‘He reacted in a sporting way to my apology but you always had the feeling that he felt he was hard done by’

  • April 25, 2019 09:41
  • Jon Henderson

Peter McParland describes the dramatic incident in which he was involved and for which the 1957 FA Cup final is chiefly remembered...

 

Although Aston Villa were the underdogs when they met Manchester United in the 1957 FA Cup final, they had two or three players of outstanding quality. Peter McParland was one of these, combative but creative and clever, the sort of player any manager would crave. He had scored twice against Wales on his debut for Northern Ireland and would be their best player at the 1958 World Cup finals.

McParland starts his own story of the 1957 Cup Final in the build-up to the match. He had made a mental note of something that his teammate Jackie Sewell mentioned to him. ‘Jackie said to me two or three weeks before the final that he had met Tommy Lawton at a wedding in Nottingham and Tommy said, “Remember to shake the goalkeeper up.” That was something you did then.

‘And Jackie told Tommy, “Yeah, we’ve got a fella who might go and give him a bit of a shake”.’

McParland says he was already aware Ray Wood reacted badly to physical contact – ‘He went for people, Ray did’ – and recalls an example of his petulance.

Not long before the final he was with the Villa team when they stopped at a pub on the way home from a midweek League game at Burnley. Highlights of a European Cup semi-final between Manchester United and Real Madrid were on TV. ‘And I remember Gento came flying through the middle and Woody ran out, picked the ball up and whacked Gento. Put him on the deck. So he was prepared to hit people at the time.’

Like Gento, McParland played on the left wing and did so with gusto.

At Wembley, six minutes had passed when he clattered into Wood. ‘Jackie Sewell had the ball on the edge of the box in the inside-right position,’ McParland says, ‘and I’m out here on the left and I’m coming in.

‘Jackie played a nice ball in and when it was in flight I said to myself, “This is going back into the far post. It’s in the back of the net”.’

McParland’s version of what happened next goes like this: ‘So I came in and I banged it with my head but I banged it straight into Ray Wood’s arms as he was coming off his line.

‘He’d come running towards me and I was running in just in case there was a drop and I turned my shoulder then to shoulder-charge him. He turned to me to shoulder-charge and then turned away at the last minute, last seconds. As we clashed, the side of my head hit Ray here on the cheek. It was through not getting the shoulder to shoulder [that the injuries occurred].

‘I was lying on the deck and 100,000 people were spinning round me. I thought, “Oh, I’m finished. This is me out.”

‘I got myself together again, though, and when the trainer came on he made me feel better. But Ray had a problem and went off by stretcher before coming back on just before halftime.’

Wood was posted at outside right with the time-honoured instruction to the walking wounded: if nothing else cause problems. Wood did this to such effect that McParland felt he was sufficiently recovered to go back in goal, which was what in fact he did for the last few minutes. But McParland’s irrepressible performance – not only did he clash with Wood but scored two excellent goals – would prove enough for Villa to win 2-1.

The BBC TV commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme said immediately that what happened between McParland and Wood, which left Wood with concussion and a broken cheekbone, was a pure accident. He called it a fair challenge, ‘but unfortunately their heads collided’. Although this was not the universal view there was a far greater acceptance then of the fairness of such collisions.

McParland apologised to Wood after the match and says he has no argument with his not being happy. ‘He wouldn’t have been happy, I wouldn’t have been happy if I had been taken off. He reacted in a sporting way to my apology but you always had the feeling that he felt he was hard done by.’

The press criticism McParland received did not really bother him, he says. ‘I was glad because we had won the Cup. It was part and parcel [of being in an incident like that] that they were going to slam me and some of them did. I just had to take the flak.’

Despite this criticism and Wood’s obvious resentment, McParland remembers suffering no backlash from other opposition players. The United defender Bill Foulkes even told him that ‘Woody should have got out of my way – and he didn’t because he liked having a bash at people’.

