in the first 20 minutes against Manchester City. And in 1958 he scored for them in the early rounds of their triumphant FA Cup run.

The trouble was that Bolton already had three international inside-forwards and it was soon after scoring those Cup goals that Allcock learnt he was superfluous to the club’s needs.

How he found out, soon after moving into a house in Bolton, shocked him. Without any warning he was told when he arrived for training one morning that Norwich had made an offer for him. Bolton were keen to accept.

‘Having got over my surprise,’ he says, ‘my first thought was, “Where the hell’s Norwich.” I thought for a minute it was Northwich.’

Bolton’s loss was Norwich’s gain. He gave the East Anglian club 11 years of yeoman service and is fondly remembered as one of their most masterly goal-scorers.

 

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing and now out in paperback.

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Shankly’s cunning Euro ploy – that almost worked

  • May 01, 2019 10:20
  • Jon Henderson

Fifty-four years ago this week Liverpool’s manager masterminded a 3-1 victory over Inter Milan in the first leg of a European Cup semi-final – only for the Italians to get their own back, with interest, eight days later...

 

It was a typically smart piece of thinking by manager Bill Shankly to gain a psychological edge in the minutes before Liverpool’s 1964-65 European Cup semi-final first-leg match against Inter Milan at Anfield.

Two of his key players, Gordon Milne and  Gerry Byrne, had been injured in the hectic days that preceded that match.

As a result of Liverpool’s success in the European and FA Cups, the players had submitted, uncomplainingly, to a breathless backlog of fixtures: ten League games in the first 26 days of April followed by the FA Cup final on 1 May and three days later the European clash with Inter.

In the days when the maxium wage had only just been lifted and pay packets still contained precious little, the players’ effort confirmed something that nineteenth-century mill owners knew only too well: that people work harder the more skint they are.

The burden, though, took its toll with Liverpool squeezing out just two League victories. In other words, no one made more than a tenner, over and above their skimpy wages, in win bonuses. Nor did anyone think of asking for overtime.

Milne received his injury in game six of their April ordeal. The sun shone brightly on a bone hard pitch at Stamford Bridge. ‘I’ve gone to take a ball,’ Milne says. ‘At the same time Eddie McCreadie, their left back, came and just clattered it and I’ve done my knee ligament.

‘When we came back on the train to Lime Street I had a big ice pack on my knee and I knew that I wasn’t going to make the FA Cup final.

‘Having never missed games, that was a major blow. I remember people telling me not to worry because we’d be there again next season, but it didn’t happen.’

On the day of the final against Leeds, Milne says he felt lost. ‘All the build-up to the Cup is fantastic and, although I was with the team wearing my tracksuit, I had my suit on underneath it, which was daft really. I felt on the outside looking in, which wasn’t how it was for the other lads.’

And it was in that FA Cup final that Byrne, Liverpool’s left-back, collected his injury when, in the opening minutes, he broke his collarbone. ‘It was strapped up,’ Milne says, ‘and Gerry played like that for the rest of the match, which included added time. He was as hard as nails, Gerry, and he even got involved in the build-up for our first goal at the start of extra time.’

Roger Hunt scored that goal and, after Billy Bremner equalised for Leeds, Ian St John’s header sealed Liverpool’s 2-1 victory. (The Pathe News commentator showed his true class by calling St John ‘Sinjun’.)

It was Shankly’s smart piece of thinking that, three days later, provided Milne with much-appreciated compensation for his missing the final and almost certainly gained Liverpool a psychological edge over Inter in the moments before their European tie against Inter kicked off.

‘In all my time I never experienced an atmosphere like the one at Anfield that night,’ Milne says. ‘And Shanks built it up. He got Gerry and me to walk around the pitch with the FA Cup before the game.

‘You could nearly touch the atmosphere, it was that electric, the noise. Liverpool had never won the FA Cup before, Gerry had played on with a broken collarbone and there he was carrying the Cup, I hadn’t been able to play… It seemed to take us for ever to carry it around. And for the final bit we came down in front of the Kop… so what Inter Milan must have felt in the dressing room listening to that noise. They couldn’t have missed it. It was a clever move by Shanks.’

