Why David Beckham’s predecessors never got charged with speeding: they didn’t have cars

  • September 28, 2018 10:07
  • Jon Henderson

Not that long ago car ownership was confined to chairmen, board members and assorted long-trousered functionaries.


It took some years before professional footballers became masters of their own travel as motor-car owners. In the first instance only the wealthy businessmen who ran the clubs had cars or access to them. Players had to wait to be asked before being granted a lift in one. It wasn’t until well after the Second World War that every player had his own car as a matter of course.

Terry Neill, who joined Arsenal in 1959, remembers the slow advance of car ownership, started by the better-paid players, once the £20-a-week wage cap was lifted in 1961.

‘When we got on to 45 quid a week we all started to acquire what we thought were fancy cars,’ Neill says. ‘I’m talking about a Sunbeam – second-hand, of course, knockdown price, a bit rusty.’

Up until then a car journey was a treat with the player invariably a passenger, although in Terry Allcock’s case it was a treat of the bizzarest kind.

In the Fifties Allcock was a good player in a very good Bolton side that contained three international inside-forwards. He scored for them in the early rounds of their triumphant 1958 FA Cup run. But then 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.’

Before agreeing to the move he was at least allowed to visit Norwich. This involved catching a train to Peterborough where he would be picked up by car. Allcock worried how he would recognise the driver but was told the driver would recognise him.

‘And do you know,’ he says, ‘I was met by a midget. He worked for the chairman who was a friend of his. He was one of the famous circus acts.

‘When we got in the car he said, “Do you mind if I drive fast, there’s a match on at Carrow Road and we might catch the second half.” They were playing Coventry. I was frightened to death. He had wooden things on the pedals and he couldn’t see over the steering wheel. But we did make it for the second half.’

When all players eventually had the funds to own their own wheels, they quickly discovered there were downsides.

Another Bolton player, Warwick Rimmer, was coming to the end of his 14 years as a first-team regular when the club drew the outstanding Manchester City side of Colin Bell, Franny Lee and Mike Summerbee in the third round of the League Cup in October 1971.

Having set out from his home in Blackrod for the short drive to Bolton’s Burnden Park ground, Rimmer ended up trapped on the M61. ‘I wasn’t on the motorway for two or three hundred yards when it was absolutely gridlocked,’ Rimmer says.

His car was stationary for half an hour before he registered that the vehicle in front had a City sticker in the window. He quickly devised a plan, but it would work only if the woman passenger up ahead had a driving licence. And, as luck would have it, she did.

Rimmer apologised for asking rival fans to do such a thing, but would one of them drive his car to the ground. Legging it was his only chance of making the kick-off.

Rimmer told them when they reached the ground the steward would recognise his car. He would arrange for them to be left a couple of tickets.

He reckons the only thing that kept him going as he jogged the three or four miles to the ground was trying to remember the registration of his brand new car. ‘I kept repeating it over and over in case I never saw it again.’

He reached Burnden Park with about three minutes to spare. The manager, Jimmy Armfield, was outside waiting for him. When Rimmer said he had been stuck in traffic and had to run the last bit, Armfield demanded to know how far. ‘Oh, only round the corner, just back of the shops,’ Rimmer fibbed.

‘I dashed into the dressing room and stopped a young chap putting my shirt on. I didn’t bother with any warm-up. So it just shows what you can do and that it’s all in the mind.

‘I got in a bit of trouble for being late but nobody bothered too much, particularly as we upset City 3-0 with a young Manchester boy called Garry Jones – he went on to do quite well at Bolton – scoring all the goals.’


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


The star footballer who could have been a contender – at golf

  • September 27, 2018 10:24
  • Jon Henderson

Stan Anderson was a young adult before he had even heard of golf. It soon became his passion.


What do retired people and professional footballers have in common? Time on their hands during the week to play golf when nearly everyone else is at work.

And golf-playing footballers, like the retired, come in all categories: from hackers who spend more time in the long grass than on the mown stuff to a sizeable group who are really rather good. And then there are the very good indeed.