‘The next season,’ McParland says, ‘before all the games I played early on the goalkeepers said, “You wouldn’t have done that to me in the final because I’d have sidestepped and let you run into the back of the net.” All of them said that.’

Fifty years later, when the BBC made a documentary comparing the 1957 and 2007 finals, the verdict was very different, reflecting how views on what constituted a fair challenge had diverged since Wolstenholme made his comments.

The documentary described the 1957 final as infamous because of McParland’s ‘shocking challenge’ on Wood. The football writer Henry Winter, interviewed for the programme, said had it happened today McParland would have been sent off and heckled as he left the pitch.

 

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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‘And, of course, generally I showed them that one [he holds up his left fist] and banged them with it, because I was southpaw’

  • April 23, 2019 11:19
  • Jon Henderson

My first meeting with Colin Collindridge, a player for Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and Coventry City either side of the war, was both a pleasure and slightly unnerving...

 

The taxi driver wonders why anyone would want to travel from London to Newark-on-Trent on a mission to visit New Balderton.

‘All it is is a new housing estate,’ he says. ‘Not much of a place at all.’

His cynicism may prove justified but Colin Collindridge, one of the oldest surviving Football League players, lives here, an invaluable source for my book When Footballers Were Skint given his direct link with professional football’s pioneering days.

Collindridge was born in November 1920, only four years after Fergie Suter, the man widely regarded as the game’s first professional player, died in middle age. As a young man Collindridge mixed with many of the figures who had contributed to the game’s formative years.

The taxi driver is right, the estate he has just turned in to is a regimented assembly of what the Americans call cookie-cutter houses. Maybe he was right, too, in implying that there could be nothing or no one of interest in surroundings of such overbearing conformity.

Collindridge is in the kitchen brushing leaves away from the back door when his wife, Glenice, lets me in. It is only when he sits down in his armchair in the front room that I register his complexion, which is pink, glowing and blemishless. Glenice, who is sitting opposite him on a small sofa, suggests he spends far more time than is necessary maintaining it.

His clothes are neat and look carefully chosen, particularly the brown corduroy trousers.

Is this really the sturdy competitor who played for three Football League clubs when a bit of clogging was mandatory and if you could not play with freezing mud filling your big leather boots you should be doing summat else?

Collindridge starts by telling me he was born at Cawthorne Basin. In case I should wonder where exacty this is, which I do, he adds that it’s down the bottom of the hill a quarter of a mile from Barugh Green, the first village out of Barnsley on the Huddersfield road.

‘Half the relations of mine lived in Barugh Green and there were about 40 of them. I still love that place and Barugh Greeners, though I was quite young when we moved to Wombwell, on the other side of Barnsley, where my dad got a council house.

‘I couldn’t have been born any better really. I was working-class Yorkshire, south Yorkshire, where most people were skint. Some of them had got work at the colliery and some hadn’t and it was the mine owners who ruled – only the one thing they didn’t do was dare fight my dad.’

A patriarchal home life when he was a lad and a tightly knit mining community forged in him what I soon learn is an uncomplicated set of values.

Throughout my two interviews with Collindridge – the second was partly to clear up some things he had said during the first and partly to convince myself I had not dreamed him up – I am constantly reminded, in various ways, that where he came from near Barnsley a man was nothing without his manhood and a footballer was nothing if he was not prepared to settle something behind the stands with his jacket off and sleeves rolled up – and then share a pint of bitter and a laugh.

These are things that obsess him over and above the considerable success and popularity he achieved at his three League clubs – Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and Coventry City – as a speedy left-winger, and occasional centre forward, with a bullet shot.

He and Glenice are as attentive and hospitable hosts as you could find, but even today seated and leaning back, his face softened by a disarming smile and never wasting an opportunity to extol the singing voice of Bing Crosby, Collindridge makes me feel ever so slightly uneasy.