An inspired Liverpool beat Inter 3-1 that night but went out eight days later after being ambushed in Milan in the second leg. They lost 3-0 courtesy of a series of refereeing decisions that, it is said, haunted Shankly to his grave.

 

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing and now out in paperback.

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Night at the ballet that put a spring in the step of Tottenham Hotspur – and helped carry them to the semi-finals of the 1961-62 European Cup

  • April 30, 2019 12:26
  • Jon Henderson

Like Mauricio Pochettino, Bill Nicholson, Spurs’ manager from 1958-74, was a freethinker at a time when new ideas were viewed with far greater suspicion than they are today...

 

Cliff Jones, who played on the left wing for Tottenham during the club’s great successes in the early 1960s under Bill Nicholson, has the fondest memories of that most singular of managers who was the first to take Spurs to the semis of Europe’s top club competition in 1962.

Details of a trip to Russia remain particularly vivid. There were Jones’s own impressions of an expedition that at the time was a bold venture for a football team behind the Iron Curtain – and then there was an unlikely outing that demonstrated Nicholson’s capacity for doing the unexpected.

‘Bill took us on tour to Russia in 1959,’ Jones says, ‘and I’m telling you something Communism was rife, people were like queuing to go into the mausoleum to see Lenin and Stalin lying in state; they were very patriotic people … It was just unbelievable and we had three games against club sides and they were all battles.’

Jones describes the trip as ‘a great bonding experience because we all really came together as a team, but it was such a difficult tour.’

Not least of Jones’s personal difficulties was bonding with the no-nonsense Scotland player Dave Mackay. ‘I roomed with Dave, a very unfortunate experience,’ Jones says. ‘For a start, he was so untidy, our room was a complete khazi, and I couldn’t understand a word he said.’

When Jones asked if he could have an interpreter, Nicholson presumed he meant a Russian one. ‘No a Scottish one,’ Jones told him, ‘I don’t know what Mackay’s saying. Nay ou, ay ouze. Dear me.’

At the other end of the cultural spectrum from sharing a room with Dave Mackay was a night out at the Bolshoi Ballet, an experience Jones believes significantly influenced the way the great Spurs team of the 1960s played.

When Nicholson told Jones that was where they were going Jones thought he was joking. ‘No,’ Nicholson repeated emphatically, ‘we’re going to the Bolshoi Ballet.’

‘So we went there,’ Jones says, ‘and a young Nureyev was dancing. Can you believe that. It was an amazing experience. These ballet dancers, they were so fit and powerful. And of course Bill Nicholson was so taken with this he wanted to find out how they were so fit. And a lot of it was down to weight training.’

As a result, when Nicholson returned to London he sought out Bill Watson, who had been an Olympic weightlifter. Watson taught that everything came from the stomach, this was the core of a person’s fitness and reactions.

‘Watson got quite a lot of work after helping us,’ Jones says, ‘because our fitness definitely went up a gear. Bill’s whole approach to football was that you will play the way you train. He said that if you train with method and if you train with effort you’ll play exactly the same way, you’ll take that out on the field. And it just worked for us.’

Tottenham were in commanding form when they reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1962. Benfica, the defending champions, awaited them in the last four.

Two towering contests followed. Benfica won the first leg in Lisbon 3-1 in front of 86,000. Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Smith had goals ruled out for offside. Unconfirmable reports have it that Smith’s was disallowed despite two defenders being posted on the line.

Benfica went 4-1 up on aggregate in the second leg at White Hart Lane, where 64,448 spectators jammed the stands. Spurs then hit back with two goals, the second a Danny Blanchflower penalty, but in a desperate finish in which the post twice saved Benfica and Dave Mackay’s header landed on the crossbar the visitors held out.

Blanchflower observed later of the European Cup that it was hard to imagine ‘a more potent or popular soccer competition’ and described playing in it as ‘the greatest emotional experience of my career’.

 

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing and now out in paperback.

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Wemberly (aka Wembley stadium) first opened its doors to a football match when it staged the 1923 FA Cup final at a time when the competition’s popularity dwarfed the interest shown in it today

  • April 26, 2019 13:10
  • Jon Henderson

Wembley has long been regarded as the home of the FA Cup final but the first 47 finals – 1872-1922 (competition suspended during World War I) – were played elsewhere, mainly at two other London grounds, the Kennington Oval and Crystal Palace. It was 96 years ago today – 28 April 1923 – that the final moved to what is now its traditional home.