Stan Anderson was one of the very good ones despite having been totally unaware of the existence of the game until he was a young adult.

Anderson, who was born in 1933 and died earlier this year aged 85, came from a mining community, Horden, not far from Sunderland, where his father, Jim, had worked underground until suffering the chest problems that were the coal miners’ lot.

Young Stan might also have been a miner had it not been for the fact that his talent for playing football was soon evident. He would go on to have a brilliant career as a stylish midfielder who captained the North East’s three great clubs: Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough. He also won two caps for England.

But his sporting life might well have taken a very different course had he found golf earlier.

Don Revie, who joined Sunderland as a player from Manchester City in 1956 and later went on to manage England, introduced Anderson to golf. ‘I remember the first thing I ever heard Don say in the dressing room was, “How many lads play golf?” I’d never heard of it. Golf? He said, “You come up and caddie for me, Stan”.

‘So I went and carried his clubs. I watched him and a few others playing and they were hitting the ball all over the place. I thought, “I can do better than that”.’

At this point Anderson interrupted the saga of his love affair with golf to give an insight into how he ticked. ‘The point is if you’re going to do anything you’ve got to do it the best you can. It’s like any game, squash for example.’

And he recalled a conversation he had with the chairman of Doncaster Rovers when he, Stan, was the Doncaster manager.

Chairman: ‘Do you play squash, Stan?’

Anderson: ‘I’ve never played squash in my life.’

Chairman: ‘Right, I’ll take you down to the squash club and we’ll play.’

‘I hadn’t got a clue,’ Anderson said. ‘Four bloody walls and a line up there and another one there. I thought you had to hit the front wall all the time. I struggled and he beat me.’

Chairman: ‘Same time next week, Stan?’

Anderson: ‘Yeah, OK, Tony.’

During that week Anderson went to the library, took out a book on squash and gained a far better understanding of the game. ‘Only then did I realise you could hit it off that wall, too, and so long as the ball didn’t go below that line… and the next week I beat him easily.

Anderson: ‘Same time next week, Tony?’

Chairman: ‘No I’ve got something else on.’

Anderson never played the chairman again but, with his interest in the game kindled, he did not lose interest in it.

‘I was playing some really classy players. There was a lad called Alan Murray, who was good. He’d heard about me playing squash and said he’d give me a game.

‘The club where we played had a ladder and he was third or fourth and I wasn’t even on it, obviously. And I beat him and, of course, all the lads were taking the piss out of him.’

Anderson took the same resolute interest in golf once he had watched Revie and others give what he instantly recognised as a pretty lousy demonstration of how to club a small white ball with power and precision.

Things weren’t easy to start with because as a left-hander he had difficulty getting hold of a set of clubs. But a drinking mate of his father’s had a friend who sold him some, not a full set, for four pounds. He was on his way.

‘A year later I ordered a full set and got down to playing regularly. I played all that summer and eventually got my handicap down to one.’

The game became a passion for him. Even into his early eighties he was still playing twice a week. He seemed affronted by being asked whether he ever shot rounds of lower than his age. ‘Oh, I do that regularly,’ he said, dismissively. When we met he had just done a round of 78.

He regarded his greatest golfing feat as finishing joint first in the 1991 Yorkshire Seniors amateur championship.

In his prime he shot a round of 65 in Scotland. It wasn’t on one of the big courses. ‘But I did play at St Andrews on the championship course and got a 72, which I thought was a good score.’


Based on an interview Stan Anderson gave in 2014 for the book When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing. 


Who was the greater, Stanley Matthews or Tom Finney? It remains one of English football’s most fascinating debates

  • September 25, 2018 10:23
  • Jon Henderson

Matthews’s name may have a greater resonance but Finney’s supporters feel the evidence is on their side.


Tom Finney was born in 1922, seven years after Stanley Matthews, and had a much shorter Football League career with his only club, Preston North End, than Matthews did in his two stints with Stoke City either side of playig for Blackpool.