In fact there is one tense moment when his face clouds and he stiffens just a little. He wants to know whether, since I keep glancing at the clock, I would prefer to be on my way. I tell him – and, thankfully, he accepts my explanation – it is the family photographs on the mantelpiece that are distracting me, not the time.

But I get the sense that in common with most men who regard their masculinity as the ultimate badge of worth, he holds women in the highest regard, even fears them a little. Of the two other people in the room with him, I suspect he would pick a scrap with me if he wanted the easier victory.

‘I’ve met hundreds of nice females,’ he says, ‘including my missus, who’s a good Nottingham girl who puts me in my place.’

Glenice rolls her eyes wearily at having to listen to a familiar script. Collindrige keeps going: ‘You’ve heard of Jock McAvoy, the boxer, a Lancashire lad who fought for the world light-heavyweight title? Well my missus is a better scrapper than Jock was.

‘And you’ve heard of Betty Grable? Well, she paid a million dollars to insure her legs and they were great legs and my missus had legs that were as good as Betty Grable’s. But she doesn’t believe me, because she doesn’t believe anything I say…’

He returns to his father: ‘He worked in the mines after he left school. He’d got one or two mates who stuck up for miners and he could use his tongue, my dad, but he could also use these [he holds up his fists]. So if the coalmine owners had one or two rough tough guys my dad used to sort them out generally with that [he holds up his right fist], although I think he were a southpaw, actually.

‘He taught me nicely but the only thing was at school I was always in scraps because someone wanted to fight me. And, of course, generally I showed them that one [he holds up his left fist] and banged them with it, because I was southpaw. So that was part of my upbringing.’

 

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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‘It was a funny thing, they used to raid the betting offices, take what cash there was, close you down and let you open again on the Monday. It was to fund the Lord Mayor’s Ball, I think’

  • April 17, 2019 10:41
  • Jon Henderson

In 1960 when the highly successful goalkeeper Roy Wood was offered for sale by Leeds United the wages of Football League players were capped at £20 a week. It meant that even an offer from Liverpool and the great Bill Shankly didn’t mean quite what it would today. Wood took work in the betting industry instead.

 

‘No one at Leeds gave me a reason for being put on the transfer list,’ Roy Wood says. ‘I was just put on it.

‘Although I couldn’t prove it, there was one possible reason why Sam Bolton, the Leeds chairman, wanted to get rid of me. I was on the PFA committee by now as the Leeds players’ representative and this was at the time the Football League players were pushing for the abolition of the maximum wage.

‘During negotiations I remember sitting across the table from Bolton, who was on the FA committee. He was always against me for doing this because, of course, he and the other chairmen were in favour of keeping wages capped.

‘When the man who was putting money into the club didn’t like you, didn’t like your face, that counted for a lot in football.’

Wood says he had the chance to join quite a few clubs, including Liverpool: ‘Bill Shankly said I could go there. He told one of his trainers that he needed another goalkeeper and the trainer mentioned my name. Shankly said I’d do because if a man could play every game and get promotion to the First Division [with Leeds] he couldn’t be bad.’

Liverpool were prepared to pay a fee for Wood and his accrued benefit.

Wood, who was born in Wallasey, admits he was attracted to moving back to his hometown but he was only recently married and he and his wife decided to stay in Leeds where he had just bought a bungalow off Kirkstall Lane.

‘Luton, Crewe, and Mansfield, where Raich Carter was now manager, were among the other clubs who showed an interest in me,’ he says, ‘but I wasn’t prepared to go anywhere that meant travelling long distances.’

Opposite the Leeds ground there was a greyhound track, which is where Wood became friends with Jack Ash, who was ‘one of the bookies who stood up shouting the odds’. One night when the two men were having a drink Wood told Ash that Leeds were selling him and that he had a mind to pack in football altogether. But he did not know what to do.

‘Roy, if you want a job with me,’ Ash said, ‘you’ve got one so long as I’m in business.’