 

When the FA Cup final first moved to north London in 1923, the world’s oldest football competition was at its most popular.

The official attendance to watch Bolton Wanderers beat West Ham United 2-0 in the new stadium was 126,047, while some estimates put it at more than 200,000. It was so crammed that spectators from the terraces spilt onto the pitch, causing a delay.

Mounted policemen rode to the rescue. They cleared the playing area, including one officer who rode what was described as a white horse. The officer and his steed hogged the newspaper headlines the next day and the match has become known as the White Horse Final.

For many years the Cup final retained its status as the most popular event in the sporting calendar.

The first World Cup followed nearly 60 years after the inaugural FA Cup, only to be ignored by the English. It was widely regarded in the UK as an impudent upstart.

Having ignored the first three World Cups, the FA finally deigned to enter the national team in the global event in 1950. Even so very few people in England took much notice. The domestic game’s competitions were what mattered, particularly the FA Cup, surpassing the relevance of whatever was on offer elsewhere.

It was not until towards the end of the twentieth century that domestic interest in the FA Cup started to wane.

The really steep decline in its popularity came after 1992 when massive investment saw the First Division repackaged, rebranded and reborn as the Premiership.

Having been the fancy dan of the English game, the FA Cup suddenly found itself being pushed aside by a hustler not afraid to flex its commercial independence to exploit football’s popularity like never before.

Players’ wages surged as clubs fought for the considerable financial rewards, made possible by TV money, for achieving success in the new league.

The FA Cup was now a distraction viewed, increasingly, with condescension by the top clubs. Infamously, the FA themselves did not help by backing the disrespectful idea that Manchester United, the holders, skip the 1999-2000 competition to play in the world club championship.

Despite the Cup’s great status in its early years, a good run in the competition meant very little in terms of financial reward for the players.

For the last Cup Final before the maximum wage of £20 a week was abolished, Wolves v Blackburn in 1960, Dave Whelan recalls the Blackburn players each received a princely six quid from a Milk Marketing Board advertisement of the team drinking the board’s product. This bumped up Whelan’s Cup Final extras to eight pounds. He cannot recall the source of the other two pounds.

With his £20 weekly wage and with Blackburn’s defeat meaning he was denied a win bonus, Whelan made £28. It was the most he ever earned from football in a single week.

Howard Riley was on the losing side a year later when Tottenham completed the Double with their 2-0 win over Leicester City. ‘The maximum wage had ended shortly before the final,’ Riley says, ‘but I think we were still probably on 20 quid a week or not much more – and I’m not sure we were on a win bonus even if we had won, in front of 100,000 spectators.’

The improvement in pay would continue but the relentless upward mobility of the Premier League in recent years means FA Cup finals at Wembley are unlikely ever again to achieve the status it enjoyed when footballers were paid buttons.

 

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing and now out in paperback.

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‘A local lad was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk. He came home and he’d been back for a week when he died… What happened to me was nothing compared to that’

  • April 26, 2019 13:09
  • Jon Henderson

Colin Collindridge, who lived a long and eventful life, resumed his football career after the Second Wold War having narrowly escaped death himself...

 

Colin Collindridge, the redoubtable Yorkshireman who died earlier this month aged 98, was a great character who, had he been born in another era, would have made a very tidy living as a professional footballer.

As it was he had the misfortune to play when wages were pegged – less than ten quid a week when he started out – and when the world was at war.

He did admit when I interviewed him for my book When Footballers Were Skint that he bore some resentment that the Second World War butted in just after he had started with his first club Sheffield United. It was right at the moment he was starting to make a name for himself as a speedy left-winger, and occasional centre forward, with a thumping shot.

Also, though, he counted himself lucky. ‘A local lad, Ernest England, was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk. He’d worked down the coalmine at Woolley and when he was taken prisoner they stuck him down a coalmine in Germany.

‘He came home and he’d been back for a week when he died. I’m not sure what he died of, but what happened to me was nothing compared to that.’

Collindridge, who was born at Cawthorne Basin, near Barnsley on 15 November 1920, had been a good schoolboy footballer before going on to play for Wombwell Main. They were a strong team in the Barnsley Association League, who were once good enough to compete in the FA Cup.