While Matthews played from 1932 to 1965, by which time he was 50, Finney’s first Football League appearance was not until 1946, a late start imposed on him by the outbreak of the Second World War, and he retired in 1960. But his ability and personality were such that comparing him to Matthews became – and remains – something of a national pastime.

One thing that endeared Finney to his supporters was that despite the adulation he attracted he was always stubbornly grounded, discreetly pursuing his second profession as a plumber throughout his playing career. Matthews was far less accepting of his lot as a brother in downtrodden arms with those who watched him play.

The principals themselves could not always avoid being drawn into the Matthews/Finney debate. Finney would relate how he was often quizzed on it by clients while out on a plumbing job. ‘On one occasion,’ he said, ‘I remember defending Stanley Matthews’ corner while I changed the ballcock on a WC.’

The media and even academics found it an irresistible talking point. In 1946, the widely read Picture Post scrutinised the two, deciding that Finney was ‘less spectacular [than Matthews], less of an individual, less of a one-man circus. Perhaps his greatest asset is that highly developed feeling for collective play that some critics miss in Matthews.’

Much more recently the cultural historian Joyce Woolridge referred to Matthews’s quirkiness and extreme self-displine, which, she reckoned, gave him an ascetic gloss, while Finney’s image was more that of an ‘ordinary bloke’ with an exceptional talent.

In my book, When Footballers Were Skint, I talked to a number of players about the famous duo from the perspective of having played against them.

Bill Leivers, a redoubtable defender for Manchester City, came down firmly on Finney’s side. ‘He was something out of the ordinary,’ he said. ‘Everyone looked at Stan Matthews and said what a wonderful player he was, which is true, but from the players’ point of view the better player was Tom.

‘Tom was so much more versatile, equally effective playing in any of the forward positions [Matthews played on the right wing]. And he was a lovely bloke, too.’

Frank O’Farrell enjoyed the privilege, as he puts it, of appearing with Finney for Preston. ‘He never made headlines in any detrimental way to the game,’ O’Farrell said. ‘He trained and after training he’d go off with his workbag to do his plumbing. The odd cistern might be leaking or something.’

On the field, O’Farrell added, ‘there wasn’t anything you could find fault with. He had the perfect temperament. He got kicked by fullbacks at a time when wingers didn’t always get the protection they get now but he never used bad language or swore. He just showed what a good player he was.

‘He played on both wings and could score goals as well as make goals for other people. When I joined Preston he was playing at centre forward – and he was devastating.’

If he did do harm to opponents, it was of the psychological variety. O’Farrell recalled a match when Preston won handsomely at Tottenham with Finney scoring a hat trick: ‘Harry Clarke was the Spurs centre half that day and I met Harry some years later. “You remember the game when you beat us down here,” he said. “That finished my career.” Finney played against him and destroyed him. Playing at centre forward, Tom could go both ways and Harry just couldn’t cope.’

Finney was aware of the psychological damage he could cause as he demonstrated when he played against the hard-tackling Dave ‘Crunch’ Whelan, a meeting that might have been billed as the merciful against the merciless.

The occasion was a pre-season practice match when Whelan was coming back from an injury.

‘I’d played a couple of practice matches and I was getting by,’ Whelan said, ‘and then who should I be up against when Blackburn played Preston but the great Tom Finney.

‘He never took me on, though, he never brought the ball to me. He’d pass it, which wasn’t his normal game.

‘So when I was going off at halftime I said, “Tom, you’ve not taken me on at all.” And he said, “No, I’m not going to either. This is one of your first matches back. I want you to feel confident.”

‘A great gentleman. He did it the whole game. He stayed away from me, used the ball. Never went round me at all. Very professional. A great man.’

Of course, given Whelan’s reputation for clogging, Finney might have been staying out of harm’s way rather than being kind. Whelan might have reached this conclusion, too. But this was Finney and even an opponent perfectly capable of harsh thoughts was inclined to think Preston’s star man was treading the path of righteousness.

If Finney had possessed Matthews’s cussed streak – Matthews made a habit of falling out with managers – Finney would almost certainly have kept going for two or three more seasons.