The year was 1960 when betting shops were not set to become legal until the following spring. Up until May 1961 there were betting offices but not shops. These offices were strictly regulated with blacked-out windows; lettering to advertise what the premises were used for could not be more than four inches high. Also, they were subject to the whims of the authorities.

‘It was a funny thing,’ Wood says, ‘in the old days they used to raid the betting offices, take what cash there was, close you down and let you open again on the Monday. It was to fund the Lord Mayor’s Ball, I think.’

He started work for Ash on the top floor of his office in Leeds. ‘I worked on the credit side, taking bets on the phone,’ Wood says. ‘I did this to start with just to pick up how things worked, before I went into the offices. By the time Jack died in 1967 I was looking after five offices.

‘They then sold the business to a fella called Jim Windsor, who also had betting offices with a head office in the same road as Jack’s. Later Jim sold it to William Hill – and that’s how it is today.

‘I went on my own on the credit side, taking bets on the phone, which was what I knew. I didn’t really have an office. It was just a room with a tape machine in it. I did that for a while, into the Eighties, and then I went to work for a fella called Ray Kettlewell doing the same sort of thing.

 

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

https://www.williamhill.com/

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Tommy Trinder may have been a comedian – but the Fulham chairman was not as daft as he looked

  • April 16, 2019 13:47
  • Jon Henderson

When in 1961 Fulham came under pressure to sell their prize asset to Italian giants AC Milan, their chairman showed there was more to him than a gag or two.

 

Tommy Trinder is probably the funniest man ever to be chairman of a Football League club.

Born in 1909 in south London, Trinder deployed his rubber features in a double act with his quick wit. He started working in music hall in the 1920s and went on to become one of the country’s best-loved comedians, renowned for his catchphrase, ‘You lucky people’. He was also well known for his association with Fulham Football Club, serving as their chairman for nearly 20 years.

In the 1950s, when Trinder was appearing in a show on the south coast, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, the president of Portsmouth FC, asked him to watch a match at the Portsmouth ground.

Although Trinder accepted Monty’s invitation, he was more interested in the match Fulham were playing elsewhere that day. In fact he was even more interested than usual because it marked an early appearance by Fulham’s notable young prospect Johnny Haynes. When the result came through, a Fulham win in which Haynes had scored two goals, Trinder told Montgomery that Haynes would one day captain England.

Montgomery seemed less fascinated by this than by how old Haynes was and Trinder told him off-guardedly that the player was only 18.

‘Shouldn’t he be doing national service?’ Montgomery said.

Back on guard, Trinder’s razor repartee came to his rescue: ‘That’s the other thing about him – he’s a cripple.’

Legend has it that some years later the performer in Trinder and his high regard for Haynes steered him towards another corner. The problem stemmed from his constant eulogising to anyone who would listen about just how good a player the Fulham and, by now, England forward was.

Crucially, he eulogised to Haynes himself. ‘If I could pay you more than 20 quid a week, Johnny, you know I would,’ Trinder supposedly told Haynes, confident that football’s wage cap was set in reinforced concrete. ‘With your skills you’re worth 100 quid a week. Easy.’

And not only did he tell Haynes, he told the press – and Haynes kept the cuttings to prove it.

But there is much more than this to why Trinder ended up paying Haynes over the odds when maximum earnings disappeared and pay bargaining arrived in 1961. It was far more an act of pragmatism than a consequence of an arm being wrung.

The fact is that at the end of the 1960-61 season, three months after the demise of the regulated wage, the Italian club AC Milan were trying hard to sign Haynes, as well as Jimmy Greaves, then of Chelsea, for a record-shattering transfer fee of £100,000. Milan were prepared to pay Haynes a £15,000 signing-on fee and a weekly wage of more than £200.