‘There was one League match,’ Collindridge said, ‘where we played a team from Hoyland who were useless and we beat them 22-0 – and I scored eight.’

As a result he was given a trial with Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Cadbury’s chocolate ground near Birmingham. He scored a couple of goals and thought, ‘I’ve done all right here.’

But it wasn’t to be after he felt he was unfairly disposed of by the Wolves manager Major Frank Buckley.

‘Maybe I wasn’t good enough but what Buckley did was a poor way of showing respect. I wasn’t brought up like that. My father had brought me up that if anybody uses bad manners, son, or swears badly in front of your mother give ’em that [he raises his right fist] and, if you can’t, give ’em that [he raises his left boot]. And you’re not bad with the left clog.’

Collindridge added that anyway Buckley made a mistake and backed his claim by quoting something that the Sheffield journalist Fred Walters wrote about his playing ability. The article appeared in the Green ’Un sports paper when Collindridge was playing for Sheffield United, which he did either side of the Second World War.

‘Walters was the ace, king, queen and jack of football as a journalist in Sheffield,’ Collindridge said, ‘and he said I should be playing for England.’

He had signed for Sheffield United in 1938 when the Yorkshire club were heading for promotion to the First Division as the 1938-39 Second Division runners-up behind Blackburn Rovers (and one point ahead of Sheffield Wednesday).

In October of the following season Collindridge, aged 18, made his first-team debut. By then, though, war had broken out and the match just down the road against Huddersfield that launched Collindridge’s football career was only a friendly.

The Football League was suspended while wartime leagues were organised and although the professional game kept going – to keep up a pretence of normality and provide entertainment for an embattled nation – inevitably it had an unreal, makeshift feel to it.

To accommodate players’ postings they were allowed to flit between clubs and games were not permitted to be staged in areas that were in danger of being bombed.

So the years that should have been the prime of Collindridge’s footballing life were twilight years for football and footballers.

During the war, Collindridge joined the RAF and ended up at Syerston near Newark ‘staying fit by winding bomb loads on to Lancasters’.

‘There were four in a bomb crew,’ Collindridge said, ‘two upstairs winding the bomb on and two downstairs guiding it up to fit where it should.

‘On this particular day we’d just loaded a cookie – a 4,000-pounder with a lot of explosive – when suddenly the kite [the Lancaster] went up a couple of feet.

‘I looked at my mate and ran to the front, down the dip into where the bomb aimer operated and I said, “What was that then?” My mate couldn’t talk. He pointed. “The cookie, the cookie,” he said, eventually, “it’s dropped off.”

‘I couldn’t talk either for about five minutes. We thought it might have gone off. You never knew your luck with those bombs because so often they used to go off when they shouldn’t have.’

After the war Collindridge made well over 100 appearances for Sheffield United, but they were a fraction of the number this popular player would have played had it not been for the lost years, 1939-45.

He said one reason he left United was because Jimmy Hagan was stripped of the captaincy after falling out with the directors. He, Collindridge, was then offered the captain’s role but says he turned it down out of loyalty to Hagan, whom he regarded ‘as the classiest footballer I ever played with or against. And I was lucky because he made me look a good footballer.

‘What made Jimmy so outstanding was that he had a brain, for a start. And he could be in a room no bigger than this one with three other people’ – we were seated in his small front room – ‘and, with the ball at his feet, he’d dribble round the lot of them.’

There was a drawback to playing alongside Hagan, though: ‘Opponents wouldn’t be able to get the ball off him and I’d stand watching him in amazement and then wouldn’t be ready when he passed the ball to me.’

But Collindridge and Hagan did perfect one double act: ‘After the war Jimmy and I had a routine going that appealed to Jimmy because it meant using his brain.

‘A German bomb had landed on the Bramall Lane pitch and where the crater had been filled in the surface was always a bit soft. I’d manoeuvre my fullback so he was standing on this bit of ground and when he was properly bogged down Jimmy would slip the ball past him for me to run on to.’

Collindridge moved from Sheffield United to Nottingham Forest (1950-54) before finishing his Football League career at Coventry City (1954-56). He than had a season with Bath City.

 

Colin Collindridge’s funeral will be held in Nottingham on Friday 10 May

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing and now out in paperback

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