Gordon Milne, who also played alongside Finney at Preston, said it was pretty obvious at the time that Finney stopped when he did because of the manager Cliff Britton. ‘Britton was a pretty dour sort of bloke,’ Milne said. ‘I think he knocked two years off Tom Finney’s career.’

Later Finney confirmed this, discarding his normal reticence in a ghosted autobiography. He described Britton as power mad and ridiculously overstrict and unsympathetic. He said it wasn’t long before he regretted his decision to retire and could have been talked into playing again. But his wife, the strong-minded Elsie, decreed otherwise.

It is hard to imagine she would have delivered such a ruling 50 years later.

Picture a twenty-first-century Elsie. She would have been on the phone to Tom’s agent demanding he get her man a lucrative transfer because his manager was being nasty to him. He could return to plumbing later on, if he really wanted.

Not everyone has taken the Matthews/Finney debate as seriously as they should. Recently this appeared on a football website: ‘Personally I always rated Albert Finney and Bernard Matthews.’


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


Even after being ‘clogged’ the great Stanley Matthews gave the perpetrator his autograph – unwisely as it turned out

  • September 21, 2018 16:12
  • Jon Henderson

Matthews could appear remote and inaccessible during his playing days, but he had a reputation for acts of kindness and consideration.

Don Ratcliffe, who was established in the Stoke City first team when Stanley Matthews returned to the club in 1961, has particularly fond memories of the legendary outside right who played in the Football League until he was 50.

One story Ratcliffe tells concerns the boots Matthews wore. ‘I kept asking Stan if I could have some of his handmade boots, but he wouldn’t give me them.

‘He’d say,  “No, you’ll hurt yourself.” They were very soft, you see, just like skin. Very light.

‘Anyhow, when I signed for Middlesbrough and was leaving Stoke he gave me two pairs, two brand-new pairs. I was really chuffed with them.’

Sadly, this story of Matthews’s kindness is in sharp contrast to what happened next. ‘When I took them to Boro,’ Ratcliffe says, ‘somebody pinched them, one of the players.’

Even if Matthews could be tetchy at times, Ratcliffe says the mood soon passed. ‘I remember playing the ball to Stan and he came running up to me, “Don’t you ever pass a ball like that to me again,” he said. “Just remember I’ve got three gorillas trying to kill me. If you’re going to give me the ball just smack it straight to me, very hard.”

‘Anyhow, soon afterwards I got this ball and I was ten yards away from him and I thought, “Yeah, I’ll show you for telling me off.” So I smacked it really hard, but mis-hit it and it was going about four-foot high into the crowd. And he just put his foot up and killed it dead.

‘I couldn’t believe it. He got it on the end of his toe. “That’s better,” he said and put his arm up to say thanks.’

Howard Riley of Leicester City has a curiously touching anecdote about the man whose Football League career with Stoke and Blackpool lasted 33 years, until he retired in 1965, and who made 54 England appearances. ‘It was only towards the end of his career that I played against Matthews,’ Riley says, ‘and when he turned up to play in a testimonial at Filbert Street he said to me, “All right, Howard.”

‘He played against so many other players more than he did against me that I hadn’t really expected him to remember who I was. I considered it a compliment.’

Colin Collindridge, who played for Sheffield United from 1938 and later for Nottingham Forest and Coventry City, testifies to Matthews’s ‘gentleman’s way of doing things’. The occasion was an FA Cup tie in 1945-46 – the only season when ties were played over two legs. Collindridge scored three times in the second leg but Sheffield United still lost 4-3 on aggregate to a Matthews-inspired Stoke City.

‘As I was running off the pitch this fella came up to me,’ Collindridge says. ‘I looked round and it was Stanley Matthews, who was the best right winger for years. He shook my hand and said, “I know you’ve lost Colin but thanks for a great match.” And that was it; off he went.

‘Now I thank Matthews for this. I wasn’t in his class as a footballer but he still had the time to congratulate me.’

Matthews’s capacity for being courteous brought a rather different reaction from Dave ‘Crunch’ Whelan after a match between Blackpool, Matthews’s club from 1947-61, and visitors Blackburn in the 1950s.