Trinder’s offer to Haynes was made in response to this. The size of the salary he promised the Fulham captain varied according to which newspaper you read: anywhere from £4,000 a year to £100 a week. And the London Evening Standard reported that by staying in England Haynes could top up his annual income to £7,000 with a few a little earners on the side: ghosted newspaper articles, advertising – Haynes replaced the cricketer Denis Compton as Brylcreem’s shiny-haired pin-up – and business interests.

Haynes himself confirmed that reasons beyond football were what were keeping him in London, among them a 22-year-old cabaret dancer called Eileen Farmer.

Inevitably, other clubs moaned about Trinder’s largesse. Bill Jones, the Cardiff City manager, for example, wondered sourly how his generosity would be funded. ‘Gates are the only income clubs receive,’ he said, ‘and these are dropping.’

On the other hand, the press generally praised the Fulham chairman for being more than just a funny man. At last someone was recognising that if clubs did not start to pay wages that were competitive with other countries the English game would fall further behind than it was already.

J L Manning, the Daily Mail’s trenchant and influential columnist, described Trinder’s action as a ‘bold, brave and sensible application of soccer’s New Deal’. Manning warmed to his theme: ‘It took the issue of strike notices by the players’ union and the whip of Parliamentary and public condemnation of our football system to wring from the clubs the concessions that now help to keep England’s captain here.’

He might have added that Trinder was not as daft as he looked.

 

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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Near tragedy that started as a simple nose bleed

  • April 12, 2019 16:16
  • Jon Henderson

Lionel Messi shrugged off the bloodied nose he received against Manchester United last Wednesday – but in the 1950s even seemingly innocuous wounds could have extreme repercussions.

 

Frank O’Farrell tells a harrowing tale of a medical emergency during his time playing for Preston North End in the Fifties. Had it happened today, it is hard to imagine it would have come so close to tragedy.

He was suffering from a heavy cold when his nose started to bleed during a training session.

‘Jimmy Milne took me into the treatment room,’ O’Farrell says, ‘but he couldn’t stop the bleeding. It just kept bleeding, bleeding, bleeding. So they took me to the hospital, Preston Royal Infirmary, and they couldn’t stop it either.

‘They started injecting me with something that would clot the blood, vitamin K I think it was. I lost half my blood supply, four pints of blood. I had the last rites. The Jesuit priest from the local Catholic church came in and gave me the last rites. They thought I was going to die. It was that serious. I was in there for a couple of weeks.

‘They never found out what it was except that there was a weakness in the blood vessel. They thought this could have been the result of when I had a clash of heads with my own centre half at West Ham. We were going for the same ball and I needed six stitches in my eyelid, my eyelid was hanging off. I spent a couple of days in London Hospital where they sewed the eyelid back on.’

Grim stuff, but with O’Farrell any story, however dark, usually comes with the a humorous twist. ‘After I’d recovered,’ he says, ‘I was talking to some of the men in the ward and they said that when I came in they asked, “Who’s that?”, and were told, “Oh, some Irishman called O’Farrell.”

‘So they all thought I was some Irish drunk who’d been in a fight.’

Tony McNamara, an Everton player from 1947-57, suffered a succession of injuries that eventually blighted his career – and it was a leg wound, incorrectly treated, that had particularly disastrous consequences.

McNamara says the trainer strapped up his leg with the wrong side of the tape against his skin. ‘It meant my leg couldn’t expand and I was in a lot of pain.

‘In the end they sent a doctor from the club to the house and when they peeled off the tape the sticky side was against my leg. It pulled off all the skin. The shock of that caused psoriasis to set in.’

McNamara says he doesn’t think he ever fully recovered from this, but he compliments Everton on standing by him more than half a century later. ‘I have two false knees now,’ he says, ‘and to give the present Everton set-up their due it was they who paid for me to have them done.

‘When the club found out that I was struggling, rather than let me go on an NHS waiting list they looked after things for me. That’s one thing about Everton now, they look after their former players.’

 

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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