Whelan, Blackburn’s young right back, says he clogged Matthews in the match itself – ‘I cleaned him out, got the ball and took a bit of him with it’ – then sought him out afterwards for his autograph. ‘I mean he was a legend, still playing in his forties’

But had Matthews been able to read Whelan’s mind he might not have been quite so charitable in obliging his impudent assailant.

Whelan recounts his conversation with Matthews in the doorway of the Blackpool dressing room:

Matthews: ‘You’re Dave Whelan, aren’t you?’

Whelan: ‘Yes, I’m Dave Whelan. Can I have your autograph, please?’

Matthews: ‘You kicked me out there and you kicked me quite deliberately didn’t you?’

Whelan: ‘Yes, sir.’

Matthews: ‘But that’s against the rules.’

Whelan: ‘I know but it’s the only way I could stop you.’

Matthews: ‘You won’t do it again, will you?’

Whelan: ‘Oh, no.’

Matthews: ‘Give me your book.’

‘And he signed it, “Best wishes, Stan Matthews”,’ Whelan says. ‘And next time I thought, “You’re going to get clogged.” He was a great player.’


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing


Goalie who made good thanks to bumping into an old school chum

  • September 20, 2018 12:40
  • Jon Henderson

Roy Wood’s successful Football League career with Leeds United had its origins some years before when he was being demobbed fom the RAF.


Chance meetings are what make the world go round. Always have done.

They do not necessarily have desirable outcomes, but in Roy Wood’s case there was one in particular that did. It led – eventually – to a successful career as a Football League goalkeeper with Leeds United.

But first Wood had that other sort of chance meeting, one he could have done without, a bone-crunching collision on a football pitch that was nearly the death of him.

It was in the late 1940s on the Saturday before he was due to start his national service.

Wood, still a teenager, was making his way for Harrowby in the West Cheshire League, although the match on this occasion was a preliminary round of the FA Cup at Holywell Town. ‘We got beat 16-0,’ he says, ‘but, having said that, I was carried off at halftime with three cracked ribs and one nearly broken.’

On the way home Wood’s teammates stuck him in the back of the coach. They then forgot about him as they cut and shuffled their decks of cards. Behind them Wood winced and grimaced as the coach bounced along on its ancient springs.

‘When the doctor saw me, the x-rays and one thing and another, he said if that coach had gone over a decent bump I wouldn’t have been there to tell the tale. I thought, “Thank you very much”.’

The story continues. On the Monday, Wood, swathed in strapping, missed his appointment with His Majesty’s Armed Forces. Presumed to be skiving, he received visitors on the Tuesday. ‘There was a loud knock on the door and there were two Military Policemen standing there. “Where is ’e?” they asked my mother. “Well, ’e’s upstairs,” she said. “You can ’ave him.”

‘They took it all as a good joke. They had a couple of cups of tea before leaving and I went into the RAF six months later.’

It was straight after his stint in the RAF that Wood had his more desirable chance meeting.

He had just arrived back in England from the Far East when ‘I went to get my identity card changed and met an old schoolmate, Alfie Peers, who’d been in the army and was also having his card changed.

‘Alfie’s father was a director of New Brighton. Alfie said we could go and train down with the club and keep ourselves fit, which seemed a good idea.

‘And that’s how I came to play a couple of games for New Brighton in 1951 at the end of their last season in the Third Division North.’

Wood never actually signed for the club. As he tells it: ‘I only played because they didn’t want to bring their regular goalkeeper from a long way away, which would have meant them having to pay his expenses. They knew I was a keeper so they stuck me in because I cost them nothing.’

New Brighton, who had been members of the Football League since 1923, had been floundering for some time and were kicked out, never to return, when they finished bottom of the League.

Wood proved more buoyant, resurfacing two years later when he joined Leeds United where he played a significant, ever-present role in their gaining promotion to the old First Division in 1956. In fact in the three seasons from 1955-58, Wood played 125 out of 126 League games for Leeds. In all he made 196 League appearances for the Yorkshire club and played in seven FA Cup ties.


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